The Flat Foot

(Image Credit: Crispina Kemp)

The pain knifed across the sole of his foot before coursing up the shin making Venky wince in undisguised agony.  He stifled a scream even though not a soul was to be found in his vicinity.  Rivulets of sweat streaming down his forehead, dripped into his eyes.

The blurred vision triggered by the sweat that made him miss the waif like apparition wafting to and fro across the small and unused bridge under a canopy of trees. It was the sound which which drew his attention towards it. “Write for me, my lad, write your grief and record your miseries.” Turning towards the scratchy, patchy voice, Venky saw a skeletal figure clad in a Grey tattered robe clinging loosely over a non existent body.

Venky ran. Ran as much as his obese body and battered heel would allow. a piercing laughter followed him all the way along the lonely road.

Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #34 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.

We, The Survivors – Tash Aw

Image result for we the survivors tash aw

The best-selling author of “Five Star Billionaire”, Tash Aw, is back with yet another taut and gripping book. While the earlier book compellingly dwelled upon the get-rich-quick ploys of newcomers flocking to Shanghai, “We, The Survivors” – an equally engaging work – is predominantly set in Tash Aw’s motherland, Malaysia. Bristling with shades of Albert Camus’ “The Outsider”, Tash Aw’s protagonist – first person narrator who also happens to be an ‘accidental murderer’ – keeps the readers glued to the pages as he takes them on what can only be described as a cathartic ride.

Ah Hock narrates his unfortunate story of misplaced confidence, misdirected hopes and mismanaged priorities to Su-Min a sociology post graduate. A murder that he inadvertently commits – the why and how of the murder would detract from the very essence of the review, not to mention the disservice such a revelation would cause to the potential reader – results in not only a short prison sentence, but also in the wider context of things, the very uprooting of what until now had been a comfortable life.

The novel courses through the multicultural society of Malaysia that has as its underpinnings the not so seamless yet not so uneasy co-existence of three distinct races, Malays, Chinese and Indian. The glue that binds the troika is more of symbiosis than sentiment. Ah Hock and his disturbingly eccentric friend Keong move through the lower strata of society, trudging through days desperate for hope and a change of fortune. In this visceral journey, Hock and Keong encounter social complexities, simmering interpersonal tensions and a deep seated xenophobia. Tash Aw bestows an electric local flavour to the book. Whether it be the mouthing of the choicest of expletives in the Cantonese dialect by Keong, or the offer of Chee Cheong Fun (a thin crépe roll made from a wide strip of rice noodles, filled with shrimp, beef, vegetables, or other ingredients) by Ah Hock to Su-Min, the Malaysian influence on the novel rears its bold head throughout the book.

The book also highlights in stark albeit uncomfortable detail the pervasive nature of social inequality prevalent in Malaysia. While at one spectrum of the civilization continuum lies the hustle and bustle of an effervescent, vibrant and dynamic Kuala Lumpur, the city of magnificent sky scrapers, coiffured socialites and affluent mansions, at the other and extreme end of the scale, lies villages in the hinterland that are emblematic of squalor, starvation and endemic disease. Tash Aw leaves us with a scarring example of the plight of the people populating the bottom of the pyramid in the form of a matter-of-fact, yet profound comment made by Ah Hock in response to a question posed by Su-Min. Upon being asked as to why the migrants continue to work in spite of a dangerously failing health, Ah Hock responds, “You get sick, you get the sack.” This arresting conflict of contradictions forms the centerpiece of Ah Hock’s existence as he swings between desperation and delight.

In this fascinating duel between morality and materiality, it is pointless to attempt an unraveling of the winner. It is easier counting scars and tracking eventualities than identifying the victor from the vanquished. It is this very quandary that makes Ah Hock’s experiences memorable as well as macabre.

Kok Jeen’s Justice

(Photo Credit: Pexels from Pixabay)

The dreaded chair was out yet again. It was the third time this month. This disturbing frequency signaled a total collapse in the law and order situation in the county. While the appearance of the chair was by now a ritual that inhabitants were habituated to, they were not acclimatised to the regularity of the appearance. Maybe the young and hot blood coursing through the veins of Kok Jeen Jr was to be blamed. Kok Jeen Sr always nursed doubts about both the capabilities and maturity of his mercurial albeit compulsive son. However, handover of the reigns was more an inevitability than a choice.

As Kok Jeen Sr retired to his sprawling ranch in Deer Valley, the soft yet ominous red leather began to gain ascendancy. Today the unfortunate victim was a 43 year old drug runner and errand boy named Venky.

Crossing his legs and reclining back, Kok Jeen roared with raw rage, “Did you divulge details of the rendezvous to Materazzi? “

Rivulets of sweat poured down the face of a kneeling Venky. “I..I…Forgive me…” he stammered.

“Eat this bullet” screamed Kok Jeen before the deafening sound of the Smith & Wesson blew out Venky’s brains.

(Word Count: 198)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE


Indian Super Foods: Change The Way You Eat – Rujuta Diwekar

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Rujuta Diwekar in addition to being India’s leading nutrition and exercise science expert, is also a courageous contrarian. For there is no other suitable word to express the outspoken yet riveting views which she expresses in her book, “Indian Superfoods: Change the Way You Eat.” Inimitable and irreverent, she may well be the Nicholas Nassim Taleb of the dietary and nutrition world. Rooting for consumption of food that is traditionally produced in the region in which the consumer is based and also a ferocious advocate for the employ of common sense than hankering after fad diets, Ms. Diwekar is both a nutritionist as well as an outlier.

“Indian Superfoods” is all about destroying the myth about, and according the rightful recognition to a few Indian Superfoods which have either been relegated to the confines of doubt on account of the misconceptions attached to them or on courtesy the ‘Westernization’ of the choice of ingredients that make their way onto our plate. As Mark Twain once memorably remarked, “the only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”  In a world going bonkers in alternating between Atkins and Keto diets, this book by Ms. Diwekar comes as a welcome antidote. As Ms. Diwekar states at the very beginning of her work, “statistics though prove that less than 20 per cent people are successful in keeping the weight off after they have lost it.”  If Bollywood starlets such as Kareena Kapoor and Alia Bhatt can trust Ms. Diwekar on this, we all surely can as well!

So, accompanied by drum rolls, here go the list of Indian Superfoods, which Ms. Diwekar insists that we must gorge on paying scant heed to pessimistic opposition:

  • Ghee: “The Fat Burner”;


  • Kokum or Garcinia Indica: “The Natural Antacid”;
  • Banana: “The Recharger”;


  • Kaju or Cashewnut: “The Antidepressant”;


  • Ambadi: “The Stomach-Soother”;


  • Rice: “The Grain That Sustains”;


  • Coconut: “The Calmer”;


  • Aliv: “The Beauty Pill”;


  • Jackfruit: “The Fertility Booster”;


  • Sugar: “The Anti-Ageing Secret”

Adherents of crash diets and gym animals alike would go apoplectic reading the words rice, sugar and banana in the above list. This is exactly what separates Ms. Diwekar from the rest. Diffident in her resolve not to jump onto any contemporaneous bandwagon, she gives two or even three hoots to received wisdom and topples convention on its head. But she does not do this in a rustic or suspicious fashion. Diving into empirical evidence and traditional wisdom, she dissects the properties of each superfood before expounding on their merits, to her readers.

According to Ms. Diwekar, to qualify as a ‘super food’, an ingredient/product must satisfy the following criteria:

  • They grow naturally in the same land you live;
  • They are rich in micronutrients and taste;
  • Every part of the crop/plant can be used in unique ways;
  • They encourage diversity in your diet; and
  • They lead to a sustainable lifestyle, help local economy and make sound ecological sense

Ms. Diwekar also has some advice for her readers on the behavior to be adopted whilst partaking one’s food. Drawing on the fount of ancient wisdom, tenets of Ayurveda and the practice of our forefathers, she expounds:

“Staying silent while eating is the most undervalued aspect of good nutrition. Don’t talk, don’t read, don’t surf, just eat. It will actually put you in touch with yourself and then you will hear the voice of your stomach. Your stomach will guide you in eating the right quantities at every meal. It will slow down the pace at which you are consuming. It will make you feel lighter, younger, calmer with every bite. The space will reverberate with inner peace and you will hear a voice in your head go: Pakakarta tatha bhokta, annadata sukhi bhava. May the person who cooks, the one who eats and the one who provides the food, may all be happy. And just like that, peace will return to the world, at least to your world.”

So what are some of the attributes of these ‘super foods’ that make them an indispensable part of anyone’s diet according to Ms. Diwekar? Here are a few selected examples of the extraordinary properties which some of the superfoods that are listed by her possess:

“Garcinol, the most active ingredient in kokum, is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antioxidant agent. It’s for this reason that kokum is considered a functional food, that is, food (not pill or capsule) which besides having nutrients also possesses health benefits and disease prevention properties. The ORAC value – oxygen radical absorption capacity, a measure of the antioxidant score of any food – of kokum is very high. Hydroxyl citric acid (HCA) is a characteristic ingredient of kokum which is a well-known weight-loss aid. One that regulates appetite and optimizes fat-burning, and occupies an unchallenged position in every fat-burning pill out there. If you ever wanted Garcinia cambogia for its weight-loss effects, well, look no further than our own kokum for it is this same HCA that you find in kokum. Besides weight loss, HCA is also used to reduce cholesterol and anxiety, all three important for the typical urban lifestyle.”

“Rice is almost the only grain to have high levels of an essential amino acid called lysine…It is an essential amino acid, which means it cannot be produced by the body and has to be consumed through the food we eat…Cooked rice has less than 10 percent of starch left. Rice has crucial amino acids, vitamins and many Phytonutrients along with carbs.”

“The Medium Chain Triglycerides (“MCT”) in coconut will help cut down the risk of cholesterol, and by the way, coconut is a plant food so it has no cholesterol. You need a liver to produce cholesterol. Fact check.”

Lest I reveal all the vital points of interest embedded within the confines of the book, thereby robbing the readers of their deserved pleasure I will bring my review of this intriguing book to a close. In conclusion cocking a snook at received wisdom and bringing a refreshingly novel perspective to bear, Ms. Diwekar changes the way we think, feel and act about the ingredients that we put on our plates.

Those granules of sugar will never be the same again once you are done with Ms. Diwekar’s book!

The Phantom

(Photo Credit: Ted Strutz)

He was 13 when his stepfather took him to the Opera for the first time.  In fact, he was more dragged than taken along with his mother. It may well have been for the good of humanity if he had stayed at home. Obsessed by the travails of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom”, he put himself in the disfigured character’s shoes. The murders began unabated.  First to go was his step father, who was found with his head smashed in by a chandelier.

When the cops finally came for him 35 years later, 18 body bags had been accounted for.

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

THE ONE THING: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller with Jay Papasan


Gary Keller and Jay Papasan set the theme for their bestseller, by alluding to a dialogue between the late Jack Palance and Billy Crystal from the hit comedy, City Slickers. The conversation between a dour cowboy and a city slicker revolves around distilling the secret of life. Curly, the cowboy (Jack Palance) expounds to Mitch, the man from the city that the secret of life ultimately comes down to just “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s**t.”

Personally I scoff when it comes to self-help and self-enrichment books. More often than not they are symptomatic of scenarios where a shadow is greater than substance. However, Keller and Papasan’s work constitutes a refreshing exception. Embodying practical ideas that are implementable, measurable and justifiable, “The One Thing” is a portable checklist for ushering in changes in life that have the potential to bring about enriching outcomes. So what is “The One Thing” all about? Keller urges us to distill our goals in life in a segmental manner. This segmentation results in bestowing attention, providing direction and employing razor sharp focus to the “ONE THING” by doing which “everything will be easier or unnecessary.”  So how does one go about doing the one thing?

  • ·Line up your priorities in the same way one would line up dominos. Once the first one is tipped over, there is a geometric progression between the tipping over of the succeeding dominos. “So every day, line up your priorities, find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time”;


  • Identify the six culprits or lies that pose an intractable barrier between you and success. These perpetrators are notions that tell us:

1.     Everything Matters Equally;

2.     Multitasking;

3.     A Disciplined Life;

4.     Willpower is always on Will-Call;

5.     A Balanced Life; and

6.     Big is Bad

  • ·As has been illustrated in great lucidity by both Vilfredo Pareto and Joseph M. Juran, “the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.” Hence instead of getting entrenched into the swamp of equality, identify the one task that actually matters, and say “later”, “never” or “not now” to everything else;


  • “Multitasking is a lie.”  Clifford Nass, a Professor at Stanford University conducted an experiment involving 262 students to determine how often they multitasked. Post ascertaining this facet, Nass and his team split their test subjects into two groups of high and low multitaskers. The result was a shock to the adherents of multitasking. “…. Multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy” said Nass. “It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”  In order to put the principle of ONE Thing to practice, one needs to banish the received wisdom that attempting to do two or more things simultaneously is a feasible idea;


  • ·“You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.” Diagnosed with ADHD as a child, Michael Phelps was written off as a personality without any future. 22 Olympic Gold medals, and the most-decorated Olympian distinction later, the world was privy to the secret of this astonishing swimmer’s astounding success. Training 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Phelps reckoned that by training even on Sundays, he got a 52-training-day advantage on the competition. So Phelps did the one right thing instead of attempting to do all things right;


  • Researchers at the University College of London established that a new behavior becomes automatic or ingrained when pursued over a period of 66 days on average. Do the one thing right and keep doing it until it is ingrained as a habit;


  • “On any given day, you have a limited supply of will-power, so decide what matters and reserve your will-power for it. Do what matters most first each day when your will-power is strongest. Maximum strength will-power means maximum success;


  • The clichéd notion of “work life balance” is almost as good as a myth. Instead, “separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets – not to compartmentalize them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own counterbalancing goals and approaches;


  • It is essential to get rid of the notion that big is bad and intimidating. A classic case in point being the now famous “Think Different” advertising campaign featuring greats such as Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Picasso et al. The ad’s tag line was “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do it.” Avoid incremental thinking and think big. Do not fear failure;


  • Identify the “Focusing Question” to aid and abet the performance of the ONE THING. “How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.”  Keep asking “What’s the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


  • It is essential that the Focusing Question be made into a habit. This is absolutely essential for deriving and enjoying the complete benefits of the outcome. The Focused Questioning process has to be routinized until it becomes innate in the questioner in the form of an ingrained habit;


  • Live with purpose; Live by Priority and Live for Productivity. Identify or discover your purpose by introspecting what is it that drives you. Prioritise the One Thing that you can do right now. Break down your goals into milestone slabs and block your time each day to do the ONE THING. Be digital and technology averse by turning off all your mobile devices, shutting down your emails and exiting internet browsers whilst doing the ONE THING. The most important task deserves 100 percent attention;


  •  Avoid these Four Thieves of Productivity like the plague:
  1.        Inability to Say “No”;
  2.        Fear of Chaos;
  3.        Poor Health Habits; and
  4.        Environment that doesn’t support your Goals
  • While the aforementioned points try to capture the essence of the book, a thorough reading and re-reading (wherever appropriate) is an indispensable necessity for one to reap the full benefits of the ideas detailed out by Keller and Papasan


  • “The ONE THING” is pleasantly the ONE THING to be read, digested and savoured

Our Iceberg is Melting – John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

Image result for Our Iceberg is Melting - John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

From the leading expert of organisational change and leadership comes an endearing fable that undoubtedly will – in fact it already has, since 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of its publication – stand the test of time. John Kotter in tandem with Holger Rathgeber takes his readers on an extraordinary journey involving a colony of threatened penguins.

Fred, a penguin who is intrepid by nature notices that the iceberg which his colony calls ‘home’ is in peril. Caves of water formed deep within the iceberg pose a potential threat of melting.  Being a penguin of little consequence and also being aware of the ridicule which a fellow penguin was subject to earlier on account of elucidating a similar potential threat, Fred finds himself in a confounded state. Finally mustering enough courage he presents his findings to Alice, an aggressive but logical penguin who is also part of the Head Penguin Council.

What follows is a riveting tale of organisational intricacies. Politics, leadership, decision-making, change culture, moving away from entrenched dogmas, mentoring, and managerial skills all coalesce together to form the cornerstone of the measure which the penguins hatch to protect and preserve their legacies.

It is easy for the reader to associate himself with the adorable cast of penguin characters, each of which is emblematic of attributes and traits representing variegated frames of thinking and perception. Louis is the greatly respected Head of the Penguins who while accommodating everyone’s suggestions, is firm on the ultimate decision to be made. Buddy is a genial penguin, who while not an intellectual behemoth by any stretch of imagination is the most loved in his colony on account of his transparency, selflessness and an uncanny ability to make friends – and attract lovers! Sally Ann even though a little penguin demonstrates ingenuity and innovation in making things happen. Jordan is the Professorial penguin who can ramble on and on in a purely technical vein but with facts that are astoundingly clear. Finally there is NoNo a pessimist par excellence who is rooted to the status quo and seeped in stereotypes, unwilling to accept change.

John Kotter using the medium of this unforgettable fable reiterates the need for an organisation and its personnel to commit to what he terms “The Eight-Step Process of Successful Change.” In a nutshell, these eight processes are:

  1. Create a sense of Urgency;
  2. Pull together the guiding team;
  3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy;
  4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-In;
  5. Empower Others to Act;
  6. Produce Short-Term Wins;
  7. Don’t Let Up; and
  8. Create a New Culture

If you think that a fable involving a group of Emperor Penguins is the preserve of bed time stories for getting your energetic child to sleep, then please think again. Kotter and Rathgeber’s penguins may change the way you go about your professional business – and for the good!