Another open letter to Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Mr. Kejriwal,

If AAP can win, so can I. That is how I felt when people of Delhi gave a decisive victory to your party on 10th Feb. Something about the world seemed right and trustworthy. The wavering lamp of hope got its fresh supply of fat and the flame rekindled. Whenever asked a question (even a tough one), you never said ‘No comments’ or ‘I will not answer this’. When humbled by a landslide victory, you actually cautioned your party members against arrogance. That gave me further faith that my support was not misplaced. When you said it was scary, believe me you are not alone. Every supporter of your’s knows that the path ahead is full of hurdles. It is because you chose to follow the difficult path instead of a stable bureaucratic job. You wanted to get into this mud and slime. We helped you jump into it and did our part of throwing a rope for you. The battle ahead is your’s to win or lose. And whatever you do will determine if people like me would ever put trust in a voice from amongst us. We were defeated and uninterested mob who had gotten used to ‘sab chalta hai’. When you came on board, we felt for the first time that it is ok to believe that ‘sab kuch actually nahi chalta hai’. You will be wrestling a hungry and grumpy opposition in this mud but trust me, we will cheer for you every time you get dirty to clean the filth. We will wait to high five you and those muddy hands will feel much cleaner than the hands that are used to taking bribes.

The wolves are waiting to pounce upon you for the smallest of your slip, face it with same grace that you did during campaigning. Do not become one of them. At the same time, never underrate or disgrace your competition. They will attack you on policies and even the day you don’t feel like wearing your muffler. It’s fine, stay focused and trust the people who have put their trust on you. They are more aware and sensible than their parent generations. They do not vote for dynasties or empty promises, they keep an eye on what you are beyond your speeches. They know that their God is bigger than someone who needs Ayodhya mandir to prove His presence. So, do not be trapped into doing wrong things that have worked previously.

The good thing is you have forced your opponents to keep the competition clean – they will have to find honest people to fight you. Or, at least, the ones with least dubious backgrounds. Either ways, it is a win win for me. We trust and respect you like a school principal who actually knows how to teach and does not endorse expensive tuitions. But do not tempt me with freebies. I want an honest governance and hope. Hope does not equal unrealistic expectations. And understand that I am not your fan. Fan is someone who has fixed allegiance irrespective of merit. I am not that. I am a believer and a cheerer but I shall always judge you on your actions. I will trust you when you deserve it and I will not be swayed by a hateful opposition but the day you turn arrogant like your predecessors, the day you bullshit me why you did not do your duties, I shall go back to ‘sab ek jaise hain’. Don’t make me go there because you are my last hope of a better India.

Elections are over and the time to be antagonistic is over. Be skeptical but not biased. Give me progress and better quality of life. I don’t need swachch bharat abhiyan on twitter, I need it to be executed at ground level. Keep women safe, please. Punish the rapists. Stop hate speeches against any religion. Act now. I know that your report card will not be 100% but I hope that you will try more honestly than your predecessors ever did.

-Nistha

P.S. And, please don’t take Shazia Ilmi (read opportunists) back.

  

Let me show you the beauty of Sikkim

Wanting to explore the unexplored India, Sikkim had been in my bucket list for a while. On 20th Dec, I finally got to see the dreamy landscape of the landlocked state. The curvy roads, dense forests and friendly faces – Sikkim is one of the best experiences I have had in India. People have preserved the nature, maintained utter cleanliness (you will find proper clean restrooms everywhere on road), honesty (no one ripping you off) and live a simple and happy life. They also have a great sense of driving and you will not find the lawless driving and parking rampant in other parts of India. This tiny state is bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.

You will never be alone here: fascinating Kanchenjunga range above your head and the bountiful river Teesta below follow you constantly between the mountains. So, what are we waiting for, lets see it in the photographs.

Gangtok

gangtok

roads-6
stony street in Gangtok Market
rumtek-1
Rumatek Monstery

On way to Lachung

yumthang

roads

roads-3
River Teesta

roads-2

roads-5
All through the region, you can see the Buddhist prayer flags flying colorfully, celebrating the tranquility of their peaceful and simple people.
yumthang-9
Yak tail hair are considered sacred and white hair are sold for 10k a bunch!

Yumthang Valley

This valley blooms with rhododendrons of million colors in summer but is no less picturesque in winter, the mighty peaks and dazzling snow made it the experience of a lifetime.

yumthang-2

yumthang-5

yumthang-4

yumthang-7
Kanchenjunga peaks cannot be described in words, I could gaze at them for hours

yumthang-12

yumthang-13
Frozen waterfalls

yumthang-11

yumthang-3

yumthang-16

After the intense snow fight, we headed for some refreshments in the valley (read instant noodles and coffee at a very reasonable price) –

yumthang-6

yumthang-14

Katau

This unmentioned place in all the tourist books, just km away from Lachung, was the highlight of my trip! The view from above the mountains is simply breathtaking and uncrowded. Do not miss!

katau

katau-1

katau-3

katau-2
The semi-frozen waterfall made a loud gushing noise.
katau-4
Sun sets at 5 or 5:30pm at most places in the mountains!

Temi Tea Gardens

The only tea garden in the state but worth a visit!

temi

temi-3

temi-4

Pelling

roads-10

roads-11
The holy lake near Pelling
buddha-10
Mighty Buddha statue at the Buddha Park. The statue has a museum inside it with mesmerizing wall paintings from Buddha’s life.

That’s the beauty. Some cons though – roads are bad (due to frequent landslides) and tough (very curvy mountains). So your taxis will not travel beyond 20km/hr (yep, last day, we took an entire day to travel 200km). So, do not try to cover too much in a short time and enjoy wherever you are. Cars are the only means of transport – keep 1-2 extra days just for unforeseen travel lags. Closest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal (did I tell you West Bengal is extremely dirty and has disgusting roads). Traveling from there to Gangtok took nearly 5 hours! So, be prepared for loooong travel times.

However, just looking at these pictures (just few of the hundreds I clicked) is making me fall in love with Sikkim once again. Next time, I would want to visit Bhutan too. Some day!

  

What did I learn from writing Tretar series?

newyear

You might remember how Tretar project started in a moment of whim. A year has gone by and I was thinking working on it has helped me become, perhaps, a better person. This is what I learned from it:

Commitment. (To know that without commitment, promises and hopes will never see the daylight)
I won’t lie that there were times when I felt like taking a short cut or skip a Tretar entry. After all, I had made the promise to write a new entry every fortnight. It was the beginning of the year and I was drunk on the promise of a new year, a change in destiny and how 2014 would be nothing but smiles. I did not think that time flies and 24 ‘make-you-feel-sublime’ posts is no joke. 24 photographs not either. I struggled to write mid-way and was tempted to cheat. That is what we do when we are happy, we make promises. But I wondered how I can cheat myself? I would skip an entry and no one would notice but I would. So, I did not give myself any option to break my commitment. And, I think that is what life is about. I have had stroke of inspirations at times (I love my entry ‘girl with a tattered jeans’ which I think is one of the best I have written) and I have had lows – but what matters to me is that I showed up and wrote whenever I had to. No matter where I was or how I was, I wrote on every 1st and every 15th. This series was a relationship with my blog and I could not let it down. If we take our commitments seriously, end results are bound to be something you can be proud of.

Patience. (To understand that Rome was not built in a day)
In an age of instant gratification, it is tempting to post short stuff on Facebook more frequently than writing longer articles or blogging. But with the success of my book and satisfaction of finishing Tretar series, I can say that beautiful things take time and patience. Longer efforts tend to produce rarer and more beautiful results which are worth the wait.

Act. (To realize that showing up is more important than perfection)
Previously, I would start writing posts but many would never get out of ‘drafts’ folder. This is because I tried to keep perfecting them and they would never match the standard I sought. With Tretar, I had deadlines and I realized that writing them on time mattered more than writing them perfectly. I would not have 24 posts if I did not have a reason to act. This is what one should follow in life and work too. Perfection is an outcome of persistence and showing up.

Fun. (If you have to do something, make it enjoyable)
I wrote every piece because it made me happy, I wrote what I wanted and how I wanted. This is the most liberating thing in the world – to do something for your own happiness without getting trapped in the scale of popularity and likes. Better yet, do things at your whim, for no rhyme or reason. Enjoy the spontaneity and novelty of such experiences.

So that was an exacting, and hence, rewarding journey of Tretar. Here are the 24 posts all in one place. Which one is your favorite?

Tretar 1, Why we look at sky
We are made of stars
Tretar 2, Back to fairy tales
Someday we come back to loving the fairy tales
Tretar 3, The People That Define Us
Four kinds of people that surround us
Tretar 4, Living the Journey
To know that the journey is the real destination
Tretar 5, the Song of the Quiet
Being comfortable with your introvert self
Tretar 6, Fighting for the Basket
Setting your priorities straight in a dialogue with your future grown up self
Tretar 7, the Gift of Darkness
Turning darkness to a gift
Tretar 8, the Wings of Faith
Technique might not make you fly but believing might
Tretar 9, Disturbing the Universe
Have the courage to defy what universe has in store for you
Tretar 10, the Curse of Choice
When you want something badly, eliminate the alternate choices
Tretar 11, Eternal Sunshine of a Worriless Mind
The priceless realization that things that make us happy have no correlation with prices
Tretar 12, I came from the Wilderness
The splendor of the wild and how we are like those animals
Tretar 13, Spirit doesn’t Retire
Because we are eternal
Tretar 14, Empathize
Because everyone has gone through a turmoil and we are better off understanding than judging
Tretar 15, a Journey on Rails
A glimpse of magical world of railway stations
Tretar 16, the Girl with the Tattered Jeans
Because things we love most can wear out and that does not mean we should stop loving them
Tretar 17, Stay True to Yourself
Don’t live someone else’s life
Tretar 18, Making Choices
An eternal tug of war between ‘should’ and ‘must’.
Tretar 19, Colors of Life
We live to experience passion, love and miracles of nature
Tretar 20, Embracing the Change
Every beautiful transformation begins from a painful change
Tretar 21, Revealing your Truth
Knowing your purpose
Tretar 22, Reasons of the Heart
Because your journey is your unique path and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else
Tretar 23, Today is my Favorite Day
Enjoy today, because it is happening
Tretar 24, You are the Universe
Stop acting small, you are the Universe in ecstatic motion

  

Tretar 24, You are the Universe

[This post is the last post in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

A year and 23 posts later, it is time for me to write the 24th. No doubt I shall put a piece of my heart into it.

It is not happy people who are thankful but it is the thankful people who are happy. On that note, I am thankful for every experience, travel, and moment this year. Good or bad, it is what life is about and it is about how we respond to things.

I would like to share this insightful cockroach theory by Sundar Pichai-

At a restaurant, a cockroach suddenly flew from somewhere and sat on a lady.
She started screaming out of fear. With a panic stricken face and trembling voice,she started jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach.
Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group also got panicky. The lady finally managed to push the cockroach away but …it landed on another lady in the group.
Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama.

The waiter rushed forward to their rescue.

In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waiter.
The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt. When he was confident enough, he grabbed it with his fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.

Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior? If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed?

He handled it near to perfection, without any chaos. It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.

I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it’s my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me. It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.

More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

Lessons learnt from the story: I understood, I should not react in life. I should always respond. The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.

To this point of ‘it is my response that matters’, I turn to Rumi-

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.Rumi

Katau Sunset

I recently visited few pristine places in a northeastern state of India – Sikkim. The Himalayas (including Kanchenjunga) line the landlocked state that borders with China, Tibet and Bhutan on 3 sides. The sheer size of Himalayas around there makes you feel that nature and universe are so big and you are a glorifying speck of that same universe. Call it a sweet coincidence but my book ended with a conversation in Himalayas and so did my year. This quote of Rumi and this image of the gorgeous peaks remind me that nothing I do or react shall belittle who I am. Whenever you are tempted to react angrily or shout or be mean, ask yourself if it befits the person God has made you to be? Whenever you are ready to throw in the towel, ask yourself if you are really that fragile. I bet a booming voice will answer you back – ‘You are better than that. Heck, you are created by the same hand that created this beautiful world and life. Justify that creation, act as per your stature.’

Be gracious, just like the universe. Be your magnificent self that you were created to be. In storms of your life, stand tall. Don’t let anything or anyone reduce you for you are born to be grand and may you always remember that.

A very very happy new year to you!

  

Tretar 23, Today is my Favorite Day

[This post is the twenty-third in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

If I could unravel myself in this moment, I would. I would tell you the secret to life. I am an enthusiastic photographer and have captured a lot of moments. While I love my photographs, I also am wary of creating memories – because memories, no matter what, make you wistful. Whenever I look at a beautiful scene in my archives, I remember the good stuff. For example, this photograph from US Route 1 in California (supposedly one of the most scenic routes) is a picture perfect moment. It would seem that the past was so glorious and you are comparing every moment of your present with it. This is because we tend to romanticize memories. Try it out. Whenever you look at an old photograph, you would feel that it was the golden past and present can never match up to it. The fact is you would have felt exactly the same when you were living this same golden moment.

LiveMoment1small

Our ads, movies, those emotional whatsapp messages are all built around this theme – glorifying the past and being emotional – trying to offload your responsibilities by thinking that the good times have gone by. We like to victimize ourselves but the fact is we are constantly losing our present in this tug between ‘what was’ and ‘what can be’. Such a cliche message and yet I feel that this Tretar series would be incomplete without this one request to my readers – Please unburden yourself of the past and future. Live in the moment. While it is critical to unburden yourself of the hurt of the past, it is also important to not carry around the weight of a past that always seem better than it really was.

And this very moment (even if it is in my not so fancy room as this gorgeous California cliff) is as glamorous as any past I can invoke. In this silence of the night and company of the people I care for in my thoughts, I can smile. I created something in this moment and for me, that is more beautiful than watching a sunny sparkling day. I don’t want to wait for a day in future when I will read this and think – oh, that time was so perfect! I would rather say that right now – This is so perfect!

“Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
A.A. Milne