5 Years of Blogging &Learning!

It’s like those little achievements and joys that none can understand on your behalf but sometimes you gotta get that pie and celebrate with yourself. Sometimes, it is not just about arriving but also celebrating the road even if it doesn’t account for too much.

It isn’t just tough but finding your path is also a slightly draining process and a lonely road sometimes. On days, I don’t know how to configure my thoughts, I return to my blogs for chance to fumble upon pieces to re-explore those moments of creativity and courage savoured by my most loyal pen.

I have left and returned a million times over but writing has completed my soul in ways I never thought was possible. I found my calling to be bigger than this but writing would always remain my love. My humble journey with WordPress showed me that writing indeed was my gift that deserved some efforts and nurturing.

All these milestones that show up on the app sometimes may hold no resonance but reminds me how far I have come from where I had begun. It inspires me to stay on board forever even if I am hardly on the radar for months sometimes.

Many ask me how I can write well. The most honest answer really is, “I don’t know!” I love some of my works but have also learnt to live with the bullshit that I write sometimes. In the past five years, I have just learned to let it flow; pen holds your hand and teaches you on its own.

I have poured my heart when I found new friends, wanted to celebrate my bonds and even when I felt angry or heartbroken beyond words.

I found my first real readers on this space even before I learnt to write and even if it is just one like on a post, it remains equally valuable and special for me.

For some weird reason, I can never manage to bring my professional writer in here as it remains a space reserved for my heart, A space that remains pure from the obligations of cash. Even if no one would read my blog, I think I would still come back to pour my heart.

PS – A big thank you, lots of love and appreciation for all those who had been taking the time and supporting this amateur. 🌺❣️❣️❣️❣️

Teacher’s Day Special

In a year as we graduate online/offline 
We'll leave wiser owing to your classroom

When our laziness is about to win us over
We'll remember the committment you illustrated

You taught us how it's alright to claim our credit
But, also why not to take ourselves so seriously

We had read, "Faldaar" tree being humble
We found evidence in your secure spirit

Some of us never leave a chance for funny GIFs
Only coz we don't have to deal with fragile egos later

We flatter good friends & decent teachers
But, can't miss a chance for laughter with our favourites😜

Yours Lovingly
Covid Special Bonus
MJMC Batch 2020-22❣️❣️❣️

Augment or Perish – This isn’t your fairy tale land

I had woken up on time and started my day on a pleasant note. A feat you’ll know if you have been running down on constant thoughts of helplessness & despair and sleep cycles of stress & procrastination. I was almost euphoric over my little milestone until I failed myself (once again).

I had gone ahead, as usual, voicing my confusion; giving her a chance to dump a new set of responsibilities on my shoulders. Yet, my potential sickness post-vaccination failing to save me from forced responsibilities came as a rather unkind shock. I spent hours fuming over the person in charge.

Mom listened with patience to my day’s tale. But, encouraging my stress hormones post vaccination wasn’t on her agenda. She simply told me to work hard enough that I someday could have the requisite position to reward goodness as I felt strongly for the case of competence over butter.

The fact of the moment remains that irrespective of our emotions about the same, power would continue to lie with authorities and we can’t always choose our bosses.

It reminded me of yet another lesson that had made its way to my keyboard this semester. Prof. Archana R Singh had aptly given us the most pragmatic formula for thriving in our professions.

“Augment or Perish.”

Besides all the emotional inspiration; it is really the most basic fact about life. You can either adapt to the swing life offers or you will perish in no time as life moves on. To expect people to reward your competence or ethics is rather irrational.

Thriving without compromising your basic values is your personal ambition. Moreover, it isn’t like you are the only honest soul out there. But you must also learn to make your way irrespective of the route your fellow takes. Honest can still survive, competent can still thrive. But you must remain willing to put in the hours it takes to take the longer route.

We all have felt that apparent helplessness when somebody in the position of authority abused their power to get things their way. We might have suffered injustice along the sides. But our crying over the same doesn’t do us any good.

Every now and then; we conveniently remark how levels of humanity and compassion are dwindling in the world; how we have been wronged and felt powerless in our position. But, if we could just look around ourselves how many times in a year do we even think about taking the effort to reward kindness, novel initiatives or even basic goodness for that matter.

We literally teach people to be selfish and limit themselves to their own battles by exploiting them every single time they attempt to defy the odds and be kind. People in our country literally stopped taking accident victims to the hospital in the fear of false accusations and legal implications.

Everyone would love to help you on your Facebook yet none of those people who claim to have sympathies for you would ever dare to show up for you when life hits you on the head. The honest fact is even the best of your friends also have their own battles to fight.  I would also love to feel sorry for each of us but apologies. It simply isn’t the way life works.  You augment or you perish. Life’s business is as plain as that.

PS – Title Inspiration Courtesy: Prof. Archana R Singh, Augment or Perish

Studying Abroad from Home

Vaishnavi Sood and Ishveen Kour

“Please start the lessons in offline mode,” urged the 25-year old postgraduate student from Afghanistan.

Lida Halim is currently enrolled in the 2-year Master’s course in journalism and mass communication at Panjab University. She hails from Takhar province in Afghanistan and presently lives in the capital city of Kabul.

Lida Halim

Talking about her experience with PU; Lida says “I was unlucky that I could not meet my friends, classmates, professors, and the city beautiful Chandigarh.”

Virtual classrooms have left one with diminished learning returns and even less memories of much awaited academic years. The lethal second wave and extended online sessions have been of little respite. It has also raised agonising concerns among students about their future. Studying abroad is a dream come true for many. But, the current arrangements can be even more challenging for foreign students.

Lida said, “I knew that the journey would start online but I had hoped to be in Chandigarh by the end of first semester. The entire first year is about to finish but I am still in Afghanistan.”

Echoing the emotions of her many colleagues and contemporaies, Lida noted that the present arrangement is not as useful for the students especially for international students like herself. She said that internet and electricity issues make it difficult for her to attend online classes regularly.

On being asked what inspired her to join the journalism course; she credits her graduation days. Lida completed her graduation in journalism and mass communication in Persian language from Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif.

She recalled, “Journalism not was my favourite field at the time but after joining the university, I got interested in pursuing this profession and now I love it. I know it is difficult to be a journalist in Afghanistan, but, you must accept all risks.”

She further cited positive feedback from various Afghan students about India and the varsity which prompted her to apply for the MJMC course in School of Communication Studies at Panjab University. She also thanked her professors and classmates for all the help and support.

However, she also expressed her dejection over losing out on a year of learning and memories owing to online education in the pandemic. She expressed hope that the upcoming final year begins offline and she can compensate for the things lost in the first year.

The story was originally covered for the Student Reporter of Panjab University. 

Trying Creative Non-Fiction @CNF

Life is serious but living can be Kaloli. Depending on your Charlie Chaplin quotient, life can be a tragedy or comedy. Pandemic may not let us immerse in the world outside but apparently learning should begin at home. Despite her creative efforts, our minds still seem trapped inside their bonny boxes. So, we thought, let’s start small and begin ideation experiments with her Cisco home. Why not learn painting on her white library walls?

This one subject called Creative Non Fiction was the Hindi of Journalism until her high intelligence took over. Our semester has just begun but any honest soul within the class will already accept anticipating fears of creative assignments being given to our not so creative heads. While her Punjabi brings us a smile; our under the rock awareness are often the cause for her helpless amusement.

Oh Sorry! Half a minute is already over; syllabus has surfaced on the agenda. If you happen to feel a little dumb or maybe stupid or unaware; don’t worry, you are absolutely normal! We can all be a little less intelligent but you can always add Google instruction on the side margin. But, if you think you are smart and have multi-tasking abilities; we dare you to chat while she is teaching and not miss half the syllabus. 

We wanted to praise but then doubt if it can really get us grace marks. So, why not just utilize the opportunity to vent our heart and voice our inferiority complexes. But, to her credit, she isn’t really so strict that you can’t raise your concerns. She is just like a loving mom who values nutritious bitter gourd a little more than our everyday pizza and fast food cravings. It’s just that to our dismay; her deadlines actually die on the proclaimed second itself. 

Learning The Wise Fine Lines

This blog isn’t an inspiration you need to be kind nor about all the big things that demand our attention. It is about those routine behaviours where kindness can leave you feeling stupid and self interests seem justified.

It would be fair to say, I have had a rather confusing equation with kindness. Being surrounded by ever so helpful folks all my life and seeing them suffer for their goodness had left me with a little less passions to be all so good and kind.

However, blame it on their genes or their upbringing, as much as I hated my share being stolen, I equally despised stealing anybody else’s fair share through manipulations and dishonesty. One thing that continued to leave me angry if not helpless, people trying to take advantage of people who were helpful and compassionate.

But, as I grew older, I begin to realise that while their actions aren’t ours to control; what we think about is slightly more manageable than we think. Being aware and smart doesn’t necessarily need to be grounded in negativity. While it may be absurd and stupid, a tiny bit of ignorance isn’t all so bad if it keeps you sane.

As I grew older, I luckily found people who would go on to re-inspire me to be a better person than the one who would only know how to fend for one’s own self. One thing I can’t credit to anything else but fate has been my immense fortunes at coming across and getting to keep some of the most good hearted ordinary people you can meet.

Showing me wonders of patience and active listening, God continued to keep me surrounded with men and women (both inside and outside my home) who wouldn’t encourage my cribbing about the state of affairs but inspired me to take care.

When probably most other best friends were busy encouraging that first trip and first alcoholic sip; mine would illustrate differences between “good for nothing” sympathies and all the difference that one little act of empathetic compassion can make.

But, even more importantly, I guess being kind has quintessentially been my way of reciprocating goodness that I continue to receive but may or may not have the chance to directly reciprocate.

Conversely, on the other hand, you can’t always expect others to reciprocate and understand either. Yet, one thing that you do get to control and manage are your individual contributions to the whole. It’s easier to lose hope and call it a wicked world — which it can be on many days — but we are all gifted with the power and independence to at least decide what we send out to the universe.

On days, like most of us, I too am disheartened to see my few kind deeds going in vain; and even worse, reciprocated with selfish motives or despise. But, on those days, I have also learnt that following my once favourite “Tit for Tat” policy has done them less harm in comparison to how intoxicated it has left my brain.

There have been occasions, you wondered and complemented, “How can someone be so sweet!” In the moment, I am most likely to smile and be flattered until it begins to become a backache.
The point where people feel it within their rights to invade your privacy, burden your schedules with their share of obligations. It is then that those two sweet words of gratitude and even those red coloured heart emojis just feel like a box of candies giving you a diabetes.

Help without expectations when you deem necessary but yes, you ought to be careful that you aren’t a remote just encouraging lazy douchebags.

But, on the many occasions that complement is well placed and comes from a genuine place; I have only wished to communicate, kindness isn’t my inherent virtue but a choice I have learnt to make to take my shots at making the world, a little better place.

Rather, fetching for myself is a thing that comes more naturally to me. But, what the years have time and again clarified for me were the fine lines between help and unnecessary crutches. As one of my best friends indirectly taught me that being nice isn’t about them but more about who you are and what you want to be.

You can’t always help the person who helps but that feeling of gratitude can always be converted into action to keep that cycle of goodness going.

Among the many fond memories I returned with, it was probably the most beautiful lesson from my little stint at South Korea. There was no way I could have done anything in return for all those people who had generously helped me with an open heart without expecting anything in return during my exchange. It has been a lesson that I had learnt then but have continued to remember, forget and recall ever since.

My Girl Gang

Me and My 3 BFFs

“Noone gets to live a life pain free
It’s a little sunshine and just a little rain

Everyone cried discounting what they had
We just laughed knowing all the same

Life hit us on the head
We shall smile the same

This is my girl gang
Laughing louder in pain

Don’t dare to feel sorry for us
We don’t pity ourselves either

We know we can fall apart
But also fight to be back again

We don’t have time to waste
Born to aspire and achieve

You can win our kindness anytime
But it takes loyalty to earn our love

Stay and these girls might die for you
Walk away and we don’t care anymore.”

पानी-पूरी के कोरोना सफर की तलाश

कुछ एक आते-जाते लोगों के चेहरे पर लगे मास्क को अगर नज़रंदाज़ कर दिया जाए, तो इस पानी-पूरी की रेहड़ी पर शायद अब सब पहले-सा हो गया है। मेरा बेझिझक गोलगप्पे की पूरी प्लेट खाने के बाद भी खाली पापड़ी का मांगना या उस एक टिक्की की दरख्वास्त; जो गोलगप्पे वाले दीदी के साथ और अपने शहर के अपनेपन का अहसास कराती है।

मैं यूं तो अक्सर गोलगप्पों के लिए यहां आती हूं पर उस दिन एक ख़ास काम से आई थी। इस उम्मीद में कि गोलगप्पों के माध्यम से कोरोनाकाल में रेहड़ी-पटरी वालों के संघर्ष और उम्मीद की एक कहानी तलाश सकूं।

दिन के हाल-चाल के बाद और सारी बात बताने के बाद मैंने अपने सवालों का सिलसिला शुरू किया।

प्र० आपका कोरोना काल में अनुभव कैसा रहा?
उ० …” अच्छा तो नहीं था।”

प्र० आप लॉकडाउन में क्या करते थे?
उ० “सोचते रहते थे।”

उन्होंने जवाब तो दिया पर मुझे मिला नहीं। उनका कम शब्दों में दिया, शांत और लगभाग अनकहा जवाब मेरी समझ से कुछ परे था। लेकिन, फिर धीरे-धीरे उनका जवाब और उसके साथ आती चुपी मानो खुद ही खुद में उनकी बात बयां करने लगी।

मैं कुछ नए जवाब की उम्मीद में उन से पूछती, “आपको लॉकडाउन के वक्त कैसा लगा; लॉकडाउन में आपकी दिनचर्या क्या थी; इत्यादि?” मध्यम वर्ग और अधिक आय के अधिकतम लोगों के लिए लॉकडॉउन का शुरुआती दौर, कम से कम कुछ शुरुआती दिन, आराम भरे थे। पर शायद रोज़ पैसा कमा कर खाने वालों के लिए ये चिंता से कम कुछ भी नहीं था। कोरोनाकाल में प्रवासी मजदूरों की कहानियां तो बहुत सुनी और पढ़ी थीं, पर इस बात की अनुभूति उस शाम को हुई।

मेरे बार-बार पूछने पर, ग्राहकों के बर्गर बनाते हुए दीदी बेहद सादगी से कहती, “बस बैठे-बैठे सोचते रहते थे।… हां रामायण पूरा परिवार साथ देखता था। खबरें के सहारे कुछ वक्त निकल जाता था । सोचते रहते थे कि कब ये लॉकडाउन खुले पर फिर खबरों में लगातार बढ़ते कोरोना मामलों के बारे में सुन कर डर भी लगता था। घर भी नहीं जा सकते थे, जो जा रहे थे (~प्रवासी मज़दूरों के सामने आ रहे विडियो), उन्हें भी पुलिस वापिस भेज रही थी।”

बात आगे बढ़ाते हुए जब मैंने उनके बच्चों के बारे में पूछा, तो दीदी ने हंसते हुए जवाब दिया कि बाहर खेलने वाले बच्चों को पूरा दिन घर पर बैठना कैसे अच्छा लगता। इत्तेफ़ाक से बड़े बेटे की परीक्षाएं लॉकडाउन से कुछ दिन पहले ही खत्म हुई थी परंतु बेटी तो अभी पहली में हुई थी। यूं तो फोन पर आई वीडियो और रेहड़ी के पास वाली दुकान की मालकिन के माध्यम से वो कुछ कुछ पढ़ती रहती है परंतु पिछले 10 माह की ट्यूशन फीस कैसे भरेंगे, यह चिंता अब भी उन्हें सताती रहती है।

पर शायद जिंदगी अपने आप में एक विरोधाभास भी है। जहां एक ओर थी पैर पसार रही बेरोजगारी और लगातार लोगों में बढ़ रहा तनाव; दूसरी ही ओर इस निराशा के माहौल में कोरोना ने दुनिया को ऐसी कहानियां भी दी जो लोगों की हिम्मत और अब भी कहीं जिंदा इंसानियत की दास्तां बयां कर गई।

देशभर से आई सकारात्मक कहानियों की तरह, दीदी के अनुभव में भी इंसानियत की झलक, इन्हें उम्मीद और हौंसला देती रही। सरकार की तरफ से दो बार मिले लगभग 3-4 किलो राशन के इलावा, रेहड़ी के पास कपड़ों की दुकान करने वाले परिवार ने भी उनकी राशन देकर पूरी मदद की।

अनलॉक प्रक्रिया के दौरान पूरे 72 दिनों बाद खुली रेहड़ी पर कोरोनावायरस के डर के चलते कम ही लोग आते। किन्हीं दिनों में तो केवल ₹50 – ₹60 की बिक्री हुई। सुनसान सड़क ज़िंदगी की मायूसी का प्रतीक थी। लेकिन इस बीच कुछ ऐसे भी लोग थे, जो केवल इसलिए रेहड़ी पर आते ताकि इनका रोज़गार चलता रहे।

धीरे धीरे मसले कुछ हल होने लगे पर  “चार महीने का किराया” अब भी बाकी था। परिवार के लिए सबसे बड़ी राहत तब आई जब मकानमालिक ने लॉकडाउन का पूरा किराया माफ कर दिया। उस दिन को याद करते हुए आज भी दंपति के चेहरे पर आभार का भाव साफ छलकता है।

“हां! उस दिन लगा था अब भी लोगों में कुछ इंसानियत जिंदा है।”

आपदा को कोई बुलाना तो नहीं चाहता पर न जाने कब मुझे पर, आप पर या इस कोरोना के ढीठ मेहमान की तरह पूरी दुनिया पर आ बरपे। परंतु जब तक हम में एक दूसरे की मदद करने का हौंसला है तो जिंदगी में हर मुश्किल से लड़ने का हौंसला भी मुमकिन है।

A Girl who had my WhatsApp Back

I love meeting new people but am also a staunch believer, “Not everybody is your friend”. However, with two long years of college at hand and uncertainties of a global pandemic at play; you ought to make some new friends. But even as we begin to befriend online friendships, trust remained out of question for me.

“How do you trust people online?”

TBH, I don’t. She just naturally became a rare exception. And, since writing is the only one way I know of unapologetically expressing my affections and gratitude; here is a small dedication for the friend who finally made me feel at ease in the true sense.

To put things in slight perspective, I had joined the course, after an year of almost isolated environment (limited to my selected few friends and a couple of colleagues and PG co-habitants). Finding myself in a new group that too on my smartphone, unsurprisingly, would trigger the over-thinker.

Having been that annoying front bencher all my life, I had vowed to behave better this time. But, with all these dynamics in play, I didn’t really realise I had unconsciously begin over-compensating with a best version, that was too nice and naive to reflect my real self that also held many flaws and rough patches.

With all of my selected group of best friends in their new jobs, I felt lost as I found myself in a brand new dilemma, struck between my journalistic passion and UPSC aspirations.

So, yes it came as a breeze of fresh air when she generously offered to have my back and begin to understand bits of my case even before I had told. It might sound cheesy but she simply earned a special place in my heart when she went on to defend my case in the group in my absence and politely explained, how being too nice isn’t always too great and I needed to draw certain boundaries as well. I was genuinely overwhelmed with her genuine sense of care that day. In the large group of apparent friends and batchmates, I felt I had found one true friend I intended to keep as she showed that she was one person I could trust to point out my errors and flaws when the day might require.

Surekha – The girl who had my WhatsApp back

In the first week itself, from being one of the first individuals to initiate class conversations to also being the first person to complement my writings, her name was conveniently among the first few I remembered.

Then, one day as we jokingly talked about the perks of having many friends; this fellow specky did struck a chord as she ended up unintentionally hinting that she was among the ones to instead go for those few genuine ones.

She is one girl, I believe I have finally come to trust in the last one month. It might still be too premature to claim a lasting friendship. But, to her credit, she has definitely been a friend to constantly have my back in all these virtual days.

So, yes I don’t shy away from the fact that even when we get to our offline lives sometime and I, insha’Allah, manage to find my way to the studious chambers of our library; she is one of the people I hope to keep on my list of entrusted friends for a long time.

Befriending Online Friendships in the Times of Corona

Many had warmed up to the idea of Facebook friends several years back. Yet, there are also a few of us, who continue to find the entire idea of online friends, a little dicey. Our skins can instantly look flawless with the Insta and Snapchat filters and so can our personalities, behind the shield of chats and online conversations.

But, as Benet Wilson would have probably advised in the pandemic, “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.” With the backdrop of COVID-19, finally it was time for our tribe to get comfortable with the idea of befriending some online friendships.

SCS Welcomes It’s 2020 Pioneers

Our, Class of 2020 became the pioneers of online beginnings in the School of Communication Studies at Panjab University; as we got lucky to get our way into the department without the drill of entrance, GDs and interviews. Some came back from jobs to upgrade their résumé while others included the group of freshly wounded graduates, having recently tasted the bittersweet feeling of online farewells. What we all shared in common was the desire to get offline and probably meet each other in person.

Source: Internet

Being an year into the pandemic, we could hardly ride on the high hopes. With the awkwardness of online orientation and broken dreams of magnificent welcome, we slowly began to settle in. It almost felt like, we quietly fast forwarded our journeys from being mere classmates to a large bunch of friends; with the quite hopes to travel backwards with our offline arrival sometime.

Our classroom chatter largely stood limited to selective chats at the unofficial group before everybody slips back to their work, chores and blankets. Our shared memories largely dominated by the jokes cracked on WebEx and WhatsApp and teachers trying their best to make us feel at ease as we all continue to try to get a better sense of each other through our distant conversations.

But, as is the norm, the initial free breeze of our online first semester too has been hauled up with the students’ arch rivals called assignments and study mode is expected to take a front seat probably within a month. While many of us are betting our hopes on the second semester, uncertainty continues to remain our only probability.

But, in the process, we promise to keep up our promises of warmth and friendship, with or without our offline classrooms, as Promise Day 2021 passes us by….💞💞💞

PS – A Special Thank you to Dr. Bhavneet Ma’am for inspiring this series of heartfelt notes and celebrations of friendships.