Holi- The Festival of Colors

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            Nothing depicts the harmony and brotherhood in the Indian society like the festival of Holi. It’s one of the most joyous occasions for Indians. It signifies the victory of good over evil. The story comes from an evil king who tried killing his son by burning him alive for not worshipping him. God saved the child and the king and his evil sister were killed in the process. 

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           We celebrate Holi with colours. We drench everybody on the street in blue, purple, green and yellow. It’s like a big happy family and nobody’s a stranger. People forget about their personal squabbles and differences, playing Holi with great fervour.

            Loading our Holi ammunition into a Jeep, we were almost out the big metal gate when the gangly Doberman puppy, Speed blocked our way. He was wagging his tail and as usual excited about nothing in particular. Stuti picked him up, “Let’s take him with us.”

            “Where’ll he fit? We have plans. He’ll be in the way.” I said.

            “He’ll be in my lap.” She introduced him to the group. They pet him and he took turns licking everyone.

            Her friend started, “He’s so–”

            “–cute, I know.”

           At the Punjab University the girls of Sarojini Hall hostel, who would run away from our rowdy group, now surrounded our Jeep, playing Holi with Speed.

           My friend nudged me with his elbow, “Dude, can I borrow this babe magnet for a day?”

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          I made it a point letting everybody know that the puppy was my “loving brother”.

            We took Speed to every friend’s house. We coloured their families, were fed hearty snacks, sought blessings from elders; then we moved onto the next house.  It seemed like an extension of how Speed lived his life every day. The entire neigbourhood was his home and the inhabitants including the strays, his family.

           Now our equation had to morph into that of two bickering brothers; quarreling, arguing, fighting, complaining and wing-men at the end of the day.

            The measure of how much fun we have playing Holi is determined by how many days it takes in washing the colour off our skin. Nobody minds when we show up at work on the day following Holi with monkey-like faces.

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            Speed’s coat had been covered with silver coloured oil paint. Our friends had spared his eyes. The black hair around his eyes and the silver paint on the rest of his body gave him the appearance of the Lone Ranger. His body looked like that of his own horse, “Silver”.

          “Hi-ho Silver, away,” Dad said.

            “Who is that masked dog anyway?” Mom asked.

           Hey Tonto, I’m your Kee-mo Do-bee.

            We three brothers weren’t allowed in the house post our “Holi romp”, our “Toofani gaeda” (whirlwind tour). We bathed in the yard, rinsing colour off each other, prancing, frolicking, playing, to mark the end of the joyous day.

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THE VALENTINE’S DAY CONUNDRUM- BOLLYWOOD STYLE

THE VALENTINE’S DAY CONUNDRUM– BOLLYWOOD STYLE

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           I learnt all my romantic moves or lack of them from Bollywood movies. Because the pudding defines the proof; my being single is proof that the Bollywood romance formulas are foul pudding.

          I’m an engineer. To my logical brain, If A=B and B=C then A should equal C- always.

           So Bollywood taught me there seven ways to woo a woman.

1)      If you love here follow her to the ends of the earth;

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The hero chases the heroine from London to Punjab, from Gujarat to Italy.  So I showed up to my girlfriends door in Switzerland and for the second time I got the response- What on earth are you doing here?

2)      Save her from a bunch of thugs;

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This has to work right? The brawny hero bangs up an un-imaginable number of goons. I saved my prospective girlfriend from an eve-teaser in a bus once. Well, I got arrested, refused to pay a bribe- went to court. Offered three months pocket money to a grossly incompetent and comical lawyer- and never saw the girl again.

3)      Use a furry friend;

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A cute dog (for some reason a Pomeranian) carrying a rose between its teeth and wearing a bow around its neck. The heroine carries the dog and sings a song, twirling amongst flying ribbons and balloons. My Doberman scared the crap out of every girl he approached. He was the gentlest dog but all he could carry was his reputation. Not only did he not find me a girlfriend, he never found one for himself. He was feared amongst all the strays and neighborhood dogs.

4)      Let her go;

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Sacrifice. That one must work. The hero reunites the heroine with a previous lover. Just in time the heroine realizes how important sacrifice is in the grand scheme of things and returns to the hero. I let my girlfriend go. And she left- darnit Bollywood. Then I followed her to the end of the earth and we know how that story turned out in point number 1 above.

5)      Have your mom be you wingman;

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The hero’s mom has the ability to explain away her son’s worse characteristics to the heroine. “Yes he is a serial killer, but he can touch his nose with his tongue.” Lo and behold the heroine melts. My mom was an expert in scaring away women I was almost engaged to. “Are you sure you want to marry Inder? His last girlfriend was…”

6)      Ignore her completely;

Now go figure this one. The hero completely ignores the heroine- and she still falls for him. In the harsh reality of things- every hot chick has fifteen guys wooing her. Here is a ratio to explain my point. If you turn over any rock lying on the ground there are 3 men found under it and one guy will be sitting on that rock. My last hope was the questionably attractive girl that was ignoring all these guys- seemed like a slam dunk. Five dates and five hundred Rupees later I found out that she was gay.

7)       Get her wet (noooooo literally- in the rain);

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Well if it starts raining in Indian movies the hero and heroine’s fate is sealed. Song first, wet clothes next…  Dry them by a fireplace… Kiss coming… Birds will fly out of the trees; they must… no sexual act can happen without birds flying out of trees. Some sobs and “I gave you my virginity’’ dialogues later- marriage happens. I got one woman wet once.  A hospital visit and a fight with bone-chilling fever later- I was still single.

 

                I am an engineer but if All of A is B it doesn’t mean all of B is A. Hence proven- Q.E.D

 

© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

JOHN’S ON THE DAILY NEWS

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 “I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t” Vidyut counted the money again and stuffed it in his wallet.

I tossed the car’s keys to him. “This is the craziest thing we’ve done–”

“– so far.” He winked at me. “If I don’t outperform all her previous boyfriends, she’s going to dump me.”

“She’s ditched you three times already.” I slapped his back and laughed. “ Slutty girlfriend, virgin boyfriend.”

“HOT slutty girlfriend.”  He turned the key in the ignition.

We drove across the crowded bridge over the train tracks at the New Delhi railway station. The traffic light turned red and children appeared from nowhere with rags in their hands. They wiped our windscreen begging for a few rupees for a job poorly done. A song from the latest Bollywood movies blasted from the loudspeakers and the children danced to its tune.

Vidyut bit his lip and faced me. The reflection of the red light illuminated half of his face. “Inder, will there be actual red lights? How will we know if we are there?”

“M mm m,” (I don’t know) I hummed.

The light turned avocado green and his lead foot met the accelerator.

“There.” I pointed to the green sign that read in white bold letters. ‘Mahatma Gandhi Marg’. Vidyut made a sharp right turn. Gosh, did they have to name this road after the ‘Father of the nation’?

I opened my window and stuck my head out the window. Decrepit wooden multistoried houses lined the street with paint peeling off the walls. Street vendors sold various unhygienic snacks to hungry hard-working day labor.

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The narrow street was webbed with illegal power lines crisscrossing the passageway. In the next few houses several women clad in bright gaudy clothes stuck their heads out the windows.

Vidyut dropped the car into second gear.

Oye chikne, idhar dekh,” (Hey handsome, look at me) one yelled.

I plopped back into my seat, “Vidyut, where have we–”

“Arre O Rajja, Majja lena hai to idhar aaja,” (Come to me), another voice boomed.

I snapped my fingers. “Let’s get out of here–”

“–Hello, Sir. Wan’t girl? Best girl.” A boy all of fifteen years old tapped the drivers window.

Vidyut rolled down his window. “How much?”

“Come up and look, Sir. All girls. No charge for just looking sir. You select. I give you good rate.” He gave us the Indian head nod.

The wooden stairs creaked under our weight. We walked into a room no bigger than a volleyball court. The dank smell of sweat and cheap jasmine incense fought with each other to overpower the hall. A man sat on a small platform with a harmonium and sang a poor song to a badly played tune. People sat on the tile floor and rubbed shoulders and elbows with each other.

“You want girl too?” The fifteen year old asked me.

“No buddy, I don’t have a slutty girlfriend. I’m the ‘hero ka dost’ (Hero’s friend), the sidekick Danny. I make sure he doesn’t get in trouble.

“Danny?”

“Danny Zuko…as in Grease” I puffed my hair.

“Like Vaseline, Sir. You want?” he stroked his finger.

“Nooooo… Grease… Never mind. Rahul…DDLJ,” I splayed my arms.

He sang. “Tujhe dekha to yeh jana sanam…chahihe mujhe bhi nahana sanam.” He guffawed. “You sit. Enjaay music.” He pointed to the lone open spot on the tile floor.

The second god-awful song started. I yawned. Come on Vidyut, hurry up man.

Thock thock thock. The fifteen-year-old body appeared in the doorway. He put his hands on his knees and coughed out, “Police-Run-Police.”

I gulped and tried getting up but my knees were locked in their position. In the next few moments everyone in that room scrambled around me. They disappeared into cubby-holes and attics and behind doors.

Five khaki uniform clad men entered the room. The lapels on their shoulder announced, ‘Delhi Police’. One of them barked. “What are you doing here?”

“Listening to music…,” I pointed to the platform in the now empty room. “Uhh… There were fifty people here… five seconds ago. I swear. Trust me–”

Tanne ko to gaane sunayenge ib hawalaat mein. (you’ll surely face the music in the lock-up).

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I blinked a few times. Handcuffs? I’m actually wearing handcuffs. And all because Vidyut… I gulp. Gosh, I hope Vidyut is–

“I swear it officer. This is my first time here–” Vidyut walked behind another office into the room. His eyes widened when he saw me. He thrust his shackled hands at me, “Inder, do something.”

“Dude, where are your pants?” I pointed to his smiley faced Jockey’s.

“–I’d just taken them off.” He crossed his legs.

“You’ve been gone for seven minutes. What the fuck?”

“Dude, I was talking to her. Making her comfy–”

“You blooming ass. We’re being arrested for you talking to a–”

The policeman shoved me, “–shut up and walk.”

We stepped into the police van and sat on the hard, metal seats.

“How many did you get?” The sub-inspector asked his constables.

Just these two, janab.

I turned to Vidyut, “Just two. Goddamnit. There were two hundred men and fifty women in that building and they got two. You and me. Rahul and Deepak. Danny and Kenickie. And you’re still a Virgin. How can this day get any worse?”

Vidyut smiled. “It just did. They have my pants and my pants have my wallet. No bribes will be offered today.”

I slid my fingers on my cheek. “Well at least I shaved today for my first appearance on the news.”

************

It’s been twenty years since that incident. It was the only time either of us made the news. Two lowlife John’s in the vast sea of hormonal, oppressive men seeking any means to justify their whims.

We grew up in a society where it is okay for men to look down upon women as if they were objects. Where it is justifiable to take advantage of oppressed girls those couldn’t survive any other way. This is the same city of Delhi where last year a woman was raped in a bus by six men while they drove around town. I am amongst the millions of people who criticized the cruelty and the brutality of that rape.

I’ve travelled the world and lived in several countries. It’s not just Indian society- men of all countries are afflicted by the disease or treating women poorly. In the US women are protected by laws- but the attitude of men going to strip clubs uncovers their unabashed primal instincts. The flourishing business of strip clubs and whore-houses world-wide is a slap in humanities face.

I put the newspaper down and remove my spectacles, “How far was I from committing a crime of sex.” Even before the thought permeates my brain I have excuses ready; We were going to pay for it. We didn’t even do anything. We were teenagers. I never did it again. It wasn’t even for me. I was just being a friend. Prostitution is legal–

–I gag even before I complete the last thought. What kind of a sick bastard am I? Admit your mistake, damnit. I pick up the phone and call Vidyut.

This is what I’ve learnt about myself.

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— I’ve shamed my education and my family for doing what I did.

— My demand drives the supply. I’ve a hand in the flesh trade industry in India; however small it may be. I have a hand in it. I had the education and ability to stop exploitation of women and I didn’t do a darn thing about it.

— My biggest issue as an animal activist is the attitude of people those turn a blind eye to the plight of animals. I turned a blind eye to those women.

— That never again will a single Dollar or Rupee I earn go towards supporting exploiting women in any way, shape or form. Strip-clubs, porn, flesh-trade industry; all exploit women.

— That never again will I turn a blind eye to the plight of anyone- be it human or be it an animal. Nor will I judge anyone till I have successfully cleaned up my own act.

That is what I understand by ‘Being Human’.

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© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

THE KISS CULTURE – The only culture I know is agriculture

-Inderpal Sandhu

         I’m sure if the band ‘KISS’ had played in 80’s India, they would’ve moderated their name down to ‘HUG’.  That’s the culture in which I outgrew my boyhood. Having grown up in boarding schools, I’ve learnt most everything from Bollywood movies; friendship, respecting parents, singing songs, whistling through life and romancing.

         When the hero and heroine were about to kiss in Indian movies the camera would cut to a shot of two flowers touching each other and we knew a kiss has taken place. Alternately the heroine lifting her leg in the air confirmed that the hero has successfully planted his lips on hers. I would stop chewing the popcorn in my mouth, my jaw would drop. I couldn’t risk blinking or I’d miss it. And God forbid, if the camera showed birds fly out of trees, my pre-teen mind had to imagine that a carnal sin had taken place. The heroine was no longer a virgin. Ohhhh Noooooo.              

         A few years later, un-kissed by a soul (barring a rare shining moment of glory that my mother deemed was kiss-worthy) I was pushed into the world of dating. My father’s friend’s bumbling sixteen-year-old daughter seemed like an easy-enough start.

“You can have all my Sidney Sheldon novels.” I slid the stack toward her.

She threw her arms over my shoulder. “You’re such a sweetheart.”

The smell of Listerine lingered between us. Inder, that’s one strong mouthwash. Either she’s giving you the ‘go ahead and kiss’ signal or she has serious oral health issues because that mouthwash is one pH away from being classified as an acid. Come on man, your friends asked you to lookout for clear hints. Slam dunk– I closed my eyes and opened my mouth slightly, cocking my head to my right I leaned in.

Her body stiffened. She arched away. “What are you doing?”

“I’m umm…err…uh… nothing. I was just… I thought–”

She struggled out of my arms. “I knew it. My friends say all boys want the same thing.”

I punched my open fist when she walked away. What’s this ‘same thing’ that girls keep on talking about? Kissing is the biggest deal. Six months of exchanging gifts and notes and holding hands. When’s the right time for moving on to the mouth to mouth handshake?

Ten years, several girlfriends, many pull-backs and an occasional slap later, I had taught myself to just ask first. To kiss or not to kiss- that, my friend, is the question.

At age 24, I immigrated to the US. My first date here was a fellow-intern.  After failing miserably within my own community I was now venturing into cross cultural dating.

I downed the fifth refill of diet soda and suppressed the thirteenth burp. “Why do they keep refilling my glass?

She leveled her palm and waived. “–Because you keep finishing it. You stop- they stop.”

Duh.

            She held a cookie in her hands and used her thumbs to crack it open. She pulled out a small piece of paper from a secret compartment within. “Man who scratches ass should not bite fingernails.” She read aloud the profound wisdom in the paper. “What did your fortune cookie say?”

Gulp. “Mine didn’t have anything in it.” I picked up another one. No wonder that cookie tasted so darn horrible. Chinese restaurants in India do not have these–

“–Well what does this one say?” She chuckled.

I pulled out the paper. Fuckgoshdarnit. I held it up in two fingers for her. Passionate kiss like spider’s web, soon lead to undoing of fly.

She guffawed and winked.

Wow. I mean wow. “Girls here are easy.” My Indian roommates had preached earlier that day. “Just make sure you take protection with you.”

“It’s the first date, guys.” I’d stated.

“Yeah, but it’s best to be prepared. If she gives you a lead in, invites you in for coffee, talks about making out or ahem ahem…. chitty-chitty, bang-bang… you know.”

I had run into the Walgreens just before picking her up and purchased a packet of ‘To Maximize Her Pleasure’. The best place to hide them was under the passenger seat because she might open the glove box for any reason.

The waiter nudging me with the check brought my thoughts back to the date. What? 4378 There goes 5 post tax internship hours. “Per November’s Cosmo, if the bill is more than 40 bucks, you have a 33.3 % chance of getting laid.” My software engineer roommate had clarified while he primped my tie.

I pulled back her chair and draped her jacket over her delicate shoulders. The indicators were clear as day.

“You’re such a gentleman.” She crooned.

          Fuck. There go 50 dollars down the toilet.

I opened the passenger door to my hooptie and adjusted the second seat-cover over her seat so that her dress wouldn’t get torn by the multiple springs poking through the foam.

When I spun on my heel she was breathing down my throat. “Thank you for the date, Inder.” Her silver polished nail traced the side of my mouth and slid off my chin.

          Listerine? Darnit. I stared deep into her eyes. “Would you like to kiss now?”

She straightened her head. “What? Why would you ask me that?”

I tried putting my arm around her back but she put her palm on my chest. “I thought it’s better to ask–”

“That’s such a momentum killer, Inder.” She straightened her elbow.

“No No…we have momentum.” I reached out for her waist.

We drove silently for a few minutes. You almost had her, you bumbling moron. If only you could’ve kept your pie-hole shut for three more seconds–

She placed her sweaty palm on mine. “I understand the cultural differences, Inder. Kissing and sex is such a big step for–.”

        No No it’s not. How do you think we became the second most populous country in the world. It’s just that–

Her voice became crisper “–Your society is very conservative. In the US it is acceptable for people who are dating to be intimate.”

I turned to face her. Her eyes became wider. She clasped my hand. A tinge of red light fell on her face. My instincts made me hit the brakes as hard as I could.

Her head almost hit the dashboard. She lurched back.

“Phew, that was close.” She straightened back up. “Hey what is that–?” She pointed to something between her feet.

I looked over. Her immaculately painted toes were inches away from a small box. It said in bold letters. Ribbed, for her pleasure.

© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

O My Indie Dog, How I Fear thee, Let me Count the Ways

-Inder Sandhu

             Aiiiiyiiiii.” The scrawny shirtless kid holds up two sticks in his hands and chases a dog. His ten-year-old legs allow him to catch up to the limping stray before I can blink my eyes.

“Whaaack.” A smile of triumph beams across the boy’s dark complexioned face.

“Aoor Aoor Aoor,” The dog lifts his injured leg higher and tries to scramble away. The boy raises his sticks again.

My body kicks into action. “Oye!” I charge the boy.

He drops the sticks and tries to flee.

Tadaak.

injured dogMy fingers sting from the pain. The boy is holding the back of his head. “Why are you hitting a defenseless dog?” I yell in Hindi. The onlookers at the Fatehpur Sikri surround us. The boy runs away. “How does it feel to be hit like that?” I shout at his receding figure.

The mosque has drawn its weekend crowd of visitors and devout locals. Merchants by the Kotah stone coloured forty meter high entrance gate, the Buland Darwaza, trade their wares in song. The mild wafting aroma of groundnuts roasting over coal saturates the air. The azaan (call to prayer) blares over the loud-speaker. “Allah-hu-Akbar.” Although not a Muslim, I repeat the phrase aloud. I’ve been taught as a child to respect all religions. I fold my hands in prayer and bow my head.  

              Ḥayya ʿala khayr al ʿamal.” (The time for the best deed has come) the Muezzin’s voice is crisp over the loudspeaker.

             The best deed? I slump. How does it feel to be the perpetrator of the crime you just accused him of? Hitting someone weaker than you is just wrong. I close my eyes. That kid hasn’t learnt his lesson and he never will. Where did we go wrong? When did it become acceptable for peace loving Indians to hurt defenseless animals? What happened to our concept of ‘be kind to animals-‘nahi to paap lagega’ (or you will be cursed by your karma).

A part of the answer is fear and the lack of education of how to handle the Indie dog; a stray of no particular breed. We see them everywhere and are indifferent to their presence. Their plight is so common that we’ve become immune to it. We Indians are experts at shutting our eyes and zoning out problems from our lives if they don’t affect us.

            We have no idea how to approach these dogs. We’ve never learnt it. We fear them.

            Imagine if you will the life of a stray dog. Born into scarce food supply and poor health conditions, they have ticks and fleas and no form of vaccination. Most of them in the litter die within a few days. Only the tough survive. They face other big, rabid dogs and children pelting stones at them.

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            Oftentimes, the mother is too busy searching for food or gets runs down by cars and trucks, leaving these puppies to fend for themselves. Like children, these puppies need the human touch, love and nurturing. A human that is orphaned and struggles for survival often becomes a criminal. These dogs are the outcasts of our society. They have very little in terms of orphanages or shelters.

         When we can show them love, we show them fear and hatred. Even if our children try, we’re guilty of shooing the dogs away and reprimanding our children for trying to get close. When these children grow into teenagers we offer them no outlet to quell the fear we instilled in their hearts. We offer them no opportunity to volunteer with these defenseless animals.

         When our children have children of their own- they propagate the same fear in them. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear begets more fear- until one day our society becomes immune to their plight. Then we are left with the only option of scoffing at our own country and the overpopulation of dogs. We cite examples of other countries, those don’t have these problems.

animal cruelty       The simple question is- Will we do anything to break the circle? Will we allow our children to volunteer with these poor helpless dogs and nurse them to health and love? Allow the children to ensure that our administrators have policies in place to control the overpopulation of strays? Or will we just sit back and make the circle of fear get stronger and stronger? Will we do nothing and then complain?

The child comes back with his father. “Why did you hit my son?” He jabs a stick in my pectorals. “You thought he has nobody to support him? Apologize to him” He looks over my shoulder at the growing crowd behind me.

I sit down on my knee and rub the kid’s head where I’d struck him. “I’m sorry I hit you, little guy.” I straighten up.

His father triumphantly twirls his moustache. He turns around and walks away.

I call out behind him. “Now will you ask your son to apologize to the dog he hit because he thought there was nobody to support the dog?”

He pauses for a while, then turns around. Tears have pooled around his now soft eyes. He loses the grip of his stick. I see it rattle on the bitumen and I would’ve heard it too- had the applause not drowned out the sound.

© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.