Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Write, don't plagiarise

In the dictionary, a Plagiarist is "Someone who uses another person's words or ideas as if they were his (or her) own." In my dictionary, a Plagiarist is no more than a common thief who steals from you.

If it's yours, put your name to it. If not, attribute it to its rightful owner. Even if it's just a line, a quote, a passage, whatever. If you don't know who the original writer is, then say "Author Unknown".

It's the first, the least and most decent thing to do in any kind of writing.

P.S.: I own this post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

'Hey dad, pray for me! I got Algebra today'

Image: Free Photos from Pixabay

On September 21, I wrote my first personal essay for Medium, the popular online publishing platform. In the essay titled Hey dad, pray for me! I got Algebra today, I recall the special relationship I shared with my father who was also my friend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A chance for gratitude

Image: Amaury Gutierrez/Unsplash

Like dark clouds in the sky, the pandemic, lockdown and work from home have a silver lining. In spite of the unfolding tragedy—the loss of lives and livelihoods—the crisis offers us a chance to be grateful for what we have and the things we value and cherish more than anything in life. Consider this.

1. The privilege of being alive, a privilege not granted to everyone, and hopefully to be able to grow old and ride into the sunset one evening in the distant future.

2. The knowledge that most if not all of us are surrounded by our loved ones—our families—without whom we can scarcely imagine what life would have been like.

3. The capacity to enjoy each day, make the most of it before day turns into night, of a life lived so well as to seek nothing more out of it.

4. The good fortune of finding true love, wise teachers and wonderful friends who wait in the shadows, never too far, lest we should need a shoulder to cry and comfort, words that soothe and calm or a spontaneous burst of laughter.

5. The ability to count our blessings each night before we turn off the light and wake up the next morning and thank the One for another beautiful day.

What more can we ask for?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Aliens in our own land

Photo ©  Edwin Hooper/Unsplash
It's hard to believe that India has entered the fifth month of lockdown, which has been partially lifted since it was first imposed on March 25. How time flies! It seemed only yesterday that my family and I spoke of Covid-19 as a transitory bug that would soon disappear from our midst. We didn't think it'd extract such a deadly toll on our world at the time. Impermanence was the last thing on the parasite's mind. It was here to stay, procreate and establish a vectorial colony. Its pandemic journey, so far, reading like the plot of a Robin Cook medical thriller. Only much worse, and frighteningly real.

I can picture the diabolic expression on the virus's genetic code as it sneers at us. "I have come and I'm not goin' anywhere! I'm gonna get you, every one of you. Do you hear me, you pathetic earthlings?!"

Loud and clear. Maybe not.

The virus has made an entire generation, young and old, paranoid and fearful of life and its fragility. Nothing is as it used to be. Nothing will ever be the same again. The laws of the living and the dead have been rewritten in the Human Constitution. Those privileged to be still around live in forced or self-imposed isolation for fear of getting infected and in turn infecting loved ones, while those who have succumbed to premature death rest in their coffins with name tags and no family to lay a wreath and send them on their final journey. The vile and cruel nature of the virus can only be compared to that of a tyrannical ruler or a mad dictator. Neither has a soul or compassion for humanity.

In the early days of the lockdown, when positive cases in India were in the hundreds, I visited the local grocer every four days to buy essentials. I wasn't too worried about the virus and its capacity for laying waste to human life. I was sure that life would soon return to a semblance of normality. After all, we'd endured many terrible events in the past, riots, bomb blasts, terror attacks, earthquakes, cyclones, floods, assassinations. In fact, I even posted jokes about the lockdown on my blog and on social media. One went like this: "As soon as the one-day corona curfew ended (on March 22), I rushed to the grocery shop and came out with an armload of foodstuff, bread, milk, butter, eggs, rice, pulses and OCD." Another joke ran, "I was the only guy at the store until another masked moron walked in, and then we both froze. It seemed like an eternity."

The jokes earned a few laughs, but the humour didn't last long.

As new cases began to spike and fatalities increased, paranoia took over and I stopped going out. Instead, like scores of other anxious individuals, I ordered everyday items over the phone or WhatsApp and collected them at the gate. The logic being that, meeting one closer home was better than meeting many in and around shops. All along, I wore two masks and gloves, kept my distance, came home and washed the goods in the kitchen sink, put them out to dry like laundry in the sunshine, scrubbed the door handles and the doorbell with an antiseptic, took a hot shower and changed into fresh clothes. If that wasn't enough, I inhaled steam, drank warm water and popped a vitamin C.

But still, the doubts lingered.

Did I follow the Covid-19 protocol? Did I accidentally touch my face before washing my hands? In fact, did I even wash my hands for twenty seconds? I Googled the dos and don'ts of staying safe. I put mental ticks against each of the precautions. Not convinced, I then counted the days, like a stressed office-goer waiting for the weekend. Three days later, with no signs of a fever, cough or fatigue, I gave myself the all-clear.

On August 2, several weeks after the last trip to the grocer, my wife and I finally stepped out. We went for a walk in the neighbourhood, our faces hidden behind N95 masks and our eyes suspicious of those who did not. We hurriedly crossed the road every time we saw someone walking towards us without a mask, or wearing one under the nose or chin, like a fashion accessory. Young men roamed about in groups, their faces exposed and unmindful of physical distance. We circled the block quickly and returned home to the now annoying ritual of hand-washing and whatnot. If this was going to be the new way of life, then mask-abiding, social-distancing citizens like us were doomed.

As restrictions ease and economic activity reopens, many countries around the world, including India, are seeing record spikes in new cases. European countries such as Belgium, Spain and Germany are reporting a resurgence in infections, fuelling talk of a second wave and likely imposition of another lockdown. The fears were voiced by none other than Boris Johnson. In a July 29 report on its website, The Washington Post quoted the British Prime Minister as saying, "Let's be absolutely clear about what's happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends. I'm afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic."

Not quite. Researchers and epidemiologists warn that the world is still in the throes of the first wave. Infections are rising again because people are back on the streets, in offices, in parks and on beaches, and inside supermarkets. In many cases, throwing caution to the wind, jeopardising their own safety and that of others. Basically, what they're saying is that if the life-threatening microbe doesn't get you first, reckless human behaviour will.

Months after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a global health emergency, the UN agency, on August 1, hinted at the "anticipated lengthy duration" of the pandemic and called for response efforts over long term. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned, "The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come. Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks." As if that wasn't alarming enough, Dr Tedros told a virtual press conference on August 3, "We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there's no silver bullet at the moment—and there might never be."

As I write this piece, it is 132 days since India imposed the world's strictest lockdown. With no end to the relentless march of the virus and no sight of an immediate vaccine or cure, the only humane thing to do is to stay safe and, equally, keep others safe. Adhere to the protocol like our very lives depended on it, which, in fact, they do. For this, though, the world needs a booster dose of sensitivity and compassion. There isn't enough going around. We have already seen both among front line workers—doctors and nurses. Their heroic struggles to heal the sick and prevent the very sick from dying at great risk to their own existence ought to be a great lesson for the rest of humanity; particularly those who behave as if Covid-19 is a harmless planet-hopping extraterrestrial en route to some other planet or distant galaxy.

The fact is, the virus is already home—and it has turned us into aliens in our own land.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Antiviral: A verse in 100 words

© Sarah Kilian/Unsplash
No matter
How strong my immunity
How many vitamins I pop
How healthy my diet
How fit and sound of mind
How suitable my blood group
I'm never safe
Never ever
If I don't
Keep my distance
Wear a mask, or two
Stay off the road
Remain at home.

COVID-19 doesn't care
A farthing, for my
Clean bill of health
It's in its nature, to
First Invade
Then Ravage, and
Finally Destroy
Guerrilla style, with
Lethal weapons
In its deceptive
Viral armoury.

Beware, the hidden enemy
Our human body
This beautiful gift, is its
Endoscopic battlefield

Don't let it be.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Sunday, May 31, 2020

I fall only to write again

© Charles Deluvio/Unsplash
In my personal capacity, I write what makes me happy. In my official capacity, I write what makes my clients happy. Either way I make sure I enjoy whatever I write.

When I write for myself, I'm not limited by boundaries and conventions. I have the freedom, the artistic license, to give expression to my thoughts and ideas, and put it down on paper as best I can. I'm not a perfect writer—far from it—but I strive to create the wow factor in the reader's mind.

Not everything I write is readable but everything I write should have been worth writing. Even if it means crumpling the paper and tossing it into the waste basket a dozen times, and starting all over again. In our times the delete and backspace keys work as effectively—and ruthlessly. I never hesitate to use either, for it wipes out any trace of shoddy writing, which, in my opinion, is inexcusable.

I have my share of bad writing every day, every week, and it's enough to piss me off. But I know each time that happens I have to get up, dust myself and try again. I fall only to write again.

To me, writing is like a solitary journey where the experience of travelling is more gratifying than arriving at my destination.

My word.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A wedding anniversary in lockdown

Never in my dreams did I imagine my wife and I'd be celebrating our wedding anniversary—30th and no less—in lockdown. And yet, we did so on April 22, with simple and delicious home-cooked meals.

The celebration was subdued but we derived joy and comfort from being close to each other and knowing that our children, our son, daughter and son-in-law, were safe. That, soon, we would put all of this behind us, come together and have a reunion befitting birthdays, anniversaries, the celebration of life itself.

For, no matter how successful we are in our careers, the rungs we climb to positions of leadership, the wealth we amass, the influence and power we wield, none of these matter if we do not find contentment and happiness in our homes, with our loved ones and in our hearts.

To be able to return home every evening is a blessing. To be able to return home to a family that cares for us beyond and above everything else is a greater blessing. We are the lucky ones. Not everyone has this privilege.

Tragic as the reasons for the lockdown are, it's a rare occasion to know our families better, and love and cherish them more than we already do.

I'd like to think of it this way: A family is to die for.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lockdown Diary: What next? What if?

Logbook: March 25, 2020

The janata or people's curfew across India, last Sunday, was a curtain raiser to the nationwide house arrest of over a billion people. For good reason. We knew it was coming, though I suspect most of us did not expect it to come so soon, at only four hours notice and for so long. Three weeks of confinement is a heck of a long time for a people who spend half their lifetime chasing public transport.

Until now, everything else we have endured—riots, curfew, bomb blasts, strikes and bandhs, the Surat plague, floods or terror attacks—has been localised with a specific period of time. And each time we have come out of it bruised but not broken, put the past behind us, and resumed our normal lives; the events of those fateful days never beyond the ken of our ironclad memories.

But this is different. This is almost scary. This can be life-changing. If only because we have never experienced anything like it before. There is no precedence to rely on, to learn and derive comfort from. No doubt, life will go on, eventually. But will there be a new normal? And who knows what that will be like?

Already, people are talking about work from home or remote working, a new SOHO concept, becoming more the rule than the exception. Especially now that medical experts are saying Covid-19 is here to stay, just like the annual seasonal flu, only more efficient, sly as an asymptomatic fox and probably deadlier.

Yesterday, I came wide awake at 3.30 am. There was no going back to sleep, not when I struggled to find answers to—What now? What next? What if? For now, there are none.

Tomorrow is another lockdown day.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Karmacorona: Lockdown Humour

This morning, as soon as the one-day corona curfew ended, I rushed to the grocery shop and came out with an armload of foodstuff, bread, milk, butter, eggs, rice, pulses, onions, potatoes and OCD.

On my first day of work from home, I was gainfully employed. I helped my wife peel, cut and soak potatoes. She looked at the tubers and patted me, "You'll do just fine if you lose your job."

My dog, adorable as she is, hates me because I occupy her spot on the bed. Yesterday, for instance, she barked if I didn't have someplace to go, like to work or something.

I was the only guy at the grocery store until another masked moron walked in, and then we both froze. It seemed like an eternity.

Every time I pick up a book to read, I go to Twitter and see what morbidity is trending.

A lockdown is defined as "The act of confining prisoners to their cells, usually to regain control during a riot." No wonder I eat dal-chawal every day.


I invited relatives over for dinner this weekend. They said they couldn't make it. Phew, that was close!

I never knew you could have fun sitting in the car, revving up the engine and not going anywhere.

I stared long and hard at the kitchen sink and decided I didn't like my new workstation.

I switched off the phone and the television and instantly a cold fear gripped me, for I felt an inner calm such as I had never experienced before. Never again!

I saw Extension trending on Twitter and panicked. It turned out to be a promo for adapters and extensions.

I'm balding but now I run considerable risk of growing my hair and tying a ponytail. 


© Prashant C. Trikannad

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Dad

Representative Image: © Brett Jordan/Unsplash
Parents are your first teachers in life. Not because they lead by example or because they shape your mental, emotional and physical development or because they teach you early social skills, good conduct and values. But because they do so with love and sacrifice, the worth of which you realise only when you grow up and step into their shoes.

And sometimes, they teach you with a quiet understanding and an unspoken word so rare that you'll seldom find it in a place of education. As my Dad did when I was in my teens. It wasn't the first time but no lesson or lecture would've taught me what he did that day — and without uttering a single word.

"What have you got in your hand?" Dad asked me. I sank. I didn't know he'd returned home early that evening.

"Nothing," I mumbled, clutching the Anonymous Digest, the closest thing I'd come to porn at sixteen.

"Let me see it." He held out his hand. How the hell did he know!


With a dad like him,

I didn't need friends.


I produced the thin digest, printed on cheap dull grey paper, from behind my back and handed it to him.

Dad quickly flipped through the pages and said, "Here, take it."

I looked up and took the Digest back. As he turned, I thought I saw him smile. I hurriedly put the book away.

As I walked past, Dad said to me, "See if you can get 8 Down." He was pointing to the popular London Times cryptic in The Times of India. I took the paper and pen from him. We always solved the challenging crossword together.

With a Dad like him, I didn't need friends. It was the finest lesson in parenting that no grade or degree could've helped me become a better individual, husband and father.