The garbage amongst us

Not so early in the morning, I look down from my third floor apartment. There’s a lady sweeping the dead-end road. I know her, though I don’t know her name. She wears the official BBMP coat and she collects garbage from each of the apartment building. Sometimes I see her, while walking, from a car and smile and wave at her. She smiles back. A beautiful, cheery smile, but with an edge of self-consciousness. As if unused to be smiled at. As if unacknowledged as a human by those who live in apartments.

(Pic for representation only. Can’t find the one I clicked)

Then there’s another from BBMP, I see from my third floor apartment. He comes on the open garbage truck, a small one to pick up garbage from the apartment building opposite mine (there are 24 flats there). The building has three long drums which are filled upto the brim with all kinds of icky stuff—polythene bags full of kitchen waste, toilet paper, condoms, leftover curry gone bad and dust. He puts his naked hands into this middle class garbage and efficiently separates the non-biodegradable, the tetra packs, mulchy polythene bags, Styrofoam cups and recyclable waste.

A middle class man who lives in the apartment sees him and makes a face full of disgust. A lady with a little child, walks by, crinkling her nose at the awful smell. And I, clean and distant from the scene, on my third floor balcony, wonders how someone who deals with other people’s shit, can smile so beautifully.

What does the Iyer ghost look like?

Is it a kite? Does it look like a pretty handkerchief or a old Nokia phone? Does it have five hands or three feet? Does it wear striped yellow socks, have a pot belly or does it have long, flowing red hair which smell like a running gutter? What does the Iyer ghost look like?

Participate in this contest by Hachette India and win something that I consider the best gift ever: More books!

All you need to do is buy my book The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong

Ghost Hunting contest


Check out entries for the contest on the Hachette India Children page

To read reviews, synopsis and even peek inside The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, head to this page here.

Unfortunately, as you can read in the conditions, only kids can participate, so if you land here and read till the end, please share this contest with your children, nephews/nieces, grandkids and neighbours.

An auto driver’s story

198_Para_autorickshaw_thumb.jpgI don’t really know his name. Never needed it I guess. The conversation with him happens because we cannot find a parking spot. It is eight in the night on a road near Commercial Street. The shops are still open and cars fill the tiny road. Me and husband are hungry and want to buy a burger from a shop nearby. A rickshaw driver stands parked on the road, blocking the space our car can fit it. I get down, request him to back it a little and direct my car in triumphantly. While the burgers are being ordered, since I stand just outside the car and have nothing else to do, I ask the auto fellow about whether he had broken his Ramzan fast yet (he wears a skull cap, it is Ramzan month and he looks in his 60s, someone who would keep the fasts. I know I assume but in this case it works.). He nods and then begins to tell me his story.

He’s been driving an autorickshaw on the roads of Bangalore since fifty years and lives in Shanti Nagar. His driving has paid for his children’s education and he has six of them, four daughters and two sons. A few of them, he informs me, have completed college and are now working at different places in the city. In fact, he is there at Commercial street to pick up his eldest daughter who works in a shop nearby. His mornings are busy too. He drops off one daughter to college and the second to this shop at Commercial street. In the middle, he plies the auto on the streets of Bangalore and earns for his family. He is happy, loves Bangalore and its people, though he feels that the politicians and the government don’t care two hoots about the city. But Bangalore is made of better people than Chennai. Tamilians, he says are grumpy people who fight a lot. I ask him what language he speaks at home. Urdu, he replies, though his children are much better with Kannada and English.

We have become friends now, though we were strangers ten minutes ago. I tell him my story. How I came to this city and love it here. He asks me whether I want to sit in the auto’s back seat and offers it like he would ask someone to sit on the sofa at his home (in spite of the fact that I am standing next to my car). When my burgers come, I bid him an unemotional bye. Story has been told and I am hungry enough to be distracted. But the old man cannot let me and husband go. He gets out of the rickshaw and stands next to the driver’s seat. My surprised husband looks up at this old fellow who keeps on blessing both of us and our relationship. He’s emotional, he’s happy, he waves and calls me his sister and then perhaps remembering his age, calls me his daughter.

I wonder what made him so happy. Was it because I listened to his story? Or because I from the privileged lot (who owns a car and wears modern clothes) stood there and chatted with him like an equal? Was it my age or my social standing as he perceived it? He was an eyeopener to me. Someone who has taken care of six children in Bangalore and made them study hard, all while driving an auto rickshaw. I know I could have never done it myself.

Image for representation only. Unfortunately, I just remember this man. I didn’t ask his name and neither did I take a picture of his.

What happens when a dream comes true?

I had been waiting for it to happen since almost a year. Ten years if you count it to the year I might have started to think on this dream: to get a book published. When it did happen, it happened on a rather unremarkable day. (Though the weather was beautiful, which is not surprising if you consider that Bangalore’s weather is always gorgeous.) Rather than read my address, as Bangalore courier guys are, a courier guy called me up to say he had a packet to deliver. I directed him to my house and reached barely 30 minutes after he must’ve given the courier.

I opened the courier and this is what I discovered:

Ghost Hunters of Kurseong



Ten copies of The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, my first novel for children, published beautifully by Hachette India. Sent without informing me. The surprise was complete. Wow. I felt a shiver, but nothing else. It took a few days of celebration, spread the word, congrats on Facebook and Twitter, phone calls to make it feel real. My dream to publish a novel in my name had come true. It’s been a weekend and a busy week and I learnt a few things after I saw the book in my hand and wanted to share it with all of you.

  • I could not feel happiness till I called people who I knew would feel happy for me. My husband, my parents, my friends who have stood by me with tea, coffee and conversations. My editor Diya who worked equally hard on the book as me and Jayesh, the amazing illustrator for the book.

  • When a dream comes true, the moment itself is pretty unremarkable. Either it’s not sunk in, or you remember the crazinesses you went through to make it come true. The realisation comes slowly and wine helps.

  • Even before you enjoy it, another dream replaces the one that has just come true (in my case, I would like to find more readers for my books) and whoosh, the feeling of achieving the dream is lost. So basically, you never stop carrying the slightly worried-panicked expression that you have seen on writers’ faces.

  • New authors message you on social networks wanting to know how they can write books and demand to know how you made it to a publisher’s table. (I did it to another debut author as well) ‘Just send the proposal and wait’ just doesn’t seem to cut it. Some of them are slightly suspicious and keep prodding till you log out of the said social network.

  • You still have a truckload of work to do which will not happen if you keep being in the moment. 😉



Behead the rapists!




We, the women,

we have suffered so

Since centuries, since decades,

Since years, since days.

Since minutes, since seconds.

In villages, in farms, in cities, in dark alleys

In buses, in call centre cars, in discotheques, in rallies.

We have suffered long enough.

And now we demand our share of blood.


We are angry, we are so angry

All we see is red, splashes of it, blots of it

Running down like tears, from irises to cheeks

Yes, we want blood. We crave it, we deserve it.

We want castration. We want death.

We want beheaded, naked bodies and heads.

We want to slay, like we have been slain.


For that’s the only answer.

Not love, not motherhood,

Not forbearance or brotherhood

No more will we turn the other cheek.

We will burn as we have been burnt.


For isn’t that the only answer?

Blood for blood

An eye for an eye

An ear for a ear

A leg for a leg

A penis for a fondled breast.

A blood drop for a tear.


© Shweta Taneja, March 2013



I started to write a blog about it, but since my opinion on this is raw and emotional, this poem is what emerged. I am feeling sad about the rightful anger in a lot of men and women in the country about the violent death of Ram Singh, one of the Delhi rapists today. I am feeling sad that we can rejoice in violent deaths as a country, a community, a gender, a world. Don’t get me wrong. I am against gender inequality and gender violence in all forms that are embedded in our society. But is celebrating violence the solution? I hope that in craving the blood of someone who’s the monster, we don’t become monsters ourselves.

Photo courtesy

The Bank always wins

I haven’t really ever played Monopoly while growing up, so me and husband bought one and brought it to our home on a Sunday with loads of fanfare. It took about six months to get the wrapper off the game and about three more months to actually playing it. (Well, in our defense, we are never really in home to do boardgame stuffs. But that’s not what the blog is about.)


The blog is about the game. So we did manage to play this game, just the two of us, yesterday night. With much excitement, we opened the boardgame, read the rules, prepped the dice and chose our fast-driving cars. For those who have never played the game, Monopoly is all about buying plots and then building houses and hotels on your property. Finally, in true Khosla Ka Ghosla style, by luck, crook or hook, you turn into a landlord and keep on collecting rent from people who through the roll of the unlucky dice land on your property. You keep on going round and round the board, buying property, building houses and collecting rent till all others than you are bankrupt. You can only win the game when the rest all are bankrupt and not by making money. So your aim? Make sure the rest of them become kangaal. Force them to sell properties, force them to pay you high rents, force their money off the table.

If you haven’t guessed or don’t already know, there’s one massive silent player in this on the side. It’s called the Bank. According to the rule book, the Bank holds the title deeds of all properties, the houses and hotel before they are purchased and all the rest of the money in the game. This player is neutral. After we as players have been given a puny amount to start the game (1500 currency each, while the Banker keeps the rest), the Bank is the place where all players do their transactions. They buy property or plots, the Bank gets rich. They have to pay rent to another player and don’t have the money, they mortgage the plot, the bank gets 10 percent for mortgaging. The player pays tax, it goes to the bank. The player is in Jail, the bail is to the Bank. In all transactions as the players get greedy (and it is a game of greed), fight over rent, purchase, convince each other and haggle like crazy, this silent partner gets rich and rich and rich. The Bank you see, is always there, even if you opt out by declaring bankruptcy. The Banker is so important that his face pops up on all Monopoly boardgames as a male, top hat and suit wearing fella.

images (1)

Not very different really from our social set up right now where the Banker plays a vital role in all our lives. The Bank keeps your salary, gives you puny interest but also taxes you on bills, spends, credit cards, debit cards and many other complex rules. Most of the couples I know around me, have bought houses and are duly paying mortgages to the Bank. They have car loans, personal loans, cellphone EMIs and have one chore related to the bank on their weekend list. Mostly, one of their salaries is completely going to the Bank. And as all of us who have had drawing room conversations on this already know. The Banker always wins. Not only in the boardgame, but in life. Always.

In the view of recent bankruptcy threats by a bank in the USA (remember the Lehman Brothers who are already onto a new big deal in real estate), which brought the whole world on its knees and gave money to crooks, I who is full of questions had a very important on to ask from Monopoly’s rule book. What happens to the game when the Bank declares bankruptcy? And here’s the answer in Monopoly’s official rule book page:

 What if the Bank runs out of money?

A. Some players think the Bank is bankrupt if it runs out of money. The Bank never goes bankrupt. To continue playing, use slips of paper to keep track of each player’s banking transactions, until the bank has enough paper money to operate again. The Banker may also issue “new” money on slips of ordinary paper.

So you see, the Bank knows its deals. Even if it runs out of paper money, it will just print more money or do the deal on a sheet of white paper which is better than bankruptcy as a letter in Financial Times informs us. Yemen just did that. I think Parker Brothers who created the game in 1903 had it right all the way to their bank. In an economy which works on currency and a society which works on aspiration and greed, the banker always wins. And isn’t that human nature?

On another note, before we called it a night, my luck with money made me win over my poor husband who was bankrupted by paying rent over and over again. But I still feel I had less money than the Banker! So no, it wasn’t a win really, if winning (and not others losing) was the aim of it all.

Who will come first?

You can’t really miss it. Competition or rivalry for supremacy or a prize is at the heart of what construes our social set up. All of us are rivals—for food, for water, for the same flat, for the same job, for love. That’s how we have been shaped by our parents, leaders and society. At New Year’s eve while playing a board game with my friends, I started to ponder of the power of competitiveness, of the desire to win which can cause loud arguments between friends, turn them into bickering foes for a few minutes before someone backs off.


Why do we get competitive? Why is the idea of winning so important? Why do we want to score that just extra point to win the game? Why aren’t losers are revered in the society as winners? The dictionary defines a winner as someone who wins, the victor. I was curious about competition so I found an article which explains how competition between business is harming the society by making the business act in unethical ways. All to earn that extra customers, more sales, more market, or better employs. More search led me to a brilliant paper from someone at Berkeley which sort of summed up what competition is in our society.

“Competition is a fact of life; employees compete for promotions, groups of researchers vie for grants, and companies fight for market share. Typically associated with competition is the drive to win, or defeat one’s opponents. However, not all opponents are alike. Certain competitors, or rivals, can instill a motivation to perform that goes above and beyond an ordinary competitive spirit or the objective stakes of the contest.”

According to the paper, ‘competition is relational and path-dependent’. So you compete with each other when you are playing the same game, the same sport, or are in the same jobs in the company. Companies (or an herd of us) compete with companies on the same path, or same industry.

Which is fine as it goes in the current society that we live in, but it still didn’t answer my first question as to why do we compete at all? Do we need competition to survive or proliferate? Is comparison necessary to keep our productivity high? Or  build our character? Or is it a natural occurring codified in our genes, courtesy Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory.

Then I found this paper, an old extract from a book by Allie Kohn published in 1986 in the USA, arguably the most competitive developed society around. To my delight, Ms Kohn debunked all arguments I have heard on why competition is necessary for our society’s betterment. Myth by Myth. With studies to prove them. And it’s still relevant to us about 15 years later, in Indian society. Here are a few points I loved (they are detailed so I have highlights things):

Myth 1: Competition Is Inevitable

As with a range of other unsavory behaviors, we are fond of casually attributing competition to something called “human nature.” …that our desperate quest to triumph over others is universal…but it is difficult to find a single serious defense of the claim or any hard data to back it up….competition is a matter of social training and culture rather than a built-in feature of our nature…other researchers have shown that children taught to play cooperative games will continue to do so on their own time. And children and adults alike express a strong preference for the cooperative approach once they see firsthand what it is like to learn or work or play in an environment that doesn’t require winners and losers.

Myth 2: Competition Keeps Productivity High and is Necessary for Excellence

Many people who make such claims, however, confuse success with competition…First of all, trying to do well and trying to beat others really are two different things. A child sits in class, waving her arm wildly to attract the teacher’s attention. When she is finally called on, she seems befuddled and asks, “Um, what was the question again?” Her mind is on edging out her classmates, not on the subject matter. These two goals often pull in opposite directions. Furthermore. competition is highly stressful: the possibility of failure creates agitation if not outright anxiety, and this interferes with performance. Competition also makes it difficult to share our skills, experiences, and resources–as we can with cooperation. All of this should lead us to ask hard questions not only about how we grade–or degrade–students and organize our offices, but also about the adver­sarial model on which our legal sys­tem is based and, indeed, about an economic system rooted in competition.

Myth 3: Recreation Requires Competition

It is remarkable, when you stop to think about it, that the American way to have a good time is to play (or watch) highly structured games in which one individual or team must triumph over another. Grim, determined athletes memorize plays and practice to the point of exhaustion in order to beat an opposing team–this is often as close as our culture gets to a spirit of play. Children, too, are pitted against one another as they conduct serious busi­ness on Little League fields…Even the youngest children get the message, as is obvious from the game of musical chairs, an American classic. X number of players scramble for X minus-one chairs when the music stops. Each round eliminates one player and one chair until finally a single triumphant winner emerges. Everyone else has lost and been excluded from play for varying lengths of time. This is our idea of how children should have fun…but there’s an alternative: what if the players instead tried in squeeze onto fewer and fewer chairs until finally a group of giggling kids was crowded on a single chair? Thus is born a new game–one without winners and losers. The larger point is this: All games simply require achieving a goal by overcoming some obstacle. Nowhere is it written that the obstacle must be other people; it can be a time limit or something intrinsic to the task itself–so that no win-lose framework is required. We can even set up playful tasks so everyone works together to achieve a goal–in which case opponents become partners.

Myth 4: Competition Builds Character

Some people defend striving against others as a way to become “stronger.” Learning how to win and lose is supposed to toughen us and give us confidence. Yet most at us sense intuitively that the consequences of struggling to be number one are generally unhealthy. As the anthropologist Jules Henry put it, “a competitive culture endures by tearing people down.” …Trying to outperform others is damaging–first of all, because most of us lose most of the time. Even winning doesn’t help, because self-esteem is made to depend on the outcome at a contest, whereas psychological health implies an unconditional sense of trust in oneself. Moreover, victory is never permanent.…Perhaps the most disturbing feature of competition is the way it poisons our personal relationships. In the workplace, you may be friendly with your colleagues, but there is a guardedness, a part of the self held in reserve because you may be rivals tomorrow. Competition disrupts families, making the quest for approval a race and turning love into a kind of trophy. On the playing field it is difficult to maintain positive feelings about someone who is trying to make you lose. And in our schools students are taught to regard each other not as potential collaborators, but rather as opponents, rivals, obstacles to their own success. Small wonder that the hostility inher­ent in competition often erupts into outright aggression.

And she finally sums up beautifully: “Instead of perpetu­ating an arrangement that allows one person to succeed only at the price of another’s failure, we must choose a radically new vision for our society, one grounded in cooperative work and play.

I get Ms Kohn’s logic. The days when I actually appreciate what someone has written and send them a few lines of love, I feel good, happy. The day I am jealous of an author who’s selling books (books she has written btw), it’s all dark and dirty. I hate myself, I hate the author, I hate the world and my shoulder aches as my stress level goes up (and I don’t perform well).

Our society, last generation, this one, the next one, seems to be in a mad race against each other and even against death. Parents want their children to learn everything from maths to tennis to swimming to genius letter writing or some such. Parents themselves are in the race to get the better job, better salary, better house, better promotion. And each one is okay trotting on a few dead bodies on the way. People compare, compete constantly in everything—from sports, to cooking, to the bigger sofa, better clothes, prettier nose, bigger car… cut throat competition has replaced our souls today. And everyone is unhappy and anxious in this environment of losers and winners. Sad, isn’t it? I wonder when we will realise that cooperating, lending a hand, cleaning up your street and letting people be is a better way to survive and live.

PS: You can read Allie Kohn’s article here (automatic download). For parents who want to make their children non-competitive, here’s some more advice by her.

PPS: I have a feeling I will write more on this. So do wait for it 🙂

What’s your Facebook face?

Mine is a cheerful character who travels a lot, is a net activist, discovers and does new things in the city she lives in and makes happy, smiley faces for the camera. Oh and is also a newbie writer fast crawling up the ladders of success.


On Facebook as in public, most of the people who meet me don’t see any other side. This is my social side. This is the side I will show to a stranger, to a colleague, and even increasingly to most of my ‘friends’.

The Facebook face (let’s call it the FF now) is the side other people see when they view my online and offline life. This is the face they judge me by, measure my success, compare themselves to me, get jealous, get gleeful, compare again and wish they had a different life.

I know for sure not because I am a megalomaniac, but rather because I do this when I see other people’s Facebook faces. I see their cushy jobs, the hobbies they love doing, the fun they have in the exotic destination they are at, their fat paychecks and beautiful living spaces. I see books from authors who seem to write even while they sleep or have a full time job (and do such a great job of it). I see authors who have become a success story without any efforts (seemingly to me) and everytime, my heart sinks. A notch and then a few more notches. I feel I am leading the worse life ever, my luck is down and everybody else but me gets the best pieces of the chocolate cake (I seem to get the baddest one as well as the pimples!).

And then I stop. I take a deep breath. Then I smile. At myself and my petty little insecurities. I know Facebook faces are just faces. Like happiness is just a phase. Everyone gets down, everyone’s life is hard and full of all kinds of smelly bullshit. Everyone treads through it, aimless and desperate. And then everyone comes up, victorious with spurts of success and happiness in between.

If only my Facebook Face could become my real one. Wouldn’t life be just a breeze then?

This blog is not just a whim. There are studies being done on how people behave on Facebook. If you are interested in these studies, check out the links below:


I just feel that the Facebook face is nothing new. Humans have a tendency to show their best side when in public. Period. What do you feel? What’s your Facebook face? How different is it from you, deep inside or even the superficial you?

This post started after conversations with different friends. One told me how people never put the wrong things, the tragic things that happen to them on Facebook—like deaths of loved ones, or disability or accidents. Another girlfriend I was travelling with, wanted me to take a stunning photograph of hers which she could put online to make her social circles jealous. Oh well, deep down we are all the same I think.

Awesome Image credit

Review: Movie WANTED

Let me negate some facts before I begin. This is not a rant. This is not about the movie which had Ms Big Lips Jolie and another guy I cannot remember the name of. I am talking about the comic book.

It was with pleasure that I welcomed WANTED, a limited edition comic book series beautifully created by Mark Millar, touted at the king of realistic comic scripting in the 90s. I have fallen in love all over again.

The first thing I loved about it is the fact that it ENDS! After reading and reading and then reading again, issue after issue after issue of Bleach, the number one manga in English translation, for about three months while I was working on the Krishna script, I had had enough. I wanted to read a comic which actually ended to some extent. Not a Batman, Superman or Spiderman who are splashed timelessly in their never-moving worlds.

Someone recommend Wanted and since I liked Mark Millar’s work, I picked it up. Since I had seen the movie Wanted (no this is still not about that movie), I had some trepidation about the story. I was thankfully completely mistaken!

The plot is a marvel. Of course I won’t tell you what it is here. Just remember that it’s NOT anything they show in the movie. The grey, dark characters, confused motivations and endless, mind-boggling action make it a beautiful series to read. JG Jones realistic artwork keeps you glued to the action sequences. He has superb control on body language and expressions. Mark adds more by way of dialogues. The whole series keeps you glued for not only to understand what’s happening to the protagonist but also constantly marvel the world he’s living in where supervillians have twisted the reality fabric and converted themselves into superheroes!

Awesome plot, brilliantly written. More when I reread it J

I will end with a question. VOTE in the comments below!

How do you like your comics?

  • Book after book is how I like it. It’s not about the story but my favourite character’s adventures. I never want him/her/it to stop!
  • Limited edition is the way to go. Five issues later the thing finishes and I can get on with my life!
  • Limited Editions were so 90s. Big fat graphic novel is how I like them. One book, end of story.

A word’s journey

A Word’s Journey

She resides
On a quivering, moist lip.

From the broken, beating, dying heart
To the boiling cortex lobe
Through an ignited stimuli,
To the barking voice box.

She came with lightening-speed
Grabbing on-edge, electric nerves
An angry flash from the larynx
Tornado-speed to the brink
Of the quivering, moist lip.

She hung, desperately
Wanting to break free
Fly like a free raven;
Not become an Albatross.

But gripped she was
Against her will,
Plastered to the skin
By a remnant of good sense.

So she tumbled back
Into the empty sinewy depths,
Endless cycles and nothingness
An eternal past tense.

(c) Shweta Taneja, August 2009