Category Archives: Lifestyle

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The month of June sees quite a few fires in our country. Everywhere I turn, I see firemen and firewomen. No, not the kinds that bravely save our lives from flames, but those who believe in starting a fire. I know of many such fire-aunties and uncles. They go to a neighbour or relative’s house, ask the teenaged child about his marks and what course he wants to pursue, prod the parents on why aren’t they trying for a more popular alternative, and lo, ignite the spark for an argument. Chai pee, aag lagayi aur chal diye. That’s what is happening these days in your home too, nah? Bolo, bolo, sach bolo.


More than half the letters I get from readers in this month are about problems like ‘my parents want me to become an aaloo chat vendor but I wish to do my bachelors in jalebi making.’ Alright, replace aaloo chat and jalebi with engineering, CA, law etc. Khush bhi nahi hone dete.

Anyway, I do understand that decisions about career and higher studies are critical and all that but I can’t get my head around parents forcing kids to take up courses of their choice. Neither do I understand why kids have become so edgy that they sometimes refuse to see reason.

I’ve done a thorough research on this inherent conflict in East European laboratories and have come to a definitive conclusion. The root cause of this problem is a seemingly innocuous question we start asking kids when they can barely utter mama, papa and susu. ‘Beta, what do you want to be when you grow up?’
Now, at that age, with limited exposure and vocabulary, with tonnes of pressure from adults expectedly waiting for an answer, coupled with that of trying to not pee in the pants, the child says ‘doctor’ or ‘policeman’ or ‘pilot’ etc. You see he can’t answer ‘tonsorial artist’ or ‘hemorrhoid cream researcher’ even though these too are perfectly lovely occupations.

Okay, maybe not the hemorrhoid cream one, but surely the former, which is just another name for a hairstylist. Anyway, by the time the child grows up and gets exposed to a whole lot of choices, he has uttered ‘doctor’, ‘engineer’ and ‘CA’ so many times that he’s thoroughly confused about whether he’s now going back on his original promise of making his folks proud.

Parents, in the meantime, have their own hassles of how to explain it to their ‘circle’ why their son or daughter, who could have easily made it to the cut-off of a good professional institute, says they want to be a writer. Suddenly, the good marks become a devil’s sword hanging on the child, as they start dictating the career path, rather than the child’s own flair.

I know a couple whose son always got cent percent marks in mathematics. From the age of 11, that child heard his parents telling the world that they will make him a chartered accountant, because he’s ‘so good at math’.

Today that boy is 17, is immensely passionate about photography and dislikes accountancy and taxes with equal passion. But he continues to live under the curse of having got good marks in math all through, because that has limited his parents’ thinking enough to force him to enroll in a CA program. ‘Is se toh naa aate achhe marks,’ he told me last week. ‘Show 3 Idiots to your parents,’ I joked, but I knew reality of life is sometimes very different from films. Here’s my two bits of wisdom on the topic, it may just help someone.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for Career Related Stress[/stextbox]

1.Mutual decision:

 I know a lot of youngsters reading this want me to suggest that parents should leave them alone to make their own choices but I’m afraid I can’t say this. For one, the promised amount for writing this has yet not reached my account, and two, I look forward to a better way of dying than being killed by some stranger’s angry dad.

Jokes apart, while every child has the right to craft his or her own destiny, it is also their duty to understand why the parents are insisting on something. Because as I’ve written previously in this column, if there is one entity in this world that you can blindly trust for wanting nothing but your good, it’s your parents.

The least you can do is listen to their argument without throwing a fit and explain your choices to them in a rational and calm way. The same goes for the parents. Convince or get convinced. Simple. If either the parents are sulking, or the child is forcefully dragging her feet through a course she can’t stand, it’s an unhappy situation. And life’s too short to stay unhappy, my friend. Chalo, ek dialogue to maar hi diya!

2.Not irreversible:

Sometimes you need to try something out to decide how much you hate it. Because there’s always a chance that you may start liking it. Foolish are those who make their career decisions based on what they’ve heard about the course from their friends. Because much like fingerprints that are unique to everyone, how your mind will react to a subject when you get into its depth is also unique just to you.
But if your heart is clearly telling you that it’s a mistake, don’t think much before reversing it. I don’t know why we make a big deal out of 1-2 years wasted in figuring out that a course wasn’t right for us. In the larger scheme of life, those two years won’t matter one bit. But before you take a bold step, ask yourself an honest question. ‘Will I ever regret this? Go ahead only when your heart… and mind, answers, ‘Never. No matter what.’


3. Finally, de-link subjects from career:

It’s not written in stone that if you are a qualified engineer, you can’t become a writer, painter or aaloo chaat vendor. Give your best to whatever course you are pursuing, and then give your best to whatever you wish to do after studies are complete. Half of our national cricket team comprised of engineers at one point.

Did you know that actor John Abraham is an MBA and Ritesh Deshmukh is a qualified architect. Your degrees shouldn’t be road-blocks in life, they should be facilitators in helping you make intelligent choices. Go on, make yours.
Sonal Kalra went through Bachelors in Economics and Masters in Management before discovering her flair for weird-writing. She doesn’t regret it. Her readers do.

Today's Viral Video - Must Watch & Share. Subscribe to My YouTube Channel.

Find a home, away from home

Today's Viral Video - Must Watch & Share. Subscribe to My YouTube Channel.

Because of my extremely good nature, so many of you trust me with your deepest troubles and problems each week. But, I don’t know why a lot of you keep asking me not to mention your name while discussing the topic. Don’t be so humble now. Isn’t it cool to see your name published in a national daily, Varun? So what if it’s in the context of you wanting to pee outside your neighbour Anil Sharma’s front door in Lajpat Nagar each morning because he’s such a pain and fights over parking? You’ve done it only thrice, as you clarify, but see the brighter side, you’ve now become famous. You’re most welcome, I already know about my optimistic, good nature.

calmness tips for migrants people with home sickness

Anyway, this week, I got a mail from 19-year-old Vivek Oberoi from Indore who is depressed. Haww, it just struck me that people may be writing fake names in their letters to me. Or maybe not. With a name like that, some amount of depression is inevitable.

Anyway, around six months back, Vivek moved to Delhi for higher studies. And he hates every minute of the six months he’s spent in this self-centred city so far. His words, not mine. “People in big cities are unfriendly towards those from smaller towns. I really feel out of place. I had so many friends back home in Indore, there’s so much warmth when I call them everyday. I hate it here, feel like crying,” he says. Oye hoye bachche, idhar aao, rona band karo. I can totally understand your problem but have you thought about what you may have done, unintentionally, for people to be unfriendly? Like tell them your name. Oops, that was really mean… but please don’t mind. You know I’m just joking, don’t you? I genuinely love all Vivek Oberois in this world.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for Migrants and People with Home Sickness Issues[/stextbox]

Coming back to your problem, what I’ve gathered from a lot of things you have written about yourself in your mail— which I will not share here, because, you know, I’m fiercely protective of peoples’ privacy —I think you are a fairly nice, well mannered and sincere guy. Generally, people of all cities love those qualities. And although I completely agree with you about a sickening bias some people have against those who’ve migrated from relatively smaller cities, I would like to believe that most Delhiites are not like that.

And this problem of ‘not being able to adjust’ is not specific to Delhi. A lot of people, who are having to live away from their native place because of studies or work or any other reason, often feel anxious and stressed while missing home. It’s very natural to. But what makes the situation worse is their tendency to let this I-miss-home feeling keep them from embracing the new place in the true spirit. Although having never ‘lived’ anywhere outside of Delhi, I’m the least qualified to preach on this subject, but because of my spectacular wisdom and of course, extremely good nature, I’m telling you about three mistakes, in my view, that you should never make when trying to adjust into a new city.

1 Mistake 1 – Trying too hard to belong:

For all the ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ gyaan we’ve grown up on, I feel it’s a big mistake to shed your individuality in a bid to be like the people of the city you’ve moved to. Be the real you, if you want to stay away from depression. I remember, back in college, there was a girl who originally belonged to Madurai. Everyday in the college canteen, I would notice her being visibly uncomfortable and sad. One day I told her how I find certain rice dishes tastier when eaten straight from the hand rather than the spoon. She had an incredulous look on her face and said that she’s used to eating like that only and was always worried what ‘others’ would think of her. Lo batao. To hell with others, yaar, be what you are. That meal of sambhar-rice with our hands was the best meal I had in college because it came with such a rare smile from that girl. I’m not saying completely disregard the required etiquettes in a situation but don’t forego happiness either, in trying to be what you’re not. Don’t fake an accent, don’t fake style, don’t fake ‘cool-ness’, don’t fake a smile. It shows.

2 Mistake 2 – Harping about your own:

Remember, a city and its people can not warm up to you till you don’t stop harping endlessly about how much you miss your native place, and how much better it is. Every place has it’s own highs and lows. There may be too much crime in Delhi as compared to your town, but there may also be rare opportunities here to explore and discover culture like no other place. Try to leverage on the uniqueness of whichever place you are in.
Also, it’s much easier to make new friends when you are not always talking to— or about— your old friends back home. As we grow in life, we have to make new friendships. Don’t keep holding too tightly to the older ones so much that your hands are never free to shake them with new friends.

3 Mistake 3 – Forgetting to thank your luck:

Hear it from someone like me who was born, brought up, studied and worked in the same 30km radius all her life. Would most likely retire, die and be cremated within the same area. Sometimes it sucks. Just sit back and imagine the world as a globe before you. We get to live only one life. A lot of us spend the whole of it in the fraction of a dot that you can’t even spot on the globe with a microscope. Just be thankful if your dot is slightly bigger. It may be hellishly tough to adjust but every new place where you live, gives you two gifts — experience and memories. Cherish them.

Sonal Kalra is suddenly as depressed as Vivek Oberoi. For the totally opposite reason. Why does someone else always seem luckier than us?

Excuse me, aisi bhi kya jaldi hai?

This column has been published in HT City’s 13/11/11 edition. Here is an excerpt;

Haylo good people, I’m back. A lot of you cursed me for not writing last week. But what to do, the batteries of mind were totally discharged and I had to head elsewhere in the quest for eternal wisdom. It’s another thing that I’ve dutifully returned a failure, and shall continue to be an epitome of absurdity. Because I realised that all those stories about people leaving home in search for ‘answers’ are just those — stories. In reality, when you leave home, you usually come back with empty pockets, aching legs and constipation

Read Full Column

All Indians are born with special trait – Jaldi. We are always in hurry all the time and mostly for no good reasons as Sonal Kalra has very nicely described in this column. We have become so much used to doing everything in hurry that we can not imagine a life ever going at a normal slow pace. Crossing a road or queuing up at airport or even within aircraft are too good examples to show and prove the SQ we are born with. I am not denying that not  every one is same and this holds true in this case as well. But even then, we find a majority of people doing so. Mostly because even though they don’t have any intentions to do so but still do it subconsciously without even realizing that they are doing it. That’s the strongest reason we get to see sudden rush of people who start queuing up at all such places.


Well, only exception here could be the example of cinema goers who still have some what reason to be in hurry. It is a common scenario that these cinema halls owners do start the show even while people are still entering the hall and have not yet occupied their respective seats. Even the new-age multiplexes are no exception. These hall owners are always in time crunch and hence in hurry to start and finish their shows well in time. Obviously, a person who has spent  a substantial amount on buying the movie ticket would not like to lose on even a few seconds of movie. That reason drives them to hurriedly making queues to enter the auditorium.

But then on the more serious note, do we need to blame just ourselves for all that. Isn’t there much important underlying reason that has made most of Indians to be always in hurry. In fact, this starts right from the time we are born.  Ofcourse, blame it again on ‘population’ but isn’t it true that all of us have been since our birth. In fact, many of us even hurried while taking birth and must have arrived on this planet only by c-section. . When we became ill, there was a rush to the doctor and hospitals. Then, as we grew, there was a rush to get admitted in good school. In the school, we hurried up to keep our top positions. We passed out from school with even more mad rush because by then you already have loads of uncountable people around you with whom you have to compete with to get to a good college and a subject of your choice. This madness even continued to after college when most of us mistakenly thought  probably now with getting a job life will return to normal slow pace and there will be no hurry there after. But what we fail to realize actually is that at every stage the amount, intensity of this ‘jaldi’ madness only increases, as more and more number of people keep joining you at each new stage. So, getting into a good job and company, getting a promotion and/or increment, finding a suitable life partner, getting married .. so on and so forth. This is just an endless list of things which have programmed Indians to be always in hurry or ‘jaldi’. So, it hardly matters for them if that is required or not. In fact, where is the time to even think about it. We are always in hurry to just do it before any one else could do it.

The new age lifestyle and gadget-full life has only worsen the whole situation, Today, in general, mankind  is moving at fastest ever speed and the rate at which this speed is increasing is also quite alarming. Probably, that is the reason today most of us do talk and have started believing in the theory of this world coming to en end soon. Many of spiritual gurus have also their own theory to prove this also. – when you reach the highest point of anything, the only thing required to start afresh is to come down to the starting point. Hence, “coming down” is totally inevitable.

So, let us start moving a bit slow and rather enjoy the life in its normal pace unless and until we are in hurry and don’t want to miss out on the chance of witnessing the event of “kayamat” (world coming to en end) for ourselves.

Can I have my Diwali back, please?

Below is an excerpt of this column which was published on 23/10/2011 (pre-diwali weekend).

With three days to go for the festival of traffic jams, I’m writing this piece sitting in the car that hasn’t moved an inch in the past forty minutes. No, I don’t have a particularly weird liking towards sitting in parked cars, so yes, I’m caught in traffic. Everywhere I look around, I see haggard faces. There’s a guy on a scooter on my left, trying to balance gift packs big enough to raise the average per capita living standard  of an entire colony. There is a shop selling crockery items on the right side of the road, where a salesman, who has clearly not slept for at least three days of selling cups and saucers, is trying desperately to field harassment from a woman who is aggressively bargaining for a cutlery set. Just to pass time, I have visions of the salesman hitting the woman with a pack of six spoons worth Rs 50 each and his photo being carried in newspapers tomorrow.

Read the Full Column

Sonal Kalra has talked about three “joys” which she find missing in today’s new age diwali – joy of wishing, gifting and celebrating. Quite ironically, all these three things have become even more prominent than earlier. But, yes, the real joy or fun seems to have gone missing.


Joy of Gifting

Today, we are sending and exchanging lot many more gifts than earlier times, same goes true for exchanging wishes and even celebrating. But, today these things have become more of a formal activities minus the fun and joy of the festival. I remember when we were kids, all we used to hear about was exchanging couple of traditional mithai box with couple of relatives and friends. Thats it. Today, traditional mithais have taken a back seat (thanks for all the impure and milavati khoya and other mithai stuff) and have been replaced with thousands of other gift items. These include not only the sweets but even not so sweet items like all sorts of namkeen and many other items. People not able to exchange a real good number of gifts these days find as a low status thing. The more number of gifts you exchange, the better your status is.

Joy of Wishing

Wishing is another thing which has only increased since earlier times but again where is the fun and joy. How much time do we spend in sending wishes these days. Hardly couple of minutes because all you have to do to wish is to either click a mouse or mobile button. Thats it and your wishes reaches thousands of people. Many of them you may not know even personally or may not have intended to send them any wishes at all. But just because they somehow could find a place in your address or number book, they get their share of honor automatically without you ever come to know about the same. Thanx to mobile, emails and other greeting exchange programs and software. But do we really derive the same satisfaction on getting such electronic wishes what we used to feel on getting a hand written greeting card which used to take ages during festival times. That was as much satisfactory for a receiver as was for a sender who would have spend quite a good amount of time in selecing and buying the paper greeting cards, writing down messages, beautufying it and putting it in envelope, writing address again manually and sending it finally. I remember, we used to keep those paper greeting cards and stock them as a memorable item.

Joy of Celebration

Joy of celebration – do we left with any time after all these days even to celebrate in the first place. Most of time goes waste in buying gifts and stuck in traffic jams, planning and all. We are too exhausted to do any real celebration when the D day arrives. Celebration not necessarliy means burning crackers only. In fact, this is the only thing I like about todays diwali. Thankfully, due to never ending inflation and pollution, we somehow witness lesser cracker burning than earlier times.

Another thing which seems to have changed for good and which I really like and wish it could have happened in earlier times is – chinese diwali lights. Today we get so much variety of so beautiful lights and that too at such a economically rates, I really wish if we could have this earlier. Most of these lights or sorts of use and throw unlike earlier when we used to use the same lights every year. Just because they used to be quite costly and had traditional bulbs etc unlike now when we have all sorts of small disposable LED lights.

Nevertheless, I would really like to wish every one a real joyful diwali. 🙂

Do you know who my dad is? [Feedback]

This column was published on 18/9/11 in HT City. Here is an excerpt;

“You think I’m being sarcastic? Tsk tsk… I have such bad reputation in your eyes. I’m serious. I will start a campaign in aid of all those who suffer from mysterious bouts of amnesia and have to ask who they are or who their dad is, especially if their car bumps into someone else’s. I saw such a person outside a shopping mall this weekend. He was reversing, someone else was progressing (I know it’s wrong English, just sounded funny, thanks). His car brushed the other’s bumper, very slightly, in a peck-on-cheek-of-a socialite-at-a-page3-party way. I wouldn’t have even noticed had I been in that car because, you know, God blesses some with stereos which have a physical disability and you can’t reduce …”

Read Full Column


Well, this column reminded me about not one but many such occurrence which I myself must have witnessed in the past specially while driving on Delhi roads (thank god, I witnessed all that as a mere spectator and was not a participant myself). Often, we find such creatures claiming to be forgotten who they are or who their mom/dad/uncle is, are generally ones who are at fault themselves. Only to defend themselves and more so to prove the opponent wrong, they do all that nonsense. One more thing I have generally observed is  that – we get to hear about these phrases more when there is a good crowd around. If there is not a reasonable number of people around, quite possible, the matter gets solved without any shouts and all. After all, who to shout it for. There is no one to listen. People shout not only because they want to make a point but they want the whole world to listen to them. Since, in India, roads are always packed with people, vehicles, people in vehicles, vehicles on people, we will find such incidents a common sight on the roads. And ofcourse, as Sonal mentioned in her column, generally people who shouts in such fights are the ones more insecure from inside irrespective of what they look from outside. It’s not a small dent that makes a difference to them but that gives them a reason to prove their authority to others (even if they don’t have any).


Yes, a simple word of Sorry can make a lot of difference. After all this also only prove the shouting person right and only boost his/her ego which is what he has been shouting for – to get the attention, to prove he is something or his mom/dad/family is someone every one should know. You say sorry and it may satisfy its ego to a larger extent. Even if it is not, then at least this will deter him from continuing shouting and fighting, fearing people around may not approve his continued fight even after recieving the apology from the other party. 

Well, calling the cops in India is something not many people prefer to do. Even the people who themselves are right would not like to take the chance with Indian cops. Ofcourse, not every one is bad then you never know whom you get to deal with in your own case. What if you get to deal with the worst person from the police department. Every one knows, once the case is registered as legal formally, then there is no looking back.  Both the parties will have to suffer equally irrespective of the fact who is at fault – at least until the case reaches to a conclusion which anyways takes ages in India as we know.

As far as bribe matter is concerned, somehow, here in India we still prefer the other way round. I mean we will feel more comfortable if we find the matter can be solved with some bribe exchanges. At least, we remain hopeful about the case coming to an end which as I mentioned above, in courts takes ages. And when it does, we probably would have forgotten more or less what the case was all about. So, pre or post Anna, I am really not able to see any positive affect as such except the whole India and media is talking about every now and then.

Do share your feedback.

 [stextbox id=”info”]By the way, have you checked out the Gallery section showcasing the pictures of Sonal’s book launch at Mumbai and many more.[/stextbox]

Do you know who my dad is?

You think I’m being sarcastic? Tsk tsk… I have such bad reputation in your eyes. I’m serious. I will start a campaign in aid of all those who suffer from mysterious bouts of amnesia and have to ask who they are or who their dad is, especially if their car bumps into someone else’s. I saw such a person outside a shopping mall this weekend. He was reversing, someone else was progressing (I know it’s wrong English, just sounded funny, thanks). His car brushed the other’s bumper, very slightly, in a peck-on-cheek-of-a socialite-at-a-page3-party way. I wouldn’t have even noticed had I been in that car because, you know, God blesses some with stereos which have a physical disability and you can’t reduce the volume.

calmness tips to avoid fights road rage feelings of insecurity

Anyway, that ‘gentle’man noticed and how. He got down. Inspected the rear of his car by bending at various undescribable angles. And then. SHOUTED. Shouted so loud that even the birds mating on the nearby electricity wires decided to get a room. “Oh teri…(inappropriate).” “What the…(inappropriate)”, is how it began and went up to a stage where every word would have to be beeped out, hence not reproducing here. The guy in the other car also got down. He was trying to explain, very unsuccessfully, while this one had started hyperventilating, pointing to the almost non-existent dent on his car.
Waiting for my own car to arrive, I, along with all other typical delhiites present, were watching the scene with keen interest. Am sure some had even thought of ordering popcorn and pepsi. I was thinking what a crude man… all those abuses for a small dent on the bumper? And then he said it. Loud and clear. “Do you know who I am?” He then turned around menacingly towards the mall parking attendant. “Oh, do you know who my dad is?”
Suddenly I felt this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were cursing this poor man, judging him merely because of his colourful language. When he had suffered a loss of memory because of the accident. You tell me, who deserves sympathy … the guy who can’t even explain why he decided to let his car greet the other’s so physically, or this poor man who has, because of an obvious shock due to the dent on the bumper, lost all memory of his identity and was left asking strangers. I asked a fellow by-stander to help him and take him to a doctor but he gave me a weird look. Lots of people do that these days.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Avoid Road Rage, Fights and Feelings of Insecurity[/stextbox]

Anyway, here are my three tips of dealing with such forgetful creatures as the man in the parking lot that day.

1 Remember that the louder a person shouts in an argument, the more insecure he is from inside:

Aur kya. If you have to depend on volume to make a point, there must be something wrong with the point nah? Don’t get intimidated by raised voices. If someone, specially in a road rage episode, suddenly becomes loud and abusive, look him in the eye and say ‘let’s sort this out when you bring your voice down.’ And go stand in a corner. Haan, it’s another thing that in places like Delhi, he may just pounce on you for saying that, but take your chances.

2 Remember that saying sorry can prevent a lot of regrettable drama:

It is hard to keep screaming at a person who is apologising profusely. Isn’t it? In traffic situations where vehicles are being driven bumper to bumper, it is highly probable that cars or two-wheelers touch each other. Sometimes just a wave of hand from inside your car, acknowledging and regretting it, can save a lot of needless shouting and screaming later. Don’t let ego come in the way, even if it wasn’t your mistake. Think of all the time you’ll waste if a monster decides to descend from the other car and vent all his life’s frustration there and then.

3 Remember that in most cases where the person is shouting ‘contacts’, it works to call the bluff:

“I will make one call and then you’ll feel sorry,” is a sentence we often hear. Ask him/her to go on and make the call. Meanwhile, you also furiously start keying in random numbers on your cell phone. Dial your dry cleaner if you wish, but it is the expression that matters. Even if that guy happens to be a relative of the Prime Minister, it’ll be tough for him to get undue support. Bhai, Anna Hazare ka zamaana hai… even those in power are scared of using their influence unethically. And most importantly, remember that if you are right, you will have the conviction to face anyone, anyway. Don’t think too much before calling the cops if it starts to get bad. We have a false notion that involving cops would mean dragging the matter. Their presence may just help to keep things under control, and believe me, they too prefer to settle a matter amicably than filing reports as it adds to their own lawlessness statistics. And no, they wont ask you for bribe. It’s wrong to generalise, and paint all cops with the same brush. Keep an Anna cap in the car anyway.
It helps.
The Tension-Not calmness award this week to
– Tanveer Nishat, for being the first person to read and give wonderful feedback on this column every week, even sitting far away in the middle-east.
– Supavitra Sachdeva who, incase there is an award for the most mischievous reader in Chandigarh, will win hands down, along with his partner-in-crime Aseem Aggarwal; and
– Aman Budhiraja, who, at a very young age, displays excellent wit and sense of humour on this column’s facebook page, day after day. Long live calmness!!

Sonal Kalra wonders what happened to the guy in the mall who forgot who he was. Hope he reached home safely. Would you pray for him?