The Aladdin's Cave

Hi, thanks for stopping by! The dictionary defines the idiom “The Aladdin’s Cave” as “a collection of interesting and beautiful objects”. Likewise, my website is a potpourri where you can browse and read from a variegated collection of articles on sundry subjects. Be prepared to stumble upon pieces ranging from noodles to analytics and from novels to friendships. Like what you read? Thanks a ton for being such a sweetheart. Don’t find it up to the mark? Well, blame it on back-breaking expectations ;) Jolly Reading!

Tag: Nostalgia…

Writing With Pencils

It’s still the first half of the first month, which means it isn’t too late to wish all my readers a very happy new year! I wish you all loads of joy and peace and happiness, and sincerely hope that you will stick to your new resolutions for a little while longer. I also hope the same for myself, though it is becoming increasingly difficult not to find excuses to dismiss each and every old and new resolution. Nevertheless, one of my many 2016 vows is to write more frequently, and I invite you all to be the judge for this one 🙂

Now let me get back to writing something that justifies the title of this post. Gunjan has a growing concern with me using pencils for the draft posts that I write – he worries that when I author a book of my own, I will have to do a hell lot of typing to digitize all the words that would have got transferred from my heart (or muddled brain?) to paper. Notice that he says “when I author a book” instead of saying “if I EVER author a book”. But let us forgive him for this astoundingly ambitious belief. Both his confidence and concern stem from a very strong and genuine affection, and we can’t charge a fellow for a crime of the heart, can we? 😉

But even though I find his concern extremely endearing, I know for a fact that this Herculean digitization task is not gonna bother me in the near future or in the distant one for that matter. How I wish it would – but where are the words and the plot and the characters? Oh, just where? 🙁 Anyway, grieving and ranting about my cluelessness is for another post. This one is for discussing a few of the many merits of using a pencil for putting one’s thoughts on paper.

  • Reminiscent of Childhood – Even though this is not a prioritized list, I will go ahead and admit that for me, just this one certainly trumps them all. It’s one of the things that will always keep you connected to the most carefree time of your life. Plus, there is also the added hope of being able to write freely, just like a child, without  worrying too much about the vocabulary and the grammar and the world – not while drafting, at the very least. You can go nuts and scrawl all that comes to your mind, and save the sophisticated filters for later use.
  • Very forgiving – Ah, a pencil is one of the most non-punitive devices when used in conjunction with the classic ‘undo’ button – the trusted eraser. Right? Unless and until you’ve managed to tear away the paper with some fierce erasing, you can always give it another try. After all, not all of us can get it right the first time.
  • Takes you off the grid – We live in an age where people first spend a hefty sum to buy all the latest and greatest gadgets and then spend some more to attend digital detoxification sessions that aid them in disconnecting with the electronics they bought earlier. In this crazy world of incessant clicking/flicking/gaming/chatting/emailing/reading/watching etcetera, sitting down with a piece of paper and a writing instrument (that doesn’t have any kind of internet connection) is like attending a free digital cleansing session. With no blinking distractions and stubborn notifications vying for your attention, you will be able to focus on your thoughts  and get something worthwhile on that paper.
  • Private notes – It is the perfect gear for penning down awful drafts that only you can decrypt – just write very lightly and nobody will be able to decipher what those curls and swirls mean. For example, if you would have looked at the paper draft for this post, it might have seemed to you that I had indulged in some heavy-duty doodling over a few pages. Yes, it is almost like your chicken scratch is naturally encrypted, and your familiarity with your own scribble is the key to decrypt this code. What a relief it is to know that nobody can judge you for composing scummy drafts!

Even though I just love the wooden pencils jauntily sporting their cute little eraser hats, I try to minimize their use and instead employ the plastic ones for writing. I suppose that sticking to a couple of plastic ones will do the environment less damage than callously sharpening away a forest, one tree at a time.

Hey, I was going to wrap up this post now but reading through the above bullet points again, I feel like taking a philosophical detour for a bit, and see if I can pull it off. So here are a few rhetorical questions for all of us. Is there some merit in taking a leaf out of our trusted pencil’s book? Would it be a happier world if we could be a little less judgmental/punitive with those around us? Is it possible for us to be a tad more rewarding to bring out the best in other people, just like our humble pencil? Well, let’s employ some of these practices in our lives and find out for ourselves!

Happy Scribbling, Friends! 🙂

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My School Prayer

Hi All!

I know I’ve been away for quite a while (again) but trust me, really been caught up in quite a mess. Talk about one’s plate being full! Here my plate’s disgustingly over-piled and yet it’s getting ladleful of servings from every quarter.  And believe me, very few of these servings are palatable! As for the rest, I just have to shove them down my throat. No other go!

And it isn’t just me. Similar is the case with many of my friends. We say this so often — that one feels that he/she is being pulled in every direction, all at the same time, with forces of comparable magnitude. And we all know how that feels! Not good!

OK, that’s the cribbing part! A wonderful therapy, I must say! Makes you feel a whole lot better! 😛
But that isn’t the real point of this post. I intended it to have some spiritual merit too.

Sometimes consciously, sometimes not so, I say my school prayer quite frequently and it does a lot to restore some degree of sanity and quietude to my often toppled life. Not to mention, it takes me back to those amazingly sweet and simple school days, which are so fondly remembered by all of us.

It’s been eight years since I passed out from St. Joseph’s Convent High School (S.J.C.) and that would mean that I learnt this prayer some 18 years back! WOW.
Sharing a little something about our prayer time at school…

In S.J.C., classes one to five comprised the Junior Side while classes six to twelve comprised the Senior Side. There were separate assembly grounds for these two sections. When I think about it now, it appears to me that the time that these two groups devoted to the daily prayer was sort of a heads up to the continual shortage of time that seems to be the norm these days.

OK. Allow me to put that a bit more plainly.
As tiny tots, we would follow all the instructions to the tee – join our hands, close our eyes and recite the prayer very slowly and clearly, in a singsong manner. Listening to that recitation, you would have been sure that the kind Father was lending a patient ear to the cute prayers of these pure-hearted children.

In the senior side, all of us (though no less devout) would be in a frenzy to complete the prayer. We would all rush through the familiar lines like crazy, as if it were a verbal race of some kind. And before God could have turned His attention to this hastily delivered chant, we would already be wishing Good Morning to our teachers! I bet you wouldn’t have caught more than ten to fifteen words from that hustled buzz if you didn’t know it beforehand.

At times, disappointed and disturbed by this hurried salutation to the Lord, our Sister would ask us at the end of the prayer, in a very quiet manner:
“Children! How many of you actually remembered God during the prayer?”
Well, just a few proud hands shot up. Most of the girls would smile sheepishly and avoid the faculties’ eyes. On those days, a very guilt-ridden and earnest group of girls would repeat the prayer, enunciating each and every word, reciting the lines flawlessly.

Through this simple post, I wanted to share some of these fond memories. But more importantly, I intended to share my School Prayer here.
I’ve been saying this prayer for my loved ones and myself for so many years now and it always makes me feel that God does carry us in His arms during the difficult times and brings us ashore, no matter what! These lines, whether recited hurriedly, chimed devoutly, muttered nervously or petitioned wordlessly, have been my ready made supplication to God for anything and everything!

There are things we never forget and then there are things that we never wanna forget. This prayer is one of the things none of the Josephites would ever want to forget – not a word!
I’m sharing it here with the hope that it’ll help you stay connected with God and soothe your frayed nerves during troubled times!
(Many of you would already be knowing a variation of this. Here, I’m sharing my cure-all!)

Our Father In Heaven
Holy Be Your Name
Your Kingdom Come
Your Will Be Done
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
Forgive Us Our Sins
As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us
Do Not Bring Us To The Test
But Deliver Us From Evil

All for the Greater Honor and Glory of God!

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The Good, Old Mays…(Part-II)

This post is a continuance of The Good Old Mays…(Part-I)
Sorry for the unceremonious ending of the previous part. I hope you can pardon such an indecorum on the part of a nine-post old blogger! picking up from where I left..

My mom and us two sisters used to spend part of the summer vacation at my nana-nani’s (maternal grandparents) place and my aunt and two of my cousin sisters would also join us there for the vacation. This was one of the major highlights of our holidays and we really looked forward to it. We four girls would be glued to each other and what fun we had! Doll-weddings, needle work, cribbing and doing homeworks, reading and narrating stories, playing games, sharing candies and chocolates, watching TV, being treated to ice-creams and kulfis and the special “Holiday” menu…year after year, we shared these days and thus ended up becoming the closest of sisters who still share such a special bond!

During this long vacation, it was only natural and fitting that we should miss our school friends but then we had our own special set of summer friends eagerly waiting for us in all the comics and story books! Chacha Chaudhary, Saabu, Pinkie, Tinkle, Champak, Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes…Just loved the whole lot! (Actually, still do!) You could while away the hours, lapping up the plethora of interesting stories that they collectively offered. You could just enjoy the read but if your imagination was wild enough, you were free to accompany one or more of those characters on their adventures and help them figure out ways to get out of the soup (as a rule, all these folks had a penchant to land into one ever so often!). And if you were in the mood for some real thrill, you could even decide to get in the driver’s seat and let the (ex-) protagonist be your sidekick!

A post about those days can never be complete without mentioning the innumerable games that we played! Some of them were the ancient and widely popular ones like ludo, snakes and ladders, spell-bound, kitchen set, doctor set, lock and key, name-place-thing-animal, “pitto”, “kabaddi”, hide and seek….and then you could improvise too!  The next few lines may appear very silly to you but you won’t know what fun it is till you’ve tried it!
OK, so at the risk of soundind extremely stupid, let me tell you about this very innovative game that my sister and me enjoyed so so much. It was named “kathin raasta” (tortuous terrain!). We would run all around, pretending to be traversing forests, rivers, mountains and deserts. My di would lead, doing running commentary to warn me of the impending danger and I would follow her religiously – not missing a single turn or bend or leap! Ya ya, i know it sounds silly but take it from me, there was superb coordination between the two of us and it superb fun!!

The only moderator for our high spirits was the sight of the school diary because in that was penned down the long and rueful list of “Holiday Homework” (H.H.W). Not a single subject was missed. No such stroke of luck. Mathematical problems, essays (and “nibandhs”), using pencil shavings to make an owl, filling countless pages of writing books in the hope of seeing some improvement in handwritings (didn’t really work for me :[ ),  learning the history and geography of India and the world by rote, developing familiarity with the plant and the animal world, understanding the sciences and forces operating behind practically everything that happens and a lot more – you were expected to master all this and be prepared to put your knowledge to test (quite literally) post the vacation. But to be honest, not all of it was detestable and then there was ample amount of time to whine and complain while working so you could complete it eventually. Not much in advance though – we all know how ten percent of a task is completed in ninety percent of the time and the rest ninety percent is somehow squeezed in the remaining ten percent of the time (:-P) Nevertheless, the purport of making the homework double as a killjoy failed miserably because we all know that there is no dampener potent enough to quell that happy, carefree mood!

So these were the some of the main elements of those blissful days and my heart really yearns for them…
The memories of those days stay as fresh as ever and never fail to bring a smile to my lips. It was like festival time – lots of fun and food, endless flow of cousins and other relatives,  many many hours to be pampered by your parents and grandparents and indulging yourself in all that is merry!

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The Good, Old Mays…(Part-I)

The month of May…

It brings back the priceless memories of such blissful days. We used to have summer vacations during May and June and what fun we had! Two months of unadulterated joy!
I was hoping to immensely enjoy this last summer vacation of my life but it didn’t work out as planned and I’m stuck with my training now. There is lots to do and no matter how optimistically I think, a trip to my home doesn’t seem possible in the offing.

Consider this post to be a sorry attempt to recapture some of the key factors that made these two months such a favorite with all us children. I call it a sorry attempt because no number of words and posts can do justice to the memories of those joyful days. Yet, i wistfully try…

First, about the week just before the holidays began…

The teachers used to get busy competing with each other, as to who can give the longest list of holiday homeworks and we children? Oh, we would be too busy making “Happy Holidays” cards to worry about it then. The newfangled e-cards are great – I, myself, being a proponent of (:-P) but they come nowhere close to the fun and excitement we found in making those scores of holiday cards in school. Our creativity was pushed to the hilt. Papers, colors, scissors and all the paraphernalia related to card-making flew all around. They came in all shapes, sizes, color and quality (quite literally!) But it’s not as if you could simply pick up any one you  liked…No dear. Not so simple. There was a very complex priority order that had to be adhered to. And if you were to digress, matters could get really, really complicated. But we were all pros there! So generally, no such sentimental mayhems preceded the holidays. As a rule, the best of the lot was for your best-friend (you could even let her choose!), then came your favorite teacher, then your lunch-friends, then other friends, then other teachers, then classmates, then bus-friends…This is a generic picture…you could change the order a little…(really, it wasn’t that complicated either-we followed it quite effortlessly!)

Summer vacation was synonymous with so many lovable things…and one of them were Mangoes! Pulpy, juicy, luscious mangoes!! 🙂 How we loved feasting on them…

They say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” I say, “Too bad, but I’m still thankful…’cuz mangoes do!” 🙂

Rightly crowned as the king of fruits, it used to be our staple diet for the vacation. Lichis, oranges and the throng of melons followed but mangoes beat them all by huge margins!

My cutest papa would get cartons and cartons of the best ones and stock the larder but the plenitude of mangoes was never an overwhelming issue for us. All of us used to rise up to the occasion and amongst us, handled the issue quite efficiently. Mangoes, mango shakes, guramma (a tangy chutney made from raw mangoes), pickles…we adeptly switched from one to another and were always ready for more! No “weighty” issues to make you feel guilty then…just slllluuurrrrrrppppppp!!! 🙂

(Sorry for the abrupt end…will wrap it up in the next post!)
To be continued…

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The Iron That Has Seen It All

This may seem an odd thing to write about but i am sure it’ll make perfect sense to the targeted group of readers viz. all my dearest hostel friends at my college VIT University, which will soon be my alma mater…(the very thought of this final goodbye is hurting like hell..)
And even if you’re not one of them, you can relate to it very well if you have been lucky enough to have spent 3-4 years of your life in a hostel and have made friends who make saying goodbye so so difficult…
So at a time like this, you can understand that there are so many people and things i want to write about. But words fall short to describe all that I’ve learnt and got in the last four years of my life. These unforgettable years have given me friends who make me feel as if I am the “Chosen One”. You don’t get luckier than this in friendship – I know this for sure!

This is a testimonial article about my iron, which has been an indispensable part of our hostel lives since the first year. It’s a simple, no-frills, elemental model from Philips. A steely base, a blue handle, a white knob, a red indicator and a white wire with a three-pin plug – that about sums it up. Told you, it’s pretty straightforward. So you might ask that what’s there in it to write about…
Well, i’ll answer that for you and then you can decide yourself if it deserves this token of thanks or not.

I am not an extrovert person and find it quite difficult to reach out to people. This simple appliance helped me during those initial days to make friends with people with whom i was later to develop a friendship for life. I used to lend it to the other girls in hostel and this got us talking. This simple need-based act paved the way for friendships that would later need no reason at all to sustain…

So all of us in our group shared this iron and everyone was fiercely protective about it too. You see, we weren’t allowed to keep these stuffs in hostel. Ask anyone who knows me really well and they’ll tell you that I am quite a law-abiding citizen but you can’t blame me for sneaking this one inside. I mean, how can you be expected to not have an iron in hostel?? It’s mindless to even think about that!
Well, so after availing its services, we used to hide it craftily under a heap of clothes or shove it in some corner or the other. It took a lot to keep it well-hidden from the watchful, scanning eyes of our wardens and supervisors who used to get a thrill out of seizing these so-called banned things. And we did quite a neat job out of it, given that it used to traverse rooms and even floors almost everyday and still managed to remain undetected!

It has been a testimony to the growth of our friendship…you could tell from the transition that took place in the way this sharing was carried out. Earlier, my friends use to message me sheepishly, asking if they could use it for a while. And after they were done, they would return it punctually, never forgetting to thank me for it.  As time passed by, it became “get the iron when you come”. Not very polite, but still, passable. The later years saw me rushing to their rooms with my rumpled clothes or meekly seeking their permission to borrow it for a while!

But most importantly, this iron of ours is entitled to this article (and much more) because it has been a participant of and a witness to the innumerable activities of the last four years which have made them so precious…the imperishable memories of our wonderful, cheerful, super-active, unimaginably enjoyable hostel life…

It saw us through the daily ironing for those killingly droning and some not so droning lectures…
It was there at our service when we got all dolled-up for those awesome treats – birthdays and anniversaries and results and commitments and siblings’ weddings and boyfriends’ accomplishments and friendships and no-reason treats…
It carefully and painstakingly ironed out each and every fold and crease and did its best to soothe our nerves on those dates, when we were oh-so-conscious…
It jumped out to us with frenzied speed (and heat) on those examination days, when our schedule used to be so over-stuffed that a mere minute or two was the max that this poor thing got to smoothen the crumpled garments…
It zealously celebrated the college-fest “Riviera” with us and helped us primp ourselves in trendy dresses, which further helped us to garner so many of those cherished pics!
It silently imparted its share of wishes and that much needed good luck charm to our formals during those anxious placement times and prayed for us…the way we did for each other…
It extended it’s ever-helpful hand (or should i say handle??) to us on our farewell day too, when we were all such a mess because we had to drape sarees and finally made us all look beautiful, gracious and lady-like…
It was there with us on those bad hair days when not a thing went right and helped us cheer up by donning some favorite t-shirt…

Ya, you got it right now!
Like my friends, who are there for me no matter what, this dear, devoted, vigilant and industrious tool has been with us through it all, seen us becoming the bestest of friends, sharing our joys and woes and never asking anything in return! Day after day, it proved itself to be a trusted friend…never betraying, never cranky, not even a bit demanding…It was just there!

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