Saturday, December 26, 2015

Decorate Yourself

An excerpt from Big Magic...
.... I have a neighbour who gets tattoos all the time.
Her name is Eileen. She acquires new tattoos the way I might acquire a new pair of cheap earrings - just for the heck of it, just on a whim. She wakes up some mornings in a funk and announces, "I think I'll go get a new tattoo today." If you ask Eileen what kind of tattoo she's planning on getting, she'll say, "Oh, I dunno. I'll figure it out when I get to the tattoo shop. Or I'll let the artist surprise me."
Now, this woman is not a teenager with impulse-control issues. She's a grown woman, with adult children, who runs a successful business. She's also very cool, uniquely gorgeous, and one of the most free spirits I've ever met. When I asked her once how she could allow her body to be marked up so casually with permanent ink, she said, "Oh, but you misunderstood! It's not permanent. It's just temporary."
Confused, I asked, "you mean, all your tattoos are temporary?"
She smiled and said, "No, Liz. My tattoos are permanent; it's just my body that's temporary. So is yours. we're only here on earth for a short while, so I decided a long time ago that I wanted to decorate myself as playfully as I can, while I still have time."........
.....And so goes the book. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Look around! You may see the sting nearby

It is contemporary chic as it is time-tested drama. Eerie and cold as it is cute and soul searching. An inherently vibrant mosaic layered in 21 bleak and blithe textures held together with a sting. 

That’s in a nutshell the anthology by Wrimo India group – ‘Vengeance – A sting in every tale’!

Stories unfold in your neighbhourhood… like Obama’s visit to New Delhi; a bus ride in Ahmedabad or an indulgent grandpa fighting for a TV remote in the living room… you can easily identify with the characters. There’s ambition, pretense and love in abundance, too, as is expected of an avenging series.

Some of the patterns are wonderfully crafted… they let you unpeel them layer after layer and you are engrossed in placing the seeming neat and colourful thread on to your lap, until you look down to see a garbled knot staring back at you! I loved the one where I believed the husband was out to get at his ‘cheating’ wife only to realise at the very end that the couple was hand-in-glove targeting a common enemy.

The tug-of-emotions that play within us mortals resulting in inadvertent heinous ends will leave the readers pondering which among the characters are right. What do you do when you are witness to an abuse happening before you? Do you interfere? Do you raise an alarm? And what if the abuser is dangerous? Do you risk your life? These are questions that are sure to shake-up readers of this anthology, especially in the current context when rape and women’s empowerment are receiving unprecedented attention in our country. Oh! yes, what’s your take on prostitution as a means of livelihood?

Fret not. It’s not all women and abuse. There’s glamour and stardom for the wide-eyed, karma for the spiritual seekers, drama that reminds you of our very own ‘Bandit Queen’ Phoolan Devi and plots that reminiscence the Sherlock Holmes era.

You might want to tighten the loom when those odd typos tangle at your nails as you might want to claw at the loose shreds that find their way to spoil the fun. A couple of eager-beaver writers either gave the plot away in the first paragraph or announced they are gonna take revenge. Now, that’s kiddish! Similarly, few of them are overtly descriptive. When it is suspense, the crisper the sentences, the mightier the effect.

However, the beauty of this anthology lies in the fact that our everyday mundaneness has been turned into gripping plots. And that’s no mean task. Kudos to all 21 writers!

Best wishes to all of you!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Leave bedroom talks under the quilt...Couple's private talk stokes nation's ire

In today's Hitavada issue
I have always been curious to peep into a celebrity’s normal day at home. Do they do their dishes, cut veggies, clean the toilet, water plants, do laundry…like we normal mortals?
Long last, Aamir and Kiran opened their home to show me they have husband-wife conversations like in any common household...But my starving countrymen are all pouncing over one another to prove who’s best at interpreting what the star-couple’s private conversation means.
Aamir also said a few other lines apart from the ‘India-leaving’ sentence. ‘Kiran feels scared to open the newspapers everyday’… ‘I am alarmed by the number of incidents…’ Why isn’t anyone interested in those? He definitely didn’t say it for the 2-minute fame. However, the same cannot be said about all those reacting?

How many of those hollering their epiglottis out would sit munching popcorn with their feet up if their child doesn’t return home on time from campus?

How many moral polices will laze under the covers if they do not hear from their kids who stay afar from them?
It was a mother’s concern for her baby’s future that Kiren voiced to her husband. Yes, as a celebrity he should have censored that when on a public forum. Because public figures ought to speak responsibly, so as “not to stoke unrest”. But shouldn’t they speak their mind? Else, why speak.

Yes, as a celebrity he should have censored that when on a public forum

Again, always a personal story helps you connect with the audience quicker. It helps drive home the point easily. And bigger the personality, the quicker it gets soaked in.
Think of this… if a celebrity [read with all his clout to ensure protection] feels vulnerable about the incidents in the country, what about the common man? It’s not about a Khan, or Jain or Robert here. The least we as a nation could do is to exercise tolerance in our reaction. National prime time wasted on such comments, was the most disgraceful part of the issue. One channel host took a lesson citing the number of times in the past India has risen above troubles all by themselves unlike France…
Yes, we are one proud nation. We do not wait for another to help us get on our feet. We are able, capable and far better than any others on this planet. We’re the epitome of diversity and pluralism!!
And that’s exactly why we need to halt spewing our mirth and check why off late such talks are being heard frequently?
Earlier, Shah Rukh Khan came under fire for his remarks on intolerance and BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya called him 'anti-national’. There’s no dearth of elected representatives exposing their filthy minds off. If the nation can let them pass, why pounce on celebrities?
Little wonder Indian celebrities don’t take part in discussing serious national issues unlike in the West. We believe they are public property and it’s we who provide them our share of oxygen to help them earn their keep. Isn’t that why Aamir’s entire body of work of all these years was rubbished in a day?
We as a nation consider it our birth right to own our celebrities. So they better walk on our leash. Else this is what we do, tighten the noose. And then if the outside media talks of what we do on our turf, we rise up in arms lecturing them on secularism and diversity and democracy… and take them to ‘our’ Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha, too.
It’s extremely sad that the Constitutionally-granted Freedom of Speech is today tagged with an unwritten clause of the citizen’s station, his/her political allegiance and religious beliefs. Dr Ambedkar would be turning in his grave!
Hope Aamir has learnt his lesson… to leave bedroom talks under the quilt! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Husband's aha moment with 2 ladies... on the drive

It is decision-making time at home. In fact, it has been so for the last over 6 months. The bigger the decision, the longer the time taken. Typical Libra the man of the house is at that.
Every time he weighs the pros and cons and goes over them again and again and again until our girl rolls her eyes and walks off leaving me to play the supporting wife, I'm reminded of my childhood, when my mother grabbed that extra tomato from the vendor-woman's cane basket, saying with finality, "This needs to be here.. Why can't you hold your balance straight...and these stones you call weights... you think I can't see..." These sentences were the staple of my mom until she grabbed more veggies off her basket. I don't know who was smarter. My mom or the old Rajamma, who chewed paan and always gave in to my mom. After the sale, she put the coins into her greasy pouch and tucked it over the petticoat string inside her shrivelled tummy folds, gargled her mouth, and settled down for the hot glass of sweetened tea, while she regaled my mom with the gossip of the week.

Courtesy: Morguefile
Well, in our latest case at home, I have nothing to be regaled about as the merchandise on the scale is a car. Given my unparalleled knowledge of vehicles, I play the de facto conduit. And so it has been...the husband has been car shopping...err..r car studying for several months now. We have visited a dozen showrooms and have gone on test drives, too.
"Will we get the new car at least by my birthday, Papu?," asked our girl the other day, at the dinner table.
"That's what we need to decide if it's...."
"Oh! Papa,.."
And he steps on the accelerator...no left, no right, no brakes...from the length of this car and that, to the engine of this and that, the make, the pull, the drive, the resale value, the insurance, cost of parts... Had I memorised the points that he compares, I would have been hired hands-down by any auto dealer in town by now.
The girl desperately said, "Papu, please let's just buy one. How much will you see now!"
Sensing her lose cool, I stepped in. "Okay, so you have zeroed in on Infiniti or Pilot, yea?"
"That's the confusion now," he replied honestly.
So I decided to call upon my inherited finality and said, "Okay, Infiniti it is. That sales guy was so sweet."
"Exactly Mama, wasn't he so nice," my girl exclaimed. "How he introduced himself, shook hands with us, always smiling and talking. Let’s buy that car, Papu."
The husband, lost for words, stammered, "It's a CAR we're buying."
"Yea, so?" she threw in, in her customary style.
"That Pilot guy was so...,
"Rude", my girl completed for me.
"Yea. Like a tour guide he took us round and round the car yapping stats..."
"That's his job. And that's exactly why we went there, to get the details," defended the husband.
"So, what was I? Your secretary walking behind you? The least he could have done was at least acknowledge my presence..."
"Yes, Papu, the other person was so nice. Let's buy that..."
Dumb-struck, he had his head shift from left to right, looking at the two of us on his either side until he finally broke into a what-will-I-do-with-the-two-of-you smile!
A selfie for the album
An aha moment for the Libran when he found a balance – with his two lady loves!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mom’s worry, child’s dream, nation’s curse

Courtesy: MorgueFile

I have a dream! Yes, even I – a laywoman – do have one. I see our teenager flying out soon from the comfy cocoon we are nurturing her in now. And I can’t wait to see her return to India – her home country she’s fascinated with.

I’m so blessed to have become a parent in the 21st century. Am grateful to the Divine that our daughter has a world that’s so advanced and bubbling with opportunities for her to live her dreams.

And my country is rearing to go. India’s energy is infectious that I can’t rest in peace.

What if I can’t persuade my child to give up on her skirts and crop tops?

The economy is booming… if not now, it will shortly be, by the time our girl steps out to make a life on her own. Am thankful to our government that is relentlessly working to offer youngsters the best life and means of livelihood.

And yes, no matter in which corner of India my girl chooses to settle in, I will feel her, touch her and hug her. In the tech world another 5 years is an eon when Skype will be obsolete and rocket science will become household mantra. The healthy competition between Facebook and Google will sure ensure that to parents like me!

How privileged am I, unlike my parents, who had to initially wait for a fortnight for the monthly mail to fall in their post-box and then yell into the receiver to hear me. How lucky am I that my child has a plethora of a spread to carve out a career from. She will graduate at a time, when MNCs and world-renowned firms would have all settled in her hometown and she would not have to bribe authorities for passport verification. 

What if she's caught reading ‘fanatic unaccepted’ series?

All she needs to do is hone her talents and sharpen her skills and enjoy life. Like my parents told me then – all you need to worry about is study and get good grades. And when I achieved that they knocked every door of our community distributing home-made sweets, before settling in to post university forms. 

When my girl makes me proud I’ll tweet her scores and register her name in all top universities sitting in the washroom in my PJS.

But unlike my parents who waved me moisty-eyed good-byes, I don’t have the nerve to let her go away from me. All my parents had to do was collect their nerves to see me bloom. But I have to collect the nerves of my fellowmen, take their consent, check their ideologies and train my girl to fit-in. 

How do I explain to my child that she would 'fit-in'?

What if I can’t persuade my child to give up on her skirts and crop tops? What if I can’t succeed in asking her to give up non-veg? How do I explain to a teen to stop hanging out with friends and forget sleep overs? What if she gets on social media and post her paintings? How do I censure the artist in her? She enjoys Divergent, Hunger Games and the ilk now. But I have no idea of what she will like next. What if the books are not ‘fanatic accepted’ series…?

How do I explain to my child that she would have to change and ‘fit-in’ if she were to stay alone in her home country – a land about which she loves hearing stories about. Her favourite tea-time topic is my childhood and student days in India. And she can’t wait to outdo me by being an independent girl.

But I fret. I am afraid. I am lost. I am ashamed.