Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Good TV shows

These TV shows are also available on Netflix instant watch.

1. Happy Valley - a little off the topic from the review - the women around me are scientists, doctors, leaders, engineers, homemakers and some really strong personalities like my mother's maid in India has a disabled husband and the way the maid supported him and brought up her kids on her own is outstanding. Fortunately or unfortunately I do not know a single woman who wears a bikini and dances on item songs around 1000 drunk men like the way shown in Bollywood films. May be those filmmakers have their mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters in those kind of businesses so that's the way they portray women in their films. Anyhow, look at the way 'we' the women are shown in shows like Happy Valley - absolutely stunning.

2. Stories by Rabindranath Tagore - Tagore is the first (and the last?) Indian to receive Nobel prize in literature and you have got to read his books or watch this TV show to understand why. They are all convoluted stories with grey characters. I could not believe the way he has portrayed women in his stories, they are so rebellious and strong for that era. All the actors have done a fabulous job, I loved this show.

3. Stranger Things - I couldn't stop watching this science fiction and finished it in 2 days, there are just 6 episodes. Superb acting by all the kids in this mini-series (though it is not made for kids). I highly recommend that you watch it!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My opinions on opinions

As children we go about our life of jumping, running, screaming, playing and doing whatever we want without worrying about any kind of opinions that people are forming about us, until our parents remind us "what will people think".

Now comes a phase when we have the awareness that we are being observed and everything that we say or do (or don't say or don't do) is under scrutiny and judged by others. And so start the inhibitions, I don't know maybe you are born to doctor parents and want to be a ballet dancer, now your own heart might worry "What will people say".

In order to rise above this, to do what we want and also to not worry so much about our image it is important to realize that people who are forming opinions about you are:

1. Too busy with their own crap to spend too much time on you, the focus on you will die down soon. Also they will most likely find someone new to pass their expert comments on.

2. They are forming opinions based on their own perspective, upbringing, experiences and open or closed mindedness, they are not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad, true or false.

3. Most of them are good at just judging and may be not be doing anything else with their life. They are obviously talking about you even though they themselves are in deep shit.

4. The other day the BFF and I talked about how people get fat and never realize the importance of exercise and good diet, it was a good discussion while indulging in a big piece of cheesecake. We soon realized the irony of comments and laughed out loud (we both are overweight and nowhere close to being healthy). Not everyone realizes the irony when they pass their opinions. Opinions are ALWAYS hypocritical.

5. People talk about others as it gives them a momentary pleasure of feeling better even though proving others are doing bad doesn't prove we ourselves are doing any good.

5. People talk more about things that they want but can not have. Maybe you want to start your own business and people talking about it brings you down then realize it that they lack the courage to do it and so all they can do is talk! May be you are flaunting a bikini at a beach and people start gossiping/ passing comments, trust me they all want to be able to carry it off like you do (I know I do) but they can't and so I say people who do not or cannot do something start criticizing it, like I review movies even though I don't know how to make any ;-)

See how people talking about you is never about you but always about them?

Ignoring people's opinions is a skill that is necessary for everyone, be it artists or plumbers, to create what we want and simply to live our short lives happily on our own terms.

Be free, do what you want, create what you want to create. As long as we intend no harm no one but we ourselves should decide who we are and what we are meant to do. We are more than able to follow our own compass. We must live our own truth no matter who may be offended because trust me at all times someone or the other will be offended!

Don't bother shutting people up because they never will. Don't let people's unwanted and hypocritical opinions weigh you down as you would be able to fly high without all that weight.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I know a girl N, she is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my lifetime. She looks a lot like Madhubala (yesteryear actress). When we were little N was always very quiet and didn't play with anyone. She was tagged as being arrogant, the one who has a superiority complex. And why not? the one who looks good has to be haughty, isn't that our prejudice? N's resemblance to Madhubala was so uncanny that even she had a hole in her heart (just like Madhubala). So the reason she didn't play or interact much with anyone was because of her health/ stress and who knows may be she actually had inferiority complex because she wasn't 'normal' like the other kids.

Here is another story of a brilliant person X, working at an amazing position, always cheerful, extremely confident and the most vibrant person I have ever met. X is born with a physical deformity which has been a subject of laughter/ pity and the very people who made fun of /or thought lowly of X are nowhere close to being as smart or as good a person as X is.

Good looks are not your achievement and bad looks not a failure, it is simply a game of statistics, probability, nature and genetics. There is no reason to feel any sort of complex for belonging to one of the category or being prejudiced about people belonging to one of those categories. 

Wonder is the name of the book - it is a story of a boy born with a genetic disorder that makes his face look all mushed up. He goes through many troubles - from school admission (though he is brilliant) to acceptance from the school kids (even though he is super funny, goodhearted kid). It is a serious topic, handled beautifully and lightly. I wish every single adult and child reads it. Good for ages 5+. 

*The world would be an awesome place if we get admission/ job/ opportunity/ respect based solely on our skills, merit, intelligence and not based on our looks, gender, caste, family, class, sub caste, religion or nationality. 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Good movies on Netflix

Awesome movies on Netflix instant watch this month (June 2016):

(in no particular order)

1. The boy in the striped pajamas
2. A walk to remember
3. Good Will Hunting
4. Like father like son
5. To kill a mockingbird
6. Amelie
7. Little Boy
8. Tell no one
9. Girl with the dragon tattoo series
10. Waking Ned Divine
11. Touching the void
12. Shakespeare in love
13. The kids are alright
14. The English patient
15. About Elly
16. The best offer
17. Following
18. The bank job
19. 13 going on 30
20. Piku
21. Talwar

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Goodreads Challenge

In 2015 I took a Goodreads Challenge of 40 books, and ended up reading 45 books so it didn't feel much like a challenge. Half of them were audio books, thanks to my hour long commute each way on weekdays. Audio books help me keep away from road rage! 

This year I have taken up a challenge of 50 books. 

Here is the list of best 5 and worst 5 books that I read last year -

Best 5: 

1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
2. The Martian
3. The Sun's Heartbeat
4. The Devotion of Suspect X
5. Confessions of a Shopaholic 

Worst 5:

1. Landline
2. Dollar Bahu
3. IQ84
4. I am Malala
5. Zen Garden (Marathi)

Are you on Goodreads? my username is rasikamahabal.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Girl, Goddess and Audrey

1. The girl on the train -This book has a very gripping and fast paced story. I finished it in two days, I just couldn't wait to find out who the killer was. Would I recommend this book? only if you like mindless murder mysteries, 3/5.

2. Undomestic Goddess - I didn't enjoy Undomestic Goddess, found it way too dragged and illogical (even for Sophie's standards). I give it 2/5.

3. Finding Audrey - This is the best book written by Sophie Kinsella so far (I have read all her books), it also happens to be the best book I read this year so far. I give it 5/5. Another good book by Kinsella is 'Confessions of a Shopaholic'.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

April 2016: Book Reviews

1. Future of the mind -- Michio Kaku

'Physics of the impossible' is a very good book by Kaku, if you have read it then 'Future of the mind' is kind of repetitive information. I didn't enjoy it much. 2/5.

2. Is everyone hanging out without me -- Mindy Kaling

I have read biographies by Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and this time Mindy Kaling, all I can say is next time I will make sure I read biographies of people that I know about (reason being my ignorance) or have a liking towards ;-)

I am sure it is hard for anyone of Mindy's size and looks getting into Hollywood and making it big. This book is about her struggle and entry in showbiz. I thought it was alright, would give it 3/5.

3. Fifty shades of Grey -- E L James

I read this book because everyone around me seemed to have read it. This was the first time I read a book in the genre erotica. I am pretty sure there are better books written in this category. If you omit the sex scenes in this book there is no story left and the writing is very poor. I give it 1/5.

Monday, April 11, 2016


*When I want to share my experiences-thoughts-opinions here it brings a few restrictions on how much information I share. I do wish sometimes to have an anonymous blog but then I do not like to read things that are written anonymously, it takes courage to own up to what you write. In this post I am trying my best to convey a point without revealing too much information as there are other people involved as part of the experience.

Scene 1: Lady L is praising a female F who happens to be married to a person living in a joint family. 'You know Rasika, in her new house F cooks for 10 people and is not even allowed to eat until the elders finish their meals. F is so courageous, she is dealing with it amazingly'. (F in this scene is highly educated and married into a rich family).

First of all I couldn't believe my ears then I had doubts if I was still in the year 2016 or had time traveled way in the past. After a few seconds of shock I said to L 'You know what would be courageous? It would be to say 'I am a doctor (profession changed) and I am not going to spend my life cooking for 10 people, let's all take a few responsibilities each and also I will eat/drink and do things when I want to'. 

L was flabbergasted. I could see it in her eyes that she didn't think of my opinions highly. I could see myself getting tagged as a mad woman. 

Lets's forget about F for a second, we don't know her side of the story, she may be on the verge of rebelling against things. I get frustrated at women who are of type L. How much ever one tries to convince them they don't understand that they are equals, they are their own masters and so are the other women and all humans. They are stuck in the norms of 'gender roles' dictated by the society. These women badmouth those who are living on their own terms without being succumbed to social pressures.

I was raised as an equal by my parents, I did not know there exists inequality based on genders until I saw the outside world. Obviously there are women who are not brought up in such environment and they take daily insults and controlling by others as a way of life, so 'eating when you are hungry' is revolutionary for them. 

Scene 2: I encountered the characters like in scene 1, no really! they do exist in the world. One day at a dinner party a man asked me to stop eating, I looked around and to my surprise it was only men who were having dinner. I am not talking about an uneducated family here, they are all (including women) highly educated and working people. Have you encountered this in India that the women eat only after men are done eating?

Without worrying too much I continued with my dinner. What is the worst that could have happened? They would have thrown me out or tagged me as stupid? Who cares what these kind of people think about us…?

I understand that many women do not understand that they even have a say in things but then there are women who understand it and still keep quiet. In my observation they keep mum because they worry about their image. They do not want to be tagged as a bitch, they want to be revered. According to the society only sacrificing motherly obedient ladies are respected and they would rather adhere to the norms than being called names.

(I could write many more scenes but then it will be size of a book ;-) I will stop here as you get the gist).

I stopped celebrating Bhaubij, Rakhipaurnima/Rakshabandhan, Padawa and such where the men are worshiped and in return women get gifts. No wonder men get an ego boost since childhood as they see women worshiping them every now and then. I don’t want to have it the other way round too, nobody is worshiped and nobody is a doormat is the ideal scenario. 

Even a child sees and understands inequality.
Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent. Pressure is to be adequate in whatever manner the authority, the culture or traditions define it. 

From the time girls are toddlers they are taken captive and domesticated. Strong willed girls are told they are wrongheaded and improper. Generally suffering starts at an early age at no fault of their own and is caused by the cruelty of ignorance or intentional meanness of others. The basic self of the psyche is wounded early on. When this happens, a girl begins to believe that the negative images her family and culture reflect back to her about herself are totally true. The girl begins to believe that she is weak, dependent, unacceptable, inferior and that this will continue to be true no matter how hard she tries to reverse it.

Don't impose traditions/culture on your daughters just because you yourself were a victim, because you didn't have the courage or were not allowed to speak your mind. This is 2016 and we are still fixated on raising goddesses. I don't care if the world calls me a bitch, I take pride in having my own mind and the fact that I don't let others dictate what I do with my own life.

There was a time when women were not allowed to go to school or vote. (I am glad that I was born in India because the situation for women is worse in a lot of other countries). We have come a long way. In today's time I feel many of us are rising up and acknowledging that there is a better way, a way called equality. We are changing but the momentum is slow. As we grow and become our higher selves, we need to send out ripples of change to those around us. The possibility exists that without protests a revolution will happen and another significant shift could occur in our lifetime...

Monday, March 07, 2016

The Demon Haunted World

A couple announced to a group of people present at their house that they were expecting their first child. Everyone was happy but one man in the group said 'I checked your horoscope with my astrologer and he told me there is NO chance until next year'.

There are three categories of people here:

1. The astrologer - who thinks every person's destiny is written and he has the power to predict it. I wonder how can anyone predict sperm count, suitable conditions of the womb and free time that the couple was going to find to make babies! How can the faraway planets play a role in anything?

2. The man - There are millions of people like the man in this scene who are satisfying their curiosities by showing their horoscope and also of the people they know (without consulting them). These people should keep their curiosities to themselves and not spread ignorance.

If everything that we do is already written then what is the point in living this life? Unfortunately astrology is more famous in India than astronomy. Everything that people do is checked with an astrologer - including the name of the newborn.

3. The couple - They are the type who write their own destiny, still they were stressed during all the months of pregnancy thinking 'what if the astrologer was right'. Well, they have healthy kids now and they produced them without checking with any astrologer. If someone tells you that according to horoscope you are not going to get promoted this year don't trust it, also don't blame your failures on some far away planets going retrograde.

Few years back a lady on a road asked me to give her money when I denied she said 'My goddess will curse you, bad things will happen to you'. I found it ironical, if there was a goddess cursing or blessing someone then why would this lady herself was begging on the road? I left the scene but from a distance I could see many people giving her money. Reason? Simple - Fear of unknown.

Every single person is scared of the unknown be it the future, entering a dark room or the reason of our existence. Out of our fears demons are born they are nothing but superstitions. Don't get me wrong I myself have had many superstitions, I read horoscopes at one point of time. But as we read, gain more knowledge, ponder over things and reach our higher selves we need to spread the word of wisdom.

It reminds me of a movie 'Little Boy', someone tells the little boy in the movie that he has the power to move things. Then this boy tries to move mountains, land, ocean and everything. One fine day there is an earthquake at the same time when he is trying to move land - the game of probability! And then everyone starts calling him a miracle, that is how superstitions are spread.

People in India still believe in black magic, this has nothing to do with how much educated they are.

The Demon Haunted World is a book by famous astronomer Carl Sagan. He talks about several superstitions around the world. It helped me get rid of some of my superstitions like 'buri nazar'  (A look or stare believed to cause injury or misfortune to others).

I highly recommend it to every person from all categories - The astrologer, The man and The couple.

*This post is dedicated to Narendra Dabholkar who struggled all his life to free Indians from superstitions like black magic, he was murdered in 2010.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Big Magic

Have you ever created something? Be it a painting/ write up/ movie/ song/ poem/ sweater/ dresses/ chocolates... anything? If you have then this post is for you.

One may go through many fears in the process of creating something - I am not good enough, no one will like it, there are lot many doing it better than me, no body will buy, see, publish or read it. 

I go through a lot of them when I create paintings (some shared in this post), when I write stories (never shared with anyone) or be it my recent adventure of creating a personal style blog. I am afraid of
coming across as dumb, being laughed at or being rejected... and so sometimes I procrastinate creating.

It is scary to call myself a painter or a writer, I earn nothing out of it, barely anyone reads what I write, I have never sold any paintings. In all honesty no one gets anything out of what I create but me. The process of creation provides pleasure and a high that gives long lasting happiness unlike watching TV or consuming alcohol, the happiness associated with consumption is momentary.

There comes a time in every creative person's life when they feel like they are a failure and their mind is full of all sort of doubts. When I was going through this phase I happened to read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert ('Eat Pray Love' fame) called 'Big Magic - Creative living beyond fear'. I absolutely loved it. It talks about creative process from start to end, from fear of starting on it to being liked or rejected ;-). The book really motivated and inspired me to create more.

It really doesn't matter if I we are being accepted or not, if it is something that gives us utmost pleasure we should keep creating things regardless.

It also gave me confidence that I am doing my best considering the time and resources that are at my disposal. Creating is always better than being good at it. Woody Allen says 'Ninety percent of success is just showing up' and thanks to the book that I am ready to do my ninety percent again and feel comfortable screaming from the rooftop 'My name is Rasika and I will always be a writer' ;-).

I would highly recommend this book to all aspiring writers, painters and any creative person in general. I give it 4/5.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Avoid These People

1. The Gossiper

It definitely feels like a warm blanket when someone is curious to know about our wellbeing. It shows caring and love, it gives us a confirmation that we are not alone.

I am sure you like it when people ask you how you are doing and listen to what you have to say. But beware because some are just looking for information to provide it to someone else. It is not hard to recognize people with these villain-ish traits, they turn around the things you said into stupid gossip.
If someone is gossiping with you then be 100% sure that they are even gossiping about you.

2. People with negative attitude

They find trivial faults, incise old wounds, try to control your life, make you feel good for nothing through various comments and will make every move to make you feel sad. Avoid such people as it causes unnecessary negativity in life. Its tough when these people are in your family but if it bothers you then it is not impossible to stay away from these sort of relationships.

3. The Emotional Vampire

These are the people who suck the energy right out of us with their incessant complaining about their all-consuming problems and leave us completely drained.

There are people who are having just a bad day don't mistake them for an emotional vampire. This category of people consistently plays the victim and manipulates, they constantly complain about everything even as trivial as catching common cold. In contrast someone-in-need is going through a rough patch and your relationship is not built on her so called struggles. If you feel perpetually drained and negative rather than energized and boosted by your connection then set limits or pull away.

I think it is better to surround ourselves with people who are positive and who let us be ourselves. Should we dump people when they are struggling because they are unable to make us happy? Obviously not. But what do you do if this person is always dragging you down?

I recently found myself never sharing good things about my own life and changing the way I communicated and behaved in order to avoid upsetting my always complaining friend. I had compromised my true self around her and I knew I had to pull back.

4. Tit for tat category

The tit for tat category do not give any benefit of doubt and assume every single and silly act was done on purpose and take silly revenges. If you don't attend their birthday party because you were sick then on your birthday they will go out of their way to not wish you. Sometimes it is hard to even understand that you actually did a tit until you receive a tat! Why have these type of childish relationships unless of course if you are in middle school!

5. The no reciprocation category

There are a lot of people whom I find extremely interesting and try to connect with them but they never reciprocate. If they are meeting hundred other people and giving you an excuse that they are very busy to find time for you then don't waste your energy and emotions over them. Try a few times but then let go, relationships can not be forced.

I wish it was easier to identify toxic people right away. If it feels wrong in our gut then it is probably not a productive relationship. What are your warning signs?

Monday, January 11, 2016

In search of another Guru

I know it is my track record but no, I am not writing another post on spirituality frauds ;-) This post is about the legendary film maker Guru Dutt.
I am intrigued and awestruck by Dutt's films, the seamless quality of their screenplays, the richness and beauty of dialogues, strong male and female characters, remarkable acting and last but not the least use of meaningful melodious songs. Apart from Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand, Guru Dutt has been my most beloved Bollywood personality.
Some incredible films by Guru Dutt are 'Pyaasa', 'Chaudhavin ka Chand', 'Kagaj ke phool', 'Baazi', 'Mr. & Mrs. 55', 'Aar paar', 'CID', 'Sahib Biwi Aur Gulam', 'Bahurani'.
The world we live in is full of jealousy/ hatred, everything revolves around money, relationships are temporary, people are friends only when in need, the ones who call you family might even be the first ones to strike you with bad words and Pyaasa brilliantly captures the dark side of the world.
Do you think there are great writers and poets in the world who go unnoticed because we are too busy reading crap like Fifty shades of Grey? Pyaasa is a story of an incredible poet whose depth of poetry is not understood by the publishers. I feel most of us confuse art with entertainment. In the realm of the visual, we want to see and read something pleasant, something that is not abstract, I think most of the artists create entertainment (and not art) to survive.

May be I like Pyaasa so much as my version of the world is quite similar to what is shown in the film. As one of the song in the movie says - Yeh Mehlo, Yeh Takhto, Yeh Taajo Ki Duniya, Yeh  Insaan Ke Dushman Samaajo Ki Duniya, Yeh Daulat Ke Bhookhe Riwaajo Ki  Duniya, Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaayeh To Kya Hain? - This world of palaces, thrones, and crowns, This world of societies that resent humanity, This world of those hungry for material wealth, What is this world to me, even if I can have it (In short it means nothing to me).
Dev Anand thought that Dutt wasn't a good actor (I read in his interview) but I love Dutt as an actor. Dutt's acting doesn't seem to have a method, process or any style, and so it is extremely subtle and real. The men that I see around are not Hritik Roshans, Dev Anands or Salman Khans they are more Amol Palekars, Rakesh Roshans and Guru Dutts, simple, enigmatic and elegant.
I wonder if Dutt portrayed himself in Pyaasa and Kagaj ke phool. He died too young, he should have made more films. We as an audience missed out on a lot. I am always in search of movies that are of Pyaasa's caliber, I wonder if the industry too is in search of another Guru!