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Monday, January 25, 2016

Malayalam Actress Kalpana: Keep Shining Your Light among the Celestial Stars

A colleague called out to me, from the news desk, "Did you see this breaking news, Swapna?"

I froze when I saw the breaking news that read: "Kalpana dead."

My first thought was, "There's been some mistake, this can't be true." 

But this news turned out to be true. 

Many actors in the Malayalam film industry are still in a state of shock on hearing this news. People from all walks of life are paying emotional tributes to her. She was an accomplished actress but that's not the only reason why people love her. She mingled with people easily and warmly. She showed love and warmth to everyone she met. 

Like hundreds of Malayalam movie goers, I too grew up watching many of Kalpanachechi's comedy sequences. 




Charlie was her last film, she had a heart wrenching role in it as 'Queen Mary'.  I had closed my eyes in the scene where she embraces death. 

As actor Prithviraj tweeted, "What a sign-off in Charlie!"



My brother Manoj B Menon is like a sibling to her. Kalpana chechi and her mother had visited my home in Palluruthy a few times. In her interactions with my parents, she was simple, almost child-like and full of humility. She was Swami's devotee and longed to hear about Swami. She also liked to take Swami's vibhuti's packets that are kept in our puja room from my father. 

My mother jokingly told her, "In person, you are like a college girl. But in films, you come across very differently."

She agreed with my mother and said that people who met her for the first time make the same observation about her personality. 

When she was in Delhi to receive the national award for the best actor in a supporting role, I spoke to her for the first time on the phone. 

She was full of happiness, almost child like. She said that she feels great to share the moment with her daughter. She jokingly said that her mother sat up all night to complete reading my book and gave all of them "lectures" based on it.  Then, she lovingly told me to keep writing and I told her that it means a lot to me that she had said so.

She also told me that whenever she heard my father talk of Swami, she felt Swami's presence around her. 

Then I told her that I am writing another book on Swami and would like to document her experiences as a Sai devotee. She said, "Why not? Lets meet next time in Kochi. My mother will have many experiences to share."


Her bubbly voice and positive energy humbled me.

She apologized for not meeting in Delhi as she had a meeting with the President and a few other commitments in New Delhi. We agreed to meet the next time we are both in Kochi - a meeting that never happened. 


What touched me was her humility. She valued people, no matter who they are and she gave respect to every individual she met. 


Kalpana chechi, rest in peace. We will always miss the joyous laughter and love you brought into our hearts and homes. 

But you live on in our hearts.



Shine on, Kalpana chechi. Your place is among the stars. Keep smiling and shining your light among the celestial stars. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How to control the quality of thoughts that arise in the mind

For those of you who wrestle with thoughts and want to do some quality control, Eknath Eashwaran's book, Conquering the Mind is a good reference. [DO READ: Signs of Progress in Meditation ]

Here's what kept me glued to Eknath Eashwaran's book:

1. You get practical examples of how to control the quality of thoughts that arise in your mind. [Do READ: How Raja Yoga unites Mind Power with Cosmic Power]

2. Simple but useful tips for meditation. [BONUS READ: What happens within you when you meditate ]

3. The daily challenges we face when we try to control the quality of thoughts that arise in the mind are dealt with using simple examples. 




As a working mother, the most important takeaway for me is this: I have seen a positive change in my 9-year-old son when I cite Eknath Eashwaran's 'quality control' arguments to him.  It makes sense to him.

Using specific tips from this book, it is possible to instil the habit of training children to watch the quality of  thoughts that arise in the mind.

Are there books that you would recommend on this subject?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Charlie Malayalam Movie Review: Dulquer Salman brilliant as Charlie, sets the bar high for himself with this film

I watched Charlie, starring Dulquer Salman, Parvathy Menon, Aparna Gopinatha, Nedumudi Venu, and directed by Martin Prakkat. Gopi Sundar has blended in some magical melodies that will tempt you to sit back and simply put everything else on hold while you listen to it. 


Dulquer Salman is brilliant in this film, gets into the skin of the character and he has set the bar very high for his next batch of movies, with Charlie. The way he transforms himself into Charlie is impressive and almost effortless. The way Charlie bonds with every character in this movie is heart-touching, sheer magic. 


Tessa (starring: Parvathy) caught my interest from the first scene till the last. The way she talks, dresses, walks - everything has a spark. She goes in search of the distant and the forbidden. The only persons who understand her quirky spirit are her grandmother and a bestie who is a sensible journalist. 

The story begins when Tessa rents an awful apartment.While tidying up, she finds stories written by him and that perks up her curiosity. She wants to know what happens to the stories that were left half-written. In search of those stories, she goes, finding thieves, running after improbable witnesses and doing unthinkable things to get to the heart of the story she is trying to solve.

The search for the story changes into something else - she begins to search for the magical storyteller.

Without ever saying it, she begins to wait for a stranger she would probably never meet.

She takes that chance.

But wait, this isn't just Tessa's story - the hero is Charlie! 

Charlie's mission in life is to surprise people, make them smile and transform their life. He celebrates life by challenging the social norms that exist in society. 

Don't be surprised to see that one day, he cuts birthday cake with a prostitute who is dying of AIDS and on another, he saves a doctor from committing suicide, takes her far into the hills and teaches her a thing or two about valuing not just her life but that of others too.

I love the dialogue that is stated by Nedumudi Venu after he meets the love of his life, "If we knew back then that we were waiting for each other, would our lives not have been different today?

Every dialogue in this movie offers food for thought. A different kind of thought that breaks away from the montony of our usual, logical pattern of thinking and doing.

We need more Charlies in this world, I say.



This magical Charlie, he just won my heart. He reminded me of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz in the book, The Forty Rules of Love.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to make your New Year's resolutions work? 6 awesome tips, just perfect for 2016!

No New Year resolutions yet? Stop worrying about that, it's no  big deal!

A research study by the University of Scranton indicates that 45% of people usually set New Year resolutions, but only about 8% actually achieve their goals.

So, what's  the top secret to make it to the 8% that work hard on their New Year goals?


Sshhhh, I have a plan. It's easy, it's practical. Here you go:

1. Work on nurturing one trait every month with your loved ones - here's an easy practical guide .




5. To have a happier, more joyful and serene year, check out Vishnu's 18 Sacred Intentions to Set for 2016


Here's a warm toast to your health, prosperity and happiness in 2016!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My love for you has no limits

My 9 year-old and I love to snuggle up and have funny conversations. Sometimes we ask each other silly questions, emotional ones - it's a part of our 'bonding' journey.

A couple of days ago, I asked my son, "
How much do you love me?"

His immediate reply, "My love for you has no limits, Amma. It has no boundaries. It goes on and on and on...."



My heart flipped, warm and cozy like a pancake. I held my baby closer, and my heart seemed to burst with happiness.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How human voices can inspire your writing

When I am outdoors, I like to listen to human voices. 

Each voice has a unique texture and sound quality, which cannot be compared to another. [Bonus READ: On Success, No Woman on the Moon]

I carry a notebook with me - with a navy blue cover -to write the dialogues that catch my fancy. When I first began jotting down these dialogues, I thought that this notebook will be sparsely populated. That didn't happen.

The notebook is now filled to the brim. We can learn so much from a set of dialogues - about a person's beliefs, region, education, culture, etc.

Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, shares some beautiful insights about how human voices inspire her writing. 

I thought I'd share it here - for you.


What are the human voices, conversations or dialogues that have made a remarkable impact on you?

[DO READ: Shobha De says "Writing is like a heartbeat to me...I live to write! ]

Friday, December 11, 2015

Little things can bring great joy

Yesterday, I realized that it was a dear friend's birthday and he wasn't on Facebook. So, there were no FB reminders.

I dug out old albums and found his pic. I put a 'Happy Birthday' post on Facebook - which helped many mutual friends to reach out to him and wish him.

People suddenly realized that they had missed him. 

Later in the evening, I called him. The joy in his voice was unmistakable. 

Little things can bring great joy. We just need to reach out to more people with more love. 

God is love and His love is best expressed through the choices we make.

Can being missed by other human beings make a difference, lift your spirits? Do share your thoughts.....

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hope is sometimes a crumb

Hope is sometimes a crumb that you hold on to deep within. [Do read: Strong is the new BEAUTIFUL]

It can be an idea that you want to work on. It can be the startup you are dreaming about. 

It can be a relationship that you feel strongly committed to though there is nothing to show it is going in the direction you are hoping for. [READ: Ask more, fear less, Never ever GIVE UP! and How to find peace within when your plans go for a toss]



Never ever underestimate the power of hope - it's all we have to stay strong even when the tide turns against us.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Walking the red carpet

The single best thing that has happened to me in the last few months is my decision to spend more time in bookshops, libraries and attend book launches or literary meetings.

Every time I attend a bookshop or a book launch, I meet a new writer or a new publisher. We talk and it gives me a high to stay committed to my daily routine of writing. 

Recently, at the Indian Habitat Centre where the 5th edition of ILF Samanvay's Annual Languages Festival, I saw a beautiful red carpet rolled put to welcome everyone.



It struck me as apt.


It's the readers who deserve the red carpet. 

The idea kept lingering in my head, along with an early morning bird song.

I saw a beautifully dressed transgender walk the red carpet, head held high and all smiles.

Happiness is this moment. {READ: The Choices We Make, Karma, Love }

What's the happiest moment that caught you unaware recently? 

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