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Book Excerpt From ‘Myself Meena IAS’ by Dakshita Das

This is an excerpt from Dakshita Das’ new book, ‘Myself Meena IAS’ that tells the story of Meena, a young, attractive, fun-loving girl from Bareilly, who finds her life in a state of disarray.

My nana had once warned me about two types of pain in this world: physical pain that merely hurts, and an internal aching pain that changes you totally. He had also helpfully amplified that of all the pains in the world, it hurts the most when you land on your butt.

Of course, he used the Hindi word for butt, which made it sound worse. The day I joined work it was as though he was around me, his words prophetically resounding. I had walked into a disaster. Sheer unadulterated disaster. In short, I had landed hard on my butt!

But my narrative of disasters and upheavals doesn’t start at this job, it ends here. My tale started eons ago, when I was still an egg waiting to be fertilized. Along with Baba’s sperm, truckloads of his unfulfilled dreams and ambitions were jammed into my DNA.

I can well imagine Baba happily chortling at my birth ‘here is what I could not be!’ and hastily setting out to purchase encyclopedias and books and exam guides for me while other dads planned for diapers, baby milk and suchlike.

Other babies sucked at their teething rings while I was handed a cloth book to chew. Other toddlers played with toys while I was put in front of a computer which ran an educational programme designed for tots.

While other babies lay in their cots gurgling, I was put through what Baba termed ‘share the view’. He’d take me for long walks in a backpack, and narrate whatever he saw: ‘that’s a little dog’ or ‘look at those big trees!’ or ‘did you hear that car?’ All designed to give me endless vocabulary. This, in sum, was the general drift of my childhood.

Sweets were distributed in the neighbourhood the day I lisped my first sentence: ‘Myself Meena, IAS.’

Tears poured down Baba’s face even as he battled with my oh-so-wrong English, while my normally unemotional ma too looked weepy. Yes, my destiny was doubtless shaped in her womb.

By hindsight, while Baba gave me several inputs, the one on common sense was missing. Therefore, once unleashed into the big bad world to make choices, its absence combined with providence really freaked me out. Thus, the point at which I am right now can only be surmised as the last chapter of my story i.e., The End.

I entered my family at a time when Ma was harassed enough to not want another child. But for Baba it was a different story altogether. Inspired by the neighbourhood astrologer who forecast that things would change if Baba expanded his family, regardless of the child’s sex, he looked at his newborn daughter with tremendous enthusiasm. Accordingly, I was viewed as an out-of-the-ordinary child born with a special destiny.

‘I’ll ensure she becomes a sarkari officer’, was Baba’s earliest thought—sarkari job being the ultimate goal for the average resident of Bareilly, aka us. Maybe that aspiration got interminably intertwined with what he was undergoing in his life at that precise point in time.

In short, the district commissioner, his boss four times removed, was at his throat as the teeny tiny district health hospital Baba headed continually threw up death cases, one after the other. If it was malaria one day, then it was cholera the next, and then, lo and behold, chikungunya struck.

So he was sandwiched between patients, their grieving kin and the hopping-mad district administration. It was clear that his life’s ambition was that I grow up to bash up the world the way he was being bashed up! In a nutshell, Baba wanted power!

Baba was a physician. He came from a good family which had no money. Mom came from a good family with money, which they didn’t want to part with. So, existence was fairly hand to mouth for us. If a patient offered loads of vegetables as fees, we’d live off those. Else dal, roti and aloo were our staple fare.

Given my so-called special destiny, I grew up totally spoiled and guided by Baba’s lenience, quite unlike my older sibling, Bhai; no housework for me while he was sent to fetch milk, buy vegetables and climb up the roof to release the air from our creaking water pipelines. I was expected to just study and perform well.

I went to a convent school with my better-off cousins. I wore their hand-me-downs, which was duly announced by them to all and sundry. Terribly humiliated early on in life, I tried making up for that with my good grades, which somewhat insulated me from their sneers and the mocking. You really can’t run down a prized student, can you?

Till the junior school, I was up on the stage year after year receiving prizes for excellence in academics. After each of my prize distribution ceremony, Baba would preen and strut like a peacock and advise others on how to bring up a brilliant child. ‘Arre, Bhai saheb,’ he’d tell his astrologer who had forecast my future, ‘you are simply a genius!’

But sadly, shortly after, somewhere in middle school, hormones struck and I changed tracks. I sprouted pimples and a bust and an intense attraction for boys. My motto switched to ‘You are young only once! If you follow all the rules, you’ll miss out on all the fun’.

Friends became more important than anything and, much to Ma’s irritation, the intensity of the giggles from my room when my friends came over knew no limits. She’d also frown at the eye shadow and mascara I tried to experiment with. As for nail polish, whereas it was a huge ‘no-no’ for her, I’d try and put on a colourless shade in sheer defiance. Naturally, my grades began to slip.

It was clear that things had gotten out of control when the Physics teacher wrote a note home that read, ‘the student lacks a scientific temperament’. I hid it from my parents. The big issue that loomed large in my life was how to tell Baba that I had completely lost the plot.

Luckily my parents never attended parent–teacher meetings. Baba felt they were an utter nuisance and also that star pupils needn’t have worried parents! But I could sense him getting all worked-up by the time I reached Class 9, as there were no more prizes. At best I got one for the three C’s, that is, courtesy, caring and compassion which was neither here nor there or because they didn’t include subjects. My academic downfall was as certain as death and taxes!

I had confided in Sunita, my best friend, ‘What to do, Sunni? Baba has dreams and I have no interest in Maths, Physics or Chemistry.’

‘Just take the Board Exams,’ Sunni advised. ‘We’re shifting to another system of grading from this year where we’ll be getting A’s and B’s instead of numbers and no one will know the difference. Chalo, my chacha’s son is waiting outside with his friend. We’ll go out for a drive. Such fun, na? It’s going to rain and a drive in the rain is really romantic.’

‘Well …,’ I tried protesting.

‘Come, yaar,’ she insisted. ‘You know that he has the hots for you.’

So it was bye-bye to tuitions, hello to lots of mooning in the rain and a permanent farewell to calculus which I never ever understood thereafter. After classes, Sunni and I’d be out of the school running into the waiting car.

Her cousin would take us for long drives and, sometimes, movies which I’d otherwise never get permission from home to see. Nothing as such which can be termed promiscuous but fairly off the line and totally out of the syllabus as set for me by Baba.

My feeling of hopelessness and anxiety increased as the Class 10 Boards came closer. I just couldn’t understand a thing. Even Hindi and English were torturous. All that poetry in Braj bhasha and Shakespeare in English. Lousy!

Worse still, the wicked girls in class had nicknamed me Alfa Romeo after the famous sports car. I could be found running away from books and into the arms of Sunni’s cousin faster that you could blink.

It helped that we lived in a huge dilapidated bungalow for medical officers, which had a broken down back entrance. I’d leave the lamp on at night and slip away leaving Baba to think that his brilliant daughter was neck-deep in the world of academics while I partied like there was no tomorrow.

Close to the exams, it was Sunni’s cousin who came to our rescue.

‘Guide book le lo,’ he advised, ‘you’ll understand well.’

So guide books became my new teacher. Terrified of disappointing Baba, I blocked hormones and doggedly tried to study. I had missed out a complete cycle of study and frankly didn’t like a single subject. I turned for sympathy to Ma, an otherwise hazy figure in my life, who seemed to be merely cooking and washing.

‘Ma, I don’t like any subject…,’ I hesitantly started.

‘Tell that to your Baba,’ was the terse rejoinder. ‘He has filled your head with all this nonsense of becoming an officer. Who’ll marry you once you cross the age? And just look at you? You don’t know how to cook or run a house and I suspect that the light you have on in the room at night is only pretence.’

Ouch! Ma seemed to know more than I thought. So, no looking for sympathy or a solution to my crisis there.

The boards loomed large but guess what! I was saved by totally unplanned circumstances. Nana fell ill and my mother’s brothers discovered us all over again so that he could be shifted to our house and Baba could oversee his treatment.

Baba was gloomy while Ma was happy to have her father home. I needed to give up my room for Nana; naturally that would harm my studies. And yes, it happily did!

The papers were a haze in front of my eyes. Maths was a killer but someone had told us (was it the class teacher?) that you get numbers for the working as well, so I was hopeful of passing but not really of performing. True to expectations, the results were disappointing.

Baba blamed Ma and couldn’t say so because he didn’t want her angry. Ma, however, was smarter. She knew that he would blame her father’s illness for my poor performance and happily regaled him with what I’d been up to in the last few months.

The aunty who lived next door spilled the beans on me (why on earth was she keeping tabs on our house at late hours beats me). Ma had also got to know about Sunni’s cousin and threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t begin housework.

But it was tragic for Baba. He behaved like someone out of a Meena Kumari film: Baba neither shouted nor raged, he just looked broken, so utterly broken. I was ashamed. His dreams of watching me become an engineer with an MBA degree and then as an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer lay in shreds.

This extract from Myself Meena IAS by Dakshita Das has been published with permission from Rupa Publications.

Indian Wear For Women: Look Stunning Everyday

Why just dress up, when you can look stunning everyday? Fashion matters everywhere and everyone wants to look stylish and impressive.

India has long had the tradition of maintaining a parallel wardrobe of its classics because they are undoubtedly more colorful, in sync with the climatic and cultural conditions of the traditional Indian society, and definitely more flattering to the Indian figures as compared to western outfits.

Dressing elegantly to match up with the occasion is a trend that will always be ahead in the race, yet choosing the right outfit every morning while rushing to work can be a tedious task. Indian fashion celebrates everything ethnic and is destined to capture the essence of India.

If you are looking for ethnic formal, casual and occasion wear to make you look modish and elegant, you should take a peek on the wide range of collection which have been infused with vibrant colours, patterns, designs and a lot of livelihood, along with a fresh approach. Indian fashion designers cater to the diverse preferences of working women and homemakers too.

With summer around the corner, there is a need for relaxed and soothing dresses which are easy to wear yet are at par with fashion. Opting for light-colored clothes such as whites, beige, pastel, or bright colors can be a wise choice.

Anarkali set Rohit Bal BIBAIndia wear for women by BIBA has a seamless range of ethnic wear in colors that match well with the climate. Our kurtas are plain and printed, long and short, fitted and loose and they are bound to make a lasting impression. Slightly formal section includes embroidered kurtas which look casual and classy both.

Simple straight cut kurtas well matched with palazzos and cigarette pants for all of you, who find salwars, boring.  If your workplace doesn’t have a dress code, then you could probably explore some trendy options of  kurtas with jeans. Alternatively, there are a lot of trendy office wears for those fashion freaks restricted to dress code.

Office wear for women takes on a new importance, as working women in India advance at their careers. Clothes sure speak a language and tell you a lot about a person and the way you dress is important.

The modern perception is,”If you cannot dress smart, how you can work smart?”  A clumsy dresser can certainly lose on the opportunities of standing out on the professional front. India fashion designers promise a professional edge for working women.

And who wouldn’t agree that confidence oozes with the right match of clothes. Indian designers attempt to promote the rich cultural heritage of Indian hand-woven textiles by offering high quality fabrics with contemporary designs.

Women are work of art and love to represent creativity in almost everything we pick to do. Dressing is certainly one such thing where we put in all our heart and soul. And being appreciated and complimented is the reward of it.

India wear for women offers endless varieties of floral and spirited summer collections which you can flaunt in office, a social gathering or a fun party. If you have beautiful legs and an alluring back, it is the right time to flash them with our beautiful tunics and tops. Wear it with colorful leggings and you will undoubtedly make the heads turn.

woman in sareeSarees are evergreen! You can add glam to your wardrobe with rich collection of Designer Sarees that can be boasted to work. Some days are special and yet you don’t want to seem over the top, that’s when sarees come as a savior.

If you’re lean, you could opt for silk and cotton fabrics. They are great for you because they add more volume to your body.

But if you wish to look slim, you can opt for our lightweight fabrics from the range of Indian wear for women that have chiffon, crepe and georgette sarees. We also brag exquisite salwar suits, so don’t lose heart if you’re not a saree lover.

Choose from a treasure trove of elegant Anarkali Suits, trendy Palazzo Suits and stylish Straight Suits, since we believe in fashion inspired by ethnic style.

Ethnic wear is incomplete without stylish accessories, so team them up with fashionable ethnic jewellery from a collection of traditional and contemporary earrings, necklaces and more.

With the offers beyond limits, we are sure you will find the one that truly suits your tastes and likes. So ladies, if you ever had the secret urge to show your Diva look to work or office party, you ought to shop from our wide collection of high quality fabrics from BIBA.


The 6 Best Natural Acne Treatments: These Work like Magic!

The moment you first spy a pimple, your instinct is to either pop it or — in fear of being seen in with a facial blemish — send a confidante to the nearest chemist purchase the best acne remedy.

It’s sad that your skin doesn’t have the ability to speak. If it did, it would probably tell you take a step back and rethink your decision to use chemicals.

Your body’s hormones, and a secretion called ‘sebum,’ are the perpetrators here. You can’t do away with both: they are your body’s natural mechanisms. However, you can adopt a few natural remedies that can heal pimples, or at least prevent them from spreading.

Here are 6 such remedies — all chemical-free, effective, and economical.

  1. The Cinnamon-Honey Alliance

A honey and cinnamon mix is the obvious first entry in this list, because this combination is bad news for zits and pimples. Cinnamon is considered an effective antibacterial agent.

Your pimples are usually due to bacteria on your skin, within the tiny pores. They multiply and spread to other parts of your skin, causing acne. Cinnamon keeps this in check; it prevents the bacteria from spreading and breeding.

Honey, on the other hand, works as an antibiotic—it simply exterminates bacteria. Mix a teaspoon of ground cinnamon with two teaspoons of honey to form a paste. Wash your face with water, pat it dry, and slap on this mixture. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse off for acne-free smoothness.

  1. Egg Whites to the Rescue

You buy them in dozens and prepare fantastic rolls and other delicious recipes. You might even eat a few egg whites every day before and after workouts.  Did you know, though, that egg whites have a much wider set of applications?

Eggs are affordable, and extremely effective when it comes to treating acne. They contain large amounts of protein and vitamins that repair the damage done to skin cells. Excess oil (sebum), on which bacteria thrive, is also removed by eggs.  How you use egg whites is fairly simple.

Crack open a few eggs, separating the albumen from the yolk. Pour the eggs into a blender or a whisker and beat them until the whites become frothy. Apply on your face, concentrating on the affected areas.

Spread about 4-5 layers by adding a new one over the previous once it dries. After keeping the mask on for 20 minutes, rinse it off and pat your skin dry with a clean towel.

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a strong anti-bacterial agent that has astringent (moisture-removing) in nature. It soaks up all the excess oil, pushing acne-causing bacteria to the point of total wipe out. It’s alkaline in nature too, balancing the pH balance of your skin; this makes it even worse for the bacteria.

This is pretty concentrated stuff, so you should exercise caution. Mix vinegar and fresh water in a 3:1 ratio. Take a tuft of cotton, dip it in the mixture and let place it on your face for 10 minutes.

You could also leave it on overnight. Follow the same drill 3-4 times a day. However, try not to go overboard; this can cause dryness, making your skin produce oily sebum to counter it. This completely defeats the purpose.

A moisturiser can be used after every rinse to limit the sebum production.

  1. Dairy Products and Liquid Gold

Dairy products and honey have been a part of nutritional diets for millennia. The milk-and-yoghurt combination, for instance, offers plenty of health benefits such as stronger bones and improved digestion. Honey has its benefits; it’s rich in antioxidants, and is known to help with minor scratches and even insomnia.

It’s when these two are combined that they develop the ability to combat acne.

Mix a tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of milk. You can use yogurt instead of milk. As with the egg whites, apply 4-5 layers of this mixture and let it stay for 20 minutes. After this, rinse, pat dry, and moisturise.

  1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an extract that is primarily used for skin treatment. One of the skin problems it addresses is acne. Though it is an oil, it is nothing like the sebum excreted by your skin. This is actually a solvent that reaches into the deepest pores on your skin and flushes out all the dirt and grime. It also removes any dead skin cells.

You can put its deep-cleansing properties to use by diluting one part of it in 9 parts of water. If you have sensitive skin, you can use aloe vera gel instead of water. Dab your skin with this mixture before washing it off.

  1. Avocado

Avocado contains 20 essential nutrients, including fibre, potassium, vitamins E and B, and folic acid. Despite its nutritional content that far exceeds other fruits and vegetables, people doubt its ability to treat acne because of its fat content. While it is true that avocado has a high fat content, there isn’t any evidence that it encourages acne.

In fact, avocados reduce bad cholesterol in the body and is great for controlling diabetes and promotes heart health. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise and more and more people are opting for health insurance in India to deal with the rising medical costs. Diet is an integral component of a healthy lifestyle. Good diet and nutritious food makes a person healthy inside and out.

While these acne remedies are all natural and effective, you should only explore them after consulting a dermatologist. Chemical or natural, you never know how your skin might react to one element or the other.