Raising his hands off the steering to a few inches high and then bringing them down again, Sam nodded his head with a smile of wordless acknowledgement.

This is precisely what made their friendship special – silent understandings. In fact, it was for this very reason that they could so easily bounce back to the same level of friendship where time and distance had cut them out from each other’s lives years before. No grudges. No complaints. They simply eased themselves into each other’s lives once again and caught up where they had left. Unalloyed friendship!

Taking a sharp but smooth swerve round the corner, Sam brought the car to a halt.

“Remember this place?”, he pointed towards the window on the passenger’s side looking outside, bringing Disha back to the present from her world of jostling thoughts.

“You bet, I do”, said Disha glancing to her left. With gleaming eyes, she opened her side of the door and stepped out.

Turning off the ignition of the engine that was still running, Sam got out too and followed Disha’s trail. She had already started walking towards the familiar spot that she hadn’t visited in years.

“Staying away from one’s homeland is a blessing in disguise. When you return, you value many things more than you did before”, remarked Disha.

“ . . . many things and many people too”, whispered Sam as they both smiled and sauntered down the track.

The light boughs of the thick clusters of casuarina trees swayed gently in the autumn breeze signalling the soon approaching winter. They had left the sweltering heat of the cities behind and were in the outskirts, enveloped by a more favourable weather.

She caught up where she had left a few minutes back.

“When you meet Aakash, I want you to observe every bit about him that I might have ignored. I mean, I have decided to get married to him, but I don’t want to close my eyes to things that might prove to be disastrous later. So, you give me a man’s perspective”, she said thoughtfully.

“Okay buddy, shall we sit by the groves for a while and have you speak out the rest of what is still throttling you from inside? Let me have the honours of uncaging a flummoxed mynah, at least that’s what I see right now”, voiced out Sam with a wink and a grin.

They eased themselves on a sandy turf that had once been familiar to their teeny-tiny feet until they had grown to leave firm impressions and then faded away slowly over time. But remember, the conversation was not about ‘them’. It was about ‘her’.

They sat in absolute silence for some time. There weren’t many people around that day. So, their silent musings spoke aloud to each other.

Disha broke the silence.

“To remain single was a conscious decision I had taken long back. Not that there weren’t any suitors, but just that I didn’t want to consider any. Love – I never was eager to jump into an ocean of romantic love for the sake of it. You know what, many of my college mates thought this to be weird. Had we been in touch during those times, I would have eaten into your time every day with many funny stories. But then here’s my point – I changed my decision! Not because I met Aakash, but because I wanted to give love a chance. And now that I have, I am unsure whether this decision would make me rejoice or regret later in life”, sighed Disha after unburdening her heart.

“Have you shared your thoughts with Aakash?”, asked Sam.

“Nope. We haven’t spoken much about our thoughts. We just keep talking about our future together or sharing brief episodes about our past or discussing present events“, replied Disha.

“Then you should. Since you are in a free choice relationship, you need to voice your thoughts. One of the factors that shatters marriages is that the partners know quite a bit ‘about’ each other . . . but don’t know each other well. I hope you are getting my point. Aakash needs to know who Disha is as a person, what she feels about certain things, what ideologies and principles she holds dear, what she can compromise with and what she wouldn’t at any cost – and so do you need to know about him. Whether you both can put up with each other despite being yourselves, is a decision you can take only after that. It is easy to be drawn into the fluttering feeling of love within one’s heart without getting into the deeper dynamics of life and living together”, said Sam.

“You are so right! I will start having such little conversations with Aakash before I get you to meet him”, said Disha with a sparkle in her eyes as she sprang back to her feet and effortlessly tucked her jet-black hair behind her ears.

This brought an end to their little conversation, the few words which carried deep connotations.

Sam drove Disha to her apartment and bade her good bye before zooming away to a world of his own.

“Hey Disha, there’s something that I want to talk to you about”, came Aakash’s husky voice over the phone that night.


“Hi, I need to talk,” she said… on the phone.

She needed to talk she said. You know how if a girl says she needs to talk, the guy suddenly goes into instant flashback mode to find out where he might have screwed up. But wait! She said “I need to talk” and not “we need to talk” so this is surely not about him (while all this going on in the background of his mind). 

He smiled and confidently said “sure, I’m here for you anytime”.

Disha and Samarth were close friends, they shared a lot of things that either of them wouldn’t dare to share with their own siblings. If anyone saw them together, they could be easily mistaken for a couple, but only that they weren’t. This isn’t your typical love story. They were friends, good friends, close friends – without benefits. Disha and Sam practically grew up in the same neighborhood but drifted away by time and distance to different states, only to be re-connected on a mutual dating app they both apparently had registered for.

“I’m getting married”, she said, looking straight into Sam’s eyes. Not known to be the best when it came to sudden reactions, he took a sip from the glass of water kept on the table –

“Congratulations.. this is fantastic news….. (seeing her face fall)  no???”

“I’ve been single all my life, the unknown future looms before me, what am I gonna do? It’s not like I never thought of this day but 30 years of being single and now…”

“The fear of the unknown?”


The fear was evident on her face and yet she had only under 10 months to be prepared for it all.

It was time for Sam to pull out his vast knowledge of.. well… mainly internet researched and magazine read articles to be put to good use. He knew it would come in handy someday. He probably imagined himself as some kind of advice-giving expert on some column of some daily newspaper someday, but here he was… he felt he could help – the damsel in distress.

“Let’s go for a drive, I’ll drive” he suggested. He felt that way she could open up more and he’d get a better insight of what was actually going on. So it was decided, Saturday, the day after would be ideal.

There’s something about flying hair through the open car window, even if the temperature is at a high of 35 degrees of heat outside – driving on the expressway between Mumbai and Pune. He wondered if he would be able to concentrate as much. He didn’t need to ask questions or anything, that’s the thing with girls-they just start . . .

“Aakash and I met 36 months ago….” as she narrated her story, it reminded me of a Netflix series he had recently watched, not sure what the name was though… He smiled in between, taking his eyes off the road once every minute, to indicate that he was paying attention to her as well until she said… 

I am not sure if I really love.. love him.. like you know… or I love the idea of him

He smiled. She looked at me. Oops! He realized it was the wrong reaction. He nodded his head and she took that as a signal to carry on.. and went to list on a few more reasons why she thought that she wasn’t quite ready for the next step of her life.

Boy! Could she really talk! It was as if she had come prepared.. ..only this time, she actually HAD come prepared.

If ever there was a time he could use his newly acquired vocabulary and well-articulated language along with the keen sense of understanding, this would be the opportune time to display them.

He was already preparing in his head what to say when she stopped talking, which wasn’t far off, since she was almost out of breath, and sentences were now coming out more in the form of scattered words

“Aakash seems like a wonderful person”, he said… after all its someone who you’ve chosen to be your life partner and that has to count as special right? that said, you aren’t getting married to a stranger but a friend for life, besides if you look at it in the broad sense, it really isn’t about the marriage per se, but being worthy enough to hold your partner’s love for the long term, now that doesn’t sound too difficult? does it? 

She didn’t reply to that, and it wasn’t supposed to be a rhetorical question either. He does like the interaction of some form from time to time. 

She kept staring at the road ahead. She was silent, but it did seem like she was listening… he hoped that she was, because he was in the midst of the best talk he could ever give. He thought he’d throw in a couple of big words in-order to catch her attention, if she might have not been listening…

Expectations, Accountability, Navigation, & Uncertainties… (pausing a couple of seconds after every word) she looked at him and smiled. Okay, so she was listening after all. He wasn’t sure where he was going with that.. but decided to go with the flow anyway.

The expectation from ourselves and others around us, Accountability to a partner 24/7, Navigating closeness, intimacy and intensity, and Uncertainties – of the road ahead together is to be looked at with optimism.

He felt proud, he had come up with something as brilliant as that at the drop of a hat, he decided to drive home the advantage – He continued with a renewed confidence:

As much as we think we’re not good at making the right choice, we are voluntarily or involuntarily being better versions of ourselves, and someone out there is falling in love with us more every single day, in something only they can see in us, that we’d never understand. We’re moving from a solo act to a duet one, and we all know how much more a duet works better when in perfect harmony.

She interrupted “You know… Aakash said the same thing”A duet works better when in perfect harmony.

“What can I say? Brilliant minds do think alike” she playfully punched me…

And out of nowhere, just like in the movies..the radio broke out into our favorite song – a song we had danced to on our annual day at college. It was as if that one song acted as a time capsule, cutting down all the years when were apart and had lost touch – we got right back to being the goofy selves we were back then.

“I want you to meet Aakash, Sam” her face now radiant… or maybe it was just the sun shining through the glass, he tends to dramatize a bit sometimes, but he’ll admit he has never seen her so happy as she was at that particular moment.

“..and thank you”

thank you?”

“..for all that you were trying to say”

Breaking away my cocoon and flying high

We all are so accustomed to living in our little world, scared to step out of our comfort zones and explore. I know its all not just me, but most of us are sailing in the same boat. I remember myself as an ambitious and adventurous soul ever since i got into school and colleges. I always enjoyed fun-filled and thrilling activities.
But ever since, I left my job in Infosys and got into the parenting walkway, I could say, I got bitten by it. I lost all my enthusiasm to step out of my cocoon, i began to build up a small home within my four walls. It was a hard step initially but again, once I got used to it, I fell in love with it. I hated the world outside, as they begin to judge me.
I forgot how did I ever looked like in the mirror, forgot to dress up and get ready for my hustles as I used to do. I started to focus only on my children who were my heart and brain and whatnot. I had no world outside them, but yes i had a virtual world connected, which connected me to the world outside like a tiny window opening for me, which I could shut anytime.
Still stepping out for me, was a brave step.
It was then, one day, my family decided to send me for a detox holiday. And for me thinking about being away from my kids, was something huge, like keeping a huge rock upon my heart which aches me too much. At first, the reflux in me prompted me to say that i wasn’t going for it at all. But then again, after a friend of mine and my brother who is my greatest companion talked me out and soothe me with words of assurances, I did agree to go.
And yes, it was indeed it was a great step for me as well as my children. It was indeed the first step for me as a mom to set myself free from the burden of weighing myself with loads of duties.
It was just the beginning for me after a very long time.
But it was indeed not the last.
Ever since i regained a pinch of confidence, it helped me get back to my career which I was never hoping soon to happen. But yes, as I write these words, I am truly delighted that my first step was never the last step but a great beginning to much more first times in my life ever since I became a mom.


11 years back a girl boarded her maiden international flight to a land that fate had reserved for her. 23 years spent amidst her family, loved ones, friends, a known culture, and a habituated language. And suddenly it dawns upon her as she sets foot offshore, she is away, miles away from them. Though a familiar face, a being to call her own, a relation that weaved bonds and family with her that she can call her “OWN” greeted her with a big grin on the arrival but many journeys were awaiting her on the other side of the airport door.

Going on a nostalgia trip it’s my story. October 2009, I was really nervous and excited at the same time. As the flight hit the runway butterflies started churning in. Long stretches of treading belts running tirelessly leading to the immigration counters that had a huge crowd waiting. Wait!! I passed the same process in India too, but why nervous now? I was in a familiar environment there, here I am a stranger, a newcomer, and alone.

As the new phase of my life rolled I had so much on my plate to explore and get habituated to. The weather, to begin with, had a tone of melancholy to it, raining literally any time of the year, no sun for days together, and quiet neighborhoods especially on Sundays which means everything shut. And with my husband coming back home at 4 am in the morning the next day (every alternate day) thanks to the work burden he had then I was on my own, all alone in a foreign land. With no social networking, no social circle of my own I started feeling homesick soon.

Of all the things that seemed troublesome in the beginning, Language was the main barrier. French and Dutch are two main official languages here in Belgium. No amount of lonely walks, grocery shopping can equate to the pleasure of having a social interaction with ease. My husband being my predecessor have acquired a few French words and asked me to use them in my next outings. And I was dumb enough to not to tweak the phrases before using them.

“Vous Parlez Anglais?” (Do you speak English?) Was supposed to be my question whenever I had to start a conversation (fortunately the capital region, Brussels due to its economical, political and diplomatic operations and being the host of European Union Commission office have a considerable chunk of the population (mainly the young demographic portion) who can speak English. But I confused “Vous” with “Je” which means “I” and instead of using a “?”mark I continued with a full stop. People who understood my situation would shift to English automatically but those who didn’t would state at me and equally confused as I was. And my pronunciation of typical French nouns (words) was the icing on the cake, cake to be thrown out of the window 😂. A petty example – Champs Elysees; correct pronunciation – Shon-Zay-LEE-zay and how I pronounced it – Cha-m-ps El-I-zees. Does it ring anything? Actress Kangna Ranaut in the movie Queen. I have many such bloopers

Things didn’t seem hunky-dory at all. I had to take a decision and make a move. That’s when I got enrolled myself in French classes. After a few classes, I realised it’s important to talk, for that’s the only way to practice the vocabulary acquired in the class. Now I started to commence my conversation in French wherever I go, no matter how slow, struggling and wrong. But what important is to try.

This step that had a shaky beginning had good returns. People of any country love to see foreigners making an effort to learn their language as an attempt to integrate with them. If they believe so they are more forthcoming and warm. I experienced the same. It doesn’t matter if drop or switch to English in the middle of the conversations (if only understood by the other party), still had fruitful conversations leaving a smile.

I had to quit my French classes after two levels of beginners due to family issues but now I am confident of surviving in the environment devoid of known English completely (some Google translation won’t hurt that much 😁). My two aged neighbors are all French on either side of my house. And I talk to them in the language they are comfortable with. I handle all the school routine work of my kids including the PTAs and other petty matters. After 11 years I have embraced Brussels and feel the same about being accepted here (not going to switch my passport though 😁).

In the nutshell, it’s all about the first step you take to bridge the distances. In my case, it was taking up French classes. I am not perfect in that language yet I am enjoying my life in a then foreign land now my home❤❤ . Fear of being alone and left out, adamancy, and stupidity of superiority/inferiority are strong shackles bondage-ing people keeping them apart. A step no matter how feeble needs to be take to show the intent. I am happy I have made my stride with that First Step!!!


Bearing a tag – ‘Fragile: Handle with Care‘, I lived my whole life till I stepped on the soil of the City of Joy – Kolkata in the year 2001. Till then I had lived my life amidst close relatives and family in a very cozy and warm atmosphere. I had never done anything on my own or went outside alone. But in Kolkata, the challenges were new and difficult for me to face. After office time I had nothing to do but to read books, write something or study Bible. There was no one to speak with, no one to play anything or nothing to do that would entertain me, or nowhere to go as I had no idea about this new city and I was all alone. Soon, I was dragged into a depressive shell called Boredom.

In those initial days at Kolkata, weekdays were manageable as I kept myself busy at the office during the day time till 6 PM and somehow managed the evenings till bedtime. Sundays were also okay as there were church services till afternoon which kept me engaged. But Saturdays were worst. There were no office or church services on Saturdays except my lonely world called, Boredom.

Every time I woke up on a Saturday morning, I had one worry, ‘How to finish this day as soon as possible?’ But every time, I ended up dwelling in that uncomfortable shell called, Boredom without stepping out of my comfort zone.

But one Saturday, I decided otherwise. I wanted to break free by breaking the shell of Fear and Boredom within which I had been dwelling for a long time. I decided to take that first step in my life by stepping out of my dwelling place called Boredom which actually prompted me to go out and explore; explore something new and challenging for me at that moment of my life, something I had never done before on my own.

I remember, I told my mom, “I am going out to roam and around the city as I am feeling so bored”. My mom was aware of the plight of a 25-year-old man who had been spending all his life with a lot of restrictions and obstructions which had actually cringed him in a dungeon called, Boredom.

I took a rickshaw and went till the main road and took a taxi from there. When the taxi driver asked me where to go, I replied, “I don’t know. Take me wherever you think best for me to feel elated and happy but within Rs. 200, I should be here at this place, safe and sound.” Rs. 200 was like Rs.2000 for me at that particular moment and I had that much only with me to pay, attempting to kill Fear and Boredom in one go.

The taxi driver was a compassionate man. He understood my heart and responded well, “You must have already known and seen Howrah bridge, so I will take you to another bridge which is a new one and called, Vidyasagar Setu”. I nodded without saying a word as my heart responded to him loudly, “Thank you! But know that, I am at your mercy“.

He took me there, on that bridge which was way beautiful than any other bridge that I had ever seen till that time. When he brought me back to my place, I remember, I paid him Rs.170.00 but we both were extremely happy which were priceless. I was happy for taking the first step to come out of my Boredom and explore the city all alone for the first time, and he was happy for being that change agent in my life.

Captured by me: The road leading to Vidyasagar Setu

Many years later, when I had the opportunity to capture the beautiful Vidyasagar Setu, I remembered how I explored it in 2001, all by myself.

Captured by me: A glimpse of Vidyasagar Setu

I had been to Vidyasagar Setu a number of times in the last 20 years of my life in Kolkata but that first trip to Vidyasagar Setu will always be my favourite one till the end.

Captured by me: Crossing over the beautiful Vidyasagar Setu

Every boredom prompts something to explore. If your boredom doesn’t prompt you to explore then remember you are not bored but actually enjoying where you are.

Today, due to my health condition, I don’t go out much but I found other avenues or have explored something else to get out of my boredom. But all these mini or big explorations have always made me happy and kept me joyful instead of dwelling in depression and boredom. And I will quote that same Bible verse again which has always encouraged and prompted me to explore – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” We can not make use of our ideas, intellect when we are dead. We can utilise them only when we are alive and our God wants us to be happy and joyous in life, kicking off a life of grumbling and complaints. With this thought in my mind, I had initiated and gave birth to my child – Candles in 2006 and I am so happy to write this article today, which is the 2000th post published on Candles Online.

So friends! Never dwell in depression or boredom but be prompt to take the first step and come out of that shell called, Fear and Boredom to lead a joyful and cheerful life.

Stay blessed!


Escapades from the din and humdrum of routine life are fun, exciting, adventurous, a tad scary at times and offer elements of surprise that one would cherish or banish from memory forever. A first step taken either literally or symbolically in any avenue is more often than not, a step to remember – especially if you had been scared to take that step.

To kickstart this week’s topic – ‘Taking that first step . . . when you were afraid’, let me share one such fun episode from more than a decade before.

I was in the University pursuing my Post Graduation. The famous apparel chain Pantaloons had just opened their first outlet in Bhubaneswar. My University being just a few kilometers away, my friends and I decided to pay a visit after classes got over one day. We were excited, especially because there weren’t too many big brand outlets and malls in the city that time.

We weren’t disappointed! The stock of apparels and accessories pleased our eyes, though being students still, we didn’t have much money at our disposal to splurge. Once we were done with the ground floor, it was time to move up to explore what the other two floors had in store. There came the catch! Having been designed as a mini-mall of sorts sans food court, there were escalators to ferry customers to and from each floor. No staircase. No lift.

My first exposure to an escalator and the accompanying hesitation to take the first step! One by one all my friends stepped on the escalator and reached the first floor while I was still stuck in the ground floor. Somehow, I couldn’t muster enough courage to take that first step. My friends soon realised that I wasn’t with them and called out to me, to which I simply gave the excuse that I had to explore a few more collections in the ground floor.

After some time when I still didn’t reach up to the first floor, one of my friends understood the reason. It was very sweet on her part to come down to the ground floor, hold my hand and take me to the escalator – all the way assuring that she would be going up with me holding my hand. And, that is just what she did!

Lo! We reached the first floor hand in hand and joined the others in exploring the stuff there. The same friend held my hand while descending from the first floor to the ground floor as well. The others who had by that time known what had kept me downstairs, went down and and encouraged me to do so. But, this friend stayed back, held my hand, stepped on the escalator with me and gave me the courage to move downstairs.

It has been more than a decade to that first exposure to an escalator. Surely, I don’t spare a second before stepping onto escalators now! But, the memory of that first step sure makes me chuckle 🙂

As I stepped out of Pantaloons that evening thanking my friend endlessly for lending her hand to help me overcome my fear, I learnt a very important life lesson – first steps aren’t always cakewalks!

Across life’s pathways, being sensitive to others’ first steps helps makes the journey pleasant for them. At times encouragement from a distance helps. But at a few other times, what is needed is to extend the hand to hold on to and take the step together. It helps address the inner fear and the accompanying hesitation along with providing the confidence and the courage for an independent step in the future.

Coming to escalators, now that I don’t bat an eyelid before using escalators, I always look out for people who might be in the same place that I was years before and extend them a hand with a few words of courage. I am grateful to God for teaching me such a vital lesson from the experience that day and also for reminding me how He holds my hand across life’s myriad pathways with His promises – “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . .”

So yes, a fun outing turned into a vital learning that day. To be sensitive and respond to someone’s inner fear of the first step does more than you can think of in many ways. It helps keep your conscience alive and responsive (that’s to your benefit) and helps the other person reach a new level of confidence along with accomplishing the immediate goal at hand.

 And if you are a person hesitant or afraid to take a first step in any area of your life – literally or otherwise, I would like to encourage you that a helping hand would soon come by. Don’t stop . . . move on!


Being associated with the software industry and remote working experience for a long time, I would like to shell some light on how perspectives changed with the pandemic. 

Prior to the pandemic, I would choose to work from home only if I am sick or just wanted to concentrate on work a little more. During the day, at work there are usually some distractions that could be avoided in an isolated space like home. After a couple of days in a row, it starts to get uncomfortable to request for more days of work from home because there are people around in office who would think that I am working for home than working from home :). That has never been true, but there is no way we can prove the other wise. Apart from these, there are a few stereotypical managers who think folks who are working from home are not working. They would call every hour or deliberately schedule some meeting just to feel good by making sure we are working. I am sure some of you would totally echo the same thoughts as me. I have also seen managers who think people who are sitting for a long time in office are more dedicated. I won’t say all these are myths, but it depends on the person. Some managers totally don’t care about where we work from as long as the deliverables are meeting the timelines. 

One of my colleagues had a baby girl with some medical condition and the baby needed constant care. She requested for working from home for a period of six months and considering her situation that has been granted. It used to be difficult and needed lot of approvals even when a family member is suffering from terminal illness.  Later on she opted only for 50% work as she was unable to concentrate on work. So, this carried on for almost two years, and I heard so many people judging her. Many wondered if she ever works or just wants to keep the job.  As fellow humans we have to be more considerate, but hello! she is getting to work from home for months together and we don’t get to do that even for a couple of days. 

It is indeed convenient at times to work from home if one can,  for a few days when there is a need. If my family needs my presence at  hometown, I want to opt for such adjustments for a week or two.  What has always stopped my manager to agree would be, “what would other people in the team think?. “What if everyone start asking for such adjustments?“. Their main fear is that the productivity would be lost. 

Couple of weeks before the lockdown was announced in India, our company started making arrangements for us to be able to work from home for longer durations. I was dealing with those arrangements starting from remote login to ensuring we have all the required hardware to work from home. After many discussions and approvals, we were almost set before the pandemic lockdown came hard on us. All of a sudden, I saw many leaders/managers thinking differently. Now the thoughts are,” We have to somehow make this work for the business” ” We should not loose time because of logistic issues” “Hope people cope up well with this situation and be able to work normally“. Many employees of our company travelled to their hometowns before the lockdown. We experienced low impact with remote working at least in our team. There will always be some trouble working remotely, but this is where we have to be innovative in finding alternatives. I wonder why it was so difficult to accept these adjustments before the pandemic. Now there is more time for employees also to take care of their health by utilizing the commute time.

In no way, this means work from home is a bed of roses. Despite the challenges we are facing working from home, I think this pandemic has changed some misconceptions. I hope in the new normal, we would have better working relationships and our leaders would trust us if someone says “Working from home” :). Even when the pandemic ends, and we end up spending more time at work, we would have the choice to request for work from home option with head held high. 

Starting to trust and giving employees great autonomy and flexibility allows people to feel independent and empowered