Everyday Sights of India!

Dear Confidant,

Hope you’ve been well and healthy. My recent visit to home country India was  memorable one. The familiar sights, sounds and feel of my motherland was warm and welcoming.

I miss the beloved land now that I am away from it.

I have captured a few of the everyday moments for you to get a feel of my country. I also wish that these pictures enable me to feel connected to my country whenever I am homesick. I mostly stayed in North India and here are some of my clicks.


A little garland seller at a traffic signal in Delhi.


Sight of historical monument in the midst of the bustling capital city.

The yellow green autorickshaw – most convenient mode of public transport across urban places in India.


A fruit seller and a prospective buyer.


A flower seller waiting for customers in Delhi.


Double rainbow in Ranchi. The capital of Jharkhand has lovely climate.


A picturesque hill in Ranchi. 


Famous temple of God Hanuman in Patna filled with devotees.


Common people on their way to work.

Freshly plucked mangoes of our home! Since, it is the season of mangoes, our innumerable variety of mango trees are laden with mouth watering mangoes.


Saw an elephant in Patna. It is the holy month of Saawan and Lord Shiva would be worshipped the entire month. Ascetics roam about on Elephants asking for offerings.


Goddess Kali at a famous temple in Patna.

Hope you liked the pictures!
This visit to my country had been fruitful one as I managed to meet most of my relatives and friends. It was so heart warming to see them all.

As I unpack my boxes, I am already hoping that our next visit happens sometime soon.

Do let me know what do you think of Everyday Sights of India! Take care!

In search of a story idea!

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Not far from where we live, there is a patch in the sky that holds ‘Thought’ clouds. You can call it the Thoughtland!

Whatever thoughts you’ve had today or in the past, travels to this place and sticks there. To be frank, it is quite a confusing world comprising of jet black, white, grey, orange and blue clouds.

Dark clouds comprise of sad or wicked thoughts while white clouds are inspirational. Grey clouds are filled with tragi-comic thoughts pertaining to ups and downs in our mundane lives. Orange clouds hold thoughts by people from the past while blue clouds, which happen to be my favourite, hold brightest ideas.

That day, like most thinkers, I unwittingly entered the ‘Thoughtland’ while looking for a story idea. I got carried away, flew and flew, and reached the cloud patch. It was totally chaotic there…as thought clouds flew past me whispering of bitter sweet things.

I found myself amongst the grey clouds first and read a few thoughts of a teenager – “Why do my parents keep finding faults with me? I will grow up and take up a job and live far away from them!” Then, there was a housewife’s thoughts – “Thankless job I have been doing! Since morning till night, I am working. Cooking meals, washing, taking care of kids. But no respect, no joy! I will have to do something about it!”

I steered myself towards white clouds and read a few happy ones. A girl was going on a date with the guy of her dreams and she was thinking – “May the fairytale I am living today never ends.” And then there were thoughts of a little boy who was going to Disneyland and he was dreaming – “Tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life”.

I read a few black thoughts too and felt revolted. Stopping myself from reading further, I attempted to catch one of the blue clouds because I intuitively knew they held the story idea I was looking for.

But the blue clouds were the naughtiest ones! The moment I tried to get near them, they vanished, and my own dark and grey clouds, blocked way. Some of the dark clouds screamed, “It is useless to look for ideas and inspiration. Get used to your mundane existence. It is stupid, tiring and hard to try. You are born unlucky. Just give up!”

It was difficult to breathe when the dark clouds started bombarding me with negative thoughts. The naughty blue cloud had floated away. I felt like being trapped in an ocean of depressive thoughts.

Somehow, a lone Orange cloud appeared out of nowhere and whispered – “All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark. Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin; to say that you are weak, or others are weak.”

I remembered reading this quote somewhere. I guess it was by the great spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda! His lofty thought had stayed in the universe to inspire people like me. I chanted the thought like a drowning person holds on to a branch.

After a short while , I felt something wriggling in my hand. The tiny blue thought cloud was resting calmly on my palm. It had come to me on its own! I understood! The idea got pulled to me when I was chanting a positive thought. A bright frame of mind attracts great ideas!

I came out of the ‘Thoughtland’ holding the precious tiny blue cloud. An interesting story idea was already taking shape in my mind. I resolved to work upon it as soon as possible…because guess you know, great ideas often vanish quickly without a trace.

The bird that sang of Dharma

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She lived in a mango tree”. Her voice was the sweetest of all! Every spring, all birds and animals in the mangrove forest would assemble near the abandoned tree house to listen to her song of Dharma.

She sang, “Exert yourselves in the bright acts of merit, and shun the dark acts of evil!”

A traveller, who knew the language of birds, heard her. He was surprised to hear the Cuckoo’s didactic song. He planned to capture her.

He managed to capture her and put her in a cage. But she lost her voice after being confined and died soon.

Years later, while passing through that same mangrove forest, the traveller heard a Parrot singing the dead Cuckoo bird’s didactic song.

The singer had died but the song of Dharma lived on…

This story is a part of the wonderful ‘Mondays Finish The Story Challenge’ by Barbara Beacham. She provides us with a photo prompt, the first sentence, and approximately 150 words with which we are to use to write our story. To take up the challenge click here – MFtS

When I Was Dreaded and Worshipped!

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(The writer, Vikram Bhawani Singh is my brother and a guest contributor. The above caricature is my work, of course, without his permission!)

I am an atheist and my mother is a complete believer. All her life, she has tried, encouraged, compelled, forced and even tortured me to follow the extensive daily rituals practiced in our house to please the deities but I have remained stoic. My views on God and religion makes her mad but she has never given up on me and she never will! Recently, she went a step further…

I took a two-week leave from office to visit my parents and sister at Ranchi. Unfortunately, the day I reached Ranchi I got to know that my sister had caught chicken pox. It is a highly contagious disease normally associated with children. But even adults and older people are at risk if they do not have any history of this infection.

I checked with my mother whether I have had chicken pox earlier. To my disbelief, I had never been infected before. I tried to explain to her that during childhood, small rashes did appear on my skin with high fever and extreme weakness. I was told that it was Measles.

So, I was on a mission now. I had to avoid the dreaded infection at any cost. I saw my sister’s pain and discomfort and it scared me all the more. I read about the disease extensively. Chicken pox is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus. It is spread by droplets from a sneeze or cough, or by contact with the clothing, bed linens or oozing blisters of an infected person. The onset of symptoms is 10 to 21 days after exposure. It is contagious a day or two before the rash appears and until the rash is completely dry and scabbed over.

My sister was kept isolated in a room and I made a point to not enter it. Small branches of Neem leaves were put at various places at our apartment. Neem leaves have immense medicinal properties and their presence are considered to have soothing effect on itching and irritation caused by blisters. We were following all these measures.

However, as was destined, religion intervened to add salt to our injury! My mother instructed me that the pious Neem leaves should not fall on floor and by any chance it should not be touched by feet.

I argued, “What will happen if the leaves fall on the floor? And when it gets dry it is definitely going to fall down. I am not going to follow such instructions”. My mother replied furiously, “Mata (Goddess) has come…..Dare you displease her.”
I was taken aback. “Who was ‘Mata’?”. She enlightened me on the popular belief that chicken pox was a Goddess. I laughed at the ridiculous idea and looked for support towards my father, sister, relatives…but surprisingly, everyone was looking the other away. I was the odd man out!

Chicken pox is no less than a form of Goddess for people in whole of the eastern belt of India. It is revered and dreaded so much that people talk in whispers and perform elaborate rituals to appease the Goddess. Anger and melancholy had overpowered and I left it to my mother to do as she wished.

For the next seven days all the rituals were followed. Many relatives were consulted for guidelines. The respect and fear of “Mata” was ubiquitous. My mother had a battalion behind her who were more vociferous and committed to the cause. Finally, the theatricals ended and the Neem leaves were packed in a bag and thrown in a Pond. All these days, I kept aloof from the proceedings and told my mother that if I were to catch the infection, I was not going to follow the rituals.

My holidays were about to be over over. I had booked a Tatkaal ticket back to Vadodara. But on the very evening, all hell broke loose! I noticed a single acne like something on my right hand. I knew it, probably, ‘Mata’ had returned to unleash her anger on me since I had dared to laugh at her.

The following day many more blisters appeared. I consulted a doctor and came back with loads of medicines. As you all know, diseases caused by viruses do not have any medicines to cure it. However, the antibiotics and other medicines make the whole process far less painful.

The return of ‘Mata’ provided me the opportunity to enter her realm and into the minds of her followers. Everyone who came to visit me spoke in a low tone. The maids were fully devoted to her cause. I was treated like a king…no sorry…like a queen goddess..lol!

People would enter my room only after opening the shoes/slippers at the doorstep. My orders were to be followed in word and spirit. I was the first one to be provided food. I was shown respect in every way. In short, I was not me, I was she, the dreaded Goddess.

By sheer coincidence, Pundit Ji (Cook cum Priest) also came to Ranchi. My mother was happy as daily bhajans (devotional songs) and puja (rituals) could be performed more effectively by him. I strictly told my mother that I was not going to follow any such rituals. But she told me sweetly that I had to sit still for just 10 minutes. I blatantly refused. She replied, “I will spy on you and will perform the Puja whenever I find you sitting.” She was cleverer than I thought and before I could retort or scream, I was being worshipped wholeheartedly by my mother!

Every morning and evening Bhajans were sung by pundit ji and maids in an extremely annoying and cacophonous voices. And amidst all this was an atheist in whom ‘Goddess’ resided! I guessed at the reason behind such rituals. In olden days, Chicken Pox must have been a dreadful disease. With no antibiotic medicines available this highly infectious disease must have brought untold miseries on people. It ultimately was given Godhood.

It is a well known that most of us fear God rather than love Him. This fear makes us weak. It is said that faith has immense power. I do believe in it. But illogical beliefs have immensely destructive power, I believe in that too. There is a thin line between the two…one has to tread carefully!

The time has come to think rationally. The time has come to question God and Religion. The time has come to question our own beliefs. History is full of instances when men have suffered the brunt from the ideologies of Slavery, Whiteman’s Burden, Superiority of Aryan Race, Jihad etc. These ideologies justified every action of the perpetrator. The perpetrators had immense faith in their actions. But we all know that they all crossed the line and caused destruction. The world needs rationality and tolerance or Samuel Huttington’s “Clash of Civilization”. It’s time to call ‘Mata’ by its actual name loudly without fearing any sort of wrath.

Tomorrow, to my relief, chicken pox will be given farewell or to say in respectful tone, “Mata will choose her new abode”. The Neem leaves will be disposed in a Pond as done earlier. I just hope that the Goddess doesn’t return.

My Grand Uncle and the Mother Goddess

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One of my great grand uncles was a deeply spiritual man. A great devotee of The Goddess Kali, his life was one long prayer. Born in a royal family in Orissa (India), he had distanced himself from luxuries and riches of life from an early age.

His sole purpose in life was self realisation through invoking the Mother Goddess. She was the world to him. Early morning, he would make adorable garlands and perform elaborate ‘puja’ by decorating the idol of Mother Kali. His royal room resonated with mantras of the divine Mother. In the evenings, he would sing devotional songs to please the Mother. He would cry and beg Her to visit him once.

His siblings would often make fun of his ‘obsession’. Some people called him mad and all this worried his parents.

But one day, something happened that brought a huge impact on everyone in that palace. My grandmother often recounted this story to us and would end it with a message. I shall convey my grandmother’s message towards the end of this real life story.

One day, few of his friends thought of pulling a prank on him. It was a mean thing to do. But they thought that he needs to be jostled out of his devotional stupor. They paid money to a fierce looking dark Harijan(formerly known as untouchables) lady and asked her to dress up like Goddess Kali and materialise in front of my uncle. She was not to touch him.

It should be remembered that in olden days, caste system was rampant in India and touching a Harijan meant defiling one’s religion. They were not allowed inside the temples and lived in the outskirts of a town or village.

The dark lady was coerced into doing this and she relented. Adorned in red sari and overladen with jewellery, the lady hid herself in my uncle’s prayer room. She had painted her tongue red and looked quite intimidating. On the dusky evening, my uncle arrived for his evening ritual.

He did his customary Shashtang Pranam ( it means that eight limbs of the body, namely, two hands, two legs, two arms, chest and forehead, touch the ground while saluting. A form of complete surrender and letting go of the ego). And then he raised his head to see the lady sticking out her tongue in the form of Kali. For a moment, he just laid there too stunned to speak. It was a horrifying sight for a non-believer.

But he experienced an unspoken joy within him. He washed her feet with tears, took her hand and made her sit by him. He looked like a little baby enjoying the company of his dearest mother.

Meanwhile, the Harijan lady was too uncomfortable to speak. But seeing him in that state she was transformed. She actually felt like being his mother, his goddess Kali. She touched his head and cried out of affection for the pure soul.

His friends soon entered and shooed the lady away. But my uncle was in the state of bliss. They told him that he had been fooled. She was not Goddess Kali but a low class Harijan. He was defiled and needed to be purified by a priest. He just thanked them and said, “You don’t know. I am pure now. This is all my Mother’s doing.  She came to me in the form of that great lady”.

My grandmother said that great grand uncle immersed himself all the more deeply in prayers after this incident. People left him alone to his worship. His faith remained unshakeable till the end and some say that he achieved enlightenment.

My grandmother would sum up the story by telling us, “People had laughed at him for touching the feet of a Harijan lady, but they were fools. He was actually touching the feet of ‘his’ Mother Goddess. He had actually seen ‘his’ God. It was the integrity of his faith that mattered.”

People say and interpret things according to their own convenience and perspective but what matters the most to a person is his own faith. Faith really makes one do and achieve the unthinkable!