Search This Blog

January 10, 2017

Forget Taimur. Talk about my name.

For the last few weeks so much has been said about the name of a baby boy of a celebrity couple. I am not going to comment about that. Not because I don't have anything to say about the foolishness of the whole thing. But because I know parents have the choice of naming their new born with what appeals to them (for whatever reason). 

I mean look at my name. Binty. I have no idea what my parents were thinking when they named me, asking them has revealed no  better. I am a Punjabi, so a pet-name type name is expected but usually a formal name is also given (which of course no one ever knows). But in my case it was just this one name that has seen me through school, college and other formal platforms. My name has been the source of lots of fun (for my students who called me Bhindi, I know dear children and it is okay), disbelief (Really!, Are you sure?), ridicule (what a silly name!). Also the fact my brother and sister have lovely beautiful names with meaning didn't help at all! Many times I wished I had a more common name like Ritu, Seema or even Anu! It has not been easy to answer the following questions all my life, like even till yesterday!

  • Is this your real name?
  • Is it on your degree and passport?
  • Is it Vinanti or Vinti or Biniti (which has some meaning)?
  • On phone I invariably have to spell it.
  • I have been called Bunty, Minty, Bindi and dont ask how but Pinky and Dimpy also!
  • Never heard it before, so unusual!(and that leads to the next very important question)
  • What does it mean? 
Now when I was much younger I checked in the languages I know but still found no meaning for my name. So there I was, stuck with a name with no meaning. Time passed by and I somehow made peace with my name. 
When my daughters grew up the world of Google was well established and one day on Internet they found out by sheer chance that Binty in Swahili and Arabic means... hold your breath... 'daughter'. (

Accidentally finding this beautiful meaning for name after five decades of my existence should have been a cause for big cheer, but I realized that it didn't matter to me any more... whether it had a meaning or not, I was still the same person. My parents were also totally unaffected by this big revelation, as they had kept my name because they liked the sound of it. And confidentially let me tell you somewhere in all these years I started to like the uniqueness of it. Many people remember it not because I have to repeat it but because it is different.

So even if you come across a person that you do not like socially or politically, STAY OUT OF IT! Because it really is none of your business, it is always between the parents and the person.

December 14, 2015

Stay Aware, Stay Healthy

Two years ago on this day I had no care in the world. I went to watch a fantastic play by Naseeruddin Shah in Pune. It got over late and my husband and I stopped by Pune Club to catch a quick drink and dinner. A glass of rum and Coke with some grilled fish. Reached home around midnight and went to sleep. After an hour or so I felt uneasy and rushed to the bathroom to throw up. And throw up several more times. Easily blaming either the food or the drink, I kept trying all kinds of things like saunf, ajwain, electrol, lime water and waited for the feeling to subside. But it just won't go away even though there was nothing left to throw up. Both of us thought it to be food poisoning at the worst.

Around 5 am I managed to doze off, and got up after a few minutes. I tried to call out to my husband who also had slept after an exhausting night but no voice would come out. I just couldn't talk or even say out his name. I tugged at the sheet and hit the bed with my hand to get his attention. At the same time my right arm went totally numb and lifeless and my face had a mild contortion. Realising that these symptoms were were not normal, my husband and my wonderful neighbours immediately rushed me to the hospital nearby. I passed out in the elevator and when I woke up hours later I was informed about the stroke. I didn't believe the diagnosis as I had no blood pressure or cholesterol issues, was healthy and active, in fact had taken up running a few days earlier. But there it was - Transient Ischemic Attack.

I recovered well and am lucky to have no obvious signs of it. My speech is fine. I run regularly, slow and steady though. Some people who meet me for the first time are also surprised to hear about it! The stroke though has left me changed in some ways.

Every single night I think of it when I go to sleep. What if I can't get up in the morning? What if it happens again? What will I do if it happens when I am alone at home? Whom will I call? Who will take me to the hospital? What if it leaves me incapacitated? Will I have another one or just fear this all my life? It is not the fear of death but the fear of being immobilised that scares me. I never have rum and fish together, thinking may be it was this combination that triggered the stroke.

My right side is a bit slow and it takes me longer to type with my right hand. My right arm feels heavier and different (from the left arm) to touch. Also I end up making more mistakes and have to spellcheck everything. I love reading and could read for hours before. Now my retention span has become shorter and takes me much longer to finish a book. I forget things, even important ones. I have become more emotional and it takes very little to make me cry (may be age). How I would love to train well and run fast but I can't do so! But I have to make sure that I am not overdoing it or stressing my body even a bit over it. So slowly and steadily I have learnt to make my peace with completing a half marathon without bothering about the timings.

Most of you who know me for long already know all about it. And this not why I am writing this post. I am writing this because stroke doesn't happen to people with a defined profile. Healthy people which no previous family history or signs can be affected by it. Awareness is important as is immediate medical help. So if you think that an ache or symptom however innocuous is out of the ordinary, get help.

Learn to listen to your body. 

February 4, 2015

Keep your Children Safe...

I am an educator. I work with children daily. I talk/listen/share views with them on many topics. And I also talk to them about their personal safety. It shocks me that hardly a handful of parents talk to them about ALL their body parts and hardly any give them the 'sex talk'. 
It really is the time to change that. And start early. Sometimes 'a little later' is too late! You can read this poem to them or with them to make a start in keeping our children safe :)

(Thanks to ECA India for making the poem available for everyone concerned.)

September 4, 2014

I Am a Teacher.

In times when you are judged by the company you work for, the position you hold, the number of people who report to you and by the money you make, I am a misfit.

I am a Teacher. Yes only a teacher.

I have never earned enough from this job to be able to run my home or had the benefits that come with a corporate job. I have also been told ‘ You could have been successful in a nine-to-five job, what a waste of your talent’, ‘Teaching, oh that’s an easy job with not much to do’, ‘How could you spend so much time in a class full of kids’ and many other things.

I could have continued working in advertising or the hospitality industry, where I worked earlier in my career and made more money and name but a quick turn of events landed me in a classroom of fifty six year old kids.

My first day was a disaster! A student fell down and got injured and I forgot to check on him. The students were smart and naughty enough to sense my discomfort and won’t be quiet. It seemed impossible to reach out to all fifty of them at once. By the end of the day with hoarse throat, swollen feet I was ready to quit. But I went back. And back again. And spent the last 22 years with schools and children of various age groups across many cities in various capacities.

 In India, unlike in many other countries where teachers are not given their due when people in top jobs/positions understate the work I do, I look up and say ‘Hey how many of your colleagues from two decades ago remember you?’
‘Have you ever experienced the joy of being introduced to person’s family as one of the biggest influences on them?’
‘Has anyone ever told you that what they are today is because of you?’
‘Has your work shaped minds and hearts together?’
‘How often have you been invited to major life events of people you haven’t met in almost last fifteen years?’
‘Is their role multifaceted enough to include being a resource provider, curriculum specialist, organizer, assessor, learning facilitator, participant, mentor, catalyst for change all at the same time?’

I thank each and every student of mine for making me stronger, forcing me to strive harder in class, to constantly update my skills, encouraging me to try and do new things in class and forming a strong bond for life which goes much beyond the clichéd student-teacher relationship.

June 1, 2014

Are you stressed?

Some Symptoms of Stress

Thoughts (Cognitive)
Physical Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fear
  • Moodiness
  • Embarrassment
  • Jumpy
  • Depressed
  • Hostile/Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Self-criticism
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mental disorganization
  • Preoccupation with the future ("what if...")
  • Repetitive Thoughts
  • Fear of Failure
  • Tight muscles
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Headaches
  • Back of neck tension
  • Tense shoulders
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Stomach distress
  • More colds and infections
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore or tired eyes
  • Heart or chest pain
  • Oily skin; acne
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Stuttering
  • Other speaking difficulties
  • Crying
  • Acting impulsively
  • Nervous laughter
  • "Snapping" at others
  • Teeth grinding
  • Jaw clenching
  • Increased smoking
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Being prone to more accidents
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent urination

(If you tick your own reactions, you can get an idea of your personal responses to stress. This can help you recognise signs of stress coming on, in the future.)

February 8, 2014

Jagjit Singh, you will always be on my Playlist… (part II)

He is the only one for whom I have shown unashamed ‘fan-giri’. After a concert much to the amusement and embarrassment of my husband and friends I sneaked into the green room ducking through the security to talk to him. To listen to and be mesmerized by his voice in person. Hesitatingly I stood behind a few people who had surrounded him for autographs. I awaited my turn. And then in a flash rest of the people were gone and it was my turn. He looked directly and asked – aur aap ke liye? I mumbled something like how I am so fond of his songs. He smiled and before he could move away, I pressed the ticket in his hands. He wrote on it and said thank you to everyone and left. I clung on to the paper like it was some prize winning lottery ticket. 

He is the only one whose autograph I have ever taken. On a little piece of paper that I have kept safely. Because I also know that he is never going to give another autograph.

The next and the last time I saw him in person was at an opening of an Art Gallery. This time we spoke for a bit. A kind photographer at the event captured the moment for eternity.

I have often thought as to why I feel so connected to him.
He did not know me. But in my mind and heart he is one person who knew me very well. He has been there when I have needed to listen to his soothing voice after feeling like down in the dumps. The words he sang seemed to have been written only for me when I have sometimes let the tears roll down my face. He has been a background companion when we have spent many lovely evenings with friends. It is his voice that accompanies me on my countless drives between cities. Much to the surprise of many people I have his songs on my ‘run list’ too   He has shared my moods like a close friend or confidante.

(I am sharing a few of his ghazals which are close to my heart)

ये जो जिंदगी की किताब हैं, ये किताब भी क्या किताब हैं
कही एक हसीन सा ख्वाब हैं, कही जानलेवा अज़ाब हैं

कही छाँव हैं कही धुप हैं कही और ही कोई रूप हैं
कई चेहरे इसमें छुपे हुये, एक अजीब सी ये नकाब हैं

कही खो दिया कही पा लिया, कही रो लिया कही गा लिया
कही छीन लेती हैं हर खुशी, कही मेहरबान बेहिसाब हैं

कही आसुओं की हैं दास्तान, कही मुस्कुराहटों का बयां
कही बरकतों की हैं बारिशें, कही तिश्नगी बेहिसाब हैं


कभी-कभी यूँ भी हमने अपने जी को बहलाया है,
जिन बातों को खुद नहीं समझे, औरों को समझाया है,

हमसे पूछो इज्ज़तवालों की इज्ज़त का हाल यहाँ,
हमने भी इस शहर में रहकर थोड़ा नाम कमाया है,

उससे बिछड़े बरसों बीते, लेकिन आज ना जाने क्यूँ?
आँगन में हँसते बच्चों को बेकार धमकाया है,

कोई मिला तो हाथ मिलाया, कहीं गए तो बातें की,
घर से बाहर जब भी निकले, दिन भर बोझ उठाया है.


शायद मैं जिंदगी की सहर ले के गया
क़ातिल को आज अपने ही घर ले के गया
ता उम्र ढूँढता रहा मंज़िल मैं इश्क की
अंजाम ये के गर्द--सफर ले के गया
नश्तर है मेरे हाथ में कांधों पे मैकदा
लो मैं इलाज--दर्द--जिगर ले के गया
'फाकिर' सनम मैकदे में आता मैं लौटकर
इक ज़ख्म भर गया था इधर ले के गया

मैं भूल जाऊं तुम्हे, अब यही मुनासिब है
मगर भूलाना भी चाहूँ तो किस तरह भूलूँ
कि तुम तो फ़िर भी हकीक़त हो कोई ख्वाब नहीं
यहाँ तो दिल का ये आलम है क्या कहूँ
"कमबख्त" भुला सका ना ये वो सिलसिला जो था ही नहीं
वो इक ख्याल जो आवाज़ तक गया ही नहीं
वो एक बात जो मैं कह नहीं सका तुमसे
वो एक रब्त जो हम में कभी रहा ही नहीं
मुझे है याद वो सब जो कभी हुआ ही नहीं
अगर ये हाल है दिल का तो कोई समझाए
तुम्हें भुलाना भी चाहूँ तो किस तरह भूलूँ कि तुम तो फ़िर भी हकीक़त हो कोई ख्वाब नहीं

वो दिल ही क्या तेरे मिलने की जो दुआ ना करे,
मैं तुझको भूल के जिंदा रहूँ, खुदा ना करे.

रहेगा साथ तेरा प्यार ज़िन्दगी बनकर,
ये और बात, मेरी ज़िन्दगी वफ़ा ना करे.

सुना है उसको मुहब्बत दुआए देती है,
जो दिल पे चोट खाए मगर गिला ना करे.

ये ठीक है नहीं मरता कोई जुदाई में,
खुदा किसी को किसी से मगर जुदा ना करे.

खुदा किसी को किसी पर फ़िदा ना करे,
अगर करे तो क़यामत तलक जुदा ना करे.


मैंने दिल से कहा, दीवाने बता
जब से कोई मिला, तू है खोया हुआ,
ये कहानी है क्या, है ये क्या सिलसिला, दीवाने बता
मैंने दिल से कहा, दीवाने बता
धडकनों में छुपी, कैसी आवाज़ है
कैसा ये गीत है कैसा ये साज़ है,
कैसी ये बात है, कैसा ये राज़ है, दीवाने बता
मेरे दिल ने कहा, जब से कोई मिला
चाँद तारे फिजां, फूल भंवरे हवा
ये हसीं वादियाँ, नीला ये आसमान
सब है जैसे नया, मेरे दिल ने कहा
मैंने दिल से कहा, मुझको ये तो बता,
जो है तुझको मिला, उसमे क्या बात है
क्या है जादूगरी, कौन है वो परी, दीवाने बता
ना वो कोई परी, ना कोई महजबीं
ना वो दुनिया में सबसे है ज्यादा हसीं,
भोलीभाली-सी है, सीधी साधी-सी है,
लेकिन उसमे अदा एक निराली सी है
उसके बिन मेरा जीना ही बेकार है,
मैंने दिल से कहा, बात इतनी सी है,
कि तुझे प्यार है,
मेरे दिल ने कहा मुझको इकरार है,
हाँ मुझे प्यार है.

Jagjit Singh, you will always be on my Playlist…