Thursday, August 5, 2021

I like big books!

 I like big books and I cannot lie...

Reading big fat books that run into 800-1000 pages is second to none! It's like a saga that runs into several episodes! It's settling down for the long haul - to witness the entire lifetimes of characters, living through their ups and downs! Rejoicing in their happiness and agonising over their sorrows! You root for some of them and share the author's hatred for the others. 

It's like snuggling into a different world and living amidst people of imagination. It could be a war world, a romantic world, a world where thrillers are taking place. Long books offer us their world for long enough to feel like we are a part of it. There have been times when I finished a book and felt like I returned to the rude, real world - and there wasn't anymore left to go back to.

And the one reason that long, written sagas pull us in is the writing! The prowess of the writer has the power to create a world so vivid and lucid that we can imagine it, we live in it. We weep and smile at the scenes conjured in our mind by the might of the writer's pen! We can't wait to get till the end as the suspense builds. We want to see the good rewarded and the bad punished. 

And as readers even our intelligence is at stake. Giving up at the length of the book or the kind of writing says something about me as a reader too. 

I mean I read Catch-22 because it is deemed one of the greatest books to read - on every reading list ever! I get the satire of war and the deliberate length of the book to cover it from different angles - but still it kinda got too long and slow. I still finished it because it's one of the best books of all times! 

Stream of consciousness, for instance, as a genre is like the author's imagination to ours. Mrs. Dalloway is a whole book with her standing at a street corner and looking back at her life. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the same names coming up again and again. And still, as readers, we find that riveting and love the challenge of keeping up. 

Writing reams and reams of pages, putting one word after the other is a coveted feat in itself. And to make it so riveting that people get to the end of those 500 pages is an accomplishment as a writer. 

It's the flood of words that keeps the rivers of our imagination going! I recently finished The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and I think it's so unfair that she is known mainly for Eat, Pray, Love. Just like Gone With The Wind, this one also tracks the life of the woman protagonist. And I just love to randomly snuggle into the pages of such books once I've read them from cover to cover. Just open it anywhere and begin reading. Or go for the interesting bits where you know how the story unfolds. There doesn't have to be an order to re-read them. It's like plonking myself right in the middle of the ocean - with water on either side as far as eyes can go! It's literally a sea of words to drown in, to forget the world around us and go under the influence of the story. 

Long non-fiction is a different kind of a beast. It's not just a story that flows. There are facts to be analysed and each chapter placed in context while reading it. The process of finishing a 500-word non-fiction book is long enough that one doesn't have the luxury to go back and forth, like we could in fiction. I read Sapiens twice to make better sense of it and I still can't jump in somewhere in the middle and make sense of it. Such books get intense and need probably a few more reads to feel like home. 

I am currently reading 21 Lessons for the 21st century. And while I am done with the technology part of the book, I am still piecing together information and how it would apply to the rest of the book. So it's more of an uphill task. But that's the learning curve as a reader, I guess. It helps to keep up. Sometimes for enjoyment and other times for education. 

The journey of reading goes on...

Monday, August 2, 2021

There is no happily ever after

There is no happily ever after! 

Although we've been raised on a steady diet of the knightly stories where damsels in distress are being resuced by charming princes! 

Ask Meghan Markle! 

She literally married a prince! And yet, her fairy tale story came to a quick painful end! 

In real life, it's not just about the prince and the damsel - and the evil step-mother will have her say! Because this is real life and not a fairy tale! Her association with the prince was rife with controversy right for the start. The stiff upper-lipped royal family was sceptical about accepting an outsider. And the fact that the royal family's resident perfect daughter-in-law made it harder for Markle to shine. 

Markle had a Hollywood career - somewhat successful - before she met Harry. she's lives the life of an independent LA woman before she was expected to live in the confines of the royal traditions of Britain. 

Whether she was responsible for the crumbling of her royal fairy tale or the others in the family, crumble it did! They gave up their royal status, moved out of the palace and live like ordinary citizens in, well, California! 

Can Markle go back to her previous career? Sadly no! She lost what she was looking forward to in her new life and she can't go back to what she had. That's a sad end to the "happily ever after" that everyone expected from this story!

Ask Jennifer Aniston! 

As much as the paparazzi have been obsessed about this Hollywood star, her life hasn't been a bed of roses either! 

The only FRIENDS character to have built a phenomenally successful film career too, Jen's real life is far from the happy ending we think it is!

Her marriage to Brad Pitt was touted as the biggest fairy tale romance in Hollywood. And that lasted 5 years. And this came at a time when Jen was ready to start a family and did not even want to split! The year she thought she's be raising babies brought her hurt and loneliness - not to mention the speculations from the press. 

Imagine the hurt of a woman who's marriage ends just as she is planning to have kids with her husband of 5 years! And the horror when she realises that not only is her husband in love with someone else already but is also a father figure to her son! 

The other woman got what she was looking forward to! She has been open about her wanting to have children but she was never blessed with one! 

For all the wealth and fortune she owns, are gaping holes her life too. Apart from her marriages falling apart and never having the babies she always wanted, she's constantly had to fight off the paparazzi at every turn. The popular press has been constantly been hung up on her relationship status and whether or not she's pregnant!

If you think celebrities lives aren't relatable, talk to any married couple! Especially if they started with hearts and flowers hoping to fly away into the sunset riding unicorns on a rainbow! There are no happy endings! Why so you think movies end where they do! Who wants to watch the annihilation of a love story that has been built on the hopes of single people, giving them the promise that they too will have this love story some day! 

Showing the real truth beyond that would ensure that the box office collapses and no one believes in the genre of rom-com any more. 

So yeah! I am glad that the current generation of girls are being taught that they don't need a prince charming to rescue them. They are people in their own right and that expecting someone else to be the sole source of happiness in their life is unrealistic! 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

7 lessons for 20-somethings from my life experience

I don't believe in things I could tell my 20-something self. 

The world is a different place today than it was when I was in my 20s. In fact, a lot of things like freedom and assertiveness did not even apply to a woman's life then - esp in my conservative family. 

Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if I had the jump start of the person I am today! 

But here are a few things that I wish I knew and other things I want to tell people in their 20s based on my experience. I agree that a lot of these things seem obvious now but it might be hard to apply while we are going through the confusing 20s without the advantage of the life experience that comes with my perspective. 

But then that's the advantage of learning from others who've been there and can tell you it can be done differently.

So here goes:

1. Screw the world: Women are conditioned to worry about the whole world - a little less now, maybe!  

Although studies suggest that women still find it hard to assert themselves. They will still hold back in meetings full of men. 

It doesn't matter whether it's your parents, teachers or the society. 20s is old enough to start thinking who YOU what to be - the short skirt wearing sassy babe or the submissive child-woman constantly worrying about other people. 

How do you want to live your life - remember this is the beginning of the thinking phase and no one's asking you to move out of home (although if you did, you'd actually expedite the process of knowing who you really are)

2. Rise above your conditioning - This is one of the harder things to do since we don'd know much beyond the values and atmosphere that we've been raised with. We may think the neighbour's family is so cool, going on vacations etc but you never know what's hidden behind the layers of that facade.

But the times have changed enough that people in their 20's can start thinking earlier about moulding their own personalities than waiting for things like jobs in a different city or marriage to happen. Again this is a time to start questioning the rules of the house and forming your own opinions. 

3. It's okay to be assertive: Hell yeah! And even more so at work! 

"Don't talk back" is given to so many times that we feel reluctant about speaking up even at work. Men, who are already one up through societal rules, family conditioning and their voice and stature, go on to dominate the work world. 

Work-life balance may not make sense that early in life. You may be led to believe that since you are a junior or an intern or new, you are supposed to take orders and work through the night. 

And I am not saying you shouldn't work hard and go beyond what is asked - but only if you want to and if it is justified. 

If it's a one-off, it's fine. But if you are regularly asked to work extra or are being yelled at and treated improperly, gather your self-esteem and quit. 20 years later, you will look back and regret being a wuss! 

And if you think such situations are challenging because you are a fresher, you'll be surprised at what life throws at you even after you gain experience. So learn important skills early. 

4. Plan your life early - Don't wait till you hit 30s: Any 20-something will dismiss this as ridiculous! It's too early to think of marriage and kids - "what the hell! I am too young!", "I don't even want to have kids or even get married" - are the common responses. 

However, what you think at this point in life WILL change! Take it from me - and just to be clear no one's asking you to get married TODAY or have children TODAY. Like everything else, the planning and thinking has to start now is all I am saying. And here's why:

Marriage is a still a life-altering event for a women, even in this century. And women are the ones who still bear kids. Changing times, technology, gender equality hasn't changed these truths because nature willed it to be so. 

20's seem to be the time to plan out your career and find a standing of your own. But planning these things about your future is doing a favour to your own future self. 

Now, more than ever, by the time women hit 30's, they don't want to compromise on the careers that they have so painstakingly built. At the same time, the biological clock starts ticking and societal pressure builds up. And to add insult to injury, your own body deceives you with hormonal problems and inability to conceive. IVF and fertility hospitals and thriving exactly because of women who never planned in advance. 

And if it adds more credibility to what i am saying, I have seen people struggle through these problems failing in multiple IVF cycles instead of enjoying their 30s. (worse for people in their 40s because age is catching up really fast!)

If you ask me, this is the direct result of waiting too long. Freezing eggs couldn't be a business if not for this crisis. So go ahead, do that. You at least can preserve a part of your young self. 

5. Chill and live life: If I just scared the shit out of you painting a doom's day scenario and you are thinking what's the point even getting older, chill! I said you need to start thinking how you want your life to play out - and you will still encounter surprises and unexpected twists along the way - instead of letting life takeover.

This decade of your life is as fun as it gets, no matter what people say about age being just a number. You will have a lot of fun for the rest of your lives too. 

But this is an unencumbered stage of your life where you are at the prime of your health and youth. This is the time to create great memories that you can look back on in the future. 

So put on your LBD, step into your dancing shoes and get out there. Chug beers and knock back shots all you will - however, BE SAFE - in other words, have fun but don't be stupid. 

This is also where work-life balance matters. If you burn the midnight oil at a job that doesn't deserve it, you'll miss out on all the fun you could have in your own time. And trust me! You'll miss it if you don't get on that fun train while there is still time. 

6. Read books that matter: I know reading is a dumb thing that no one does in times of Instagram! But books are the sole reason how I know a ton of stuff after finishing college. And the short cut to learning new skills that will keep you ahead in your career is through reading.

Read fiction and non fiction on a variety of topics. It doesn't have to be philosophy and history. But great literature as so much to teach apart from non-fictional forms on skill development. 

7. Travel when you can: Nothing teaches you life skills like planning and independence than traveling. If reading opens the doors to new worlds, traveling gives you a chance to walk through them. 

Most people think of it as a luxury but it's actually an essential phase of growth. When I was in my 20s, suggesting to my parents that I want to travel would have been the best way to give them a coronary. 

But I am thankful for all the travel I did in my 30s - nervous at first but gradually sure footed, taking international flights by myself. The cultures I was exposed to, the things that went wrong and the lessons that taught me! 

And I am grateful for every bit of travel I have done in my life. From inter-state buses to international flights, the more you travel, the higher your confidence will soar. 

There are more lessons on my list but I shall end this post here. You can chew on these and I'll be back with more. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Why Rachel Zane Will Never Become Jessica Pearson

There is a scene where Jessica Pearson tells Rachel Zane that she sees herself in Rachel. They go an event together before which Rachel re-writes Jessica’s speech for her. 

As the two women step out to the event, the difference is stark. Jessica - tall and regal. Rachel, ill at ease in her designer down, easily 2 feet shorter than Jessica, trying her best to match up to her mentor.

But no matter how much she tries, Rachel will never be Jessica! Not after another 20 years of law practice under her belt! 

And here’s why!

The very first time Rachel appears in the series, she starts with a self-deprecating remark. She says something to the effect - just because I am just a paralegal you think you think I’d be impressed by your fancy degrees

Mike hardly said anything yet but the complex she suffers from - that she’s “just” a paralegal is loud and clear! 

Season one has enough to support this. 

She is the best paralegal around, yet she’s given up on her dream of becoming a lawyer since she tests badly. She has let a stupid test - step one towards her dreams - get the better of her. Instead of taking on a challenge head long, she’s just given up! She obviously doesn't want to be a lawyer that badly - or she'd take the test headlong and be done with it! 

She can’t finish her law school application essay because she can’t think of reasons why they should take her. She constantly wonders why Harvard would consider her when the acceptance percentage is so low! She is full of doubts about her own capability revealing a mindset that's negative and self defeating. 

She can’t write her dating profile because she is “just” a paralegal and that’s what she’ll ever be. There is nothing else to her identity in her own mind. 

She never fights back at work - Louis chides her, scolds her and Mike at different times and she quietly takes it! Katrina walks all over her asking her to put on hold important things and make copies for her. Worse, she is accused of sleeping with the associate and all Rachel tells her is to ask her get out of the office. 

Jessica Junior? I don’t think so! Jessica is someone who issues threats and not take things lying down!

She negotiates her terms of coming back with Louis after she is wrongfully terminated. A paralegal for 5 years, this future-lawyer waltzes into Jessica’s office demanding that she pay for her law school with no written record of the promise. A prospective lawyer who never thought this should be put in writing and signed by Louis. 

To add insult to injury, she is taken aback when Jessica refuses! 

As a lawyer, one needs to be tough, fight back, make a mark or go down swinging. Rachel has none of that. Heck! Donna is more of a badass than she is!

She is timorous, weak and a coward at the best of times. She is so affected by her father eviscerating a woman in a deposition that she thinks he's saying those things to her! And this after she herself asked to be allocated to the case.

The fact that she falls in love and wants to marry someone like Mike - who's a felon - throws her credibility our of whack at a whole different level! She's okay being with someone who broke the law, lies everyday and has everything that people work hard for years to get. 

And here's the masterstroke - Rachel was busy at the mock trial of a cat custody when the firm is under attack from outsiders. Instead of being at the center of the storm where she could put her legal acumen to good use, she was fighting for the custody of Mikado for Louis! 

Why Louis did not have anything better to do when the firm was in siege is a topic for a whole different post! 

If Rachel had even half the gumption that Donna has - not Jessica - maybe she'd have some hope! 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

#BlueWhaleChallenge: An Unworthy Cause for Death

I have spent one goosebumpy hour online reading about the Blue Whale challenge! We are inundated with so much info on an everyday basis that it is hard to keep up. We are vaguely aware of a lot of things around us. But then it's hard to ignore when something comes closer home. Someone I know has had a death in the family in a very blue whale style though investigations are still on. But something like this set me and the spouse thinking and we really sat up to read about it. And the details are gory, depressing and scary, to say the least. Writing this post is as much a catharsis for me as it is to try and put together information about this accursed game that's driving teenagers to end their lives - for no worthy cause.

What is the Blue Whale Challenge? 

The Blue Whale Challenge - simplified here - is a 50 day challenge where the curators of the game assign one task each day - all of them self destructive in incremental degrees. The last task is to end one's life. Sick, isn't it? Now, who's the brain behind this amazing shit? Phillipp Budeikin is the mastermind behind this game who confessed in court, when arrested for the suicide of teenage girls in Russia, that he was just "cleansing society" by getting rid of "biological waste" Although there are more admins apart from him who run this game for teenagers.

It is established that the most vulnerable stick around beyond the first few tasks. And the admins use psychological manipulation to goad the players on since they know that those who continue are weak victims. One boy who was saved from ending his life described his experience. He vouches for the pressure one feels and is compelled to carry out the orders. If you look at the list of tasks - which makes me all knotted in my stomach - you'll see that the task for Day 30 to 49 is waking up at 4.30 am and watching scary videos that the curators send to the players. Day 50 is to jump to your death in the wee hours of morning. And I don't think it is hard after this onslaught of destructive material to get a sleep deprived, confused teenager to fling to his/her death!!

Why teenagers?

Well! There's been a 13 year old who was found dead and the Blue Whale screen was open on his dad's phone!! You be the judge! Psychologists vouch for the fact that this demographic is the most vulnerable.

“It has been observed that some teenagers have very low self-esteem, and rely significantly on peer approval. For them, the external environment becomes a source of inspiration, which is why they are willing to do anything to (project) a certain image,” said Sameer Malhotra, director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi.

There can be more reasons like rebellion, lack of focus and interest, boredom, curiosity and teenage angst to drive them towards such games which can seem thrilling.

Why is it hard to ban it? 

Like everything else on the internet, it is hard to contain even this dangerous thing. Here are a few reasons why it is hard to ban it - ban the blue whale challenge - and also a list of the tasks involved. Be alert and the lookout for anyone who might be carrying out these to catch up with the symptoms.

Why is this so twisted? 

Let's cut the chase and come straight to what can we do? If you have kids, especially in that age group, this threat is real!! And I might sound a bit stern here and I am willing to incur parental wrath for this. Before I go on to actual steps one can take, one thing that baffles me is that no one in the family or social circle notice anything amiss with these kids. The task list is life altering even for a mature adult. I can't imagine a teen-year old person going through it and be normal. Some kids were using the parents' phones to play it. (The case of the 13 yo testifies to this) What kind of parental supervision would that be after giving kids the power of technology which can turn fatal in ignorant hands?

The first thing I'd blame is the unrestrained access to internet and gadgets that kids have today. Yes, one needs to keep up with the times. But if it is at the cost of those every kids, I think it is time to think again, reassess what we want for our kids. Teenagers are confused now more than ever. There is just too much going on and the pressure to keep up is immense. And what better than to play a game on a dare that all their friends are playing too! This can be their golden chance to prove to everyone they are worth something. Self esteem issues taken care of!

What signs to look for?

The challenge lasts long enough and has enough self destructive tasks that I don't think it can go unnoticed. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

Cuts on the body
Waking up at unearthly hours
Being cooped up in one's room
Increasing secrecy

What can we do?

When there's chaos around the best thing to do is to simplify. And good old times where members of the family sat together for meals and caught up with each other. Internet free conversations between people who should know whats happening in each others' lives.

Find constructive, offline activities for teenagers. This is a time when they can develop precious life skills like speaking, writing, painting, photography, cooking, calligraphy - there is no dearth of hobbies one can develop interest in.

The times of autocratic parenting are over. Kids respond better to friends than controlling parents. Keep track of what your kids are upto. Look for the signs, just in case. Keep an eye on their online activities. If they get the validation and confidence they need from parents, they wont look for it elsewhere.

Teachers at school have an equal responsibility in guiding the young. Parents and teachers should actively read up on what affects youth so that they can help curb such things. Peer pressure begins in school and is the best place to get addressed.

The self esteem of kids needs to be collectively raised. Giving up their life for an unworthy cause is just insane. They might as well fight the enemy at the border and die a martyr. Find the right means to channel their boredom or sense of worthlessness. There are countless worthy causes one can devote time to - 50 worthwhile tasks coming up in the next post.

Cybermum, who creates awareness among parents about cyber threats to teens and suggest ways to keep them safe online, has the following tips

Every time I blame technology for why kids grow up so soon in today's times, I have parents defending the role that online access plays in making kids smarter. If you ask me, I'd prefer a dumb kid who's alive than a smart, tech savvy kid who is....

For now, my heart goes out to the parents of this teenager who died yesterday. They must have brought the little one in their arms and 17 years later carried him out on their shoulders. A burden that will never lighten - not in this life time! We live in hard times and pay dearly for it. But I am confident that this can be prevented. We all need to be aware and take steps that are in our control. Read up, spread awareness, be alert.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lipstick Under My Burqa: My Thoughts

Photo credit
(Spoiler alert: Read on if you don't mind spoilers)

Lipstick under my burqa - a powerful film that has forced me out of my blogging sabbatical. Because I have to talk about it. Not just because the movie deals with an unusual subject but because I’m appalled that we’d never get to watch it thanks to some uptight, out-of-times people who did not want it released. Another attempt to silence the voice of women, hush the reality, conceal from the world that women can have feelings - sexual, no less!!! 

The movie explores the lives of 4 diverse women - across ages, professions and social strata. Yet, you wouldn’t miss how the plight of each woman is the same - trapped in her situation and confined by definitions that society binds women into. 

Rehana is a college girl on the verge of adulthood but restrained by birth in her conservative family. She is expected to adhere to what people believe a girl like her should be - burqa clad, obedient and almost invisible, drawing no attention to herself. She steals and lies to keep up with the joneses in college but is back to her miserable life once she gets home. 

Leela has a career as a beautician and runs a parlour but has to fight for her right to be with her boyfriend. Her mother, a widow, wants her daughter to get married since that is the only way a woman can have security and respect. And so she is stuck at the crossroad of whether to be with her boyfriend or do what her mother expects her to do. 

Shireen, a mother of three, has no rights. She is fettered in her marriage to a man who uses her every night for his pleasure and that’s her only function in his life. She has no say in using protection and has silently suffered 3 abortions. Sex is also the weapon he uses to dominate her and punish her when she insists she wants to continue in a job she hid about from him. His ultimate warning to the sexually abused and beaten Shireen is - Don’t try to be a husband. 

Usha, the 55 yr old widow, who has lived her life but is still not free to be herself. She reads erotica and also finds the courage to learn swimming in her small town. She finds a new self through these activities but does it in secret, because a woman is never free, at any age, to live the life she wants to. 

And then there’s Rosy, the bold character from Usha’s erotic novel who has fantasies and yearns for a man. Her story is narrated by Ratna Pathak Shah and becomes the final voice of the narrator at the end. 

I am guessing that Leela who has pre-marital sex to Usha, who reads erotica - were the main objections why the censor board did not want to release this film. Teenage rebellion is an age old theme. But portraying women as sexual beings is against Bharatiya sanskriti. It is too much for men to reveal the truth about themselves to the world - a man can use a woman for his pleasure every night because it is his right and it is right. But it’s not becoming of a woman to even think about it. She has to be shamed and thrown out of the house - like Usha is when her erotic novels are discovered by her family. 

Photo credit
The stories of these women converge at the end when all four of them find themselves in Rehana’s house - co-sufferers who find solace in each others’ company. The younger ladies help Usha gather her stuff that’s been thrown on the street and get her indoors. Sitting in each others’ presence, they realise that their predicament is the same - whether it’s Rehana who’s yet to begin her life or Usha, who has already lived hers. Their deed of rebellion is to smoke a cigarette, probably meant to be a metaphor for their freedom - but within the confines of the room. These women can wear lipstick but only under their burqa, hidden from the world. Their real desires and true selves is something the world doesn't want to deal with. 

This is not a Bollywood blockbuster. None of these women rebel and fight societal prejudices that force them to lead a double life. Or drive them to seek refuge in a little room with each other. The narrator’s voice ends the story with Rosy walking out of the door of her house to live her life, pursue her dreams. This gives us hope that these women too may find their way out into the world and be able to live the lives each one wants to. 

What hit me the hardest about the film is how powerless and impotent these women are in their circumstances. Being born in a home with freedom and education is an urban privilege. How can Rehana fight the parents she is stuck with? The liberty to pursue one’s career and choose one’s life partner isn’t a right a woman in our society is born with. What should Leela do? Who should she choose? Once a woman is married, her own parents have nothing to do with her. And I feel the worst for Shireen, who despite being more able then her husband suffers ignominy in her marriage every day. Is it easy to walk out in her situation? And while I see so many women in their 40’s and 50’s finding a new lease of life and start afresh after their kids have moved out, that’s not something their rural counterparts can look forward to. How is Usha to live her own life and save herself the embarrassment she’s made to go through? 

And each one represents an entire tribe of such women manacled to their lot. I really don’t know what to say to end the post. Anything I say wont make any difference to the plight of real women living such lives I’m so saddened to watch on screen. I’m thankful to Alankrita who had wrote and made this film. And fought to get it released so that the world could see the truth through this wonderful piece of work. Let's just hope that there will be a time when women can live and be who they want to be without being judged or punished for it. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Would You Do?

(Photo Credit)

Some things set you thinking.

It was a usual weekday. My spouse stepped out of his office to grab a bite. As he was finishing his samosa standing outside the snack center, a couple approached him. The man explained his situation - his wife had a brain surgery in the recent past because of a tumour and he was back with her for a follow up. The person who was supposed to meet them with the money for the same did not turn up (Or I think the lost the scrap of paper with his details on it - I'm recalling this as the husband narrated) And hence they had no money for the check up which was important. I know - the first thought that comes to mind is, "Bullshit! There are dime a dozen such people out there to dupe you. It's just a ploy to relieve you of the contents of your wallet! Who believes them!!" My man thought the same too. So he started asking for details. This guy had hospital reports and other papers to prove the veracity of his claim. When the spouse still looked suspicious, apparently, the man started weeping and said they did not even have a place to sleep that night (it was already 9pm) And without any money they couldn't go to the doctor either for his wife's follow up.

What would you do in this situation?

We came back from our weekend dinner last night and found a person sitting on the pavement amidst some plastic garbage that seemed to need sorting. (I said person because we couldn't make out the gender. Seemed like a man with track pants and T shirt) As we parked and got out of the car, he (let's stick to male) stood up and gestured that he wanted food. Usually, we'd have some leftovers packed but we did not have any last night. The spouse started asking him questions about his house, job etc. He seemed to be a bit unstable mentally and we got garbled responses with different cities mentioned each time he tried to explain. One thing was clear - he was hungry and said he could buy food if we gave him money. The spouse told him to not spend the night on the pavement but try and get back to his home town (whichever that was)

Would you give him the money he asked for food?

Such situations leave me (and the spouse) quite pensive, wondering about the truth of these stories. And about the pathetic state of these people. Should we help such people or just shoo them away? Are we fooled if we choose to help them? We don't know. Would be it right to cast all such people in the same mould of deception and refuse money? We don't know that either. But giving them the benefit of the doubt, how helpless would a man be approach a stranger on the street and plead for money to save his wife? (I also wonder how he must have managed the cost of the surgery even given the penurious state) Would it be so bad to spare a little of what we have so that someone can eat a decent dinner before he'd find whatever comfort sleeping on the pavement? Lots of questions and no correct answers, I guess.

This is what we did: Gave money. Both times. Bear with me for a minute and I'll explain. My spouse, who is usually low on cash, thankfully had sufficient on him that night. It'd cover the doc's fees, a couple of meals and train tickets back to Nasik from where the couple said they were. (They said they'd manage sleeping at the hospital) And I say thankfully because it would be awful not to help them properly and treat them as beggars. The man on the pavement also got enough for 2 meals and probably a train ticket squeezed in. (I guess, I am not sure).

So are we world class fools who are stupid enough to get duped every time? Well!

His logic: If we can't share what we have with at least one person in duress, what's the point of being blessed! We take so many things for granted. And people on the street remind us that basic things like food and home could be a luxury some people cant afford. And when we come across someone so much in need, it is better to help them directly than give away to richer charities.

My logic: We are morally on strong grounds and our intentions were to purely help such people. In case they lie and cheat to extort money, Karma should take care of it. We keep our conscience clear and move on.

The spouse was a little skeptical the night of his encounter with the hospital couple. Since it was a sizeable amount, I think anyone would wonder if it was right to lend it. I have always supported him for my reasons I mentioned above. We may be fooled at times but we have also had people ask us money to buy food and bought it right there using the money. Other times, we don't know what happened. But I guess there's balance restored in some way.

I'd really like to know what's your take and what you'd do in such situations?

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