Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Rumjhum's 8th Birthday

Rumjhum’s 8th Birthday

Image result for small girl birthday clipartRumjhum opened her eyes and looked at the calendar beside her bed. Her eyes twinkled. She was very excited. Tomorrow, 3rd October is her birthday. She will be 8 !

Rumjhum studies in class 2. She gets up everyday at 6 am. The schoolbus comes at 6.45 am and the assembly starts at 7.15 am. But today is 2nd October and her school is closed for Gandhi Jayanti. Rumjhum’s mother and father are also at home. Their offices are also closed today.

She quickly got up from the bed, brushed her teeth, combed her hair and went to the drawing room. Her parents were sitting on the sofa. She ran and sat on her father’s lap. Her mother was making a garland with the white flowers from the garden.

“Ma, why are you making this ? “ Rumjhum asked.

“Today is 2nd October – Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. I will put this garland on the picture of Bapu “, her mother pointed towards the framed picture of Gandhiji on the wall. “It is his 150th birthday, so it is special.”

“He is 150 years old ?” Rumjhum was amazed.

Her father kissed her on the cheek and said “Yes. If he was alive, he would have been 150 years old.”

“And I will be 8 years old tomorrow !” Rumjhum jumped with joy.

“Yes ! And we will have a birthday party in the evening when Rumjhum’s friends will come …” Her father smiled at her.

“And I will wear a new frock , cut a cake and play with my friends .” Rumjhum danced around the sofa in glee. Her father picked her up and made her sit beside him.

“You know Rumjhum, the whole country celebrates Gandhiji’s birthday every year. He is called Bapu – the father of our nation.”

“Baba, will my birthday also be celebrated by the whole country someday ?”

Her father looked at her mother. She said “Yes, why not ? But you will have to become like him.”

“How can I become like him ?”

“Well, to start with, you will have to always tell the truth.”

“Bapu never lied ? “

“Never. He said that truth and love always win.”

“Really Baba ? “ Rumjhum’s eyes were wide as she looked at her father.

“Yes. But it is very difficult. Gandhiji had to go to jail many times but even then he never let go of his values.”

“What is value Baba?” Rumjhum was puzzled.

“Values like Telling the truth, honesty and many other things”.

Rumjum was quiet for a moment.

“Did the police beat Gandhiji in the jail ?” Rumjhum asked.

“Yes. The British police tortured him but in the end, they had to release him from jail.”

Rumjhum got down from the sofa and went near Gandhiji’s photograph. She looked at his smiling face. Her mother had put the garland and it was looking so beautiful.

“Rumjhum, will you wear the white frill frock to school tomorrow?”, her mother asked.

“Yes Ma.”

“And here is your box of  chocolates.”

On their birthdays, the children were allowed to wear coloured dress to school instead of the school uniform. They distributed sweets in the class and to the teachers.

“In the evening, for the birthday party, you can wear the red skirt and the black top which your Grandmother has given you.”

“Hmm … Yes , Ma” Rumjhum had a strange expression on her face.

In the evening, Rumjhum called up Rina, her best friend. Rina’s mother picked up the phone.

“Yes Rumjhum, Rina will come to your birthday party tomorrow.  Now she is sleeping. She was not feeling well.”

Rumjhum knew why Rina was not feeling well. Rina was punished yesterday for breaking a flower pot kept in the corridor of their classroom. Rina cried so much.

“Miss, I did not break the pot. Really I did not”. She sobbed and cried.

In the school, their lunch break is from 12.30 pm to 1.20 pm. During that time, the children are not allowed to be inside the building. They have to be in the field or the lunch-shade. 

Yesterday, during lunch break, after Rumjhum and Rina finished their tiffin, Rina said “Oh ! Ma has given me sweets in another box. She has asked me to share it with you , and I forgot all about it. Let me quickly go to the classroom and bring the box. Then we will eat it.”

“But Rina, we are not allowed to go inside now. If someone sees us, we will be punished.” Rumjum was afraid.

“I will go and get it in 1 minute. You can stand her. If you see anyone coming, just clap your hands and warn me and I will hide.”

“Ok, but I am feeling nervous.”

Rumjhum stood there and Rina quickly ran towards her classroom.

Just after lunchtime, there was an announcement on the speakers.

“Children, the flower pot kept near class 2A has been broken by someone. Whoever has done that, come to the principal’s room immediately.”

After sometime, there was an announcement again. The principal spoke.

“This is really upsetting that no one has owned up. Miss Swaminathan has seen a girl running in the corridor during lunchtime. All the students will line up before Miss Swaminathan.”

Miss Swaminathan recognized Rina. “Yes, she was running away. The pot was broken at that time.”

Rina started crying.

“Miss, I came inside the class , but I did not break the pot.”

The Principal was angry. “Rina, the pot is not important, but what it is very wrong that you are lying ! Bring your diary. I will write a complaint to your parents. They should come and see me.” Rumjhum was scared.  Rina kept on crying. Even in the bus, Rina was crying.

While going to sleep, Rumjhum snuggled close to her mother.

“Rumjhum, are you alright?” , her mother asked her softly. “You want me to tell you a story ? “

Rumjhum put her face on the nape of her mother’s neck and shook her head. “No, I am feeling sleepy.”

When her mother patted her head and adjusted the rug, Rumjhum suddenly held her hand and whispered, “ Ma, where do people sleep in jail ?”

Her mother was surprised. “ They sleep on the floor, on a thin matress.”

“Do their mothers come and put them to sleep ?”

Her mother smiled and hugged Rumjhum.

“No. They have to sleep alone. Now go to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day for you … remember ?”

Rumjhum looked at her mother and slowly closed her eyes.

Next day morning, Rumjhum’s father and mother hugged her and sang happy birthday when she got up from sleep. She looked lovely in the white frilled frock. She put the box of chocolates in her bag and as she got into the  bus, she turned and waved.

“I think something is wrong” He mother told Runjhum’s father.  “Her eyes looked sad.”

“Hmm.. she will be alright in the evening when her friends are here for the party.”

In the school assembly, a small program on Gandhiji was arranged. Rumjhum had a beautiful voice. She was in the Choir team of the school. Rumjhum and the other choir members stood on the raised platform and sang the song “Vaishnav Jan to tene kahiye je … “, Gandhiji’s favourite song. Two girls from class 5 spoke about Bapu.

Rumjhum’s heart was beating fast. Her face was flushed. 

Just after the speech, she went to Miss Swaminathan , who was standing near the mike , and said “ Miss, I want to say something. Please give me permission. Please miss..”

Miss Swaminathan was very surprised. She nodded her head.

Rumjhum walked to the mike. Suddenly she was not feeling scared anymore. She looked at all the students standing in rows in front of her. Rina was also there.

Rumjhum held the mike and started speaking.

“Today, we are celebrating Bapu’s birthday. It was yesterday, on 2nd October. Today is my birthday. On my birthday, I have promised myself that I will always tell the truth – just like Bapu.”

Rumjhum paused and tool a deep breath. She looked at Miss Swaminathan.

“Miss, Rina did not break the pot. I broke it … “

There was pin drop silence.  

“Rina had gone inside to get her tiffin box. She had asked me to warn her by clapping. I saw Miss Swaminathan coming towards the corridor from the other end. I could  not clap because she would have heard me. I saw her go inside the wash room and I ran towards the classroom to call Rina. I lost my balance and hit the stand on which the pot was kept. It fell down and broke. I was scared. I ran away. Just then Rina came out and Miss Swaminathan saw her running …”

Tears rolled down Rumjhum’s cheeks.

“Miss, I broke the pot. I did not tell the truth when Rina was scolded. I am sorry for lying. Do not punish Rina. You can punish me . “

Rumjhum bent her head and sobbed.

“I am ready to go to jail … “ , she whispered.

No one spoke for a minute.

Then suddenly, Miss Swaminathan started clapping. 

Everybody clapped. Ms. Swaminathan and the Principal hugged Rumjhum. The Principal and Miss Swamninathan looked at each other and smiled.

“Rina, come on the stage “, Miss Swaminathan said.

Rina came and stood beside Rumjhum and held her hands.

“Rina, do you want to send Rumjhum to jail or will you forgive her ?”

Rina also started crying.

“Miss, Rumjhum is my best friend. I forgive her.”

The whole school cheered and clapped. 

The Principal held both the girls beside her and said “Children, these two girls are not just speaking but actually living the values of Bapu. Rumjhum has spoken the truth in front of the whole school ! That needs lots and lots of courage. And Rina, by forgiving her friend, has demonstrated what Bapu has said. He said  that the weak can never forgive. Only a strong and brave person can forgive.  Both these girls are very brave. I am very proud of them. I know you will grow up to be great human beings and make us proud ! And let us all wish a very happy birthday to Rumjhum.”

Everybody sang the Happy birthday song. Rumjhum’s eyes shone with happiness.

As she held Rina’s hand and went towards her classroom, she waved at Gandhiji’s photograph hung at the majestic landing of the wooden staircase.

“You were right Bapu. Telling the truth is difficult but once you know that you are doing the right thing, you don’t feel afraid anymore ! ”

Rumjhum will always remember her 8th birthday.

Image result for gandhi on truth quotes


1st October, 2019, Bungalow no. 14, Belvedere, Alipore, Kolkata

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

3 ways to handle Stress

Yesterday evening ,  during my customary call with my daughter, she sounded very low.  

"Ma, I am stressed ! Too much workload. So many expectations , the sheer volume of files is really burning me out ! "

She is a class 1 officer in  Indian Railways, posted in  Mumbai.  She is new to the place and trying to cope up with the driven work culture of Mumbai.  On top of that, her boss is going for a year long study leave and she apprehends that she might be put in charge of the entire department.  So, the current work and the fear of the unknown future had bogged her down. 

I tried to reason with her that stress is an inevitable part of life and sometimes stress can be good for you.  Too much stress is bad . When the situation is very stressful, it blocks your productivity and learning. It dampens your enthusiasm and initiative at work and has an adverse effect on health.  Too much stress, called distress or chronic stress, can bring on certain diseases and disorders, make existing pain and chronic illnesses worse, and lead to such problems as depression, isolation and burnout. 

To check whether you are stressed or not, ask yourself the following questions :

1. Are you feeling overwhelmed and helpless  - like there is nothing that you can do to resolve the situation ?

2. Do you feel hopeless ?

3. Do you want to hide or escape  from the stressors by external things like alcohol and food or isolating yourself from the world ?

If the answer is yes to these questions, that means you are deeply stressed and need help.  We all should be aware of ourselves and take the necessary action before the situation engulfs our lives. 

"But how do I manage the stress ? " she asked .

  • You  be feeling pressure because you are involved in three or more complex work projects at the moment, but at the same time, these work projects are providing you a lot of meaning and purpose. Rather than seeing them as stressors, view them as rewarding opportunities that you’d rather have in your life .
  • When  stress pressure is just too much. Your health is worsening. Your relationships are becoming more tense  In such situations, it can be helpful to select one of your many pressures and reduce it. After you zero in on one pressure, use your judgement and critical thinking to consider ways you can lighten its load.
  • When you consider taking on a new project ask yourself: Will this new project or new action help me or harm me? Of course such ideal situation rarely occurs – usually the situation is forced upon you.  But this question allows you to be fair and kind to yourself and to keep your pressures from growing out of control.

And of course , last but not at all the least, learn to say “No”.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Shapes in the clouds and Artificial Intelligence

Two weeks back, I had gone to Arunachal Pradesh to visit the famous Tawang monastery . It was a week long trip and involved a lot of travel through the numerous hills of the Himalayas. The roads were not very good, but we forgot about the wobbly ups and down as we looked through the window of our SUV. It was absolutely mesmerizing. Thick cover of huge green trees, streams of crystal clear water gurgling beside the winding mountain roads, yellow, red, orange blossoms all over and white clouds in the clear blue sky .  The mountain weather is treacherous.  It can be bright and sunny and the next moment,  black clouds or white mist can cover you up. 

During road trips, I always tend to indulge in cloud spotting.  I see faces, shapes of mountains, rivers, dinasaurs, penguins, horses,   or incidents from the past. Sometimes I explain these images to the people travelling with me and all of us amused and entertained . The scientific name is Pareidolia - which means the tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer. In fact, emoticons, which are the norm these days in social media is also a form of pareidolia. 

They say that it is a type of illusion of the brain. But somehow, I do find connections . Strange things do happen, even if we cannot explain it always . For example, in the late nineteen fifties, Friedrich Jorgensen, a Swedish opera singer bought a tape player to record his voice. When he played the recording, he heard strange noises- something like whispers that sounded like supernatural messages. After a few years, he recorded birdsong. This time, he heard the voice of his deceased mother in the background whispering to him: “Fried, my little Fried, can you hear me? It’s Mammy.” Later he did research on EVP ( Electronic Voice phenomenon) and spent his life communicating with the spirits.  One of the world's greatest scientist and inventor, Thomas Edison created a "ghost machine" to communicate with the dead! 

In 1994, Diane Duyser from Florida experience another paranormal encounter. After biting into a slice of toast and placing it back down on the plate, she noticed the face of the Virgin Mary in it.

In 1978, a woman from New Mexico had a similar experience. Her tortilla’s blackened spots resembled Jesus’s face. 

Many scientific minds profess that these illusions are the human brain seeking patterns and rules and if it cannot find a pattern , then it invents one so that we see the face of Virgin Mary on a toast or  a familiar face in the clouds. It is called "Clustering illusion" , where our brain try to recognize a pattern. 

But now with the buzz of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning all around us, are we not trying to do the same thing ? The basic principle pf machine learning and deep learning is that the machine is fed with loads and loads and loads of big data so that an algorithm can be evolved. This algorithm always looks for a pattern on which they can base their decision for the next course of action. If we are trying to mimic the human brain , then will the machines also be prone to these illusions ? In that case, what will the sceptics say ? Will they accept the logic and the reasoning of the machines more than those of the human beings ? 

Interesting times are ahead. We have to wait and watch .

Let me end this post with another uncanny and bizzare event which is very difficult to explain by human brain but maybe after a few years machines with Artificial Intelligence will be of some help.

James Dean was killed in a terrible car accident in September 1955 while driving his Porsche. After the accident, things started happening that couldn’t be explained and the car itself was declared extremely unlucky. When the car was being towed away from the accident, it was taken to a garage. While at the garage, the engine fell out of the car, crushing the legs of the mechanic working on the car. The engine was sold to a doctor who put it in his race car. The doctor was then killed in a race accident. The garage that the Porsche was repaired in ended up being destroyed by a fire. As if that wasn’t enough, the Porsche was on display at a museum. While on display, it fell off the mount and broke the hip of a teenager there to view the car. After this incident, the car was being towed to Oregon, where it fell off the tow bar and crashed through the front of the shop it was parked in front of. All of these things added up seem like a lot of terrible coincidences. But in 1959, the car was sitting on steel supports where it was found broken into 11 pieces !! 

Sunday, 19 May 2019

For Richa

For Richa


The stepping stone has been laid,
It is time to fly high,
Dream big, aim for the stars,
But never let go of the “Why”.

You will be hailed
Then You will be judged,
You will be watched
And you will be “typed”,
But girl , hold tight to your dreams
And stride ahead with a smile.

There is nothing which you cannot do,
Do not let anyone tell you so,
Go for it , grab the day –
But never let your humility go.

The road is long,
The walk is steep,
There are hurdles in the way ,
There are pauses in the sail.
There will be times when you would want to quit,
There will be tides which you would want to miss.
Girl, pause if you must –
But never ever lose your grit.

One day when you reach your aim,
As you smile and relish your fame,
Close your eyes for a moment and remember these days -
And girl, do not forget the smiles and the tears,
of the hands which moulded your years.

Go ahead girl and conquer the game,
Help the world be a better place.
Be a spark and light the lamps ,
Run and win –
But girl , also be a good human being .


Richa has stood 4th in India in ISC (12th), 2019 (99.3%)

Monday, 6 May 2019

Life Stories - Love

It was a usual busy day for Jenny.  She adjusted the nurses white cap  on her head  , looked at the chart in her hands and went to bed number 19  . 

"Hey , how are you ? " Jenny smiled at the petite lady on the bed.  The patient smiled weakly at her.  Her smile was angelic. 

"Hmmm ... today I am feeling a bit uneasy",  Ranu put her hands on the swollen belly.

Jenny looked at the pulse and softly touched the upper portion of Ranu's stomach Then she put on her stethoscope listened. She should inform the doctor, Jenny thought. Maybe today is the date. 

Ranu was 25 years old and it was her first pregnancy. She had been married 18 months back. Her husband Ashok worked in South Eastern Railway as a loco pilot. Ranu and her husband stayed in the staff quarters in the Garden Reach Railway Colony , Calcutta. Five days back , when Ranu experienced a sudden spasm in her lower abdomen, she was admitted in the Central Railway Hospital in Garden Reach. 

Jenny was the ward nurse for the female ward. She was intelligent, competent, smart and possessed a great presence of mind - the key qualities of a good nurse. 

Jenny quickly contacted Dr. Burman and updated him about Ranu. 

"I will come immediately, in the meantime, please inform his family" , the doctor said . 

Jenny paced her way to bed number 19 and looked at Ranu. Ranu was trying to sit. Jenny smiled and helped her sit. 

"Is everything OK ? " 
"The doctor is coming in a few minutes", Jenny smiled brightly and held Ranu's hands , "You might become a mother soon !"

Ranu paled.

"I ... I .. want to talk to my husband ... ", she looked pleadingly at Jenny. 

"I have already informed your husband ... he will be here soon .. ", Jenny assured her. 

The doctor  checked Ranu and looked at Jenny .  "You were right sister she has to be operated tomorrow morning . Do the formalities  and get her ready for the  c-section . "

Jenny nodded.  " Right Doctor, will do !" 

Jenny looked at Ranu, who looked listless. 

"Don't you worry . You are in expert hands !"  Jenny smiled, "Your husband will be here at 7 pm . And you will be operated tomorrow at 8 am. he has to to sign a few documents - just formality In the meantime, please remove any ornaments that you have on you - the earrings, the ring, the bangles any foreign article that you are wearing. We will hand over these to your husband"

"Ok .."

Jenny looked at the checklist . The points listed there were almost imprinted in her memory, but the process demanded that the checklist should be completed. 

She put tick marks on the checklist. 

"Are you wearing contact lenses? "


Jenny checked off the point .

"Do you have dentures ? " Jenny did not look at Ranu as she was sure of her answer. Ranu was just 25 years old and Jenny was sure that dentures would be the last thing that she would have. 


Jenny looked up. Ranu was fidgeting with her fingers. 

"Yes or No ? "

Ranu looked down . Tears spilled from her eyes. 

"Hey, what's wrong ? " Jenny sat beside her . "Are you OK ? "

Ranu nodded her head and looked at Jenny . She slowly opened her mouth and pulled out her dentures. The two front upper teeth and the two below. 

Jenny was a bit shocked but being an experienced nurse, she was quick to gain back her composure. 

"Why are you crying ? "

Between her sobs, Ranu told Jenny that her husband and no one in her in laws family knew that she wore dentures. 

In between her sobs Ranu said "Please , please , please sister, do not tell Ashok about my dentures.  My marriage will be ruined... " .

Jenny did not know what to say . As a rule, she would have to hand over the things to her family . 

Jenny gave a tranquilizer to Ranu and waited till she slept. 

Jenny was in a fix. She was in a dilemma.  She packed the dentures separately in a box. The rest of the things she kept in another bag.  She decided that she would give the dentures separately to Ranu's parents. Poor little thing . She was really sweet. God know how she lost those teeth, Ranu grimaced. 

Ashok came that evening at 8 pm. He met Ranu,but neither she talked with him nor smiled, just nodded her head. Jenny knew the reason. 

"The patient has been given some sedative as she was feeling a bit nervous ", Jenny told Ashok , "I think you should leave now. Please wait for 5 minutes outside, I will talk to you". 

As Jenny left, Ranu held her hands, her eyes pleading. 

Ashok was standing in the corridor, waiting for Jenny.  A nervous first-time-father-to-be. 

"Is everything OK, sister ? " 

"Yes ... er... I have to handover the articles to you ... her jewelry, watch etc ... By the way, are her parents expected to come tomorrow before the operation ? "
"No.. They stay in Bombay and her father is not too well. They will come later, after the delivery .. "

Jenny had no other choice. 

She took out the two packets and gave it to Ashok, along with the list of articles. 

Ashok looked incredulously at the dentures .

"What is this ? Ranu wears these ??? " He was aghast. 

"Sir, she had requested me not to tell you about these ... but ... I am bound ... "

Ashok was quiet for almost 5 minutes.

Then he slowly looked at Jenny . 

"Sister, will you please do me a favour ? "

"What ?" , Jenny was a bit wary. 

"Please do not tell her that you have given these to me and that I know about these dentures ... tell her that you had kept it with you and give it to her to wear after her delivery "

Jenny was genuinely surprised . 

"Why ? "

"Ranu will be very embarrassed if she knows that I know... " said Ashok , "Let this remain between you and me ... please sister ... ", he handed over the packet to Jenny and walked away .

Jenny looked at him with misty eyes. 

She walked towards her cupboard and kept the dentures carefully.  

These were the moments which made her fall in love with her job all over again.


These are true life incidents recounted by a nurse in one of my motivational workshops.  The names have been changed for anonymity.