CS Bhagya

Writing Portfolio. Mostly.

Tag: DNA

YOU can change your city

We drink tea from saucers, cutlery with fingers and bargain exhaustively with shopkeepers. We are like that only. But we also throw garbage on the road, spit on the sidewalk and leave paan stains on public walls. We are like that only?

With a name aimed at making people aware of these unsavoury habits, The Ugly Indian — a community project to clean up the streets of the city — began as an attempt to understand why we have such low civic standards and tolerate incredible amounts of filth on the streets.

Comprising of a group of Bangaloreans deeply concerned about the city’s environmental health and its public hygiene (they did not want to be named in this article as they feel this was a community effort), the project took off a year ago. Initially, the group spenttime observing and understanding the systems and building trust with the various stakeholders.

The project gained momentum only in the past four-five months once several small experiments had been conducted to figure outwhat worked and what didn’t.

The project kick-started its drive for a cleaner city on Church Street. Probably the city’s most visited “fun-street”, Church Street houses the offices of India Tourism, three media companies, Wipro, several leading restaurant brands and the Pollution Control Board.

The poor management of a street so vital to upholding the image of Brand Bangalore perplexed the organisers of the project.

But if you walk down Church Street today, you will notice how the garbage dumps that occupied a large space of the pavements in several prominent locations have disappeared, the paan-stained walls repainted, potholes closed and even cigarette butts lining cracks in the pavements have been cleared.

Church-street dwellers, many of whom were part of the endeavour, are grateful.

“There were a few pressing issues of cleanliness and public hygiene around Church Street. In many spots, garbage had accumulated in huge quantities, and these people took the initiative to clean it up,” says Anil Chodha, owner of Queen’s Restaurant on Church Street. He finds this a great gesture.

“If citizens at various locations around the city make a similar effort, something good is bound to come out of it.” He also feels that when such an attempt is being made, it is essential to bring it to people’s notice, for they will obviously come forward to help.

Creating awareness for the need of community involvement fueled by individual effort in such issues has been the main focus of the project. They believe that people are extremely keen about improving the condition of their surroundings and just need a spark or catalyst to get them going. The Ugly Indian is about giving people this spark.

Through the project they want to convey that it is possible for any individual, with no authority, money, volunteers or influence, to create a sustainable change in his or her surroundings.

Neelam Teibam, a make-up artist and stylist who frequents Church Street, remarks that the changes are quite evident. “I normally walk up and down Church Street, especially on weekends, and I’ve noticed that the pavements and the road look a lot cleaner. The walls have been whitewashed. Potted plants have been placed beside them, and it certainly makes the street a brighter, greener place,” she says.

Teibam is glad to learn that The Ugly Indian returns regularly to keep in check fresh waste accumulation. “Simply starting such an effort is not sufficient, maintaining cleanliness is equally important. I think they are handling the issue in the right way.”

Making people alert to the results of the project will generate a lot of positive interest, she feels. “Given a chance, I would love to join in with what they’re doing, too.”

So next time you complain about how terrible the state of the city roads are, don’t just brush the matter aside with a “somebody else will take care of it.” Why not play the role of this elusive “somebody else” for a change?

To know more about the project and leave feedback, visit their website http://www.theuglyindian.com. You can also find them on Facebook (search for The Ugly Indian).

Published in DNA, November 18th 2010

Casting the Net for US shows

Do the names Glee, Vampire Diaries, House and Lost ring a bell?

Popular on American Television, these shows find a huge following among 18-25 year olds in Bangalore. As they’re not aired on Indian cable, the shows have sparked off a downloading frenzy among the college-going crowd.

“I have around 20 to 30 shows on my computer right now,” says Diya Ballal from Mount Carmel College, who downloads various kinds of shows on a regular basis. The best thing about watching shows online or downloading them is the absence of advertisements, she feels. “I decide on what shows I want to download based on friends’ recommendations or while browsing the Net. An actor’s performance in one show may have caught my attention, in which case I look for more shows in which he or she has starred.”

Aditya M Rao, a student of computer applications, seconds this. “I stumble upon shows via word-of-mouth or on sites like IMDB,” he says. “I’ve been watching Lost, which just concluded a week ago, Two and a Half Men and Dexter. My criteria for picking out shows are that they must have good reviews, casting and an excellent storyline. I don’t prefer certain genres over others but I usually end up with a good balance of comedy, thriller, mystery and science fiction,” he says.

For Twilight fans, the natural progression from the books and movies seems to be a series called Vampire Diaries. “One of my friends gave me the first few episodes and I fell in love with it,” says Shruti Nayar, who has watched the entire first season. “Vampire Diaries is more grounded thanTwilight, in which the characters may seem too perfect at times. Here, the characters are flawed and a lot more believable.” She also watches the medical drama House avidly.

“Science has always been an interest. It’s great that there’s not a lot of theatricality in House as opposed to something like Grey’s Anatomy in which the lives of doctors and their patients are impossibly tangled. House focuses on the patient’s problems. The story doesn’t sidetrack the main issues.”

But on the top of the most-watched list is the American musical comedy-drama called Glee, which focuses on a high school show choir.

Meera Sankar, a media student, who follows the show keenly, says the reason behind Glee’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s something fresh that appeals specifically to the teenage crowd. “It’s quite similar to a high school drama but quite innovatively done. As the show centers round a glee club, music plays an important role,” she says. “Many wait eagerly for the newest Glee episode just to see what the show has in store music-wise. Some Glee versions of famous songs sound better than the originals. It constantly reinvents its music.”

In addition to Western shows, Japanese Anime also appears to be a rage. “Anime is very interesting and unconventional. I know a lot of people who stay away from anime thinking it’s similar to cartoons. But it can be quite mature with strong enough plots to keep older audiences hooked,” says Chaitanya Hegde, a student from RVCE. “I’m watching Death Note andBleach at the moment.”

Ask them why they don’t watch Indian TV shows and they say it’s because of a serious lack of good ones aimed at the age group of 18- 25. Even if there are such shows, they tend to be pretty lame, they feel. The amount of drama in the shows that exist also puts them off.

“Really, do I want to watch the saas-bahu kind of serials? People sleep with their makeup on, survive fires and several other disasters. They return from the dead or have plastic surgeries, sometimes both — it’s ridiculous!” says Kinnisha Andrew, an arts student.

They resort to downloading shows instead of just watching them on TV only because they aren’t available here or if they are, tend to be aired late at night, making it impossible to watch daily, they say.

“I’ve been watching Supernatural on TV, but the latest episodes get released earlier in the States and take a really long time to be aired in India, sometimes up to a year. Criminal Minds is another show that used to be aired on Star World, but it’s been discontinued, so I download and watch it,” says Andrew. She adds that you have to be careful while downloading. “There are chances of virus attacks when you’re getting stuff off the net, but it’s up to you to check that your sources are safe and reliable. Once you make sure they are, there isn’t any problem.”

But downloading shows in such a large number inevitably means spending an equal amount of time watching them. Don’t parents have a problem with that? “Although it’s great to watch TV shows, doing that all the time can take its toll,” feels Meera Sankar. “Some people watch whole seasons in a day and end up sort of zombie-ed out. You need to know your restrictions. My parents let me watch whatever I want as long as I don’t go overboard. I shouldn’t shirk my responsibilities to sit and stare at my laptop screen 24/7,” she says.

Published in DNA, June 7th 2010

Obstetric success comes to the four in Bangalore

For four years after marriage, Pavanitha was without a child. On May 31, she became the mother of quadruplets, the first such successful case in the city.

When Pavanitha, 25, married to Subramani, 28, failed to conceive for four years, the couple sought help of fertility experts. She underwent treatment for infertility, and three months later she became pregnant. Initially, the doctors told Pavanitha that she was carrying twins. But, later, tests confirmed that she will be delivering quadruplets.

Pavanitha’s joy was, however, tempered when doctors told her that the risk of quadruplets being born prematurely was very high and that their survival rates were also low. She was then referred to Dr Prakash Mehta of Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, who is an expert in high-risk pregnancies.

In the 33rd week of her pregnancy, she developed signs of HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening obstetric complication that results in liver problems and increased blood pressure. Dr Mehta decided to have the babies delivered immediately instead of waiting for the normal 40 weeks. A girl and three boys, weighing 950 gm, 1.01 kg, 1.27 kg, and 1.28 kg, respectively, were delivered safely through the Caesarean section.

“This is the first time in the city that four normal babies have been born in one go,” Dr Mehta said. “There may have been earlier incidents of quadruplets in the city, but one or more babies were born with either defects or did not survive after delivery,” he said.

The doctor said that twins were common — about 1 in 90 or 100 births. One in about 5,000 pregnancies resulted in triplets. But quadruplets were rare, with the incidence of normal births just one in five lakh pregnancies.

Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital is footing a large part of Pavanitha’s medical bill, since she and her husband are from a low socio-economic background. “We also work as a charitable trust. The parents have only been charged whatever they can pay. The rest will be taken care of by the trustees or will be waived off completely,” Dr Mehta said.

The parents had said that they would take care of all the four children, Dr Mehta said. “But, considering their circumstances, they may find it difficult to look after four children. They have a joint family, and they’re counting on support from relatives,” he said.

Published in DNA, June 4th 2010

Capturing the twilight years

Ace Bangalore lensman K Venkatesh has dabbled in a range of diverse subjects in his 20-year career as a freelance photographer.

Be it eunuch models, the aftermath of the tsunami, water crisis in Karnataka or the panorama of Gomateshwara, he has been there and clicked that.

He has worked for Reuters, BBConline, The Asian Age, Outlookmagazine, and is currently employed at the leading Telugu daily Enadu.

Venkatesh naturally gravitates towards subjects with a social context. “Basically, I’m a news photographer. I’m always looking for human interest stories. I consciously choose topics that are of great consequence to the current society.

There are several important things happening around us, which we need to focus on to bring forth a positive change,” he says. “I try to capture these instances and showcase it, therefore, creating awareness.”

His latest offering is an exhibition on the trials of living in old-age homes, which is on till June 10 at ChitrakalaParishath. In this series he has attempted to capture the loneliness and destitution of the elderly who’ve been relegated to old-age homes without choice, as their families have abandoned them.

Migration to urban ghettoes in search of greener pastures has become their undoing, turning them into pariahs of their own nuclear families.

“In Bangalore, there are two kinds of old-age homes. The first type is a commercial venture, where people from well-to-do families pay for good facilities that’ll ensure a good life for elderly family members.

But the other kind is more important. Old people, who are abandoned by their children, are brought to these homes and looked after. But due to inadequate funding, they may not be able to meet the requirements of the elderly,” he says.

“Their children never come back or take them home. Their life becomes dull, monotonous and completely devoid of hope. Through this series I’ve tried to portray their condition and give a voice to their plight.”

These photographs, like most of his other works, segue open in black and white. He believes that dual-toned photographs are best capable of eliciting the essence of the moment.

“Black and white photography reveals the subject powerfully, as it lends more depth and clarity than colour photography,” Venkatesh asserts. In fact, he feels that colour is more of a distraction.

“People tend to concentrate more on the colours than what one intends to evoke in the photograph.”

Even in this series, the play of dark and light, the collusion of brightness and contrast has immense significance. It acts as a metaphor for the old-age home dwellers who’ve slipped into a dark phase in their lives.

The presence of light, however minor, denotes an indolent hope: on the part of the subjects and the photographer.

“Old age homes are becoming increasingly common in India today. The country may be witnessing change at a tremendous pace causing the generation gap to widen, but nothing justifies abandoning parents who have given the best part of their lives to their children,” Venkatesh says, adding, “This is a call for the society to stop and consider; see if what they’re doing is right. Have a heart! — that is my message.”

Published in DNA, June 9th 2010

Dancing her way to distant shores

Bangalore based contemporary dancer Nayana Bhat has been dancing since she was 10. “I’ve always been a shy kid. I wouldn’t even speak to people properly when I was young. During my teen years, I used to shut myself in my mother’s room and play music and dance,” says Bhat. But dancing helped her overcome these inhibitions. “When dancing I feel liberated. I can express myself in ways impossible in normal circumstances.”

Now 24, Bhat has been invited to take part in the prestigious Summer Improvisation Course by Stichting Magpie Umbrella, Netherlands. Bhat will be representing India in this annual course, which offers seats to a mere 18 dancers from across the world. The course is scheduled between June 21 and August 21 in Amsterdam.

Bhat has dipped into both classical and contemporary dance forms. “I really enjoy Bharatanatyam and Kathak. I’ve had about three and a half years of training in ballet, too. I think the character of classical dance forms provides a foundation, but sometimes the rigid structure may confine you,” she says, adding that when she wants to break out of it, she delves into contemporary dance.

“Nowadays, the vocabulary of my dance comprises largely of contemporary moves,” she says. Bhat has always been one for following her dreams. “My parents have been very encouraging towards my interest in dance. But they were a little apprehensive when I wanted to pursue it as a career, as it doesn’t provide financial security,” she says.

Bhat worked as a journalist at a TV station earlier, but decided to quit as she found the job frustrating, leaving her with little or no time for her first love. She then joined a dance company, but it’s been just a year, since she took up dancing independently. “It was a big risk, because initially at least there’s very little money.It’s important to make yourself known,” she says.

When she was on the crossroads of her career, Bhat was low on confidence and even considered quitting dance. “That was when the acceptance came through making me carefully reassess my options. I understood then that I couldn’t really be happy if I didn’t dance,” she says. The acceptance catapulted her back into dancing again.

The improvisation summer course 2010 is designed so that artists can place their attention on the practice of improvisation within their dance or music studies or as a part of their professional work. World class teachers and dancers such as Katie Duck, Sylvain Meret, Makiko Ito, Sharon Smith, Augustin Bellucsi, Vincent Cacalano and Alan McDermott will be training the artistes through the course.

Participating in the workshop will help her arrive at an in-depth understanding of what’s happening in the Western dance scenario, feels Bhat. “I am familiar with some aspects, given that
I’ve already performed at various venues abroad, but I only have an outsider’s view of how things work there,” she says. “It’s extraordinarily difficult to crack into the artistic arena abroad, as its demands are superior to what we see in India. This is a great way to open up to new experiences and immerse myself in a culture, which is richer and more active with respect to all kinds of artistic forms,” says the young dancer.

Published in DNA, June 21st 2010

‘Poetry is not difficult but safe poetry is boring’

Poet, journalist and feminist, Anindita Sengupta has multiple sides to her personality. Her poetry has appeared in several journals like Eclectica, Nth Position, Pratilipi and many anthologies. She is also founder-editor of Ultra Violet, a site for contemporary feminism in India. Winner of the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing in 2008, she recently released her first full-length collection of poems City of Water, published by Sahitya Akademi.

“I’ve been writing all my life, in some form or the other,” says Sengupta. “There were some laughable and embarrassing attempts at a detective story when I was 10, and some terribly earnest poetry in my teens.”

Sengupta finds it hard to pin down when exactly a poem arrives. “It’s whimsical and distressing and maddening. There are poems that arrive fully formed in my head. Others languish as a line or an image for years before I can develop them,” she says.

The title of her collection, City of Water, comes from a poem in the book, a sestina about people who live in an imaginary land of constant rain — it is a place of ennui, but also of endurance, according to Sengupta. “The poems in the book are divided into six sections — thirst, a sense of rain, flash flood, drown, still water and swim. The collection is about water as life and water as death and water as everything in between,” she says.

For Sengupta, bits of news, gossip, film, art, photographs, landscape, different varieties of pain, animals, and a vast number of books may go into a single poem. “I like JM Coetzee, Jeanette Winterson, Toni Morrison, Anne Carson, Ramanujan, Eliot, Rilke, Plath, and so many others,” she says. “Influences are always osmotic, largely unconscious, a ferment of thoughts, feelings, patterns and sensory experiences.”

True, the reading public seems to turn towards novels rather than books of poetry, but Sengupta feels bookstores have had a large role to play in encouraging this trend. “In the popular imagination, fiction definitely holds a higher place and I’m including bookshops when I say this. The poetry sections in most are pathetic. One doesn’t have access to what is published abroad, even to many books published here. It’s incredibly frustrating,” she says. “I think it’s important to mainstream poetry as a form of literature. Why is a book of poems less important or interesting than the latest chick flick or a cookbook? It’s not. But by relegating it to the back shelves, bookshops give the message that it is.”

Sengupta believes a love of poetry must be cultivated from an early age. If poetry is unpopular with younger readers today, she feels the fault may lie primarily in how poetry is taught in schools.

“School children are generally not encouraged to talk about risky things. Poetry is often about such things. It’s hard to combine the teaching of literature with the teaching of moral science. Safe poems tend to be boring,” she says. “Given these limitations, I suppose the best that can be done is to choose wisely and get students to appreciate the sonic aspects.”

Although a lot of people resist poetry under the impression it is “difficult”, Sengupta asserts it is better not to entirely counter this view. “I’m not sure something should be done to peddle poetry as ‘easy’. Not all poetry is ‘difficult’ but it frequently requires certain willingness on the part of the reader to enter and experience complex thought or emotion,” she says.

Published in DNA, July 26th 2010

 

The dieter’s guide to eating out

More cafés cropping up at different locations across Bangalore means one is spoilt for choice and currently, customisation seems to be the USP with café chains aggressively targeting the health-conscious eater.

Subanna Kannur, head of business, Au Bon Pain India, says with more and more Bangaloreans eating out on a regular basis, providing healthier options is necessary. For instance, at Au Bon Pain, food items are baked and not fried, informs Kannur.

“Customers are given a choice at various levels: for instance, with mayo or without, brown bread instead of white and the kind of salad dressing,” he says. Au Bon Pain also has a nutritional kiosk, through which people can calculate the nutritional values of what they are eating. “It’s a way of keeping clients informed about the benefits of the dishes they are choosing. Whatever they order, the nutritional elements, along with important facts like allergens , are listed,” says Kannur, adding that the response to this has been “overwhelming”.

According to Saurabh Swarup, head of marketing and product development, Barista Coffee Company Limited, a wide consumer base today is health conscious. “To accommodate them,we have a range of slimmer sandwiches. The non-veg slimmer sandwich is made of healthy and nutritious egg whites . Along with this, we have added healthy Indian snacks such as poha to our menu,” he says. adding that Barista even offers customers low-cal beverages.

Sarath Chandran, outlet in-charge of Coffee World, Eva Mall, says this chain too offers a range of options for the health conscious eater and confirms that this is a growing trend.

“Many of our customers, from youngsters to the elderly, prefer healthy food and go for low-cal eats. Our vegetarian sandwiches, salads and breads like brown bread and panini are the most preferred selections,” says Chandran. Coffee World’s sister business Cream and Fudge Factory also offers eggless and low-cal ice creams.

Hanging out and eating at cafés is an inevitable part of urban life, so why not choose healthier options? That way you get to socialise and still not compromise on your diet, says 20-year old Tanu Kulkarni.

“Many cafés have slimmer sandwiches. I think it’s great that they are catering to our needs,” she says. “The offers are becoming more personalised. There’s something to suit every individual.”

Jyothi Prasad, chief dietician, Manipal Hospital, believes this is a positive trend as it indicates that people are taking care of themselves. “Food manufacturers are also more aware of this need in the market. For instance, you have options like high fibre biscuits and whole wheat noodles,” she says.

Perspectives about health are changing rapidly and in a good way, she feels. “It’ll be great if people make this a bigger part of their lives by eating healthier on the whole and exercising,” says Prasad.

Published in DNA, June 14th 2010

Dealing with dilemmas

How can you be ‘a well-known secret agent’? How is it that ‘Corruption is universally disapproved of, and yet universally practised’? These are some of the questions author V Raghunathan touches upon in his new book The Corruption Conundrum and Other Paradoxes and Dilemmas, launched on Saturday. The author was in conversation with Dr SK Barua, Dr Pankaj Chandra and Dr KRS Murthy.

The Corruption Conundrum attempts to comprehend and, to an extent, solve paradoxes and dilemmas that we encounter in our daily lives. According to Raghunathan, paradoxes are found in abundance, but are generally ignored as being either too commonplace to prompt deep thought or too complex to try solving.

“In this book, I pick up the little things first and then turn towards more complex, serious issues. Several dilemmas may go beyond entertainment and critically address issues in international polity. This book tries to draw attention to their various possible implications,” said Raghunath. “The book’s title comes from the interesting belief that corruption is the shortest dilemma in the world,” he added.

Dr Pankaj Chandra, director of IIMB, said, “Will the fear of policing prevent me from becoming corrupt, or does the restraint arise from a moral core? This is one of the biggest problems confronting society today.” He believed dilemmas are solved primarily by relying on internal strength.

SK Barua, director, IIM Ahmedabad, felt dilemmas could exceed the ordinary. “Warehouses of the Food Corporation of India are overflowing with grain, but due to neglect a quarter of it has been rendered unfit for consumption. All this while hundreds starve without food every day. What dilemma does the government face to create such a dangerously paradoxical situation? These are important questions we must ask ourselves,” he said.

Published in DNA. May 31st 2010

Bidding farewell to Rzhude David

His first gig was playing the triangle in the school band! He brought out his first solo album in 1994 and joined the Bangalore-based Thermal and a Quarter (TAAQ), one of India’s pioneering rock bands, in 1999 as the bass guitarist. Eleven years later, Rzhude David bids adieu.

“Music has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I didn’t have to try too hard to play music or learn it. I took naturally to playing whatever instrument I came upon,” he says, recalling how he became passionate about music. “I never really chose rock or the bass guitar in particular. I prefer playing acoustic guitar and percussion, preferably folk styles — it’s just that my public image has been associated with rock music and the bass guitar.”

When David joined, Bruce Lee Mani and Rajeev Rajagopal were the only remaining founding members of TAAQ, which started as a Christ College band. Now he feels he can comfortably lay claim to having played a pivotal role in making it a part of India’s rock history. “Be it independently producing and marketing its own music while being a pioneering online presence, or conceptualising and executing both national and international tours, we’ve been there and done what it takes to be a globally admired musical entity,” he says. “By sheer stubbornness, if you will, we took a stand when original music by Indian bands wasn’t appreciated, and carved a new place. The TAAQ sound is niche. Our style of music has consistently evolved and defied categorisation.”

If the scenario of Indian rock music today is undergoing a transformation for the better, it is due to rapidly devloping technology, David thinks. “While rock is not really a part of India’s musical heritage it has certainly found musical expression in the last few decades due to the way technology has broken down cultural barriers. Today’s kids with access to computers, software and the Internet are empowered to create, record and promote their own sound.”

But it’s time to move on, David admits. “As the oldest member I think getting in some younger, more energetic blood will do the band a world of good!” He currently heads a project called MusicLab, which designs music education solutions, bringing the latest technology and teaching methodology to schools across India. “I feel the need to focus on projects that I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t, because of the mind space that being a full time member of the band, a corporate career and a growing family demands. I’ve opened what I call the Acoustic Garden. Here I can work on music at my own pace,” he says. “It is an intimate acoustic space with just about all the tools needed for the organic process of music production.”

He will always treasure the great memories, he says. “From traversing the UK in a beat up tour van, getting near bushwhacked by goons in Ahmedabad, to living it up in five-star luxury brushing shoulders with some of our idols, it’s been a long, strange and mostly self-indulgent trip, but well worth every moment of it.”

Published in DNA, May 21st 2010

Dad of Carlton fire victim pens his heart for Chicken Soup

On February 23, Uday Vijayan’s family was one among the nine that lost their loved ones in the Carlton Towers fire tragedy.
Three months later, they are still trying to cope with the loss.

‘Beyond Carlton’, an initiative by Vijayan to increase awareness about fire safety has helped him reach out to others finding it difficult to come to terms with the tragedy.

Vijayan, who lost his son in the fire tragedy, also wrote a story recounting the harrowing experience of his loss. “Writing the story has been an immensely cathartic experience. It touches upon the loss of my son and my memories of him, how we are still coping with it through ‘Beyond Carlton’, which is also the title of the story.

Losing a child is possibly the worst thing that can happen to any parent. It has been almost three months, and we’ve now learnt to fight the odds,” he said.

The story will be published in September in Chicken Soup for the Indian Father’s Soul.

“Three months ago I didn’t even think I’d be writing this story for Chicken Soup. I lost Akhil to the Carlton fire on February 23. On the 25th I just couldn’t sleep, and around 4.30 am, I decided to write a blog of my memories about my son. That triggered off all kinds of unimaginable responses from a whole cross-section of the society. Through the blog someone suggested that I make a contribution to the editor of the book. I had two choices then — to hide it from the world, or turn adversity into something positive,” said Vijayan.

A little pondering found him making a productive choice. “It is of no use to sit and do nothing, feeling utterly helpless and thinking that the world is against you. The world will not pull you out of your grief. The choice must be yours,” he said.

He felt that if his story made people more aware of the dangers and risks of a fire breakout, it would be worth his effort.
“Fire safety as an issue has a lot of apathy in the society; you believe it will never happen to you. But it’s important to have some knowledge about the risks. If you never face such a situation, good. But, god forbid, you do fall into a situation like that, it is worse if you are unprepared,” he said.

He hoped that his story would strike a chord with others who had lost their loved ones to such tragedies.

“When something like this happens, you tend to believe that the world around you is crashing. The grief makes you think your only choice is to be negative. When I decided to write for Chicken Soup, I saw that there was a story here. This is my attempt to see the good within the bad. If this helps someone else through a tragedy, then that’s good,” he said.

“Chicken Soup stories are ideal for times when we feel trapped, incapable, and unable to face challenges, because, after reading one, I can say I’m not alone, and that it is okay. The transformation process of the writer and what he has learnt from his experience, in turn, helps the reader,” said Raksha Bharadia, editor of the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series.

Published in DNA, May 21st 2010