Tag Archives: india

Of Sugar & Light: The Year When Diwali Led Halloween


Diwali may actually be the direct opposite of Halloween. And yet, here are these two festivals, being celebrated within a day of each other in 2016. The light and the dark. The good and the supposed evil. As Hindus around the world light the world with diyas and pray for prosperity, graveyards pop up on the front yards of the western world. As spiderwebs are cleared to make way for clarity in Indian homes, fake cobwebs are places over wooden door trims and corners in America . But there is one thing in common…


Whether it be in the form of candy or pedas, sugar is the high that makes everyone feel happy, and both traditions make it a point of exchanging lots of it! So have something sweet and be merry. After all, a festival is merely a means for communicating with the people who matter to us, whether it be in costume or in spanking new gold jewelry. Happy Diwali & Happy Halloween! May you conquer evil, find joy, revel in prosperity and enjoy a decadent meal with the people you love…<3 Shilpa


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Good Over Evil, Happy Over Sad- This Diwali, May The Choice Be With You

Shubh Diwali

Shubh Deepavali! I couldn’t resist pulling up this beautiful shot taken by Subashini Vanangamudi at the Satori Studios and making a little Diwali-gram!

Every time someone asks me what Diwali signifies, my throat dries out a little bit. India is so complex and our festivals are rooted in so much scripture and celebrated with so many rituals, that it makes me dizzy. 

In my defense, how am I to explain, in proportionate detail, the story of Lord Ram and good triumphing over evil (and all the other demons slayed during the five days that entail our very illustrious celebrations). This would just open up the conversation on the millions of gods we pray to. How am I to explain why we buy gold on Dhanteras? How do I sort the days which are dedicated to celebrating marriage or siblings or our ancestors correctly? How do I explain why we celebrate by lighting a million diyas and bursting firecrackers on the already tumultuous streets of India? How can I bring into light, how this festival unifies a very diverse population in a very large (and often divided) country?

So, I cop out and just say its a celebration of light and love. And money. I suppose, in all practicality, its a celebration of property and good fortune. 

To me, however, Diwali signifies family-time and an opportunity to hit the reset on my life and change things I don’t like. It also ends up making me feel pretty darn grateful. Anyone who knows me knows that there isn’t a day when I don’t light candles. They soothe me and remind me of what a great lady had told me once, ‘the hottest part of the flame is the smallest and the coolest to the sight.’ Most importantly, it reminds me of the power of choice. To always choose good over evil. To always choose what’s right over what’s convenient. And most importantly, to always forgive myself when I falter, because I will. And that’s OK.

Happy Diwali everyone! May you chose how you live your life! ❤

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Happy 69th Indian Independence Day!

I’m so proud to be made in India. Happy 69th Indian Independence Day (even though we’re thousands of years old… I know… We age well :))!! [P.S. This was written on the 15th of August!]HappyIndianIndependenceDayShilpaTripathi

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Wings Of Fire

This morning, I woke up to the news of the passing one of the most inspiring people who’ve walked the Indian soil and led the Indian people. As Dr. Kalam rides the ether with wings of fire, I want to say that his book, his great words and his greater deeds inspired me when I was very young and will continue to do so for all who seek a greater plane of existence.

Dr. Abdul Kalam taught me that no matter how small your gait is, no road is too long. He taught me that no matter how small your pocket is, your mind is unstoppable. His life reminds Indians of the inherent greatness that has propogated through our generations. His life is a testimony to the fact that caste, creed or religion should not and cannot be left to continue to cripple the minds of India’s youth. There’s just too much at stake.

Great men (and women🙋🏻) such as Dr. Kalam, still continue to make India one of the most brilliant countries on Earth, a country where a beautiful mind equals a beautiful life and great karma overrides everything.

RIP Dr. Abdul Kalam. You will be dearly missed by India and the world.

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IFFLA: In Search of Identity

IFFLAThis blog is a long time in the writing…

More than a week ago, I attended the Indian Film Festival of India, Los Angeles. And when I say attended, I mean really attended it. I watched a majority of the films and spoke to every film enthusiast within my vicinity. I lived the festival to it’s fullest and as it often is, when you’re truly living in the moment, documentation of the events become last priority (unless you’re blessed with an assistant of course). Hence, the late, late blog.

But, it was a very awesome experience. I made some interesting observations. I’d like to share them with you of course!

Independent movies have a tendency to ‘observe’ and ‘document’. This was very obvious in this festival’s line-up. So no George Lucas style drama here folks. The films were minimalistic and lacked varnish. They were created with ‘real’ people. They were subtext heavy. Dialogues were intricately carved (and sometimes non-existent). Every element (locations, music etc.) worked in sync to create an experience that was true to the character’s experience in his or her journey.

The films were always character centric. Always. The story and the hero’s journey was all that mattered. As it should.

Reality was the operating word.

It can get heavy, of course, but it’s like reading a good book or observing a masterful painting or eating a gourmet meal. The information provided is rich and layered to perfection. And like any superior meal, it’s served with the hope of enabling deep conversations and relationships.

There was a common thread to most of the work I saw. It was a search for identities. It was a search for the identity of today’s India and today’s Indian. It was a search for India’s global identity. It was a search for where our ‘self’ ends and where our environment begins. It was search for the evolution of the identity with which we live our lives (and some die protecting).

Questions, question everywhere and not an answer in sight!

All the questions made me question as well… How does a storyteller distinguish between which story they want to tell versus which story should be told?

The film maker (or storyteller) bears the weight of their message. They bear the weight of their vision. And this is a great time for me to salute the art and craft of film making. I believe it’s a wonderful burden to bear. A burden that creates identities in real life. We, after all, are the culmination of the stories we imbibed.

I would recommend the festival experience to anyone who has the access to one. It’s an enriching experience to say the least. 🙂

❤ Stories ❤ Film ❤ IFFLA


NOTE: I am resisting the urge to talk about my favorite movies: Gangs of Wasseypur (1&2), The Ship of Theseus, Peddlers, Unravel, Ika and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I will refrain because I wouldn’t do justice to them so late in my reflection. Of course, if someone wants to discuss them I will be glad to have a movie talk!

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Hello Goodbye!


Bidding adieu is perhaps one of the most consistent occurrences in my life. So at this point, making a fuss about the travel seems weird to me. Imagine having tearful farewells every time you go down the street. Yes, I travel that often. Okay, maybe a slight bit less.

Every time I come to India, however, I feel like I’m missing some sort of formalities. Like I should be making some grand gestures to indicate my entry and departure. The society here is so tight-knit with such pressure to inform and indicate that if one person is out of the loop, they take it in unintended ways. Fact is, relationship is measured in emotions and intent, not on frequency of communication. That’s a lesson you only learn when your passport is printed with stamps, your iphone is stacked with hundreds of phone numbers and your day filled with stories uncounted (or if you read enough to have mentally done these things).

So, wonderful folks (related and unrelated), just remember that a bye is not even as close to important as a hello that follows. Personally, if it were up to me, I’d never do the ‘bye’s’, only the ‘hellos’. It’s so much more wonderful to smile than to cry. It’s so much more beautiful to start a journey than to end it.

So, hello adventures, new and old. Hello! Hello! Hello!

P.S. To all of my loved ones in India, I can’t wait to see you again! My love is constant even if my presence is variable!

P.P.S. To my lovely readers, I’ll blog the minute I take a breather!

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Of Fools, Intoxication & the Death of a Young Girl


Today, a girl, just wanting to go back home, died a painful death after 13 days of struggle, the result of a pole stuck through to her intestines. She died because some drunk morons couldn’t control themselves. And like every problem, the whole of India is intent of blaming and pointing fingers. Some big shot offspring by the name of Abhishek Mukherjee said (forgive the paraphrasing) that women have nothing to do. They dress up at night to go to clubs and wake up in the morning to protest. How eloquent and thoughtful of you Mr. Mukherjee! Did you think of that all by yourself?

The aggregation of the opinions of fools like Mr. Mukherjee is what stops us from seeing the real problem. The punishment for rape isn’t severe enough to go through a drunk haze or a big bank balance or strong connections or the male ego. Public travel should have video cams. Emergency call service should be facilitated. Intoxication should be better monitored (especially in a country where it is so suppressed) with better security. The stigma around rape has to go. Women should not be afraid to report cases or speak out. But you know what’s most important? Boys at home should be taught that they are no better of worse that their female counterparts. Every mother should be the one doing it. It baffles me that it is usually the mother that neglects to put such sense into her male child. It’s a simple lesson really. Respect the girl like the girl respects you…

My heart goes out to the family of Amanat (or Damini as she remains nameless) and I pray that no girl has to endure such a painful end. If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that in a country where women have been dismissed as the less worthy gender, protests are being carried out and the message is loud and clear: give Amanat justice. Protect your women before they go away. Protect your future before it crumbles like the integrity and dreams of the girl who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Sometimes people come and disappear from our lives like the traffic lights in India. One day they’re working and applicable, next day, they are gone, like they never existed. When you live a life of travel and adventure, coming across ghosts happens quite frequently. Some haunt us for hours, some for days and others even months. But the best part is that they serve as a type of learning post. Each ghost comes with a message (if we are attentive enough to identify it) and we forever allow that message to be a part of us (if we care enough to imbibe the message). But what ghosts always do, unfailingly, is to remind us of the temporary nature of all that we have and ‘own’.

So, thank you all you ghosts! May you find your nirvana!

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An Open Letter to Indian News Channels

Dear Indian News Channels,

News is non-fiction.
Baseless gossip is not news. 
Repetition unto death is not (bearable) news. 
Sensationalism achieved partly by dramatic music with flashing screens is not news (and bad for the eyes). 
Thirty minute recaps of hit shows and soap operas with added commentary is not news.
Fake controversies are not news.
Fake celebrity feuds are not news (or maybe it is… I’m not a 100% sure on that one).
Fake supernatural events are definitely not news. 
Cricket isn’t the only sport in the world. Cricketers are not demi-gods. They can lose a game or two, once in a while. Just saying. 
Why is the woman in the sports news reporting team always so uninformed? That’s just plain wrong. 
News with opinion and agenda is not fair to unsuspecting masses. 
Objective reporting allows people to think for themselves. That’s a good thing!
TRP is not as important as our future. Surprisingly.
Creating news is not the same are reporting news.
Thank you.

Concerned & Psyched-Out Individual

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Of Coffee and Conversations

Conversation Starter

Whenever I have time to kill (that’s what I like to think of the time when I familiarize myself with style.com and such), I head towards my favorite cafe (it’s already been established that coffee is my one true addiction). 

Unless I have company, this process is more or less defined in the following order: Go to cafe. Order coffee. Chat with the baristas, invariably bringing up the weather (especially the heat). Sit at my favorite corner table. And finally, precariously lay out my technology and start typing/ reading/ playing games (By the way, Turbo Granny is pure genius). 
Most of the format has stayed the same, with the minor addition of careful eavesdropping and subtle observation.
Creepy eh? 
Heck yes! 
But boy is it fun (for the record, I blame Constantin Stanislavski, who inspired me to observe people around me to become a better dramatist).
Right now, as I focus on writing this earth-shattering blog, in my periphery vision, two kind-of middle aged woman sit conversing (I’m really bad with guessing age). One is well groomed in a pink salwar kameez, colored hair and has a pair of faux- Chanel sunglasses adorning her head like a hair band (yes, once a fashion snob, always a fashion snob). The other one is bafflingly dressed in a mini skirt, fishnet stockings, and a printed sleeveless top. Oh, I shouldn’t forget the four inch black heels. Fierce. 
Two more ladies join them, dressed in Indian-conservative-chic (I think I just invented a classification of sorts).
They start by speaking about the weather and quickly move on to their outfits (the woman in the skirt sheepishly tells the women how outraged her mother-in-law is over her wardrobe choice but quickly defends it (perhaps to diffuse judgment and critique) saying that life is too short. Too many Sex and the City episodes? My mind offers.). 
The lady in a yellow salwar kameez starts speaking about spinning classes and a long winded conversation explodes on the (boring!) topic of weight loss programs and gym schedules. I have a feeling I was a distant source of fuel to that fire as the ladies kept glancing at me throughout (every so often one of the ladies would nod in my direction and they would comment on how easy it was when they were younger). I mentally roll my eyes at them, glad for their change of topic, one that gave me insight as to the origins of this group.
Apparently they are a part of this kitty party gang that meets at cafes. They meet monthly and invite as many people as possible (my wild guess is that their intention is less to do with good-will and more to do with good-gossip).
The lady with faux-Chanel sunglasses expresses unhappiness regarding a woman named Payal who stood them up because of prior commitments. Suddenly, the skirt lady looks up from her Blackberry and tells everyone that some guy will be joining them soon (I can’t stop myself from imagining this guy in warrior clothes), The women manage to feign a lack of interest but I can tell that they are excited about the change in group dynamics that might cause (or the drama it will create). Either way, there is a visible shift in topics thereafter. Funny how one statement can cause that. So, its not a huge surprise when they start to speak of the latest romance related gossip. I believe this is the pinnacle of their conversation as every lady is completely engrossed in the conversation, the cafe and the fervently typing young lady beside them completely forgotten…
After what seems like forever, they move on to speak about wardrobe malfunctions (the topic inspired by a tear on the cafe’s couch) and weird inner-wear (inspiring vomiting sensations in me). 
They speak about common friends, kids, in-laws, travel, fashion… 
Finally, the waiter/ barista comes to take their order and they make a fuss of ordering coffee as per their diet and go on to finally order frappes, croissants, muffins and a black forest cake with ice cream. Err… good call ladies!
By this time, I have to make a move (I’m not sure if I’m relieved or not).
As I throw on my pair of Aviators, I realize that over the course of half an hour, all the stereotypes have proven themselves right. 
Women love gossiping. 
Kind-of middle aged women (with some crisis or another) cannot stop gossiping, all the while making amazing entertainment.

And oh yea, Gossip Girl writers need to take a leaf from my book and hit their nearest local cafe (Starbucks excluded- too many business folks there).
I realize, TV has spoilt us. 
We look towards the idiot box to provide gossip when all we have to do is creepily observe the people around us and eavesdrop on their conversation to enjoy prime-time entertainment. Maybe even learn a lesson or two. 
Thanks Constantin for changing my cafe experience forever!

On second thought… maybe not…

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