It is not very often that  I indulge in the ardent regionalism which seems to affect my countrymen. I have always considered myself “Indian’’ first and not really got down to being Odia. At times, I do  fall into the delicious trap of measuring people’s vis-a-vis their home-state which I guess we all indulge  in, with malice towards none. That’s  something quintessentially  Indian, right ? So, while I marvel at the handsome Sardars from Punjab, I couldn’t ever dream of dating one….I wouldn’t have been very sure whose long hair , mine or his,I would pull in uh- uh romantic excitement ! Or let’s talk about the people from Bengal….many times I wish to scream from the rooftop that Ma Durga’s surname is not just Chatterjee, Banerjee etc etc. It can very well be  Rawat or Jha!

I can go on and on about all the diversities, which we pick on, despite our unity, but allow me to be unashamedly regional/parochial  today and declare that my heart burst with a gladness at the actions of a fellow Odia and my home state Odisha.

I am talking about the Chief MInister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik.

And here is why this man needs to be applauded.

He has reached out to the widows in the holy city of Puri.

The holy month of “Kartik’ began from October 16th . Thousands of widows assemble at Puri to perform ‘Habisa’ (penance) as a mark of respect to Lord Jagannth during the month of Kartik.The Government of Odisha launched the ‘Kartik Habis Brata Yojana’ which is aimed at facilitating free lodging, health care and food for the Hindu widows during the holy month in Puri. ,As many as 2000 widows will get free accommodation, Mahaprasad and health care under this scheme.The government plans to accommodate even more beneficiaries next year onwards.

Perhaps, one of the most heartrending scenes is that of  scores of widows sitting with a vacant look in the holy temples of Kashi, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Mathura, Puri. Some are old and infirm;some are young and beautiful. What unites them is that they have been shunned and abandoned by their families. They lead lives shorn of dignity. Over the babble of the hymns they recite, no one really hears their cry for begging to be considered ‘living’ beings. For although ‘Sati’ ( was abolished aeons ago, the utter desolation of/in the lives of widows, cannot be termed anything else than ‘living sati’. Every single day they burn in a hell created by misogyny, patriarchal hegemony, societal conservatism and apathy.

Many days the widows do not get enough to eat and depend on the compassion and conscience of random strangers. Deepa Mehta’s powerful cinema ‘Water’ chillingly portrays the fate of a young widow who is sexually exploited. Art always mirrors life. And ‘life’ for the widows is that of merciless abuse by those who provide ‘shelter’ to them. In ‘’Benares: The Sacred City, In verses & hymns’’, Mandira Ghosh pens down these poignant lines about the fate of widows ‘‘Still tears/Of widowed women/Her reflective grey hair/Shaken by wind and attitude/Broken by sand/Still their voices are still.’

There are many individuals and organizations who have taken up the issue of widows welfare in right earnest.  The efforts of Sulabh International are praiseworthy in this regard. What touched me most about the measures was that along with financial, housing, health issues focussed upon, they sought to bring back colour  and beauty into the lives of widows — these abandoned women played ‘Holi’ in Vrindavan, saw the Taj Mahal and very recently also participated in a fashion show in Delhi ! ( )  Being widowed does not stop her from being feminine…from wanting to wearing bright colours….jewellery….makeup.My eyes became moist when I looked the photographs. I felt ashamed too. There are so many things that I take for granted.

On every visit of mine to the Jagannath temple, I sit amongst the widows and talk to them, buy them Mahaprasad , offer small amount of money.This is the proverbial drop in the ocean, I know. Rehabilitation of widows needs to be institutionalised.Yet, I cannot help but think that if/whenever  each of us visit Kashi, Varanasi, Mathura, Puri, Vrindavan such small individual gestures would go a long way in filling up the ocean of humanity.

Thank you Chief Minister, Shri Naveen Patnaik. I would like to believe that  your’s is a similar individual gesture of compassion and reaching out.


( photograph from the Internet for illustration only)


The story heading seems straight out of a Harold Robbins novel, doesn’t it ?

 But, it  doesn’t have the remotest connection to the fast paced and steamy novels which most people my age now( *sigh* well into middle age) surely stole from their parent’s collection to read .

Rather, its about a small device that is placed in the chest to help control abnormal heart rhythm. It is about how this small device has led to such big changes  in my world.

It needed much coaxing, cajoling and finally outright threats – of the ‘no single malt & kebabs’ type–to get my Dad to agree to  a cardiac check-up at AIIMS ( All India Institute of Medical Sciences), New Delhi ,this August. Despite the long queues and tiresome waiting, it is always the doctors at  AIIMS that I trust with any health issues of  my loved ones . It is here that the finest medical brains with an impeccable commitment to the noblest profession of all, work tirelessly.

Daddy’s cardiologist, since the last five years, has been Dr Ambuj Rai. I really have no words to praise him , so I will turn to Shakespeare  for help :“His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up, and say to all the world, this was a man “. The immense faith I have in Dr Rai’s professional brilliance as well as approach will possibly be echoed by all his patients and more importantly by his patient’s families.

Well, all these years, just some minor hitches in Dad’s  splendid Leonine heart and little up-downs in the blood pressure were indicated. In August, the doctor after a thorough check-up, said that it was time to install a pacemaker.

I remember my Dad’s face when he heard it. A myriad emotions flitted across. The dominant one was that of denial. He refused to accept  that now he would need a machine for his heart to beat properly. He could not believe that age had caught up with him despite his exasperating/melodramatic  taunts to me and my sister about ‘his sunset years’.

And , let me confess, I was devastated too.

The father -daughter relationship is a very special, very beautiful bond.

Adriana Trigiani in the ‘’Big Stone Gap’ says  “I’ve made it my business to observe fathers and daughters. And I’ve seen some incredible, beautiful things. Like the little girl who’s not very cute – her teeth are funny, and her hair doesn’t grow right, and she’s got on thick glasses – but her father holds her hand and walks with her like she’s a tiny angel that no one can touch. He gives her the best gift a woman can get in this world: protection.”

 I realized that my Dad had become  old . That it was a time for a role reversal . That it was I who needed to protect and care for him. So Adriana Trigiliani says again “And all the things that the world expects from women – to be beautiful, to soothe the troubled spirit, heal the sick, care for the dying, send the greeting card, bake the cake – all of those things become the way we pay the father back for protecting us…”

Oh, let me hasten to add, he doesn’t look his age. At 79, his hair hasn’t greyed, his back is ramrod straight, he has a bounce in his walk and his smile still gets the ladies all weak kneed ( much to the annoyance of his Scorpion wife).

But, who can beat age ? It is inevitable.

So the pacemaker was installed.

I was a wreck on the day of the surgery. Foolish tears crept into my eyes when he was being wheeled into the operation theater. He looked a little lost and helpless.You see , I had never seen my Dad, in any situation in which he was  not in command. From a very daring young SP ( Superintendent of Police) to a highly respected DGP ( Director General of Police), I  had seen my Dad totally and always  in control-unflinching in his dedication to policing and the people of his beloved home state, Odisha. And yes, facing  many difficult/delicate/desperate times with an arrogance that comes out of impeccable integrity.

Those few days in the hospital marked the start of a new phase in my relationship with my Dad. While he still treats me as if I am still fourteen and not forty, I have turned into a benevolent despot. I watch what he eats like a hawk, his medicine timings have been fed into my mobile,his walks ( which he hates) are closely monitored,the air conditioning and room temperatures  are regulated for his comfort etc etc. All this , of course, is complemented with the occasional butter chicken, long discussions on music,  a late night movie on TV and me ,.meekly accepting his tirade against Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram. ”All this is criminal activity”, he rages thunderously when my mobile pings 🙂

And I realize, that it is these tender moments of love, laughter, silly fights and half-hearted tantrums that will stay on with me ,till very long-perhaps till the time when I might require a pacemaker.

Life doesn’t stop for anybody.

So go hug your Dads,guys.




‘The very essence of romance is uncertainty’ ( Oscar Wilde, The Importance Of Being Earnest & Other Plays)

This is a favorite song of mine 🙂

I am curious- the question is for the ladies- what would you do to a guy who throws your lipstick like the chap does @ 2:29/30 in the video clip ?

I would never bloody smile & forgive! 🙂