The 18th March Project – Post 14

I come from a country where begging is a business. Yes, you do have the odd person who is genuinely down on his/her luck. That person doesn’t follow you around, or pester you till you give him/her something. That’s the genteel beggar. The norm, however, is the career beggar. Often it’s the woman swatting flies away from a sleeping baby, looking at you with eyes so sorrowful you could drown in them. She could possibly find work (most likely manual), but she’s trapped in a network that keeps her at the mercy of others. That baby is probably not hers, and has probably been drugged so that it won’t be nuisance instead of a prop. There are horrible stories of children being maimed so that they can use their tortured bodies to gain the sympathy of passers-by. I have an aunt who recommends that if you see a child begging, give it biscuits, not money.

In the country I live in, begging is illegal. You can report someone to the police for begging. You’re not even supposed to ask for contributions unless you have the necessary authorization. And yet, there are people who approach you of an evening towards the end of the month, asking for help to pay their rent or cover their expenses so they can go home after an unsuccessful job search. Perhaps they have sick parents. Perhaps they don’t know that they can get in trouble. Perhaps strangers don’t report them because they understand their struggles, having also survived them. I have a friend who’s paid for a meal for someone who looked down on his luck, but wouldn’t give him money for his ‘rent’.

In a country I recently visited, in the Caucasus, there were a number of beggars. Many were old people, some bent over so far they couldn’t see the money that was being put in their bowl. There was a war veteran, an older lady walking around the airport tugging at people’s shirts, and a few women with young children. People passed by many of them, hardly registering their presence. A couple of beggars were young, defiant, like it was their right to expect from strangers some token of generosity- and they were given food, a whole plate.

It all comes down to putting something in our bellies. We do what we can, some of us by ‘honest’ labour, some by playing on other people’s religious beliefs, morals or ethics.

Some of us are just luckier.

The 18th March Project – Post 3

I’ve been a bridesmaid once and a maid of honour once, and I’ve attended several weddings in various capacities, so I naturally feel my vast experience allows me to pass on some advice to those who come after…

  1. Don’t try to out bride-zilla the bride.

It is not your day.

It is her day.

If she wants to stay up till all hours of the night making takeaways or photo-booth props, do not engage.

Calmly tell her you will do it, and then get her to go sleep.

She’ll need it.

  1. You are allowed to shout at the bride if she hasn’t eaten or kept herself hydrated.

Because you are not going to carry her if she faints.

3. Pockets.

Or a bag.

Make sure you convince the bride to let you carry or wear something you can stuff band aid, bob pins, tissue to swab the makeup and sweat from your faces, makeup for touch-ups post-swabbing, biscuits, scissors, needle and thread, your phone (and hers) in.

Groomsmen’s pockets can’t hold as much as you need. Trust me on that.

  1. If you can’t help out as much as you would like to –or she needs you to – be upfront about it.

Tempers tend to run high around weddings, so if you flake on your promises, it will be remembered.

Hell hath no fury like a bride-to-be let down.

  1. Be at the wedding for her.

I don’t mean don’t have any fun, or stick to her like a leech.

Be present and ready to do whatever is needed- there are a million things to do that you won’t even remember the next day, but that will all contribute to making her day (and by extension, the groom’s)

Fluff the dress. Dance near enough for the photos to look amazing, but not so near that the groom isn’t visible. Carry the veil. Frown at the people who want to wish them while they’re enjoying themselves on the dance floor. Orchestrate shots of the dress and shoes and bouquet and all the other little pieces of the wedding symphony. Protect them from whiny relatives – they’ll have to deal with that soon enough, and for the rest of their lives together.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes.

Much love and heartiest congratulations to A + R, who recently – only last week – tied the knot there’s no untying.

100 words 100 days: Day 88: A meal with the five people who have inspired you the most

My mother.

My father.

L. M. Montgomery.

Roald Dahl.

Maya Angelou.

And Jesus. There had to be room for Him at this supper. And I can definitely fit six people in my house- there is enough space for that number. However, they won’t all be able to sit at the table, unless I rearrange the furniture.

I think Jesus might steal the limelight. Everybody will want to talk to Him and ask Him questions.

Still, you can learn a lot just by listening. I bet Roald Dahl would find a way to twist the story. Maya Angelou would kiss her words and breathe poetry into them. L. M. Montgomery would battle with her own demons to bask in the glory of the Saviour her husband would have preached about. And my parents? They would help me cook, and set the table, and probably ask a couple of questions, their humility and goodness shining through, 1-carat diamonds beside a crown jewel.

And Jesus would smile, and suffer the little children to come unto Him.


Day 89: Write a funny how-to

100 words100days (ish) Day 86: A manual for an exotic pet

I tried keeping a couple of snails as pets when I was a child. They were the kind that were abundant during the monsoons in Goa. Sludgy, squishy, interesting creatures, with bodies the colour of doce bhaji (similar to oats porridge), and translucent, fragile shells in a light earthy brown.

How to look after these amazing and environmentally important creatures:

  1. It’s better that you don’t keep them as pets. They are not domestic or domesticated.
  2. If you have taken them from their natural habitat because you are trying to conserve them, make sure you put them in a safe place, i.e. preferably one they can’t get out of only to be stepped on.
  3. Take some leaves from the plant you found them on- at least you know they eat that.
  4. Do your research. And record any observations you make.
  5. Don’t pick them up all the time. It just triggers their shrinking reflex (scientific term not googled)

Postscript: If you think you can look after a peacock or a panther, I need to tell you- you’re probably wrong. We really need to stop messing with ecosystems. Please adopt a dog or a cat.


Day 87: Open a book to the 153rd page. Look at the third line. Make that the start of your story.

I picked up I sweep the sun off rooftops, by Hanan Al-Shaykh, from my To Read pile.

The line I got, serendipitously enough, is about peacocks. But does it have to be?

“Every feather in its long tail had a decorated eye…”

Day 85: Why MOOC’s do (or don’t) work

It’s been a long while between the last 100 days post and this one. In fact, I think it’s been more than a hundred days.

Just 16 posts to go to actually complete this (perfect timing- this exercise will help me get in the groove for NaNoWriMo)


A Massive Open Online Course is one that is open to people all over the world, broadcast via the levelling medium of the Internet.

As is the case with most methods and media of learning, MOOC’s work in specific situations, with specific audiences.

If, for instance, someone signs up for a MOOC because he/she is truly interested in the topic, the MOOC will definitely benefit that person more than someone who is vaguely intrigued by the syllabus.

For a MOOC to benefit you, you have to be willing to put in the time and do the work. Nobody is going to chase after you to complete your quizzes or peer reviews. A MOOC is an instance of self-directed learning.

It’s not just about motivation and curiosity: not having access to the internet is a big obstacle to participating effectively in a MOOC.

From a trainer’s perspective, a MOOC may not work in the following situations:

  1. There’s no system to follow up with your trainees post the MOOC in order to ensure transfer of learning
  2. Trainees are forced to watch the videos, and complete coursework, thus leading to sub-par participation and retention
  3. The MOOC is not customised to the requirements of the organisation. (Some people can apply what they have learned in a different setting, some can’t)

Whether you are a learner or a trainer, if you don’t try new methods, you’ll never know. Go MOOC!


Day 86: A manual for an exotic pet

Your summer reading list: 70+ book picks from TED speakers and attendees

Looks like I have quite a bit of reading to do this Ramadan…

TED Blog

TED_Summer_Reading_2015The tables in bookstores can be overwhelming: Every book cover looks appealing, every blurb glows with praise. Sometimes, you just need a recommendation from a human, someone you trust. Below, 10 members of the TED community — with very different points of view — share the books they think you’ll enjoy this summer. Their selections are wonderfully untethered to new releases and bestsellers, with a little something for everyone.

David Eagleman and TED
Mind-bending fiction, picked by David Eagleman

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist whose sensory vest may just expand the limits of human perception. But this TED speaker is also a writer  — of both fiction (his Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives has been translated into 28 languages) and nonfiction (Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain was a bestseller). His recommendations highlight mind-bending fiction:

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. “An inspiration that never runs out of batteries for me…

View original post 4,006 more words

Day 63 100words100days Write a self-help piece

Almost 170 words


Find your catalyst for catharsis.

That is the best advice that anyone can ever give you.

Even if you do what you love (or love what you do), you are going to get stressed from time to time. Even if the people you surround yourself with are calm, balanced souls, there will be days when inner turmoil gets the better of you and them.

So sit down, or go outside, on your own, or with a group, before work or on the weekend.

Explore the avenues that make you feel more at peace with yourself. Not everyone takes to the daily diary entry, or craft, or sport. Some people need to build things, others to break them. Catharsis can come through creation or destruction.

And if one path no longer works for you, don’t hesitate to try another. Shooting paint at people no longer your thing? Try cross-stitch. Or volunteer at a charity. Read more about the kings of ancient India. Be still in a blessed space.

Whatever lets you let go of all that extra crap you pick up in the course of Life.


Day 64: Write a stream-of-consciousness version of a job interview

Day 62 100words100days Build a prophecy from a dream

Apparently all the weddings my cohort is engaging in are invading my consciousness. What else have I dreamt about recently? Driving, birds, family…

A fictionalized version of a dream I had last year, and the impending doom that could have followed it. 150-something words.


This is what I dreamt- We were in my mother’s car, and I was driving. My best friend was in the back seat, as was one of my cousins. As we were passing over the Mandovi bridge, I accidentally pulled the lever that pops the dickey. It flapped open, but we couldn’t stop to close it because- well, because it is bad road manners to stop on a bridge.

Here is what I have been told it means: I will make a choice, with you, my best friend and my cousin in mind. It won’t be a conscious one, but it will be one that I cannot reverse. And because the image of “popping the trunk” was the strongest in the dream, I think it will have something to do with popping the question.

But I don’t think it would be to you, or my best friend. And most certainly not to my cousin.


Day 63: Write a self-help piece

Day 61100 words 100 days Describe the worst meal you have ever had (fiction/non-fiction)

So easy! The worst meal is the one with karela in it.

Alright, that’s harsh. Karela tastes nice with (people reading in India, kindly avert your eyes) beef (you can look again).

Meals, as I’ve mentioned before, are so much more than just the food on your plate. Emotions, ambience- these count too.

Maybe I need to resort to fiction for this post…

200-plus words


Rani couldn’t believe her eyes. She’d worked so hard to prepare a feast for her new family, and they hadn’t offered her even a drop of praise. Instead, they barely looked at her, keeping their eyes on their plates, hands moving mechanically lifting portions of the generous helpings Rani had served them to mouths that chewed  slowly, ponderously.

Rani swore to herself that she would not forget this insult, that she would remember how they had been, right from the very start, less than eager to embrace her. They couldn’t even bring themselves to compliment food that would have been lavished with praise in her mother’s house.

At last, the time for dessert came. Her in-laws had the courtesy to say some nice things about the halwa she’d made, but Rani was still fuming. The embarrassment and rage had made it difficult for her to swallow the food she’s spent all day preparing. She’d barely tasted a morsel.

Around midnight, her stomach rumbling, she went into the kitchen to eat a proper meal. She nearly spit out the first mouthful- in her haste to make a good impression, she’d accidentally put in twice the required salt.


Day 62: Build a prophecy from a dream