Xylophataquieopiaphobia- That is Scary


The Fear of Not Pronouncing Words Right! 


Vivek Hande

 Seneca wrote, “Where Fear is, Happiness is Not”. While it is right to say that one should be able to face ones’ fears and take them head on, the reality is, that fears often do have a way of gripping you in a tight vice.  The other side of every fear, they say is freedom.

Fear is described as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and likely to cause pain or pose a threat. Phobias are an extreme or irrational form of fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or object. Phobias are a strong, unreasonable fear or even a feeling of hate for a particular thing. Phobias are typified by being persistent and often make the sufferer want to avoid a situation or an object. 

Each of us have our own share of fears-logical or otherwise. Every time I travel, I have a consistent fear that my checked in baggage will be misplaced and will not arrive on the conveyor belt and if it does, it would be the last to arrive on the belt. More often than not, my fear on this account turns out to be true. I have started many trips to places shopping for new clothes. I am also rather well known in the “Missing Baggage” section in most airports.

 Another of my fears is to do with ATM booths- I have a fear every time I insert the card, that the machine is going to refuse to give me money (it happens very often) or worse, gobble up the card (happens to me with worrying regularity). 

Yet another of my consistent fears is to do with ceiling fans- I have a transferable job and each time, I shift into a new house, I make it a point to do the “Fan Test”. I swing on the fan in each room to ensure that it is indeed secure and not likely to fall off when in motion. Well, each to his own!

There are three kinds of Phobias. The three types of phobias are Social Phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people or other social situations), Agoraphobia(fear of being outside), and Specific Phobias (fear of other items or situations). While it is certainly not a nice thing having a phobia about anything, the range of things once could be phobic about does make for an interesting list.

Object / SituationPhobia
Fear Of Anything Yellow(Sun/ Daffodils/ yellow Paint)Xanthophobia
Fear Of CheeseTurophobia
Fear Of Falling AsleepSomniphobia
Fear Of ClownsCoulrophobia
Fear Of Woods/ Forest/TreesHylophobia
Fear of the NavelOmphalophobia
Fear Of Being without Mobile Phone coverageNomophobia
Fear Of HeavenUranophobia
Fear Of RainOmbrophobia
Fear Of BeardsPogonophobia
Fear of the Number 13Triskaidekaphobia
Fear of HolesTyrpophobia
Fear of Mess and UntidinessAtaxophobia
Fear of Almost EverythingPanphobia

This list is by no means exhaustive and is actually endless and that is rather scary in its own way.In today’s scenario, the one fear which dominates all others is “Coronaphobia”. Anybody who coughs is looked at with such intense fear. An unmasked person evokes a strange sense of trepidation, anxiety and sheer dread.

 Fears, as somebody remarked are rationally and carefully cultivated as roses; Phobias are however quite irrational and are like wild weeds. Be that as it may, we have to confront our fears and face them before they consume us. Sometimes just a little bit of light is enough to change phobias to fluttering butterflies.


Hande-d Down

“Hande-d Down”


Vivek Hande

Family Names or Surnames, as they are often called, can be serious business. They are also called Last Names because traditionally in the English speaking world and most other places it is used at the end of the name. Though that could be  used as a Forename (ahead of the personal name) in some communities, even in India. While Shakespeare may have believed ‘that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, I am not too sure about that. Ones’ family name is something handed down to you and is virtually one’s identity for life. It is something which defines you. It opens doors; at times gets them shut firmly on your face. I daresay it may be the most important word in ones’ world. It sets the template, in many ways as to how you lead your life. It would be so because it is linked to ones’ culture, family, origin and community and often to a profession you grow up to.  Incidentally, the study the etymology, history and use of proper names is Onomastics or Onomatology.

The use of Surnames dates back a long time. In Europe, it dates back to the Roman Empire; in China almost back to the Second Century BC. In most societies around the world including India, the lady assumes the family name of the husband after marriage. But that too is no longer the absolute norm and some ladies prefer to retain their maiden surnames and some append it to their original family name. Interestingly, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979 gives the same rights to the woman /wife to choose a family name as the man/husband!! Incidentally, the most common Indian Surnames include Devi, Kumar, Das and Singh. Worldwide, Devi figures in the list of most common surnames along with Wang, Smith, Ali and Ahmed..

The use of surnames very often tells an interesting tale. Some surnames put you in a certain ethnicity /geography without doubt. A Banerjee cannot be from Tamilnadu; an Iyer can’t be a Punjabi. Most often the surname is patronymic, derived from the name of the father or ancestor.  The surnames could be locative – giving an idea of the location of origin : Kolhapuri(Kolhapur); Sholapurkar( Sholapur); Someshwara( Someshwar). The family name could be Toponymic , giving an idea of the Topography of the place of origin : Doddamani,  a family name in Karnataka; the name translates into ‘big house” in Kannada.  Hadimani is “house next to the road”.  Hill or Green are common surnames in the West. Very often the name gives an idea of the profession – Baker/ Carpenter/ Taylor. Bakshi , a common Punjabi family name traces its origin to ‘Bakshi’ in Persian which means paymaster.  Bhatt is a name common to both sides of the Vindhyas and originally they were the ‘learned ones’. Bedi is someone who had knowledge of the Vedas. Gandhi, in Indic languages means a perfume seller or grocer or a pharmacist. Parsis leave nothing to doubt, Sodabottleopenerwalla or Batliwalla , for instance. A rose by any other name.. I seriously doubt it!!

Well, I am fiercely possessive about my family name. When I was in Medical School, I had two batchmates who went by the name Handa. It was taken for granted I was Handa too. They are both very good friends and I have nothing against the name either, but it was a question of identity and ethnicity. The proud Kannadiga in me would repeatedly stand up during attendance (we were before the era of Biometrics) and point out class after class that, “I am Hande with an E”. After a few months, many of the Professors would point out to me and remark, “He is the chap with the E!” The name has been the source of many stories over the years. One of my senior colleagues, a Kashmiri himself, decided that I was Handoo , a common Kashmiri Pandit name. I was very often a guest for dinner at his house and fed on feasts made by his marriageable daughter. I was very soon banished when realization dawned that I was an “E” from South Kanara district. Then of course there have been the umpteen jokes on my fondness for eggs (I am not much of an egg eater) but the Hindi word for eggs kind of sounds similar. I have received letters addressed to Dr. Honda- I am sure I don’t look too Japanese and nor did they know I am fond of the car. Many have called me “Handy” –I suppose I must have been useful in some way. Some have called me “Handle”- I do think they were being rude about my weight perhaps. Others have had my name autocorrected to Handel; no violent objections with that – he is one of my favorite composers..

Believe me, each of the family names hides an interesting story; a story worth digging into. I would urge you to look more carefully at your family name – it might throw up some interesting tales.

 I do agree with Salman Rushdie when he says, “Names, once they are in common use become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth’s marvels, beneath the dust of habit”.

A Cabinet of Curiosities

A Cabinet of Curiosities..


Vivek Hande



Many of us collect things. People collect things for different reasons. People collect articles for relaxation; as a hobby; to embellish a decorative space; some collect things as a challenge or for a reward. There are serious collectors who do so for a profit. There are studies to show that passionate collectors often do so because of an emotional connect with the object being collected.




The Cabinet of Curiosoties.






The business of collecting stuff probably started when Nomadic existence ceased about 12000 years ago. In the Victorian era, it was a status symbol to have a Cabinet of Curiosities to display collectibles – this was perhaps the forerunner of the Museum…




The Hoarders Unite..



There is a thin line between the passion and enthusiasm of a hobbyist or a collector who enjoys collecting stuff as a hobby and the obsessive hoarding by someone who, by definition, actually suffers from a psychiatric illness called Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome.




The Hoarders collect just about anything because they feel that the stuff they are collecting is valuable or may be useful at some point of time. They cannot bring themselves to discard things. They get distressed and agitated if they have to throw away things. They are overpowered by the urge to go on collecting things. Consequently, they live in the midst of a huge disorganized collection of things and more often than not, they do not even realize the chaos and the clutter they exist in! Hoarders may actually be endangering their lives and health in extreme circumstances because of the stuff they may be hoarding.. .it actually begins to interfere with their normal life. A very famous example quoted is that of the Collyer Brothers – Langley & Homer who were found dead in their New York house buried under a mound of old newspapers. Found in the house were thousands of unread books, skins of fruit and vegetables; huge pieces of wood and pipes and a whole lot of stuff of questionable use- they quite literally died under the weight of their hoard!


You need a Clutter Manager!


A very thin line does exist between amateur collectors; compulsive collectors and Hoarders! Hoarders are a different breed. And what they need to collect is at times beyond comprehension. You never know when the electricity bills of twenty-five years ago may come handy or the payment receipt of your first cell phone purchased ten years ago may just be the thing you need. One never knows when empty cartons of shoes purchased a few years ago or broken spectacle frames and dead and defunct watches and empty perfume bottles may be handy. Old shoe laces, tooth brushes and combs with broken teeth need to be held on to for some inexplicable reason – you never know…



An Arctophilist no less..










Hoarders are likely to have cupboards full of “Super 3 for 1” deals and “Buy 1 , Get 1”type of bargains. They are likely to have a huge cache of the same kind of shoes or socks or gigantic collections of baked beans and soup packets in the kitchen –all bought at bargain stores or discount sales and they will keep hoarding more and more of the same.. and all this has actually created a job market for profession Clutter Managers..


Always Good to have more?



I know of an asthmatic acquaintance who cannot part with airline boarding cards; Uber Receipts; old calendars ( more than twenty years vintage), old broken umbrellas, inhalers (used and finished fifteen years ago); damaged and dented scissors, nail clippers, picture frames and those fused old electric bulbs(more than two hundred of them)- he doesn’t know what he is going to do with all this – but his rooms are bursting at the seams ; the garage is about to explode and his wife of reasonable vintage ,threatening to elope and implode!


That is going to bug you a bit!




When amateur collection transforms into Compulsive Hoarding is difficult to predict. Demi Moore had a house full of her doll collection. Imelda Marcos had shoes and more shoes. Sharon Stone collects Cashmere Sweaters. Jay Leno and Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) collect vintage cars as if they were toffee wrappers. Napoleon collected countries and hence the term Napoleon Complex to denote the use of aggression to overcome physical flaws.







Spring Cleaning may not help..







What people collect is interesting. And so are the names associated with some of them. A Numismatist collects coins; a Philatelist collects postage stamps. More interestingly, a person who collects Teddy Bears is an Arctophilist and and someone who collects postcards is a Deltiologist. By the way, a Philumenist collects Matchboxes! A classmate of mine at Medical School collected all awards at the Hobby Competitions with his collection of Bed Bugs , aesthetically presented , with contributions from all of us – the hostel rooms were generous sources of the Bugs..The list is endless – Fountain Pens; Back Scratchers; Sugar Packets- it all boils down to what piques your imagination.
















Well, I am a collector too. I am not sure if it will progress to Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome. But as of now, I am more than happy to collect memories, experiences and friendships….


Books – A Uniquely Portable Magic

Books- A Uniquely Portable Magic!!


Vivek Hande




Books evoke that lovely feeling – a sentiment that is difficult to describe. When you come across a new book or rediscover an old one, it arouses a unique set of feelings. A sense of mystery; an association with a set of thoughts and memories; a warm embrace ; a gentle caress ; a sense of belonging ; a sense of loss ; a train of ideas- all this and much more – books have this unique ability to trigger such myriad emotions. That is the power of the written word- it can be evocative; emotive; energizing or it could be calming, comforting and uplifting! Books and reading could transform you into another person or transport you to another world- all with the flick of a page..



I couldn’t agree more with Somerset Maugham when he wrote,”To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge, from almost all the miseries of life”. I am not sure if reading is an acquired habit as most say it is or one is born with a reading gene which makes you a lifelong addict to the reading habit. Thanks to a voracious appetite for reading, I have travelled to distant lands and made my way through forests; climbed daunting peaks; dived miles under the sea and braved storms and typhoons and gales and survived earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. I have been an Architect and a Miner; at other times a Rocket Scientist and a deep sea Diver; a brilliant Detective and a Philosopher seeking the truth of life. I have voyaged through ancient China and medieval Egypt; lived through the trials and tribulations of Emperors and Pharaohs; lurked in catacombs and caverns; soaked up the company in taverns and spent nights in cheap motels. All this and more sitting in the comfort of my chair with a steaming cup of coffee..the power of the written word!!



I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to reading. I have been encouraged to read on a tablet or an E – Reader. I do have all shapes and sizes of them – dustproof and waterproof and days and days of battery life. The Kindle and the Kobo Aura One: Wi-Fi enabled and with cellular connectivity. Adjusted lighting and backlit display and all of that and more. The convenience of carrying multiple books on the go and what have you. But for me – the good old smell of paper; the flick of the page and the inserted bookmark and the dog-eared, well thumbed tome. That feels familiar; that feels comfortable and that is home! I also did try, on much insistence from friends, the Audio Book. Well it has its merits, I daresay. But let me enjoy my reading the way I enjoy it.



What can be more pleasurable than spending a day in the library; or in a well stocked bookshop and the best book shops I have enjoyed have been in tucked away alleyways and by lanes – books spilling from every shelf.  It does feel you are with old friends and companions who have known you a lifetime. Mortimer Adler got it spot on,” Reading for me is spending time with a friend. Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life”. Books are, truly, excellent company, in sad times and joyous times- for, books, indeed are people, who have survived and thrived by hiding between the covers of a book..

As somebody famously remarked, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library”. A book which has touched you in some way will always remain a part of you; it will always stay with you. Over the years, one has acquired books and more books and yet more books. With each move, the cartons get heavier and seem to multiply in number. But it feels like home and surrounded by friends and family when the books find their way out of the packing crates and cartons onto the over laden shelves.

 It doesn’t really matter what you read and when you read and how you enjoy the book- whatever works for you should be fine. JK Rowling succinctly remarked, “If you don’t like to read, you have probably not found the right book!” So reach out for whatever creates magic for you!!


Put on Your Dancing Shoes..

Put On Your Dancing Shoes…


Vivek Hande




Shoe( Noun); Etymology : Schoen(Dutch); Schuh(Old Germanic); Sko( Norwegian/ Danish)

Definition/ Description:  Footwear to protect and comfort the human foot. Has acquired status of being occasionally decorative or symbol of fashion.  Has potential to evoke frenzy and obsessive thoughts, more seen with female gender. Capable of triggering intense possessive feelings and desire to shop madly.

Shoes, in various forms have been around for a very long time. Oldest known footwear has been around from the period 7000-8000 BC and made of sagebrush bark. Armenian excavations from the period 3500 BC revealed footwear made of cowhide laced with leather cord. Thong sandals have existed in various civilizations and have been made from materials such as rawhide, papyrus and palm leaves. Wooden thongs have several references in literature from India.



The Greeks largely regarded footwear as ugly and unnecessary and probably self indulgent. The athletes in Greek Olympics ran bare feet and very often naked! Pheidippides ran bare feet from the Battle of Marathon to Athens over 36 hours to convey the news of Greek victory and was possibly the first Marathoner. Well, at least that is regarded as the origin of the word. The Romans changed it all and they believed that footwear was necessary and fashionable and the more powerful wore more elaborate footwear. The slaves remained bare feet. Probably around the mid 16th Century, the royalty started wearing high heels with their footwear- a sign of affluence and power. Hence the term “well heeled” to signify wealth! By the end of 19th Century the mass production of factory made shoes had started and yet handcrafted and individually stitched shoes remain a symbol of style and fashion till today. As an aside, mass produced shoes take about 1000 years to degrade in a landfill!!



Well, shoes do signify many things about a person. It is often more than a style statement. How well polished and scuffed your shoes are, still goes a long way in establishing first impressions. While, shoes could be regarded as symbols of fashion and one can be finicky about what one picks up – I just buy whatever size 11plus/44 shoes I get – fashion be damned!  The woes of big feet run among the men in my family. When my father joined the Military Academy, they could not provide Boots his size for the first two months of training and when they finally did, he was told, “Wear your Boats and get on to the Drill Square”. For many years, I used to go to a small little shop in Karol Bagh to buy shoes-they used to make shoes for Russian Diplomats in New Delhi – my feet looked dainty compared to them!!



Shoes can be of specific types. Sports shoes : specific for Athletics; Golf; Baseball, Hiking, walking and so on. Dancing or Ballet Shoes. Boots, shoes which cover the foot and ankle and extend up the leg. Boots are often made of different leathers- Cowhide, Ostrich, Annaconda and even Elephant hide have been used for making boots across the world. Different kinds of shoes have been made as newer material have come into use- rubber, plastic, petrochemicals, wood, canvas and so on. Sneakers came to be called thus because you could sneak up on another person wearing them. Barefoot running is back in vogue and there are shoes available which mimic the experience of running barefeet and provide protection and maximum flexibility.



There is no end to variety when it comes to Men’s shoes either. Oxfords, Balmorals, Derby, Slip Ons/ Mocassins and Brogues and one could go on. When it comes to the ladies shoes, 2 inch heels would qualify as High Heels; 1.5 to 2 inches are for some reason labeled as Kitten Heels and heels with a very narrow heel are the Stilettos– good to kill someone! Then there are the Wedge heels if you want to club someone and not stab ..

Religion is like a pair of shoes- find one that fits you but don’t make me wear your shoes”- George Carlisle. In Indian mythology, Bharat ruled Ayodhya on behalf of Lord Rama by symbolically keeping his sandals(Paadukas) on the throne.  Hindus leave footwear outside the temple. In most South Indian homes, shoes are kept outside before one enters. The idea being to keep ones’ negative and evil thoughts outside and accept ones’ humility. Among the Arabs, showing ones’ shoes or sole of the footwear is considered unclean. Mosques don’t permit shoes either. For the Jews, the Talmud( Shabbat 129a) says “ A person should sell the roof beans of his house to buy shoes for his feet”. The code of Jewish Law( Shulchan Aruch) even specifies that one must wear the right shoe first and take off the left shoe first- the primacy of the right side…



Shoes have found mention in literature, music and poetry since time immemorial. Who can forget Elvis Presley crooning Blue Suede Shoes or Bob Dylan making you swing to Boots of Spanish Leather. Iron Maiden would have you Die with your Boots On and Paul Simon singing about Diamonds on the Sole of the Shoes. Closer home, one knows about Joota Hai Japani.It goes on and on..

One of the classic tales revolves around Cinderella’s shoes. And as women may have you believe, it ended well because a shoe was involved. Puss in Boots is another classic and then you have Dorothy and her Red Ruby Shoes in the Wizard of Oz.

And look at our language. You are tough as old boots and may have to rough it out on your trip which is on a shoestring budget. It is never easy to be in someone else’s shoes and we all know that for want of a nail the shoe was lost and it ultimately lead to the loss of a kingdom! We all know some Miss Goody Two Shoes and it is only the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches!!

Well, shoes do evoke some kind of neuronal burst in most women and sparks a release of neurotransmitters which compels them to buy, possess and hoard shoes and more shoes!! Imelda Marcos , the former First Lady of Philippines was infamous for her 3000 pair shoe collection and a large number of them are now housed in a museum in Marikina. Closer home, I do know a lady with very Imeldasque traits. But I will leave it that – there are some stilettos in the collection! Shoes can be expensive business- a Manolo Blahnik( immortalized in the serial Sex and the City) could set you back by 4600 USD – Blixa Alligator Pumps are expensive.  A pair of handmade Manhattan Richelieu Men’s Shoes made of handmade Crocodile Waxed Cowhide from Louis Vuitton  can burn a 10000 USD hole in the pocket!!


Hurling shoes ( called Shoeing)at someone  has been regarded as a sign of insult traditionally. It finds mention in the Old Testament as well. One of the most infamous incidents being journalist Al Zaidi shoeing George Bush in 2008 and proclaiming it a farewell kiss from the Iraqis. Condoleeza Rice was called , “ Kundara” , Gulf Arabic Slang for shoes by her Middle East detractors as an insult.

As Woody Allen is said to have famously remarked, “Comfortable shoes and the freedom to speak are the most important things in life!” And you definitely know you are very very old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you are actually barefeet!!


Music: Fiddling while Rome burns..

Music – Fiddling While Rome Burns!!


Vivek Hande                         

m7 m8  m4

Music, I daresay, is not mere sound, strung by notes. It is a sentiment. It is an emotion, a feeling, an appeal to the highest senses. Music has the power to unite. It has the power to heal, communicate and provide a sense of hope. Music is pure and real. It is perhaps, the world’s most famous and popular language. A medium which slashes through preconceived boundaries of ethnicity and language. Music truly does wash away the soul – the grime, grit and dust of everyday life…

m5 m6 m1


There are hundreds of genres of music. What appeals to your senses is music for you. There is nothing, in my mind, that you need to call trendy, current or contemporary- when it comes to music. My boys enjoy Beatles as much as I do. I enjoy listening to MS Subbalakshmi or Harry Belafonte as much as my Dad does. And that is the beauty of music. I can enjoy ten different genres though the day; my choice can change with my mood – the music and the musician will not begrudge me!



I do believe music is therapeutic and cathartic. On a busy OPD, I attend to a hundred plus patients at times. What helps me get through is Beethoven or Strauss or Dire Straits or maybe Pink Floyd. That would depend on the mood of the day. But it does add to a sense of congeniality and it does allay the fears or anxieties of the patient as well. It does make the physician a normal person after all. Likewise, I see a great benefit in playing music in my Endoscopy Theatre as well. It is a different thing that many patients actually tell me to switch to something gentler than Metallica or Iron Maiden when I am about to put in the scope- it is then a quick switch to Jagjit Singh or Handel’s Water Music!! I have had patients getting into a discussion on the finer points of the music being played rather than focus on the ailment at hand. I have also had patients coming with CDs and asking me to try listening to a different genre and my music collection grows..

m13 m12


Music has a role to play in several facets of our life. Take Religion, for instance. Christianity has a strong tradition of the use of music in the church. Whether it is the entire congregation joining in or the choral group alone, singing is central to the religion. Contemporary Church Music encompasses virtually every genre from Gospel, Rock, Pop, Metal , Hip Hop- the idea being to reach out to a greater segment of the community. Sama Veda , in Hindu tradition is devoted to a great extent to music. Kirtans , Bhajans and Raagas are pivotal in Hinduism. Sufi music based on works of Rumi, Hafiz and many others gives a sense of great tranquility, even to those who don’t follow the religion. While music is an integral part of religion, there are many who do consider music itself, to be a religious experience..



Take Medicine. Apollo was the Greek God of Music and Medicine. Aesucalpius used music and song to cure diseases of the mind.  There are enough studies to demonstrate the Medical benefits of music. Joane Loewy of Beth Israel Medical Center believes,” There is just something about music-that excites and activates the body.” There is a growing use of music therapy by psychologists and clinicians in dealing with patients of pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease and even cases of Alzheimer. At the core of music is sound and sound is rooted in vibration and this is the basis for Vibroacoustic therapy that does contribute in enhancing the quality of life and perhaps promoting recovery. Work is focused on evaluation of  “dosable” and “prescribable” music as treatment..


Military and music are deeply connected. Music has always served to inspire courage and valor. Beethoven’s Battle Symphony has some of the greatest descriptive and inspirational music for military bands to celebrate victories. Military Bands are an integral component of militaries worldwide. Marches and Anthems instill courage and conformity and permits an individual to feel a part of a unified whole. The Reveille and the Retreat are important components of military tradition and use trumpets, bugles or pipes. The Tattoo has evolved into an elaborate Military ceremony but started as ‘Doe Den Tap Toe’ which was Dutch for ‘Turn off the Tap”. It got corrupted to Tap-Too and then Taptoo before it became Tattoo- primarily the band going into town and playing to ask the inn owners to stop serving Beer, so that the troops could return to the Barracks!!

Playing horn and saxo with a military marching band


Music helps improve our attention skills.  It does enhance learning – one learned ones ABCs through song and music. It taps into our memories and emotions like nothing else can. Music is important for creativity-it helps you enter what is called, ‘a mind wandering mode’. Music is linked to every important event – weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies and funerals. It creates strong memories and very strong feelings. I do believe that music is something out of the ordinary. It is woven into our lives and it is perhaps what makes humans human…


Freidrich Nietzche wrote,” Without music, life would be a mistake.” Music can trigger memories – it can transport you decades; it can make you travel thousands of kilometers to another place. Different music means different things to different people. Jazz to me is smooth and cool; it is a conversation which never begins or ends. It flows like water. To someone who is not fond of Jazz, it may be something highly avoidable. But that is the sheer magic of music; the absolute wonder of music- you don’t have to understand it; you don’t have to recognize it – but if it appeals to your senses- you just feel it. As Bob Marley famously remarked , “The one good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain!”


Before the Ink Runs Dry..

Before the Ink Runs Dry…


Vivek Hande


Can anything be more sublime than the flow of a nib across a sheet of good paper? A fountain pen running across the pages- it is lyrical; it is musical; it is almost magical. It is not a mundane act- it is a pathway, a channel for the musings of the heart. A fountain pen is a writing instrument; when the ink flows across paper, it transforms the ordinary to something special. Writing with a fountain pen is like savoring vintage wine; you could write with a Ballpoint pen but that is like having tap water. You could punch away furiously on a keyboard and write thousands of words- but that is like eating a Sandwich on the go; when you put ink to paper , you are having a Michelin Star Gourmet dinner in a fancy restaurant!




The pen and Ink have actually changed the face of humanity and are one of the greatest inventions of mankind. It allowed man to create, share, learn and preserve. It started with the Sumerians who used a stylus to write on Clay Tablets and then baked the tablets for posterity. The Romans did the same on Wax Tablets. The Egyptians, in 2000BC were the first to use Reed Pens- perhaps the first writing instrument as we know it today. The Quill (usually the feather of a Goose) came into use around 600AD. The Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been written with a Quill in Hebrew. It was in 1822, that John Mitchell, in Birmingham, first brought out the mass scale production of pens with metal nibs- but they still needed to be dipped like a quill in the ink pot. It was in 1827, that the French Government patented the fountain pen – invented by Petrarch Poenaru- a Romanian studying in Paris. The pen then underwent refinement in design and materials used but have largely remained the same functionally since then. And when I say pen, I do refer to the fountain pen because that is a pen – everything else is an imitation of convenience and expense.




A fountain pen can vary in cost. It could cost less than a dollar and it could go up to a million and more. Each pen moulds itself to the user. I got my passion for the pen from a senior colleague, alas no more. He had an array of fountain pens and would use one, each week. The rest of them would be meticulously washed, dried, put in a pack and kept upright in a container on his table. Some pens would come back for use after months. He also taught me not to use any bottled ink for more than year- small sediments do form which could clog your pen.  He would never lend his pens – he would say, “My pen knows me; it is used to me. Don’t ever press the nib too hard- it is pain sensitive! Let it just glide..”. He almost treated his pen as a living, breathing creature. It inked off on me. I quite much follow the same routine and am passionately obsessive about my collection. People worry about losing expensive pens- it is the same as losing your pet or your children- you just hang onto them!!


A pen and your handwriting speak a lot about your character. It is as distinctive as you. A good pen just allows your thoughts to flow and speaks what you really want to say. As Mark Twain is supposed to have famously remarked, “I need only five things in life- pen, paper, food, sleep and a sane mind.” And I do agree with the writer, Charmaine Forde, who wrote, “There is no such thing as wasted moment when I have a pen and paper.” The pen has been described as a weapon of mass creation. The pen is often described as being stronger than the sword. But as humorist George Banister remarked rather wryly,” The pen is mightier than the sword- especially when you stick it in someone’s eye!” And somebody rather philosophically compared the flow of ink to the flow of life – the ebbs and tides and commented that “When the Ink runs dry, you are most likely writing at the wrong angle..”

So change the angle. Change the Pen. Grab another Pen and enjoy the beauty of its flow across paper..it is something to be savored before the ink indeed runs dry!! pen11

Going Around in Circles

Going Around in Circles..


Vivek Hande


We are from the ‘bridge ‘generation. We grew up asking for directions on the road the conventional way. Whether one was in a vehicle or going in circles on foot, trying to find ones’ way in a new city- we rolled down the window or stopped a seemingly knowledgeable  passerby and asked for directions the good old fashioned way. Could you please tell me, how do I get there?  This has changed rapidly with the use of the GPS or your smart phone assistant who helps you, or is supposed to help you to get to Point A from Point B. Our children are rather disdainful of the idea of seeking directions from a third person. “We will use the GPS” or “Google Maps will take you there  Dad”!!


But asking for directions was exciting in its own way. First, the business of honing down on the appropriate person. He had to appear “local”- meaning not a visitor or a tourist. His body language had to convey that he knew the lay of the land well. His demeanor had to convey a friendly nature. You did not want to get brushed away by a curt, grumpy old fellow. Invariably, a trifle sexist, but one naturally was inclined to choose a male as a potential “Director”(giver of directions) rather than a lady. It is a different thing that the gentleman would probably give you directions which would take you around the locality and get you back from where you started! The confidence of the “Director” or the lack of it leads to the Rule of Three- always confirm from three independent directors in a span of five minutes that you are indeed headed in the right direction.



 In some places, the Rule of Three changes to Rule of Five depending on the confidence and reliability of the Directors. I have known my Dad to seek directions and quite often getting into a conversation with the Directors and short of being invited by them for lunch or asking them to join us for drinks, a firm bond of friendship would be established!!   But the problem also lies in getting yourself to ask for directions. There was a survey published in 1998 in the United Kingdom. It brought out that men are likely to wait half hour being completely lost before they would seek directions. Women did it after an average of seven minutes.  12% men sought no help and chose to keep going around in circles. 40% men, even if they did seek directions, did not trust the directions given and would continue to go around in circles. Men, on an average, traveled 276 miles a year going around in circles and clocked about 2000 Pounds lifetime on wasted fuel. The statistics do go a fair distance to prove a point!!



Giving directions is also an art and it is handicapped by what analysts call the Curse Of Knowledge. The person giving directions assumes that you know the general scheme of things – “Turn Right at The Yellow Door” and such like is implied on the premise that you know where the Yellow Door is. If you did, you would probably not be seeking directions. Seeking directions in an alien language is another challenge but exciting and adventurous in its own way. Just Keep Going Straight is a standard answer. A friend of mine, recently tried out his newly acquired French, to ask, “ Ou Sont Les Toilettes?”.The Parisian replied, “Tout Droit” – Straight Ahead and pointed in a direction. The gentleman kept walking straight and after clocking 8000 plus steps on his Pedometer was nowhere close to finding anything that looked like a toilet but had almost reached the Airport; unfortunately his flight was still three days away. When an Italian says, “ Va Sempre Dirrito”- Just keep going straight and points in a direction, it could be ten steps to ten miles in virtually any direction! So be careful when you do seek directions..

And have you ever wondered why all smartphone assistants and GPS have female voices giving you directions or responding to your queries. As per Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University, the human brain is developed to like the female voice better and this starts when the fetus is in the womb. And then it does have some historical background too – it used to be the women radio operators who gave directions to the pilots during World War II. Incidentally some years ago, in Germany, BMW had to recall their GPS as the men did not want to take directions from women. And I have a dear friend, who after living several years abroad, argues with his GPS in colorful Punjabi to overrule the directions provided and lets her know that he knows the roads better! The one sided exchange of expletives is quite refreshing, to say the least.  Siri , Alexa , Cortana all have female voices and it is only relatively recently that some platforms provide you to get directions from a male voice of your choosing.

But on a more philosophical note, somebody once told me, “Don’t ask for directions if you are not going to start the car”. It has greater depth than I credited him for. Unless you get out and seek directions and get lost and move around in circles till you find your destination, one cannot know the road well. And as Lao Tzu wrote, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”.


Powder Your Nose..

Powder Your Nose..


Vivek Hande


The sense of smell is a very important one and does contribute to the sense of taste as well. The sense of smell has a lot of emotional connect as well, as it is linked to memory in many ways. Smell triggers memories, passions, excitement, dreams, desires and what have you!


Without nose-diving too deep into the business of smelling, it must be understood that humans are not as good at the business of smelling as say, dogs and rabbits. Man has about five to six million olfactory receptors high up in the nasal passages as opposed to a rabbit which has about a 100 million and a dog, which on average has about 220 million receptors. Hence, a dog is a much better “smeller”. Women are regarded as having a more acute sense of smell compared to men- no surprises there! There are a few basic smells – Fragrant/ Floral; Fruity; Citrus; Mint; Woody; Resinous; Pine/ Grass; Chemical(Ammonia/ Bleach); Sweet ( Chocolate/ Vanilla) and a few others . If a person can’t smell completely or partially, he is Anosmic. Hyposmia and Hyperosmia refer to a reduction or an exaggerated sense of smell. Parosmia refers to perceiving a smell as worse than it is. Phantosmia is smelling odors which are not there. The sense of smell develops progressively after birth and generally plateaus by eight years of age.  It then declines with age, with certain medications and with chronic colds. When a person smells, the information is sent to two areas of the brain – the Frontal Lobe which helps recognize odors and the Limbic System which is linked to memory – it is for this reason that a particular smell or aroma brings back pleasant or unpleasant memories!


It is so often that a particular smell brings back so vividly images of a particular event or a memory or an association with a person. The smell of hot Dosas on a Tawa may take you back to your childhood; the strong smell of rich coffee may transport you to a lovely morning in a Parisian café; the smell of fresh grass being cut may take you several years back to a Cantonment where you grew up; a particular cologne may remind you of a particularly stylish professor; the smell of earth just after some rain(petrichor) may take you back to a holiday in the hills; the smell of a delicate perfume may bring back memories of your first date and may actually remind you of what she was  wearing- such is the strong association of memories with smells!


Smells are expensive and a bottle of the DKNY Golden Delicious Million will set you back by a cool Million Dollars. Of course, in addition to the fragrance, the bottle does add to the cost. One of a kind bottle, designed by jeweler Martin Katz, the bottle has a 2.43 Carat Yellow Canary Diamond on the cap. It does also have a lot more diamonds, rubies, sapphires embellishing the bottle.  A reasonable second is the Clive Christian Number 1 Imperial Majesty perfume smelling at $ 13000 an ounce! It lists as its ingredients Oris Root, Rose Oil, Tahitian Vanilla, Ylang-Ylang, Italian Cinnamon and Jasmine.  Anyone interested in powdering ones’ nose?


Each one has his list of special smells. High up on my list is the smell of the pages of a book. Nothing can quite match the smell of a book as far as I am concerned.   One can never go wrong with the aroma of freshly brewed strong coffee. Lemon, Vanilla, Petrol, Freshly baked Cookies or a Cake- smells to die for. And then there is the smell of fear; the smell of excitement and the smell of possibility – all very strong and evocative smells! One can smell blood and one definitely can perceive the smell of success. It’s quite often that we do smell a rat and know that something smells fishy. Its best, perhaps to keep ones’ nose out of other people’s business and keep ones’ nose held high or there is a strong possibility that your reputation may nosedive!

 And the sense of smell is a very individual trait. The way I sense or perceive a smell may be quite different from the way you sense it .Be that as it may , do stop to smell the Roses once awhile – you will be a happier person. Do believe me and I am honestly not being nosy!!


Food For Thought

Food  For Thought


Vivek Hande


You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food, famously remarked a wise man. GB Shaw is right on many levels, when he remarked, “There is no sincere love than the love of food.” It is a fact that nothing else, other than music, perhaps, has the strength to bring people bring together. That food is central to existence was acknowledged by Hippocrates who is wrote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.



And then there are so many variations to how and what people eat. You could be a garden variety of a Vegetarian or you could be more specifically a Lacto-Vegetarian (exclude eggs and other foods which contain Rennet) or you could be an Ovo-Vegetarian (no dairy) or you could be a more rounded Ovo-Lacto –Vegetarian. One could be a Vegan (abstaining from all animal products, dairy included). As a  Vegan, you could be a Dietary Vegan(no eating animal derived products) or an Ethical Vegan (not using any animal derived products in any sphere of life). One may be a Piscetarian/Pescetarian(both correctly spelled) and have only marine products and avoid poultry /egg. Well then, you could also be a Pollotarian (and have only poultry and chicken). Believe me, you could be a vegetarian and eat only Kangaroo meat as an exception- you would then be a Kangatarian! Kangaroo meat is exported to more than sixty countries!


It is natural that the English language incorporates food and fruit and vegetables in common usage. It would be a natural progression of thought, in a manner of speaking. You could be somebody’s apple of the eye or you could be a rotten apple spoiling things for others. But, it may not be correct to compare apples and oranges nor would it be right to upset the apple cart. You may need to become an apple polisher to curry favor with powers that be in a Banana Republic. You may go bananas or choose not to give a fig, if things don’t go quite your way. One may behave pea brained and do all the wrong things when you are in a pickle or remain cool as a cucumber. Alternatively you could extend an olive branch and try to make up with your detractors or behave spoil sport and claim that you are going to spill the beans, even though it is believed that you don’t quite know your beans!!


One could sulk and feel morose if one doesn’t get a plum assignment or bad mouth your boss or colleague consequent to a bad case of sour grapes. When the chips are down and things are not going your way, you could give it all up saying it is not your cup of tea or you could butter up the right folks to ensure that you do finally get to cut your cake and have it too! I do believe, it is best not to put all eggs in one basket though. Sometimes, one has to keep ones’ ears open to listen to the grapevine and figure out who the big cheese is and then play your cards well –it may help you to pluck the low hanging fruit and your hard work might actually bear fruit. But one cannot always trust the grapevine and one may have to take certain things with a pinch of salt and things do have a way of getting pear shaped(go wrong)rather quickly , if one does not remain alert.

At the end of it all, one has to follow ones’ gut feelings if one wants to continue to bring the bacon home. Each one has to chart out ones’ own path – everybody can’t be the same as peas in a pod.  One has to figure out which side the bread is buttered. But as they say, when life serves you lemons, make lemonade!!