Quikr NXT – The Next Step in Classifieds

Remember the old days when if you wanted to get rid of something, you’d either have to throw it, or give it away? And how they improved to the days when making money out of unwanted items became a thing, and you could take out an ad on the local newspaper classifieds?

Well, buying and selling has come a long, long way from those days. Now we have websites that reach a much wider audience, where you can post an ad at the click of a button. We’d be hard pressed to come up with an even better alternative to this, right? Well, Quikr, the online classifieds website, has done exactly that with Quikr NXT.

My parents have always been faithful users of Quikr and can testify to the effectiveness and usefulness of the website. But there’s always another side to the coin, isn’t there?

Just the other day, my mum was asking me, “Since I’m going out of town and will be taking my phone with me, what are we going to do if interested buyers call for the ads that I’ve posted?”. And I can’t count the number of times she’s lamented about the number of calls that she gets at inconvenient times, or how she can’t remember the price that she quoted in a particular ad, or how it feels like the entire world has her number.

When my Mum asked me that that day, all I just shrug and say I couldn’t help her. But now, it looks like Quikr has come up with a solution. With Quikr NXT, they are taking things to a whole new level.

Quikr NXT is a new feature on the Quikr website – an instant messenger that allows real time, hassle free communication between buyers and sellers. Sounds too simple? Well, hold on, that’s not all it is.

  • Quikr NXT can be used across all platforms
    This brand new feature can be used on the desktop website, mobile website or the mobile app. We’ve all come across websites where some particular feature is available only on the complete website and not the mobile app, or vice versa. I don’t have to tell what a freaking pain in the neck that can be :/ Well, that’s not going to be the case with the Quikr NXT, and I honestly think that’s one big bonus point, because, that way, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, you will always have access to it.
  • You can chat with prospective buyers or sellers
    You know what this means, right? You dont have to actually talk to the person at all! Okay, if you’re the social type, then you won’t get this, but for us antisocial creatures, this is heaven. Really. Also, now that you can simply chat, you won’t have to deal with calling at the wrong time, or missing calls from potential buyers/sellers or anything like that.
  • Privacy
    Remember how my mum was complaining about the lack of privacy? Well, problem solved now! With the Quikr NXT, you have the option of hiding your email address and phone number, so that it’s not open to the public. And you can chat with fellow users using the Quikr NXT messenger. This way, your privacy remains protected and everybody is happy.

With Quikr NXT, it really looks like Quikr is revolutionizing classifieds, and I can’t wait to see how well it works!

____

This post is written for the Indiblogger Happy Hours contest courtesy Quikr.

When He Said Yes

See, there’s one thing about me that you should know: I’m super reserved and super shy and super anti social. Also, I’m very bookish.

So for one, the possibility of me proposing to someone is very remote. I think there’s a something very romantic about a guy proposing to a girl, and I think I would want that for myself. But if I did propose to someone, you can bet that it would have the written word involved in it in someway, in the form of a poem or a reference to a story or something else bookish. And before you ask, of course it’s understood that the guy is a lover of all things to do with words too!

This is probably how it would go…

*FYI, Names have been changed*

She sits at the table, writing diligently, often striking out entire lines and throwing crumpled sheets across the room.

“Argh, this is impossible!” she exclaims in frustration.

Her sister walks in just then and hears her.

“What’s up, kiddo? What’s bugging you now?”

Rasagna turns around. “Seema, I’m a 23 year old young woman. Dont you think I’m a little too old to be called ‘kiddo’?”

Her sister comes to stand behind her and ruffles her hair. “That may be true, but you’ll always be my kid sister, and this is just my loving way of reminding you of that every now and then.” She ruffled her hair as she looked over her shoulder and the written page. “What have you got here?”

“This? Umm…” Rasagna starts hesitantly, ” You know how Rahul and I have been together for a while now, right?”

“Yes…”

“Well, something happened last year that I never told you guys. He proposed to me.”

Seema took a step back, staggered. “What?! And you never told us? What did you say?”

Rasagna rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously I refused, otherwise don’t you think we’d be married right now? I told him that I didn’t feel ready for marriage, and wanted to concentrate on my studies.”

Seema went to sit on the bed and leaned forward to hear the rest of the story. “And then what happened?”

“And then nothing. He said he understood, but he also said something else, which is the reason behind all this frustration now. He said that whenever I was ready, I’d have to tell him. He wouldn’t ask me again.”

“Ooh, now you’re in for it.” Seema laughed. “I’d give anything to see you propose to a guy. You, the anti-social ice queen, get down from your pedestal and ask him to marry you? This is going to be good!”

Rasagna threw a cushion at her sister. “Hey, you make me sound like a stuck up ass. Which I am not. And you could have a little pity, you know. This isn’t exactly my comfort zone.”

“Exactly. It isn’t. But I also think it’s a test of your love for Rahul. Because to have to go so far out of your comfort zone would definitely be proof of your commitment, and I think that’s something that both of you need right now.”

Rasagna nodded. “I think you’re right. But there’s no way I’m popping the question myself. I’ll make him do that part.” She laughed.

Rasagna tugged at Rahul’s hand when they’d taken a few steps into the restaurant. “Wow, this place is fancy, Rahul! I love the decor!”

Rahul smiled at her. “I knew you would. And seeing that it’s my birthday, I thought why not celebrate in style?”

After they’d taken their seats and were tucking into some delicious appetizers, Rasagna cleared her throat. “So… I’ve got a gift for you.”

Rahul looked surprised. “You do? Right now? But I didn’t see you bring anything with you.”

“You should know better than anyone that a gift doesn’t need to be all huge and visible to qualify as one,” she retorted.

“That is true. But hey, you’re enough of a gift for me. You know that, right?” he teased her.

“Haha yes I do. But I also know that you’re like a kid when you get gifts, so you can’t fool me with that, smart guy.” she returned playfully.

Rasagna bent over her handbag, and came up with an envelope after a bit of digging. She handed it to Rahul. “Open it. I’ve written something for you.”

Rahul looked at her quizzically and opened the envelope slowly. After he glanced at the paper inside. “This is a poem! You wrote a poem for me?”

He started reading. Rasagna kept her eyes glued to his face, watching his expressions as he went through the lines. She could see him reliving their days together as he read the words. He looked up when he was halfway through the page and smiled at her tenderly.

“Here, give me your hand.”

His thumb stroked her hand while he read the rest of it.

Rasagna waited for his reaction when he got to the end.

And she wasn’t disappointed. Rahul threw his head back and laughed.

“Oh, you are such a little minx! That’s a clever way of doing it. Last year, even as I was telling you that you’d have to ask me next time, I was thinking how exactly you’d get around that. Because I know you, and I knew there’s no way you’d ask me directly.”

Rasagna laughed with him a little nervously, “But you’re not disappointed, right?”

Rahul chuckled. “No, I’m not. I must confess there’s a little part of me that would like to go the traditional way. But seriously, that last line? ‘I dare you to ask me to marry you?’ Ingenious. I never could resist a dare in my life.”

Rahul took Rasagna’s hands in his, continuing to chuckle, and then looked at her. He sobered, and a soft smile swept across his face. “Rasagna, you clever woman who’ll always keep me on my toes, my love, will you marry me?”

Rasagna threw her head back and laughed. “Yes! Yes, yes, a thousand times!”

And with tears in her, and a smile, she teased him, “And don’t think you can wriggle out of getting me a ring”

This post is written for the Indiblogger Happy Hours contest courtesy Close Up.

Honesty is The Best

Since we could barely talk, haven’t we all been taught the age old adage ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ From out mothers to our kindergarten teachers to random posters on the road, they all preach it. But still, can we all honestly (the irony! :D) say that we’ve stuck by this saying? That we’ve always, always told the truth?

Obviously, no.

It’s not always easy to say the truth. In fact, you know how people say it’s harder to say the truth than an untruth? I dont agree with this. I’m sure I’m not alone in having experienced times when its apparent that saying the truth is going to get me into trouble, so instead, I lie, just to save my skin. In a way, this is so much easier. But then, we also end up having to deal with the complication of lies upon lies… a whole web of lies. And in the long run, this becomes so tough, because you need to keep all those lies straight in your head. If you misstep, well, you’ll have to face the consequences. Its at times like these that you think, ‘You know what? I should’ve just told the truth and been done with it.’

This is one time when I felt that telling the truth was so much easier than anything else:

I remember one time, when I desperately, desperately wanted to go out with my friends to a party, but my Mum wasn’t ready for us to be on our own unchaperoned. She offered to come along wit us, but then, c’mon, who wants their mother to tag along with them when they’re with their friends? So I told her that my friends had changed the plan and they weren’t going after all, and ergo, neither was I. All was well.

But the thing was, there was no such change of plans. I decided that there wasn’t any harm in going to the party, and went anyway. The party was at a restaurant, and it was to celebrate the birthday of someone who I wasn’t very close with, but hey, a party is a party, right? So I went.

At first there was this thrilling sense of liberation that I’d escaped the diktats of my parents, but after about a quarter of an hour, I began to feel really uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to let my hair down and just have fun. The fact that I’d lied to my parents was constantly nagging me, lurking there at the back of my mind. Despite all of my friends’ efforts, I still couldn’t simply forget the wrong that I’d done.

I started wondering why exactly I’d lied to my parents? Saying the truth would’ve been so much better. I lasted for about an hour and a half, before I gave in and called my mother. I confessed, and asked her to come pick me up. I wont say that I didn’t face any repercussions, because I did. I was grounded for about two weeks, I think. But it soon became apparent that it was a good thing that I’d confessed, since soon after I’f left, a huge fight broke out at the party, and security had to be called in.

So at the end of the day, I learnt two things:

I’m just not the kind of girl who can lie to her parents and be okay with it.

And second, it’s always better to say the truth. And if there’s something that you really want to do that the ‘powers that be’ are reluctant to permit, you sit them down and explain rationally why you want to do whatever it is you want to do.

Ending on a light note, here’s a heart warming video that’s kind of similar to my story:

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This post is written for the IndiBlogger Happy Hours programme, courtesy Kinley.

What’s So Great About Melbourne?

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit conducts a liveability survey  of cities around the world every year, and for the fourth time this year, Melbourne was crowned as the Most Liveable City. When I read the news, what struck me first was the question about what is it that makes a place ‘liveable’ in the first place?

So I investigated the parameters that were used in the survey, and this is what it says: “The survey rated cities out of 100 in the areas of healthcare, education, stability, culture and environment and infrastructure. Melbourne received an overall score of 97.5 out of 100, scoring a perfect rating for healthcare, education and infrastructure.”

In terms of healthcare, all Australians are covered by Medicare, a public health insurance scheme, while almost half also have private health insurance. As someone who spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals, I know how valuable this is.

Australian education is well known world over, although it did get a notorious tint to it a few years ago with the attacks on Indian students. Nevertheless, the education itself isn’t something to be scorned at.

As for environment and infrastructure… while  was researching for this post, I came across this photo of a birds eye view of Melbourne, and let me tell you, I was blown away.  The city is divided into neat little blocks and straight roads, with residential blocks a little away from the downtown area, and it all looks like a child’s delightful little building blocks scene! I know that my fellow Indians would understand the novelty of this, and it’s no wonder that the survey takers gave Melbourne a perfect score for its environment and infrastructure.

But wait…

Isn’t this all becoming a little too theoretical? You could always go read Wikipedia for all this, couldn’t you?

Besides all of the above obvious features, what would make someone fall in love with Melbourne? Well, I went sniffing, and here are little tidbits of all that I found:

Mailbox 141

How would you like to view art in a mailbox (aka ‘post box’)? Because that’s exactly what Mailbox 141 is! Located at 141 Flinders Lane, Mailbox 141 is a space that encourages new artistic experimentation and work which been specially created for the strip of restored mailboxes at the entrance foyer of 141 Flinders Lane.

A row of re-purposed mailboxes for artwork. (Source)
Melbourne’s smallest art gallery at 141, Flinders Lane. (Source)

Besides the novelty of the experience, that’s bound to be a central attraction, the displays are changed every once in a while, you you can keep visiting over and over again.

The Lift

Located next to 707, Collins Street, this lift sounds like something right out of The Chronicles of Narnia. You get on the lift at Collins Street, and when you get off, you’re at Village Street Docklands, below. Here are photos of Collins Street and the Docklands to give you a better picture of how awesome this lift truly is:

The Lift ↓

Takes you from ↓

Little Collins Street (Source)

to ↓

The Docklands (Source)

How cool is that?!

Central Deborah Gold Mines

The Australian Gold Rushes began in 1851, and went on up till sometime around the early 1900s. It was during the gold rush in the 1900s that the Central Deborah Gold Mines were created. The mines operated from 1939-1954 during which time almost a ton of gold was extracted from the ground. It was only in 1971 that the mines were opened for public viewing, and in 2011, the Nine Levels of Darkness tour was launched, where visitors could explore Level 9 of the mine, 228 meters underground!

Nine Levels of Darkness – The Central Deborah Gold Mines (Source)

Squeaky Beach

Like the name suggests, the rounded grains of sand on Squeaky Beach, well, squeak when you walk on them! You can experience walking on sand with all your senses now 😉 It’s also a great place to spot wombats, which frequent the rock formations at the north end of the beach.

(source)

Street Art

“Melbourne is known as one of the world’s great street art capitals for its unique expressions of art on approved outdoor locations. Street art includes stencils, paste-ups and murals and does not include graffiti or tagging which is illegal.” There are street art tours done by artists themselves, where you get to visit significant street art spaces and get an overview of the Melbourne street art scene.

This is honestly my favourite of all the attractions in Melbourne! It’s so great that such artistic contributions by residents are encouraged by the city, all in an effort towards making their home a more beautiful place. On a sidenote, it’s also great that no one takes advantage of it and resorts to graffiti.

(source)
(source)

And that’s all folks! But like I said earlier, this is just a little tidbit of what Melbourne has to offer. Check out more of them here! And if you want to have a glimpse of what travelling in Melbourne would look like, check out the video below. You can find more of them on Youtube.

So tell me, which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why? The best answer will win a gift voucher worth Rs. 500/-. The contest ends on 4th Jan 2015.

This post is written as part on a Indiblogger contest courtesy Tourism Victoria.

When Vacationing with The Tiny Tots

You know what’s awesome about taking kids on vacations? They can make you see the most mundane thing through new, fascinated eyes. And they can also turn a peaceful vacation into a nightmare. But isn’t that what’s great about them? They’re little bundles of unexpected joy and monstrosity all rolled up together.

I remember when we were growing up, our staple vacations were short road trips. Through the years, we traveled the length and breadth of UAE, discovering the spots that truly seemed like paradise on Earth. Looking back now, those road trips had everything that would make them the perfect vacation in the eyes of a child. I’m sure it was no easy matter for my parents, making sure we were occupied and having fun almost every minute, considering how different each child is, and how capricious kids can be about they’re definition of fun.

Do you have a kid you’re taking on vacation? Here are some ways to make sure they have fun, while ensuring you don’t get burned out!

  1. Pack story books, cushions, toys and music for when you’re traveling, be it by car, train, bus, plane, or any other means of transport. Books were our saviours when we used to go on those long 7 hour road trips that would just never end. We would simply curl up in our seats with a comfortable cushion and a book and escape into the book. It’s also a good idea to have some word games or such for backup, where all the family can join in, just in case all else fails and you’re stuck with a car full of stir crazy children.
  2. When vacationing with children, always make sure they have some kind of id with them, and are wearing clothes in noticeable colours. And those lectures on not talking to strangers? Don’t forget that. It never gets old. That way, you will be able to rest assured that they can find they’re way back to you even if they wander off.
  3. One thing I’ve noticed about kids is that almost all of them are fascinated by animals, even if some are scared of them. Take your kids on safari rides, or even a simple visit to the zoo would do. There have been countless times when I have simply stood and observed a orangutan or a tiger in their enclosures. And if your kid is inclined towards similar observation, leave them be. Don’t hurry them. There are some kids who’ll squeal and try to get the animal’s attention, while there are others who simply like to watch. Find out what type your child, and let him or her be what she is.
  4. But what if you just want some quiet time away from all the hubbub of daily life? If it’s anywhere other than India, I would say, head to the countryside, but since out here, that would be no vacation, I’d suggest you head to  a peaceful, family-friendly resort. Before selecting your destination, make sure you know if they have activities to engage children.
  5. Or if you don’t have the time or the resources to take a long vacation, simply take your kids out for the day. Explore the place you live in. Go on long walks (with frequent stops, of course). Don’t plan anything concrete, but simply revel in the spontaneity of the moment. Indulge in some people watching with your kids. Encourage them to talk about the things they see. You’ll find yourself looking at your world with new eyes.

This post is written in written for the Teddy Travelogue contest organised by Club Mahindra on Indiblogger.

Raise Your Voice to Clean India

“Lets talk about women, shall we?”

Said the woman who lives a tiny village
with a name you’ll never know
Sequestered within four hard walls
From which she’s never emerged.

“When I was twelve, I was transferred
From the grasp of my sire, to under the thumb of a man
‘A man’, who grew to be
my husband, when he felt the need
his brother, when his brother had no use for me
his father, when he was amorous
his comrade, to keep in good spirit
and his enemy, to barter with.

When my belly grew swollen, and burst to expel a tiny girl,
I examined her tiny body, fascinated
and wept for her life that was never to be.
For I knew that in the dark,
in the shadow that creeps in the sliver of space
between the monsters and the lights
lay a place where such bundles of joy were tossed.

And forgotten.

But never, even for a fragment
of a fraction of a second
by the soul that nurtured it beneath the shade of its own.

And when the news of the world came, I thought
They discourse at great length
of the ‘dangers of the city’,
But who is it that knows the name of my child
Never acknowledged, never asked
and forever whispered in my heart?

Who is it that speaks for me and my child?

I do.”

***

“Lets talk about women, shall we?”

Said the woman who lives in the city
In the big, bad world,
Independent, intelligent
with all the freedom in the world.

“I ride the bus to and from work everyday.

On the good days,
I stand for a bit
The target of lascivious stares from men
who cant confine their roaming eyes to the bodies of their wives,
and cross raps
from grandmas who cant stand my bag touching their arm,
Before I get a seat.

On the bad days,
I stand
Without the need to hold on to anything;
the crush of bodies tight packed
more than enough to hold me up
Breathing hard, suffocating,
Not knowing whether the secret hand
that just slowly skimmed from my waist down to the top of my thighs
was a copped feel or someone removing change from their pocket.
Until I get off.

And then I get married to a man I love
only, to see him turn into the men on the bus
The ones with the roaming eyes?
When he goes to work, the scent of his cologne is heavy in the air
But when he’s back and I go hug him,
I can sense a different scent
lighter and more flowery than his own.

My parents tell me not to say a word.
For in the world of suits and ties
When a woman loses her man, she is a fallen angel
A phantom to all those who trample over her.

On the telly I see the news
They talk about ‘cleaning the land’,
Taken literally:
clean.
the.
land.
Without am inkling of all that is filthy and needs to be swept away
All that lies hidden in the dark
Spoken about only in sore whispers,
That which lies between the thin lines of acceptance and public image.

Who is it that speaks for the women
Quietly oppressed, and quietly taking it?

I do.”

 

This post is written for the Indiblogger The Power to Clean India Contest, working towards achieving a clean India by raising our voices. For every voice counts. 

Kyuki Bin Bole Ab Nahi Chalega #AbMontuBolega.

The contest is organised by Strepsils India. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

What Makes A Happy Home

My parents have always believed that I am a special gift to them, having been born on their wedding anniversary. My mother loves to tell the Story of My Birth… of how she used to suffer from morning sickness right up till I was born… how on the eve of my birth, my dad took her out on an early celebration of their anniversary… how I was two weeks early and no one was prepared… how when my father first held me, he gasped, “She’s so pink! Like roses!”…

After I cam home, all was at peace. My mum reveled in long needed break from work, pampering herself and spending time with my sister and myself, my sister was fascinated with the new baby in the house (me) and insisted that I was a boy, despite everyone’s efforts to disabuse her of the notion, and I was the happy baby, laughing and playing and healthy.

Then… when I was nine months old, I developed a fever. And then I caught a severe cold, which congealed in my lungs. I started coughing up yellowish-green phlegm and running high fevers that defied all efforts to bring it down. Sound familiar? I had pneumonia.

I was admitted in the hospital, and the way my mum says it, there wasn’t really much hope of recovery, what with me being so young, and the pneumonia being so stubborn. But I pulled through, and things settled down.

Somewhat.

In the next ten years, I developed pneumonia another 2 times, though both were minor, and the years were interspersed with an umpteen number of hospital visits. If it wasn’t for a fever, it was for my asthma, if it wasn’t that, it was an allergy. The one good thing that came of it was that I became really good friends with the nurses and doctors at the hospital, what with me being a regular face.

But although I fell sick easily, I didn’t allow that to keep me from doing the things I wanted to do. I was prone to asthma, but I loved to run (still do, as a matter of fact). Obviously, the two dont really go well together, but I worked around it, and I found a way to do what I loved. I ran and I won medals for it. I involved myself with different activities which would challenge me and test my limits. And I loved it. In retrospect, it feels like maybe I wanted to prove to my family that I didn’t really need to be handled with kid gloves like they thought.

It’s been a long time now since I’ve been to the hospital for anything more serious than a cold. And in the years since that last long hospital visit, I can see how my family has changed.

All those times when I was admitted in the hospital, I understandably never comprehended the seriousness of the situation. To me, it was just a long break from school, at a place with nice people. There was a playroom right in the next room, and all I had to do was drag my drips stand with me when I wanted to play. It was great, as far as I was concerned, except for the bland food and being separated from my sister & father.

But now, I remember how when I’d wake up at night sometimes, I’d see my mother sitting in the chair beside my bed, keeping vigil. I remember how at parks, there was always a careful eye kept on me lest I get into trouble. I remember the time when we came home from vacation to see the house stripped of its floor carpet because I was allergic to dust. My mother used to have a perpetually worried look in her eyes, and my sister was charged with looking out for me at school.

Things have changed now, though. I’m healthy, I’m happy, and so is my family. They’ve certainly taken off the kid gloves, for sure. Although my mum still worries sometimes, she’s a lot better at giving me some slack now. My father loves to play roughly with me, and my sister doesn’t hold back with her punches either. We’re all better now.

Which all just goes to show how a healthy child makes for a happy home.

This post is a part of the IndiBlogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Dabur Chyawanprash (https://www.liveveda.com/daburchyawanprash/)

The Yoga Tablet Goes To Hogwarts

The Great Hall filled with the sound of owl hoots and the flapping of wings, drowning out the chatter of the students filling its hallways and tables. It was time for post.

A brown speckled owl landed in front of Hermione, and extended it’s foot.

‘I say, Hermione, are you expecting something in the post today?’ asked Ron, eyeing the owl’s cocked head curiously.

‘Actually, no. Maybe Mother decided to send me some surprise cupcakes for Christmas’, she said, detaching the package from the owl’s foot. ‘Here you go. Five knuts for the service.’

As the owl fluttered off, Hermione carefully unwrapped the package, peering in, expecting cupcakes.

Just then, Harry came up from behind her and Ron, and stuck his head between theirs. ‘Wow! What have you got there, Hermione? An enchanted mirror, by any chance?’

‘I highly doubt that, Harry. For one, my parents are Muggles, remember? Where are they going to get their on an enchanted mirror from? And, what’s this thing sticking out from the back? No mirror I’ve ever seen has got an attachment right there. It looks like a metal plank with a wing on one side. Weird.’

‘Oh, wait! I know what that’s for!’ Ron snatched the plank from Hermione, neither of them noticing the sheets of paper that fell out from behind it. Ron set the plank on the table with the wing facing downwards. ‘Aha! Will you look at that! It’s a stand. Genius! I wonder from where Muggles get these ingenious ideas.’

But Hermione’s mind would bot be at rest. ‘But what is it for? That’s the question. It cant simply be a reflective plank that can stand, now, can it? Harry, any ideas?’

Silence.

‘Harry?’ They turned around to see harry engrossed in a sheaf of papers.

‘Where’d you get hose from? And that doesn’t look like parchment. It’s thinner. And whiter.’ Ron looked at Harry like he had conjured the papers from his imagination.

‘Oh that, it’s paper, Ron’, Hermione explained.

‘They fell out when you took the plank out of the box, Ron.’ Harry looked up excitedly. ‘I think I know what this is, guys. You’re not going to believe this. Let’s go somewhere we wont be interrupted. Hermione, put the plank back in. We dont need any unwanted attention.’

The three trooped up the the Gryffindor common room, waiting outside for the Fat Lady to finish chatting with her friend Violet.

She took notice of them at last. ‘Oh, there you are. I was wondering where you three had gone to. Getting into trouble, as usual, is it?’ she fluttered.

Hermione spoke up fast, ‘No, ma’am. We would never.’

‘Hmph. So, password?’

‘Gobbledukes junkin’ Ron announced.

‘Right you are, Mr Weasley’, the Fat Lady swung open the portal. Harry, Ron and Hermione slipped in to settle in a quiet corner of the room, and leaned in towards each other.

‘Guys, I think we hold in our hands the very elusive Lenovo Loga Tablet, according to these sheets’, said Harry, as he waved the sheaf of papers in on hand, the metal plank on the other.

Ron gave him a blank look, but Hermione had a look of dawning comprehension on her face.

‘Mate, is your head on straight? What is that? A spell you just created? Another philosopher’s stone or something?’ Ron was genuinely puzzled.

Hermione turned to him excitedly. ‘No it’s not a philosopher’s stone. Dumbledore destroyed it, remember? The Lenovo Yoga Tablet is the yet to be released tablet in the Muggle world. But it’s legend is so famous, that it’s news has spread even to the wizarding realm. And you know how everyone is about Muggle devices, now that Voldemort’s gone for good. Boys, if this truly is the Yoga Tablet, then it’s extremely precious and cant be shared with anyone. They might want to confiscate it.’

Ron asked Hermione, ‘But Hermione, what does it do?’

‘What does it do, Ron? Well, it does just about everything. A better question would be to ask what it does not do. Here, give me those papers, Harry.’

After perusing them quickly, she raised shining eyes to them. ‘Anything. That’s what. We can do anything with this piece of metal, which, by the way, is called a tablet, according to these papers.’

‘Just imagine, now that I turned in the Time Turner, I can no longer go back to classes. But with this… tablet, all I have to do is record the class and then play it back to me. It seems that it has something called Dolby Digital Plus sound, which enhances the sound quality, so that it feels like we’re using Extendable Ears. Oh, this would be so helpful for Professor Flitwick’s classes.’

Harry and Ron got into the mood as well.

Ron gestured excitedly, ‘Harry, we wont have to subject ourselves to torture any longer during Astronomy. According to Dad, Muggles have something called ‘applications’. I think they have something to do with applying… something. So we just get these applications into the tablet, and I’m pretty sure they’ll have a star chart. Now all we’ll have to do is think up of some tragedies, and Trelawny will be happy.’

‘But boys! That’s cheating!’ Hermione was scandalized.

‘Hermione, you walked out of Trelawny’s class. You can stand her just about as much as we can, which is next to nil. Plus, it’s all a bunch of guesswork anyways. So it doesn’t make any difference.’ He turned to Harry. ‘We’re in for a grand term, mate.’

‘And Harry, what about you?’

‘I was thinking, you know those photos that Hagrid gave me in First Year? I could lift them onto the tablet (according to those papers, Hermione, that’s possible), and I’ll no longer have to lug the heavy album anywhere. All I have to do is see them on the tablet. And, with that handy stand on it, I wont even have to hold it in my hand!’

They continued to read the instruction manual.

Ron read, ‘The Lenovo Yoga Tablet has a long lasting battery, 2 times more efficient than others in the market. Hermione,’ he asked, ‘Battery means the potency, right? Like a potion? How long it lasts before it needs to be renewed?’

‘Yes, Ron,’ Haermione sounded surprised. ‘I didn’t know you followed Muggle news so closely.’

‘Always the note of surprise. But, my point is, this means it will last long into the night. Hermione, this is perfect for you! You’ll no longer have to learn by the light of your wand under the covers when night falls. You can study from the tablet. And, with it’s multi modification-‘

‘Multi mode, Ron. That means it can stand, sit and lie down at any angle you want it to, in case you were wondering, Hermione. Go on, Ron.’

‘Yes, so, with it- mulit mode, is it? – charm, you’ll be able to learn so much more comfortably. Come to think of it, you’re not the only one who need sit at night. Harry, what about the Marauder’s Map? Remember how we almost got caught by Snape in our third year?’

Harry sat up, ‘ How could I forget? The map insulted him, remember? I almost lost my marbles then. But I see where you’re getting, Ron. If we get the map onto the tab, that wont happen again. The light will be on the tablet, on which the map will also be, so as soon as we put it down, the light will go off, and we wont have any such close calls as we did before. Yes!’

Hermione looked at the tablet fondly. ‘This is just getting better and better.’

‘I know, mate. Isn’t it fascinating the things the Muggles come up with? Sometimes it seems like what they have is better than magic. Brilliant.’

And so the three continued marveling at the genius that is the Lenovo Yoga Tablet, proudly invented by the Muggles.

This post is written as a part of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet A #Better Way is Here contest on IndiBlogger.

70 Years and Going Strong

 

Photo credit: http://yaymicro.com/stock-image/grandmother-and-granddaughter-outdoors-in-garden-smiling/526897
Photo credit: http://yaymicro.com/stock-image/grandmother-and-granddaughter-outdoors-in-garden-smiling/526897

Pale sunlight filtered in through the leaves of the cherry tree, bringing a cozy glow to the patio. Early morning, when you can feel the sun’s warmth when you lift you face, but dawn’s brisk chill is still lingering in the air… It has always been my favourite time of the day. Everything’s so mellowed down, all hushed, waiting for the day to begin, and the rest of the household’s almost always asleep, so I get to sit back and put my feet up for sometime…

The scent of freshly baked cake wafted in from the kitchen. Seema was upto her baking again. That girl makes the most visually pleasing baked stuff that just melt on your tongue. Oh, how quickly life moves on and comes full circle. It seems like it was just yesterday that Seema was asking me for a taste of the mixing bow herself, and now she making the cake herself.

‘Nani, nani, nani!’ My youngest great granddaughter, Meera ran into the patio. She clambered up onto my lap, all knees and elbows, and settled in.

‘Nani, Rahul and Sandhya are not allowing me to play Chess with them!’

‘Meera! Good morning!’ I gave her a hug. ‘What are you all doing up so early?’

‘We always get up early when we go for holidays, Nani. Everything is so exciting. Something is just waiting to happen. How can we waste time in sleeping then?’

I laughed at her sense of drama. ‘Aha, so tell me, what’s waiting to happen today?’

‘Chess! But Rahul and Sandhya wont allow me!’ She stomped her leg.

‘Baby, but you know that Chess can be played by only two, dont you?’

She pouted. ‘ Yes, but, I thought, maybe I could play for sometime, and Rahul could play after that.’

‘Right. Do I need to tell you that that’s completely unreasonable?’

She looked down, trying and failing to look contrite. I gave her a look.

She giggled. ‘No, you dont, Nani. I was just bored and wanted to do something. Also, I wanted an excuse to crawl into your lap.’

Children are so frank, owning up to mistakes and revealing what they want with no fuss or subterfuge. It’s only when we get older that life gets complicated.

‘Meera beta, I love having you on my lap. You never need and excuse for that, okay?’

‘Okay Nani.’ She grinned and cuddled close, hugging my neck.

We looked out at the extensive gardens surrounding the house, and I pointed out each of the plants to her, teaching her how to differentiate between them. Spending quiet, quality time like this with my grandchildren is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To engage their bright young minds, and and be witness to their inquisitiveness is invigorating in itself, not to mention the emotional satisfaction we get in seeing our blood, our generation, continuing on.

When I pointed out the red cabbage rose, she gave a little start. She turned to me, animated. ‘Nani, I just remembered! I cant believe I forgot. Isn’t today yours and Nana’s wedding anniversary?’

‘Yes, it is’, I smiled. I hadn’t expected her to know, or even remember.

‘Happy wedding anniversary, Nani! So how many years have you been married?’

‘It’s been seventy years today.’ It gives me a startle to think of the time that has passed. Do the years pass you by when you’re not looking? Because I could swear it’s not been so many.

’70 years?!… But that means… then you must be… Nani, I dont know if you know, but I think you’re really, really old!’

I laughed out loud. Lord, but she was innocent! ‘Yes, I am, darling. I know that.’

’70 years, huh? Hey, wait a minute, hasn’t it got one of those names? Diamond, silver and all that? 70 years… Is it diamond, do you think?’

‘Nope, diamond is the 60th’, I told her.

‘Then what’s the 70th called?’ I told you. Inquiring minds, remember?

‘Hmm, let’s see. 10 years is Tin, 20 years is China, 25 is Silver, 30 is pearl, 40 is… ruby? Yeah, I think it’s ruby. 5o is gold. 60, like I just told you, is diamond, and 70 is… ah, yes, Platinum!’

‘Platinum? Wow, platinum’s my favourite! It’s so silvery, and it has diamonds on it that look so pretty.’

I was curious about how much she really knew about Platinum. ‘Really? But even silver’s silvery. Why dont you like that?’

‘I do like that, but Platinum is very rare, and you know I love rare things’, she rexplained, self importantly. ‘Plus, it never fades, so it practically lasts forever. Like diamonds. No wonder they’re always paired together. They’re perfect for each other.’

‘Well, you’re certainly aware about things, and seem to make well informed choices. Good for you! Now… what’s the next plant we were going to talk about?’

Meera interrupted. ‘Wait, Nani! I just thought of something! 70 years, right? So that’s like, 70 wedding anniversaries?’

‘Yes…’ I wondered where she was going with this.

‘So you and Nana have been married for 70 years?’

‘Yes, that’s what I said.’

She cooed. ‘Aww that’s so sweet and romantic, Nani.’

Sweet and romantic? And I was just talking about how innocent the kids are.

‘Wow, I’m still not able to get over how many years that is! Okay, so Nani, I want to know something. Of all those 70 years of celebration, which one was your very best wedding anniversary? The most romantic? The one you loved best of all?’

‘I loved all of them, Meera. How can I choose?’

But she insisted. ‘No, no. I’m sure there must be one that stands out from the others in your mind. There’s no way you loved them all equally.’

On her persistent pestering, I gave in. Really, when a little cherubic face entreats you for something, its a strong man (or woman) who can refuse. And strong in the face of such insistence, I am not.

‘Well, okay, there is one. My third anniversary with Nana. It was the most wonderful day of my life.’

‘The third?’ She seemed skeptical. ‘But what’s so important about that one? I dont even think it has a name!’

‘So what if it doesn’t have a name, Meera? Do you honestly think that a day’s name gives it more importance over the memories it holds? You know better.’

‘Yes, I do, Nani. So what happened on your third anniversary that made it so special? Tell me.’

***

67 years ago…

I woke up to darkness. There was a hand covering my eyes.

‘Amir, seriously? When I’m asleep? And haven’t even opened my eyes?’ I asked my husband, recognising him by his scent, and because, well, who else is going to be in my bedroom at 9 AM in the morning? Certainly not our kid, who, at the moment, is kicking around in my tummy, approximately nine months old, and due to pop out at any moment.

Amir’s hand didn’t budge a bit. He laughed. ‘I know you. As soon as you wake up, you’ll be all eyes, unlike normal human beings who are bleary eyed upon waking up, and search out all my surprises, which will then fail to be surprises. So I’m covering your eyes.’

He had a surprise for me? Okay, this was new. We usually did something special for our anniversary, but we’ve never gone the elaborate route like some couples. Were we changing it this year?

‘So when can I see? It better be quick though, because you know I wont be able to stand the suspense.’ It’s true. I’m probably the most insatiably curious person you’ll ever know. Wanna bet?

He removed his hand from my eyes with a flourish. ‘Now!’

 

wall_collage_by_willaustinsarchive-d54yphw
Photo credit: http://www.thedomesticcurator.com/2013/06/dorm-room-picture-collages.html

I gasped. Across the room, on the wall opposite the bed, was a large frame. It was filled up completely with photos. Photos of the two of us, right from our courtship days, of our respective families, our friends, our wedding, were all over the place, pieced together to form a wall size collage. I love how he thought to include the people who are special to us in the collage too. Without them, we wouldn’t have ever gotten together, and they made our life happy, so it’s only right for them to be there. But there were a number of blank spaces in the collage. They made the collage look incomplete, like some photos had been removed from their places.

‘Why the blank spaces?’ I asked Amir.

‘Those,’ he explained, ‘are for the photos that we will take in the future, as the little one in there grows up. We cant not have her-‘

‘-or him-‘ I interrupted.

‘-in such an all encompassing piece now, can we?’, he said, rubbing over my stomach.

I filled with a warm, happy feeling in my chest. It felt like everything I was seeing was aglow. The baby stirred in response to Amir’s voice, waking up from its own slumber.

‘So, how do you like it?’

I vomited. Hanging over the edge of the waste basket which had taken up permanent residence by my side of the bed, I heaved, bringing up nothing but air.

Amir’s face fell. ‘You dont like it? You hate it so much? Oh… um, okay, uh, I’ll remove it, okay? Dont worry, it’ll be gone by the time you finish brushing your teeth. Put it out of you mind, okay?’

‘No, no, no, no, no! Dont you dare touch it! I love it! It’s the single most amazing and understanding thing anyone’s ever done for me, and I love your or it. That was just morning sickness. You know I’ve been having it continuously. It has nothing to do with you, or that beautiful piece of art on that wall. Thank you so much, Amir.’

He laughed and looked relieved. ‘You’re welcome, love. And thank you, for three of the best years of my life. I love you. And now,’ he bent to take something from the floor, ‘here’s your breakfast.’ He handed me a tray.

‘This is for me? Wow, you really are going all out with the pampering, aren’t you?’ I laughed.

He winked at me. ‘You bet!. It’s all stops out today! Wait and see!’

I was ready for it, heavily pregnant or not. This was our day.

After we’d both returned home from work (yes, I was working while pregnant, because I was saving up for maternity leave. Plus, my office was practically next door, so I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of travelling), we both sat down in front of the collage wall and poured over all the pictures, Amir explaining how he got hold of them. He had called up everybody and asked them to contribute photos to the cause, and the darlings that they were, they did so willingly. It was with those photos and our own that he made the collage. My love for him just grew as I listened to him. You dont spend an entire month creating a wall size collage at night when your wife is sleeping, unless you really really love her. And it was that love that was feeding my own, increasing it with every word that came out of his mouth.

Love begets love.  Truer words were never spoken.

Having scrutinized each and every one of the photos, I got up slowly. ‘Well, it’s time for dinner. Want to come help me?’, I asked him. He nodded and followed me.

But just as I was about to enter the kitchen, Amir came and stood in front of me blocking my way in.

He shook a long finger at me. ‘Nuh uh ah. Nope.’ He grinned.

I knew that look. He was upto something. I placed at hand on his chest and looked up at him, ‘What? You dont want me to cook? Wait, let me guess. You want to cook yourself?’

He threw his head back and laughed. He tweaked my nose, asking. ‘Oh, you think you’re clever, dont you?’

I smirked. ‘Well, you did stop me. And you have been doing things for me all day. What else is one to think?’

‘Oh, alright. You’re right. But I’m not cooking. I’ll do one even better! We’re going out for dinner tonight!’, he announced.

‘Outside? Like this?’ I looked down at myself.

‘You think you dont look good?’, he asked, surprised. ‘Wait. Ever heard of the term ‘maternity glow’?’ I nodded. ‘You’ve got it, darling. In spades.’

How does he know exactly what to say to make me feel better? Is that what it means to have a soul mate? They know what you need at any given moment? And your happiness truly is theirs? And vice versa?

So we went to the restaurant, where when the staff heard that it was our anniversary, they gave us a cozy corner tucked away in a little corner of the rooftop garden restaurant, and gave us privacy, except when they were needed.

After the waiters had cleared away the dishes, we just sat there, holding hands across the table, and looking out at the view. It was like old times, and it was the best moment of the day for both of us (Amir told me that it was his too later). There wasn’t much talking happening, but we were both in contemplative moods. We were at the precipice of parenthood. This was probably one of the last times we’d spend time like this together, just the two of us, and we both felt it keenly just then, the company that is only two, with the sea breeze on our face and the soft murmurs from the other tables creating a cocoon around us. It was the best of times.

And then…

I felt a twinge.

And a twitch.

And a tingle.

‘Amir…’ I began.

 

Photo credit: http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/90793-study-says-one-eight-babies-born-illegal-immigrant-parent/
Photo credit: http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/90793-study-says-one-eight-babies-born-illegal-immigrant-parent/

Six hours  later, I lay on a hospital bed, with a little sleepy bundle in my arms, and looked up at my beloved husband. Amir was fascinated by the baby. It was almost weird, the way he kept staring at her, fingering her delicate fingers and toes. He was hardly touching her, for fear of hurting her with an overeager hand, though I told him he couldn’t hurt her. It only served to show me what a careful and caring father he would be to our daughter.

He finally tore his eyes away from the baby, and looked into my eyes. ‘I love you. Thank you.’

You might think that wasn’t very eloquent or flowery, but if you were there, then you would have seen the look in his eyes. So filled with love, and joy, and overcome with the benevolence bestowed on him were they, that to me, even those five words were superfluous. Know that song, ‘When You Say Nothing At All’? The entire song is about talking without saying a word; there’s even  a line somewhere in there about eyes.  And that was what Amir and I were doing that day. Talking, exchanging whole passages, without words.

But I wont denigrate the value of words. Words are etches on the sands of time. They have staying power. Which is why…

‘We began today, when I thanked you for the gift this morning, and you thanked me back. Right now, I’m thanking you back, Amir. For what? For a wonderful life. For understanding me. For realising that love is not all roses and being willing to get down into the gritty stuff in this marriage. For being not only my husband, but also a friend. For not letting this become the traditional Indian marriage relationship, but a partnership, where we’re both equals. Why? For loving me with my faults, and sometimes even for my faults, for teaching me that in this ephemeral life, you will be my one constant. And for this beautiful little bundle of joy that I’m holding. Thank you.’

***

Meera’s eyes were a little moist as I finished the story. I wondered if she was able to grasp the full extent of the story. Children, yes, I call them children, are constantly on the search for ‘love’ these days, that I wonder sometimes, do they even know what exactly it is? Or are they confusing it for something else. I wonder sometimes if they understand fully the level of commitment and investment in another person it requires. A lot of them seem so devoted to their own advancement, moving towards an individualistic outlook, and so brainwashed with a glossed over image of love that is portrayed in mainstream entertainment, that sometimes, I truly wonder… And worry…

Oh, but it’s in the nature of a doddering old woman to worry. Let me get back to my Meera.

‘That day, Meera, was the best day of my life. On that day, I felt like I had come full circle in my love life. I had experienced love for my parents, for my husband, and now for my own child. And to have my baby born on our special day was almost a sign, a divine gift, given to make that special day even better, and bless our union.

We were talking about Platinum earlier, and how it never ends… My fourth wedding anniversary, a day which probably has no name in the list of anniversary names, is my Platinum Day of Love. The name does’t matter, Meera. It’s what happened in it. And my Platinum anniversary? Hah! It’s already over! On that day when I was given a blessing twofold. The day your Nana and I discovered a whole new dimension of this thing called love, that allowed us to include another little person into our two person fold, and enriched our love for each other too.

So… What do you think?’

‘Nani, I think that’s the most romantic story I’ve ever heard! I knew Nana loved you so, so much, but I knew hardly anything about your history together. But wait. I want to know… who’s the baby?’

I smiled. She would be interested in that of all things. ‘The baby? Why, it’s your grandmother, Seema. She was my first precious bundle. And you, little darling, are my last.’

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I did get Amir a gift that day. Only, I cant tell you. It’s a secret 😉


P.S.: This was inspired by a real life story. Mine, actually. I’m the baby born on my parents anniversary.

This post was written for the Platinum Day of Love contest organised by Indiblogger.

The Day I Learnt About Compassion

com·pas·sion
/kəmˈpaSHən/

Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

I have to confess, I am a bit of a ponderer, and often find myself curled up in a favourite nook, contemplating about… well, anything! It could be as mundane as what book to read next, or as heavy as what decides the person we fall in love with, or some such matter.

On one such ‘think-fest’, I began to wonder about altruism, sympathy, compassion, and how such sentiments developed in us.

We had gone out that day, and had been witness to a truly pathetic sight. As we were waiting at the signal at a junction, below a flyover, my Mum noticed someone below the flyover.

It was an old woman, dressed in rags, with unkempt hair that is typical of indigents. She was sitting underneath the flyover, not quite clear of the junction, and was in some danger of being run over.  Her clothes, if they could be called so, since they just barely fulfilled the definition, were in such a bad state that quite a lot of her was exposed to the elements. She also had a vacant look on her face that suggested at senility. There was a traffic policeman posted nearby, but he payed her no notice.

My Mum is a social worker, and she just couldn’t digest that sight.

“I’m going to go talk to her, and find out what’s the matter”, she said, her hand hovering over the door handle.

Just then, the signal turned green, and we had to move. But my mother is not one to be deterred from a purpose, and she told my father to stop by the side of the road. “Go around, take a U turn, and come pick me up.”
And she strode off.

When she got back in about 10 minutes later (we had followed her instructions and come back for her), she told us about the woman. The woman was unable to communicate intelligibly, so my mother had turned to the policeman for some assistance. Apparently, the lady had just turned up that day suddenly, and despite being told to clear out repeatedly, she did not listen. The policeman had given up and left her to her own devices. “She is not my business, madam. She has probably been cast away by her family. They must also me poor, and unable to care for her.”

Shocked at the policeman’s indifference, my Mum chastised him roundly. Then, with his help, she located a helpline for such abandoned people. She called them up, and recited the whereabouts of the lady. Only once they had promised to end one of their personnel over immediately, did my mother leave the place.

It was this incident that got me pondering about our more humane sentiments, compassion and altruism in particular.

 

 *I am sharing my Do Right Stories at BlogAdda.com in association with Tata Capital.