Celebrating Shakti!

“Ya devi sarvabhuteshu matri – rupena samsthita, namas tasyai …”

(To that goddess who abides in all beings as mother : salutations to Thee..)

May the mother goddess bless us all this Navratri festival! Hope you like my effort to sketch the beloved, divine face. Jai Ma🙏🏻

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My Father’s Song to Krishna

Although credit goes to my grandma for introducing Lord Krishna to us, it is my 68 year old father who reaffirms our faith time and again through his soulful bhajans (devotional songs). As we celebrate the birthday (Janmashtami) of the mischievous God, do listen to this wonderful song invoking Krishna in my father’s voice.

Here, the singer is asking the Lord to take birth again once again and keep His promise. Everyone is waiting for Him to take Kalki avatar.

When we were small, Krishna ruled over our household and often caused mayhem. His room needed to be cleaned first. The best garlands were made for him. He needed to be bathed and adorned and then an elaborate puja ceremony would follow sometimes infuriating us kids. We would get jealous of the attention Krishna got.

While morning passed in tending to the enchanting one, Evening ceremony would bring joy. It was the most beautiful part of the day because my father would then sing soulful songs in his divine voice. Hearing him everyday, strengthened us from within.

He would transfer us to a world of spirituality, faith and belief. The belief that someone up there always takes care of us. Faith that there is always a positive aspect to every misfortune. And lastly, in order to be free and joyful, just surrender to Krishna.

Even now, my gentle and loving father teaches us the most profound things in a very simple way. I will relate an incident. My family believes in astrology to some extent and my father wore a couple of rings with special stones. I asked him to get a ring for me too according to my horoscope. He laughed and said – You don’t need any ring, or anything to protect you. You have Krishna!

The best lines of faith I have ever heard in my life. I am truly grateful to the almighty that I belong to a family that is steeped in faith. I hope you like my father’s voice. And although many of you don’t know the language, I am sure your hearts will comprehend. Jai Shri Krishna!

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.