Tag Archives: Calmness Tips

A Calmer You: Thank god for the diwali gifts!

3 life altering lessons the Diwali gifting tamasha teaches us. No one loves this season more than I do. There’s festive spirit in the air, and of course, viruses of different kinds. Both bind the nation like nothing else does. Happily sneezing away to glory, we all put up status messages claiming to love the festivities all around. And when we bump into strangers at parties, there’s no risk of running out of conversation starters — “Terrible traffic, no?”, “This change of weather is awful,” “Have you noticed the smog?” and so on. And then the one question that everyone is seen asking everyone else — ‘Aapki Diwali gifting ho gayi?’ For businessmen, the answer to this one question is more important than their annual balance sheet, for homemakers, this question could initiate non-stop verbal diarrhoea about the obligation of giving gifts to all rishtedaars, and for young boys and girls, it brings nerve- wracking visions of accompanying their parents to homes of near strangers, overloaded with gift boxes. And then being mock-scolded by mom who says, “Beta, yeh Dolly aunty hain. Namaste karo aur theek se milo.” — whatever that ‘theek se milo’ means. Strangely enough, when asked if they are done with gifting everyone in their universe, most people respond by saying they haven’t even begun yet. Even if it is 12 hours to go before Diwali. And these are the same people who were caught asking the building security guard to load gift boxes in their cars at seven in the morning the previous day, so that they beat the maddening evening traffic. Anyway, I totally love the concept of Diwali gifting. And when I tell you my crazy theory behind loving it, you may do so, too. I think this whole jingbang of exchanging gifts during the festival gives us some very important lessons in life. Lessons that we may know of, already, but don’t realise.


Here’s what I mean…
1 What goes around, comes around: We’ve all heard this idiom in the serious context of the theory of Karma. But have you noticed how Diwali gifts teach us this lesson? So Bubbly aunty comes home carrying a gift packet, along with the now-necessary accompaniment of a chocolate or a sweet box. You open it after she leaves and make a face. Yet another set of cups and saucers. This must be the 17th this season. And oh, the handle of one of the cups even has a crack. Hmm…humein chala diya? You ask your maid to bring a fresh wrapping paper, and carefully wrap the box again. You have to leave for Pooja aunty’s home now. Last year, she also gave nothing great. Toh yeh unko chal jayega. After giving you sufficient gaalis once you are gone, Pooja aunty repacks the gift and gives it to her neighbour. After all, this is the only occasion when we get to meet and smile at people on whom we’ve called the police seven times through the year over car parking. The neighbour turns out to be a building contractor who wants to genuinely wish health, happiness and prosperity to the MCD inspector in his area. The cups and saucers are on the way again. Oh, but look at how small the world is. The MCD inspector is none other than Pappu chacha — your dad’s second cousin’s first cousin. He sends his sincere wishes every year, through the driver, with his official visiting card neatly taped on the box. The wishes arrive this year too and voila, the cup with the crack is staring back at you. ‘The b*$%&* has not even bothered to use a new wrapping paper. Just changed the cello tape on it,’ you mutter under your breath. “Don’t worry,” says your wife, opening the bed box to store it. “We’ll give it to Bubbly aunty only, next year.” What goes around, comes around.

2 Size matters: Ahem… and so does packaging. In Diwali too, just as in most other things in life. Just the other day, I got a gift packet the size of a center table. It was beautifully packaged with unidentifiable species of wild flowers painted in gold and silver stuck on the shining wrapping paper. Wow…it’s so big, collectively squealed my daughter and the maid, visibly impressed. Extremely suspicious of how an ex-colleague, who would cause anxious moments even before paying his two hundred bucks in contributory office parties, had become so generous, I started opening it. Please note that I’ve deliberately used the continuous tense instead of simply saying ‘opened it’…because opening it was quite a task in itself. There were layers on it — several. Discarding the wrapping sheets, and the newspaper sheets, and the cardboard, and another set of newspaper sheets (this time the one I work for!), and then enough dried straw to feed 250 cows in Bihar, we reached the gift – a rather nice wooden wall-clock, of the usual size. Still not sure why it was packed like a fragile TajMahal, I was pretty amused when I turned it around to see a Dinesh Verma’s card addressed to my colleague, sticking out of the battery compartment. It seemed like Mr Verma’s last ditch effort to ensure no one recycled his gift without it being exposed that it originated from him. Anyway, the sheer size and packaging of the gift has won hearts in my household, and my daughter has neatly saved all the gold and silver coloured beads and bushes for her school project. Point taken — Size matters.

3 Expectations cause stress: While growing up, I had a neighbour who was at an influential post in the income tax department. Every year around Diwali, it was a common sight to see a rush of people ringing his doorbell, carrying gifts of all shapes and sizes. As kids, we would envy them like hell, what with us having to mostly do with Bubbly aunty’s cups and saucers from Sadar Bazaar for excitement. His wife once confided in a neighbour that her husband had a list of ‘expected gift givers’ ready before every Diwali, and would get stressed if any of the expected people didn’t turn up to wish him. And then one day, he retired from service. Need I say more?

Sonal Kalra wants to start a part-time business of ‘gift packaging and recycling consultancy’. Aapki Diwali gifting ho gayi?

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Alright, here we are. All you guys who have been grinning from Pune to Patna after last week’s column —please control your emotions now and don’t show your teeth. You knew that girls will get back, didn’t you?

And got back they did in the form of over 800 emails to me in the past seven days, first chiding me for being biased towards men and second bombarding my almost non-existent brain with info about things that guys do which drive women to the wall. Please note that I originally wanted to write on things guys ‘say’ that girls don’t understand, but then I realised that the poor guys don’t really get a chance to speak often, so they don’t really say much. Anyway, I can’t help but confer the ‘best sense of humour ever’ award to God for having made the two genders so different… and so interesting, in the way they think and behave. One universal grudge that the girls who mass-scolded me this week mentioned in their mails was men always claim to listen to what they are saying, when in reality their mind is elsewhere. They also gave quite a colourful description, in their view, of what that ‘elsewhere’ is but then my column comes with a U-certificate from the censor board and I won’t share all of that. Vaise bhi mujhe biased bol hi diya hai, so I can be a little partial to the hapless guys here.


But yes, it is true that guys have an uncanny ability to exhibit selective deafness when a woman is speaking. It’s another thing that women usually talk so much that the guy’s mind involuntarily switches to the sanity-saving mode. And starts to think about critical things such as work and TV and friends and beer and boobs. There. I said the last word, and I may lose my precious U-certificate but considering how many of you wrote to me about the obsession guys have of talking to a girl’s body parts instead of the whole of her, I had to say this. Anyway, my dear brothers and fathers, please pay attention to some of these other things that are snatching away your maa-behen ki… sleep.

1 ‘I know this route’: Well, what’s with men thinking they come with an in-built GPS? A lot of women complain that even if it means driving round and round in circles, a guy’s ego won’t let him ask for directions to a place, especially when he is with a girl. Eh lo, ab gum hona bhi cool ho gaya? “My husband drives me crazy, literally, by refusing to stop at a corner and asking someone where to turn. Even my brother used to do the same,” wrote Shivani. Funnily enough, when I responded to Shivani’s mail to thank her for the input, her husband Ankur replied. “It’s she who drives me mad. She wants to stop after every 100m and reconfirm what one bystander tells us, with another. Women are directionally challenged, they should just stay quiet,” he wrote. Ankur Bhaiya ab tum toh gaye. One, because you check your wife’s email and two, because in a sudden fit of sadism, I’ve written your real names. Happy dinner tonight!

2 ‘It looks clean to me’: Yeah right. Ask the hapless mum or wife who has asked you for the millionth time to clean up your room or your wardrobe. They will be happy to detail out the mess for you. You would still not get it. From leaving the toilet seat up to a wet towel on the floor, from unwashed denims strewn all over the room to the two chappals who’ve broken up with each other and would never be seen together, guys do it all. What the girls can’t understand is how, when they both studied in the same schools and passed the same CBSE or whatever board, can the meaning of ‘cleanliness’ be understood so differently for the two genders. Let’s sue CBSE, anyone?

3 ‘I was looking at you, not the TV’: A Scottish ‘man’ named J.L Baird, invented television in 1923. It’s been 89 bloody years! And still the men of the world are mesmerised by the invention so much so that they can’t take their eyes off it. No matter what they’re doing. Go out for dinner at a nice restaurant to unwind, and what do you find? A man has thought of this brilliant idea to put up a wall-sized screen with a sports channel running on it. And your man then spends the entire evening glued to some Godforsaken West Indies Vs Shimla match of 1995, ON MUTE, nodding absentmindedly at all inappropriate junctures in the one-sided conversation. Ugh. Nirmal Baba, can you please do something nasty to J.L Baird’s aatma? Reply asap.

4 ’I hardly ever shop!’: When they buy something, it is a necessity. When women buy something, it is wasteful expenditure. Clap, clap. Once I saw a guy friend justify buying four pairs of denims at one go on the pretext of denims being ‘basic necessities’ and he not having anything good in his wardrobe. By the way, all the four were damn expensive and looked exactly the same to me. But when his girlfriend started shopping for her own outfits, the frequency of him looking at the watch became Guinness record worthy.
“You girls take so much time in deciding,” he sulked. Well, yes. Because we buy DIFFERENT clothes mister!There are so many more, but I’m done. This girls Vs guys is a very sentimental topic, you see. Girls are mostly senti, guys are mostly mental and they are always out to change the other according to how they are. I’d say spare yourself the effort. The two are wired very differently. Just pray that when the life on Mars is being decided, the tender for creation goes to a different God. Mr Kejriwal, please ensure fairness.
Sonal Kalra thinks that if men and women are asked to live each others’ lives for a month, everything will go quiet in the world. Sadma lag jayega.

Hey, anyone wants to come to the loo?

…and 5 other things girls say that guys can never understand There are only three kinds of men who can’t understand women, young men, old men and middle-aged men. Kasam se I was going to write on a serious topic today. Why, haven’t you seen my conscious attempt over the last few weeks to shed the joker image and take up life-altering issues that leave a monumental impact on the human psyche? I even had a deck of cards ready on my table, with topics ranging from corruption to global warming neatly mentioned, so that I could scientifically arrive at what to write about in the column this week.


But then as I was about to shuffle and pick one up, a voice rang from outside my office cabin. “Hey, anyone wants to come to the loo?” This rather public query by a female colleague was followed by a few incomprehensible girlie sounds and then another girl from the team shouted back, “Yeah, I’ll come”. Eventually, a group of four marched towards the restroom. Shrugging this off as a perfectly routine occurrence as any woman would, I was about to turn my attention to the global warming card when a male colleague who had come to drop some papers casually remarked, “I can never understand why girls look for company even when going to the washroom.” I didn’t really have an answer. I could’ve said that a loo-break gives a much needed breather for girls to indulge in some harmless gossip, much like a smoking-break does for some, but by then, my mind had gone on a trip to look for other things women normally say or do that men just do not get their heads around. Dear global warming, you are anyway a slow occurrence, surely you won’t mind waiting. Here we go…

1 ‘All men are the same’:

This, by far, is one sentence that any woman- of any age, colour, caste, creed or nationality- can utter most convincingly, with a sigh and a shake of the head. It is normally preceded by ‘I thought you were different, but’ coupled with a few insta-tears for effect. What the poor guys don’t anticipate is the speed at which they fall from the pedestal, and turn from hero to jerk in an instant after an argument. Actually, if you think deeper, all women are the same when it comes to terming all men as the same. Wait, I’m confused.

2 ‘Nothing’:

Yes, that’s what they say when they are visibly upset and you ask them what’s wrong. But my dear, God Almighty help you if you accept the answer ‘nothing’ at face value and stop asking. Remember, a girl saying Nothing = you and your day are screwed. By the way, I must confess to this strange hermaphrodite like feeling addressing women as ‘they’. But then, to stay true to the topic, I’m thinking like a guy for this one. Karna padta hai.

3 ‘Do I look fat?’:

A girl can never get tired of asking this, even when she, and the guy, know that if he makes the mistake of nodding even by a nano centimetre, she would strap him on the train tracks and make Rajdhani Express help him attain nirvana. The guys don’t understand why girls still keep asking this. But I know that the answer to this question, in any language of the world, has to be ‘No’. Don’t even think about being all diplomatic and saying ‘curvy girls are better’ or some such shit at that moment. Because all they will hear is ‘Yes, you look fat’. If you are a direct descendant of the Father of the Nation and would prefer dying to telling a lie, well, okay. Just for you, I’ll someday write about painless ways of committing suicide.

4 ‘Let’s eat at some nice place’:

This seems like a totally harmless thing to say, but Oh.My.God. First, this ‘some nice place’ is the most blah phrase, because an hour would then be spent rejecting all the ‘nice’ places you suggest. And when you finally reach a place of her choice, she’ll order for a salad, because, you know, there’s some organic funda going around. And then eat three-fourth of what you ordered.

5 ‘She’s pretty but wears too much makeup’:

This, or a close variation is what a woman would always reply if a man asks her opinion of any other woman in the universe. This is true even if you were to ask a girl’s opinion of someone who is in no way a direct threat to her, like a film star. If a woman wants to praise another woman, she’ll almost always appreciate her non-physical characteristics, like her ‘sweet nature’ etc, but rarely her physical beauty. Call it subconscious jealousy or an inherent insecurity, but that’s how it is. Samajh jaao toh accha. Why torture her by even asking her opinion on something that would keep her from giving an honest answer? There are so many others and the list is endless. But before some Naari mukti morcha decides to burn my effigy, let me say loud and clear that there are many more things that men say and do, which to a woman seem about as useful or logical as the letter P in psycho. Let’s take some of those in the next column.

Whatsay? Sonal Kalra totally believes in Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus argument. Is that why there’s global warming on earth?

Hey, do you have a mind of your own?

I’ve known Shivani for many years. As a sweet, polite girl with lots of brain- and no mind of her own. The latter was proved yet again when I bumped into her at the cinema hall last week. We were both there to watch the film Barfi!. Before the movie started, Shivani said, “I can’t wait for it to begin. Ranbir Kapoor is the favourite of ‘all my friends’.” During the interval, Shivani said, “It’s really good so far,” at which the girl next to her in the seemingly eternal quest for popcorn asked, “But aren’t you getting confused by so many flashbacks?” Shivani replied, “Hmm, that’s true. It’s pretty confusing.” Just as the movie was about to end, I could see Shivani two rows ahead, wiping away tears while pretending that something was bothering her eye. “Loved it. Amazing. Made me feel so good about life,” were her words as we all left.


Within 5 minutes, her Facebook status screamed how much she loved the film. And then two days later, a video showing that a lot of scenes in the film were copied from different English movies started doing the rounds. I bumped into Shivani at the bookshop. “How horrible!” she said. I nodded. “Everyone’s saying it’s a straight lift from classic movies. Just imagine, we are sending such a film to the Oscars. Check out my status,” she said, and handed her phone to me.

Her status read, “I hate Barfi!, the copycat”. “But didn’t you totally love it the other day?” I asked. “Yeah, but now everyone’s saying it’s a copy,” she said. “Did you love it because of how it made you feel or only because you thought it was an original?” I asked. “But everyone says…” she started to say, but I mentally drifted away. I’m sorry for you Shivani, and for the rest of you who may identify with her. Not because you liked or hated Barfi!, because you have every right to, but because your thoughts are always being dictated by this grossly useless term — ‘everyone says’.

Liking or disliking a work of art is a deeply personal thing, and as subjective. You may love or hate a film, and both are great, as long as you are doing it because that’s how you feel, and not because that’s what the world is saying. Anyway, too much spoken about a film in which anyone hardly speaks. My point is generic. I’ve seen people shy away from expressing their true opinion about something because they are constantly waiting to see what the majority says.

Or because someone more aggressive and vocal has already put his/her opinion affront, almost as a challenge. ‘We dare not be different’ is what dictates our actions, and how utterly sad is that. If you are one of those who hesitates to speak up your mind, these may just help:

1. Don’t bother about being judged:

If someone decides to judge you on whether you love slapstick comedies or serious art-house cinema, it is, frankly, their problem and not yours. At various stages in our life, we tend to like cinema of different kinds. It depends on our current mindset, our likeness for certain artists and sometimes just on our mood on the day we watch it. None of these is in anyway related to what the rest of the world thinks about it. If you like depending on the experts’ judgment or even your friends’ opinion on whether to watch something or not, it’s absolutely fine. But when you do watch and realise that your own opinion is different from theirs, don’t hesitate to express it for the fear of being judged.

Remember that hesitatingly saying ‘vaise mujhe itni buri nahi lagi’ for something that you totally loved is not being fair to that work of art. If it made you feel good, you owe it to reflect your unbiased opinion. Same if you found it to be crap.

2 Don’t let overaggressive people win at the game:

There are people who never outgrow the bullying streak they developed in school simply because they were not taken to task back then. So you see them very aggressively voicing their opinion about everything, with the clear purpose to drown out any opposing viewpoints.
Pity such people and retain your politeness, but don’t let their aggression colour your views. Years ago in college, there was a classmate who lived under the illusion of being the resident movie reviewer of…well, this country at least. He would watch a film on the first day, declare it shitty or fab, and then condescendingly say things like, ‘don’t tell me you guys are planning to watch that disaster?’ It would pain me to see others in his group fidget, with tickets in hand, and defensively say, ‘we felt like passing time and then there was no better choice’. One day, a new entrant to the class replied, ‘Why the hell should you go through disasters alone every week, we should do that too’ and the bully’s reign was broken. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

3 Form an opinion – it’s healthy:

As long as you are not hurting someone’s sentiments, quit fence sitting and have an opinion of your own. At least about things that are in the public domain – like movies, books, politics, art. Do not, like a mindless parrot, share or repeat something that you saw several people like on Facebook or retweet on Twitter, if your own heart says the opposite. You’ll feel good being true to yourself, and who knows, you may inspire someone else to also gather courage and speak up their mind.
Ending this by quoting Steve Jobs, again, ‘Your time is limited. So, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.’

Sonal Kalra was asked if copycat Barfi! should have been sent to the Oscars. She wants to ask why you care so much about the Oscars in the first place. Because ‘everyone else’ does?

We, the kanjoos of India

Some of you may have read about the old woman in America who lived alone in a one-room dingy flat, wore tatters and ate leftovers given by neighbours. But after her miserable death – because she did not buy the flu medication – the cops discovered cash equivalent to Rs. 2 crore stacked in a polybag hidden inside a broken almirah in her room. Thank God we are not this crazy in India. We may keep our houses shabby, wear the same pair of jeans for nine years without washing, cleverly get up to go to the washroom when it’s time to pay the restaurant bills when eating out with friends, and depend on grandma’s remedies or grandfather Internet for advice than visit a doc when ill – but at least we won’t stack our money in polybags. Polythene bags are banned in India. We care for the environment. And then we have lockers in the bank.


We in India love saving for a rainy day. It’s another thing that we have among the highest incidence of draught in the world, and if it does rain by chance, we prefer shouting out to the neighbour – “aunty, pakode khila do,” than spending any money on the rainy day! What? Rainy day refers to ‘bad times’ in the expression? Ab English padha lo tum mujhe. My dear, we don’t like to utilise our savings even in bad times. Because then we decide to preserve them for worse times, not realising that sometimes it just makes sense to also spend a little on ‘good times’ (no, not beer). Anyway, I didn’t mean to get serious about the merits or otherwise, of savings. I’m just a bit pissed off because I just ate a sweet that had gone all khatta, or bad. The person who offered it to me, proudly told me — after I had uncomfortably eaten the sweet — that he got it from a prominent sweet shop that offers a 50% discount on sweets purchased after 10pm. Two days ago! Well, you shameless cheapskate, the discount is for a reason – that the milk-based sweets have to be consumed THE SAME DAY. He tried telling me he kept it in the fridge, and ‘what’s the point in spending money on the fridge when it can’t keep stuff good’. And I told him it’s as pointless as he being allowed to exist in this world when he can’t make his brain working good.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for Misers[/stextbox]

Anyway, he’s a friend and won’t mind me mentioning him here but he better understand how there is a limit to kanjoosi. And that limit is called common-sense. What’s the logic in buying something cheap when you’ll end up spending much more later, running around doctors? Here are some varieties of cheapskates or misers who are beyond my limit of common sense. Tell me if you agree…

1 Lovers of traffic jams:

These people do have a slightly longer, but neater route to their office or home, but just to save petrol in going an extra kilometre, they’ll prefer the most crowded, marginally shorter route. And end up burning more fuel while the car is stuck in a jam or has to negotiate five traffic signals.

2 Missed call morons:

Sarkar mar gayi while trying to ensure that the call rates remain the cheapest but then how can we allow something else to be the cheapest when we exist. We’ll not give up on our fascination with giving missed calls to people. Soch lo, the habit may make you give a missed call to fire brigade if the house is on fire. I remember many years ago when both incoming and outgoing calls cost quite a bit, a younger cousin of mine who lives in another city, had worked out a neat plan to stay in touch. “Didi, we talk every week and say practically the same things to each other. From now, I’ll just give you a missed call. One ring means my health is fine. Two rings means the studies, too, are going well. And three means I’m missing you. If there is a fourth ring, please take the call because it means there’s something urgent to talk.” Ha!, how smart is that? Ab toh woh bhi missed call nahi deta, because it’s so cheap to talk. Stop being a miser.

3 Wrapping paper recyclers:

Abey, saath leke jaoge kya, those precious five rupees that you have saved by recycling a badly wrinkled gift wrapping paper. And what about the 20 minutes you spent in carefully peeling it off a gift you got so that it doesn’t get torn?

4 Penny pinching diners:

These are friends who would probably count how many more spoons of food have gone inside your mouth than theirs, so that they don’t have to split the bill equally. I totally understand that in group situations, it makes perfect sense for some to shell out more than others because, let’s say, they were drinking while others were not. But to say that I hardly ate one spring roll while others had two each, is being one-tight-slap-stingy.

I could go on and on but the point is simple. It’s wise to be careful with spending, but never at the cost of your comfort, dignity, and sheer logic. Let me end with a joke I read somewhere:

An old man is on his deathbed and has very dim vision. He calls out, ‘Is my wife here?’ ‘Yes, I’m here,’ the wife sobs. ‘Are all my children here?’ he asks. ‘We are all here, dad. The entire family is here beside you,’ they reply, grief-stricken. ‘Then why is the kitchen light still on?’ he says, and dies. Memorable last words, no?

Sonal Kalra thinks if her ‘sour’ sweet friend ever falls off his building, he’ll go down shouting to his wife to keep the dinner in the fridge.

To all the drama queens and kings

Please, for God’s sake now, don’t start sending me mails saying I’m cynical or anti love etc. I’m as romantic as they come, but also try to be as practical. Mind you – both can co-exist. There’s a good reason why I keep telling you to not obsess about four letter words, especially this one – love. Because it is overrated, overused and you just don’t get over it.

If I get 700 mails in a week from you, at least 500 are about a broken heart. And no, not of the medical kinds. Had that been the case, I could have tied up with a hospital and made some money by referring you to them. You write about the emotional heartbreak. Can’t blame you, I too, was like this as a teenager, but uff, I’m seeing more and more drama queens these days. People just like to overdramatise everything – I will die without her, I don’t want to live anymore because he hasn’t replied to my text for six hours now. Arrey chhodo.


Ab yehi reason reh gaya marne ke liye? Please take the trouble of asking a senior… someone who managed to get his/her love and have lived with that person for 10-15 years. They’ll tell you how they clamour to get some peaceful moments, without the ‘love of their life’ lurking around, looking for a new reason to fight. Of course love exists in their case too, but the expression and intensity assume some semblance of maturity and sanity. Khair that’s not the point of discussion here.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for Broken Hearts[/stextbox]

The topic today is that it is perfectly possible to be young, in love, go through heartbreak – and still not behave like a walking hormonal mess. Look here, into my eyes, and answer one question honestly and very seriously. “Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?” Sorry, bad joke… and I even cracked it once earlier. Maarna mat, don’t answer any question. Just try to pay attention to these, if you’ve ever suffered from heartbreak, be it due to rejection of love or a nasty breakup.

1 No obsessive thoughts, please: Thinking about a person

24×7 is not healthy. Period. Be it a celebrity, the hottest one in the neighbourhood or a highly desirable colleague or classmate. An obsession with anyone never leads to a happy outcome. If you ever start to feel that you would die if a certain person wasn’t with you, slap yourself on the left cheek from my side and then think about this – Even when you did not know that person, you had a life. It involved your parents, your friends, and also a routine of going out, watching movies, reading books etc.

To suddenly consider all of this inferior to thoughts about another person is so unfair. Because even if that person doesn’t exist in your life anymore, all of these still do. If a relationship has not worked out, it only means one thing. That someday, another will. Thoughts of cutting yourself from the whole world, killing yourself for someone etc are frankly, very uncool. While you are in love, live it as the most beautiful and healthy feeling, and give it your best. When you are out of love, look at all the other beautiful and healthy things in your life. Leave the obsession – and its expression to Hindi films.

2 Don’t seek too much advice:

As a race, we love and specialise in advising others. When it comes to matters of heart, then toh we go overboard telling people what to do. May I please request you something… give your heartbreak the dignity of healing without making it the subject of someone else’s water cooler gossip. Don’t ask for advice from the whole world. Also don’t move around with Devdaas written all over you so that people start advising you even when you’ve not asked.

Frankly, no one else lives your life for you. And its very easy for your friends to tell you how to get over grief and for people like me to write columns on what you should do. But it’s another thing for you to live through the experience of pain. Go through it quietly, and give it time. Do just what your mind tells you too. I would have said heart but woh toh toot gaya nah! Oops, bad joke again.

3 Everything ends:

This will sound very weird (as though the rest of the writeup doesn’t), but the universal truth is that every relationship in this world ends. I’d once read somewhere that whether it comes through an untimely breakup, or a detachment of the mind, or ultimately death… but the end of any relationship is inevitable. And people still have to go on with their lives. Why not then, go on with it happily, till it lasts. Treat heartbreaks as temporary setbacks and signals that things didn’t work out only because something better is in store for you, or the other person. In both cases, the pain is worth it.

4 You are not alone:

If it helps, do know that scientists who have nothing better to do have come up with studies that reveal that over 70% of people in this world experience heartbreak at some point or the other, in life. Over 40% are toota-dil veterans who undergo it more than once in life. That’s massive company you have. And still look at how the world’s population is bursting at its seams. The lesson: People may die of heart failure but no one dies of
heartbreak. It just heals. No more drama. Just get over it and get yourself a life.

Sonal Kalra is seriously begging for some happy feedback mails and not the ones crying of break-ups and rejection. Don’t break her heart please.

Do you have money to spare?

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

tips to handle money borrowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham bell must be in hell

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

Religion? Do you even care?

Michelle, I have a confession to make. When you mailed me last week asking me to write on why people fight in the name of religion, I called you an idiot, in my head. For two reasons. One, I felt that I was the most ill-suited columnist for picking on such a serious and so-called sensitive issue, considering my own reputation of being an idiot who finds it funny that a neighbour deflates her car tyres with alarming regularity. And two, because ‘why do people fight in the name of religion’ is a question that used to be the favourite topic for my school debates 20 years back. I thought it would have been answered by now. Why, doesn’t the smart generation of today have an answer for everything these days? It then struck me why a 16-year-old such as you, Michelle, still didn’t have clarity from your peers on this issue. Because they simply do.not.care. That’s it. And I love them for this attitude. You know why, because I feel that even God doesn’t want us to care so much about religion. At least not the way we human beings have come to interpret it.


Before I go on and tell you why I feel it’s okay to not stress too much about religion, I want to set two things straight. I’m not an atheist, or an agnostic or any other fancy term whose definition you’d need to check with Swami Google Baba. But not that I see anything wrong with anyone who is any of those. And second, this article is not about any particular religion, nor is it telling anyone to denounce any faith. If any fanatic is already toying with the idea of sending me a hate mail claiming ‘hurt sentiments’, let me humbly type out a big SORRY to them, using the middle finger.

Coming back to the point, my contention remains that even though a lot of us, especially the younger lot, identify themselves with one religion or the other, it’s done more as a passive habit, and not because we care about it. Even the older ones who may practice more religious habits than the gen-x does, do so mostly because they have more time, and they’ve reached a point where life’s tensions make them seek solace in spirituality of some kind. And the fact that we tend to equate spirituality with praying to the Lord via a religious route is absolutely fine, and fair. But even then, the focus is us, our problems and asking God to solve them, rather than our religion and its issues. And I feel that if there is God somewhere, that’s how He or She would have wanted it. And that it must upset Him a lot to see people scare or threaten or kill each other in the name of faith. Here’s how, I feel, we messed things up terribly for ourselves.

1 We lost the plot: Have you ever seen a situation where the question asked of a classmate was something else and his answer went in a totally different direction because he didn’t understand it? Or when you see someone make a long, fancy corporate presentation but getting the brief all wrong? Dil karta hai thappad lagao, for not even paying attention to the question. Well, that’s how frustrated God must be feeling, seeing us confuse between beliefs — and behaviour. He may have, with all good intention, tried to break the monotony in our lives by giving us diversity in the form of different religions, names of Gods, places of worship, praying practices etc. But all that the poor thing wanted out of us was good behaviour. Hum se itna bhi nahi hua, because hum mandir masjid etc banana mein busy ho gaye. Tell me, if I were to ask you that when you go to a restaurant, what is it that you expect…would you say good service, polite staff, tasty and hygienic food, or would you say Hindu/Muslim/Sikh/Christian waiters, even if they spit in your coffee? Because what matters to ordinary people like you and me, my dear, is how well-behaved another human being is towards us and not whether he prays standing up or sitting down at his home. How the hell do I care? I don’t know the religion of the jerk who punctures my car tyres over parking, but I would still call him a jerk even if he belonged to my most favourite religion. We are no less critical of a Hindu or a Muslim politician when they turn out to be corrupt… and neither do we stop ourselves from ripping apart a brain-dead film whether the actor is Muslim or Hindu. Because what we should — and do care about, is how they touch our lives, not how they spell their name. And knowing this simple fact, we still let some loonies flare up our emotions and dictate our actions through hate speeches, in the name of religion. What kind of losers are we, yaar?

2 We commit to faith, not to behaviour: I wish people were as committed about treating others nicely, as they sometimes are to visiting gurudwaras or temples, mosques or churches. We have the will power to fast for days and the generosity to donate money for renovating places of worship, but not the kindness to give up our seat in the crowded Metro or bus to an elderly man or woman. While you are busy praying loudly every morning, God may be shouting His guts out and saying, ‘I don’t want fancy sacrifices. Just be nice,’ but then who’s listening. We are happily cruising along, generation after generation, with distorted knowledge of faiths and senseless thoughts about how we will die before letting our daughter marry into the ‘other’ religion. Theek hai. Maro.

3 God’s fed up: Here’s a theory, as silly as it may sound. I feel that even if there was God, He’s given up on us now, after seeing the way we are conveniently killing each other by placing the gun on His shoulder. He could very well be busy creating life from the scratch, on another planet. And this time putting a little more brain into them so that they get His brief right. We could be on our own, and that’s scary. If we want Him back, maybe we could try promising him to care a little less about religion and a little more about each other. That’s all He wanted.

Sonal Kalra just realised all the preaching she ended up giving above. She’s gone straight to the Himalayas. Galti ho gayi, jaan loge kya?

Galti ho gayi… Jaan loge kya?

Going by the virtual scolding I got via tonnes of emails for not writing the column last week, this headline may as well have been on me. But it’s not. I’m genuinely sorry for having ditched last week, but then you all were more than understanding. Anyway, this headline is borne out of a sense of frustration I experienced yesterday, being witness to a couple’s loud squabbling at a public place. I was on a date with myself, enjoying a leisurely meal alone in a nice restaurant (remember we had vowed to treat ourselves once a month? Are you keeping it up?). Just then this couple entered and perched themselves on the table right next to mine. There’s nothing wrong with that, although the restaurant was near-empty. But they were too busy fighting, to care. Apparently, the guy had promised to meet her at a certain time and got really late. By full ten minutes. And then he made the unforgivable mistake of not even calling her up to inform her of the reason. So he had been saying sorry for the last twenty minutes. And though she kept saying ‘it’s okay’, she also continued sulking.


[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for How and Why you should forgive others small mistakes[/stextbox]

Now, I normally don’t eavesdrop. Achha yaar I do. Ab aapse kya chhupaana, what can be more entertaining than such live performance? But as I mentioned, this one was frustrating, because rather than bringing up new, interesting arguments, this girl just kept harping ad nauseam about why he had come late that day when he’s otherwise punctual. Paka diya, by God. There are many such pakau people around us, who catch hold of one mistake you’ve made, and try to kill you over it with sheer mental torture. Whatever happened to the art of forgiving and forgetting? Do note that I’m not referring to big mistakes like breaking someone’s trust or being intentionally malicious towards someone — because those, if you ask me, are not even worthy of forgiveness. But the small little errors that we sometimes make in our day-to-day lives out of clumsiness, are not big enough for someone to rob us of our peace of mind. Especially, when we’ve said sorry for it. Introspect for a bit and try to see if you are one such sulker or a ninja fighter in disguise. And if you are, here’s what I have to say to you.

1 The longer you hold on to a grudge over a minor matter, the longer you are blocking your mind from seeing something positive.

Once I ended up ignoring a call from a colleague as I was busy catching a deadline. When I called him back, he started off by taunting how I’ve become too busy to respond, and I said sorry, explaining the reason. I genuinely meant my apology. But every time I bumped into him afterwards, he would sarcastically mention how his call got ignored. He did the same when one day I called to wish him on his promotion. I hung up. I’m sure his attitude cost him a lot of good wishes that could’ve come his way in life.

2 Holding a grudge requires too much energy, don’t you think?

Ek hi baat ko baar baar bolte raho… repeating how the other person did a wrong thing. Whose energy is getting wasted, tell me… his or yours? Anyway, medical science has proved that holding grudges and not letting go of negative emotions can cause anxiety, depression, diarrhoea etc. Okay, maybe not diarrhoea, but the other two are not good either.

3 Strangely enough, most people who are constantly and endlessly shouted at over minor matters continue to make the same mistakes.

Because their mind becomes used to anticipating the cribbing and in turn stops to take it seriously. So many times I’ve seen people dismiss a nagging spouse by saying ‘uski aadat hai chik chik karna’, and thereby not paying attention to any merit that all the complaining may have. Similarly, keep shouting at your teenager over the same thing everyday and soon he or she may start avoiding you, but won’t stop doing whatever it is. There’s a certain respect and attention your grudge gets if it is expressed politely, firmly… and sparingly. Don’t take away that respect from yourself.

4 You may have trouble believing the offender’s apology. Not without a good reason though, because people often don’t mean it, and utter it just to maintain peace in a heated moment.

But don’t let cynicism close all your mind’s doors because someone may just be genuinely feeling sorry. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt, and gracefully accept the apology, saying that you would not like them to repeat a wrong behaviour. And leave it at that. Trust me, this works much better than constantly cawing like a crow in their ears and irritating them into doing the same thing again. If you decide to accept someone’s apology, then mean that acceptance as much as you would like that person to mean his or her regret. If you say ‘it’s okay’ without meaning it, how do you expect the other person to mean it when they say ‘I’m sorry’? Socho.

5 Lastly, the golden rule that I had mentioned a few weeks back too — forgiveness is for yourself, not for the other person

. If someone has done something wrong, why should you punish your mind by renting out a portion of it to something as negative as pain. Do yourself a favour by ignoring the minor mishaps in life. Especially if they have already occurred and just remembering or talking about them won’t change anything. Sometimes when you stay silent and act graceful, the offender feels guiltier. Because deep inside, we all know when we’ve done something wrong. Don’t we?

Sonal Kalra has decided that she won’t ever say sorry more than once for a mistake. Izzat bhi koi cheez hai life mein. By the way, she’s sorry again for not writing last week. You’ve forgiven her nah?