Category Archives: People

A Calmer You: change your password. Right now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Calmer You: kyunki koi koi friend kanjoos hota hai

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Do you have a friend who goes to the loo just when it’s time to pay the bill? Bas, enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of paying for everything, every time. My ‘best’ friend conveniently forgets his wallet each time we eat out. And then, of course, equally conveniently forgets to pay me back even later. I feel like such a damn fool,’ cried out Akshay, in a recent, and excruciatingly long, mail to me.

Oho Akshay, idhar aao. Lemme give you an understanding hug from someone who went through similar helplessness during the growing-up phases. A lot of us have. In every group of friends, there are moochers. People who will either — dodge paying their share of the meal by saying they are not carrying enough cash, or — will try and make an issue out of how they only ate only one piece of the Paneer tikka while someone else ordered a fresh lime too, or — if nothing else, won’t calculate the tax or the waiter’s tip in the amount to be divided among everyone so that this falls as a burden on someone else who’ll either be nice enough to stay quiet or would have failed in math in school.

A Calmer You - kyunki koi koi friend kanjoos hota hai

So how many times have you lent money to a friend, either at the movies or in a group outing, never to see it again? If you are one of those genuinely generous people who loves treating others, it’s a great thing and I would like you to mail me your mobile number for my secure future.

But if you’re being nice and would silently stress later when you’ll notice the same friend splurge on something personal, you gotta a problem.
Let’s try and resolve that, because you see, tumhaari lottery toh nikli nahi hai that you’ll happily assume the burden of paying at group outings all your life.
When a group of friends decides to eat out, one of the two things must happen. Either each person should contribute a fair and equal share of the bill. But hang on,  if you are going to make a comedy scene by collecting Rs. 57.675 from nine friends and giving all that chillar to the amused waiter, please avoid, for the sake of sanity and manners.

The other way is for each friend to pick the tab every time, on rotation. Vaise usmey bhi panga hai. Because some outings may happen at Mc Donalds while some at Gurpreet Singh Wang ka roadside chowmein stall.

So what the hell do you do? Here’s what…
1. Set the rules, beforehand: Trust me, nothing cements a friendship more than setting some straight rules of behaviour upfront. Especially when it comes to money. Because money also has the potential to kill a friendship almost as quickly as the class hottie you and your friend may have a collective crush on. Decide, to mutual consent, a pattern of payment before you start going out. If there is a friend in the group who is a known moocher and will try and wriggle out of paying, it’s best to casually mention on your way out that you only brought enough money to pay for yourself. Or say when you’re planning the outing that everyone will be paying for themselves. Make sure you stick to this when the bill comes! May sound blunt but better than cribbing and fretting about it later.

2. Make the moocher responsible: You know in colleges or offices when collective treats are planned, the person who deserves the most sympathy is the one who has the task to do the ‘collection’. It’s anyway not a very pleasant task to go upto everyone and ask to pay up for something that they did, or will enjoy. And then this person faces the additional trauma of listening to cribs who’ll question how their share came upto what it did. And more often than not, this poor soul also ends up paying for many others who say they’ll pay later, knowing that ‘later’ never comes. A suggestion, make such a person the collection in-charge. Pay your fair share, turn around and get vigorously busy in a fake phone call. Let him or her also get a taste of ‘I’ll pay later’ looks.

3. Technology to the rescue: In earlier days, everyone would carry cash and it was difficult to wriggle out of a payment situation when it was time to pay the bill. But now with credit cards replacing cash in our wallets, the easiest victim becomes the one whose credit card gets swapped, as he has to depend on the hope that others will pay him later. Tension not. There are mobile apps now which help you solve this problem. I’m yet to try them out here but saw some friends in the US use these extensively.
One such app is Venmo, which not only allows your friends to e-pay you back there and then, but also sends them polite reminders of payment later if they haven’t. Another called Square turns your phone into a mini credit card machine and you can accept debit or credit card payments from your friends for free. Bahana hi nahi bacha ji ab toh. Try them.

Ancient wisdom says that lend only that much money to a friend which you can afford to lose. But I would say that if spending on friends stresses you out like it does to Akshay, then losing the friend is a bigger potential problem than losing the money. Either change your mindset, or change your friends. And a piece of advice to habitual moochers. Dekho yaar, you may be genuinely short of money and not doing this out of fun, in which case it’s way better to honestly decline a treat saying ‘I can’t afford it right now’, than suffer the tension of making excuses.

If, after knowing that, a friend decides to happily pay for you, at least you would know that your company is valued. Achha lagega. Don’t forget to do the same for someone else, someday.

Sonal Kalra only preaches, but is an expert in timing her loo visit perfectly with the arrival of the bill. It’s a fine art she can teach you at a restaurant, if you’ll agree to foot the bill..

Dost kise kehte hain….?

 ‘Define friendship’. Google this phrase and I’m sure you’ll get n number of friendship quotes. We all have our friends and our own ways of expressing this amazing relationship that we have the liberty to chose for ourselves, in words. The number of friends we have in our lives depends not so much on whether we are extroverts or introverts, but more on the qualities we look for in a friend. The more specific you get on what you look for in a friend, fewer the friends you have in your life.

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[stextbox id=”info”]Here’s my take on what a true friend is all about[/stextbox]

Dost wo hai, jisse kuch kehne se pehle sochna na pare: Can you share anything and everything in your heart and life with the one you call your friend, without fear of being misunderstood or being judged

Friends don’t judge you: A real friend will never try to judge you by what you say or do. And if they judge, they are critics not friends because for a real friend, you can never be wrong

Acceptance: A true friend will accept you with all your imperfections, Good, bad or ugly, a true friend accepts you just the way you are. No one is perfect but for a friend you are the best just the way you are.

Stand by me: A true friend literally stands by you even when the world is against you

Understanding: A friend can sing the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics. They understand every word you say even when you don’t really say it.

Nache bhi wo teri khushi mein: Your joys should be sufficient reason to make a friend smile.

Do you have the time: Don’t tell me you are busy. You can always find a few precious minutes for a friend no matter how busy you get.

And, Once a friend always a friend: Not that friends don’t argue or fight. Even Tom and jerry do. But tom never gulped jerry. Because no matter what,  ‘Ek baar hamne commitment kar di uske baad to hum apni bhi nahi sunte’. So tell me, ‘Are you friends for life?

Well, I guess this shortens your friend list to just one or two wonderful people in your life. But that’s okay because ‘Making a million friends is not a miracle, the miracle is to make one friend who is worth a million

Is it UNCOOL being in Teaching Profession

Caution: This story is based on a true incidence. Date, Place and Name of people are changed here to conceal the identity of the victim.

Ok Ok don’t give that ‘haww” look.. now read on…

I met a friend of mine on facebook after very long time. Both of us inquired about each other’s past and present life. She asked me “What do your husband do?” I told her that he is a SAP prof. I used “prof” instead of Professional. Assuming my husband to be SAP professor, she said “oh!”…(Meaning oh! I am really sorry for you) . This “oh” pinched me somewhere in my heart. While I told her that he is a SAP Professional…”COOOL” was her remark. Just a difference of ‘prof.’ and ‘Professional’ decides the position of a person on the yardstick of being cool. Is it really so “uncool” if a male is in teaching profession?

Uncool_Being_Cool

I was really taken aback, and realized that perhaps being cool is the priority in today’s time. If you want to be noticed, get loved, feel wanted and many other such basic emotions, the sole criterion is BEING COOL. If you score quite high on this cool quotient, people (most importantly of your age) will flock around you. Teaching is the most basic profession of all, as it forms the stout base on which all the other so called cool professions are standing tall. Often we forget that what we are today is just because of the fact that our esteemed teachers did their work with utmost sincerity, without judging that at what place do we fall when they measure our cool quotient.

What is considered cool today is being in a prof. oops! Profession that doesn’t have a far remote relation to teaching stuff, Having a Tab of some top rated manufacturing company, possessing colorful laptops, wearing Uber cool attire from some blah blah International brand, having an I or v pod (although gone are the days when they were considered as a luxury), having an android oops! Sorry again! Android is now getting replaced by latest version of Windows operating system in mobiles, and last but not the least is being good at YO YO English. So be sure if you have all these qualities, never ever imagine this in your remotest dream that someone will ever dare to ignore you.

“How are you” is now replaced by “what version of Android operating system your cell phone has”. Hay ! do you have whats App installed on your phone? Or you will get a reply as “YOOO”. You are asking someone that how is he? And you get YO YO in place of “I am good”..Isn’t it ridiculous? And obnoxious too.

It is no doubt true as the Sun shining in the sky that who doesn’t want to be techno friendly and posses latest gadgets but making it sole criterion to set your behavior towards someone is good enough?

Perhaps no place for real basic emotions and if anyone dares to abide himself/herself by these emotions, soon they are thrown out of those groups of cool people.

So I have decided that if I will ever get hold of the word “cool” I will beat it up with a hammer and will nail it down so that it doesn’t prevail our minds.

A calmer you: I want a PhD in hurt sentiments

Please acknowledge my unique talent. My sentiments do not go a week without getting hurt. I’ve always cried hoarse that when it comes to being sentimental, or senti, or mental, there’s no one quite like me. But you all just smile and ignore it. Well, not anymore, because my sentiments now want their due. I claim to hold a record in sentiments that are the quickest in the world to get hurt. Sometimes even before knowing the cause. They are pretty experienced, you see. They were hurt the first time when I was born and heard the nurse at the hospital hesitatingly tell my dad, ‘Sir, ladki ho gayi. Chalo phir bhi badhai ho.’ Ouch. And they have stayed hurt ever since. By God’s grace and that of our countrymen, the occasions to feel and express the hurt have been aplenty. Had I lived in any other country, I would have had to make the effort of looking out for valid reasons to get upset. Here, thankfully, everything is a reason and every reason is valid.

A calmer you- I want a PhD in hurt sentiments

I don’t know why some people raise a big objection to something as heart-tugging as hurt sentiments. Arrey, dil hai to dukhega nah? Mera toh dukh jaata hai, easily. Every other day, someone mad as a hatter goes ahead and writes a book, or does a painting, or makes a film, without caring for my sentiments. They don’t even think twice before assigning a religion to their characters. How utterly horrible to only care for money and not for the feelings of lakhs, including someone innocent like me, who believe in bhagwan jis of all religions. Bloody commercial minded people, I tell you. I still remember when I saw my first film. There was a guy who rapes and murders a girl. And chalo, rape and murder toh theek hai, but guess what, he had the same name as my first cousin. A typical Hindu name! Can you believe it? I went into such a depression. Finally, when I couldn’t appear for my term-end exams and wrote ‘hurt sentiments’ as the reason in the application, my teacher scolded me. ‘Are you crazy? It’s just a film. They are acting,’ she said. ‘How unsentimental,’ I thought.

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Then I read some stupid award-winning book in which the antagonist, a dacoit, was a Muslim. Oh my God! My sentiments almost jumped off the terrace. I’m not Muslim myself but, you see, my best friend at that time was. I thought of asking the same teacher where I could lodge a complaint against the author, but she had been giving me dirty looks from the time of the film incident, so I kept the hurt within. For years, I have taken offence at every film, every book, every statement, but had no one to share my pain with.

Well, not anymore. Now I see that my other, equally emotional, brothers and sisters have also started coming out in the open with their protests. And apparently, they are powerful enough to make even governments ban films and authors. Yeh hui nah baat. Unity wins. The story of your movie may be based on Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or whatever terrorists, but how can you show them as Hindu or Muslim or Sikh? Give them numbers instead of names, call your villains A2 or B1 and make them wear identity-free dresses. Leave them clothes-less for all I care, but don’t you dare hurt sentiments. I’m ready to put aside the stress I face at workplace, the EMIs I have to pay, the corruption I have to deal with, the thought of not being safe on the roads, but there’s no way I can deal with the unbearable pain of seeing the character of a terrorist in your film belong to my religion. What face will I show to God when I see him in the temple this week, you sentiment hurters! Now that the governments have started listening to people like me, here are some clear demands, or else, I know some cheap and best effigy makers who also supply black paint and shoes ki mala.

1. Include ‘avoidance of sentimental hurt’ as a compulsory subject in the curriculum from class II onwards. What? There are already too many subjects? Arrey, remove science or math or some such useless thing from the syllabus. Who cares for trigonometry when eventually I have to be out on the roads burning effigies and demanding bans. Teach children how to ensure that their artwork never has the remotest connection to any community or religion. In fact, teach them not to pursue any art if they can’t manage to make it hurt-free. Who cares for the creativity crap anyway? It’s the sentiments that count.

2. Allocate the portfolio of hurt-sentiments to a cabinet-ranked minister. In the interest of fairness and impartiality, the ministry of hurt sentiments should employ only those who belong to a religion not found anywhere in India. I’ve heard of some communities in extreme north corner of the south pole where you may find the right people, as they don’t believe in religion, or clothes. Any cases of their sentiments getting hurt on dealing with us, may be presented before an international tribunal.

3. Institute degrees and awards for the stalwarts in this noble area of work. I know it sounds selfish but my sentiments should have at least fetched me a doctorate by now, considering I take equal offence at films and books depicting any religion in a bad light. I’m ready to base my thesis on coming up with an entirely new fictional religion, whose followers will exist only in books, films, theatre and artworks. They will bear no similarity or allegiance – in name, behaviour or appearance – to any religion or community in real life. To see Shah Rukh Khan or Ranbir Kapoor named as A1B2tutu may seem strange to you in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it. At least the sentiments won’t be hurt. Or haan, publicly punish parents who start naming their kids A1B2tutu after that. Otherwise, 20 years from now, a new community with hurt sentiments will be out raising slogans. Meri mehnat waste.
Sonal Kalra thinks there’ll be a mad rush of universities wanting to give her an honorary doctorate after this brilliant piece. She’s decided to accept all, as she can’t hurt sentiments.

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A Calmer You: Dammit, the world didn’t end

I wish it did, before six beasts mauled a young girl and left her to die. I’ve always stayed away from writing this column on newsy topics. But today, you are likely to find this to be one among the many write ups on this same subject in the newspapers. And maybe I’ll have nothing new to say that you haven’t already heard or read. Let me still say it, please.

Because today I realise how utterly foolish and far away from reality it has been, to be talking about ‘calmness’, week after week, when we live in a society where so-called human beings exhibit animal-like behaviour at will. No, in fact, let me apologise to the animals for making this statement, because even they are known to have traces of compassion and kindness. The six men who gang raped and then savagely tortured a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in our nation’s proud Capital last Sunday, before stripping her and her friend and throwing them on the road to die, don’t even deserve to be called animals.

a-calmer-you-delhi-gang-rape

While this incident has shocked and numbed practically everyone to the core, we also have to face the trauma of being informed that a majority of the men who committed the horrific act are not remorseful of what they did. And that there are some in our country who, in the name of ‘human rights’, are still saying that the rapists shouldn’t be given death penalty because it is wrong to take away a human life as punishment. But I thought these men had made it pretty clear last Sunday itself that there’s nothing remotely human about them. So, what rights are we talking about?

While everyone is sad and angry about this incident and the state of women-safety in India in general, I’m also immensely sad at us having gradually turned into a suspicious, untrusting society. A male friend of mine loves kids more than anyone I’ve known. And he has this habit of making funny faces at stranger kids in elevators, making them giggle. Sometimes he would ask a cute kid to tell his or her name or pass a compliment on their dress, and the child would lighten up at the attention. Yesterday, his cheerful greeting of “Hello, little girl” to a five-year-old on the escalator of a shopping mall resulted in the girl’s mom creating a scene. Not only did she shout at my friend, but she also then screamed at her daughter saying, “Did I not tell you not to talk to any uncle or a boy? Boys are bad. They will take you away and hurt you!”

I just feel helpless at what we’ve become. Let me say it upfront. In my humble opinion, death penalty is nothing in front of the punishment that ought to be meted to the people whose acts have instilled a permanent fear of the male gender in the minds of our young generation of girls. Human rights activists can go take a hike for all I care. No, wait. Maybe I’m being inhuman now. Let’s give them jail term, and not hang them. As long as they are gang raped every night that they spend in the prison. Now that’s only fair, we can’t risk them coming out of jail some years later with pent-up sexual frustration. And see, we are not even taking their precious human life away. Right?

Sorry for sounding so cynical, but here’s just a list of things I’ve begun to hate ever since the Delhi gang rape incident acted as a tipping point, and plunged us to new, disgusting depths.

1 I hate it that while someone’s cherished daughter battles unthinkable physical pain lying on a hospital bed, some people in endless debates on TV channels have had the audacity to question whether a girl should have boarded a bus with dark windows and men in it, at night, in a city like Delhi. ‘We are being practical’, they say. Wouldn’t it be more practical and foolproof then, to make a rule that forbids men to venture out of homes after dark? Or better yet, just like we are so fond of telling our girls that they must take a brother or a cousin along for safety when they go out, let’s make it compulsory for all guys to always have a woman escort them when they leave homes after dark . Trust me, it’ll help the cops achieve a zero percent crime rate, both against men and women.

2 I hate the stigma attached to rape cases that’s so engrained in our psyche, that when this young girl got the first opportunity to interact with her mother, she scribbled on a piece of paper that her close friends be told that she’s gone out of town for some work. Till the day we are able to give confidence to our daughters that our reaction to an assault on their sexual organs will be the same as that on any other part of their body, we’ll have to live with our heads bowed in shame.

3 I hate it when the laws of our democracy do precious little for the victim, but safeguard the ‘rights’ of the criminals to refuse identification parades or cover their faces while being taken into custody. I know that there are legal reasons and rules behind this, but then rules are made by human beings. Why can’t such criminals, who have even confessed to the heinous crime, be paraded in public so that they can sense the hatred in the eyes of people around them. Rights ought to be for those who’ve done anything to deserve them, don’t you think?

4 I hate it when the desperate cries for action result in knee-jerk steps by the authorities, such as removing the dark film from all vehicle windows or shutting down all pubs in the city by 1 am. Why, that’s as illogical as suggesting that let us shut down the banks two hours early everyday as that might prevent robberies. A person who is sick enough in the head to commit rape will not hesitate because suddenly his car doesn’t have tinted glasses. He will hesitate if he knows that he’ll be thrashed in full public view if he does it. Why can’t we get that!

Mayans predicted that the world will end on December 21st this year. Well it didn’t, for most of us. For the girl who may not be able to eat through her mouth all her life even if she survives, it may just have. But her courage and the will to live despite all odds seem to have taken her straight into a new world, where the nightmare she went through has probably resulted in waking up millions of sleeping Indians. Maybe in this new world, my friend will be able to smile at a young girl without the fear of being misunderstood. Just maybe.

Sonal Kalra feels ashamed when educated people blame clothes, culture or conduct for rape, when it is nothing but the urge to exercise control and power.

A Calmer You: Hey, do you have G-Complex?

For all the geniuses who think God exists in this world. In their form. Breaking news: I saw God yesterday. I’m not kidding. He was driving a silver Alto. And the rays from His halo seemed to have made the indicators of His car dysfunctional.

Because when He decided to turn right without a warning, He knocked down a motorcyclist. The hapless motorcyclist hadn’t even got up properly when the Almighty decided to get down and give him a rare darshan.

Can you imagine?… God himself making an appearance before you — to give you enlightenment and gyaan. We all gathered around, to secure our once in a lifetime moment. Actually, considering our roads, once in a month moment, but then how does it matter? God is God.

“Mujhe pata hai mujhe kahan mudna hai, aur kab,” God declared, staring at the shaken motorcyclist in the eye, chastising him for having come in the way. ‘Of course we know. Aap Bhagwaan hai, aap sab jaante hain,’ is what I wanted to say, but there was not enough space on the crowded road for me to prostate before Him, so I controlled my emotions. Not for long.

i-am-god-a-calmer-you-column

Because, in the rarest of rare lucky moments, another God just turned up at the scene. He was in uniform. I could have fainted out of excitement. Before people could start chanting hymns, this deity in human form held his hand up and said, ‘Aap log chup rahiye. Hamein pata hai kya hua hoga, hum jaante hain kya karna hai.’

All that grandma had taught me over the years about how God is present everywhere even when we can’t see Him etc flashed before my eyes in that split second. If I had been on that motorcycle, I would have gone straight to heaven, I tell you.

The two Gods chatted for a bit, and people kept staring, in utter reverence, till suddenly, the mobile phone of that lowly being — the motorcyclist— rang loudly and broke the holy reverie. The sound of ‘You are my pumpkin pumpkin, hello hunny bunny’ filled the air. It looked like the God in uniform would slap him, so he quickly disconnected and the crowd slowly dispersed.

I’ve been having spiritual thoughts a lot these days, as you can tell. I want to do research on God. Especially those that are living around us, in human form. You know just like the lesser beings are prescribed vitamin B complex, these people seem to be full of vitamin G-complex, and they think of themselves as no less than Gods. In their eyes, they are always right, nothing can happen without their intervention and the world will come to an end if they cease to exist. Ha!

God complex is actually a scientifically proven state of mind. Vishwas nahi hai toh Google it. Vaise if you Google everything, you may have a G-complex of a different kind. Anyway, people with G-complex can take any form, though they mostly prefer the spouse or the mother-in-law or the boss. My husband, mummy ji or boss, by the way, are not like that. Why? Do you have a problem if I want to secure my next month’s salary or my next year’s peace of mind? Jeene bhi nahi dete.

Jokes apart, this situation of the increasing G-complex abundance around us needs sorting. With humility, I’d like to make these points to people who know, deep inside, that they suffer from God complex.

1. Know it, stop it: If on any three occasions in the past six months, you have been told by someone that you are too full of yourself, you probably are. Correct it before you explode. You see, the more time you spend in complimenting yourself and your achievements in front of people, the less time you leave for them to pay you a compliment. Seedha hisaab hai, the loss is yours.

2. Real Gods didn’t bully: If you believe in mythology, you’d know that no matter what religion, the ones revered are also the ones who paid attention to everyone’s opinion, who suffered torture for the larger good of others, and who basically didn’t think they were the centre of the universe.

If anyone has given you the impression that the world revolves around you, please find that person and slap him. Because that person may just have said it out of love or something, but your belief in it will ruin your relationship with many others around you. No one, and just no one in this world likes arrogant people, whether they are in a position to say this on your face or not. Realise it, and you’ll be more empowered than bullying has ever made you feel.

3.Indispensable? Ha, ha!: Okay, think of the most important person in this world. Those who thought of themselves… come, lemme give you a hug for being so innocent and sweet. And those who thought of some film star or cricketer, let’s meet for some serious psychiatric counselling.

Vaise many of you would have thought of the US President, or our own PM…right? What, you didn’t think of our own PM? Okay, let’s just silently chant 66A three times and not go down that track at all. Yeah, so even if you thought of the US President or the Queen of England, you must know that at any given point, there are four levels of people pre-decided to take over if anything were to happen to any of them.

The world, my dear, has only one thing constant. IT GOES ON. If people at this level are not indispensable, what gives the right to you to think of yourself as irreplaceable? No matter how big or important— your organisation, or bank balance, or fan following is — it’s not even a tiny dot detectable with naked eye on the Globe. So, please, for my sake and your own, go out and look up in the sky. You do see that round bright yellow thing up there, right? The world revolves around it, not you.

Sonal Kalra secretly believes that G-complex isn’t all that bad. She just likes to lecture others.

A calmer you: But I’m not cool enough

I am not a big fan of being cool. It could well be a case of sour grapes because I’ve never managed to look or behave ‘cool’ in the popular sense, but it’s also because I really don’t know what people mean when they call something or someone cool.

A person is cool, and so is a pair of torn, distressed jeans. And then some people are perceived to be cool because they are wearing torn, distressed jeans. Whatever the criteria, they are mostly, and sadly, to do with how a person dresses up, or looks, in general. And also how different from others does he look or behave.

I-am-not-cool-enough-calmer-you

In college, I had a professor who always met with compliments on how utterly cool he was. Because he would turn up to teach every morning wearing a kurta and denims that were crumpled enough to have easily come out of a horse’s mouth after he had chewed on them for two hours. Nonstop. Yes, he looked different, was therefore perceived to be more creative than others who would stick to convention, and always had this aura of ‘cool’ around him. I secretly sympathised with him. It must be damn tough to always be under pressure to live up to the cool image, and on top of it, not have an iron at home.

Over the years, I feel the definition of cool is getting more and more misplaced. Being rebellious, some think, is cool. They may be right, depending on what they are rebelling against. Being disrespectful for the heck of it, I’m sorry, doesn’t cut much ice.

I’ve seen young people respond inappropriately to seniors or teachers, and get away with it in the garb of being cool.

The other day, a young guy at work preferred giving a smart alec-ky reply to a senior who had pointed out a folly. He got the laughs and a ‘cool’ tag alright, but, I would any day prefer a plain sorry, even if it means being thought of as fuddy-duddy. Because it may be out of fashion, but ‘what you say’, and whether you mean it, will always be more important than ‘how you say’ it.

A lot of you, especially students, keep asking me for tips on how to be the cool one in a group of friends. It’s very easy to advise things like flaunt trendy clothes, speak fluently, be in good shape etc… but then you already know these things. And I sure hope that some of you also realise that these things can at best make you seem cool at a superficial level. Much like the medicine for common cold – it can only make you feel better for a short while by suppressing the outwardly symptoms.

What you have inside, is what matters.

Here’s what I want to advise, instead.

1 Don’t try too hard: We are all wired differently, for a reason. We mess up with our original circuit way too much. Getting influenced by those who impress you is fairly natural, but the moment you start applying their definition of cool on yourself, you run the risk of getting yourself into a rut. By the way, do you know that the formal dictionary has only one meaning of the word ‘cool’? And that is – moderately cold.

This only means that you are free to define the slang ‘cool’ in the manner you like. For me, having good manners is being cool. For you, having six pack abs may be cool… whatever it is, the definition has to be your own, and suiting your own sensibilities. Try too hard to fit into someone else’s criteria, and you may turn into a basketcase. Now that’s never cool.

2 Have a sense of humour: A good sense of humour, especially the ability to laugh at yourself, single-handedly beats wearing all luxury labels in the world.
Whiners and sob champions can only get sympathy, that too for a while, but never adulation. If you can make others laugh — remember it’s different from laughing at others — you are cool. Torn denims or not.

3 Not being cool doesn’t necessarily make you uncool: This is most important… especially because a lot of us tend to develop an inferiority complex when we see others who may be smarter or cooler than we are. Well, good for them, but that doesn’t make you any less. It’s always one or two people in a group who tend to be the natural centres of attention.

Nothing wrong with that, as long as they don’t start treating others like lesser beings. Stop competing with them. More importantly, stop trying to be like them. Even if you turn yourselves into their clone, you’d still remain a clone, right? Be yourself, without any tension of competition, and watch the magic.

Human beings are also like fingerprints… all unique in some sense. Focus on identifying the uniqueness in yourself, and make sure it doesn’t get lost in your efforts to be outwardly cool. And by the way, do you know that a lot of people tend to say “Wow, that’s so cool” when they see someone doing something very stupid. I’m not saying it, research is.

Sonal Kalra is not cool.
And she does not care about it.
Does that make her cool?

Liar liar nothing’s on fire

Could someone please certify that these are not lies, anymore! I disconnected the phone, turned around, and heard him say ‘haww’ loudly. Have you ever understood why, when people discover something scandalous, they make this rather weird sound —‘haww’ while blowing hot air out of the mouth? Neither have I. Anyway, lest you think the man in my house is stuck at the mental age of five and goes haww by the minute, let me clarify that ALL men are stuck at the mental age of five, but in this instance, I’m referring to a friend’s seven-year-old son.

“Aunty ji, you lied,” he said, after successfully finishing the haww sound. I had to quickly make a decision on whether to get more offended at being called aunty ‘ji’ — which is so much worse than just ‘aunty’, or being branded a liar. I concluded that both bordered on blasphemy. I mean, who the hell says ‘aunty ji’, till the person being addressed is at least 70. My friend had clearly gone overboard in her zeal to teach her kid the virtues of respecting the elders.

Liar liar nothing’s on fire - a calmer you column

And liar? Who me? I don’t lie. In fact, I hate people who do. In this instance, he’d heard me say ‘the doorbell is ringing, I’ll call you later’ just to cut the phone conversation short. Because Bubbly aunty had chewed every ounce of my brain in the last 20 minutes. Fine, the doorbell didn’t ring. So it was technically a lie. But haven’t we all grown up having been told that a lie, if told for someone’s good, is actually not a lie. That someone, excuse me, was my sanity in this case.

‘A lie is a lie aunty ji,’ insisted the kid, and I made up my mind to tell my friend which psychiatrist to show him to.

What, by the way, is the going definition of a lie these days? If saying ‘stuck in traffic’ is a lie, then 90% of the pants around us, at any given point, should be on fire. While assuring you of my full respect for the sanctity of truth, let me recall these phrases people say, and what they really mean. Then you tell me if my demand that they be taken off the list of ‘lies’, is justified, so that some aunty-ji-monster-kid doesn’t torment us with his ‘hawws’ anymore.

I have read the terms and conditions and agree with them: Yeah right. I can bet Chaddha ji’s right arm if even Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg ever read those terms and conditions. Hum vele hain?

I’m on my way: The short form of ‘Let me finish this drink, and the next, and then I’ll be on my way home. Stop bugging me, stupid woman!’

I never got your SMS: Unless the SMS decided to avail LTA and went off to Srinagar without telling anyone, including the server, there’s no way you didn’t get it, mister.

I’m okay, just a bit tired: Uttered mostly by women, sulking so visibly that their faces may as well touch the ground. Basically refers to the certainty that your day is screwed. That’s okay.

You look great: Silently — ‘Only if you had bothered to get a dress two sizes bigger and shaved those armpits’

I’ve only had two drinks: Who says half a bottle can’t be divided into two equal drinks? You come from the land of Aryabhat and doubt this basic math fact? Shame on you.

It’s not expensive. It was on sale: Anything paid for and not robbed at gunpoint is technically ‘on sale’. Where’s the lie in it?

It’s a fairly recent photo: Kindly note, fairly = 7 to 10 years old, 7 to 10 kg lighter.

I was in a ‘no network’ zone: Actually, I had taken my cellphone’s battery out and put it back. That’s how you got an ‘unreachable’ message, you tech-retard! But as you can see, I can’t be rude.

Your payment has been dispatched: From one corner of my brain to the other. Someday it’ll pop out of it and will then assume the physical form of a cheque. Have patience.

Not been feeling well, since last night: Sigh. Only if hangover was an acceptable reason to take leave, I would’ve never been ‘unwell since last night’, boss. Trust me.

Your baby is SO cute: Mom said every baby just had to be termed cute, even if he looked like a miniature version of the grumpy faced kirana shop owner. God will sentence 275 whip-lashes in hell to those who don’t make the sound of ‘awww’ when they see a baby. Or a puppy.

I’ll just take 2 minutes of your time: That is, after I spend five times as much introducing myself and setting the background of the conversation. Dare you look at the watch! No manners, I tell you.

This offer is only till tomorrow: By the way, have you heard ‘Tom-orrow never comes’? Great song.

It’s not about money, it’s about the Principle: Principle is indeed most important. Once that is settled, you can talk about the interest.

Hey, you’ve lost weight: Err…actually you’ve gained around 60 gms, but if that made you feel good, how is it sinful to tell that lie?

Congratulations — you are the 50,000,000th visitor to this website: I’ve always been lucky, you see. Why, seven African former heads of states have already left $560 million for me in the Nigerian bank accounts. I have documentary proof .

The dish was the best I’ve ever had: Warning: This lie has repercussions. Be prepared to have the same dish over and over at all future dinners. But it does make the cook feel really good. Strike it off the list of lies, please.

I don’t have any regrets in life: Crying every evening in the bathroom over the lost opportunity doesn’t count.

I was just kidding: No I wasn’t. But then look at the look on your face. What do I do if not lie?

My wife is my best friend: Hehe. Hehe… ….hoohahahahahaha

Sonal Kalra is seeing a psychiatrist this evening. The aunty ji bit got to her.

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.

sorry-the-seat-is-taken

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.