Author Archives: Simi K. Rao

Musafir #Arches National Park


Delicate Arch

God is a sculptor and Arches National Park is his workshop.

Head to Moab,Utah to see one of the most unusual landscapes in the world; a unique collection of more than 2000 natural sandstone arches. Prepare to be stunned!

Landscape arch

Watch your step! (Way to Delicate arch)

Window rock

The Sun adds its own show

Petroglyphs carved by native tribes

Romance Chap 5: The Inevitable

Chapter 4

5: The Inevitable


A few days passed without event. I was outside on our tiny terrace garden, a watering can in my hand, exchanging notes with my young neighbor while her good-looking bhaiyya hung around in the background and pretended to ignore me. I was in a great mood having received a very good offer from a renowned local clinic. Plus mom had made my favorite idli sambhar for breakfast which I took as a peace offering from her side.  

“Let’s go to a movie. How about you Manas?”

“I’d love to come. How about this Friday? I’m free after five,” Puja’s brother said catching my eye and I felt something akin to an old familiar excitement.

“Yes it’s a date!” I turned and skipped back inside, already thinking about what I was going to wear.


My hopes were dashed.

My mother confronted me again but this time she had company… my Dad.

I haven’t yet talked about him. There’s a reason. Because Dad and I shared a relationship which could be best be described as uncertain. Mom and I got along quite well. At least we had so far despite her many faults and likely mine as well. We usually found a middle ground. But it wasn’t the same with Dad.

To everyone; family, friends and neighbors included, Krishnakanth Govindrao Bhatt was a wonderful person. He was solid, hardworking, honest and reliable. And he was generous to a fault ever ready to lend a helping hand. But he had a vice that dismissed everything. At least it did for me–his love for drink. The bane of many families. It was what drove my brother away to join the army and make a life of his own. My mother’s years of sitting up late into the night waiting for Dad to come home and then having to deal with his drunken meanness with my assistance.  It is still as clear as day. I remember wrestling with him while he rained slurred curses on mom. Him telling me I was good nothing, the vile stench of alcohol on his breath. There were times he would retch up blood and we would rush him to the hospital. He always recovered. Always; only to return to his ways. I was traumatized. Perhaps that contributed to my anxiety and eternal self doubt. Perhaps it was the reason I could never open up to anyone because I couldn’t trust them. How can you after being betrayed by someone so close to you? Perhaps it was also the reason why I hadn’t confronted Rohan.

Dad did come around finally. I got him into a treatment program. He had been sober for almost five years though even now the fear would always haunt us when he didn’t return home on time.

I couldn’t forgive him. So I pushed him to the background. He didn’t mind. Rather he liked to remain there and let me do whatever I wanted. Maybe it was his way of saying sorry. Therefore I think it must have taken mom quite a bit of effort to have him back her today.

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The Story of Holika

Prahlad, Holika, 13 the century Keshava temple

On the very auspicious occasion of Holi- the ‘festival of colors’ where we welcome Spring and smear each other with color while saying “Bura na mano, holi hai” (Don’t mind, its holi) I’d like to share the story behind the festival.

There are some wonderful stories in the Puranas and one of them is about Holika. 


Hiranyakashipu,was the king of the daityas, a clan of the asuras (danavas or divine beings with an evil quality who are always at war with the suras or benevolent devas). His brother Hiranyaksha, had been killed by Lord Vishnu, in his Varaha (boar) avatar.  Thus angered, he wanted to with gain immortality. He performed years of penance and obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he couldn’t be killed by human or animal; indoors or outdoors; during day or night; and no weapon could bring him harm. Hence he became arrogant and believed himself to be the mightiest, more than all the devas and even Vishnu, the Supreme Being himself. He commanded everyone to pray to him and regard him as their supreme lord. But his son Prahlad, did not. Right from when he was born, Prahlad remained a devout follower of Vishnu and wouldn’t be convinced otherwise. This irked Hiranyakashipu so much that he decided to kill his own son. But all his attempts were thwarted by the mystical powers of Vishnu. One of these is the story behind Holi.

Holika was Hiranyakashipu’s sister, who had been given the boon that fire couldn’t harm her. Thus, she sat in a burning pyre with Prahlad on her lap but Vishnu intervened. A strong breeze removed her protective cloth and draped Prahlad instead; protecting him while Holika was charred. A few other theories exist– one states that Holika was actually good and sacrificed herself to save Prahlad while another says that the boon was granted on condition Holika wouldn’t use it to harm anyone. Regardless, the story symbolizes the victory of good over evil as does the festival. On the first day, Holika dahan (Choti (small) Holi) is performed and people gather and burn bonfires at crossroads. The ash from the pyre is then smeared on the forehead.

Holika Dahan

The following day is the more well known colorful or Rangwali Holi, when everyone forgetting all differences smear each other with colored powder. ENJOY! HAPPY HOLI!

“Make America Great Again”

Illustration by Santiago Caruso

Yes, let’s make America great again not by ensuring health care to all, food for the hungry and homes for the homeless, but by giving weapons of mass destruction to our kids so they can murder their friends in order to deal with their frustrations because no one is willing to listen to them.

It’s a perversity and nothing less than a disgrace that citizens of the most advanced country in the world have to lead their lives in fear. We are so worried about government tyranny that we don’t trust law enforcement to protect us instead we have to carry guns to defend ourselves. We have become a nation of gun toting vigilantes, who shoot first and pretend to ask questions later. And if some of us happen to die in the crossfire; well a great wall of greed and impotence is the perfect consolation besides of course ‘thoughts and prayers’.

This is exactly what we envisioned- a classic case of hypocrisy. On one hand we talk about advancements in technology, AI (artificial intelligence) etc making our lives easier; on the other we train our kids to prepare for the eventuality of being killed. We send them to school not to get a sound education but to participate in active shooter drills. But don’t you see it’s a ‘mental health’ problem. Isn’t it always?

Okay let’s talk about mental health. Yes undeniably it’s a huge problem in this country. I know first hand as a physician because I deal with it everyday. In fact the system is overburdened. But most people with mental health issues aren’t violent. Even those who are don’t go around shooting down innocents with AR-15s. They do so because we put the idea in their heads and provide them access. And tell them it’s okay to do so because thoughts and prayers will solve everything.

According to me and I dare to say “ there’s no place for guns in civilized society,” in the least AR-15s. According to a radiologist who treated victims in the Florida shooting said the high velocity bullets from an AR 15 cause significantly more damage than a typical handgun and should be banned. I agree. But are we ready for a conversation? No. Not even the educated and rational  want to discuss it. They love their guns. Some of my colleagues own AR-15s and say they use them for hunting and target practice. It’s a hobby. 

The right to a hobby vs that of a child to go to school and be safe. What is more important? You be the judge.

Delicious Reads: Frankenstein

Didn’t expect it but the book was unputdownable. There’s so much more in it than a scifi/horror story. It’s hard to believe that 2018 is the book’s 200th anniversary. It’s very modern in its concept and outlook and I’m so glad the author put in the monster’s perspective; his very human feelings and emotions and desire to love and be loved. But he was misunderstood; not even given a chance which turned him against his creator. Indeed, you’ll ask what was his fault One word: fabulous! And what can I say about Mary Shelley. She was only 20 when the book was published! Genius!

Now on to the movie!



English as She is Spoke


No one can forget this iconic scene from the movie Namak Halal. English is definitely a very funny language.  Check some examples below. Can you suggest some more?

Japanese hotel room: Please to bathe inside the tub.

Swiss restaurant menu: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for. 

Bangkok dry cleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results.

Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking.

Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their skin.

Detour sign in Kyushu, Japan: Stop. Drive sideways.

Copenhagen airline office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

Thailand notice for donkey rides: Would you like to ride on your own ass?

Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.

Athens hotel: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am daily.

Rome Doctor’s office: Specialist in women and other diseases.

Majorcan shop entrance: English well talking.

Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

Buddhist temple, Bangkok: it is forbidden to enter a woman, even a foreigner if dressed as a man.


Musafir #Descanso Gardens


Musafir (the heart is a traveler) recommends– Descanso Gardens 🙂

DG is a 150 acre botanical garden located in La Canada Flintridge. It’s an ocean of peace in the concrete jungle called LA. Do check it out to reconnect with yourself once done with the maddening sensory overkill of Hollywood. Besides the usual trappings it has two unusual vertical gardens or green walls (a technique to grow plants on a vertical panel using hydroponics) that force us to think about nature and perhaps ourselves in a different way.

A Cup of Tea (Excerpt From Romance)


The flames in the fireplace flickered making the shadows dance across their faces as they regarded each other. A single thought occupied both their eyes. They could hear it as if it was being said loud and clear—Why, why does life behave this way?

Why did it have to them together at such a time?

Why did it brew this attraction? And he expressed it without any hesitation throwing her in confusion at first. She, who for sometime now had not considered herself attractive or for that matter even in the least interesting to the opposite sex. Then she realized it was for real and he was oh so sweet.


Her hand shook as she offered him the cup. She withdrew it right away and dug it into her pocket as if it would give her away. Her cold immune self.

Want to

Romance Chap 4: They Like You

Chapter 3

4: They Like You


Mita’s wedding entailed a long weekend in Pune. It panned out to be quite a pleasant waste of time rather than the embarrassing ordeal I’d anticipated. The foremost reason being that I was saved from an inevitable run in with Suraj.

“He had to fly back to the States since he had used up his paltry two weeks of vacation,” Mita informed me with a morose droop of her pristine painted lips. “I begged him to stay, after all I’m like a sister to him, but he wouldn’t. He said his job was at stake. He has a tough boss.”

Thank heavens for ruthless capitalism; I thought trying to maintain a straight face. But then another provoked renewed anxiety. “How about his mother. Is she still here?”

My almost cousin shook her head. “She too had to leave. Kokila aunty dreads flying alone.”

I engulfed Mita in a bear hug and bid Suraj and his mother a gleeful goodbye.

Now, feeling slightly more in control of my future, I settled down to entertain myself. The birds of paradise were out in full plumage, each one more resplendent than the next. The carnival that was the marriage venue was a perfect setting for them. I floated by with a chilled glass of kokum sherbet in my hand, and watched from what appeared like a safe distance. I caught snatches of conversation, exchange of news and gossip, punctuated by the tinkle of merry laughter. But when I attempted to look closer, I witnessed a different scene altogether. It was filled with envious, lonely and unhappy hearts that yearned forever in silence. I turned away disgusted with myself. My profession was making me feel like an intruder.

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