Pradeep Kala and his wife Usha represent the new new  generation of techno-savvy silvers, discovers Shilpi Shukla

(Photos: Lovejeet Alexander)

While many silvers consider themselves too old to enter the Gen Next world of modern gadgets and gizmos, Delhi-based Colonel (retd) Pradeep Kala and wife Usha beg to differ. “There are times when my husband leaves home in the morning seeing me playing video games on my computer and finds me as engrossed in my virtual world when he returns from work in the evening,” says Usha, a social worker and counsellor with and Welcomegroup Management Institute. “It goes without saying that this annoys him!”

The 63 year-old started off with very simple games to keep her two year-old grandson company and gradually moved to advanced versions. Today, although Shiv, now 8, finds his grandmother too slow to play with, these games have become the reticent Usha’s best companion. “Whenever I am in low spirits, these games revitalise me,” she says. “To win, you have to be alert, well-timed and calculative at the same time. Where’s the time to feel dull or upset?” Her favourite game is Tropix, an online puzzle game.

Though he is quite Net-savvy, gaming doesn’t fascinate her husband, the gregarious Army officer. “I get online to gain knowledge on a variety of subjects, commenting on blogs, checking my friend’s mails or some interesting forwards, and logging onto social networking sites through which I have made many distant friends of my age group,” says Kala, now director at Kamna Industries Pvt Ltd. While an hour of surfing every day is enough for him, his wife has no idea about the number of hours she spends every day once she begins playing. “This doesn’t let my work or responsibilities suffer though,” she clarifies. And don’t they find gaming or surfing too technical at times? The response is immediate: “Ah! Netting is so easy, and riveting.”

(The article was published in Harmony  magazine.)


Here's an account of endurance, courage, grit and passion of 65-year-old ZAHEER ZAIDI
By Shilpi Shukla Alexander

It’s been more than five years since he died but Hasan Zaheer’s mother is still waiting for her son’s return. Hasan, a marine engineer died under mysterious circumstances in 2005. “For reasons unknown, your son jumped off the MSC Carmen when the ship was 65 kilometres short of Mombasa port in Kenya,” is all that Hasan’s family was informed of by the shipping company. Hasan’s father Zaheer Zaidi did not believe a word. “My religious son would never have committed suicide. Moreover, my son was a champion swimmer and diver. It would have been difficult for him to drown even if he wanted to,” claimed Zaidi. He suspected foul play. The company offered him a huge compensation but Zaidi denied. Later, Zaidi learnt that international maritime regulations did not allow India to send investigators to track a crime that occurred in international waters. Ironically, Zaidi who himself runs a small shipping agency wasn’t aware of such norms till the incident happened.
It was then that Zaheer Zaidi decided to set up the Hasan Marine Foundation (in 2009) to help families of seafarers in similar distress and also career counsel aspiring youngsters. “Most families of Indian sea farers haven’t the technical or legal know-how of the trade. My aim is to not dissuade but make youngsters and their families more informed about this field,” says Zaidi. He adds, “And, I wish to persuade the government to formulate desired legislation to safeguard the interest of Indian sea farers who are being used as disposable materials by sea mafia. The irony, they still remain scot free.”
Having hired reputed lawyer Ram Jethmalani to fight his case, Zaidi is quite confident that justice shall be imparted some day. “I will fight until I die. Nobody can get us our son back. The best that the Indian judiciary can do for us now is to save others from such pain, trauma and loss by formulating new laws,” says Zaidi.

(Photo: Lovejeet Alexander)

(The article was published in Harmony magazine.) 



By Shilpi Shukla

Shah Rukh Khan is a fan, Abhishek Bachchan tweets about him, and award-winning English writer Patrick French is penning his biography. Such is the fan following of Delhi-based Dr K Chaudhry—or Dr KC as he is known—a 66 year-old retired medical practitioner, who has uploaded over 1,500 songs on and has over 2.5 million viewers around the globe, all thanks to his webcam, microphone, and dauntless zeal.

Dr KC began by posting his renditions of Indian and English songs on, and later drifted to remix numbers. Today, he also writes, composes, and sings his own numbers. “Almost 7,000 people log in to watch my videos every day,” he says happily. Owners of Delhi-based eatery chain Big Chill even waive his bill when he comes over to compose music and entertain fans at the restaurant.

Truth be told, Dr KC’s singing abilities are far from perfect. His renditions of James Blunt, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Sir Cliff Richard, though earnest, can leave you in splits. Nonetheless, his exuberance and simplicity have won over many hearts all over the world. As the high-spirited septuagenarian reveals, “I get more hate than fan mails. They make me feel important. Praises please me, abuses amuse me. I feel indebted to everyone who spends his prized time in assessing me as good or bad.”

Author of a dozen medical books, Dr KC has also received offers to compose for movies and soaps, besides an offer to act in a Pakistani movie. He is also a webhost, astrologer, author of medical books and brand ambassador of the upcoming Synergy Games 2010, a national-level sports event that is expected to have participants from all over India in various segments: corporate sector, individuals, schools, universities, sports academies and sports clubs.

(Photo: Lovejeet Alexander)

Featured in Harmony Magazine
January 2011



Internationally acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer Sharanya Chandran has learnt the greatest lessons of life and dance from her mother Padmashri Geeta Chandran. SHILPI SHUKLA meets the daughter and sees a mirror image of the mother...

(Photos: Lovejeet Alexander)

Daughter Sharanya (front) with mom Geeta Chandran

I didn't choose dance; it chose me. Born into a family with a tradition of dance, I never really had to make a conscious effort of having to—or for that matter not having to—attend a one-hour dance session every day. Dance was the done thing in our house. I began dancing at the age of four. 

Mom is a wonderful teacher. Dance is an extension of one's inner persona. You have to lead a certain lifestyle to be able to say what you are saying through your dance in a credible way. Mom has instilled in me the value of honesty and humility; not just in dance but in every aspect of life.

I still get overjoyed every time someone claps for her.Usually, during most of Mom's performances, I am busy with some task or the other backstage. But even then, when I hear the applause reverberating through the auditorium, I feel totally thrilled and amazed.

She's always open to suggestions. Despite over 30 years of dance experience to her credit, she is open to all the radical experiments that I suggest, even though I still have a lot left to learn from her. While we maintain theguru-shishya parampara, she has always given me the freedom to express myself freely during my stage performances.

Her diligence and energy amaze me. I have not seen anyone handling so many tasks at the same time—that too without cribbing, complaining or getting worn out. She teaches dance, performs on stage, works with her group; conceptualises fresh ideas for each performance; works out the music for her students' dance shows; attends social events…the list goes on. Phew! Mom is meaningfully occupied each and every hour of the day. And she has this amazing boundless energy and enthusiasm for life. Every time I see her multitasking so impeccably, I feel rejuvenated, and say to myself, "You can do it too!"

If only Mom was not as methodical [sighs]. We think alike and rarely fight. But my room is a sore issue between us. She is very meticulous. She believes in keeping everything in its rightful place. Every time she enters my room, she walks out expressing her deep disapproval about how unorganised I am and how my room is always in a state of mess. I fail to understand why she comes into my room when she knows what lies in wait for her [laughs]. We have now agreed to disagree with each other on this issue for the rest of our lives. So this leaves us with little scope for fights and debates.

Mom refuses to delegate. She is a workaholic. Even when it comes to trivial tasks, she will insist on doing it herself. While it's good to be hardworking and take charge of life, at times it is important to take things easy. She wants to handle everything herself, and ends up exerting a lot of pressure on her health and wellbeing. And that annoys me a lot.

We bond over riyaz. I look forward to practising with her every day. These are among our best family moments. This is when we get to talk to each other—as teacher and student, and mother and daughter—through the language of dance. Our best 'silent' conversations happen during riyaz.

Our family is our biggest asset. My father, mother and I prefer to spend time at home talking to each other rather than socialise or party aimlessly outside. We like to do things together as a family: attending social events and concerts; travelling; watching movies; listening to music; and sharing little mundane occurrences with each other and sometimes just sharing a comfortable quietude.

Mom and I are best buddies. Unlike most youngsters today, I can share almost everything with my mother. More than a mother, she's a great friend and a true confidant. I share the silliest thoughts and routine chores with her, and she is always all ears to my elaborate nonsensical conversations. Though she was a strict parent when I was in my teens, she never imposed her choices or decisions on me.

We are similar in every way but one. Both of us are hardworking, sincere, focused, perseverant, reserved and emotional. However, she is more straightforward and blunt, and I am more easygoing, like my father.

I often see a little girl in her. I don't know when the equation changed but now I find myself mothering her more than she mothers me. Whenever we go out, I tell her what to wear. Whether it is her dance performance, makeup, dress, health, food, sleep, or her tendency to be a workaholic, I often have to take care of the little girl in her. At times, I feel she needs me more than I need her now [smiles].

She taught me never to question the Almighty's decision. My grandfather expired a few days before my fifth birthday. All my birthday plans were cancelled that year. It was then that Mom persuaded everyone in our family to celebrate my birthday. Despite having a heavy heart, she thoughtfully went about making all arrangements for my special day. That memory holds a special place in my heart. Not only did she show her love and care for me but I learnt a great lesson: have faith in God and accept every difficult situation with a smile.

Performing with Mom enthrals and scares me. Being Geeta Chandran's daughter, the bar of excellence is set very high for me. So performing with her is as daunting as it is enjoyable. The most intimidating part is that she is so versatile and unpredictable while dancing that you never know when she might come up with a new step, leaving you totally baffled.

Mom is a champ. She is a real fighter. She does not care whether I win or lose, but she always urges me to give it my best shot. It's important to her how spiritedly I take up challenges. She has always maintained that participating is more important than winning; an attitude that has helped me make a mark in different fields at a very young age.

(Featured in  Harmony Magazine)


Ravinder Kalsi turns to art to seek solace and fight prejudice. 

Completely distraught after her husband's death in 1991, life was a bed of thorns for London-based Ravinder Kalsi. it was then that this mother of two, still only in her 40s, sought solace in a group of Muslim friends who encouraged her to pursue her education and make a career in the fine arts. Up until then, Kalsi had a bachelor's degree in fine art from India. Her newfound zeal saw her earn a master's degree in fine arts (international practice) from Kent Institute of Art & Design in the UK in 2005. 

At 68 today, she is a practising artist and curator today, exploring semiotics and her cultural roots through the digital arts. Her organisation, X-cross PolyNation, organises exhibitions/digital installations with cross-cultural themes in different parts of the world. Through the artists she promotes, this Sikh lady also promotes various religions, which, she explains, are sometimes misinterpreted. "No religion can ever teach hatred. Once can hate terrorism and violence but not any religion, for every religion preaches love," she explains. Kalsi's friends have left a deep impact on her. "It's payback time for me now. I wouldn't have been where I am today had it not been for those virtuous and kind-hearted Muslim friends. I owe my accomplishments to them," says Kalsi, who is working towards spreading the message of religious tolerance and helping marginalised Muslims by setting up a Sculpture Peace Park in Kent. On her vision for the park, she says, "It will be something that can be conceptualised and sold globally to highlight heritage, culture and Islamic beliefs."

Actively involved in social work as well, Kalsi organises and curates many art exhibitions as a voluntary art project director. Some charity associations she is associated with include the Red Cross, Future Hope, Save the Children, Interfaith and Vision Housing. This gutsy woman has also taught art as therapy to ex-offenders in London's prisons. "I now donate my art pieces to raise funds for charity. Having learnt a lesson in humanity from my Muslim friends, I really look forward to helping distressed people in every way I can." Kalsi is well-known in the Royal Societies and is affectionately called 'The Mrs Fix-It Lady' in these circles. Looking back upon her moments of pride, Kalsi says, "I recently received a standing ovation from members of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London, when I gave a presentation on the Sculpture Peace Park. Being an old Indian lady, that too single, it is quite heartening to receive such appreciation from the Royal Circle." Kalsi later also received a fellowship from RSA. For her exemplary contributions to the arts and social work, Kalsi has earned many accolades including the 2004 Millennium Award for Art Project for Carers in Maidstone, Kent, and the Elderly Accommodation Counsel's 2008 Art Award. She has twice been conferred the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award (Government of India) for an Achieving Artist.

Her knee joints don't allow her to bend or remain seated in one position for long. However, this doesn't deter Kalsi from making the most of life. "I consider myself 18. The remaining 50 are years of life experiences," beams the grandmother of six. Kalsi's daughters are both married and she lives on her own. But she's far from lonely. "My life has been quite eventful with lots of ups and downs. But it's been fun. I can't complain as have earned a lot of respect and love on my singular journey. Life's learning has been quite enriching."

(Photo: Lovejeet Alexander)

(Featured in Harmony magazine)