Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hello! My Old Friend!

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Hello Sneha, my old friend

I know it's been long since we spoke. Remember the last time? Oh, I guess you have forgotten. Let me refresh your mind. Have a look at this post. Ah! Now I am sure you recall. So, where were we? I realize we haven't yet started talking. 

Lets talk now then. First and foremost, where have you disappeared? I see you everyday. You come near to me, see me, hold me, but then as if a sudden realization strikes you and you keep me away. I lie there at one corner of your room. The corner where you loved to hold me and pour your heart out. I lie there still, untouched, and gathering dust. 

The blank pages are turning yellow. Slowly and steadily, the yellow pages will wear off. Will you pick me up then? But no, I do not intend to be picked up after I wither away. I want you to pick me up now. I know you are being shrouded by thoughts. Some positive, some negative; I see a sweat of worry on your forehead all the time. The lines on your forehead narrow down again and again as you look at me from a distance. 

I know you are yearning to pick me up, take that pen from the stand kept away on your study table, and sit by the window on the corner of that room. The room of your own. The room where you have spent many a sleepless nights during your exams, before your marriage, whispering to your beloved, celebrated joys and pondered over your sorrows. Now, as I lie next to the window, near your bed, in the very room of your own, I feel I have lost you my old friend. 

Where have you gone? I do not want to lose you my old friend. You are the only friend I have. You have confided in me all the time. I know, now you have your love with you, who is there to lend you a shoulder all the time; but I also know that you do feel at times to have the very conversation that you cannot with him, with me. 

No, am not that friend of yours, who will chide you if you haven't spoken to him/her for long. I will rather comfort you. I know every little emotion of yours. Like you, I have felt them too. As you wrote your heart out to me, wiping your tears off, that one drop fell on me and I knew I had been successful in comforting you the way none ever had. 

Yes, my dear friend, I am writing to you. I know you will be taken aback. However, I just want to let you know that its okay if you haven't been able to share things with me off late. I am still there for you lying in the same place, waiting for you to pick me, hold me and console me. Don't keep me aside to wither away. Relive yourself with me. 

Few years down the line, when you turn these pages, they might be yellowed but the moments you would have shared with me shall be etched in those pages, for you to reminisce till your last breath. 

Your Loving Diary 

Book Review: Private India by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, home to the Indian film industry- Bollywood-  is also home to several gruesome terrorist attacks. A city that never sleeps, where you travel through the local trains amidst thousands of unknown faces and yet are able to strike a conversation with some of them. A city that has been the theme of many Blockbuster movies, the den of underworld goons, abode to lakhs of those who come to earn a living in the star studded city, hoping to make it big one day. The city is now in danger. It has been struck by a catastrophe. No, it is no epidemic, no famine, and no flood. But, a series of murder. Eight women are strangulated and their corpses are arranged with strange objects. 

The task of solving this mysterious serial crime lies on the shoulders of Private India, the Mumbai branch of the world's finest investigation agency. Its head, Santosh Wagh, is running against time to prevent the killer from striking repeatedly. Meanwhile, he himself is shrouded by the thoughts of a cop all set to handcuff him for killing his wife and only child. As he battles it out with his past and present, the killer tests Santosh’s patience by not leaving behind any trace at the scene of crime except for a strand of hair, a yellow garrote tied to the neck of the victim, and two strange objects kept around the corpse.

The years-old experience in handling such criminal cases enables Santosh to draw a pattern, supposedly exhibited by the killer. As Santosh and his team- Nisha, Mubeen, and Hari- unravel the mystery of yellow garrotes that have a history dating back to the Thuggee cult; they also discover that the killer has a “fascination” for goddess Durga, which drives him to kill the eight women as per the astronomical dates and days of the nine days long festival of Navratri. But what “fascination” can drive someone to kill innocent victims?

The killer clearly is a misogynist. But why does he hate women? The clues are difficult to narrow down as the only evidence with Santosh and his team is a CCTV footage available from the first scene of crime. As the story unfolds at every step, it becomes murkier and difficult to pin point at just one person. Or is that there are two killers? A man and a woman? But a woman cannot hate her own kind? Or can she? What is the battle all about? 

The case is not as easy as Santosh would think it to be. He is struggling to catch a killer who is being supported or rather protected by Mumbai's biggest gang lord, a godman- who isn't what he looks like to be and even the police force- who too are very much aware of their deeds.

As Santosh along with his able team zeroes down on the killer, with their own team member being the killer's ninth victim; worse is in store for Private India as they too are at the cusp of being destroyed by someone, just like the millions of innocent Mumbai citizens. 

Does Santosh manage to save his team member as well as the Private India? Is he able to break the clout of the gang lord and the godman? Is the police force taken into account for mishandling and misrepresenting its own duties? Who is Private India’s enemy? Is it the killer who is trying to get this organization wiped out? Or is it the police force, who are against Private India being able to solve all cases with ease? Or is it the battle between this organization and another for the top spot? Ashwin Sanghi along with James Patterson weaves out an impressive and fast-paced crime thriller.

Grab your copy of the book to fill in the blanks. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Experiments with Haleem ;-)

It's been quite some while since I wrote a blog post and what better to write about than "food"? :-D Now, I am not the one to try out new recipes and post them on the blog. I would rather eat those new recipes and just share the experience of how it was. As is suggested by the title of the post- yes, I am going to talk about "Haleem." For those of you who do not know, what Haleem is? You can read it here.

The First Time I Tasted Haleem

My tryst will Haleem dates back to my days in Hyderabad (2010). Though I stayed for hardly six months there, I was lucky that Ramzaan fell in one of those six months of my stay. I had heard a lot about the famous Pista House Haleem. Hence, I did try it out. But it wasn't actually the authentic one, I suppose. As the popularity of a restaurant/eatery grows, the "authentic" tag is often lost to the "not-so authentic" ones that mushroom in every nook and corner of the city. That's precisely what happened with my first "date" with Haleem.

The Second "Authentic" Date with Haleem from Pista House

The second time, I was indeed lucky to have the authentic Haleem and that too from Pista House, Hyderabad. But, it wasn't in Hyderabad but down south in Namma Chennai. We were a bunch of foodies that worked together. One of them made this suggestion of ordering Haleem from Pista House, all the way from Hyderabad. Yes, Pista House promises delivery within 24 hours of placing the order. Indeed, they were true to their promise. We received the order on time the next day in office. Now that the yummy treat awaited us, we weren't really in a mood to barter it with any one else apart from the four of us who had pooled in to order it. Moreover, we had several hungry souls eyeing our desks all the time for that one taste of food that we ordered often. How could we part with this treat of ours so easily? :D Thus, we chose the most "not-so-easy-to-spot" place in the entire office- the Parking Lot. :D We devoured the 1 kg box full of Haleem in seconds and were glad to have not shared it with the entire office. :D

Third Time Lucky

This year, as Ramzaan arrived, I just saw my friends post about the delicious Haleem treats they had at work or at other places. While I sat back and simply prayed for a miracle to strike, there came, my friend PC to the rescue. Now this girl is a great cook. I have had the chance to enjoy her culinary delight while my few days of stay at her home in Kolkata. She often posted about her culinary adventures on Facebook, which made all of us simply drool over the photographs and do nothing much. Though she is a journalist, I guess her first love is and will always be food. :D Thus, after a lot of pestering from all her friends, she finally started her blog- Guilt Free- where she shares the secret to her kitchen adventures. :-D It was this very blog that served the perfect guide to me in my third journey of eating Haleem. I follow her blog often but have never had the chance to really experiment with her recipes. But this time, I made sure that I do cook. Moreover, I had expected the recipe to be as complex as the mouth-watering taste of Haleem. Surprise Surprise! The recipe shared by PC is probably the easiest I could ever get my hands on. :-) Okay, I wouldn't drag this post long. My first attempt at making Haleem was quite successful considering I wasn't very sure of how it would taste, by the look of it. Though it arrived months after Ramzaan but I am glad I attempted it. I wanted to give it to my Dad, who was supposed to depart for Srinagar, the day after early morning. :-) I am not a great one to explain recipes, hence, I leave you with the link to my friend's post on Haleem. What are you waiting for? Just check the link out for the delicious Haleem recipe.


This is how my First attempt looked like-

Monday, August 4, 2014

#Profile 3: Happiness Initiative- Spreading Happiness All Around

     What will you do to make someone happy? Will you help out that poor old man begging for alms on the street, without a second thought? Or will you seek money for bringing smile on someone’s face? If you are ready to forgo anything to bring a smile on someone's face then The Happiness Initiative is meant for you. What’s so special about this initiative? Read on.

     Indelible Musings caught up with the mind behind this initiative, 25 year old, Priyanka Kandpal. Though Priyanka had dreamt of becoming a journalist, her love for theatre transformed her into an artist instead. Now she has her own theatre group formed along with her fellow batchmates from graduation days. Her love for content writing during her graduation days landed her with internships at advertising agencies where her written words found a medium to express themselves. 
      Theatre was her calling always, which she realised during her performances in plays organised by her college's dramatic society. "Thus I and my friends decided to start Roobaroo," says Priyanka. "Another set of surprises, and I found myself learning French. I taught French in a Delhi-based public school for a year, experimented with Online French Trainings for corporates, tried my hands at learning violin, jumped around taking theatre workshops for NGOs and Schools. And today, here I am, sitting at home with no job in hand but a few freelance writing projects. I am happy and thus I launched— The Happiness Initiative,” she adds.

About Happiness Initiative

The Happiness Initiative, as the name suggests is all about spreading happiness. The interesting part is that it’s not confined to a particular stratum of society. It comprises of all small-little pleasures of life- says Priyanka.

Ask her about how she came up with this idea, she is quick to respond, “The idea came from my innate desire to be able to start an NGO. But honestly, I am not a person who has high-goals and extraordinary aspirations. I am a person of tiny-little imaginations. So instead of an NGO, I thought I should start an initiative at a very small scale—may be, just within friends and my network.”

She discussed the same with her friend and thus was born Happiness Initiative. “Our first idea was to organize a dance class for grand-parents, followed by providing food for the less fortunate, initiatives for street dogs, convincing bosses to sanction a sudden leave, give-away free French classes, etc. I basically wanted to do something that I could handle on my own—without having to bother about heavy expenses.” Now that sounds interesting. Imagine you are in the middle of a meeting at your workplace and your friend barges in to convince your boss to grant you leave for the day!! What bliss!

      The initiative at present consists of a few friends and friends-of-friends. “Like I said earlier, for me it started with my own set of people. More people joined-in because they felt something feel-good about it,” she adds.
      Priyanka clears out that her being a theatre person has nothing to do with this initiative. The moment you mention about her theatre group, Roobaroo, her eyes brighten up to talk about it- a topic that she loves to the core. “We formed Roobaroo some four years back. We were fresh out of college and were missing theatre. Most of us were from the same college and some others joined-in via common contacts. The motive was to do good theatre and create an intellectually stimulating space for everyone through our discussions. We have had members from various professional and academic backgrounds including Copywriters, Engineers, Medical Students, Psychology students, teachers, media professionals, painters, poets, and even those who know nothing about theatre. We have had healthy associations with Atelier Theatre Group, The YP Foundation, Karmaarth, Aman Biradari, etc.”

      So what does this fairy have in her diary of future plans? “Roobaroo will continue to entertain audience with its self-scripted plays. We really wish to create a small rehearsal space, not only for ourselves but also for several other theatre groups that do not have one. But at the moment, the money that we earn from our plays goes straight into the next production/performance so in terms of savings, we’re usually left with a very meager amount. So may be, when we are financially more stable, we’ll too, have a space of our own. As for The Happiness Initiative, I have plans to launch more happiness campaigns, and it could be something as simple as giving away thank you cards to people,” says Priyanka.


“I have plans to study more of French and theatre. I am also interested in the study of linguistics. I intend to have a French CafĂ©-cum-library, one day. And that will be the place Roobaroo and THI (The Happiness Initiative) would operate from. The mornings in the cafe would be reserved for French classes, the afternoons will greet book-lovers, and Roobaroo rehearsals would enliven the evenings,” she adds.

But in a world, where money matters, will she be able to strike a chord with the people through her Happiness Initiative? Priyanka is not only positive but confident about the fact that there are "generous" people still on this planet who would extend their support.

"We have dancers who are ready to join the initiative and give free dance sessions; we have a few individuals ready to share their rooms to let us conduct our events. I agree money plays a vital role in almost everything but there are still those who are ready to lend their services for free, for the larger good of the society. And honestly, I am happy to have those very few with me. I don’t intend to do something extraordinary with this initiative of mine, I just want to reach-out to people, slow and steady—and make them happy. It’s that simple. If more people join-in, it’ll be a grand success, if not; it’ll still be a success.

Apart from being a French “teacher” and Theatre lover, Priyanka bares her heart out on her blog, Pretty Mornings. In case, you feel you too want to spread happiness just like that, give a shout to Priyanka here and help spread happiness all around.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#Profile 2- Wanted Umbrella: An Urban Matchmaking Agency

Going by the title of the post, you would wonder it is just another matchmaking agency coming into the foray. Yes Wanted Umbrella (here after referred to as WU) is a matchmaking agency, which is just born into the Indian Matrimony industry but with a difference. How? Read On.

According to the United Nations, 40-80 million disabled people, the world’s largest minority, live in India. Of this, only 5% or less get married. To help solve this issue and stigma associated with it, WU was recently established as a professional agency to provide safe and innovative platform to every member through curated events & group dinner meetings so that they could connect to the like-minded for the purpose of marriage.

Indelible Musings caught up with 21 year old, Kalyani Khona (here after referred to as KK), founder of this urban matchmaking agency.

About herself and the Venture

KK: Having spent more than five months on setting up the entire process and ecosystem of this concept, I think this is one of the few professional agencies or perhaps the only one in India providing such a platform to everyone without any biases.

While I was exploring my options to find out what my exact calling is, I decided to take up a personal project. It is called- PROJECT-20. Project 20 is all about me working in 20 different companies/organizations/NGOs for a specific pre-determined duration ranging from 4 weeks to 8 weeks. The projects would range from teaching English to Portuguese speaking students in Brazil to trekking the Himalayas and from working in an MNC like HSBC to exploring the whole start-up ecosystem by working with Citrus Pay, Gateway House etc. During my graduation, I was also heading the Mumbai chapter of AIESEC;[World's largest youth-run organization] as the vice president.

I love meeting new people and connecting them to each other and thus initially the plan was to set-up a normal match-making agency providing curated events and experiences. During Project-20, I noticed that all my senior managers or colleagues had limited friends outside their social circle. They were smart, well-dressed and one of the coolest people to hang out with but since they worked for more than 9 hours a day, there was limited effort from their end as well as lack of options to actually meet new people. They also wanted to save themselves the embarrassment of being found online while trying to find a match for themselves. Thus, the whole idea struck me and since I have always been into events, I just brought the two together.

The disability matrimony part came in much later. I was looking for offices in Mumbai and they told me that disabled people were not allowed in office premises. I went deeper to find out how these disabled people meet or what they do in their spare time. I realized that like many of the physically fit senior managers, the physically disabled too had lack of options. Due to the infrastructure of our country, they had even lesser opportunities to meet new people.

I remember going to a matrimonial site's offline chapter, where they indirectly told me that since they make money with the million+ profiles already, matrimonial alliance for disabled does not fit the bill.

The Response to the initiative Has Been Like...

KK: I have been working on this venture since six months now. However, it went live only on 1st July, 2014. It has been a month now and I have more than 8 members who have completed their documentation process. Apart from this, I have few more in pipeline. I get 4-5 calls on an average everyday. I observed a clear gap, which all my members or people who call me agree too.

Currently, my major focus is on setting up an advisory board of thought leaders working with NGOs, HR consultancy firms for disabled and other such entities to help me with meet-ups, optimizing business processes and mentorship.

Also, I am setting up a base in Bangalore with the guidance from Amba, who lives there and herself faces a lot of difficulties due to her disability. My next destination is Delhi.

How matchmaking works at WU

KK: I conduct different activities ranging from table for six meetings to one-on-one meetings. If I have people coming from similar experiences or background, it makes much more sense to set-up a table for six where they can meet more people in limited span of time. It also depends on the disability type or matters like discomfort meeting a lot of people or lack of confidence to meet someone directly. Thus, depending on my clients need and ability to communicate, I decide what would fit them the best. Apart from this, we host monthly meet-ups and quarterly events for all our members to come under the same roof.

I love connecting new people to each other. With regards to matching people who are physically disabled or otherwise, I give all the credit to my mentor, Prabha Panse, who used to run a marriage bureau specializing in matchmaking of physically disabled during the 1990s. She has helped me with all the ground work. From matching people based on disability type to instruments used to the family expectations and other such nuances.

Match-making is not a process oriented job. It is experience and communication based. Each case is a new experience and each person coming to me needs a different method of communication. This is not just related to the disabled but even people who are special cases like obese, divorcees or senior citizens.

Every conversation leaves you with a lot of learning. Patience and being open-minded to each scenario, expectations and demands is the only way to survive as a professional match-maker. I feel no one deserves to live alone unless they wish to.

I have got great response from the business as well as entrepreneurial community and thus I have started getting clients from them as well. They are non-disabled working professional who lack options or do not want to be found online hunting for a match.

Expansion plans

KK: Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Surat and Mumbai are my prime focus right now. Besides, my process works in a way where if you are from Delhi and I find some great profiles for you who reside in Mumbai, I can set up all your meetings with shortlisted profiles in one day to maximize your time and resources. Similarly, if I think two of my members residing in Delhi should meet each other, I will communicate the same to them and they take it forward from there. Also, I plan to go to Bangalore, Surat and Delhi for table for six once a month. It is all based on demand and supply.

Major Challenge

KK: One of my biggest challenge and focus is on keeping my membership- male to female ratio to 2:1 or 1:1 to ensure adequate options to both the parties.I have been told that online match making involves buying subscription to ensure a good match and there is public display of your profile or contact details as long as the opposite party pays for that information.

It is more of wanting to save themselves the embarrassment of being found online while trying to find a match for themselves and the security reasons that keep them away from the online websites. Also, I think finding a partner needs to be a more personalized and confidential process which is one of the reason people want to stay away from it.

Apart from this, we want to find partners at a platform where we can interact with similar minds or people of our age group. However, many matrimonial sites I have been to are full of parents hunting partners for their children based on a complexion, job, background and country they live in. When you meet the children of the same parents in person, they want things exactly opposite of what was listed by their parents. Further, fake profiles and fake photos, pursing someone who might already be married but forgot to remove his profile make the story much more difficult.

All I am saying is it is match-making. You are not signing a property deal. People who get married fail to remove their profile and have no reason to inform matrimony sites what so ever, since it is a free service. Also, it is crowded with too many engineers, management professionals etc. Artists, start-up founders and other unheard professions are barely recognized.

My biggest concern and issue is that online match-making especially in India is not effective for professionally successful women beyond the socially accepted marriageable age.

Success so far

KK: All my members have been helping me widen my network and get more people involved. According to our census report on disability[2011], the urban male to female ratio is around 4:3 and the same is reflected in my membership. It is 2:1 at the moment. When it comes to matchmaking for differently-abled, alliance takes time. For someone with Autism, s/he will take time to find his/her comfort to get talking. Matrimony comes at a later stage. Hence, my members are still getting to know each other.

Again, someone who is visually impaired will take her/his own time in finding comfort and method of communication. Normally matchmaking needs a lot of patience and here it is a new ball game altogether. It also needs location audits of residence and post-marriage consulting.

Brief background on WU members

KK: I have profiles ranging from someone who is an illustrator and data analyst to someone who could not complete her schooling due to infrastructure.Most of our members are trying to solve employment and other infrastructure issues and are thus associated with various NGOs and HR consultants. I am still building a network and establishing the base on which the whole concept will go further.