Keep learning with Micromax Canvas Tab P666

Looking at this video showcasing the brand new offering from the Micromax stable, a brand that stands for affordable but power-packed gadgets, I realise that sticking to my New Year resolutions will be a lot easier in 2015 if I owned this tablet. Last year, I made a lot of resolutions with regards to expanding my skills repertoire; none of which I could completely fulfil. My passion is to keep learning and primary among these are:
  • Learn to play the keyboard (I have already purchased one);
  • Learn advanced French (I know the basics);
  • Learn to cook (I love food).
I believe that all these goals will become a lot easier with the fast and super-sleek Micromax Canvas Tab P666. I can watch tutorials on playing the piano with its 3G connectivity and 20.32cm WXGA IPS Display. I've always been a fan of self-learning and going for music classes just did not work out with various commitments and things to do on the weekend. Watching videos on this tablet will be a lot easier than watching them on my huge and unwieldy laptop.

The Micromax Canvas Tab P666 promises seven hours of video playback which bodes well for my dreams to become adept at le francais. I can translate words in real time, listen to the nuances of their pronunciation and sign up for courses online with this fantastic device. Maybe I will even get to go to France and practise my French for real! There, the Micromax Canvas Tab P666 will make it easier for me to click selfies in Parisian streets with its 2 MP front camera.

As for my third and most important New Year resolution, it's high time I learnt to cook! Not for anyone else but for myself. And for someone who adores food (especially baked goods), this skill is a must-have. The Micromax Canvas Tab P666 will be my partner in fulfilling this resolution by allowing me to refer to the recipes of my choice with its 1.2 GHz Intel Atom processor and Intel graphics media accelerator. In fact, I have a feeling I may come up with more New Year resolutions with this tab in hand.

So, to sum up, this is what the Micromax Canvas Tab P666 offers:
  • 1.2 GHz Intel Atom Processor
  • 1 GB Ram
  • Fast and responsive with Intel hyper-threading technology
  • 20.32cm WXGA IPS Display
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator
  • 800 x 1260 pixels screen resolution
  • Sleek design, 7.9mm
  • Smooth glass finish
  • 5 MP rear camera
  • 2 MP front camera
  • 1080p HD video playback and recording
  • 3G connectivity
  • 4400 mAh battery
  • Talk time: 15 hours
  • Standby time: 325 hours
  • Browsing time: 6 hours
  • Android Kitkat 4.4.2
  • Memory expandable up to 32 GB
  • Intel Burst Performance Technology for Better Performance
  • 16M Colour Depth
  • Available in magnetic black and puritan white
  • 7 hours video playback time
For more about this product, please visit This post has been written as a part of an Indiblogger promotional activity.

Why men started shaving.

I've often wondered about this. When and how exactly did we evolve to this perception that clean-shaven equals well-groomed? After all, warriors and rulers of yore prided themselves on their flowing beards and twirling moustaches. So, I decided to some research on the subject and here, I present my findings.

Wikimedia Commons
If you've seen or read about Ice Age, you know how excruciating that long winter was. It practically redefined the word 'long'. And to add to the woes of those poor Stone-Age men, the ice-cold water would get trapped in their abundant beards (they didn't have razors back then and perhaps, their women liked them that way) and make them all the more susceptible to frost-bite. That was one time the women were thanking their stars for their naturally beard-free faces. Back then, men used seashells like tweezers, as per cave paintings dating back a 100,000 years. Later, the blokes realised that they could use flakes of obsidian and clam shell shards like razors (only difference is, they weren't branded 'Gillette' back then).

Women in those pre-historic ages craved for buttery-smooth skin as much as the women of today. And boy, were they creative. Ingredients like arsenic, quicklime and starch served as the building blocks of the first depilatory creams. It was nothing short of shaving alchemy! The advent of agriculture brought with it, the knowledge of how to use metal, and thereby, metal blades.

Wikimedia Commons
We saw how weather conditions forced men to go hair-free in the Stone Age. The Egyptians demonstrated once again, how weather can play spoilsport for beard lovers. The hot climate in the Egyptian empire forced them to bathe several times a day and shave using depilatory creams and pumice stones, so that the sweat trapped in hair wouldn't serve as a breeding ground for pests and diseases. Excavations have revealed the use of rotary blades and circular bronze razors (ah Gillette, you missed another branding opportunity). The Egyptians held cleanliness in high regard and began to see facial hair as a sign that you were either a barbarian, mercenary, criminal or slave (not exactly anyone's ideal image-building exercise). When you do see a pharaoh with a beard, remember that it was false. Yeah, they apparently felt false beards were better and fuller, not to mention disposable.

Wikimedia Commons
The next culprit in this story is none other than Alexander the Great. This fabled conqueror was a major fan of hair-free faces. And if he liked shaving, all of Rome liked shaving. Very soon, barber shops became as esteemed as the CCDs of today and shaving began to be associated with wealth and status. 

Wikimedia Commons
Yes, you guessed it right. The next entity to sign shaving's fan book was the Holy Church. In 1054, the Catholic Church parted ways with the Eastern Orthodox and the Western church leaders felt that shaving was a great way to stand out amidst the Jewish and Muslim clergymen. This became part of the canonical law in 1096 and beards were banned altogether by the Archbishop of Rouen. The women followed suit, inspired by Queen Elizabeth I's penchant for clean-shaven eyebrows (they thought long foreheads were beautiful).

Wikimedia Commons
May we have drum rolls for the first sort-of, kind-of razors! French inventor Jean-Jacques Perret invented the world's first safety razor. Much to the chagrin of barbers, he managed this by attaching a wooden guard to a normal razor. Later, the modern Sheffield straight razor included a rotating guard that also served as a handle. Thereafter, many inventors tried to improve upon the design but they ran into various difficulties. Guess who came up with the first modern, double-edged safety razor? His name starts with G.

Wikimedia Commons
King C Gillette took eight years to perfect the razor and by 1906, he was selling 300,000 razors a year. The brand's success story continues till date, and now we have everything from electric to multi-blade razors. Hell, women have a line of razors of their own! Think about all this the next time you shave. And you'll know it's not just an everyday act but one of great significance, whose secrets have been passed down through the ages...

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This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

Dream-borne in Melbourne

Everything was wrong with my life when I moved to Melbourne. But everything was right with the city. And who can remain immune to the charms of such sunny perfection? Not even tragedy-hit me. An inspiring story of a woman who lost everything; yet reclaimed her life in the city that welcomed her with open arms.

1. Goodbye, Mumbai

Melbourne Docklands and the city skyline from Waterfront City looking across Victoria Harbour (Wikimedia Commons)
This image of Melbourne's skyline across Victoria Harbour was all I knew of the city before I packed my bags and turned my back on Mumbai. I remember thinking - why is everything so blue? It looked like a happy place - full of sunshine, smiling faces and bustling cafes. Yet, I was sure the clouds of my despondence would somehow manage to eclipse even a city as bright as this.

The morning after I received the news of my family's death on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, my manager at the IT consultancy firm I worked at, summoned me into his cabin. The wondering eyes of my colleagues fought to catch a glimpse of what they imagined to be a tragedy-stricken face. But their vulturous instincts found nothing. That call from the police control room, telling me that a drunk truck driver had smashed into my parents' car had left me numb. I did have a fleeting feeling of being left out. I'd passed on attending the wedding of our family friend Meera, in favour of a project at work that was nearing its deadline. Maybe I should have stopped being a model employee and gone along instead. At least then, I wouldn't have to be the one hearing those cold words, "There were no survivors." I realised that my boss's lips were moving. "Melbourne is the most livable city in the world, Anoushka. You're bound to love it there." "Melbourne?" Varun sighed. "You haven't been listening to a word I said, have you?" He sighed again. "I want to transfer you to Melbourne. We need someone with your skills there and I believe you need the change of scene as well." Okay, wait. "How long will I have to remain there?" Varun shrugged. "As long as it takes. It's a long project." He seemed to sense my hesitancy. "Come on Anoushka, anyone else would jump at this chance! But I'm keen on sending you there." So this was it. Goodbye to Mumbai and all the fond memories it held for me. Not a permanent farewell perhaps, but nevertheless, one with no potential end in sight. "All right, I'll go," I said. Varun was relieved. "That's great Anoushka! We'll begin the formalities rightaway."

I gathered that I had around a week before I flew over the ocean to a city with immense promise, according to every single person I asked. "Are you kidding me?! Melbourne is the best city ever! I lived there for a year when we were newly wed and you should have seen those Victorian era buildings on Collins Street. They were straight out of a Charlotte Bronte novel!" Pankti, my colleague gushed.

Collins Street (Wikimedia Commons)
"You're moving to Melbourne? Are you serious? Do you know that it's the world's ultimate sports city? You must go to the National Sports Museum! And go watch a match at the Docklands Stadium if you can!" Sahil, my jogging buddy advised.

Tom Wills statue at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (Wikimedia Commons)
"I'm so jealous! Public transport just isn't the same here. Riding those trams with the one you love on a rainy evening - it's just about the most romantic experience one can have. You must try the free Heritage Trams on the city circle route. Oh and the restaurant trams!" Mahi, my cousin shrieked over the phone.

Melbourne is home to the world's largest tram network (Wikimedia Commons)
Wasn't there a single thing to dislike about this city? I rather viewed it as a challenge. There had to be something I could use to feed the sadness inside me. The house was silent and watchful, as I swept my belongings into the largest travel bags I could find. I had no idea I had accumulated so much, in the twenty five years that I had lived. I discarded anything that reminded me of mom, dad or Spunky, our dear cocker spaniel. My cell phone was full of messages and missed calls from friends, cousins and people I hadn't spoken to in ages. I switched that off as well. I began to look forward to the 12 hours of solitude I would enjoy, several feet above the sky, as I left behind the city that had been home ever since I was brought into this world.

2. Hello, Melbourne

The Melbourne skyline as viewed from the Rialto Observatory (Wikimedia Commons)
This was the kind of view I woke up to, as the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. There didn't seem to be too many Asians on the airplane. I hoped the city wasn't racist. "On holiday?" a friendly voice next to me piped up. It was the youngish gentleman in spectacles who had politely receded behind his book on modern architecture for the entire journey. But it seemed the vow of silence had now been broken in favour of some socialisation. "No. I'm moving here," I replied. I didn't think Melbourne was going to be racist after all. Yet another reason to allow myself to be happy in this city. But how could I? "I'm Mason." I shook his hand, warm unlike my chilly ones. How did he manage that, with the icy-cold air conditioning around us? Mason's blue eyes and light brown hair shone in the Australian sun that now filtered in through the unshuttered windows. "Anoushka." "Like the singer?" I was surprised he knew of Ravi Shankar's talented daughter. "Yeah, even the same spelling," I smiled. "Are you from Melbourne?" Mason nodded. "Yeah. It's a great city." "I've been hearing that everywhere," I said, slightly amused. "Tell me five reasons why you love the city." I've found that enumerating things always lends clarity to one's thoughts. "Five? I could tell you a thousand," Mason laughed. "But all right. Number one - we have our own dance move - the Melbourne shuffle!" He had to be making that up. But Mason actually stood up, and showed me a preview of the famed move! I clapped. "Okay, that's pretty cool. Four more to go." "It's the one place where you can still easily get a vinyl record." "Really?" When I was little, mom and dad loved playing Abba on our vinyl record player. And there was always something comforting about the little scratches and imperfections in tune. I wrote the strangest poems, under the hypnotic lull of those rotating discs. "Third, you can buy flowers at the post office! Not to mention, a lot of other cool stuff as well." "Post offices here must be pretty rich then," I quipped. "Fourth, Melbourne has the most quirkily named free community festival ever." I waited with bated breath. "Moomba!" "Hahaha! You have to be kidding me." Moomba sounded like the first utterance of a baby with its mouth full of cerelac. Mason shook his head. "I'm serious! It's awesome and it means 'let's get together and have fun' in the Aboriginal tongue. And that's exactly what we do!" "Okay, that was four. Still another one to go." People were starting to disembark from the airplane, and suddenly, I wished we'd begun this conversation sooner. "That would be my favourite reason - we have a bay that you can loop around in a single day! Begin at Melbourne and wind through the wine districts of Mornington, then head down to the historic towns of Portsea and Sorrento. Thereon, jump or drive on the boat to Queenscliffe - from there you’ll be back on home ground: Melbourne via Geelong."

Yarra River running through Melbourne (Wikimedia Commons)
That sounded like something I could try during my first weekend in this golden city. I said goodbye to Mason and made my way out as quickly as possible, to avoid the awkwardness of a forced and an extended conversation. He looked like he wanted to say something more and it occurred to me later, that perhaps he'd been looking for a way to stay in touch. The only thing I seemed to be able to stay in touch with, however, were the haunting ghosts of my loving, colourful past. Mom and dad had never been abroad and I couldn't help wondering what they'd have thought of the majestic facade of Flinders Street Station or the peaceful interiors of St Paul's Cathedral. I couldn't help wondering if they might have enjoyed the vibrant cultural scene at Federation Square, National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne Concert Hall more than me.

Hamer Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
My house overlooked Princes Bridge on Yarra River and in the wee hours of the morning, I'd often wake up the gentle splish splash of a boat coursing down the river.

Princes Bridge (Wikimedia Commons)
The sound of the breeze and the water calmed the storm that came rushing back, as soon as I left the safe confines of sleep. As images of the gruesome accident returned, I'd focus instead on the moving streams of chic Melbournians making their way to the stunning edifices that lay on the other side of Princes Bridge. One of them housed my new workplace and I was not too pleased at the prospect of being confronted by so many strangers.

Source: (Licensed under Creative Commons)
Dressed in a tweed coat over my blue pantsuit to combat the cool winter air, I stepped into my new office. Over the course of the day, I heard the words "This is Anoushka and she has joined us from India" so many times that they stopped making sense to me. I saw too many faces; heard too many names to be able to remember even a single one correctly the next day. But I did make one friend - Carla, who was my designated 'buddy'. Carla was friendly and easy to talk to, and I took to her immediately. I even told her about Mason. "Why on earth did you run away like that?!" Her sea green eyes widened in surprise. I sighed. "I don't know. I'm not in the best frame of mind for anything like that, right now." "Then you've come to the right place," Carla beamed. "No one can stay depressed in Melbourne." Over the next few weekends (and a few weekday evenings), she set out to prove exactly that.

3. Goodbye, sadness

Work kept me occupied during the day but my lonely dinners at home brought my spirits back to where I had left them in Bombay. On one such night, I stumbled upon a rib-tickling collection of short episodic videos about Melbourne, with my favourite comic duo Tanmay and Rohan playing host.

I have a special soft corner for penguins and the coming weekend, Carla had promised to take me to see the penguin parade at Phillip Island Nature Park. I learnt that the island contained 32000 little penguins! It might as well be called Penguin Island. But this was only after I watched Tanmay describe the penguins as having a very strange sound, only to realise that he had mistaken penguins for pigeons! That particular night, I did not feel lonely at all.

On Friday night, Carla and I, along with a few folks at work, headed to King Street for 'a wild night of revelry', to quote my friend who seemed to have gone quite insane. From their descriptions, King Street sounded a bit like Paris' Pigalle to me, complete with strip clubs and questionable shops. However, the club that we went to - 'Inflation', turned out to be surprisingly fun. The DJ was belting out some of my favourite rock numbers and the crowd was refreshingly well-behaved. I spent some time dancing with my colleagues and soaking in the cathartic beats of the music. But soon enough, I felt my moroseness returning and I headed to the bar to spend a few moments alone in my own company. "One scotch and soda please." "I'll have the same." I recognised that voice even in the midst of all the music and chatter. "Mason!" He was smiling down at me, his eyes bluer than ever. "Painting the town red already?" "Yeah, my colleagues insisted." We spent three drinks talking about my time in Melbourne so far. It wasn't until I told him that I realised how much the city was starting to grow on me. I didn't think about the accident more than once or twice a day; earlier I couldn't go more than five minutes without being devastated by the memories. "Have you gone ballooning over the vineyards at Yarra Valley?" "Not yet. I'm going to see the penguins tomorrow though!" Mason was delighted, and told me all about the excitement of watching little penguins emerge from the water. "Allow me to take you to Yarra Valley next weekend then." I couldn't possibly say no. Besides, I didn't seem to have a single friend apart from Carla. That was all this would be - a friendship. "I'd like that," I smiled.

Melbourne in the night (Wikimedia Commons)
I spied my colleagues approaching over the horizon and braced myself for a round of awkward introductions. "Hey! You must be Mason." Clara piped up. I blushed while Mason asked with a laugh in his voice, "You told her about me?" I nodded, wishing I had sent Mason packing a little earlier. "Yeah I recognised you from the deep blue eyes and hair the colour of wheat gleaming in the sun..." sang Clara. She was really going to have it from me. Mason was laughing outright now. "That's flattering..I think. All right, I'll see you next weekend then Anoushka." I loved the way he pronounced my name. And I was so glad he was leaving. "Bye!" I called and spent the next couple hours dodging a gazillion queries from my work mates.

The next morning dawned early and bright and Carla and I set out for Phillip Island. "We'll also take the seal watching cruise," Carla told me excitedly as we coursed along a smooth highway that was a dream to drive on. "But I want to see the penguins first!" Penguins are my first love. Perhaps it began with my favourite cartoon show in my childhood - Pingu. Whatever the reason, that moment when I saw the first one waddle out of the water under the sparkling early-morning rays - it felt like the culmination of a life-long desire. It was so beautiful that I could not take my eyes off from the penguin; not even to click a picture.

We spent the day nestling shy koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre, hand-feeding wallabies, kangaroos and pelicans, waving at a colony of 16000 fur seals at Sea Rocks from our boat and trying to get good photographs of exotic Birds of Paradise. I don't think I'd ever seen so many new and wondrous birds and animals in a single day before. In the evening, completely exhausted from all our adventures, Carla and I lay on the beach, swigging beer and munching on Chiko Rolls (an Australian version of a chicken and vegetable roll that I quickly grew fond of). "That was a good day wasn't it?" Carla asked. I nodded. "You didn't think about..what happened, did you?" I was quiet. Indeed, I hadn't. Lately, the possibility of coping with life even despite all that I had lost, had begun to seem within reach. "What's Melbourne doing to me, Carla?" I asked. "It's working its magic - like it always does."

At night, before letting the beautiful penguins and seals of Phillip Island invade my dreams, I decided to watch another Tanmay-Rohan video in the 'Come alive in Melbourne' series.

4. Hello, happiness

Carla must have been pretty exhausted showing me around the city all the time. And I was glad to give her a breather on the weekend before Christmas. At 5 AM on Sunday morning, the alarm clock awoke me from a dream where I was reliving the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra last evening at the Myers Music Bowl. There has been a healing quality to the urgent strumming of the cello and the sweeter, poignant notes of the violin. Every instrument had taken me on a different inward journey but all the routes had led to the same sweet destination - pure joy. I hadn't thought that this place still existed inside me, in spite of everything my heart had sustained. The loss, the despair, the absolute hopelessness - all of it receded in the magical onslaught of the music. Later, I had even spoken to flutist Sarah Beggs to tell her how much her music had touched my soul. Carla and I had ended the night with a walk along Melbourne's famed Hosier Lane, which lived up to its reputation as one of the most artistic lanes in the world. I had been keen on visiting it ever since I saw Tanmay and Rohan go gaga over it.

Precisely at 5:30, Mason called up to tell me he had arrived to pick me up. In panic, I tossed things I thought I'd need into a rucksack and rushed out the front door, ready for an adventurous day of hot air ballooning over Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. "Do you like old steam engine trains?" Mason asked me, after I had strapped on my safety belt. "I love them." "Then we'll take a ride on the Puffing Billy Steam Railway. It's Australia's oldest steam railway and the ride will take us through lush glades and gullies filled with ferns." "I never thought any city could be so beautiful," I smiled. "And do you find the people beautiful as well?" Mason teased. He certainly fit the description, in his mint green shirt and casual chinos. "They are," I agreed without any embarrassment. Melbourne had been good to me. Suddenly, I realised I had Varun to thank for all this good fortune. I ought to tell him that. All though we'd been in touch, I'd only ever spoken to him about work.

Mason had shown me pictures such as the one above, from his previous trips to Yarra Valley, which he said was his favourite spot in Melbourne. Yet, nothing could prepare me for the panorama of lush green valleys, forests and vineyards, rows and rows of which, defied description. "Hope you're not falling asleep," Mason smiled down at me, as I gazed and gazed at the impossibly beautiful world around me. "Not a chance. I'm a morning person and even if I wasn't, this sight would wake anyone up!" "So, you're going to be staying in Melbourne for a while, are you?" Did he want me to? Butterflies began to dance in my stomach all of a sudden. And I noticed for the first time, how our hands rested right next to each other, just a few inches shy of what I knew would be electrifying contact. "I guess so. This project isn't going to be wrapped up in a hurry," I smiled. We were 2000 feet above the ground and the only sound I could hear was that of my own breath. What I had gone through was still tragic but its hopelessness was somehow diminished by the expansiveness of the sky around me. With such majestic nature by my side, there was nothing I couldn't conquer. In that moment, I really believed it.

After a sumptuous picnic lunch in the eclectic villages of Dandenong Ranges, we went for a ride on the Puffing Billy Steam Railway. Childhood memories of riding on the toy train at Matheran with my family came rushing back and I realised with a jolt, that I was actually happy to think about my family. That overpowering pain that usually accompanied any thought of them - it was missing. "Is something wrong?" Mason asked, as I stared into the distance, hardly able to comprehend how much the city and its delights had helped me heal. I found myself telling him about everything that happened before my arrival in Melbourne. Mason listened silently, gazing out from the open-sided carriage, as we rode from Belgrave to Gembrook. Finally he turned to me, and caressed my cheek - an action that took me quite by surprise. "You're a brave woman, Anoushka." He didn't say much else and it was good. The last thing I wanted was to hear empty consolations and niceties.

The next day, I was scrolling through my timeline on Facebook, suddenly filled with updates from my new Australian friends and I came upon a song that touched my heart for some reason. Perhaps it was the lyrics:
Come in my thoughts
Stomach in knots and then  
Steps, grass, gate, door 
Oh, you perfect stranger

Or it was the fact that the song took the singer through some lovely spots in Melbourne. It was titled 'From St Kilda to Fitzroy' and Amanda Palmer's lazy voice made me want to try singing it myself.

My heart told me to get up and see what St Kilda was all about and I decided to follow the impulse. I made sure to add the song to my mobile phone playlist and then it was time to say hello to the mid-morning colours and scents outside my door. I saw the smiling facade of Luna Park at St Kilda and walked around, enjoying the laughter and shrieks of the happy children. I heard the 'dings' of trams at Fitzroy -a sound I'd now become used to. And I had lunch at a streetside cafe, the taste of my food mingling with the comforting sounds of the street to create a multi-sensory symphony. 

St Kilda Beach by Sarah Worthy (Licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike)
Licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike.
And in that moment, the words of Amanda Palmer's song rung really true:
Then no more talk inside my head
Delicious feeling like I'm dead
For just a second, shutting up
A fire shock all in my gut
In the evening, I made my way to Fitzroy Crossing to see the river flowing there. There was not a single soul in sight and in that solitude and silence, I think I may have found myself again.

Fitzroy River (Wikimedia Commons)
Anoushka never left Melbourne. Her company offered her a chance to return after the completion of her project, but Anoushka decided to stay on. She eventually married Mason and together, they now run a travel company that allows visitors to discover why Melbourne is indeed the most livable and gorgeously vibrant city in the world.

Congratulations, Mohit Somani!

Dear reader, we have come to the end of Anoushka's story of how she came alive in Melbourne, and I'd like to reward you for reading till the very end. All you have to do is answer the following question:

Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?

Leave your answer in the comments section below, and the best answer will win a gift/shopping voucher worth Rs 500, courtesy Tourism Victoria and Indiblogger. I'll be accepting answers till 4th Jan, 2015. Do follow my blog so you can stay updated about the winner! All the best, and here's wishing that you get to experience the magic of Melbourne.

P.S.: In return for this and a lot of hugs from my side, it would be great if you could view my travelogue and click on the heart button next to 'follow' and 'comment'. Do share if you like it. Also check out Airbnb if you want Rs 1583 off on your first trip to an exotic locale anywhere in India and the world. Thank you! 

This post has been written as a part of the 'Come Alive in Melbourne' initiative by Tourism Victoria and Indiblogger.

Fear nothing.

Mountain Dew has asked to write about the risks I have taken to overcome my fear and claim victory. I could write about overcoming physical fears such as the time when I went for a monsoon trek to Nakhind and found myself on a long, slippery precipice with nothing to hold on to and no option but to advance ahead. My victory would have looked like something like this:

Or I could write about the far more difficult and insidious fears that take hold of us inside our minds and keep us from realising our full potential. Once, I was afraid of talking to people I didn't know. I was afraid of making friends and opening up. I was afraid of making presentations to large audiences. My hands would shiver and my voice would come out like a squeak. I'm sure this sounds familiar to quite a few of you. We've all been prisoners of fears that refused to relinquish their hold on us. But that's the thing - it's always within our power to pry off the claws of even the most persistent fears and break free from them. It may be difficult and it may take time but it's never impossible. Because we are bigger than any of our fears.

I spent my two years at junior college feeding my fears and believing that I would never be free of them. But when I entered graduation and opted for the vibrant course of bachelors in mass media, I decided that enough was enough. I forced myself to talk to every single person in class. I pushed myself to participate in every event I came across. I became part of committees and activities and I never wasted a single moment doing nothing of value. Soon, I found to my surprise that people actually liked me. And they weren't as scary as I had imagined. They weren't demons waiting to devour me, which is what a lot of shy, timid people feel. The chronic fear of approaching strangers and having conversations with them became a thing of the past as I began experimenting with journalism. I began to travel to different places on my own and thus began my journey of self-discovery. I rose above my fears and I realised how silly it had been, to allow myself to be enslaved by mere figments of my imagination. Fears are nothing but that. They feed on our misconceptions and memories of unfortunate events and start creating a pseudo-reality that is far from the truth.

If you're afraid of something, you'll likely be telling yourself that everyday. Your thoughts will resonate the supposed reasons for your fear and their repetition will lull you into unquestioning belief. But all you have to do is arrest their useless whispers and take action to prove them wrong. Get out of the realm of self-defeating thoughts and go do that very thing that scares you most. In the Mountain Dew video, Arya does not climb the mountain in one second. Neither does he accomplish his goal without several challenges along the way. But when you treat every journey from fear to victory as a game that is enjoyable and riddled with exhilaration, the challenges turn into doable milestones rather than insurmountable obstacles. All the great masters have taught us about overcoming fears but it is of course easier said than done. That first step - it'll take everything out of you. But it'll be worth it. So worth it.

'I think fearless is having fears but jumping anyway'. - Taylor Swift

For more on rising above your fears, visit

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This post has been written as a part of the 'Rise above fear!' initiative by Mountain Dew India and Indiblogger.

If no child ever went hungry

Imagine - 
If no child ever went hungry
Ever felt the insistent, unyielding pangs 
Of twisting, demanding, hunger
If no child ever went to bed, with a hollow stomach
Full of unfulfilled hopes and desires
And dreamt dreams replete with bowls and bowls
Of nourishment, tragically out of reach
If no child's life was ebbed away into silence
Sparks vanquished by the lack 
Of something as basic as food?

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda and I am going to imagine such a world. 3000 children die in India everyday because of something as basic as hunger. Three square meals a day - not to mention numerous snacks in between and the access to anything which our taste buds desire - these are privileges that you and I take for granted. And I believe that's where the problem lies. The people who can feed themselves do not value the food on their plates. We mass produce to the extent that numerous food products remain unsold, get spoilt and are relegated to the 'waste' section. That's where businesses are at fault. We also trivialise and disrespect the access to nourishment by taking more than we need; more than we can take; everyday at decadent buffets, ill-planned parties and even our own homes and offices. All this good food, that should have ideally been working magic in the growth-hungry cells of these little children, is flowing into dust bins and ungrateful tummies. We do have enough food - we just haven't figured a method to equitable distribution of this food.

PM Narendra Modi has unveiled the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan. What we need now is a Bhook Mukti Abhiyan - a movement to ensure that every morsel of food in the nation reaches its rightful destination. The government's midday meal schemes haven't quite worked miracles. The food is often poor in quality and sometimes even causes food poisoning among unsuspecting kids. Along with the elimination of wastage, we need to focus on two things - complete intolerance for poor quality and malpractices, and freedom from the archaic, irrational school of thought that one can beget any number of children, irrespective of one's economic status and it will always be a good thing. No, it's not always a good thing to bear children. Children come with responsibilities and if these cannot be fulfilled, it is better that the poor take the right birth control measures to avoid the trauma of feeding yet another mouth.

Well-nourished children and educated children go together. Because education teaches us to deliberate before we act and education makes us aware of right and wrong; even if we choose not to heed the advice of our rational minds.

There is also a global perspective to this problem. Developed countries have a surplus of food, while developing and under-developed countries struggle to fulfil the basic needs of their burgeoning populace. Let's take food to where it is required and let's not think about monetary gains while we do so. Let us all develop a social conscience that makes it impossible for us to stomach an innocent child's hunger.

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Mesmerising Maharashtra

You might have received the list of long weekends in 2015, which has gone viral on Facebook, Whatsapp and umpteen other social platforms. Reason enough to begin planning for some memorable weekend holidays, eh?

If you live in Mumbai like me, chances are you don't want to venture outside the state of Maharashtra for short holidays. After all, 20-hour long train journeys can drain all the spirit out of you. However, if you talk to people about weekend getaways around Mumbai, you'll keep getting the same answers - Alibag, Gorai, Khandala, Lonavla. Been there, done that. Besides, even if it's a new place you're trying out, staying in a dowdy, dimlit room can take all the fun out of the experience. Trouble is, none of us have gigantic budgets for what should ideally be pocket-friendly breaks.

That's where Airbnb comes in. I've been hearing about Airbnb quite often on social media and I browsed through some of their international listings - they are truly stunning. There is everything from tree houses, European villas, horse ranches, windmills, retro trailers and luxe yachts, thanks to over 34000 local hosts in more than 190 countries.

So, I was sceptical about whether the website would be equally good for Indian listings. I searched for listings in Maharashtra under 2000 rupees. And I wasn't looking for run-of-the-mill rooms in godforsaken lodges. I was looking for something special. And I wasn't disappointed. Click here to join Airbnb (it's free) and view my pick of the top five weekend getaways in mesmerising Maharashtra.

1. Hill top camping near Lonavla

Wake up to the chirping of birds and a glorious view of Pavana valley and lake. Then, spend the day exploring fort Tikona, while you soak in the sounds of temple bells and rustic cows. Go for a boat ride on the lake and enjoy a panoramic view of the mountains. By night, relax with your special one around a bonfire and  dine on a sumptuous barbeque. This camp is located 130km from Mumbai and rooms are priced at Rs 1700 per person. Sounds good? Go ahead and join Airbnb then.

2. Serene eco-village at Pune

Have workplace demands and the tiring schedule of home-work-commitments exhausted your soul completely? Have you forgotten what peace and silence feel like? Then this quaint bed and breakfast in the midst of a 30 acre forest may be just what the doctor ordered. Feast on homemade organic food and explore the trekking options nearby, or simply go for an excursion to the dam. The property costs only 1200 rupees per night and I think you should give it a try. I certainly will.

3. Swiss cottage tent at Ganpatiphule

Ganpatiphule has been on my wishlist since a while. It's close to Mumbai and it's renowned for its white sand Arabian beach, exotic birds and the Ganpatiphule temple. This particular property is located close to all the major attractions and is priced at 1600 rupees per night. The idea of reconnecting with nature at the bald eagle nest at Kalbadevi and dipping my toes in the pristine waters of the beach near Suruban sounds very tempting indeed. Aren't you tempted too?

4. Gulmohar homestay at Nashik

I just love living in villages. The charm of the rustic life, with its freedom from the frenetic pace of cities and alluring proximity to nature truly calms the senses. Nashik is a gem of a getaway with its fruiting and flowering trees, flowering bushes, green lawns and lotus ponds. Gulmohar Homestay is a family-run guesthouse in the village of Belgaon Dhaga, 11 kms from the city of Nashik. The rooms are priced at 2000 rupees per night with a wide range of amenities, rivalling that of any luxury hotel.

5. Crazy camping at Raigad

Raigad Fort has found quite a few mentions in our history textbooks, thanks to its pivotal role in Shivaji's exploits. Green Hill Estate, Khopoli is raised some 100 feet above a lake with a backdrop of the local hills. All you have to do is drive around 80km to get here from Mumbai. Be prepared to wake up at the crack of dawn for a rejuvenating yoga session and a nature walk. Learn the art of pitching a tent and firing up a barbeque grill while you're at camp. You'll return with a renewed spirit and a whole new set of camping skills.

If what you just read has whetted your appetite for some truly amazing holidays, sign up at and make your bookings from my wishlist visit Happy travelling!

This post has been written in association with Airbnb and Indiblogger
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Frankly Spooking: A review

The Indian easy reading fictional market has seen an upsurge, ever since the path-breaking success of Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone. He may not have found much favour with literary critics but he certainly set the stage for a brand new opportunity for aspiring readers and writers alike. He reignited the genre of quick reads that entertain but do not necessarily edify. Many of the novels that are hitting the bookshelves today are written by inexperienced young Indian authors. While some of them are appalling in their utter disregard for grammar or artful storytelling, others like Sriramana Muliya's 'Frankly Spooking', reinforce the fact that with good writers, there is always potential to be better, and perhaps, even truly great.

As the title suggests, Frankly Spooking aims to spook, and the tools it employs are 30 bite-sized short stories, except for a couple which are episodic in nature. While some of the stories are versions of what we've already heard, others are genuinely fresh off the horror mill. For instance, one of the stories reminded me of the plot line of a Hindi thriller film. In this particular selection of tales, the majority are like short bursts of ideas, rather than structured stories with a steady build-up. This method of writing works because of the genre itself. It would be a miserable failure in a genre like romance, where the pleasure of gratification is impossible to experience without a gradual accumulation of events.

The author, Sriramana Muliya, has been posting scary short stories on his blog ( since a long time, and on the blog, one gets to see longer tales as well. The long-form format has more to offer to the reader as well as the writer in terms of an experience - it lasts longer, has scope to accomodate many different emotions, and allows the writer to experiment with structure, pace and characterisation. For this reason, I would have preferred a collection of fewer but longer stories, on the lines of 'Team Player', and 'Blogosphere', two of my favourite stories from the book. 'Team Player' is modelled on the existing concept of cannibalism but the story is woven well, which ensures that it makes for a suspenseful read.

Frankly Spooking scores high on the variety meter, with everything from gore, mannequins, evil earplugs and life-like tattoos making an experience. Muliya is clearly imaginative and unconventional, taking horror to realms other than ghosts and zombies. In fact, zombies are perhaps the only kind of haunting missing from the book! The book is free of grammatical and lingual errors, which unfortunately, is not the case with many published novels. The language is simple but not dumbed-down, which makes it a good choice for those who do not prefer heavy reads. The stories are entertaining enough that I would reach for a sequel. What better hallmark of readability than that?

And to answer the question you all have, yes, I was spooked by Frankly Spooking. Spook meter: 8/10.

Tete-a-tete with the author

1. Why do you have a penchant for writing horror stories?
I used to believe (still do in more ways than one) that horror was the only thing that got someone's attention almost instantaneously. Be it a conversation between two friends, a group of people, or a large audience, one immediately sat up and listened, or watched anything related to horror. In that sense, I will say the penchant was more to shock and grab attention rather than scare. But after having written a few horror stories on my blog, I realized that my morbid imagination could come up with these weird situations, wherein I could fit the elements of horror quite comfortably without having to explain a lot. I guess that was it. Started with the intention of luring readers to my blog, but then it became a habit after a while.

2. Would you attempt other genres as well?
By all means. My next work is a different genre already. I have written quite a few romantic and humorous stories on my blog.

3. Your writing hints at a good understanding of a younger audience as well. Would you ever write stories for children?
Why not? It's not on top of the list, but should the opportunity present itself, I would make full use of it.

4. You've had difficulties in marketing Frankly Spooking. Can you share some insights on how to get published and read?
I've written at length about this on my blog, but to cut a long story short, yes, despite a fair bit of coverage in the print and social media, thanks to my publishers HarperCollins India, the book didn't sell as it should have. There are various factors to consider - the genre, pricing, time frame and reach. Each one of these plays a very important role in propelling a book towards better sales. Especially these days when Indian English writing is coming of age, each book needs its own mouth-piece, without which it's really difficult to reach the intended number of people. I'm no expert on marketing and publicity, therefore I don't know any formula to that effect. All I can say is one should keep writing and try all avenues of promoting one's work. There are no hard and fast rules. Success of a book, like any other work of art, is ultimately a reader's prerogative. Some times it clicks, catches people's fancy, some times it doesn't. The key is to keep trying harder.

5. Tell us about your upcoming crime suspense novel.
All I can say at this point is, it's a story of a bunch of college friends, and how their past returns to haunt them once they grow up and assume their respective roles in the big bad world.

Who is Sriramana Muliya?

Sriramana Muliya works as a technical editor with Cisco Systems. Besides writing fiction, Sriramana also likes to blog and has been blogging for the last ten years at He is an avid movie buff and loves watching quality cinema. Sriramana lives in Bengaluru with his wife and daughter. He tweets at @phatichar13.

Now go, get the book and review it yourself. That is, if your fingers aren't shaking so much that you can't type! :P

Amazon: (Rs 175)
Flipkart: (Rs 275)
Kindle: (Rs 166)

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Joyrides are safe rides

Wikimedia Commons
25 year old Ashish Ahuja was really excited about going to visit his ex-campus for the first time in years. FLAME Institute of Communications, nestled in the lofty Lavale village on the outskirts of Pune had been his home for a good two years, and now he'd be going on a luxuriously long drive in his new Nissan Micra from Mumbai to Pune, just so he could reunite with his ex-batchmates and relive the memories of those glorious post-graduation days.

He had gifted himself the compact, berry coloured Nissan Micra after getting an early promotion at work. The nation might still be waiting, but for him, 'acche din' were certainly here! "Please drive safely," his mother advised, before he left at 6 AM after a quick cup of coffee. Ashish had entertained the idea of driving over the previous night and waking up in bright spirits for the alumni meet, but he voted in favour of the safer option of driving during the day. And at 6 AM, the traffic would be as negligible as it would have been late in the night.

As he was about to enter the key into the ignition, it struck him that he hadn't worn the safety belt. Although it felt so much freer to drive without it, Ashish inserted the belt into its buckle and sat back to enjoy a secure drive along the Mumba-Pune express way. He normally awoke at 7:30 AM and felt a little groggy, as he cruised along the way. "Let me get another cup of coffee and some breakfast," he thought to himself. He stopped at the first drive-through restaurant he saw, and grabbed a strong espresso and a Subway sandwich to keep him alert for the next two or three hours. As he finished eating and drinking, he felt his energy levels return and smiled, as the morning sun shone on his unshaven face. Yes, his batchmates would be quite surprised to see him in a relatively dishevelled avatar! But Ashish had changed over the years; grown less finicky; although he was as particular about safety as ever.

As he drove, Ashish kept a look out for vehicles around him - before, behind and alongside his car. The car moved like a dream, and the Pink Floyd song kept his spirits even higher. He was glad he had remembered to adjust his rear view and side view mirrors beforehand, so he had an excellent view of the road. Odd, there seemed to be another Nissan Micra a little ahead of him. That one was a midnight blue in colour. "That would have been a nice option too," Ashish mused. At one point, he veered too close to the car ahead and immediately made sure that he put some distance between them. Although it was tempting to speed up on that deserted stretch, Ashish stayed within speed limits, You never knew when you might have to suddenly halt.

There would be alcohol at the meeting, Ashish knew. And that was why he planned to stay overnight and drive back the next morning. That way, he would also have more time with his friends and ex teachers. He was jerked out of his reverie by the chiming sound of his phone. His girlfriend was calling. Ashish checked his watch - yes, it was 7 AM, the exact hour at which Apeksha awoke every day without fail. He pulled over safely and then received the call. "Aren't you getting ready to jog?" "Yes, just thought I'd check on you once," Apeksha said. They spoke briefly and hung up. He didn't want to be late for the meet and Apeksha did not want to miss her jogging session.

To his surprise, Ashish heard the sound of an ambulance siren behind him. It seemed that accidents could occur at any time of the day. He was glad he hadn't turned up the volume of the track although it was his favourite one - comfortably numb. He slowed down to allow the ambulance to pass and fulfil its duty. He smiled, remembering his family's ecstatic reactions to his new vehicle. They felt it was a good choice, considering he had only paid 6 lakhs for it and although it looked small, the car had enough space for his safety toolkit consisting of a spare tire, tire jack, jumper cable and other miscellaneous tools in case he ever had a break down. Ashish's motto in life had always been, 'be prepared for anything, at all times'. And it had stood him in great stead, even as he sadly watched many peers meet terrible fates thanks to their devil-may-care attitudes.

Ashish recalled that there was a school on the way to the campus. Sure enough, there was a 'Stop' sign a little ahead. He stopped, although he was sure the school would be shut on a Saturday. But as soon as he halted, he saw a couple of kids dart out, dressed in their blue and white checked uniforms. Ah yes, the concept of half days. It was surprising how much one tended to forget as time passed! After another half hour, Ashish knew he was quite close to the campus and the winding hilly turns would soon begin. He slowed down, although he was already within the speed limit, because such turns were always tricky to navigate. He recalled how his previous car had displayed steering problems at this juncture. Ashish had had to pull over and look into his tires. But the Nissan Micra gave him no such issues.

Wikimedia Commons
The above story unfortunately, is more fictional than real, because many of us do not behave like Ashish at all. In fact, we are just the opposite, choosing to ignore road safety signs and forgetting our helmets and seat belts with no regards for our safety. The trouble with accidents is that they seldom come with warning. And while no one ever thinks they'll be a victim of one, quite a few end up learning that they were quite wrong in that assumption. It is to encourage the 'safety habit' that Nissan has launched the Nissan Safety Driving Forum. The program,e began as an annual activity in 2012. In its initial phase. it covered three main Indian cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai – and since then, has gradually expanded to several additional cities across India. This year, NSDF would reach eight new cities – Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Jaipur, Vadodara, Nagpur, Chennai, Mangalore and Kochi. The overall reach and engagement levels have phenomenally grown and NSDF has effectively reached close to two lakh citizens. Wondering what all the noise is about? If daily newspaper reports of road mishaps are not proof enough, here are some statistics:
  • 138,258 people died of road accidents in India in 2012. That’s a little less than the population of Maldives;
  • In recent years, as China has made its roads safer, India has overtaken China as the largest contributor to road accident deaths;
  • As per the National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 461 people died and 1,301 more were injured every day in traffic accidents in the country during 2012. This makes it 19 deaths every hour—or more than one death every three minutes;
  • All of India’s neighbors have fewer accident deaths per 100,000 than India. Bangladesh is the best at 11.6, followed by Mauritius (12.2), Bhutan (13.2), Sri Lanka (13.7), Myanmar (15), Nepal (16) and Pakistan (17.4).
Nevertheless, there is hope. According to World Health Organization figures, India’s accident death rate of 18.9 for every 100,000 people is only a little higher than the global average, 18. Many countries have a much higher accident death rate—Thailand (38), South Africa (32), Venezuela (37.2), Oman (34), Nigeria (33), Iran (34), Iraq (31), Saudi Arabia (28), Malaysia (25) and China (20.5). Compared to the previous year, NSDF has witnessed an impressive 126 per cent growth in the sensitisation of wearing seatbelts. In addition, NSDF also conducts live simulated experiences to understand how safety features function through a simulated car crash. A 360-degree turn over highlights the use of seatbelts, while sessions on road safety emphasises on road etiquette to stay safe. Nissan seeks to support reducing fatalities and injuries caused by traffic accidents, and NSDF represents the company's commitment in contributing to young, vibrant and mobile India. To know more about the initiative, visit


If you wish to inculcate the safe habit, here are some guidelines for you to follow and educate others about:

1. Always wear your seat belt, whether you're driving or in the front or back seat. And insist on everyone else in the car doing the same;
2. Participate, but don't get too distracted by the conversation or music, if you are the driver. Always be alert.
3. Make sure your side and rear view mirrors are adjusted to the correct angle and keep an eye on them at regular intervals.
4. While driving, maintain your focus on the vehicles before, behind and alongside you and maintain sufficient distance between yourself and them.
5. Irrespective of where you're driving, always stay within speed limits. Slow down wherever required - especially at blind turns and narrow alleys.
6. Don't jump signals even if you're in a hurry. Follow road signs that ask you to stop or slow down.
7. Don't use your cellphone while driving. Ask someone else to receive a call or check a message if it's urgent; else pull over and use the phone.
8. Don't test the volume limits of your stereo system. It's good for the car and for your safety, because you might need to hear ambulance and siren calls as well as the honks of other vehicles.
9. Always have a safety tool kit stashed in your career consisting of basic repair tools and a spare tyre. Learn to change your tire and use these tools if need be.
10. If you think your car is giving trouble, don't continue in the hope that it will correct itself. Pull over and look into the problem - it could be something serious.
11. Don't drive when angry or emotionally agitated. Take a few deep breaths, calm down. Get your focus back and only then should you get into the driver's seat.
12. Store emergency contact numbers in your phone in case your car breaks down or has an accident.
13. Never drink and drive. Have a backup ready, if you're going to a place where you might imbibe alcohol.
14. Take your car or bike for regular maintenance visits, so that you can spot any malfunctions in the machinery early and rectify them in time.

For Ashish, #SafetyBeginsWithMe was almost a personal motto. And if more of us believe the same, maybe the school of thought that believes 'fun' can't equate 'safety' will find fewer takers. Happy driving, and remember the best road trips are the ones that are bolstered by safe driving habits.

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This post was written as a part of the #SafetyBeginsWithMe campaign by Nissan Safety Driving Forum and Indiblogger