Negative Affirmation

Hello there, Get away from me.

I wonder what you are doing there
But do I look like I care?

Why do you walk away
When I don’t want you here?

Ignore me and I will have you acknowledge me soon.
Scoff at me and you will probably see me swoon.

Smile at me and I will reward you with a scowl.
Laugh at me and I will probably join in and howl.

Wrap me in despair and I shall find a ray of light.
Fill me with happiness and I shall cry to sleep at night.

Fight alongside me and I shall probably leave the battle.
Weep with me and I shall spite you for being weak cattle.

Help me out and watch as I disown you.
Wrong me and see me right the whole world anew.

Stay way clear of me by promising to never leave me.
Welcome to my farewell, my beloved enemy.

Did who I am make you wonder aloud?
I am the friggin’ contradiction your mother warned you about.



Ranting Runt

My education better than your tuition,

My nation shining brighter than your country,

My skin color lighter than your complexion,

My patriotism stronger than your nationalism,

My esteem worth more than your ego,

My idols doing better than your role models,

Yes, mine, mine, all mine,

Even as I forget you also can shine,

We, who like to worship imaginary gods,

We love to forget real devils,

We, who dismiss people for causes

and causes for the lack of time,

We are predators,

We feed on applause,

We love compliments in breakfast,

gossip for lunch and skip dinner

coz we are on a righteous diet,

We carry our inflated selves,

Our self-important balloons,

trying to be a unique balloon,

a helium balloon, trying like hell to fly away,

locked inside a square room like everyone else,

filled with gas like everyone else.

© Balloons for two
by EastCoastCanuck @deviantart

Gifts unseen

Talents. Talented. Gifts. Gifted.

That delightful mix of skills that we have recognized as being important and relevant to propel one from the obscure mass of the faceless population into the spotlight of some stage somewhere. Be it the world stage, the national stage, an office stage, a party’s center..

But, then, what is the right amount of talent?
What is the right amount of that heady mix that make people go, ‘Aww..’, ‘Ooohhh..’ and ‘Oh my..’?

If any of you wise intellectuals actually put your hand up, allow me to shoot it down with some unsolicited advice.

Do we need talent for us to appreciate people? Do we need to be a performer to get Ooh’s and Aah’s from society as an audience?

Our concept of talent is flawed. Our understanding of what makes a person special badly needs a revisit. The whole notion that you need a specific set of skills to be recognizable as a talent is shameful.
It is like saying that the rest of the population is unremarkable.

Can’t people who care deeply to a fault be called talented?
Isn’t having absurdly long patience to deal with anything that life throws at you, a skill?
Shouldn’t people be acknowledged for having the strength to get up everyday and trying again?

Like most things in life, we unfortunately are attracted mainly by glitter that shines like gold. Not realizing that a little bit of glow goes on and off everyday inside each of us everyday. Not acknowledging that the light of our virtues is worth way more than the combined light of a thousand splendid suns.

Stop a moment. Step back and look around.
See that guy who drops a 10-rupee note everyday for that homeless man? The child who regularly feeds the puppy at the end of the street? The old man well past his pension age who earns a living hauling loads. See that mother working day in and day out to make sure her family is doing well? The father who walks past his favourite sport or passion to make sure that his children get their school fees?

Bring that left palm smack over your right palm and let that applause ring.
Let that ring out till they hear it and acknowledge it.
Let it ring now so that we may still say that we are a world of talents. We are a world of filled to the brim with talents, eking out our living by embracing our strengths.

That ends my rant for the day. Peace.



Notre Dame, Marseille, France
© Nikhil Muralidharan

I first came to the land better known for Napoleon, Joan of Arc and Clouseau two months back. Three months of student exchange thanks to the management program at my business school, IMT Ghaziabad. With less than a month left, I felt it was time to put down some thoughts about the experience.
Here are a few things that the stay in the international student community in Marseilles, the second biggest city in France, has taught me.

1.       Everything is opposite

That’s the first impression you get when you reach here. Traffic, light switches and doors are the main things that baffle you. It’s like you are suddenly back to learning the basics again. You wait to cross the road looking at the direction you are used to looking in India and halfway across the road you realize that the cars are coming from the other direction. But, thankfully, most drivers are polite here, which brings us to the next point.


A typical switch in France in OFF mode.

2.       People are polite and courteous

Be it the janitor in your building, be it the guy at the ticket counter or a random person on the road, almost everyone is polite. You suddenly feel like crying when you finally find people, even those in public services, greeting you with a “Bonjour!” or saying “Au revoir!” or “Merci!” when you leave. And it is not something they do out of the way. It is a way of life here.

3.       Fashionable people. Everywhere.

Almost everyone from the little toddler sitting in his pram to the old lady walking with the help of her grandson are dressed like they are going to walk the fashion ramp on the way home. The result? You have a feeling that you are grossly under-dressed. It’s like walking into a cocktail party in your college clothes.

 4.       Food! Oh, Indian food, I miss you!

That’s one of the main things you are going to miss if you are one of the people who is particular about your food. Initially, you live on “pain” (Although it sounds like torture it’s just the French word for bread and small sandwiches J). You slowly find your feet with other food once you realize what each item on a menu means. It is a real task for vegetarians to find good food because almost everything is meat-based and most of it can be bland to your tongue brought up on spicy Indian food. The closest you will get to Indian are the kebabs at the Istanbul or Doner restaurants.


A kebab place

Sandwiches baguette

French baguette sandwiches

5.       Prices. Euros. The conversion. OMG!
If you are a typical middle-class Indian, you feel like you will have a heart attack every time you take out your wallet to pay. Your first week in the place is usually spent hunting for things to buy that are under 1€!! It takes you a while to realize that you are fighting a losing battle and then resign yourself to spending an average of 5 € for a meal. You do the math! And the plug points! All are two-pin plug points. So people without converters are screwed until they buy a new one which usually cost 14-15 € o start with. My advice: buy a converter from India when you come.


Euro currency

6.       Lots of languages. I mean lots!

On group assignments given in class, you spend more time learning about other cultures and languages than doing the course work. Russian, Lao, Chinese, Spanish, Portugese and of course, French are some of the languages I have had the opportunity to hear and learn.
While on the subject of languages, it is important to mention that I have been indebted to Google Translate ever since I reached France. Almost everything is written in French and having a translator app in your mobile is a blessing!

7.       Couch-surfing. Is. The. Best.

Although I had heard of the concept before, I got to try it out only after coming here. It’s basically people who invite you to stay over at their place when you visit their city in return for…nothing. That’s right! It is all about meeting new people and learning about new cultures. It makes a huge difference to your schedules and wallet when you are back-packing across countries in Europe. And it is relatively safe, provided you do your research about your host before requesting for a stay in a city. You get to interact with the local people in a city every time you visit a city.  Be it the European Parliament member who hosted us in Brussels, the old businessman in Antwerpen with a 200-year old house or the group of musicians in Liege, every couch surfing experience so far has been novel and thrilling.
But, a word of caution, please be sure of the kind of host you are staying with and make sure they are vouched for at the site before you request them for a stay.

 8.       Beautiful locations

Contrary to the story Yash Chopra movies have taught me, it seems it’s not just Switzerland that is beautiful. Take any place in a city and you could probably relate it to a movie song sequence you have seen. Plug in headphones, take a walk and feel like Surya in a Gautham Menon movie. 😀

The Calanques at Marseille.

The Calanques at Marseille.
© Nikhil Muralidharan

9.       Punctuality

That is one more thing you will not be used to if you are used to waiting for long periods for public services. The public services, especially the transport services, are so good at keeping time that they could put a watch to shame.

10.   Cars. Bikes. And Toilet Paper!

This first part is for the people who go crazy over bikes and cars. You will have plenty to ogle here on the roads. The sheer variety of vehicles for different needs leads you to realize that you have only seen a small share of the automobile industry.
And last but not the least, we come to the dreaded topic of toilet papers! To those who are not used to it, it is an altogether different experience. Gross maybe, but definitely different. Like all things in life, you do eventually get used to it.

That’s all for now. Europe has been kind so far. A few more days and I will have to visit it in my memories. Sniff. Blow. Sniff!  😉

The King and his clothes

Wrap that threadbare shroud of self-respect around you,
cover your eyes with those whims and fancies,
breathe in those airs you can claim as your own,
tower over humbler mortals too subtle,
stamp down voices of reason coz they are different,
make yourself heard over your own din,
My, we are a spectacle, aren’t we?
My, we are so obsessed, aren’t we?
Lookee here, we are so good, aren’t we?
You, who makes the dhobi call you Sirji,
My poor boy, you are but a sad little Farji!!



They come.

They hold sway.

You lose yourself.

You become young again.

You see what you are, remember what you were.

The path shines once again.

The milestones glitter, the potholes shimmer.

Times have changed.

People have too.

You look around, you look within.

Ah. It’s been a good ride.

It’s been a great adventure.


When they come, they hold sway.

We just let them carry us away.


I wake up, I tell the sleep to go away

I curse the sunlight, grieve over sleep and

make my way over to my favourite pastime

I try to please the mirror

I try to please it like my life depends on it

The overgrown stubble, the protruding belly

My reflection shakes its head

Wrinkles its nose in disgust

turns its face away

What would the world say

What would the world think

Them perfect people, them perfect lives,

So perfect, like abnormalities

Them perfect figment of an imaginationImage

If people were perfect, why do they falter?

If people were perfect, why do they fall?

If people were perfect, why do they try again?

But alas, they are not

And fathom, we cannot

Letting this blanket of insecurity

blind us simply because someone has perfect lips

Because someone has better packs of six

Not seeing, not believing

That no one is perfect

No one is required to be

There is no reality called Perfect

Perfect is a dream

Perfect is relative

Perfect is our imagination

Perfect is everyone around 

And so are we.