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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Henna for the Broken-Hearted : A Review

This was originally published in the July edition of DASHING MAGAZINE Pg 23-24

It was one of those days when nothing made sense. Life seemed like a meaningless itinerary I had to stick to, only the only places on it were work and home. I questioned life and its purpose. I sat at work wondering why I was there in the first place. Aimless blog hopping led me to a blog named ‘The diary of a white Indian housewife’. Piqued, mostly by a picture of a tall brunette clad in a red lehenga, I read more. In no time, I was on Flipkart looking for the cheapest copy of Henna for the Broken–Hearted.

This is one of those books you begin to like even before you read; it’s the essence of the theme, perhaps. This book, you can quite judge by its cover. The calm waves, a blend of azure and frothy white, nudging the side of a lonely boat and the intricately patterned teal floral designs on top of the cover page are certainly indicative of the pacifying story in the pages to follow. The illustrative description of the henna/mehendi designs adorning a woman’s palm and the possible implication of something on a level much beyond is nothing less than brilliant.

When Sharell’s husband breaks to her one day, that he is having an affair, it ruins her happiness and breaks her world apart. Suddenly life feels empty. Work was never fulfilling, but now, every second seems to bellow that into her ear. Lost and anguished, she decides to find a new life; one all for herself. She travels all the way to India, on a volunteering stint. In Kolkatta, where she stays initially, she meets a lot of new people: both Indians and visitors like her. One of those days, she meets Aryan, a rather calm and a calming man with a beautiful smile. There is definite attraction and liking. In India, Sharell finds something to keep her going, despite the initial glitches. She learns a lot, to adapt: hindi, handling the pestering vendors, bargaining, shooing away the pesky strangers and the nosey acquaintances and also what she sees as the amusing Indian washroom ways. Eventually, she quits her job back in Australia and moves to India. And that, she sees in hindsight as the best decision she ever made. The story goes on, along with Sharell, partying in Kolkotta, traveling to the Varkala beach down south and then high up in the valleys nestled in between the frozen white peaks of the Himalayas and then finally, to Mumbai which she makes her home and lives with Aryan for a long time to come.

Sharell puts out her emotions in every other paragraph of the book, hiding nothing. I empathized with her when she had a tough time fitting in, when she was gazed at by strangers, when she was unsure and scared and angry. To anyone that’s unsure or scared, the book is comforting and heartening. Sharell becomes a new friend, you relate to. Suddenly, all that you thought was not practical seems plausible. It certainly leaves one with conviction and hope.

If you’re looking for just any good book to lounge with after work, parts of this book might seem like a repetitive rant. You might not want to read twenty two times in two hundred pages about someone longing to run home and hide herself from people to find solace. Forty instances of the concept of Indian time, unexpected visits and wet bathrooms might not be the best choice for a world you want to engross yourself in. The zigs and the zags and the ceaseless vacillation can cause the book to get slightly draggy. The writing style is simple, too simple that it may seem dreary. At a point, my dream to write a book didn’t seem like a task as colossal as I thought it to be. However, this book is certainly more about the experiences and emotions it recounts than the writing itself, which can cause you to overlook the latter.

As the name goes, Sharell soothes the broken-hearted, inspiring them to keep faith. For all the others, it can be a fascinating read about a brave girl, a seemingly unfeasible decision and inconstant, nomadic life which all ends well or a passable almost daily written diary of a white Indian housewife.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From a stereotyping hypocrite...

Arnab’s voice rises up, as he dramatically bellows out “Your channel poses a question; a question that the nation has in mind. Is Bollywood perpetuating stereotypes…” And the debate continues, with panelists desperately attempting to complete a sentence without being cut short by Arnab. The questions are rhetorical perhaps; he appears to have no interest in the answers. He seems more resolute on dramatically shooting shouting out more questions in relatively higher pitches of his ear-splitting voice. One of the panelists is evidently stifling a smile at the drama happening; it isn’t just me finding the talk funny.

Down south, everyone is all enraged. At ShahRukh Khan for Chennai Express. I suspect it’s mostly because of his earlier antics such as his famed “Enna rascala dai mind it” which ignorant people recited repeatedly in pride, to show the Tamilians they knew a new language. The rage, I think mostly about the men ShahRukh is flanked by. How comical the state would be if Tamil men actually don gaudy lungis while sporting a mammoth, hairy pot belly that causes the lungi line to drop to a massive U and Tamil women sounded like Deepika! What if it wasn't just Vadivelu walking around in boxers that reveal their unabashed self below the folded lungi. It would be a "bokwas" state if it was Shah Rukh’s way in actuality. Oh did you notice the difference in skin color between the whites at the forefront and the Tamils surrounding, in the poster? The contrast is starker than in my grandmother’s ‘contrast pattu sarees’. Bring in a few more whites and rearrange them; Voila: a human chess board. Someone tweets, “The men in Chennai Express look like the cohorts of Tamil movie villains.” and I wonder why no one ever called that stereotyping. Who said bad Tamil men aren't fair-skinned? In the same Tamil movies, the women always manage to look like walking goddesses. They even make us forget that they are just walking figurines mostly a result of the brilliance of make-up artists, sellers of cosmetics and Veet of course. Poor men, even their stereotypes are ugly.

But big deal! These are movies after all. Similar to what a caricature is of a person, an unreal and hyperbolic representation of reality, like this movie, exaggerates aspects of the subject it represents. If we can enjoy comics, if Anna Hazare is okay with cartoons that give him a mammoth sized parrot nose, we got to learn to be okay with wearing lungis on screen. How sad is it if we aren't okay with a joke made out of us? If the comedy isn't hilarious enough, laugh at the attempt or the movie itself. I did that watching Aiyya and it was a jolly good evening. 

Talking about stereotyping.. to the richer nations, India is that crowded picture that TLC paints of us: we pray to cows, charm snakes, read palms and prophesize, spend hours in the yoga room, ride buffalos and horses on the roads, sit on the pavement dressed in rags and scream things raucously in the already cacophonous street where vehicles try to find a way to get through the stubborn crowds. We are too many people and too small a land that we can mostly be found in herds doing the aforementioned. It was funny when Oprah got her backsides kicked and handed to her after her melodramatic show of poverty in India and not so much when Slum Dog Millionaire was resented for its biased exposé of a few aspects handpicked from the massive arsenal of “the world’s most diverse country”. Anyone stereotypes us, we get all mad; we run on the roads, burn effigies and paint their pictures with coal. And our channel calls Harsha Bhogle or Khushbhoo or any person they find, so Arnab can do what he does: let’s not talk about that further. The whole of India jumps up and down. And then in the evening, we sit down for tea. We talk about the world and politics and then about countries like Somalia. Arrey you don’t know Somalia? It is that country with malnourished children and anorexic people. It has dangerous, life-threatening insects too; it’s in Africa after all.

Stereotyping is an amalgam of partial comprehension, ignorance, creativity and a lot of exaggeration. It’s human to classify and stereotype. We can’t abstain from it, yet we make a loud hoo-ha when it’s not us that’s doing the doing. What hypocrisy!

And I talk about hypocrisy: again, what hypocrisy! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The magic of music

I fidgeted with the TV remote while cosying on the beanbag and listening to a peppy tamil movie song. The song ended and the next one began. Vijay walked his funny stylish walk and Shalini looked her usual pretty self as Ennai Thalatta Varuvala began to play. I watched on in spite of uneasiness that crept in. Memories gushed in. I was 8 but half the size of the other 8 year olds. Appa used to drag me along to the swimming pool, every morning that summer. Mani, the swim coach who strangely taught us to swim without for a second getting into the pool himself, used to lift me up in both arms, swing and throw me right into the middle of the deep side of the pool. He would then stand outside, fully dry and yelling “Adi ma, adi” (translates effectively to ‘keep swimming’). The peculiar thing about me was that I used to keep swimming; yet I almost never moved or even drowned. I’d repeat the stroke just as I was taught, till I could do it no more. Then I’d give up and gasp for breath while blobbling in the engulfing waters. That’s when another old man would put a pole into the pool and I’d hold on to the end as he’d out pull my negligible load. I’d get out, run to the coconut tree in the corner and cry. I’d act like I need to puke. Mani would run behind tiny me in a pink swimsuit, drag me back to the pool and throw me back in. And through this trauma, there was one song that unfailingly played every day. This one. And 14 years later , even today, the song makes me anxious and tense. That, I realized is the influence of music.

Music gets easily coupled with events or phases in life. The link becomes so intense that listening to the music at any point of life, evokes the related memories. Play Teenagersby My Chemical Romance or Avril’s Complicated and I can’t help that it reminds me of all the pressure I put myself through because of college entrance tests and admissions. And the beginning of college has its own list of songs. TeriYadein is certainly right on top there. Play the opening music of Replay and my mind would drift away to my long ago beachy Pondy weekend. We all have a set of such songs we hold close.

I’ve always believed music is the strongest of all tools of expression. It magically takes a person from one extreme in the band of emotions to the farthest end on the other side. It can titillate the listener’s fury and soothe him into shedding soft tears, make the whole of him reverberate till he jumps up charged, bring back memoirs and make him wistful, cause him to dream a utopian life with the woman he is in love with, brighten up the evening and even make him get on the table and dance.

When one feels music and not merely listens to it, the feeling is like no other; it’s incredible. And that is precisely why singers are the most blessed of people. What power one must possess to kindle such emotions in many random minds! Just the ides of it is overwhelming. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good-bye summer!

I decided to leave office early, like almost every other day.

I packed my stuff, waited for the elevator that weirdly takes forever to turn up (in spite of there being 6 or 8 of them), got on a relatively crowded one, went down 7 floors, walked to the exit and then realized it was pouring. I had to wait a while for the rain to abate before I could leave. In spite of my not-so-awesome health state, I decided to ride my Scooty home while enjoying the drizzle. Something told me it was going to be a pleasing evening.

I draped my stole around my head, sub-consciously ensuring that every inch of it was covered. I put on my sun glasses and let the bright white ambiance turn into autumn-y yellow. I twisted the accelerator n off I went. It felt nice to not have the sun venting its fury all over. It felt nice to touch my forearm and not feel the heat. This was the first ride this month that did not remind me of the full-arm gloves I had still not bought.

I turned into the main road; my stole stuck itself to my cheeks as the wind hit my cloaked face hard. I could feel the end of my stole fly up, stay taut and almost horizontal. Rain drops that hit my sun glasses stayed there blurring my vision of the road. A photographer would’ve envied my view of the drops: So perfect and fresh. The road looked like a Sepia image through my yellowish-brown glasses. The song ‘Radioactive’ refused to stop playing in my mind. I gave in to temptation and sang along - loudly and possibly in a cacophonous tune, but it didn’t matter. I felt liberated as I let myself loose. Just then, a biker whizzed past, causing the huge puddle on the road to spray its abundance on me. On any other day, such bad road etiquette might have pissed me off. Not this day. I sang merrily as I turned the accelerator a little more towards myself; my Scooty tore through a larger puddle, like ice skating blades scything through fresh ice. Water splashed on the biker almost soaking the man’s pants. I rode past smirking and savoring the guilty pleasure.

At the signal, I watched a little girl put her tiny hand out of the car window. I watched her giggle as a huge rain drop dropped on her palm. I watched her mom beam as she watched her girl. I saw two little boys jumping and bouncing in the middle of a puddle on the roadside. I could sense the elation when one of them managed to kick quite a lot of water onto the other’s face. I smiled as I watched them all. The light turned green. I rode past Nadini Café. As unbelievable as it may sound, I could smell the aroma of dosa cooked in ghee, on the road. I silently lamented not being at home munching on home-made dosas. I stopped at the super market on the way home, picked up a packet of batter.

And here I am on my balcony eating sour dosas (and wondering why they turned out sour). The view from here is lovely. The weather is breezy and refreshing. So is the evening.

Let’s hope summer has left our land, for the year.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eager and hopeful


To be able to travel is a blessing. What can be more fulfilling than seeing everything there is to see in this world we live in? Every bit of me yearns to see so much.

I have traveled a little- Except for a week in the UK and two months in the US with my family, not so much outside India. I was quite young then, when we traveled across the USA. It was the summer of 2008. I still remember New York so fondly. I remember how I was fascinated by the Times Square: the humongous screens, the neon colors, the illuminated signs, the huge structures, the advertisements. I remember how the place was so busy. There were the tourists looking up in awe, quite typical of the place and the others, walking on hastily in different directions, like they all had something important to finish right away. They must’ve been the locals. I remember how my brother and I were thrilled and ecstatic when we spotted Mark Henry (or a man who resembled him too much) outside the RAW stadium. But much beyond all of this was the Liberty island. The view from the island – the waters leading to the impeccably picturesque New York skyline was a sight to behold. That picture, I still have safe in my mind. The Liberty Island gave me some kind of peace. It felt different, different in a tranquilizing way. I was proud that in a city as urban, metropolitan, busy and noisy as New York, I had found my quiet soothing spot. New York will always be special.

I wish I had been a little older and much wiser then. I wish I had appreciated what I saw better. I wish I had traveled the way I would now. But there is no place for regret where there is hope and time. There’s a whole life left, to do this and more, my way.

A large part of my traveling (otherwise) has been quite vicarious. I spend hours of ardent reading on travel blogs. They have taught me one important thing - the most beautiful places are always the unknown ones one finds on exploring. Every post I read, every picture I see of all the travel sites I’ve subscribed to, every time I think of Paris, Greece, the Caribbean, Australia, Sikkim and so much more, my desire to travel intensifies. This has all inspired me to want to travel-write. I hope that someday, my travel diary narrates delightful stories about interesting people, adventurous trips and unbelievable scenes, just like the ones I follow. The start is not too far away. Find my new travel blog here

Tomorrow is the day I leave. Three days in Bombay. Four in Lonavala. Half a day in Pune. And 24 hours of traveling by train – something I have been missing sorely. I hope it is an enriching week. 

Eager and hopeful,
Ashwini

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If Only


Mr. Eric Arildson looked at his watch and sighed. It was 9 o clock. He was late, by his standards. He liked arriving ten minutes earlier, on important occasions. This was the most important of all such conventions he’d been in. In the next one hour he’d meet one of the most influential men in the country. The limo slowed down and came to a halt outside The Plaza. The chauffeur opened the door for him and he climbed out of the car.

It was a sunny day, the weather was perfect for the game of baseball that little Frank wanted to play. He remembered he had promised to take Frank and Bambi, their little terrier to the park to play with the other kids from school. Mark, his deputy, interrupted his thoughts. “Sir, I consulted three different financial advisors anonymously. Three other than our own. They’re all in favor of this buy. This could accelerate us to the top of the market in less than a year”. Eric murmured a cursory line of consent as he nodded. Mark knew it was best to stay quiet noticing his boss’ indifference. In spite of being the owner and Director of one of New York’s top real estate companies, Mr.Arildson wasn’t a very happy man. After he lost his wife to a tragic accident a couple of years earlier, nothing mattered to him. Unbelievable as it may sound, success did not elate him anymore; it had become a habit. He worked hard only to keep his mind off the sadness. He did not even smile when he was voted and awarded the Entrepreneur of the year by the NY Times. The only thing that cheered him up was the sight of his son. He loved the boy and his innocent giggle like laugh. He could spend hours with his little boy, only he had no time. He had hired a full-day nanny and a number of servants to make sure the boy got all that he wanted.

Eric along with Mark walked into the conference room on the 12th floor. The room was well lit. The décor was sophisticated – mahogany walls with tasteful pieces of art, deep green carpets and beautiful chandeliers. The room reminded Eric of Larika’s place. She was a beautiful, lovely woman he had met six months ago. He really liked her. She made him feel alive again. He wanted to move on and she seemed like the perfect woman. He had just never found the time for her. His pondering was ended abruptly by Mark’s loud sneeze followed by his characteristic “excusez-moi”. In the conference room, there was one table and at one end of it was the biggest business magnate of the city, seated with his retinue standing beside him. Eric strode across briskly and shook hands with the man. After exchanging some pleasantries, they got to business. Eric skimmed through the documents placed in front of him, perfunctorily. Mark had got them checked with their lawyer for loopholes. As Eric took out his pen from the pocket of his suit, a small yellow note fell off the pen’s clip on to his lap. He stared at the note. In the most childlike cursive writing he had ever seen, it said, “Daddy, I am turning 6 tuday. You fergot?“ It broke Eric’s heart. He had let Frank down. He did not know how he could have forgotten this day! It was the most beautiful, fulfilling one of all those days. Eric could feel all eyes in the room on him. He could sense inquisitiveness around. He could see one of the standing men lean slightly to get a peek at the note. He looked up at him as he neatly placed the note back in his pocket; the man turned red. He signed the documents in less than a minute, stood up as he murmured an inaudible “emergency”, then turned away and paced out of the room with no other word of parting.

Eric buzzed his chauffeur. He walked around the waiting room in circles vigorously. He had forgotten his son’s birthday. He did not know he had learnt cursive handwriting. He did not know his son needed tutoring on spellings. He was an awful father. He did not want to wait to be better; he sprinted towards the gate and hailed the first taxi that came along. As he got in, he thought of how life would have been if he had let Mark handle the businesses for him. He would have taken Frank to the games, the park, and the movies and everywhere else. He would have asked Larika to marry him. They would have been a perfect family. They would’ve played charades, sang songs, eaten pizza and spilt cheese all over and played pillow-fight with Frank. He would’ve taken them on a vacation to the Caribbean to play on the beach and build sand-castles. His dream was disrupted by an earsplitting crash. He screamed as something pierced through his neck. The taxi had crashed into a heavy transportation truck. Eric whimpered in pain. He could not shout for help; there was no sound when he tried. He cried, making as much noise as he could. The pain was severe and agonizing. He saw a man running towards the car. After that, he saw nothing. It was all black. It still hurt terribly. It was tormenting. A minute later, it stopped hurting too.

If only Eric knew the day was looming.

Source: www.sodahead.com


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Do you have a bucket-list?

This is something I wrote for ThoughtCatalog.com. It did not get featured. So I found a place for it here. 

Some events add words to your vocabulary for eternity, like no amount of rote learning can - words that you never knew existed the day before. In some cases, words that did not actually exist the day before. Our word here is “BucketList”: a word that Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson effortlessly added to everyone’s lexicon and to many many Facebook status messages. It’s probably the most clichéd, banal, overused word online, yet still the coolest. Scroll down to every pic that has a caption “Bucket List – item1 – CHECK” and it cannot possibly have less than a hundred likes. That’s the power of this word.

Go on Google and by the time you’re done typing the words, auto-suggest suggests “Bucket List ideas”. And that shows people are actually putting some effort into creating their lists. . That’s how necessary and indispensable the list has become. Everyone’s got to have a list. And in this cool list, there are some items that EVERYONE has. They are very stereotypical. But if everyone has them, there’s got to be something amazing about them.

1.   Bungee Jumping: Imagine this. A cliff in an abandoned expanse. No one around, except for the Bungee Jumping organizer guys, of course. There’s peace. I scream and it echoes back. There’s water down there, down down there. It looks quite far away. God knows how many meters. Or kilometers? There’s green everywhere. It’s mid-day, yet I can’t see the sun. It isn’t bright or dark. It’s just the mild ambiance that you’d want. I breathe in and it feels fresh. It feels like I’m inhaling pure oxygen, for the first time. The impending jump would raise my excitement/anxiety levels to an all-time high. Fear would make me want to step back. But the jump needs just a second, and after that there’s no backing out. My shrill shriek through it will slice through the silence characteristic of the place. I’d come back up, feeling awesome about myself. And the place would be back to being tranquil and soothing.
What an experience that would be. This definitely goes on my list.

2.  Travel to Paris: Who doesn’t want to visit Paris? I’m not sure if it’s the romantic aspect of the city or if it’s the hot French men or the idea of kissing under the Eiffel tower or the vineyards in France or the fact that it’s the fashion capital of the world or if it’s something else altogether. May be it’s all of this combined. But this is one place on everyone’s to-do list. Even in movies, it’s Paris that people go to when they need a break from the monotony. It’s always ‘But I’ve never been to Paris’ that one says when one knows that death is looming. Paris is seen as a fun, sexy, beautiful place, all over the world. Paris is undoubtedly intriguing.
j'irai à Paris un de ces jours. :)

3.  Sky-diving: That’s one experience I will give myself. It will probably kill me, but it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be out of the world. Can you imagine that feeling before the actual jump? Damn. And the jump, I’m sure my stomach’s going to be in my mouth. But that’s one thing I will do, no matter what.

4.  Visit the exotic country called India (Indians choose to vacation in Hawaii instead):  Sometimes, all one wants to do is to try something completely different. Something completely different from ones country. That’s the time to visit India. The country overflowing with tradition can help you find your lost self. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people. Taj Mahal and its history must be inspiring. Kerala, down south, I’m sure, is a beautiful place. I’d love to visit India and take in all of the perspective it provides. I want to visit the beautiful temples. I’d love to learn Yoga and meditation. I’d like to see the Himalayas. This visit will give me peace like nothing else can, I’m sure of that.

But if you’re an Indian, like I am: Hawaii looks like the world’s most fun place. I’ve never never surfed my whole life. And what can be more awesome than learning to from some hot surfer. Canoeing might be fun too. An evening by the beach, some friends, many newly made friends, everyone clad in Hawaiian attire, some music, a lot of Hula dancing – now that seems like a perfect evening I’ll remember all my life. The beaches, the parties, the flowers, the bathing suits, the sun baths, the coconut shells, the Hula dance, the food, the music.. This place reeks of fun. It’s got to be the perfect spot for a fun vacation.

5.  Scuba Diving: Be it the Red Sea in Egypt or Mexico’s Le Paz or the Andaman islands in India, scuba diving seems to me like something I should try. I don’t know if it will be different in different places, but every time I see a picture of someone Scuba diving, it brings back my desire to travel and explore the world. There’s something about this that incites curiosity. The blue is always crystal clear. The corals look so pretty. And the idea of taking some time off to cohabit with the fish and the sea animals seems wonderful. This is different than every other activity that seems adventurous. This isn’t about the fear or the excitement. This is calm and beautiful. There is no anxiety whatsoever. It’s going to be lovely, nothing else, but lovely.
I’m going scuba diving some day!

6.  Back-packing through Europe: When can I go back-packing if not sometime now? This would be a very very economical trip. No resorts. Nothing extravagant. It would be simply exploring. I want to go all around Europe. I want to see it all – the monuments, the mountains, the lakes, the beaches, the people, the parties, the villages, the houses, the food, the music, the languages, the traditions, the festivals – all of it. I want to go on a Gondola. I so want to inhale the beauty of the Scandinavian countries. I want to eat freshly made Swiss chocolates. I want to see ancient Rome and Vatican and Spain. I want to stay in tents, hostels and homestays. I want to eat food from the vendors on the road. I want to meet new people and make new friends. I want to feel the place the local way.
Oh gosh, I want to do this.

7.  Climb some mountain: Nothing can feel more on top of the world than actually being quite on top of the world. It would be fun to actually mean the phrase, literally and metaphorically. This could be some hill/mountain on the Himalayas or the Alps or the Rockies or even a regionally known relatively smaller range of mountains. It doesn’t matter which. The view from up there would be spectacular. It would be an overwhelming feeling.

Some of these items, I wonder if we want to do them because it’s fun to do them or because we want to feel the after-having-done-them feeling. Whatever the reason maybe, each item is a new experience. And that’s surely worth it.

A bucket-list is a must-have. Clichéd to an indescribable extent, maybe. But who cares!! I have a list and mine has all of these and many more (including getting featured on ThoughtCatalog, which I'm working on)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

You Never Know!


1.
He could see red. It was more like vermillion. Something shone bright. It felt like he was staring into the sun. His eyes cautiously half-opened, only to see sunshine easing its way in through as Nupa raised the blinds and grinned that grin he remembered from the first time he saw her. His feeling of fondness was interrupted by flashes of red; this time, a deeper shade. In what felt like less than a second, reality took over. The previous night’s events inundated his mind like a tornado attacking an unsuspecting town. Fear paralyzed the whole of him. Guilt engulfed him. That he slept blissfully after his sinful act sickened his guts. He could still see it all fresh in his mind. She couldn’t scream, he had gagged her. She was powerless, his little one. He remembered how her eyes welled up in pain. She wriggled and twisted. It was a deep slit; the collar of her favorite purple top was soaked in blood. The stars on the collar weren’t even visible. He saw how she dreaded him that minute, it killed him inside. She was his only baby daughter. He couldn’t see her writhe in pain. He just couldn’t. Yet, he did, for a whole minute. He wept; he stood there watching her and let his tears gush down as they did. He’d sworn to kill, if any man hurt his little girl; he never never saw himself there. What else could he have done? She knew too much. If she said a word about Riya outside, it would ruin his life forever, and not just his. Nupa would never forgive him. Everyone would despise him. It was a choice between his everything and his little girl. He had to let her go. He remembered how he saw the girl freeze. He was trembling as he closed her door shut and walked to his room where his wife was asleep and sleep-talking. He could not recollect how he slept through the night. He wondered if the little one had told her friends what she had seen earlier that week. What if she had? How would he face Nupa if she found out? The thought of it petrified him. Riya was one thing. He had slaughtered what Nupa loved, more than she loved him. He’d be known as the beast who slayed his own little one. He was a murderer. He was a bastard; he was disgusted. He closed his eyes.

He sat upright, watched Nupa as she walked across the room; he smiled a contrived smile. He was glad when she smiled back; Nupa hadn’t noticed the sweat on his forehead.


2.
He could see red. It was more like vermillion. Something shone bright. It felt like he was staring into the sun. His eyes cautiously half-opened only to see sunshine easing its way in through as Nupa raised the blinds and grinned that grin he remembered from the first time he saw her. She was still that lovely beautiful woman he had met nineteen years back; how he loved her! It was the thought of her and their little girl asleep in the other room that kept him a very happy man. The little one was going to turn 14, she wanted to go for a sleepover. It felt unbelievable that their little bundle of happiness had grown up so much; he was overwhelmed. His eyes filled up every time he brought back memories from the day Nupa delivered her. They were blessed. He got out of bed walked to Nupa and kissed her forehead. He concocted what the little girl called Daddy’s Sunday Strawberry Smoothie and walked to her room to wake her up. He twisted the knob; the door squeaked as it opened. He dropped the glass. He screamed as he scampered towards where his baby girl lay. Nupa rushed to the room in alarm, she stopped at the door. He felt the girl’s wrist and banged his fist on the edge of the cot. Nupa stood motionless. She couldn’t see; it was blurry. An appalling shade of red was all she saw. The shards of glass that she had stepped on didn’t hurt her foot. Her only child was no more. She wailed deafeningly. Then again, hysterically. He’d sworn to kill, if any man ever hurt his little girl. That second, he knew he’d find the man and rip his ribs out. Only, nothing would bring back his girl. It killed his insides to see her frozen.

He was to blame. He whispered to Nupa that it was his fault, all his. He shouldn’t have left his only child alone. He sobbed uncontrollably. He never had his whole life.


P.S. : The above is a fictitious narration, inspired by the unsolved Aarushi murder case about which numerous stories/theories were conjured.  I shudder when I wonder what the man in case 2 would go through, if he were accused of murder. The world could get sadistic sometimes.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Let's talk about life!


It’s a beautiful morning. Unlike most other post-nightmare mornings, I woke up this morning after abruptly cutting short a very happy and delightful dream. That makes me wonder, a dream feels so real – almost as real as REAL- one can actually feel real emotions during/after a dream. That’s really awesome simulation. Nature always has a way of beating technology, and the former does is so naturally and easily. That’s like when ‘love’ protects Harry when the darkest and most powerful magic fails the dark Lord. Anyway, let me nor digress. My dream, coming back there, I vaguely remember dancing exultantly. I was ecstatic, I’ve no idea why. I did have a good night, like it matters if it was all only in my head. I’m so happy, I don’t even remember the mood dampening stuff of yesterday evening. It’s truly a beautiful morning.

This looks like the ideal day to start afresh. ‘A new beginning’ – Now how fresh and positive does that sound? The freshness reminds me of a pretty dew drop majestically seated on pristine green leaf that’s forced to do a graceful dance thanks to the pleasantly cold wind. That’s perhaps how the phrase ‘turn over a new leaf’ was coined. Apologies if anything I write today sounds like crap. My mind is on one of its overly excited and restless days. Please excuse me and my temporarily capricious mind for its unsystematic, arbitrary and interrupting thoughts. Coming back to this morning that’s so bright yet beautifully sober, it makes me want to start living life. Living life wonderfully, the way it’s to be lived. Life that’s a routine is not just monotonous and depressing, but ironical. Life- the word, the sound of it – it gives an idea of depth and intriguing beauty. Close your eyes and say it aloud while still whispering and you will feel it too. That reminds me of one day back in school, when my French ma’am asked all of us to say the word ‘aujourd’hui’ aloud with our eyes closed. When you know the meaning of a word, it in a way reverberates along with the sound of it. It’s wonderful. Damn, I should stop myself from digressing. It’s funny how the mind meanders into random thoughts when you unleash it! Haven’t we all had a day when we started somewhere and went zig-zag-zig and completely forgot what we were talking about?! Oh I did that AGAIN.

I was talking about life. Isn’t it the most mysterious of all things around? While in a tough situation or when I can’t take something any longer, I wonder if life is real. I wonder if the day before really happened; if our memories of the past are true. What if our past is nothing but data recorded in our heads like the thoughts in a pensieve? What if I was being fooled?  I wonder if the next morning will make me realize it was all a dream. I remember I wondered all this before my board exams; I remember wondering if my exams even mattered. I also remember having no other way but to stop thinking crap and study through the night. It’s all so intriguing.

Source: dianamajalahti.com
While I still have this life, I want to live it. I want to live it today, the way I dream of living it someday. Today could be the last day. How I’d regret in heaven if this mystery ended without me having visited the Caribbean? Or wait, there’s France. I swore to myself while in French class, that I’d one day sharpen my French and then visit the country. How I’d sit in heaven and watch a lot of you traveling and exploring and shopping and die for the second time, this time of jealousy. Regret is the worst feeling there is. My team at work tells me I should learn to be more proactive. That’s a sign! On the same day random and aimless clicks on fb led me to one article I just had to read. I’ve been having sudden moments of realization lately. I realized yesterday that I’m 22 and if life’s become a droning routine, there’s got to be something wrong with the way I’m living it. I’ve been discussing traveling, a lot. It can’t be simply coincidental that all of this happens together. It feels like the world’s trying to tell me something.

Source: Google
I love to travel. It’s an amazing feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but beautiful places inspire me to an unbelievable extent. It’s an overwhelming feeling. The Grand Canyon, for instance, I loved the tranquil of it. I could just stand and stare a whole day. From up there, the river Colorado with its waters rising and receding monstrously and aggressively looks like a peaceful, very pretty teal strip undulating amidst the vastness of rocks and boulders of various shades of brown. It’s gorgeous. It’s humbling, the magnificence of it. This is the feeling I long to feel. Not just that, so much more. I want to visit new places, take a stroll on the streets. I want to satiate my curiosity, I want to explore. I want to watch people, meet some and live life their way while I’m there. I want to eat their food and drink their drinks. In any place I visit, I want to understand the history, embrace the culture, and inhale the beauty. I want to shop and of course I want to dress up their way. I want new and refreshing experiences. I want new perspectives. I want to understand people better. I want to see life differently. I want to travel, explore, and fall in love with my life.

Source: writingthroughthefog.com

I want to begin to live life. I want to begin to feel life. Today is the day to start afresh. A new beginning.



Thursday, January 17, 2013

A not-so-feministic post by a feminist


Disregarding all my grace, I heaved myself awkwardly on a friend’s bike’s strangely high pillion seat. He took off in full speed. As the wind hit my face hard, and tears ran sideways and flew out of my face, I took a second to figure out what I could see on the pavement on my left: A candle-light march. I did not need to be told why; It was all India had in mind. I got a glimpse of a placard saying “Women are not objects of sex”. In a second, we zipped past and the protest was nowhere in sight.

Through the ride, while I was trying to keep my highly tied pony-tail from staying horizontal cause of the wind, I pondered over what the placard said. I wondered if that would ever change or if it could. I still wonder.
Source : http://everythingethics.wordpress.com

Let’s not talk about rape or any kind of abuse here. Men who rape are cruel, cold-blooded, callous, animals. Let’s talk about humans, not them. Let’s simply talk about how women are viewed in our society.

We women, we blog, rant and grumble about how it is impossible to take a stroll on the Indian roads without being scrutinized head to toe, in detail, by random scoundrel-like fellows. We get infuriated at the men, at their uncouthness and at our own helplessness. I grit my teeth when people blame not-so-much covering clothes. I hate that our attire should be a criterion, but I quite know it is and hence dress consciously. We all put away the dresses and tank tees while in a conservative town/area to avoid the stares. But otherwise, we dress at our own accord. There is life back in our wardrobes; nothing beats the feeling of walking into a party all dressed up and feeling good about it. Now which girl would disagree? But, hang on, did someone tell you that men in the city don’t check girls out? NO. You know for a fact that they do. You know so well that the well-dressed gentleman who apologized to you more profusely while handing you your clutch that he never caused to drop in the first place than you would have if you had stepped on his toe with your stiletto’s heel, was simply trying to hit on you cause of how hot you looked in that dress. Still, you smiled back; you did secretly enjoy the attention, didn’t you? You still wondered why all men couldn’t be as chivalrous. You dressed up to feel good or because you love and want to flaunt your new dress or cause you wanted to look as good as your girlfriends. You might not have dressed up to grab the attention of the good-looking man at the bar. Yet, when your girlfriend told you that her guy friend finds you sexy, didn’t a small tiny tiny bit of you feel ecstatic? No you certainly did not want to have sex with him. But it did feel good to be attractive and surely it did feel good coming from a guy. Now, let me you get reminded of the man in a lungi who earlier that day, loudly, with no intention of not being heard, articulated “ey itemmm daa!” and then jeered at you along with his friends. It disgusts you, the mere thought. Has it ever occurred to you that it’s just the sophistication in the former that comforts us women? Men are the same, everywhere.

Men in small not-so-modern towns don’t exactly get to see women attired skimpily or very fashionably. Women in these places usually adhere to the town’s not-so-modern expectations. A woman who walks the road bravely dressed in shorts on a summer morning will naturally cause more than a head to turn. You’d get the gaze not just from the men, the women too. However, for a city bred man, a woman in a halter necked top would be nothing new. He’d ‘ve mastered a way to scan the vicinity sub-consciously and put in some effort to look only in selective cases.  Even in those cases, the man would look in a way where either the lady’d never realize or she would and would covertly relish the attention. Try a bikini in a city and see how many eyes follow you; even the sophistication will evaporate then. Or walk into a pub on ladies’ night and see how many men wait outside and request random girls to help them get past the bouncers posing as a couple. Why would a man want to pay for a couple-entry ticket to a pub on ladies’ night, knowing every drink would cost him? Quite obvious, isn’t it? Let’s leave aside random men; our own guy friends check girls out all the time, don’t they? Mine do it so religiously like it’s some duty earmarked to them by manhood. I sit with them either bored or I join them, only I check out the woman’s outfit. It’s fun, sometimes. We all have such friends and we find it perfectly okay. Yet, we complain when the roadside men do the same.

My point of contention here is that all men are the same; we know it. We are comfortable with the more sophisticated ones for they never make us feel violated and unsafe. They never make us wish we had a blanket to cover ourselves up. We secretly seek the attention of the sophisticated men but we want the other ones to look away. And that, well, is probably asking for too much.

Probing further, almost every man watches porn, your brother does, your friend does, they all do. I’m not saying women don’t, but that’s irrelevant here. Porn’s easily available everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It’s legal too. Now doesn’t porn objectify women in a sexual way? Of course it does. And do we women particularly want to illegalize it? No, because most of us believe it’s normal for a man to want to watch this stuff.

When Katrina dances singing “I know you want it but you’re never gonna get it, Tere haath kabhi na aani…… Duniya yeh saari mere ishq ki hai deewani”, we dance along, we sing along. Clearly we aren’t going to demur at this, how can we forget freedom of speech? We are broad-minded and progressive, it’s cheap to even wonder if this is okay. It doesn’t matter if she objectifies herself in the song. It’s just a song. Only, there some men who know they’re really never get it, and can’t take their eyes off a woman when they get a chance. But forget that, let’s dance to ‘Shieela, Shiela ki jawaani…”.

Some men who have no exposure to such women in real life, can’t help that they look at women around in a sexual way, more so if there is exposure of skin. It’s natural that a woman loves to bring out her grace, beauty and elegance in the way she goes about things. And it’s natural that men are attracted to women, more so if she emanates poise and good looks. I’m neither saying porn should be illegalized nor that item numbers should be banned. I’m not saying women shouldn’t dress up the way they want, I love to dress up too. I’m simply saying women have always been objectified. That doesn’t mean any man can have sex with a woman when it isn’t consensual. It simply talks about how a woman is viewed in our world : a sexual object. Knowingly or unknowlingly, we ‘ve accepted it and we object to only some aspects that we don't like. This is reality and it might just never change.

Or it just might, some far away day. We need to stop doing a lot of crap that we do in the name of culture. We need to demystify sex. We need to stop rousing curiosity by giving sex the notorious importance that it's given today. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject at all. The stereotypes associated with women should be disregarded.  People have to stop stopping boys and girls from hanging out together. It’s important that everyone understands and learns to handle people of the other gender. No that isn’t bad culture; it’s such misinterpreted ideas injected into our minds that have gotten us here. Let’s focus on the right things and let’s hope to see some change some day.

P.S. :  As mentioned earlier, nothing can justify any act of abuse of any kind. No man has the right to cash in on his physical strength to exploit a woman verbally/physically/sexually. What is a world that makes half its people feel unsafe and afraid?! Let’s fight for our cause and not give up till we feel safe. Till that blessed day arrives, let’s walk around with peper-spray (http://www.chilliguard.com/)

P.P.S. : The ideas in this article are inspired by that of a friend. I denied and got angry when I couldn’t refute his arguments. It took a lot of self-debating to convince my feminist side that he was quite right.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interview : Sruthy Venky, Miss Madras 2012

My interview with Miss Madras 2012 - Sruthy Venky got featured in Dashing Magazine's January edition.
Click here to read the interview. Page 22-26.

This is my first attempt at this. I'd love to take feedback of any kind.
Thanks in advance.

Cheers
Ashwini