Just my take on everything

On The Wings Of A Credit Card

by Shalini Kagal

Once upon a time not too long ago, there were certain rules that most people played by. Many of them were unwritten but they acted like strong guidelines, keeping one on the straight and narrow. This was especially true when it came to money. We spent what we had. It was a shame to borrow. We used what we spent on. It was criminal to waste.

credit card


Somewhere along the line, these time-tested ethical boundaries became a bit blurred. First, it was the convenience – no more carrying wads of bills around. The credit card was just a plastic representation of the money you had in the bank. The changing ethical values crept in insidiously. Just a little short? Oh, we’ll cover you – all you need to do is pay a small charge for the short period till you get some money into your account. The wiles of Mammon are hard to spot so we never know till we’re so entangled that it seems impossible to get out. Let’s look at the temptations to which we succumbed when it came to credit and credit cards.

Temptation#1: Looks Good, Feels Good

Our feet left the ground – just a little bit but it felt good. We secretly felt superior to so many people we knew – we could flaunt a bit of plastic. At this point, it was convenience, yes, but it also defined us as belonging to a different stratosphere.

Temptation #2: Fly Now, Pay Later

The temptation to keep up with the Joneses reared its head – ugly? No! All it did was to paint beautiful dreams – dreams that we had the power to make real. Whatever it was we wanted had a magic key – that piece of plastic became our Abracadabra.

Temptation #3: No One’s Getting Hurt

We weren’t borrowing from anyone we knew – we were helping to keep the economy running. A faceless entity created a suspension of disbelief. Floating as we were above solid ground, it felt like a rush of adrenalin, making us feel all-powerful against the cards that Fate had dealt. Up there, there was no right or wrong – it was a different dimension. Where every want became a need and all it took for gratification was that little piece of plastic.

Temptation #4: So what?

How long do the winds of credit hold you up? Who cared? The view from up there was sooooo good – we never wanted to come down again. If walking on a credit cloud meant we could have anything or almost anything our hearts desired, so be it.

We never saw the shadowy figures of the puppet masters above us. Were we flying or were we just puppets on a string? How hard would we fall when the game ended?

Coming back to earth is never easy. We need to get acclimatized to the dust, the dirt, the practicalities. When we’ve singed our wings Icarus-style by flying too close to the sun however, it’s time to get back and grow our land legs. The great thing is that Mother Earth, in spite of the raping and the pillaging of her resources has her arms wide open. She’s got something for everyone. It’s up to us to reach out, take it and make it work. Like fallen angels, hanging up our wings (or were they marionette strings?) and our endless wants along with them and working our way up in the arena we were created for – the earth and all its goodness. This time around, within the framework of ethics, not yielding to temptation.

The Best Religion

by Shalini Kagal

I’m one of those forward freaks. I love getting them and I love passing them on if I think someone else will enjoy something as much as I did. So when I got this forward about the Brazilian theologist Leonardo Boffand the Dalai Lama, I was intrigued.

Leonardo Boff works with the Rio de Janeiro State University as Professor Emeritus in Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology. He was trained to be a priest in the Catholic Church but left the ministry when the Church came down strongly on his criticism of its fundamentalist leadership. He’s been a fervent champion of human rights and he’s been involved in communities that work among the very poor in Brazil.

So what happens when an ex-Catholic priest, now a writer and a philosopher meets the Dalai Lama? What happens when he asks him questions about which religion is the best? Take a look at what happened.


So it left me wondering. How many religious people I know can I say fit into this definition? (Here I go judging, shame on me! But it’s humanly tough not to wonder!) And I also wondered how many people who openly declare that they are not religious fit in so well. I know that a lot of ‘religious’ people will say the Dalai Lama is no authority on such divine matters but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that true religion has got to be more than the narrow minded confines that each man-made religion imposes on its followers. Yes, there are more questions than answers. Is there a Universal Truth? Is there a God at all? Or many? Should there be religions or are they unnecessary? Questions with answers that throw open the door to so much debate – and fights, anger, even bloodshed. If we look beyond these questions, some things remain – like the acknowledgement of what is true and what is good. What is peace and what is love. What is ethical and what is not. And how these will make our lives better. So maybe while we follow our religions which we were brought up in or which we embraced because of belief, we need to look beyond to the Universal Truth as well. Who knows, we might free our minds and get to a space where we realize that there’s more to religion or a belief system than being religious. The way I see it, it will only enrich the religion or the beliefs we follow.

Girlfriend Tonic

by Shalini Kagal

No, I didn’t coin that – someone I know did that and ever since I heard it, it’s been going around in my head and I just can’t help thinking how perfectly it describes what girlfriends are all about. Okay, I know at my age, we can hardly call ourselves ‘girls’ – not by any stretch of imagination. And yet, ‘girlfriend tonic’ describes it so perfectly, never mind what our age!





Recently, we got together – a friend who lives in Canada was down and we decided to meet up at a common friend’s house and spend a couple of days together – just chilling. Just that phrase made us feel young again! That’s all we did actually – ordered in and talked and stayed silent through companionable silences. And talked some more. And ate and drank and got more voluble. Strange how the years just roll back – in our case, over thirty years and though we keep meeting at intervals, we always go back to the first time we met and became such good friends. Maybe that’s the secret of ‘girlfriend tonic’ – it makes you feel young again.

It’s amazing how revived and refreshed you feel when you get together with old friends. Like the time I finished all the work that had piled up, left late in the evening and got to this friend’s house at 10.30 at night. She had dinner waiting for me, piping hot. And we talked till almost 5 in the morning. I got back the following day feeling great! We all have pretty happy lives, great husbands, great kids, a good life – but there’s something about ‘girlfriend tonic’ that makes you shed the years like nothing else can. Well, that’s the way all of us feel when we’ve spent time with our close friends. Then one day, into my email Inbox there popped a forward that seemed to explain it so well. It was written by a student in Stanford who had just listened to a lecture by the head of psychiatry there. He was talking about the mind-body connection and how stress could bring about disease. For a man to stay healthy, he said, he should be married but for a woman, the best way was to nurture her friendship with her girlfriends. The class thought it was a joke but he was very serious.

If stress is what causes ill health, the web of support that girlfriends create around each other help each one get through those stressful moments without getting sucked in. It has been proved that during this time together, women produce more of serotonin in the brain which is such a great pick-me-up and one of the best ways to protect against depression. Men might get together and talk about their activities while women usually talk about how they feel when they are with their friends. We bare our souls, we rant, we rave, we cry, we laugh, we giggle …. in short, we let it all out.

This psychiatry professor said that exercising our bodies was great but it was as important to exercise our minds. And girlfriend time is just the way to do it. Many of us have been blessed with girlfriends who are the perfect tonic to help us get through life with a smile. I’m one of them and I’m truly grateful.

This hub is dedicated to my wonderful girlfriends scattered all over the world. Whatever would I do without all of you? Thank you… (in alphabetical order) Andrea, Christine, Kiruba, Lyra, Madhuri, Melanie, Rekha, Smita, Suneeta, Sushama.

Born Bad?

by Shalini Kagal

The other night, someone I barely knew said something that got me thinking real hard. There was music, laughter and the aroma of food all around and the mood was joyous to say the least. It was a big fat Indian wedding and next to me was a man who had been the head of one of the largest heavy engineering corporations in the country. He retired many years ago and the talk turned from cricket – almost every Indian’s passion – to the corruption in high places in the country – something we just live with day in, day out. That’s when he suddenly came out with this pronouncement.

“We’re all born bad.”

Come on, I thought, though I didn’t say it. Don’t you know that we come into this world innocent and sweet, trailing clouds of glory?

He paused and went on.

“We grow to become good or not.”





What he said played on my mind for a long time. Memories of Sunday morning sermons from long ago came back to haunt me. The preacher’s thundering voice telling us with authority to repent because we were sinners and were all born in sin. It always upset me because at home, we always thought of God as a god of love. What was the truth, if there was one? Did it lie somewhere in between?

So what is the nature of the natural man? The man that is or was before the masks get fitted into place? What are our natural instincts before our parents and our teachers make us aware of what we should do and how we ought to behave, what we must say and when we can say it.

Look at kids playing and you usually find the ones who are stronger bossing the others. If they aren’t checked, they usually bully the weaker ones. Is this the way it happens in Nature – the natural way? I would hate to label it as ‘bad’ but the fact is, most of us who have read ‘Lord of the Flies’ will agree that children can be cruel when they are unsupervised.

I read a wonderful hub the other day about people being essentially good and after this, I couldn’t help wondering if we need to grow into goodness. If we are born, not with a tabula rasa but with ‘natural’ survival instincts and it’s guidance, teaching and experience that makes us what we are.

Or, is there a bad and good at all? Or just a natural state of being and a socially acceptable state? Who defines what’s good, bad or otherwise? Are we constantly torn inside because of what we are naturally and what we are told we should be? Is nothing in the world really good or bad and just our thinking that makes it so?

Questions, questions, but will there ever be answers that are conclusive?

Time For A Digital Will

by Shalini Kagal




So you might have made a will, got it registered, given someone you trust a copy to keep safe and told your family just where they can lay their hands on a copy. You’ve made sure that you’ve listed all your worldly possessions with clear instructions of what should be done with them. All very well, but have you thought of making a digital will as well? Or adding a bit to your regular will so it includes your virtual assets?

The time has come for all of us to realize that we have a presence both in the physical as well as the virtual world. In cyberspace, we have our email accounts, our pictures, our websites, our PayPal accounts or any other accounts where we might hold our money. Many of us have Google AdSense accounts, Amazon and eBay accounts, etc. If we suddenly have to shuffle off this mortal coil, we need to pass on our passwords and accounts to someone so they can deal with them. They might need to inform the sites concerned that you are no more and they might have to shut down some accounts.

Passing on email accounts to someone after us also helps in keeping our memory alive. First off, it is convenient for the person concerned to inform everyone you might know. Then, it is also easy for them to keep tabs on mail that comes in and to deal with it, something that can cause a lot of problems if someone suddenly dies and no one knows how to access his mail. When it is someone very close, it also helps to keep in touch with people who were close to that person. Recently, a hubber I only knew virtually passed away and I was touched when his wife wrote to me to inform me. Not only could I be informed, I could also write to her with my condolences.

For many of us, death is something that we prefer not to think about. However, one can make things so much easier for the loved ones left behind with a little preparation. In this day and age, don’t forget to add the digital angle to your will. It doesn’t take too long to do it and you don’t need to show it to anyone before you die if you value your privacy. After you’re gone, though, your family will bless you for it.

Only The Poor Can Party

by Shalini Kagal

All you guys and gals so very young

When you want to have some fun

Just say No because the rules

Forbid you all from being cool


No parties, please don’t touch a drop

Or you’ll find those blooming cops

They’ll come and drag you off, oh dear!

Because you see, it’s just so clear:




So who cares if they yell and scream

And dance in drunken state extreme

The loans from us go up in smoke

But – wait – they are poor folk.


You can never, ever say a word

When the music blasts through hours absurd

They can all do as they please

It’s just our kids the authorities seize.




So don’t tell us it’s the same sauce

For geese and gander just because

A democracy we might be

We still deify poverty




Should We Change Our Definition Of Rape?

by Shalini Kagal


Switch on any news channel, open any newspaper and it hits you between the eyes. Cases of rape being filed against men across the country. Now if it were a child, if it were an innocent little girl, if it were a defenceless woman who was kidnapped and carried away, my blood would boil like any self-respecting person’s would, But when it’s a case of rape after a couple has had consensual sex for a year, five years, even ten and the woman then cries ‘Rape’ loud and clear because the man doesn’t marry her, that sucks.


I read about two cases in the Pune newspapers this morning and quite honestly, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. All the women have the same complaint like a stuck record – ‘He promised me he would marry me!’ So, dahling, because he did that, you jumped into bed with him and when he doesn’t you get all upset! You poor thing! You probably suffered through it, time after time, you didn’t enjoy it one bit and the only reason you did it was because he said he was going to marry you. You horrible hypocrite! All right, if he locked you up and forced you, he should be cooked slowly in boiling oil. But if he didn’t and you just went along with it, that, my dear woman, is not rape. It’s you having a great time and when you don’t get what you want, you cry foul and run off to file a police complaint.


It gets worse. What about the suicides where the watchword seems to be ‘Cherchez l’homme!’ Death is always tragic and suicides more so because it means that there was something terribly wrong in the person’s mental make-up to take that drastic step. I’m not talking about brides or women who are harassed and where death is deliverance.  I’m talking about women who are attractive, the toast of the town, with everything they could possible want, who go do this and their boyfriends or lovers are hounded by the media as well as their social circle. The reason? He probably told her he wouldn’t marry her and she went off in a huff and ended her life. Do you honestly think a man should marry a woman who can go off the rails like that? Don’t you feel someone close to her should have recognized the signs and taken her for treatment?


This witch-hunt doesn’t do anyone any good. It gives women the right almost to have their cake and eat it too. So men have been doing it for generations but getting your own back for what your forefathers – or whatever the feminine of that is, definitely does not sound reasonable. We need to bring a bit of sanity into the situation, not have a media blitzkrieg like we had recently. It could start with treating mental problems more seriously and getting treatment for them. So many suicides and so many emotional as well as marital problems can be avoided if we treated mental problems as conditions or diseases that need medication. Let’s get rational and stem the flow, now. So we don’t lose our young women and we don’t harass our young men.

Sanctimonious Activists, Tavleen Singh?

by Shalini Kagal






The fourth estate should ideally be the conscience keeper of the nation but when certain journalists join the feudal bandwagon that our politicians have been riding for years, you wonder just how far removed they are from reality. I’ve always liked the way Tavleen Singh writes though I haven’t always accepted her viewpoint. Her article in today’s Indian Express however, was an eye-opener. It seems to reiterate the politician’s view that the voter is important for just one purpose – to vote them into power. After that, it seems to be a ‘take it or leave it’ dismissive attitude. Even worse, when questioned, there seems to be a ‘How dare you’ attitude that surfaces. Almost as if to say, once you’ve made your choice, you better put up with anything you do – or else.


The journalist feels that people power is backing the wrong horse – they should read the new bill before they support it the way they are doing. She is also quite sure that if they read it, they wouldn’t extend the kind of support they did. Why? Because the bill could investigate ordinary citizens as well. Let me tell you, Tavleen, that ordinary citizens like us have nothing to hide. We pay our taxes, we try and live our lives as honestly as we can and we hope our elected representatives spare a few thoughts for us. Who need to be worried about the Bill are the ones who are corrupt. And if the Bill is misused, a thousand Hazares will rise up to correct it, never fear.


So don’t brand them sanctimonious activists, please. After years, this is a bold U-turn back into the road to honesty and accountability. Will we stumble? Sure we will. Will we fall? We might. Will we turn back to the murky, slimy Corruption Causeway that we’ve been forced to travel on for years? Hopefully not. And the activists have made it possible. And taught sanctimonious politicians that they are answerable to the people who put them there, that they can’t just dictate and do just whatever they want and hide behind their positions of power.


You have some great ideas in your article – I’ll grant you that. But how pray will they ever be implemented if left to the politicians? We needed this hysteria as a reminder to the politicians of how they got there and what their duties are. If the politicians want to function according to the letter of the democratic law, they have to abide by the laws of democracy too. If they can have an amnesia spell about the ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’ bit soon after they get elected, then they need gentle reminders. When their hide of forgetfulness stays put, they need mass hysteria to come up and kick them – not only to remember but also never to forget again. Making laws, as you say, is the right of the governments – but when they are ineffective and corrupt, they lose that right. That was the reminder in the ‘mass hysterics’ as you term it, last week. It would do them well to remember.


You can read the article here:




The Ethical Gene

by Shalini Kagal

There were times when I wondered whether it was ever wired into our DNA. In my heart of hearts, I’ve always accepted that if I didn’t stand up for something, if I didn’t say Nay when I should, then there were no shades of grey for me to stand on. And yet, I remember a time when honesty was the rule, not the exception. When a man’s word was all that was needed to serve as a binding contract, when even the hint of any unethical step was enough to make you want to slink into a sea of shame and never show your face to people again.


So where, oh where has all that gone? It’s been a slow process, the layers that have settled over that particular gene till at last, it was well and truly dormant. Some felt its occasional stirrings but it was firmly pushed into its place with a ‘But what can one person like me do?’ The winds of change blew slowly but surely. A little ‘something’ to hasten up a slow file, a few notes surreptitiously slipped into a waiting palm to get out of paying a fine, a little more something to get a coveted job. Till what was against our natural self became accepted and what should have been a screaming against what should not be, became a whimper.




Should we have really been shocked at the enormity of the scams? What does it matter if it is a rupee or a few crores? It all belongs to the same unethical bandwagon. What we needed was a thorough cleansing, a purging. And one man came along to start the process. Somewhere, deep inside all of us, that ethical gene is stirring and trying to break free. It’s tough to get through those layers of conditioning but we can, we must, we need to and we shall. This time, we need a thorough overhaul. No more armchair ethics. This time, it has to come from deep within each of us.


All over the country, it’s like an epidemic raging. A welcome, long-needed epidemic of ethics. It’s making that dormant gene break loose and it’s lighting a fire across the nation. Are we going to catch it and spread it?

Who will bell the burkha?

by Shalini Kagal

2 wheeler riders



The D-Day was yesterday. ‘No more scarves or masks that cover your face’ was the edict. Did the police ruthlessly tear away every scarf wrapped around the typical Pune two wheeler rider’s face? Oh, no. They’ve just pushed the deadline forward by a day or two. Will the girls – and boys too – who ride the many scooters and motorbikes that are so much a part of the city follow this rule? I seriously doubt it.


For one thing, this is one city that really doesn’t like rules. Riding on the wrong side of the road, not bothering to wear a helmet, riding three to a two-wheeler right past a cop – and when caught, accelerating so the poor cop is left behind rattled and fuming.


This rule is a lot more. The girls and the women in Pune wrap their faces and look like terrorists not to cock a snook at the cops but so that they don’t get one shade darker than they absolutely have to. It’s an obsession and what’s amusing is that many men do it too – doubtless for the same reason!


To ask these well-wrapped up fair and lovelies to bare their skin to the sun – oh, the horror of it all! The masks that someone made millions out of during the swine flu scare have long since been relegated to the dustbins but the scarves that wrap a face have not. And if they do try and tear them away and prevent people from wearing them, what about the burkha, then? Will anyone dare to banish the burkha from the streets of Pune? Bomb blasts or terrorists, no one’s going to have the guts to bell the burkha. Like many of the rules that have come to Pune with fanfare and gone out with a whimper, this too, looks like its days are numbered!

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