One of the tallest politicians and leaders to come out of the BJP ranks, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj was made of steel and had a huge connect with the Indian masses has left an undelible mark in Indian politics and public life. It came as a shock and huge loss to Indians across the globe to hear that the people’s minister and former EAM has passed away.
Swaraj is one of the rare BJP leaders belonging to the Shri AB Vajpayee era who was a humanist first and never shied in helping not just Indians but foreigners in India with her Twitter handle being active and never stopped in engaging with people reaching out for help. People centric MEA, Sushma Swaraj was all about people, beating hands down advertising Gurus and there is not one instance when she didn’t spring into action to bring Indians confined in Pakistan home, be it Hamid Ansari, Uzma forced to marry someone against her will, Geeta stranded for 15 years and Tom Uzhunnalil rescued from terrorists.The biggest tribute to her achievements was the testimony of people on TV whom she helped to come safely to the homeland and made for an emotional moment.
The list is long and the role played by Sushma Swaraj, a lawyer and powerful orator in English and Hindi, mastering fully the tricks of diplomacy remains one of her legacy and during her time, she played a pivotal role to give India recognition in global forums and today India is at the forefront of international relations. Recently, India gained a massive diplomatic victory in getting access to Khulbushan Jadhav unfairly confined in Pakistan. We shouldn’t obliterate the role played by Swaraj during her terms at the EAM where she laid the groundwork. She redefined diplomacy, politics and foreign ministry. Swaraj made the ministry accessible and inclusive to the commoners, albeit middle class Indians, using Twitter to smoothen the various processes. This will remain her biggest legacy.
In today’s times, political bonhomie is a rare thing, something we have seen with former Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee giving so much dignity to politics. Of course, her sense of humor with realism is something we will cherish forever. Her famous tweet, even if you are stuck on Mars, Indian embassy there will help you. It speaks volume on her role as EAM and embodies that politics and public service is all about service to the people. The incredible achievements speak a lot, first women CM of Delhi, first full time EAM, first woman Opposition leader in Lok Sabja, first woman spokesperson of a political party. There were many firsts in her incredible and rich political life, seven times elected Member of Parliament.
The grace and poise she always carried herself with in a rich laden political life, fiesty, outspoken and reaching out to the Indian masses, breaking the feudal barrier that politicans normally create between the people during campaigns, something we often see on TV. One of her rare traits is cultivating friendships with people across political parties and different ideologies, no wonder she was much loved from people spanning across different values from politicians to journalists. The innate ability of nurturing relations with friends and foes, may seems an acquired taste but shows how culturally refined she was in her entire life time as a human being. Watch this video on the 1998 interview with Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV:
In her term as Union Minister, Sushma Swaraj was often seen as a mother figure to many stranded as they reached out to her on Twitter and her responsibilities as minister wasn’t limited to India but foreigners facing difficulties in the country. It speaks volumes about her as not just a politician but a leader standing tall. Of course, her trademark and sartorial style would give new age fashion designers a run for their money, defining style never leaving her sleeveless jacket paired on perfectly matched saree.
One thing that I can never ever forget about Sushma Swaraj was at the UN when she put a strong case on Pakistan’s provocation during heavy shelling and home bred terrorists infiltrating India in the aftermath of Pulwama. It’s a strong speech that nobody can ever forget and she expressed with genuine emotion. Many call her the millenial Minister during Modi 1.0 cabinet. Swaraj never compromised on her lofty ideals and principles going out of her way to help and many would recall the time she was admitted for renal issue, a girl came to ask for her help in the hospital room on account of the US visa delayed, the EAM sprang into action and worked from there. Very few ministers can have such dedication to their work and a model to emulate.
Swaraj embodied the Glass Cliff, as expressed in an article today and a tale of women triumphing when all the odds are stacked against them and most likely to succeed when the risks of failure is so high. It is highly significant today when more needs to be done to change discriminatory and patriarchal mentality against women rising in public life and reaching to the stars. One inherent qualities in Swaraj was her love for poetry and exudes a smile in her duel with former PM Dr Manmohan Singh in Lok Sabha, “Tumhe wafa yaad nahee, Humein jafa yaad nahee, Zindagi or maut ke toh do hee tarane hain, ek tumhein yaad nahee, ek humein yaad naheen” and “Agar ek Manthara aur ek Shakuni ke vajah se itna kuchh huya, toh aaj toh humaare saamne kitni Mathara aur kitne Shakuni hain”, the time when Vajpayee Government fell after 13 days.
She was perhaps the last leader belonging to the Vajpayee era who stood tall, gracious, elegant and with poise during her entire political career. India has lost one of the most admired leaders, adhering to the idea of India as a nation, inclusive and belonging to one and all. Her biggest achievement is how she changed the way the world is looking to us as a nation, revolutionizing the Minister of External Affairs and diplomacy, making Twitter an open channel for Indians in distress. Quite an irony about life and death when we read her last Tweet to PM Modi on J& K bifurcation, saying, “Thank You PM. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.” And to think, two hours later, Sushma Swaraj breathed her last.
I take a bow Ma’am. Sushma Swaraj was one who could have become India’s woman Prime Minister for she boasts of all qualities, a stateperson par excellence, super efficient Minister and an exceptional leader. Just imagine the destiny of India with Swaraj as woman PM. One of the rare leaders BJP leaders which I truly admire, first was AB Vajpayee and the second Sushma Swaraj. An indelible mark and a huge legacy, political bonhomie at a time when political discourse is sinking into new lows by the day, Swaraj was a rare exception. There are so much present political leaders can learn from Sushma Swaraj, a humanist first.
Rest in peace Ma’am and you shall be remembered for lending grace and dignity to your office, showing what diplomacy is all about,
There is no reason to splurge stupidly and when you bag something on a whim or fancy to drool over, no limit to exuberance and joy. July wasn’t really a good month when I mentioned a huge amount of money stolen right under our nose inside my room in the glass display case. August seems to have started well and on the first day itself, went ahead and splurged big bucks on a bag I was longing, American Tourister.
I used an Arc bag for more than seven years which has been showings sign of wearing off and scratch here and there that may not be really visible. Mom discussed this blue bag with me and told it’s high time to change it. We agree and when it comes to self-branding, the first thing people notice about you is the bag carried, shoes and appearance. Speak about branding. Sheer coincidence is that I’ve been reading the book Brand You-Reinventing the Theater Way by my good friend Vinita Vyas on the essence of grooming and presentation in today’s times. Being a PR person and with company clients across different fields, regularly attending several high-level conferences, it struck upon me and discussed with Mom telling even if something is expensive just go for it. Truth is the presentation and selling one’s skills matters lots. Quite a surprise since the stick-wielding and shouting choo mantar mom at my wishlist normally hates me spending big and always chiding me.
Black is the corporate color and something that fits properly when it comes to choosing a bag. It’s been a spate of years that I haven’t got a black bag and this time too no luck. I settled for the red and blue color combo. Finally, my bag worry was over and disappeared with the flick of the wind. Shopping for a bag can be quite stressful since I am quite finicky when it comes to such stuff! I walked away with the bag conscious that I forked a huge amount from the pocket but this time was not berated by Mom. She told, acha! You took a good one rather than settling for something cheap that would be worn and torn in no time. Mothers can be so pyare and unpredictable, I tell and never cease surprising us.
At the end of the day, not only I loved the brand and the color, owing to the TV ad by Virat Kohli that became an instant hit with me but it’s not just a shoulder bag but labyrinth of sort with three huge and spacious compartments, separation inside and pockets at every inch or space, hidden ones, lockable pullers, rain covers, tractum suspension and padding. American Tourister wala bag is a vault. I was going mad zipping it open with multitude of pockets and compartments, burying the stress of splurging for good. Always go for a trusted and well-known brand for it’s better to invest for the longer term. The last time, I bought a red colored bag was in Mumbai more than a decade back.
I was on top of the world and the aha feeling of comfort wearing high on the back, giving a sense of confidence and joy, something haven’t experienced for a long time. Energy waltzing and feeling of something extraordinary to unfurl was lived before, the signs which cannot be misread. Sinking into this feeling of buying something through sheer hard work and sweat, loving it totally and the feel-good euphoria hasn’t waned. Cherry on cake it’s like a travel suitcase and may be need to pack to travel the world.
A season turned into timeless and forever. An encounter by accident and after all, relationships flow by a stroke of luck but bringing seamless joy, giving us an identity as a person and showering strength. I believe we don’t choose our friends but the universe works its magic in showering dollop of happiness, the souls that give us a sense of direction, making us secure individuals and pushing beyond limits to achieve the impossible.
Friendship for me has always been an emotional trip. As I hark back to the past, tears stream on my cheek, thinking about the days we laughed out together, dancing without a care to the world, stupidly silly jokes and slam drunk evening when we went berserk to break all limits. The best lines in advertising, film or writers’ punches, after all comes through interaction with friends, isn’t it! That what makes our talent supremely divine for we have friends that matters the most and completing us as a unique individual in being Ourselves.
The childhood and college friends, social media connection turning into close friends who are now on our Whatsapp making it a grandparty. The definition of my friendship may have altered over time but the emotions remain intact for we believe there is no limit to the expression of love and bond. The memories carved over the years last for eternity like sunshine. Friends are our rainbows. The souls come gently and stay with our forever, the moments create an identity.
Some friends we lost but their voices still reverberate in our minds, every moment remembering their antics, smile and words making them alive. We never bury memories and such close friends are watching us from the sky. Relationships are prayers and we fulfill them by honoring our friends, the siblings that we never had but exist on a deeper level. We are not judged and our dreams as irrational or stupid they may be, are given a patient hearing.
Emotions are not about bands tied on the wrists. I miss those every moments when a friend will prance on me to give a hug when they know things are a bit wary without telling them. This is a pure moment of friendship. The unexpected call from a friend uplifting the mood and few words reminds how much we matter. Grateful and blessed to have such amazing people completing me in life. Friends are a pure gem and worth gold.
Friendship Day is one moment to reflect on the relationships we made over the years, hair turning grey and grateful for the moments spent together. Joy is something to be experienced and re-lived at every moment in life. The ones who matter will always do and only if the joy stickers on Whatsapp could speak the language of thousand joys, what friends mean to us. Love has no language, so is friendship the route to be experienced and moments felt through our nerves, hearts and spine, like food and oxygen waltzing into high spirits.
Happy Friendship Day, dear friends for we represent an identity and you have always been family, the serum of life.
Sweltering Pune summer of 2003. Youngish 20 something explored the first days in the city, student life ever ready to unravel, traveling in rickshaw to and fro, from the PG at Aundh to Fergusson College (FC) Road that cost a bomb. Zigzagging in the city which embraced me with open arms and disoriented, unsettled a bit, lost as I may seem. Variegated thoughts verging between excitement and anticipation, a chick showed me around the city and we met at the coffee shop. First visit was a taste of glamor.
The tag line read: A lot can happen over coffee. Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) over the years became a well-nurtured dream for the young generation of Indians, uber-cool and college-going crowd stealing a kiss and admiring female beauties thronging as cool music played in exchange for cold coffee.
Arab Iced Eskimo was the first coffee sipped at Barista! The state of art and deco was the real winner, easy-going and chilled college crowd yelling and breaking into laughter, without damn care for the world. That was my first tryst with Pune and CCD represented the aspirations of a young India, that was in flux post the aspirations of consumerism of the 90s economic liberalization. The man who sold a niche coffee dream to Indian, thousands and millions, VG Siddhartha who allegedly committed suicide this week and broke the hearts of many. There is not one moment of joy he gave to us but so many as we spent times with friends at CCD.
Wanna spot a crush or ask a girl out! CCD was the place and easily accessible as a Fergussonian for it was just down the road. Perhaps, a post won’t be enough to pay tribute to the dreams that we may not have thought about but a creative concept he created over the years and sense of identity among college crowd spanning across generations. We all have our CCD stories. Mine traveled from Pune to Mumbai. A stop at Pune station’s CCD waiting for the next train. Sit alone, ask for coffee and blow the smoke outside for who knows and how one can get lucky when eyes may be met with a damsel.
CCD celebrates friendship, dating, love and romance. Initial days of swooned over, the music and what was not just ambiance but celebrating youth anthem in this refined coffee culture and basking in luxury that spared none of the easy-going dudes and babes. One couldn’t stay away from the madness of Cafe Coffee Day, the vibrant crowd bustling and bonding, glamor wearing its USP on the sleeve. I loved sitting upstairs and watching the bustling FC Road from the glass panel. The initial days of CCD waned away and shifted to Barista housed adjacent since we were allowed to blow curled ring smoke.
The perks at CCD remain the free party tickets distributed for free and at times, studying for exams, gulping iced coffee preferred over hot Capuccino. When I shifted to a new flat, a group of us during the evening at the Law College Road outlet to meet the female friends. Hugging and charming conversation, the dudes sneaked outside letting the chicks having a hen kinda party. Squatting on the floor and back fixed on CCD’s wall, boozing in hiding and singing on the road. Many years later when I came back to India, hanged out with M a couple of times at different CCDs in the city. Harking back to the past, I vividly remember one Saturday evening, encountered K my crush in those days with her gang and flowered her with compliments. She was wearing a saree and was just standing outside CCD. To tell, the odds of spotting someone outside the brand coffee outlet and there is always a chance of someone meeting someone.
I had a blind date, fixed by a friend during a Mumbai trip at CCD in Dadar nestled outside the station and made few silly jokes over coffee, turning the tagline into cliche for nothing ever happened. When I shifted to Mumbai, CCD at Juhu Chowpatty was the place, I would regularly trip over alone and sat there to study for my Masters exams, sitting smoking and admiring the sea.
CCD offered an identity of being young in India, affording space in a cramped city like Mumbai where roof is the raw and real deal. The barista once shared how Kareena Kapoor would sashay in the evening and sweetly entertain the staff with autographs, made interesting anecdotes. Of course, going back to Pune, a very awkward and embarassing incident still sends a chill down the spine, the beans cannot be spilled. I simply owe my coffee shop addiction to the curated CCD, the concept in itself, making reading and coffee, a uniquely enthralling experience, something can’t do away with the regular weekly trips till now.
On the eve of India’s departure, I spent some time with M at CCD, clicking each other’s pictures on the Kodak camera as we sat for coffee and chatting about every single thing. The moments shall be entrenched in our memories forever as the parting gift that felt like yesterday. There is a story in the final year when I didn’t set foot in CCD for a string of months after this super embarrassing and hard to say who was the victim me or the stranger.
An early tryst of CCD was at Aundh and the first PG I stayed at Goodwill Housing Society, wooed by Ozone mall and the tiny place for a quick iced coffee to beat the heat and boring day to death. It makes for an interesting walk to the mall, spacious and open, shopping for stuff inside, sipping coffee and watching kids delighted playing outside under the watchful gaze of parents. CCD is about pleasure activities.
The college bum B skipped work and we drove on his bike from FC Road to Karve Road when he took me to the bank. No success! Money not in. He took a quick detour to be avoided from being seen by office people and we landed again at FC Road. This time at CCD! It’s quite surprising since in those days, we hardly hang out there. Our den was Savera. We were in for some delightful moments as a newly designed CCD greeting us grandly and the open space as we slouched on the couch gulping coffee with huge door jutting towards the road. Yes! Smokers were allowed downstairs. When you don’t have money, friends settle in and truly a lot can happen over coffee.
Tragic that the founder and brain of CCD VG Siddhartha ended tragically. He gave joy in abundance to thousands and millions in this coffee abode and the man’s soul will loom large. Perhaps, newbies may be unaware of Siddhartha and his out of world concept. The show must go on. Post his death, it’s been business as usual with the crowd teeming around, laughs, first date and a kiss! Couples may have courted, and will lead to a harmless fling, serious relationship and marriage. A thought to the coffee conoisseur. Hope the truth will triumph on what led to his ‘death’ and gen next are educated on this success story displayed in CCD. A lot happened…coffee or not! I take a bow, Sir! An adda for so many!
Bombay is a city. Mumbai is countless emotions, tall buildings, frenetic pace! How cliche! Cliche is beauty like pigeons flock swarming above the sea edge, beaches and people wading in and out, hymning a new tune, happiness, anger and struggle!
The gentle and silent night, burst of breeze and wind skirting past the sea, heat belching to cake the face, running a sensation of thickness past the Arabian Sea juxtaposed between the monuments and buildings splayed, horns ok of black and yellow cabs, red buses ambling as slums stares with silent eyes, wide and open.
Rattling of trains and whistles purrs like the fat cat whining, conmuters scampering in the hustle and bustle. Chaos has a name, Mumbai local. A city of the impossible. Every step taken is worth money. Grabbing a Vada Pav and cutting chai quenches thirst and hunger, counters the cornucopia of wealth flicked on the face.
Silent nights compensate for the day’s struggle as one sits on the cusp chasing flies and watching the water slowing unlike life in Maximum City. Lighting a smoke and the company of cheap rum soothes the spirit, watching revelers hanging out at the parapet. A long journey may never end nor the night provides closure for a restless mind wandering to make the moolah. Living on the edge and constant worry of homelessness, uninvited monsoon washes not just our deep worries but an entire city riding against the tide of uncertainty, running aimlessly and shooting the moon. Struggle is another name for Mumbai.
When pressure cooker whistle disappears like the train whistle, the difference about two worlds, slums and high rises fade away. A cab driver heckled out and slapped for daring to enter the city as saffron flags threaten an eco system, of inclusive Bombay vs fast Mumbai.
Yet, another day triumphs when the sun rises for the commoners. United the people are and we call it the resilience residing in the world of extremities. A beggar child at the traffic signal and a scarred, wrinkled young woman decked in a cheap saree squatting on the floor begging for milk to feed the urchin, yowling for small mercies reminds us that as ruthless as Mumbai may be, hope hanging on a thread can never be wiped off.
A random child singing nasal in the local, wiping the train’s floor and selling handkerchief to commuters hoping for a single coin as a bridge collapses right under the face, blood-smeared like paan stains and lives lost in the chaotic, flesh twirls into a spin. Every second matter.