Wish fulfilment with HP’s Star Wars Notebook

Courtesy: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/10/hockey-star-wars-jerseys-toledo-walleye-kalamazoo

The snow falls hard and fast outside young Vivaan’s window. His pale eyes watch the outside world wistfully. A poorly-timed viral fever attack has left him unable to watch the all new installment in his favourite franchise – Star Wars. Worse still, his eleventh birthday is only a day away. Could this Mussoorie winter be any bleaker?

The door opens and Vivaan looks up eagerly, hoping it’s Luke Skywalker, come to rescue him from his misery with his Jedi powers. Alas, it’s daddy, bearing a tray of hot chocolate and Oreo cookies – Vivaan’s favourite things in the world, next to Star Wars of course. “How is my champion doing today?” dad asks brightly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “All right I guess,” Vivaan mumbles, his head turned away. Dad strokes his hair softly.
“Don’t worry Vaan, we’ll go watch the film as soon as the force awakens in you again!” 
Courtesy: Lucasfilm / Via lifeisaglitch.tumblr.com

But Vivaan doesn’t smile. “This is Mussoorie, dad. The movie will be out of the theatres by then.” Dad sighs. “Then I’ll get the DVD for you and we’ll watch it at home.” “That’s not the same thing! This is the worst birthday of my life!” Vivaan cries with all the energy he can muster, and buries himself under the covers.

Shailesh shuts the door behind him, aware that anything he says will only make his son angrier. Sometimes, Vivaan doesn’t realise how difficult it has been, raising him all alone. He retires to his room, where a sparkling new HP Pavilion 15-an003TX Notebook sits on the table, intended as a birthday gift for Vivaan, who is fast outgrowing his tablet. The second Shailesh laid his eyes on this notebook packed with special Star Wars software, he knew he had to get it.

Courtesy: http://hpshopping.in/starwars
Shailesh smiles, recalling the time when they had first seen a Star Wars film together. It had been the third episode of the series, titled ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and had served as an unlikely ice-breaker between father and son. Eight year old Vivaan unfairly blamed his father for allowing his mother to die in a bungee jumping accident. 
But somewhere between Chewbacca’s lovable gibberish and Yoda’s obscure wisdom, they had developed a bond that had stood strong until now. 
Courtesy: Lucasfilms / Via thenostalgicworld.tumblr.com

Pouring himself a cup of coffee from the flask by his bedside, Shailesh replays the weeks before Vivaan’s sudden bout of sickness. After three years of devouring Star Wars movies, shows and cartoons on TV, Vivaan had been beside himself with excitement at the prospect of finally seeing his favourite characters on the big screen. But now it’s all ruined – unless Shailesh’s plan works.

Vivaan struggles to stay awake until the clock strikes twelve, but the inviting warmth of his quilt and the weakness induced by his fever, pull him into the deep throes of sleep. Eventually, the steady rhythm of his breathing mirrors the tick-tock of his bedside clock. And then suddenly, an increasingly louder familiar music jolts him awake. Rubbing his sleepy eyes, Vivaan sits up to see the Star Wars logo forming on a large screen before his bed, resplendent in the darkness and accompanied by the crystal-clear iconic Star Wars theme music.

His mouth wide open, Vivaan wonders if he’s dreaming. Then, the screen stills on a frame of the much-loved Galactic landscape and an otherworldly blue light floods part of his room. From the shadows, a figure walks into the light and lifts up a glimmering lightsaber. “Luke Skywalker!” Vivaan gasps, almost leaping up in his excitement.

Courtesy: leiaorganaa.tumblr.com

Luke walks over and shakes his hand. “Happy birthday, my boy. May the force be strong in you.” 
 The voice is undoubtedly that of his hero’s. Vivaan is too stunned to respond. “I thought you’d like to have this.” Luke turns to fiddle with something in the darkness and miraculously, a comic book page appears on the screen in front of Vivaan. He scans the images eagerly and exclaims, “It’s the first comic of the Star Wars series! Can I really have it?” Luke ruffles his hair. “Of course you can. I’ve also arranged for you to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens if you aren’t too sleepy.” Vivaan’s eyes turn as round as saucers. “What, now? Really?” The Jedi knight nods, his expression as intense as the music surrounding the room. “Let’s watch it!” Vivaan grins and wonder of wonders, the movie that had released just two days ago, unfolds on the screen.

Created using http://gifcreator.me/
The riveting events in the film compel Vivaan to stay awake despite the late hour. But he never realises when the end credits begin and his head falls back on the pillow. When he wakes up the next morning, Luke Skywalker is gone.

“Happy birthday!” dad crows, entering the room with a large wrapped package in his hands. Vivaan turns to him with shining eyes. “Dad! You’ll never guess what happened last night!” “Oh you can tell me all about it at leisure. But first, don’t you want to see your birthday present?” Dad looks tired, despite his cheery tone. Vivaan grins. “Of course I do!” He eagerly unwraps the bright green packaging and pries open the box with a pocket knife. Lo and behold, encased in bubble wrap is a shiny new laptop in stone grey, proudly emblazoned with a Star Wars poster and the box proclaiming ‘Star Wars Special Edition Notebook’. 
Courtesy: http://hpshopping.in/starwars
Vivaan gasps. Could this really be a coincidence? And then it dawns on him. “You were Luke Skywalker!” he points at his father accusingly. And then he smiles wide. “How did you do it?” Shailesh grins back and wraps his son in a tight hug. “With the help of this beauty of course.” He proceeds to explain how he had sneaked into Vivaan’s room at night and placed the HP Pavilion 15-an003TX Notebook on the table, switched on and ready for use. Unknown to Vivaan, he had already installed a projector-operated screen in front of his bed, that could be rolled down with the push of a button, along with a special blue light.

He had connected the notebook to the projector and delved into its array of special Star Wars software to create the visual effects and play the theme music. Dressed in pre-purchased gear, he had then stepped into the light as Luke Skywalker. 
“But where did the Marvel comic book come from?” Vivaan wants to know. “It’s part of the Star Wars goodies in the notebook. There are e-book excerpts, Star Wars movie trailers, concept art, storyboards, themes and wallpapers as well,” his father says. Vivaan wonders how his birthday has turned out to be so incredibly wonderful all of a sudden. 
Overcome by emotion, he throws his arms around his father and cries into his chest, “Thank you dad! This is the best birthday ever.” 
Pics courtesy: https://www.indiblogger.in/topic.php?topic=189

And then a thought strikes him. “But how did you get your hands on the film so soon, dad?” Shailesh winks and says, “I just tapped into some movie world contacts I have. They managed to get me a screening copy on the condition that I wouldn’t duplicate it or share it with anyone apart from you, until they had officially released the DVD.” “You’re a genius, dad!” Vivaan whispers in awe. His dad laughs and hugs him tightly – this boy that he loves more than anything else in the world.


The Star Wars Special Edition HP Pavilion 15-an003TX Notebook is priced at Rs 69,990 and comes with a 6th Generation Intel Core i5 Processor, Windows 10 Home, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 2GB Graphics, 8x Supermulti DVD writer and 2GB NVIDIA GeForce 940M Graphics. How will you use these features to #AwakenYourForce? Leave a comment and let me know.

When I went cafe-hopping

Gaylord Cafe
Roman figurines grace the backs of the wrought iron chairs at Gaylord Cafe
I'm sitting on a corner table at Gaylord Cafe and having kona coffee! (Kona is corner in Hindi) Other people go bar-hopping. Here, I am cafe hopping with Murakami and fresh muffins for company. It's strange but I never before noticed the Roman figures carved into the backs of the wrought iron chairs here. Then again, it's not that strange. Sometimes, I suspect that I 'unsee' more things than I do see. What a terrible tragedy. Most often, our gazes are turned inwards, enraptured by the sea of endless sights and sounds that our minds churn up. Now and then, some froth will rise to the fore and from it, a pearl of an idea will emerge. But that pearl is like a drop in the ocean. So I must remind myself to see without, more often.

At a crossing near Churchgate station, I realised that among the things I love most is the tendency of decisions to be formed all on their own. At Kitab Khana's Food for Soul, I simply couldn't choose between three flavours of cupcakes. Yet, when the waiter arrived, my lips formed the words with clear certainty - oreo cupcake. And what a good decision it turned out to be! A better example would be the way my feet continued to move, from Fort to Churchgate, and onwards, charting a course whose destination was unknown to me. I used to think I was a little insane for the pleasure I derive out of aimless wanderings, until I came across several Murakami and Orhan Pamuk characters who did the same. Or maybe, that's just further proof of my insanity. Some day, I would like to temporarily relinquish my bipedal status and view the world from a different vantage point.

A little unrest, a little poignancy - is like that essential pinch of salt in any good work of art - be it a composition or a poem. And like sunflowers reaching out to the sun, some knot within our soul unties itself and gravitates towards the song/poem.

It is funny how the music fades out the second the words in one's novel start sinking in. Only when the waiter began humming a few lines did I realise that the cafe was playing the instrumental version of the Hindi oldie 'tumse milke'. Oddly enough, the music went with the story I was reading - the protagonist had just begun to read a letter written by his beloved. But it wasn't a love letter - at least not in the conventional sense.

Unknown music

Unknown music from unseen quarters
Invades the rusty silence
Of jaded hearts.

Certain chords sound a familiar melody
Perhaps echoes
From lives past.

It's a song a seamstress wove
From the looms of un-spun dreams
And what it seems
Are keys 
From a broken piano.

It's a song I once heard
In a dream I never remembered

I know now,
I bore this song all this while
The only key to a secret file
I once slipped into the gaps between time.

Time-bound Energy

I have
No sense of self
Only a sense
Of messed up thoughts
And fiery aspiration.
Hopes and dreams and dust and jewels and
Things and feelings
Places and beings
Parts of me
Parts of them
In me.

A sense
of Time-bound Energy
Mine to direct
Until I am me.

A life lived in technicolour
And memories prone to routine theft
And a spirit that rises to the fore
(Like in Kundera's Teresa)
Only when the sun shines
From a particularly pretty point
In a cloudy sky

A life lived trying to live a life
Instead making
Magical written history

I have
No sense of self
Only a sense
Of a story I wove
A story I told
The world.
And a compelling one it was.


People drift
Equations shift
Like tectonic plates.

Modern hieroglyphs grow
In the spaces where
Words should have been.

And silent moss
Takes over
By time, unseen.

Turbocharge your phone with 4G

Source: www.indiblogger.in

Slow Internet has been one of my biggest grouses with this country. Whenever you step out of the country, you find super fast Internet and more WiFi zones than you've ever seen in your life. India is at the forefront of so many innovations - why not the digital innovation as well?

Perhaps Airtel asked themselves this very same question and that's when they decided to surprise the nation with 4G Internet. We were just getting used to 3G and now they're springing 4G on us! Good or bad? Well it's definitely a win-win situation because the 4G plans cost exactly the same as the 3G plans. Take a look at all the plans here. In fact, in some cases they cost a little less. I'm currently on a monthly 1 GB 3G plan for which I forked out Rs 293. Under Airtel's promotional offer, I can get 1GB 3G at Rs 250. So essentially, you can get a free 4G upgrade.

Source: http://www.airtel.in/4g/index
But there are several conditions to this attractive offer:
  1. You need to be in a 4G city. This one's easy because Airtel has rolled out the plan in 296 cities across India. The chances are pretty high that you live in one of them.
  2. You need to be on a 3G plan. This is not a requirement but if you're on a 2G plan, you will find the 4G rates to be too steep.
  3. You need to have a 4G device. Now this one's tricky. Not all handsets are 4G enabled. Mine isn't for instance and I own a Micromax A102. You can check whether your handset is 4G compatible by entering your phone number here: http://www.airtel.in/4g/index.
Is it still a good offer? I'd say yes but by the time all handsets become 4G enabled, I'm pretty sure the cost of the plans would have risen as well. But if you're one of the lucky ones to have a 4G compatible handset, try the 4G magic by all means. Of course, you'd need to have an Airtel number. Did I tell you that with mobile number portability, you can easily shift from one service provider to another? But there are certain costs involved in that too. My friend has an Airtel connection and he shifted from the Maharashtra circle to the Mumbai circle last month. He had to pay for a new SIM and also undergo hassles with regards to accessing the Mumbai plan rates. But if you're a heavy user of mobile Internet, these minor issues should not deter you from exploring the possibilities of 4G.

I am not certain if this promotional offer is available on tablets or not but I would love to watch videos or do some shopping on a 4G enabled tablet. Folks at Airtel, are you listening?

Book review: The Connected Age

Courtesy: www.theconnectedage.org
I’ve always been a diehard optimist, believing that the world has hope for redemption, in spite of the destructed path that it is hurtling along. Sudhakar Ram, CEO and co-founder, Mastek, not only echoes my views but also provides a master plan for the reinvention of the world and its future in his expertly crafted book ‘The Connected Age’.

There is no dearth of armchair philosophers but when a philosopher comes armed with a solid plan for the execution of his ideals, the world has to sit up and take notice. The Connected Age suggests steps that organisations, governments, societies and individuals can take to create a more sustainable world. By the end of the book, the author almost has you convinced that you can be the change you wish to see in the world.

According to Sudhakar, the world’s continued existence depends on its inhabitants realising one irrefutable truth – we are all co-dependent on each other. And ‘we’ doesn’t allude to humans alone; it includes all the animate and inanimate dwellers of this planet. As long as man continues to consider himself as ‘master of everything on the planet’, we will never achieve peaceful and productive co-existence. In Sudhakar’s words, ‘We all need to connect, collaborate, and co-create the world we intend to leave behind.’ Anyone who is even remotely interested in making a positive impact on the world must read this book and apply the principles that they identify with.

The only problem with Sudhakar’s vision is the assumption that mankind is indeed motivated to achieve such a noble goal. What about the selfish exploiters who don’t care whether they hew a tree or kill a tiger in their pursuit for transient personal wealth? What about the average apathetic citizen who will not lift a finger to extend the lifespan of the planet? The answer according to my own reflections is that even if one individual out of a thousand aspires to take proactive action to improve the state of the world and if that individual has access to this book, then perhaps the author’s job is done.

At first glance, the book may appear to be too cerebral for the average reader but I assure you that it’s immensely readable and gripping. Once you move past the initial chapters, you will be extremely intrigued and eager to arrive at the part where you get to do something about the degeneration of our societal and economic set-ups. If nothing else, the book makes you think about the way you lead your life and leaves you with an abundance of positive energy.

It’s all very well when thinkers utter wise words for the benefit of the intellectuals. But when entrepreneurs and professionals engaged in the regular nitty-gritty of life decide to present their wisdom to the world, it transforms Utopia into an achievable ideal. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline writes in a foreword to the book, ‘This is one reason I find this book so interesting – a book about transforming Industrial Age thinking and practices over the coming decades, written by a manager working to do just that amidst the day-to-day pressures of managing a successful company.’

Sudhakar says that our lives are ruled by seven constructs that drive our attitudes and actions. These are success, learning, work, consumption, wellness, governance and globalisation. The Connected Age deals with new mindsets and structural constructs that will remedy the existing ones. Sudhakar cites relatable examples from his own daughter’s life to familiarise the reader with these concepts. 

According to him, the three enablers of a connected age are subsidiarity, free market mechanisms and optimal governance. I found the concept of subsidiarity to be extremely logical and interesting; the principle advocates performing as many functions as possible at local levels and having a central authority intervene only when a certain task can be better executed at a higher level. Thus, while decentralisation assumes that power is focused at the top and must be distributed to the bottom, subsidiarity assumes that power is focused at the bottom and must be devolved to the top when required.

An idea that I’ve come across earlier in a training workshop as well is the need to wield personal power and focus on what we can control (circle of influence) over what we cannot (circle of concern). Why do we assume that it Is only the people in influential positions who possess power? In fact, their power is not their own; it can be taken away at any time, along with their positions. Personal power on the other hand, is ours to use and control and we wield it through the choices we make and the decisions we take.

Lifelong learning, following one’s true calling and responsible consumption are other ideas that are discussed at length in the book. Most interestingly, Sudhakar advises even organisations to find and follow their true purpose. One observation that I’m not entirely convinced about is his belief that the future belongs to small organisations with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In my opinion, if growth is possible, it will definitely occur. And no organisation with the potential to grow will remain small forever.

A significant recommendation made in the book is to replace income tax with property tax, based on Henry George’s idea of ‘land value tax’ propounded in his book Progress and Poverty. I hope a copy of this book finds its way to our Finance Minister’s desk. Sudhakar also advocates the concept of a ‘global earth tax’, which should serve as a sufficient deterrent to elements of society that are hastening the depletion of our natural reserves. The suggestion for a world currency also sounds highly rational to me and it would be interesting to have finance experts debate on these ideas.

Incidentally, the book is a product of Sudhakar’s widely successful collaborative blog ‘The New Constructs’. Sign up for their newsletter to get daily articles on improving your life and career in your inbox.

Outside the airplane

Clouds like ghosts or fairies
Swooping past gracefully

In the distance, another aircraft
Floating merrily through a Godly canvas

And here, aerial snow like bony fingers
A skeletal mass
Remains of the spectre lurking above

Mutating clouds
Their forms as varied
As the expression on the cherub
Seated next to me
Her dimples a thing of magic
Like the painting outside my window.

Hearts like latticed gates

Hearts like latticed gates
The beauty within 
Enhanced by the barriers without. 


I'll keep it inside of me
This inappropriate feeling
And let it grow inward
Feeding on me
A parasite I cannot kill
Without extinguishing myself.

The sweet route to fitness

Source: http://www.daburhoney.com/honey-healthy-recipe/1/honey-fruit-salad.aspx
I've been a calorie counter ever since I can recall. Even when I was in school, my mom sent me to the gym to trim my burgeoning tummy and I remember this particularly gruelling summer when I spent all my days at a fitness camp! My parents aren't fitness maniacs but they've always instilled in me and my sister an awareness about eating well, exercising and staying healthy. Ours isn't the typical Indian household where you will find tons of namkeens and fried snacks hiding in the shelves. Our tea times consist of nuts, dried fruits and the occasional home-made preparation. And I credit this with our general slimness.

Source: http://www.daburhoney.com/honey-beverages-recipes/3/honey-berry-milk-shake-recipe.aspx
I for one, have a tendency to gain weight easily and I work every single day to keep my weight within a healthy limit. I begin my day with warm water, Dabur honey and a squeeze of lemon. This really kick-starts my system and serves as a great precursor to chai, which should ideally never be the first thing you consume. I follow this with some pranayam (breathing exercises), meditation and an abs workout, since that is my weak area. Like many women, I tend to gain weight around my midriff and you know how annoying that can be. But planks, crunches, sit-ups and leg raises if done daily (with rest periods every three days to allow the muscles to recover), go a long way in trimming abdominal fat.

Source: http://www.daburhoney.com/honey-snacks-recipes/2/honey-chilli-cauliflower.aspx
My Achilles heel has always been my incurable sweet tooth. They say that sweets are like poison but this isn't entirely true. There are good sugars which you can partake of in sensible amounts. These include the sugars found naturally in fruits, Dabur honey and jaggery. To satiate my appetite for sweets, I follow what I call the 'Honey Diet'. What this essentially entails is replacement of sugar with honey wherever possible. And what's more, honey tastes a lot better than plain white sugar! I add Dabur honey to my cereal, green tea, bitter gourd preparations, sandwiches and fruit salads. Add some honey and whipped yoghurt to a bowl of fruits and you have a healthful yet delicious dessert in front of you.

Source: http://www.daburhoney.com/beverage-recpies-by-user/305/honey-apple-hot-drink.aspx
There is so much you can do with honey. But if you're stuck for ideas, you can do what I do and check the honey recipes here, by chef Vikas Khanna. Be it snacks, beverages or desserts, you will find everything to fulfill your heart's desires here. I guarantee you, replacing sugar with natural substitutes is one of the best dietary moves you'll ever make. Of course, a thumb rule should be to not go overboard with anything and supplement any diet with moderate exercise. That's honestly the one tried and tested way to stay fit and healthy. I've never been a big fan of crash diets and fad workouts. I find what works for me and stick with it. Now and then, we all falter and gain a few pounds but as long as we can find our way back to the sweet route of fitness, I'd say, we're doing just fine!

I've found my God.

A forest in Madhya Pradesh, India
I prayed in a temple
I heard no answer
I prayed in a church
I heard only silence
I prayed beneath a tree
And the leaves rustled in response.
I guess I've found my God.

Divinity is everywhere. Why restrict yourself to one religion? Why worship something which creates divisions among souls of the same whole?

I find it tragic that we reject love because we believe we 'belong' to different Gods. This, after humankind has come so far.

I find it insane that we should believe we are different from each other; we who have the same breath of life in us as is in a bird or an ant. 

It is deplorable that we judge each other based on 'which' God we worship. There is one force which flows through the whole universe and each of our selves. How silly it is to weave different theories around that force and attribute different philosophies to it, as though this force were an egoistic human being intent upon gaining followers.

Call me blasphemous but I wish to worship the soil we walk on, the poetry we write and the air we breathe. I want to find Godliness in the mountains that tower over us and the rain that soaks our skin; in the forests that nurture us and the sea that the world emerged from.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - religion makes no logical sense. I know it comforts some and provides a purpose to their lives; something to look forward to and follow in their daily course of lives, but we have to move past this way of thinking. We have to look beyond simple notions of right and wrong and search within our souls for the thread that links us to the web of all creation. And when we all find that thread, perhaps the world will disappear in a shower of sparks and none will exist to dwell upon its memory. 

My religion is art, beauty, kindness and love. I reject anything which would have us feel superior to or different from one another. Can you really find it in your heart to speak against this sentiment?

Goodbyes in a mortal life

I'll leave you be
This wasn't meant to be
Or so the voices of reason say.
But goodbyes in a mortal life?
Like stubbing the flame of a candle on its last hunk of wax.

Perhaps we shall meet
In another season, another lifetime, another universe
Where the wind blows a little harder
And the sun shines a little brighter
And everything is a little truer
Than here.

Perhaps we shall sing
To a different tune, in a different world
Where the music doesn't play by the rules
But simply by the way the heartstrings sway
And love is no prisoner
To the iron-wrought cage of labels.

For now, the world has lost its lustre
And I have ceased to see its beauty
And all I hear
Is a plaintive whisper
That goodbyes in a mortal life
Are as tragic as a spat with the sun, moments before it sets.

Not such a quiet affair after all!

Ryan and Alisha did not have the means for a lavish wedding. But their love was true, and they opted for a no-frills court marriage. It wouldn’t have the fanfare of a traditional wedding but the vows would be said and they would mean them. That’s all that really mattered.

Their friends didn’t think so. Behind their backs, four of their closest friends devised a way to shake things up in a way that Ryan and Alisha wouldn’t mind.

The day of the marriage dawned bright and clear – a good sign, considering it was the rainy month of September. Alisha looked ethereal in a flowy white gown with a boat neck and ruffled sleeves. Ryan looked equally dapper in a well-tailored black suit. As the lovely couple said their vows, their friends felt their eyes moisten. Who could remain unaffected by the power of true love?

It was a quiet affair, or so they thought. As Ryan and Alisha walked out of the court, hand in hand, they were stunned to find Allu Arjun and Anushka Manchanda waiting for them, along with their instruments, band members and a few dancers, already in formation.

Anushka begins to sing ‘Hai re hai mera ghungta' in her resonant and mellifluous voice and for the first few seconds, there is no music. Then, simultaneously, the music and the dancers come out of their stupor and begin a well choreographed performance that has both Ryan and Alisha amazed.

The performance is so electrifying that passers-by stop to watch and soon, there is a circle of admirers surrounding this stupendous singer-dancer duo. Arjun pauses in his Michael Jackson dance routine to rope in Ryan and Alisha. They are reluctant to join in but Arjun is persistent and soon, the newly wed couple is shaking a leg to the strains of ‘Hai re hai mera ghungta' as well!

The friends of the couple are beside themselves with excitement. They knew this would turn out well but they still hadn’t expected Arjun and Anushka to put up such an excellent show! They call upon every single dance move in their repertoire and join the dancers in full frenzy. Their moves are so good that the watching admirers begin to applaud and ask for an encore when one of them decides to take a break!

And then, the music changes to something softer. Anushka is now singing ‘The little things you do' and Allu Arjun begins to perform a graceful contemporary dance. The spotlight is on Ryan and Alisha as they begin a slow ball dance, looking into each other’s eyes as though the whole world were reflected there. The romance in the moment catches everyone’s fancy and this will be an evening to remember, for all those who chanced upon Anushka and Arjun’s act on that September evening. 

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity atBlogAdda.com. Are you?

A musical Monday!

It's Monday morning. Everyone looks either hungover, sleepy or bored. It's clear that they'd rather be anywhere else but here, in office. Computers are switched on, the coffee machine gurgles continuously and a general sense of dreariness permeates the air. What could change this into a peppy, happy workplace full of pumped up spirits and enthusiastic laughter?

Meet Allu Arjun.

He’s a Telugu actor known for his suave moves and a soon to release film called Rudhramadevi.

Meet Anushka Manchanda.

She is a singer and model who shot to fame after winning a music reality show on Channel [V] and forming the pop girl band Viva!

Now imagine, the two of them walk into your office, quietly, while everyone is busy staring into their screens and pretending to be working. Allu Arjun looks dashing in his leather pants, jacket and glitzy glares. Anushka has on a coordinated leather mini skirt, crop top and jacket. Together, they look like they’re ready to have some serious fun.

Lights. Sound. Action!

Anushka Manchanda presses the play button on her radio, the music starts to stream and she begins singing her popular song from the movie of the same name, ‘Ek main hun aur ek tu!’ and Allu Arjun dances to her rhythm, his every mirroring the tempo of the music. They look like they’ve been born to do this!

Source: http://blog.blogadda.com/2015/06/08/how-will-you-energize-your-life-with-a-maxfreshmove
The zombies at work are initially stunned, entranced even – at this unexpected showcase of excellent song and dance. And then it begins, with something as small as a foot tap and a rhythmic rise of shoulders. One person stands up, simply unable to resist the lure of the music and begins moving in time. Another person joins him, yet another, and another.

Before you know it, the whole floor is dancing with Anushka and Arjun, all Monday blues forgotten. When the song ends, the crowd clamours for more and Anushka launches into her famous rendition of Akcent’s ‘I’m sorry’ titled ‘Mujhe maaf kardo’. Arjun tries some b boying and locking in this one and his daring moves evoke much applause from his admirers.

Meanwhile, the bosses upstairs are wondering what all the hue and cry is about and come downstairs to check on their cheeky subordinates. The sight that meets their eye leaves them astounded. Is this a dance class or an office? But then, someone draws in the CEO and he cannot help but respond.

Seeing the CEO sway his hips and dance like there’s no tomorrow, the other seniors have no choice but to join in as well.

It’s safe to say that productivity touched the roof on that particular Monday. Why wouldn’t it, after the rush of energy that Anushka and Arjun infused into the otherwise mundane workplace?

Stay tuned for more such stories of their powers to turn any situation around.

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity atBlogAdda.com. Are you?

A useless train of thought.

Now and then,
I will indulge -
A useless train of thought.

Such as this -

What if
I liked everyone and everyone liked me
I'd never said an unkind word to anyone
And no one had ever said an unkind word to me.
I'd never known unhappiness
And neither had the world
And none of us judged
And none of us spurned

How do crimes fit into karma?

There's a big loophole in the karma theory or the law of cosmic justice, which otherwise seems grounded in the physics principle that says, every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. This loophole is the suffering that innocent people have to go through - victims of rape, sodomy, torture, abuse and degenerative diseases. Nobody deserves that fate, as a friend once told me. Until then, I'd been an ardent believer in karma.

And today as we pray for the departed soul of Aruna Shanbhag, I am reminded anew that the karma theory has its loopholes. Because regardless of which religion he/she belongs to, God cannot be anything but kind and merciful. I cannot believe that redemption takes place in 'paying for your crimes'. Redemption has to take place in a cleansing of the soul that comes through penance and practiced goodness.

I know what staunch believers of the karmic theory say - that the rapists of today will suffer the same fate in a succeeding life. But if that were true, humanity would never have evolved and will never evolve. That kind of justice perpetuates a cycle of horrors and I don't believe any God with unconditional and all-encompassing love would ever sit with a ledger bearing an account of people's deeds and make cold-hearted judgements. I don't believe that God condemns some souls to eternal hell. Salvation has to happen without causing additional suffering. Perhaps, it happens in silence, guilt and an eruption of conscience. But I do not believe that it happens in a flood of blood and tears.

In fact, is there a God at all in a world so messed up? If ever there was a time when we needed living, breathing, fire-thundering Gods, it is now. But where are they? All we have is this little whisper of conscience in our own selves and the eternal battle of temptation versus the knowledge of right and wrong. Will the world end one day and take all of humanity with it? Or will we all truly evolve to the point where every one of us has attained Godliness to the extent of non-existence? Will there be a new world where goodness reigns supreme and evil has never been conceived? Or will there just be emptiness and an eternal silence? Silence would be good. It would be really good.

He of the wise eyes.

 It was a silent rainy night,
Captured in the wisdom of his sight
And the knowing reflection of his glasses
Clouded by the misty rain beyond his window.

And in that secret monsoon glow,
The spirits of the magical world laid low
Waiting for when he would lay his pen on the table
And shut those wise eyes, so they could spin a dreamy fable.

And while the rain bid goodbye to the night,
In his dreams, their pitter-patter footsteps still saw light
In his dreams, it was a perfect world
Where life's inequities were still to be unfurled.

When morning came, silence reigned just the same
As timeless as the stillness in his eyes
A stillness known not to the worldly but the wise
And those who remember a time, when all was noble and nice.

The tragedy of the shifting centre.

Wikimedia Commons

We are all the centre of someone's universe. But not forever. And that's not a bad thing.

For babies, their primary focus is their mother, and then their father. There is no disputing this. The one who sustains (by feeding) and the one who protects: these are a baby's world and make up his/her complete focus. This is instinctive behaviour and not a choice that the baby has to make. But things get complicated as the baby makes its transition into adulthood.

When young, our elder siblings and our parents are our world. We want to be like them one day. Happiness means spending fun times with the family. But, the axis begins to shift as we approach our teens. Suddenly, friends seem to have become the most important things in our lives. We'd rather spend weekends 'hanging out' with our buddies than our 'un-cool' parents and overbearing siblings.

As we begin to approach adulthood, our focus turns to our education and then, our jobs. In this phase, our pillars are still our friends and family but we might think more about our boss and colleagues than anyone else. This is the time when many fall in love and their focus shifts to their boyfriend/girlfriend. It's a strange phase to be in because Indian society still treats 'dating' like a distraction. It's hard to prioritise one's partner without facing some disapproval.

Once we pass the first quarter of our lives and begin to feel a desire for wedlock, our focus undoubtedly shifts to our life partners. It's not like we have stopped loving our friends or families. It is merely a matter of priorities. Once married, our focus shifts to the family we're going to create, although we are still a part of the family that created us. Nevertheless, it is like the baton being passed on - once our parents set up home, had babies and brought them up. Now, we're about to do the same.

Would this task be possible if our parents insisted on shifting our focus back to them instead? Not in the least. Yet, that's what a lot of Indian parents insist on doing. The trouble with parents is, once they have children, their axis forever remains centered on their beloved offspring. Love is a great thing but it must also be tempered by an understanding of what it means to advance in life. The centre of our universe keeps shifting, but the other points do always remain. A man once married, is a husband first. But he is still a son, friend and brother as well. When this man has a child, he will become a father first. His love for his wife hasn't diminished at all but he must make it a priority to give his child a good home and upbringing.

Our parents have gone through the same tragedy of the shifting centre. The mother who's hanging on to her son for dear life - didn't she dote on her own mother once? Didn't she also expect her husband to support her above everyone and everything else? Why does she suddenly wish to deny the natural order of things? Indian parents who refuse to accept the reality of the shifting centre are merely perpetuating unhappiness for the very people they claim to love the most.

Sadly, our society encourages this kind of unnatural behaviour. And strangely enough, in the ancient times, it wasn't the case. For Hindus at least, life was divided into four stages: the student stage, the householder stage, the hermit stage and the ascetic stage. To be honest, renouncing life at the age of 50 is pretty unrealistic. However, the general trend of this practice is admirable. Stepping back from the affairs of others (even your kin) once they have begun their own journey is not only advisable; it's a direct product of maturity. Yet, today, to be a good 'daughter in law' means to put with the demands of ten people other than your husband and your children for as long as they are around. This is certainly not what our customs and traditions dictated. This is what generations of controlling and materialistic individuals have perpetuated and condoned.

Yes, it's human to feel attached to the ones we love. But it's also human to allow our loved ones to live their lives with the freedom they deserve. Let's not cloak our insecurities in the name of 'love'.

Documenting my financial journey

My dad has always taken care of all my investments and savings. In fact, all I have a is a vague idea of where my money lies. Obviously, this is not a desirable state of affairs for a 25 year old woman! That's when BlogAdda delivered 'My Money Book: For a long and happy journey called life', a slim notebook from Exide Life Insurance.

Now, dad belongs to the era of physical passbooks and statements. He is still not too comfortable with online banking. But browsing through sheaves of papers to know the status of my investments is really not my style. Luckily, I receive email statements of many of my investments. What about you? Unless you're really financially savvy (or you have no choice but to be!), I'm sure you're a little lost about your financial health too. As we grow older, we realise that we need to have a better stock of our money in order to fulfil long-term goals like buying a house and/or a car. This is where My Money Book comes in.

This is an easy to use journal with four main sections to fill in: insurance policies, loans, investments and bank details. 

Under insurance policies, I was able to fill in details of my life, health, motor and property insurance plans. Under bank details, I had to write about my lockers, accounts, demat accounts and credit cards. In the loans section, I jotted down the particulars of my home / property, auto and personal / consumer durable loans. Finally, in the investments section, I documented the details of my fixed deposits, mutual funds, property, public provident funds, national pension schemes and other investments. All in all, I don't think the book left out a single detail of an individual's potential financial portfolio.

I'm not kidding - through this exercise, I discovered facets of my financial history that I was never aware of before! Not only that, it felt great to have all my details in one place as a reference point. Of course, I would have to be really careful about where I kept my money book! But I seriously recommend this book for everyone who's looking for a way to organise their financial details.

So what are the top three goals that the money book accomplishes for you?

1. It keeps you up-to-date with all your money tasks.
You won't be forgetting payment dates or defaulting on premiums as long as you open this book every weekend.

2. It does so with minimal effort.
Yes, the first time you fill it up, it takes a while and a lot of running around to refer to the required documents. But later, all you have to do is update the book from time to time. And in fact, all that running around makes you realise how disorganised you were before!

3. It saves time when filling up forms.
So many forms require you to fill in financial details. The money book ensures that you never have to spend more than a few minutes filling up details.

The money book is easy to use, efficient and important for anyone who wants to collate their financial details in one place. Use it today and get your affairs in order!

All your accounts in one place

We've all heard of Hootsuite and Klout. But have you tried out ThoughtBuzz yet? It's a lively looking app/website/service that provides analytics for all your social media accounts in one place. What's more, it lets you view and assess the number and quality of your fans and interact with them accordingly. Here is a step by step guide to using ThoughtBuzz.

1. Choose which plan to sign up for

You cannot access the dashboard until you sign up. They have two plans - basic and premium on the lines of LinkedIn. While basic gives you insights for two social media profiles, premium offers insights for five. Premium scores over basic on a few other parameters as well. However, I'd suggest going for the basic plan initially if you're planning to check out Thoughtbuzz and see if it suits your needs, which is what I did.

2. Link your profile to your social media accounts

In my case, I linked my Facebook travel blog page and my Twitter travel blog page. I started these pages recently for my travel blog Trail-stained Fingers, a repository of philosophical travelogues and experimental writings and photographs of Mumbai, India and the world (in that order). The social media platforms have no economic motive behind them; they are just a way for fans and travel lovers to stay updated about the content I post.

3. Add feeds from your social media accounts and schedule posts

You can choose which feeds to add - tweets, timelines, mentions, likes etc. This interface reminded me of Tweetdeck and it performs well on mobile phones as you can simply keep swiping to see various feed trails. Like Hootsuite, you can also schedule posts to be put up at a later time and date without having to do it manually. Not only is this a time saver for brands with exhaustive content, it is also a handy tool to target times when most of your fans tend to be online.

4. Import your fans and followers

This is a simple one-click process and then you have all your fans on one page. In addition, you can also see how many times they have engaged with your social media presence and in what way.

5. Engage with fans and assess engagements

You can see trends related to the area you operate in as well as notifications in the form of likes, comments, shares, favourites, retweets and replies from all your social media accounts in one place. What I liked most was the 'top fans' tab which puts the spotlight on those who are engaging most with your brand. This way, you can even reward your top fans if you have a budget for it.

The coolest feature of ThoughtBuzz perhaps is the graphs and analytics tab, where you can see detailed analyses of the reach of your content and the extent of engagement. You can also select a time period for which you want to see the statistics, though there is a limitation for basic plan users. Depicted pictorially so that you can grasp the general trend quickly, I found this feature really useful.

ThoughtBuzz claims to be Asia's leading mobile first, social media management and analytics platform. First or not, it certainly seems to deliver on its promises efficiently.

I am checking out Thoughtbuzz as a part of an activity at BlogAdda