Punctuate Life

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Rice and Ice in Bowls and Buckets

A week ago a friend challenged me to the ALS ice bucket challenge. I had already heard about it given that celebrities like Oprah, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates had taken it up. One reason why I didn’t want to do it was obvious and the others not so obvious (even to me).

The obvious reason – I hate being cold. I’m the one that prayed and visualized being in a warm place, which finally resulted in us moving from freezing Boston to balmy Florida. So the idea of dumping a bucket of ice on myself did not appeal to me at all. But my kids were very tickled by the idea and even called up their Dad at work so he could pick up a bag of ice on his way to freeze Mom! Of course they forgot all about it by the time Dad came home. By then the ALS had amassed $23 million which I thought was enough. Why not donate funds to scientists working on the Ebola vaccine so it can be made available this year instead of in 2015? So many more lives could be saved right? But then who cares about Africa. Who cares about saving water. Who cares that some villages in Africa don’t have clean drinking water. Who cares about water shortage in cities in India. Who cares about drought in California. Thankfully a few people including me do!

Roll back to when I was ten years old living in the city of Chennai. If you drive around the slums you’d see a long line of women waiting with plastic pots or ‘kodums’ to pump water. They have no plumbing and no running water in their humble hutments and have to queue up at dawn to fill their pots with water for cooking and bathing. We lived in a rented house on the 2nd floor while our landlords lived on the 1st floor. We had plumbing and running water for many years and then suddenly our landlord decided to shut off our water. We had to go down to the backyard, pump water and carry it up two flights of stairs. Images of my mom’s kitchen with every available pot and pan (even the grinder)  filled with water comes to my mind. I was too small to carry a full bucket of water so I carried half a bucket to help. This went on for sometime and then my parents got tired of it, bought their own apartment and we moved.

Being denied such a basic need has scarred us forever. I still turn off the water while brushing. I never throw clean water that has been sitting around and use it to water my plants or wash dishes. Even water from our fish tank was never flushed down the toilet. My mother still waters her plants with dish water from her kitchen sink. Her kitchen faucet was dripping at one point and she kept a bucket under it to collect the water.

So seeing this mass movement of dumping ice made me very uncomfortable. I’m not a celebrity but I’m extremely suspicious of celebrities.  They (most of them) continue to spend lavishly on homes, clothes and even manicures encrusted with black diamonds, while people starve, lose their homes and die. This whole ALS challenge smacked so strongly of celebrities that I had to abandon it.

I’m not a social worker but living in the U.S. has opened my eyes to the kindness of ordinary people. People like you and me with modest resources. Volunteering and charity work is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. So when a friend in India was telling me about how people would rather throw away food than feed their maids, I was appalled. It was not like India at all. Feeding the poor was touted as a very meritorious act by almost every religion and said to bestow innumerable blessings on anyone who practiced it.

I suggested a food drive like the ones they do in the U.S. Food drives happen in schools, social groups and even the postal service allots a day when you can put non-perishable food in your mailbox to be donated to a local food bank. So I told my friend to start small. Involve just her colleagues and then slowly spread the word around and encourage others to conduct food drives in their communities. My friend was very excited about it but I guess her excitement was squashed by others. I can just picture them shrugging their shoulders and saying – What difference will it make?

So when the rice bucket challenge got media attention I was thrilled. Saving water and feeding the poor in India appealed to me and several others who took it up with gusto. It is even simpler than a food drive. It just involves one individual taking rice from their pantry and donating it to someone needy in their neighborhood. The celebrities in India have not caught the rice bucket fever yet but everyday folks are doing their bit.

I’m not saying donating to ALS or raising awareness about it is not a worthy cause. But doing it by wasting precious resources is not called for. Be a celebrity in your own right – not by mimicking the ones that pass off as celebrities by being blatantly insensitive and shamelessly narcissistic.

Donate rice to the needy or money to the ALS or some other worthy cause and you will instantly be a celebrity to me!


Why You Chose to Die…


I’m sorry you chose to die,

So did I.


Carelessly you threw away,

Everything I struggle to be today.

The money and the fame,

Did nothing for you.

So why should I continue,

Down that path.


I’ve been there before,

That dark and desolate place,

Where the evil mind lurks,

Spewing out venom and lies.

The promise of a better life,

If you skip the years,

And choose to die.


Nobody cares – taunts that familiar voice,

Getting louder every day.

As the pain explodes yet again,

In your beleaguered body.

But what about her – you ask,

Your eyes darting to the picture frame beside you.

Nobody cares. Nobody. Not even her – comes the callous reply.

And then an even bitter lie –

She is better off without you.


That must have been the final blow,

That severed the last thread of resolve,

That ounce of will that you should live.

The battle was lost,

The tears were long gone.

Tomorrow it will be all over the news,

A wave of sadness passing over the globe.

And yet it would pass,

And one day you’d be as dead as you are now.


I’m sorry you chose to die,

So did I.

But while you crossed to the other side,

I’m stuck inside.

While you chose to run away,

I had to be brave and smile.

Everything you threw away,

I struggle to be today.


I’m sorry you chose to die,

So did I.

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100th Post – A Time For Celebration and Gratitude

A few weeks ago as I was writing the 93rd post, it hit me that sometime soon I would be writing and posting my 100th post. I wasn’t really counting my posts until then so it came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not the fact that 100 naturally follows 98 and 99 but the fact that I had actually written that many posts. Underneath all my keep-it-positive and the-glass-is-half-full attitude is a pessimist. When I started blogging I was pretty sure I’d run out of ideas one day, lose my enthusiasm, go into clinical depression or find a job that left me no time for blogging. And I was true.

There were times when I couldn’t milk one idea out of my grey cells, I almost stopped blogging, I wrote mediocre blogs, I found a job and got really busy and I was mildly depressed for most of last year! But what I never imagined was that through all the vagaries of life my blog would be the constant. It was the one thing I refused to give up. But let me not mislead you into thinking that I did it alone. No! I owe it to each and every one of you reading this. You were my safety net, every time I fell you urged me to get up, to write, to believe in something bigger than myself. When things were not so rosy, your kind words, your encouragement, even your silent anticipation egged me on. You are not a bunch of sycophants but a very smart and discerning group of readers. You did not mince words when you mailed me about posts that had clashing tenses or when you told me that my lack of enthusiasm was seeping into my posts.

So for my 100th post a hundred and one thanks to each and everyone who read, commented, promoted, shared and reposted my blogs. As you know my blogs are published on the Unboxed Writers website now and then. Sometime this year the founder of Unboxed Writers became the features editor of The New Indian Express. The very newspaper company where I did my internship one summer while pursuing my Masters in Communication. She published some of my blogs in the Indian Express. It was the sweetest taste of success to me as a writer. As a young student I dreamed of being published in that very same newspaper. So thank you R for making my dream come true.

Now for some interesting facts about my blog. The first post I ever published was a note on Facebook. It was called “Experimenting with Miracles”. I went on to publish several other notes before I actually started the punctuate life blog.

Blog with the most comments: 22 comments on two blogs – “Living Fearlessly” and “Yo-yo Feminism and the Unsung Glories of a Die-hard Housewife”.

Most controversial blog: “Can We All Get Along?”  My reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict.

Blog for a contest: “Children of a Lesser God?” for the Indus Ladies International Women’s Day Contest.

First guest blog: “My First Volunteering Event at Dream a Dream (by Dinesh Damodaran)”

Number of subscribers: 34

Number of likes on the Punctuate Life Facebook page: 46

I’ll leave you with a quote by Anna Deavere Smith – “Remember your gift. Be grateful for your gift and treat it like a gift. Cherish it, take care of it and pass it on. ” My blog and all of you are my gifts and I cherish you.

Thank you for being part of my blog and my life. Here is to another 1oo blogs that remind you to Pause, Breathe and Relax because we are all in this together and we are all going to thrive. Infinite love and gratitude to you all.