Category Archives: Essays

Committed to create

There is an innate need to build… build assets, build a legacy. In a beautiful story shared on the difference between Valmiki and Hanuman’s Ramayan (link given below for full story), I realized that as creative people, we all wish to create something that will make us famous, that will win us accolades. And when these are not forthcoming, we stop in our efforts to create, and choose instead to live the mundane life. But the true creator is like Hanuman, a soul with a true passion for something he loves and believes in with all his heart, creates as a gift to his muse.

For Hanuman, creating the Ramayan was a way to simply remember Ram. It was a process of meditation, creation of something beautiful to be dedicated to his source of inspiration. Unlike Valmiki who wanted to create a piece of work by which he would be remembered, Hanuman did not seek appreciation, or fame, or money for his creations. He created simply because he was inspired to do so.

This story led me to re-look at my approach to creativity. I have often begun writing stories and stopped halfway, finding the exercise meaningless, convinced nobody would ever want to read my stories. The story of the two Ramayans made me realize the error of my ways, and I have realized, I must create simply because I can.

I love the world, the beautiful creatures and elements in it. I am awed by the beautiful sunrise that lights up the hills outside my bedroom window, I make it a point to check out the light display of the sun each morning. I love watching butterflies flit past in the October sun as I wait for the signal to change amidst the traffic. I wonder what transformation these beautiful creatures herald.

I watch a poor beggar boy at the side of the road, trying on a party cap he has found by the wayside and acting like a little stage artist. The mischief in his body, the joy he finds in the discarded party cap makes me realize it takes so little to be happy. All of these are instances of inspiration, one for which I have decided to write… just as an ode to the wonder and beauty that surrounds my life. It does not take much to create a work of art, and we can create endlessly and dedicate it to the Universe. The rest will take care of itself!

PS: If you want to read the story of Valmiki and Hanuman’s Ramayan that has inspired me to continue on my creative journey, please check the link below:

I also want to thank a dear friend who shared this story with me, Sunita Ramkumar of the Chembur Kindle Life group (Chinmaya Mission). Thank you, Sunita for the

Why are the popular Hindu temples a scene of chaos?

I was part of an interesting discussion recently during my spiritual class: why is it that the Hindu temples are usually marked by crowds rushing, pushing and crushing each other, especially when the same crowd cam behave in a thoroughly civilised manner at a gurudwara, at a metro station and overseas. This discussion went on for quite a while, with most of us in the group accusing the Hindu devotees of being undisciplined.

Later in the evening, as the conversation continued to run through my mind, I remembered an interesting fact about historical and specifically religious architecture that I had read during the course of my newsletter writing work.

A look at ancient religions and architecture
In a paper published on religion and comparative architecture, I remember reading the distinction the researchers had made between the architecture of ancient cultures like Aztec and Mayan civilisations of Mexico, and the later Christian and Islamic architecture.

The paper stated that Aztec temples were built as tall towering mounds of stone, that were imposing from the ground level, and these temples had a special place at the top that was reserved for the priest and / or the royalty. Many of these ancient civilisations tend to trace the genealogy of the ruling family / priest directly from their gods and powerful spirits. These were civilisations that ruled with an iron hand, where the masses were usually poor farmers and were dependent on the king to protect their land and cattle. Here the places of worship made a clear distinction between the ‘chosen ones of god’ and the ordinary man. No ordinary man dared to cross these lines and climb up to the pedestal reserved for the king and the queen, the blessed ones.

Temple architecture creates space for the elite
The architecture of these civilisations clearly depicts the select elite and the masses. This distinction can also be seen in the structure of Hindu temples, where the sanctum  is separated from ordinary devotees. At the heart of the temple, where the holy consecrated idol of the presiding deity is placed, only the appointed priests, the local nobility or trustees are allowed.

For the rest of us, the darshan has to be taken from a distance, with the area for the gods clearly cordoned off. In many ancient temples, the idols are placed in tiny, dimly lit spaces and the idol can only been seen in sections during the aarti (showing of the lamp to the god).


Basic Floor Plan of Hindu Temple Architecture

Church and mosque architecture: more democratic
In contrast to these places of worship, the Churches and mosques are more democratic in architecture. They typically comprise of tall entrances that open onto  vast halls where large number of worshippers can pray at one go. In case of the Church, a large cross is usually placed at a height and can be viewed by church goers easily from all corners of the church. There is no need for them to rush to the front and queue up to see their Lord.


Typical Floor Plan of Church

Blue Mosque Floor Plan Luxury Floor Plan Blue Mosque

Typical Floor plan of a Mosque

Here’s is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica says about the architecture of different places of worship.Temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues serve as places of worship and as shelters for the images, relics, and holy areas of the cult. In the older religions, the temple was not always designed for communal use. In ancient Egypt and India it was considered the residence of the deity, and entrance into the sanctum was prohibited or reserved for priests; in ancient Greece it contained an accessible cult image, but services were held outside the main facade; and in the ancient Near East and in the Mayan and Aztec architecture of ancient Mexico, where the temple was erected at the summit of pyramidal mounds, only privileged members of the community were allowed to approach.Few existing religions are so exclusive. Beliefs as dissimilar as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam are based on communal participation in rites held inside each religion’s place of worship. The buildings have even evolved into similar plans, because of a common requirement that the maximum number of worshippers be able to face the focal point of the service (the mosque’s “point” is the wall facing the direction of Mecca, the city of Muhammad’s birth and therefore the most sacred of all Islamic religious sites).

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The traditions continue into today
The architectural differences are telling remarks in stone how these different lines of worship have been conceptualised and not surprisingly, continue to be followed to this day. Today, the modern Hindu temple goer approaches these ancient temples and their ways of worship with his ideas of modern equality and a more liberal approach to gods and religion. Not surprisingly, here the process of waiting in the queues for the darshan, and the near chaos that follows in many popular temples, are unappealing to him. The fact is, these temples and their priests follow the traditional Hindu concept of religion and temples – where the god was for the elite and the chosen ones.

The rush, the pushing and pulling, the brief glimpses of the idol, the sense that we have had a beautiful darshan despite the crowds – all of these notions and ideas arise from the very initial idea of what the Hindu religion became during the brahmanical era – the religion of the learned few.

An insight, not a defense
This article does not aim or seek to argue whether this stance of the Hindu temples is correct, or otherwise. The purpose is to take a more analytical look at the customs and traditions that have been handed down through the generations, and better understand why certain things are done in a certain way.

Our traditions, mythologies and methods of worship emerge from our stories of origin and how we relate to our Gods. There can be no right or wrong way in doing that. It is merely a matter of understanding the relationship and being at peace with it. Comparing it to some other religion or some other way of worship is like your child coming home one day and saying, ‘Mom, you are too strict with me. I like the way K’s mom behaves with him. I wish you could be the same.’

It’s the child’s opinion based on what he has observed, he definitely has not stayed in that home or seen how that parent behaves under pressure. Each parent is usually right in their perspective of how they are bringing up their children: they seek to provide security, love, food, care and a better tomorrow for their family. Some parents are strict, others are liberal. And both of them can bring up equally beautiful and well-adjusted children.

In my opinion, religion, with its leaders and prophets are pretty much the same. They all want the best for their followers, they just have different rules and methods of discipline.

So the next time you are amidst chaos at a popular temple for a darshan, please don’t blame the other worshippers for being undisciplined. It is how we have been taught to relate to our gods – that we are being blessed to receive the darshan, that it is a gift to be cherished, and it’s not freely available. No wonder, there is a rush to receive the darshan.

~ Bharti Athray

Are you lying your way through life?

There are those amongst us who are dying a little every day. I don’t know them when I see them but I do know it is a very large number. They are those men and women who are living their lives as lies – they let their dreams fall by the way side as they began to work for large corporates, for paid vacations, for stability. They gave up on their teenage dreams because they fell in love and decided to start a family.

It is so ironic, is it not, that you fall in love with someone because of the dreams they dream, because of the incredible life they see for themselves and yet, as soon as you decide to get together, you almost force the person to give up on that dream because it does not put food on the table each night. It is such a sad story, the story of so many many young couples, who today spend their lives waiting for the next holiday, the next big car, the next new gadget.

All of this because they are quietly dying inside. Of course, you will never know that when you meet them, they seem so happy, so perfect, with their jet-setting lives, you wonder what could possibly be wrong with such people. Yet pick up the papers and you will see, the star couple that till a few weeks ago was being celebrated as the perfect pair are now applying for divorce.

Leading CEOs and their illustrious wives are being accused of murder of their children… seriously, are these signs of a happy, balanced society? Personally, I think not. I believe somewhere in the race to get ahead, to look eternally young, to have the better phone and laptop, to have more followers than all your friends on twitter, you have built yourself a castle of lies and are now stuck inside it.

At this point, I am reminded of a serial I caught bits of recently: on Escobar, the Cuban druglord of the eighties. There is the part where he is on the run and he reaches his father’s home in an unheard of village. His father lets him stay out of courtesy, and there is a scene where Escobar tries to convince his father that he has become a great man. To which his father says, he is ashamed of him, of what he has become.

That is such a truth, it hit me straight in the heart. See, we go from day to day, moving around in our worlds, where we are all heroes to someone. Even Escobar for all his wrongdoings, had fans and people who swore allegiance to him till their last breath.

But this is a make-believe world, that we have created for ourselves. Our social media persona, our blogs, our instagram accounts – through each of these we choose what part of our personalities we want to show the world. The lives that we are living today are uni-dimensional, and so completely out of balance. Every aspect that we share about ourselves, our lunches and dinners with family and friends, the foods we make in our kitchens, the private moments we share with our children… it is all captured with the selfish objective of uploading the images on to the social media.

And those of us who do it regularly have figured out what gets the likes and what does not. To me, we are all constantly manipulating the outside world, put things out that we know others will like, these to me are half-truths. When I see pictures of lunches and dinners with family and friends on public media, I cannot help but wonder how such a private moment of caring justifies being shared with the world. Why? Why would anyone do that? Except to tell others that they hung out with so and so if that person is important, or just to get people to say, Oh Wow!

I have yet to see a negative comment on personal pictures shared, for the simple reason that what happens in your personal life, unless it is an achievement of some kind, does not really matter to the world outside. But uploading these images and getting people to put some silly meaningless comments, I feel one is trivializing the moment and the event. But then that is my perspective, and I come from a world where I had just a handful of friends who knew just some of my secrets.

May be my point of view varies because putting your life out there in the public domain to me appears crass. Most of my social media accounts do not even have my photo in the profile, as I find it embarrassing – I do. I come from the time when you let your actions speak louder than words, and today times have changed.


Today, you can get shouting from rooftops, long before you have taken even a single step towards your goal. It is called ‘market testing’. And depending on how convincing your spiel is, you are sure to get a few likes, followers, some thumsup and such. I hope one of these days you will begin to realize that this false world is what is killing you. You may have a 1000 fans and yet not one of them may know your deep dark secret. You may have a hundred followers, but nobody you can pick up the phone and chat with when you are feeling low. So what are these people really worth to your real life?

I think those of us who gave up our dreams long ago and now look to this new world to give us acceptance, we absolutely need to figure this out. What are these fans, followers and comments really worth? Are we using these new counts to hide our own deficiencies? Are the happy pictures a cover up for the sadness the world feels inside? Is social media a true mirror of our society or is it just a mirage? Only time will tell.

~ bharti athray

Why men should be writing a journal

It makes you a better person, you get to complete your thoughts, and you will lead a more meaningful life.

In my personal experience, I have found journal writing as an acceptable trait amongst women; but very few men I know actually write journals. As I work with this topic of journal writing, and its many benefits to me as an individual, I began to wonder why men do not write journals as frequently as women do?

This realization was a surprise to me as some of my earliest inspiration for journal writing came from men who made it a life habit to write diaries and journals, namely Thomas Jefferson, Issac Newton, John D Rockefeller … these are some of my favourite journal keepers and I can read about their journal writing habits over and over again. And the more I read, the more it appears that these men used their journal to record their habits, ideas and responses to the world around them, and over the years used these records to better themselves.

So this brings me back to my current question: why are men not writing journals as much as they used to? Possible answers: Too busy, nothing to say, nothing to write, no time, I am too tired to write by the time I get home… the reasons are endless. But in my opinion, journal writing is a process that forces you to introspect.

Does your work often leave you with a thousand voices in your head, each one telling you to do a different thing? Are you sometimes over-awed by the amount of work piled on your table, unable to decide where to start? Is the internet pushing too much information towards you and pushing your brain towards overload? Well, journal writing can help.

I know this sounds like I am coming up with a single solution, no matter what your problem, but it is not really that. The fact is there are different kinds of journals you can keep – some for your secret thoughts, others for your goals and plans, yet one may be just a record of the people you have met and found something interesting about… to name but a few.

If you have never had a journal, I urge you to get one. It does not have to be fancy and expensive, just get something you are comfortable with and something you feel nice holding in your hands. Initially you may find it difficult to decide what to write, and you may want to start with just putting down the thoughts that float around in your head.

If after the first couple of days, you run out of thoughts, you can try opinions, or issues that are bothering you, you can pen down your thoughts on issues impacting your neighbourhood, city or even the world. Sure, you may ask ‘what is the use?’ But do it all the same. You see, when you begin to write something down, your mind begins to solve a puzzle. The points you put down will surprise you… don’t worry about making sense, and writing in your best English. You just need to put your thoughts down, that is all.

Do this often enough and you will find yourself feeling lighter, because you have shared your innermost thoughts and feelings with your journal. You will find it easier to deal with the world outside. You don’t always have to be the tough guy, it’s ok to get upset and rant a bit.

And for those idea seekers amongst you, your journal is a great way to keep track of your many ideas that pop up in your mind all day long. Capture them, pen them down and come back to your thoughts days, weeks or even years later. Your ideas will still be there for you to access.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to keep a journal, a book by your bed, that it would be a sad thing if you did not make the time to write your thoughts down. Each of us is unique and has his own perspective on life. The myriad ways of looking at a situation is what makes our lives richer. So join the tribe of journal writers, and celebrate your uniqueness by penning it down for posterity!

~ bharti athray

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How journal writing has helped me become a better person

I have always been a writer: I have written diaries, journals, stories, poems, observations, essays and articles. My home is full of diaries and journals written over 20 years ago, half full diaries and lots more.

By profession, I am an advertising copywriter, so writing is something I do for a living. When I look at my writing graph, I realize I wrote a lot more for myself before I took on professional writing. Once it becomes a job, you just feel you don’t want to come home and do the same thing.

Life took over and I stopped writing

This became a gap of some five or six years when life took over, soon after I got married – I was writing very little. Most of my unfinished diaries are from that period. It was a tough time for me, I had had my first boy, my job was going through change as I needed something that would allow me Mommy time, and the stress of being a new mother was taking a toll on me. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was to write. I just didn’t have the time, or so I made myself believe.

It was years later, after my son started schooling and I got into some kind of a routine with better time management and a clear understanding that my life had changed forever that I began writing again.

Now I am writing again

While I am still not as regular as I would like to be with my daily journal writing, I do manage to do so at least a couple of times a week. As the habit has built, with me penning down all my thoughts, angst, worries and ideas in my journal, I have realized I am growing as an individual. When I read my jottings from a year ago, it is interesting to note the changes in my life, my responses to various occurrences and I can now catch and stop myself from reacting impulsively. This awareness, this observation has enabled me to truly respond to life instead of merely reacting to stuff.

How journal writing has helped me

This has meant fewer arguments with family and friends, fewer occasions that I feel someone was saying stuff just to hurt me; and even when an event unfolds, I am prepared to walk away from a conversation that I know is heading in the wrong direction.

These learnings, these insights have come to me through journal writing, making this a meaningful process for me. As this becomes easier, I also find space within my mind to create writing that is more creative and I now find it easier to write poems, short stories and essays once again. 

My writing defines me

My learning from this experience has been that if you see yourself as a writer, make the time to get back to your writing. For most of us, it is what defines us as individuals, just as clothes define a fashionista and paintings define an artist. Get back to your passion, your craft and you will see small changes that will move your life to a whole new level.

Write, even if it is just for 10 minutes each day

If you are struggling with time, or content, don’t worry too much about it. Writing for just 10 minutes every day, or just expressing your opinion on some current affairs issue, will slowly but surely help you get back into the groove of writing. So don’t despair over the days you have not been writing, start off today and stick with the habit.

If you find this sharing meaningful, do let me know. If you are struggling with the writing habit, feel free to share your writing with me. Sometimes, just getting a feedback can be a good enough reason to get you writing. I would be happy to help out a fellow writer in anyway I can!

~ bharti athray

What should you write about every day

I think this a challenge each writer faces when we decide to make writing a habit. After the initial burst of energy, things slow down and you often find yourself wondering what you should be writing about. After all, if you are writing for a blog, or your diary which you hope one day will be published, you do want to make your stuff readable. In my experience, my eternal sources of inspiration are as follows:

  1. Material that I read. I find it extremely useful to read a novel, an article or listen to news or stories on the radio and share my views and opinions on the same. It makes you think about the content and forces you to take a stance – which I feel most of the writers in the public forum tend to shy away from.
  2. My environment. I have found that when I have the goal of writing an article, my mind begins to look for inspiration in each object. It could be a green bottle of water that makes me question the beginnings of coloured bottles and takes my mind back to an article I read almost 20 years ago about the glass blowers of Austria; it could be the pillow on my bed and I wonder about the earliest references to pillows, the wooden headrest used by the Japanese… making me want to do a bit of research to discover why they chose such a hard material to rest their heads on at the end of the day.
  3. My favourite poems. I have loved reading poetry since my early days and I could read and re-read poems by Keats, Shelly, Yeats and some more contemporary names forever. I find their use of language to be a craft mastered to perfection. I read sections of their work and am inspired to match the metre and cadence in their pieces. A tall task but worth striving for.
  4. Everyday incidences. This is one of my favourite sources where I try to pen experiences and stories that have happened to me, or have been shared with me. To convert an incident into a written document is one of the writer’s biggest challenges, as you have only words. Often words don’t do justice to the emotions and thoughts that we experience in a given situation. Which means, a situation that was filled with excitement and tension can sound very watered down once you put it down on paper. I like capturing those moments and seeing if I am able to do justice with my writing and story-telling skills.

Apart from these, of course there are others like online prompts and a word a day activities that one could choose, but I often find it difficult to connect to those. What are your inspirations to keep writing every day? Do share.

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This article is for all those of you out there who have been wanting to strike out and do something of your own: be an author, a painter, a musician, or run an independent business. When you choose to go your own way, without the security of the paycheck, you are choosing to be an entrepreneur. And this article is for each one of you out there! Enjoy.

To go from learning to performing – how quickly can you do that? That is what entrepreneurship is all about. What a lot of wanna-be entrepreneurs do is, after they have their big inspiring idea, they wait around, share it with friends and guess what? It dies a natural death. That’s right.

The problem with entrepreneurship is that it has a huge element of madness in it, a huge amount of risk, where you choose to walk away from your safe haven and strike out into the unknown. 99% of the people you know will tell you what a great idea it is, and yet, how there are a million chances that it will fail.

If you are a wanna-be entrepreneur and have shied away from starting your own venture one time too often, the thing for you to do, is keep your ideas to yourself.

Think out your idea in your head, plan the massive action that you need to take and on a pre-defined day, JUST DO IT. You don’t need approvals, you don’t need suggestions – enterprises are meant to rough it out.

The best thing about most enterprises is that you can start small and keep changing course as you progress in your entrepreneurial journey. So if you are among those that have been watching from the sidelines, keeping your safe little job, well, step out into the rain. That’s where the action is. Get that water on to your skin, soak it in, run with your idea, and run like mad. It is one of the best things about being an entrepreneur – when you are running hard, you can’t hear the naysayers… so you just keep going.

And when you keep at it, rest assured, you will reach your destination one day. Remember, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. The truth is, they can’t, and that’s why they assume you can’t either.

The only voice you need to listen to is the voice that is inside of you. And it will lead you to be the entrepreneur you have always wanted to be. Wishing you the wildest luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

~ Bharti Athray

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