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Easter 2020: The World is a ‘Cave’

How to Survive These Times Through the Niti Teachings

What is it about caves? If you sit down to think, you’ll find that history is specked with stories (across regions) that feature this hollow space made by nature—right from our ancestors, the early man. The cave dwellings, then cave drawings (or perhaps first art galleries), and then we move to more sophisticated stories.

Moses and St. Elijah spent time in a cave. Maimonides, the foremost Judaic polymath wrote his seminal book while exiled in a cave. When Empress Helena visited Palestine in 327 A. D., she stated that the blessed Mother Mary conceived in a cave, gave birth in one, and eventually settled down to raise a family in one, too. In fact, Helena found many Christian mystics living as hermits in hillside caves. Then we have Catherine of Siena who went to a cave. And Prophet Mohammed heard the Koran for the first time in the Cave of Hira.

Moving closer home, we too have many stories about this hollow space. Tibet has the cave where the famous killer-turned-yogi Milarepa meditated. In Kashmir, the ancient Rishis would take abode in the many caves there. The luminous Abhinavagupta’s Bhairava Cave in Beerwah, J&K, is celebrated for transcendence. The Amarnath Cave is, of course, where the supreme secret was revealed. And moving down in southern India, we have the Virupaksha Cave of Ramana Maharishi, which is visited by hundreds of thousands.

So, what is the power of a ‘cave’? Is there a power of the cave? And how does a cave offer solution in a time like this—the pandemic?

Plato’s insightful Allegory of the Cave gives a hint that the outside is a shadow and truth lies elsewhere. In the book, Dawn The Warrior Princess of Kashmir, the final answer is given in the cave of Mount Kailash where Shiva meditates. It is there that Dawn, the sixteen-year-old protagonist who is also the last living woman in the world, lives, to be precise, in a cave called Trisarsha in the year 3000 AD. So, the cave becomes a “pod” where the senses die but it becomes a womb where something magical is born—the power of the last woman standing is manifested here.

On Sunday April 12th the Catholics will celebrate Easter Sunday while the Orthodox Easter falls on April 19th. The connection between Dawn and Easter is deep. Dawn or “Usha” in Sanskrit is the most important Goddess in the Rig Veda. She is the harbinger of the rebirth of life each morn. She is the only Indian Goddess who has spread around the world. Her cognates are Eos in Greek, Aurora in Roman, and Eostre in English, which is the root of the word Easter—the festival of resurrection. Interestingly, Usha is also the name of the sanctuary city where the Sanhedrin or Rabbinical Court fled to in the 2nd century.  It is important to remember that in addition to the celebrated Gayatri Mantra honoring her, she is also the Goddess of Order; the driver away of chaos and darkness. She is dawn, she is hope, she is resurrection.

Dawn is the key-holder to the ultimate life-hack—Niti—which is, simply put, the most powerful technology invented by humanity. Niti means “the wise conduct of life”. The Kashmirians maintained that one is born with only one birth right, namely the freedom to achieve what is one’s life quest. And what is the ‘way of life’ so that one can maximize one’s human potential? The Kashmirians defined life’s end goal in heroic terms as “unbounded fulfillment while alive” whether physical or meta-physical.

Niti’s promise is that it enables one to face any threat, any challenge to reaching one’s goal as one travels through Time and Space. These threats are the daily near-death forces in that they snip off one’s fulfillment in some way or the other culminating in the final death of an unfulfilled life. To become a ‘Niti Warrior’ is one’s birthright: the mark of a swatantra, free human. But what happens to Niti and the Niti Warrior during unprecedented times as the one where we are living now—during the Covid 19 pandemic which is an existential threat for all of humanity? What is the wise conduct here? How does Niti enable one to cause the Death of Death?

In the novel, Dawn states, ‘‘Health is the unrestricted movement of the body, mind and heart. This movement is powered by the bio-plasmic Life Breath.’

The Niti formula is quite explicit. It requires one to do deep learning; act bravely with compassion; and be with close friends. It was first articulated by Pandit Vishnu Sharma in the Panchatantra. The deep learning about the deadly virus is that the virus has understood humans better than even humans understand themselves. It has made our unrestricted movement its vector, used our strongest social instincts of physical bonding against us. The virus,  learnt this through mutation; so we must take that Darwinian learning and mutate ourselves. Mutate to a behavior of no movement and the virus dies. Remember that it is not the strong that survive but the ones who adapt. Change we must at the individual level, at the community level and at the level of humanity to survive.

And if the call comes then we must act bravely and with compassion. Not just the front-line essential services fighters—the doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery sellers, vegetable vendors etc.—but each and every one of us can contribute to this war. In this regard a very special Easter blessing awaits the Corona virus survivors—the ones who had the blessing to live through this. They can be the carrier of the born-again healing touch through contributing their anti-bodies which is verily the gift of Jesus Christ. What is essential, says the Niti way of life, is that we stay connected to our loved ones. That is what keeps our Shakti consciousness alive. If we follow this Niti formula, then Covid 19 will fail to take our life-breath away. We will then experience the next thing that Dawn realizes and states in the novel: ‘The property of our Life Breath is freedom. It is this freedom that leads to creativity.’

If we look at our current condition as an opportunity and just give ourselves the chance inside our cave, then we will discover that we are slowly but inexorably drawn towards creative activities whether it is something as fundamental as cooking or artistic such as  writing or painting or even spiritual expansion. Niti’s manifestation that is creativity is the ‘Life of Life’ which in turn is the cause of the ‘Death of Death’. And in the laboratories around the world it is the scientists who are detonating creativity. They will come up with not just one answer but multiple answers which will finish this scourge forever. That is the promise of Niti. And the Life Force will triumph again. So it has been so it will be.

7 Asian Women who Fearlessly Pursued their Dreams

Through the ages strong, inspirational women and girls have risen in response to uncertainty and injustice. Fearless chronicles the journeys and stories of such amazing and strong women – demonstrating that one girl can change everything.

If you were looking to be inspired today, read about these 7 asian women who fearlessly pursued their dreams:

Shukria Khanum

Shukria Khanum was a female aviator – one of the first of her kind in Pakistan. She obtained a commercial pilot’s license despite women not being allowed to fly commercial planes at the time. She subsequently became a flight instructor  because she never gave up on her dream!.

Majida Rizvi

She was the first ever female judge of a Pakistani High Court and had a reputation for integrity and impartiality. Even after retirement Majida has continued to fight for gender equality and human rights in Pakistan.

Shamim Ara

Shamim began her career as an actress and subsequently became one of Pakistan’s leading ladies. But her true talent was producing and directing. She mastered what was at the time the male dominated area of cinema and she changed how women were portrayed in Pakistani cinema.

Zubeida Mustafa

Zubeida was an influential journalist at a time where there were very few women involved in the profession. She worked for Pakistan’s most influential and circulated daily, Dawn. Her stellar writing quality and persistence led her to a long and successful career in journalism.

Ameena Saiyid Obe

Ameena pursued her love of books by starting her own publishing company, Saiyid Books as well as working as Managing Director of Oxford University Press in Pakistan where she grew the company exponentially. She also cofounded the Karachi Literature Festival and is lauded for promoting the love of reading in Pakistan.

Shahida Malik

Shahida was the first high-ranking two-star female general in the Pakistani Army. Although she faced challenges and opposition from her male colleagues, she did not let it stop her and she went on to serve as the Deputy Commander and Inspector General of the Pakistan Army Medical Corps.

Quratulain Bakhtiari

Quratulain is a community activist, educationist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. She has worked extensively with refugees and her efforts have led to the establishment of thousands of schools.


These are but a few examples of the tenacity and strength displayed by women in overcoming challenges and pursuing their dreams. You can read further about these women and many more in Fearless

7 Essentials of Writing a Letter

The art of letter writing emerged long before phone calls or long text messages. Past generations will know well the anticipation that came with sending and receiving letter – a process that could sometimes take months. Perhaps it is this anticipation that made letters so special – it meant communication from a loved one or old friend that were miles away.

Letters have since been known to change lives, bring together lover or reconnect old friends. With Love explores the art of letter writing and encourages us to take it up ourselves.

So, whether you are writing to a friend, a long lost love or even family, here are 7 things essential for writing a letter, to keep in mind:

A warm greeting

The way you begin your letter is a great segue into what you are writing. Thinking about how to start your letter is the equivalent of saying ‘hello’ in person – make it familiar and personal. You could start with a fond nickname or word that you and the receiver use to call each other. It helps remind the person of the fondness they share with you and makes it feel like you’re right there greeting them!

Write about fond memories

No matter the content and purpose of the letter, context is always important and appreciated. Whether it’s reminding the receiver of where you met, or reminiscing over a fond memory that you share, mention a memory before proceeding to the main body of your letter.

Be concise

Although letters are great for free flowing thought and expression it is important not to drag them out too much or else the point of your letter will come across jumbled and confusing. Think about what you want to say and the best way in which to say it without dragging it out.

Work on your penmanship

It doesn’t matter how a letter looks – embellishments and decoration is at the discretion of the writer. It is however, to have clear and legible handwriting in order for the reader to understand what is written – if not, they will just be lost words!

Remember to mark the date of writing

Although it may not seem important at the time, noting the day, date and month (sometimes even the time!) is a handy element of a letter that helps place when the letter was intended to be read and how much time has passed since it was written!

Ask questions

Letters are a good place to express your thoughts, but they are ultimately about communication. Remember to address your reader and ask questions about them or their thoughts – this shows that you are interested in what they think and also prompts a response to your letter! Whether it is asking for an opinion, advice or simply asking how they are doing, be sure to include a question or two toward the end of your letter.

End on a positive, personal note

Ending your letter is the last thing you can write to your reader until your next one. Try and make it personal to them, ending with a note of love or friendship!


These are some essential tips on writing a letter if you are inspired by the letters in With Love. Give letter writing a go today and send some to old friends or family!

From Vidya Balan to Sachin Tendulkar: Leaping Across Borders and Beliefs

Jai is fourteen and dreams of owning a café in Delhi. Inaya is fifteen and dreams of playing cricket for Pakistan.

In Across the Line, Jai and Inaya’s unlikely worlds collide, and an equally unlikely story unfolds. A story that started with the drawing of a line. And a story that transcends borders, beliefs, and timelines.

We are having a look at some of our favourite people, who have taken this journey penned down by Nayanika Mahtani:

Vidya Balan: “A compelling and uplifting story…”

One of India’s favourite actresses, Vidya Balan has lauded the story for its earnestness and emotive power.

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Sachin Tendulkar: “…what unites us bigger than what divides us.”

We were delighted to hear that our favourite cricketer lauded the story too!

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Asif Farrukhi: “…this book lights a candle of hope and peace.”

We are also extremely happy to see some love coming across the border!

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Asma Said Khan: “A much needed book at a time when hatred of the ‘other’ has become endemic…”

Some more love from even farther beyond!

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Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: “…a tribute to all the unsung heroes who have fought silent battles even after the Partition.”

 


Across the Line is about the Partition and the human impact of borders that still lingers amongst us today. It makes for a must-read story in today’s times with its message of unity and love across borders and beliefs.

 

 

“Happy, Happy You Make Me!” – Meet Alicia’s Dearest George!

There’s a reason they say February is the month of love. Thanks to Alicia Souza, and her (PDA-aversive) husband, George, we have had the corniest and loveliest and mushiest February so far (who could have thought we had it in us?).

Our favourite illustrator is admitting her love in artistic style! Amidst all the cuddles and kisses and the banter of married life, our biggest takeaway from her latest book Dearest George is how much these two lovebirds mean to each other.

Call it a post-valentine’s hangover, but we decided to revisit what George means to Alicia!

He is family. Period.

We have said this before and we will say it again – this is our favourite family portrait!

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Admit it, Alicia – You Love the (Closeted) Romantic!

We know the whole point of penning down this book was to prove to the world that George is, after all, as mushy as all of us.

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Heart of Gold AND a Nice Beard – What’s not to Love?

We totally feel the shared love for food, to be honest.

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The Momo Cuddles.

Isn’t companionship about those special lazy mornings, after all?

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He is Versatile.

George is a complete package, we have to say. #HusbandGoals, much?

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The Perfect Cure for Bad Days.

Nothing compares to the person that can make you smile on bad days – we know how difficult that is!

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He Makes her HAPPY. 

Do we need to say more?


George makes Alicia happy – and us too, because this book wouldn’t exist without him!

February is incomplete without celebrating love, and with this post, we are also thanking George for bringing so much love into Alicia’s life and ours!

Love is Friendship – An Excerpt from ‘Timeless Tales from Marwar’

Indian folklore is a special gem in the crown of India’s history. Storytelling is an age old tradition, and Indian authors from all over the country have contributed heavily to their cultures through the writing and narrating of stories.

Known as the ‘Shakespeare of Rajasthan’, Vijayan Detha is one of India’s most renowned storytellers. In Timeless Tales from Marwar, Vishes Kothari translates his works for the wider enjoyment of Detha’s magical narrative style.

Read an excerpt of one of his stories titled ‘The Leaf and the Pebble’ below:

‘Because I was so completely unsuccessful with love, I

became very talented at writing love stories. Perhaps,

had I been successful, I would not have been so.’

—Bijji

 

Below a tree lay a pebble. All alone. Whom to talk to? Who to speak to? Lying there alone, he got suffocated. As fate would have it, one day, a leaf came there, flying from a distance. All of a sudden, the pebble found a chance to talk to someone. He was delighted. He accorded great honour and respect to the leaf who had come to his home.

One day, the pebble told the leaf, ‘My dear friend, please don’t go anywhere and leave me alone. I cannot even live a second without you now.’

‘Leave a friend like you and go?’ replied the leaf. ‘I’m not that big a fool! But if strong winds blow, how will I stay in one place? I will have to fly with the winds.’

The pebble thought hard and finally came up with a solution. ‘Don’t you worry about this! I won’t let you fly away even if the father of all storms passes through here. As soon as the winds blow, I will sit on you. Even if gusts of winds blow, I won’t let you be blown away with it. But friend,’ continued the pebble, ‘in front of the rain I am powerless . . . If it pours, I’ll melt.’

It was the leaf now who thought of a solution. ‘Don’t you worry about this! As soon as it rains, I will cover you. Even the father of rains won’t be able to melt you.’ And so, both friends thought of schemes to save each other. Many a storm blew, but the pebble did not let the leaf get blown away.

Many a time it rained, but the leaf did not let the stone melt.

But as fate would have it, one day, the storm and the rain came together. All the schemes that the two friends had devised to save each other proved futile. The pebble said, ‘I’ll save you.’ And the leaf said, ‘I’ll save you.’

Finally, the pebble spoke up again. ‘Silly, how can you save me? You’ll be blown away with the first gust of wind! And I’ll melt anyway. Now, let’s not bother with senseless quarrel. Let me sit on you.’

And so, the leaf had to let the pebble sit on it despite its wish. The pebble positioned itself properly on the leaf. The clouds began to thunder. Lightning began to flash. Large drops of rain began to fall. Gusts of wind began to blow. The pebble began to melt. Went on melting. Till he melted completely, he continued to protect his friend. As soon as the pebble melted completely, a gust of wind came and blew the leaf away.

Tears streaming from his eyes, the leaf bid farewell to his friend with a heavy heart.


Vijayan Detha’s stories are full of heart, soul and magic. They explore some of the most popular fables from one of India’s richest cultures. You can read more stories in his inimitable narrative style in Timeless Tales from Marwar.

Heartbreak, Sadness and Vampires

Love isn’t easy like Sunday morning. Seventeen-year-old Gehna Rai has normal friends, goes to normal school and belongs to a normally dysfunctional family. Everything about her is normal – except for the fact that she is also going to be a mom.

Erma is a nerdy high-school drop-out and dreams of becoming a poker pro. He also takes care of his dad, who has Parkinson’s disease.

Meet our latest favourite millennials in the excerpt below!

 

Gehna Rai was a girl who flirted with sadness.

She was tempted by it the way a person with vertigo sometimes feels drawn to the edge. It free-floated around the periphery of her days and she was aware of it following her always. When she was younger, and didn’t fully understand its nature, she would turn to meet it and it would squeeze her heart, seeping into her bones like a cold fog. In those days Gehna was optimistic: she believed that the sadness was a mood and, therefore, that certain distractions—like listening to music or going for a swim—could make it go away.

Wiser now, Gehna was no longer sure that she had any say in the comings and goings of the sadness, but she still held hope of ducking it. She had drawn strict boundaries, drip-feeding herself the pop songs about heartbreak and the tragic movies she loved, never exceeding a ratio of one part sad to nine parts happy. She stopped watching historical docudramas on the Holocaust and got Eram to screen her books before she agreed to read them.

‘I don’t get it,’ he had said the first time she asked him, shuffling through the pile of new books on her desk. Gehna was sitting on a floor cushion as far as she could from the books while still being in the same room. ‘You want me to tell you what happens in the stories?’

‘No. I want you to tell me what doesn’t happen.’ Eram steepled his fingers and nodded intelligently. ‘Right. It all becomes clear to me now. You’re saying, read the books and tell you what doesn’t happen in them.’ He lifted, with his thumb and forefinger, a book from the pile. ‘Now, this, for instance. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I haven’t read it but I can tell you—just judging from the cover, mind you, and the fact that it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001—that vampires don’t happen in it. No vampires at all. Or exploding sheep. It doesn’t enlighten us on the dark and bloody past of shipping insurance. Also, it only touches on the oral sex techniques of the natives of Bora Bora but doesn’t really—

‘Stoppit,’ Gehna cut off his riff. ‘Like, children dying. Or nice people. If any children or nice people die in a book, I don’t want to read it. You know what I mean.’


Amidst the quirkiness, author Arjun Nath gives us some very heartfelt moments like these to remember.

Caught between a sincere friendship and something more, Eram and Gehna give us a story that is #litAF!

Here’s All You Need to Know, if a Job is on Your Mind!

Knowing what career path to take and searching for jobs can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack – overwhelming and seemingly impossible. But fear not, Chandan Deshkmukh seeks to help you navigate your career woes in his latest book, 7 Dream Jobs and How to Find Them. The book provides essential tips and guidance on how to figure out your true calling in life and how to get there once you have.

Chandan surmises that ‘In short, career planning is not narrowing down the possibilities but looking for more potential fields of interest which you can carefully consider before making an informed decision’

So if you are looking for a job, or even attempting to figure out what that job might be, here’s all you need to know

1)Know yourself

The first step to figuring out what you want to do, is knowing who you are, what you enjoy and how that translates into a job you would enjoy. Think about what you’ve done that feels less like work and more like a fulfilling activity that you could spend hours doing – it could be reading, playing a sport, making videos – and further research what jobs on the market correlate to and include working on the things you enjoy.

Begin with understanding yourself and the wide range of things you enjoy – a career path will follow

‘Knowing which field matches your personality and aptitude would be the first step toward your dream job’

2)Build a specific skill set

Once you have decided which career path or job appeals to you, it is time to understand what skills and/or qualifications the role typically requires. Understanding the criteria required for applying to certain positions can help you to focus on and hone those skills making you far more suitable for the job than if you have a wide range of general skills.

Employers are always looking for how a candidate can fulfil the needs of the role rather than having a wide range of experience that loosely fits the job requirement. So, start by understanding the role, what skills are sought out for it and then you can work on gaining experience and building that skill set in advance.

3)Presentation is everything

Oftentimes, the secret of landing a job lies in how you come across to the employer. Therefore, it is essential to work on a clear and concise resumé of your work experience and history, and keep it handy for applying to jobs. Further, being well prepared for interviews can make or break your application! Coming across well informed and confident to the employer can help seal the deal to getting your dream job. In 7 Dream Jobs and How to Find Them, Chandan Deshmukh provides the essential tips needed to create the perfect resumé and how to ace an interview.

4)Be open to change

Although figuring out what you want to do, and where you want your life to go is a daunting question and the decision feels final and set in stone, it is important to understand that it is not. Choosing a career path does not mean you cannot change your mind in the future.

Being adaptable to change and realising that you can always change your mind and follow a different path later down the line is important and prevents you from putting too much pressure on finding the one job that you see yourself doing forever – so many jobs you might find interesting may not even exist yet!

5)Take a leap of faith!

Finally, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith in life to pursue what you want to do – even if it seems impossible now, faith and hard work go a long way. Work hard and smart at building a skill set and taking steps towards your end goal, start today and you are sure to get there one day.


7 Dreams Jobs and How to Find Them guides you through the various opportunities and challenges of any career, and most of all, how to find a job that gives you satisfaction. If jobs and how to find them have been on your mind, pick up a copy of the book today – it’ll be sure to help!

Quotes you Can Relate to if you are Confused About your Career

7 Dream Jobs and How to Find Them is a treasure trove of words that resonate with anyone navigating the tricky waters of job hunting and figuring out what career path to pick. Whether it’s sage advice or relatable sentiment, here are lines you can relate to if you are confused about a career:

‘Knowing which field matches your personality and aptitude would be the first step towards your dream job.’

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 ‘We are living in the most advanced times in terms of lifespan and health, where the possibility of what a human can achieve is limitless—and that obviously means creation of more and more jobs’

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 ‘Now I am like a kid in front of Baskin Robbins—with thirty-one options of ice cream to choose from, and I don’t know which flavour to pick. So, long story short, I haven’t figured out what to do’

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‘The goal is to persevere, be smart about your choices and also predetermine your career direction in some sort of way’

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‘The right job must enhance one’s life. It should suit the way you like to do things and reflect who you are.’


Insightful and perceptive quotes such as these and more can be found in 7 Dream Jobs and How to Find Them. Grab a copy now to navigate your way through the professional world!

Don’t Worry, Be Sappy

We are in love with Alicia Souza’s book of love!

An artistic (and mushy) ode to all the little moments that she shares with her husband George, Allcia Souza has given us the literary #couplegoals we have been waiting for.

We are looking at (read: squealing about) some of our favourite moments from the book that made us go weak in the knees!

 

George’s Closeted Romantic Tendencies

 

Alicia Souza wants you to believe it! And she has put this on paper now. George is a closeted romantic and loves the little kisses as much as our illustrator. We are especially fond of the kisses in the study room.

 

All the Reasons Alicia Loves George

We have a soft spot for love declarations (couldn’t you tell?). And this one is one of the best we have read – and we have read many! We also highly approve of George and Alicia’s shared love of food.

Secret-Sharing with the Dog

We always love some cuddles with the dog. And they are the best secret-keepers. AND we are absolutely in love with Alicia’s furry child!

Family Portrait

Do we need to say more? They are a family! (We are not crying, just got the sniffles.)

Cure for the Bad Days

As we said before, we love our hugs and cuddles too. This one had to be on the list!

What Makes a Strong Marriage (Featuring: Husbands’ Blind Spots)

We all want to know the secret behind their happy marriage – and Alicia Souza gives it to us! (Is anyone else sobbing over Alicia falling in love with George every day? Just us? Okay.)

Morning Routine

 

WE TOLD YOU WE LOVE CUDDLES!


We didn’t know we had a capacity to feel THIS mushy! Dearest George has us scrambling to proclaim our love to everybody in our lives!