A Bird Story

I love telling stories to Sara. One of her favorite time to listen to stories is while she is in the car with me. This evening, when there was a small errand to be carried out, she insisted me to tell her a story.  This is the story that I belted out.

There was a small boy who was very truthful. Whatever he said, he used to do that. He always kept his word. The small boy used to get up early every morning. Then, he used to go to the balcony. In the morning, the air would be cold. There would be lot of birds in the balcony. There would be parrots, parakeets, pigeons, sparrows, dove, koel, myna, barbet, kingfisher and many other birds. He used to feed them every day. One day, a very big peacock came to their balcony. The peacock told him in a human voice - I am hungry, please give me something to eat. The boy was very surprised. How could a peacock speak in a human voice? He asked the peacock How can you speak like a human?

Then the peacock told a story. The peacock said,

Long long ago, I used be live in a King's palace. The king was very fond of birds. He had various types of birds. There were parrots, parakeets, pigeons, sparrows, dove, koel, myna, barbet, kingfisher and many other birds. The king kept all the birds in a cage. The birds were not happy to be in the cage. They never sang any songs or played any games. They were always silent.

One day, dark clouds gathered around the palace. There was loud sound of thunder and big lightening. It started to rain. It rained heavily. It rained so heavily that there was water all around. Slowly, with more rain, the water started rising and flood came. The flood water entered the palace. The king was very afraid. He started running here and there. He asked for help. Help me, please help me..”. But no one knew how to stop the rain.

All of a sudden, an old man with a long white beard appeared. He told the King, I will stop the rain and will save your palace from being flooded. But you have to make me a promise. You have to release all the birds. You should not keep them in the cage. The king readily agreed. The old man then took out some magic dust from his pocket, said "Aabra ka dabra...Aabra ka dabra... and threw the magic dust on the water. Immediately, the rain stopped and the flood water started flowing out. The king was very happy. He kept his promise and released all the birds one by one. All the birds sang their favorite song and flew out happily. But I, the peacock did not fly. I kept sitting there inside the cage.

The king was surprised. All the birds flew out happily but why is the peacock not flying away. He asked the old man for help. The old man then took out some magic dust from his pocket, said Aabra ka dabra...Aabra ka dabra... and threw the magic dust on me. Immediately I was able to speak in a human voice.

That is how I am able to speak in a human voice... 

The small boy asked the peacock, so what did you tell the king?
The peacock continued...

My dear king, 200 years ago, when I was a small baby, my family used to live in a big forest. There were tall trees with green leaves. There were many flowers, fruits and berries in the forest and we used to live very happily. My father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle friends everyone lived nearby.  One day, a bird monster came to the forest. He was a big monster with a blue body and red eyes. He had white hairs all over his body and had large arms and legs. He was always hungry. He used to eat birds for breakfast, birds for lunch and birds for dinner. So, he started eating all the birds in the forest one by one. First he ate all the sparrows, then he ate all the parrots and then all the mynas. Then his eyes were on the peacock.

He came to the tree where we lived and started attacking us. I ran away from there. While running, I fell into a creek. The bird-monster ate all other peacocks but it could not find me. Later in the night, I came out of the creek and I have been going here and there all the places hiding from the bird-monster. Finally, I was caught by a hunter and the bird-monster could not catch me. The hunter sold me to you, o king, and that is how, I came to the palace. I am very safe in the palace and I do not want to go out. If I go out the monster will kill me. Please allow me to stay here.

The king was a very nice man. He said, Peacock - you live in my place without any fear. I will protect you.” That is how I stayed in the palace....

The small boy asked, “Then, how come you are out of the palace now? Is the bird-monster not attacking you?” The peacock told another story: 

One day, when I was playing in the park near the palace, the bird-monster saw me. He came running towards me. As he came the wind blew heavily with the dust and sand was blown everywhere. It made a terrifying noise. I was afraid. I started running towards the palace, shouting; “King O King, please save me from the bird-monster”. Hearing my words, the king came rushing out with his sword. He fought with the bird-monster. The fighting continued day and night, non-stop. They did not eat anything or drink anything. They just kept fighting. They were equally matched. Neither the king could defeat the bird-monster, nor could the bird-monster defeat the king. After 21 days of fighting, the monster became very weak. He could not lift his sword anymore. The king saw this as a chance. He lifted his sword high and tore the belly of the bird-monster. The bird-monster gave a terrifying scream and died.

I came out of the palace, thanked the king very much as he had kept his word. Then I flew away. From that day, I am flying from one place to another in search of persons who keep their word. That is how I came to your place. I know you are a very good boy who keeps his promises. That is why I have come to you....

The small boy gave the peacock some food to eat and asked, “Tell me what do you want from me?” The peacock said, “I want you to promise me that you will look after all the birds and animals and will not hurt them ever. The little boy promised that he would. The peacock gave the little boy one of his feather as a gift and flew away happily.

Papa Sun & Mama Sun

Perched in the front seat of the car, Sara was blabbering: "The sun is so nice. The sun is my friend. He is hiding behind the clouds. Clouds are white in color. Sun is yellow. Why is the Sun alone in the sky, Papa?  Where are Papa Sun and Mama Sun?"

Pre-occupied in my own train of thoughts, I said nonchalantly, "They are not there"

With a tinge of concern in her voice, she asked, "Papa, Why they are not there? Where have they gone?"

Without paying much attention, I replied, "They are just not there".

She looked at me, knitted her eyebrows and with her tiny hands she tried to turn my face towards her and with a chocking voice said, “Papa, papa...”

I realized, I had just shattered her world view. She lives is a world where it is a trio of everything. There is always a papa, a mama and a baby. If a pigeon or a sparrow hops on to the balcony, she will ask me where is the papa and the mama. If a pair of them is there, then she will ask where the baby is. If I draw a butterfly, she will ask me if that is the papa or the mama. If I say, it is a papa, and then she will ask me to draw a mama and then a baby butterfly. If I tell her a story of a baby tiger, she will ask where the papa and the mama tiger are. Her world is complete only if the 3 of them are there together. Anyone missing is just not done.

So, I said, "The papa and mama suns are there. But they are living far far away. They come only when baby sun calls for them."

Then her universe was at peace.

Friends, knowingly or unknowingly, everyone has their own world view. As per Wikipedia, a world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

Have you ever thought how your world view shapes your thinking and communication? Have you ever been cognizant of other's world view? Have you wondered how your world-view is shaped and changed based on new knowledge and new perspectives? Let me know.

Save The Symmetry - CC#2

It was a hot summer night. The rumble of the diesel engine penetrated into the darkness. The passengers in the jeep were all silent.  If you were travelling with them, up ahead in the distance you could see the flickering fire line on the hills. You could smell the burnt wood and the smoke and feel the rustle on the warm air against your face. As the jeep took a U-turn, there was a quick movement on the road.  For a fleeting second or two, two burning eyes flashed across. Sensing danger, the driver slammed the brake and the vehicle came to a halt. There, in the middle of the road, standing in full glory, was a majestic, fully grown, Royal Bengal Tiger.

Now, the above were the words of my grandfather. I was fortunate to hear many such tiger tales. Yes, tigers are majestic animals. They are revered & respected, awed & admired and loved & loathed at the same time. They feature prominently in our mythology, folklore, movies and literature.

However, since the time of my grandfather, lot of water has flown under the bridge. Lots of forests have been cut down. Lots of tigers have been killed. The tiger is now reduced to pixels flashing on the screen. We see them only on the National Geographic or on forwarded face book posts.

Today, the reality of tigers is quite sad.

The global population of wild tigers at the start of the 20th century was more than 100,000. Today, it is less than 4000.  There are only 1500 adult tigers in the wild in India. World over, there were 9 existing sub-species of tigers at the beginning of 20th century.  But, over the last 50 years, 3 tiger sub-species have become extinct. The major cause of decimation of tigers is habitat destruction and poaching.  The situation is alarming. If we do not act now, very soon there will not be a single tiger left in the wild.

You may be wondering how it matters to you if the tiger continues to live or gets extinct. Let me remind you that the tiger is our national animal. It is our pride. This by itself is reason enough for us to save the tiger. But there is a scientific reason too. With tigers getting extinct, the populations of prey species would drastically increase. They would then ravage the jungles. End of jungles would mean the end of the biggest suppliers of oxygen and a significant drop in rainfall. As per ecologists a tiger is an umbrella species. By saving them, we rescue every species under their ecological umbrella. The presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem. Its extinction is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter; Break down of the eco-system would threaten our own existence.

You may be thinking what can I do here? Well each of us has a role to play. Please lend a hand for tiger conservation. You can influence those people that are a part of your lives. Educate them about this issue. Get them involved. Further, you can help financially to causes such as Project Tiger. You can help the cause in any way you can. It can be as small as liking their face book page or subscribing to the feeds on tiger conservation efforts and increasing the awareness.

My grandfather had a huge collection of books. Whenever I went to our village, I would rummage through the book shelves. A particular poem in an old dog-eared book of poetry had caught my attention.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright - In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye   - could frame thy fearful symmetry

Poet William Blake in those famous lines asked the tiger whose immortal hands created it. I do not know if the tiger could answer that back; but today if someone asks whose hand is responsible for the death of tigers, we all know it is ours – the humans. A stitch in time saves nine. The same hand can save the tiger as well. Let us join our hands and with our collective effort, try to save the tiger. Let us save the beautiful symmetry. 

The Road Not Travelled

My first love for books and stories started may be when I was 2 or 3 when my mother used to read me stories from Odia magazines - Manapabana and Shishu Raija.  Apparently, I used to memorize those stories and pretended to read them aloud while holding the magazine upside down. Slowly Janhamamu became a regular feature at our house.  Then came those hard bound Russian books for children that were available in India in late 70s early 80s. When I started reading myself, I discovered the joys of Chandamama and later, Champak, Tinkle and Target. At the same time I was introduced to the world inhabited by the superheroes of our time - My favorites were Phantom - The Ghost who walks (Indrajal comics) , followed by Superman (Dalton Comics) , Robin and the elusive Batman and Spiderman. Batman and Spiderman comics were not in much supply. Then there were Indian superheroes like Bahadur and Chacha Chowdhury. Moving on I devoured the Famous Five and Nancy Drew series and before I knew it, I was hooked on to proper books.  Our very own Ruskin Bond had a prime place. Later it was the Russians like Turgenev and Dostoevsky and Indian stalwarts like Mulk Raj Anand and RK Narayan that kept me awake at night.

Apart from novels and storybooks, when I was in school, I also loved poems. I enjoyed reading them; memorized them by heart and cherished them. I also liked writing - short stories, small articles on general interest, and even tried my hand at poems. I wanted to study Literature. I wanted to become a writer, a poet, an author. But I knew there was no job for a poet. There were many authors walking around with a jhola.  In my small circle of friends, no one really appreciated a poet. No one appreciated reading literature. No one appreciated the finer facets in life. Maths was considered macho and Science was supposed to be super cool. Arts was for the duds who could not stand up to the fury of science.

But my choice between Arts and Science was not based on those idiotic opinions. It was a pragmatic decision. If I studied Arts and pursued my passion, I felt it would be a lot tough to earn a living. So, when the time arrived to take a decision, I ditched my passion. I took up science after 10th. I just took the easy way out. In India in the early 90s, when the windows of liberalization were opening up, my outlook was limited to just 2 career choices for any science student pursuing +2.  Those were: Either Medical or Engineering. And, there were just 3 medical colleges in my state and 5 engineering colleges. You had to crack the Joint Entrance Exam to get through either. It was not like how it is now, that everyone who appears the exam gets a rank and can take admission in one of the hundreds of engineering colleges in each state. Back then, cracking the entrance was a make or break turning point in life for most of us. There again, competition for Medical was even tougher than that for engineering. Getting into Medical college was real difficult. So, I made my choice. I choose the path of least resistance and took the easy way out. I went for Engineering, the easier between the 2 difficult choices.

Have you ever thought why you choose what you chose? What were the considerations and how has life been different because of those choices? Though life has not been bad because of the choices that I made, I sometimes wonder how life would have been if I would have taken the road less traveled. What struggles would I have faced and how I would have been molded because of them. I am sure, even after 25 years, most of the things remains the same. Most of us just take the easy way out. We do not go after what really interests us. We just go with the herd mentality and do what others do. Going after passion is difficult. Going after passion is the hard way. Going after passion is fulfilling. But foregoing our passions and taking the easy way out is what most of us do, inadvertently. And that becomes the road not traveled. Given a choice, where would you go?

Elan Toastmasters Meeting # 152

Meeting # 152: Elan Toastmasters was special in many ways. The meeting was a heady cocktail of masterful emceeing, sterling speeches and dazzling evaluations.
SAA TM Braja opened the meeting and President TM Sudha welcomed the guests. Then, DTM Alfred, the Toastmaster of the day, had the ball rolling with the theme as Football World cup. We were treated to interesting tidbits about football, how a football team can be compared with a toastmaster club and how important team work is in both cases.
Then TM Manish spoke about the 10 heads - The five that criticize him and the 5 that enthuse him in all his endeavors. Vocal variety was at its best display. Each of the heads was represented by a character that spoke in its own style. I would say, TM Manish really hit the nail in the head by telling us that we should silence all our critics and just get it done.
The TM Padma told a priceless story about a salesman. He completely engaged the audience by painting a picture of the scene and with the right mix of emotions, gestures and flawless delivery, he mesmerized us. We understood what the basic ingredients are to become a successful sales man.
We then had some interesting games organized by Alfred which was quite innovative and had the audience rolling on the floor laughing.
This was followed with a good table topics session led by TM Pranay.
The evaluation were as superb as the speeches. Both the evaluators TM Naqi and TM Shashank were spot on with their analysis and provided specific and helpful suggestions. Thanks to the GE TM Vijay and all other role players TM Sharath, TM Sreekanth, TM Braja, TM Aravind and TM Veera for taking up the roles.
We also witnessed a change of guard, wherein the ex President conducted the installation ceremony for the new EC.The new president TM Sudha gave the presidential address and all members took oath to serve and support the club and its members.
This meeting was unique in at least 3 ways:

  • This was a meeting where in one TM won 3 ribbons. TM Naqi won the Best Table Topics Speaker, Best Evaluator and Best Listener award.
  • In this meeting there were 4 speakers who did not have a single filler word: TM Naqi, TM Manish, TM Padma and TM Sudha.
  • The meeting CLOSED with Samosa and colddrinks!
 Hope you all enjoyed this. 

My Life - CC#1

This was my first speech in my Toastmasters club. It is the ice breaker speech where I try to introduce myself to the audience and discover my speaking skills.


There is something soothing about the monsoon. Scorched by the summer heat, everyone looks forward to the cool monsoon breeze. The monsoon brings with it the promise of joy, life and hope to all.

38 monsoons ago, I was born at a place called Cuttack in Odisha. I was welcomed by my grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and elder sister just as early monsoon rain is welcomed by all.

My father was in a transferrable job. After a few years at Cuttack, he was transferred and we moved along with him. I stayed in various towns where he was posted. Due to the frequent moves, I had to adapt to new friends, new schools, and new setting every couple of years.

My mother was and still is a loving, but strict disciplinarian. So, life was quite regulated.  I got up every morning, had breakfast, went to school -It was routine like clockwork. But after school hours were quite interesting. When the clock struck 4, a strange feeling used to come over me. Friends would be on their way to the play ground. While going, they would call me to come out. And I could not resist that. It was like a calling from the wild. We played whatever was the flavor of the season – football, cricket or hockey. We played till our legs could no longer carry us, or we could no longer run see the ball, or somebody was badly injured and bruised. Most of the evenings, some elder from the one of the house would come looking for us and herd us back to our homes. Back at home, I had to study for 2 hours in the night. Then it was dinner time. I used to be totally exhausted by then. Legs used to pain almost daily and it was a struggle to keep the eyes open. That was the daily life! But, life was fun!

I came to Bhubaneswar to attend college. It was the 90s. India was getting liberalized. There were host of new cars, bikes, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, music systems and a wave of consumer products sweeping Indian middle class families.  The atmosphere was also politically charged. Agitation against the Mandal commission was in full swing.  That was the time for dreams. I sometimes dreamt about becoming an industrialist. Some other time I dreamt about becoming an activist – an idealist who would save the world! Life was a dream!

By the time I completed my studies, the dreams were shortchanged with the hard truth of reality. I had to take up a job. I joined Polaris software at Chennai. With that I became financially independent.  I was learning new things, going to new places and meeting new people. But, there was absolutely no routine in life. No regular time to go to sleep, no fixed time for food. Life was a chaos! But I was enjoying it.

To mitigate my lifestyle, my parents got me married to Priyanka. It brought in some stability to life. 3 years ago, my daughter Sharanya was born. That was a life changing event for me. For the first time in my life, I felt really responsible. I realized that life is a gift and it needs to be taken care of. I actually sat and wrote down the priorities in my life. I set up goals and objectives around it. And now, I am working towards that.

So, this is my life. I see it as a work in progress. My life has been happy, regulated, fun, chaotic and stable. But it is never always the same. It keeps changing like the seasons in the year. In spite of all changes, I want to be like monsoon. Just like the monsoon which quenches the thirst of the parched earth, I would like to bring - joy, life and hope to all. 


So, this is real original stuff. Cartoons. Tried my hands at designing these. These too were part of the PR campaign for our Club. I think they came out pretty well. Tell me what do you think. They are in a series with a story line. Check them out in sequence.

Well after doing all these PR campaign, I got very good feedback. Many people commended me for the hardwork and creativity. But there were some who were spiteful as well. There were people who said, I did more publicity for myself than I did for the Club. But I took it in my stride. It is said, you know you are on the right track only when some people are against you :) 


Well, SNOS ? 
SNOS = Some New and Original Stuff. 

Here are some of the posters that I designed for the Keynote speaker, Deepak Justin, who spoke on "Speak like a Rockstar".  They were released in Facebook, one after the other, in sequence on alternate days.

These  posters do not introduce the speaker in an academic way, but portrays the speaker as rockstar with the related elements of music,metal, fire and graffiti. The first two posters just mentions that there is a star attraction in Elan's 150th meet and that rockstar will be there. It does not reveal the name though enough clue is given as to who it is. The last poster reveals the name of the speaker. 

Created for Elan's 150th Meet
Rockstar Poster 1

Created for Elan's 150th Meet
Rockstar Poster 2

Created for Elan's 150th Meet
Rockstar Poster 3
Again, these were created using www.postermywall.com.
Do let me know how do you like these?

Some New and Original Stuff

So, Its been a long time that I have posted anything here. Infact I am guilty of not posting in my blog for quite some time now. Mea Culpa. Though I am not going to promise that I will be regular, here are some of the things that I tried recently. 

As a member of the Elan Toastmasters Hyderabad, I was busy doing the PR activities for our 150th meeting and 5th anniversary celebrations. I tried my hands at making a few posters to publicize the event, that were posted in Facebook. Here they go again. 

These were created using a online tool at www.postermywall.com . It is a fabulous site that helps you create posters online. You can also download them for free or purchase a print quality poster from them. Since I was operating on zero budget, this site came really handy. For me, it was the first time that I was trying anything creative. I do not have any background or training in creative arts. So, tell me what do you think of these.