Friday 31 January 2014

When my house burned down

Yesterday my house burned down. So sad. 

Nothing was left of the peanut shells spent to prop it up. Just a few half-baked chairs, 3 toasted blades of a ceiling fan, one metre copper wire and an iron pipe. Everything else got reduced to ashes. Thankfully, the property deed of the paan shop I own in Chor Bazaar was in the bank locker. Along with my matriculation certificates and matrimonially certified nose ring. Rest all, gone!

On one of the half-baked chairs I have carefully perched myself, under a tree across the road from my house, or rather, its remains. One kindly young inspector stands by my side, asking me to list out things which may help me claim insurance. I look up his tight stomach to his cut jawline, to clear my mind. Smoking, my head seems to be. Unable to think and clouded with the memory of yesterday, is what I mean. The kindly dimple on his cheek gentleman is like my guiding star, especially since Fluffy my stuffed toy is no more to be the voice in my head. I almost feel no reason to be alive. But life must go on. 

But only now I realize how much has gone forever. The list, may insurance be kind, is as follows:

1. CD: Two days back my Bangkok-return LED (God rest his soul in peace) screamed at me on prime time. Or was it Goswami? I ran to check and frankly speaking, was quite shocked to see heir-apparent sitting next to him. Took me a while to get over the golden hair and cherubic smile. When I did, I realized Goswami seemed to have no ants in his pants today. I watched. One spoke littler than usual and the other I wished had not spoken at all. But what of that! My love for baba crosses all borders of political in-correctness. His finger-on-his-lips is so appealing ... but I digress. What I lost? A CD of this interview that was sent to me, since I was the only one ‘favourite-ing’ baba’s replies on Twitter, which mummy ji was typing even as she prompted him from behind the curtains. That very CD got burned, all those ‘women empowerments’ that we heard for any and every question – burned to bits of electronic waste. The gossipy neighbours told me it self-immolated. However, I refuse to write this off as suicide. Why would a CD with that interview want to kill itself?

2. License: Justin I like, not the Timberlake one but this one, the one who is my height. Arrested while DUI his rented yellow Lamborghini, poor boy was put behind bars for something that we the people of Delhi are ‘proudy’ to do on good days, especially when our pappas hand the keys to us – of the locker and the car both. I could not let my music taste drive away like this. All the way I flew across seven seas to stage my own Prison Break, but thought better. Whacked away the expired license this tender-aged one was driving with. While all other charges were falling silently to everyone’s surprise, no longer could he be sued for driving with a fake voice license either. Why else do you think he smiles in his mug-shot? As I was running out my house to save my life, I knew the burning license sang ‘Baby Baby’ one last time, and just for me – so what if it had expired only to die another death. Love is love. Loss is loss. 

3. Elephant:  Once upon a time I took liberty and wrote a letter From Behenji to Betaji. I assume her speech writer, a grand graduate from Vatikan English Speaking University cum Resorts, read it on her behalf and understood it on her behalf too. Because in return for that gesture I was gifted, no not a shoe, but a tiny pahoo-pahoo. Now let me be honest here. I do not think I deserved it. Especially so since I enjoy that flyover next to her house more than any in Delhi, made with ample nooks to act as loos or spittoons. However, a gift is to be received graciously and that is exactly what I did. Tipped the post man and put the elephant right in the middle of the other show pieces. I am told Rajasthan’s Italy’s sangmarmar is as fine in quality as their lovely features are. What’s a little house burning around it? Soon as I finish my list, I will be hunting down the pahoo in the debris. If I find it, I will be lucky. If I don’t, a little memorial in its memory will come up under this very tree. Inaugurated, of course, by this inspector beside me.

4. Plaque: I had bought myself Bhagat’s motivational plaque. It carried a few words of wisdom, deep as a well with frogs and echoing with gravitas similarly. He had said – ‘Shakespeare was the Ekta Kapoor of his times’ and I had bought it instantly. Why? Well, to motivate myself to direct my writing in the light direction. The over side carried all the 3 book stores best at selling his novels and the under-side his phone number, in case I wanted to volunteer as his writer. I have lost a lot of contact material on that one. And maybe a life time’s opportunity to become a guru on youth affairs, politics, sports, vegetarianism, parenting, caste, love, sex, dhoka, everything. Sigh! I will continue unemployed! 

5. Topi: The President’s At Home saw Mr Aap with a nice grey muffler around his neck and a nice white muffler around the neck of the grey muffler. Since he is called the ‘muffler man’ I would change my name before I request him for one of those. It’s cold, plus, I have a grey one already. However, I did lose an autographed copy of the first ever Gandhi topi that he wore. Says ‘I am Anna’, with ‘beyond’ scratched right before and slightly above ‘Anna’. And a hand gesture to illustrate the point, which I cannot reveal. I have a feeling Anna ji knows not about this. Last I checked he was eating his 3 temple meals properly so he must be happy. I am happy he does not. But I am sad that I lost that collector’s item. No one, just no one, will believe that I had it once. That Mr Aap indeed signed it thus for me, and for himself too. 

Swear on Fluffy. I did possess all items 1-5 once upon a time. 

But that was before my house burned down. Yesterday! 

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was: Remember yesterday, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?]

Thursday 30 January 2014

Laurie, I share your ‘short-cut’ and your feminism


I love your hair. And what you just did to it. I don’t mean just the cut. No. 

You made chopped crop a powerful symbol of women’s sexuality and an even more powerful one of female choice. I read your article about why patriarchy fears the scissors and I had to write this. I address you and I quote you, even though you may never read this, but only because you spoke my mind and I could not have done it any better. Only because in your mind I see the woman inside mine. And on your head the “boy cut” that I enjoy. 

I too see the ‘wickedness’ attached to short-haired girls, in the various media that you mention. That we are ‘crazy’ for ‘destroying femininity’ that we were tutored so hard to enjoy. 'Dudette' is the latest word to enter my lexicon. Feeding stereotypes further, I see board-room women in movies and serials with wedge blunts, not buns. Westerns to complete the picture. And ‘ambition’ portrayed as ‘ego’. A head fast woman in the man’s world calling the shots with hair the length of a tea saucer which she refuses to place before the beau, perhaps. Subtle stereotyping which finds a place in my grocer’s head somewhere, when he stares me down with incomprehension writ large on his face – my dress, my lack of matrimonial symbols and then my hair. No sweet talk lest I take out my hidden guns, he seems to be whispering to himself. And another whisper which goes – ‘Oh God! Why don’t women want to look their age? Why don’t women want to look married?’ 

You call it ‘logical’ Tuthmosis' ‘basis for declaring short-haired women “damaged”. I sure know that usage was intentional, and you too smile as I do. While he thinks no sane woman would ever want to do anything that decreases her capacity to please men, he lost the plot exactly when he said that. Prove himself insane, yet “attracted” enough to us short cropped ones to rant in rage. Or maybe just sitting frustrated that his idea of patriarchy was smashed to irrelevant smithereens soon as the scissors touched our hair? More than this, I refuse to dedicate my personal space to him, though I thank him for giving birth to this, in a way.

But now I tread a different path, as I read your personal experience of trying newer lengths of hair and the temptation of a razor looming large. Our experiences differ because we inhabit different milieus. While you garnered lesser number of ‘cat-calls and whispered slurs’ as you cut your hair, I experienced the opposite. Not just looks of incomprehension from grocery shop owners silently labelling me as ‘fast’ but the smooch sounds on roads and sexual passes increased. Because where I come from – while long hair makes you a sexually and socially attractive married woman, a pixie makes you exactly that – a pixie. Naughty, available and one challenging the carefully treasured and taught idea of female sexuality, gift wrapped in patriarchy. My short crop symbolized a rebellion here, perhaps because of the difference in magnitude of what we call feudal, or patriarchal in our two contexts. And here where I stay, you crush female rebellion. Cat-call it till it hides in the bathroom to cry. Cowers for cover, and pledges to conform – like an animal tamed to jump the rings in the circus or an urban educated woman who is “total strangers coming up to tell me how much prettier I’d be if I only grew it out.”  

But then I get my kick. Oh yes, I visit my salon every month. Spend that money I earn - on hair or face, feet or hands. Not for what you call ‘performance of femininity’ that some women are ‘prepared to work at’ but for what you mention before that. Yes, I ‘negotiate femininity’ because it is mine to mould, entirely. From mid-back length of hair I enjoyed before I got married to now, when I don’t even need to run the comb – the journey had been a short and sweet one. I negotiate, but I know fully well that so many like me cannot, even as so many can. I will wear my bindi when I so desire, if it suits my mood or dress. No bangles on my hands to announce to the world I have a married man at home. And no vermillion to mark in red that I love my husband. I exercise my choice. If I had made a bun on my head, that too would have been my choice.

And no cat-call can drown out the voice of my free will. 

My feminism begins and nurtures itself in my free will. The act of choosing, and living my choice. From cooking to children to cleaning to hair cuts to careering. Just like yours does – be it in reading a book undisturbed in the train or wanting “to take the razor to it right then and there.” 

As for men “who treat women and girls as human beings rather than a walking assemblage of “signs of fertility” – believe me, they are out there” oh I believe you. I have been with one for 7 years now. And never before I have been made to examine my own ‘politics of compromise’ as by the man I married. While here I was sitting vowing to follow as he lead since compromise is ‘sweet surrender’ when all is painted in the colour of love, he went ahead and convinced my long hair behind my back – go chop yourself. Be who you are, even as you happily be my wife. For symbols which feed social ideas of femininity or a matrimonial signage saying ‘Hands off! She’s mine!’ he knew I could handle them with my mind - without those wifely fineries. 

And for this reason, I include men in my feminism. As partners for change and not those across the enemy lines. I have an example at home, as much as an exception he may be. Or belonging to that category we dearly call 'few good men'!

There is no better way to thaw that ice berg of patriarchy than to use the sparks that chose not to be codified by it. 

I sit in India, knowing fully well that no Goddess will ever appear on an Indian calendar with a pixie cut across her head. No halo will shine bright behind a bald feminine pate. Not any time soon, most certainly. While I sit and wonder looking at them painted in bright red and golden if they had a choice at all in being reduced to Goddesses sitting muted on a pedestal, I send a silent prayer to whatever force that listens, that nothing makes me feel more blessed than the power of choice I exercise.

Thank you for writing what you wrote. In each other's thoughts, women find company for their's. In each other's idea of feminism, support for their own.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Guest Post: The Indian Constitution; A Picture Story

This guest post is by my husband, Aseem. 

He is not a blogger. And if I have to call him a writer, he says I have to make sure government file notings qualify as creative art. Understand then that I had to use all my convincing powers to make him pen this for my blog. Also know, that his thoughts mean more to me than my own. (Alright, most of the time anyway!) Republic Day was yesterday, and today he gave me these words and these pictures. A 'Slice of History' for those who celebrate the 26th of January with as much fanfare as we do, and who, like us, are still enjoying a "patriotic" hang-over even though it is the next day.

Now, for a change, I let him speak uninterrupted.  


The Indian Constitution; A Picture Story

I gave in.

When she wanted me to write a few paragraphs for her blog, contrary, perhaps, to her expectations, I did not protest. My reason for agreeing was essentially just that she had chosen a great time to press her demands upon me. The timing was not to do with this being a month of birthdays or the New Year or anything as grand as that. It was just that it happened to be a holiday! A National Holiday, the Republic Day.

I wonder what that might mean to most of us. What the 26th of January means to me has changed over the years. As a child, I used to look at this day as a time when I would sing a few “patriotic” songs before an assembly of my father’s office colleagues and their families and would proudly collect applause. In later years, the ritual of attending the celebrations at his office was discontinued since we moved to a different town where such occasions were traditionally not family affairs. I do remember celebrations in school and college on a few occasions, but they were generally viewed as disturbances to an otherwise enjoyable holiday. 

But somewhere between then and now, I came to think of the Republic Day as special in an unobtrusive yet poignant way, somewhat like the birthday of someone dear from your past that you never forget to remember, but do nothing special to mark, perhaps because it would be superfluous after all. When my wife asked me to write a post for her today on the Constitution, I dithered at first at the thought of her readers turning away. But then, when your wife allows you a chance to be heard uninterrupted, one must just be grateful and grab the line.

One of the most valuable possessions of my family is a replica of the original hand-written Constitution of India, which was gifted by a very dear senior in service. Since this volume came into our home, we have often talked about the history that surrounds it, the way it has evolved over the years, its relevance in our workaday lives and, of course, its  sheer beauty.

The Republic Day is when the Constitution of India came into force in 1950. We have all known this from our Civics school books. But school did not give me a sense of what this book really meant then, and what difference it has made to our today. The vision the Constitution had was of an egalitarian and just society, promising freedom to one and all, laid down succinctly in its Preamble. I am undoubtedly enthused and inspired by the world held out as the promise of the Constitution. Though it seems like a miracle at times, and even untrue at others, by and large, it looks like we are closer to that goal today than we were in 1950.

The Republic Day to me is symbolic of that vision of society and we all have a part to play in getting there. The way is in seeing how our actions, little and big, impact all of us collectively and in being responsible for the choices we make. I wish us all this patriotism this Republic Day.

Here are some pictures of this book to stay with you. You may click on them to see an enlarged view.

A replica of the original hand-written Constitution of India

The Preamble

Fundamental Rights

Article 19. Right to Freedom

Each main border is unique in design 

Elections. Notice the art work.

Look at the salary of the President and Governor

Happy to see Dehra Dun.
Hathibarkala is the midway point between my wife's house and mine

Signatures - Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru lead the list

And then, passing on this 'Slice of History' to our Tomorrow. A looking back, in order to know how to proceed.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was 'Sliced Bread - Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?' and I have answered with 'a Slice of History' - a looking back in order to know how to proceed.]

Friday 24 January 2014

Shy is Coming

May I begin by saying – the title is not what you think. 

Remember that joke from school-time? Tom and Jerry were feeling Happy on the tree. Suddenly, Happy fell down. The title of this post may make you remember that, but surely your expectations are on the wrong track if it does. I never crack that joke. Never. Coming back now. For one, I have no Shy in my mind as I write this. Any resemblance to something coming in your mind at equal speed is coincidental. For two, I am too shy to write about matters such as those we do not speak about in polite society. Polite I am, yes.  

‘Shy is coming’ is just another phrase in the world inhabited by ever-evolving languages and cross-country meets. Translate it verbatim to Hindi, and it may make more sense. But sense we need not. We just need to communicate. Hence this post. Only to communicate words, and not the monosyllabic ones most certainly.
So, when does shy come and how? (For ease of expression, let us just call her a ‘she’. Also because ‘sh’ seems to be 2/3 letters that they share. Plus, I can think of no better 3 letter word beginning with ‘S’ to fit the bill.)

Now, shy can come anytime and anywhere.  Usually, it takes you by surprise, almost an uncomfortable one. Here you are walking towards the milk shop and there you realize your zip is undone. First reaction? The hands try to hide something that shows not. But they try, even as she is coming and making your face go red and redder. Even if they are holding a packet of oranges. Then you turn away from all eyes, knowing you can never be hidden enough. And murphy makes it happen – makes your zipper take long, very long, to slide back up. All this while, shy was coming. Screaming, out of your cheeks. Once done, you pat your zip in place and quickly ask for two litres of full cream milk. It is good for health, they say. Plus, you had come to buy milk, remember? 

Shy can also come without a wardrobe malfunction. For instance, in kitty parties right after the board results are out. As soon as the first round of Tambola is done, pop it comes, a question about your son’s marks. You shuffle your behind on a chair which can barely breathe, to turn towards the asker yet mumbling a silent prayer to God to end the world right there. He missed touching 9 by a centimeter, you say. 89.9 percent. And shy comes. Full frontal on the face. Hidden behind the blush on but visible on those magenta lips biting shy away. Even in the be-jewelled hands, as they suddenly grab hold of the ball-point pen before them, and tick-tick shy’s assault away. Children, so much pressure they carry on their heads and put on their parents’ too. Next house – four corners, three lines and swimming pool. First number coming up – 6 and 9, sixty nine! Thankfully, shy makes way for Tambola again and the party continues like nothing happened. 

The largest shy of all comes sauntering in to sit on your lap when you are proven wrong. Now this coming can happen anywhere. Just anywhere where there is something right and something wrong. Especially something wrong. Take the example of a drawing room where whiskey glasses were discussing Indian politics. One gentleman knew how much Mr. Aap weighed. Another knew the last thing Didi had had before her Bengali tummy rumbled. While a third flaunted having counted the 3 root canal crowns in Prince’s 40-year-old mouth, another stood up with his long, long and solid, list of statistics of those living BPL. So long it was, it confused all the men just counting the zeros. Impressed them too. Just then, in walked a fair amount of sex member of the fairer sex (his wife I believe) to remind him, how, the last time she checked the data read different, that a couple of ‘Oh’s were missing from the statistics he huffed and puffed to generate. Shy comes and comes and comes and refuses to stop in such circumstances, when you are proven short by such a huge margin. Almost like an anti-climax, to the evening. Like an under-performance. Or none at all. 

Now I stop. Something tells me shy is coming to you. Why? Never let it come. 

Feel free. You can feel happy too. Why not! 

Tick tick 10, and done!

It’s strange how, when the clock is ticking before your eyes prodding you to write, your mind goes blank. Dead-lines! Some call them life-lines, I don’t call them anything. All I know right now? The clock is ticking, and I have 10 minutes to write. Certainly not the end of the world beyond the 10 minutes but there is pressure. To complete a task. To produce something worthwhile. Gah! Typical!

But the mind is blank, so I look around for clues.

I can see my son’s toys are yet to be minded. They are basking in comfortable glory on the dining table where he was playing before he left for school, and where I sit and write. No order in disorder for me. I like to keep things neat. Organized. But today, I am yet to. I should do it once I’m done with this. Especially since I like things in their place. Plus, this is a dining table!

A dining table. Ever realized how it is symbolic of a certain ‘getting together’, of a certain convergence of the family for a common cause – a cause which is as basic and as essential as eating? It’s not the food that is served which matters the most. It is the fact that everyone is around a “fulcrum”. With chairs, designated chairs, for each member of the family. How this designation comes about, I have no clue. But it’s there. We have our chairs. We automatically sit in our places when we are ready to eat. We know our places. Sub-consciously.

The sub-conscious interests me. Freud told me all about it, and more. But what amazes me is how impressions are formed even when we don’t realize it. So, I may think therefore I am, but what about a sub-conscious which is “beyond” my hold, my grasp? As I type, I am conscious of the ticking time, the milk boiling on the gas and the slices of bread in the toaster. A little tick-tick I hear coming from it too as it browns my bread. Or is it just the stop watch ticking in my sub-conscious mind? All that my senses capture affects me. Inside. See? Big word comes to mind – Existential. And I hope I spelled that right!

I look at the time. Says nearly up.

Pressure again. And I can barely think, forget writing for other eyes. Or am I thinking too much? I’m racing my fingers on the key board. Click click tick tick is all I hear, and a fighter plane practising Republic Day parade. But why? Why am I stressing to fill this A4 up? Two sentences would have been enough too, right? Do we try to fill our lives with men and material in the same manner? Pack it up knowing the end is round the corner, or far. But sure that it will come? So that means more is less, and less is even lesser. We need more and ask for more. We even fret for more. More words, more people, more things, more love, more claps, more bling.

The last 15 seconds, of 10 minutes when I just did not think. I only typed – more and more and more. And the dreadful feeling that I cannot even edit.

Whoever says ‘brilliant’ for this will be a proven liar.

The milk boiled over. I got my timing all wrong.

But done. Full stop.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was Ready, set, go - Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.]

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Book Review: Chakra - Chronicles of the Witch Way

When you pick a book called Chakra – Chronicles of the Witch Way with grey-green eyes knowingly staring at you from behind the cover art work, you cannot help but form a certain image about what the book may contain. Such is the genre, such the title and such is the cover feeding that image in your mind. 

What did I expect when I picked the book? 

I expected magic and scenes wrought with mystery and enigmas. I expected power and play, and power-play too. I was ready to be told about Japas and Japnis, the knowledge they commanded but the mysterious ways in which they worked. That the book would send my way awakened kundalinis and evil chimeras the blurb itself had claimed. All this, wrapped within the folds of a saga told by Ritu Lalit’s pen. Were the afore-mentioned expectations met? Yes. Did I shake my head in appreciation or nodded it off to sleep? My review should tell.

To the people who will argue that Japas are peaceful, I would like to point out that this is a work of fiction. I do, however, believe that Japas were actively involved in politics, and had at their disposal a lot of power, which was intrinsically violent.’

Ritu Lalit makes her aim clear in her introductory chapter - to portray aspects of Japas which she believed were not common knowledge, by weaving a story around them. Reader expectations instantly rise. The claim being made is big and a certain over-turning of traditionally known knowledge is expected. We get excited, as all things subversive are wont to make us. However, we wonder, why the genre of fiction then? Is it because story-telling is one of the oldest ways to disseminate knowledge or is it because she wants to use the garb of a fictitious narrator to comfortably challenge the ‘given’ with what she ‘believes’ to be true? While the dichotomy of the author-narrator voice is not so certain, we are left wondering, who exactly will be talking to us next at this point.

For this very reason, I wrote ‘Trust the tale not the teller’ before I made my notes on paper. I decided to let the book do the talking. See what ideas it threw at me and place them on the table, like mats, or like pieces of a puzzle that will make whole for me the writer’s aim, claim, how supported by the text and how organized in a book format. Some of the themes/techniques that make the tale levitate with ease as a reader's delight are discussed below.  

The scenes of conflict are set and described with an effortless skill which makes you see them as you read. They exude an energy, and to lean against a clich√©, are racy without being a glorified depiction of violence. Interesting to note is how the bloody battles are fought somewhere between the realm of the magical and the natural. Yes, almost like Magic Realism. For instance, the timely rain that comes thundering down in the Baoli scene at the end of the book. Was it a coincidental monsoon shower, or a certain clan leader’s doing? By keeping the lines between the natural and the magical blurred, Ritu Lalit cleverly finds an ally in nature to support her claim that Japas' powers were ‘intrinsically violent’. She invokes natural phenomenon when she wishes in the book, quite like the Japnis themselves. And she makes Sinduri mutter on her sleepless night – ‘War is the basic nature of us humans’, which becomes an important underlying theme of the book.

The treatment of Time is something to observe. The narrative proceeds in a linear fashion, sans any onion layers across the time zones. However, what is interesting to note is how well the readers’ attention is shuttled between near-ancient and totally-modern, not in terms of time but in terms of setting. This juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern is craftily done. For instance, while we are still dusting off our clothes clean after the epical battle in chapter 1, the ‘pager’ makes its sudden appearance, as if to snap us back to reality and remind us of the context that we are actually sitting in. The descriptive scenes transpose us to foreign climes of conflict or calm, yet pull us back to the ‘now’ with little reminders of the present. Like a waking up. Only goes to show how involved a reader was in the middle of a desert or deep inside a jungle! 

Time also comes into play in another fashion. While the telephones, the pagers and the coffee shops keep us from lingering in the world of ancients for too long, well-knit parallels with the present socio-political scene keep the reader from getting lost too. For instance, Hemant’s remark while eating lunch with Sami at Lata Tai’s table went thus – ‘We as a community have become decadent, corrupt and our laws are lax … we are fighting to bring about a change. I wish all young people to join us’ have been reasons behind many a protests at India Gate, or maybe this is about the Khaps? Then, when Lata sits explaining the Manan to Samaira she says – ‘They are supposed to keep Japas safe but in reality they are the private security of the clan leaders. Of course they enforce laws but only those that suit the leaders.’ Sounds familiar, does it not? And then the reader wonders. Is the world of Japas and Japnis a reflection of the larger world? Is this how the author is supporting her claim of intrinsic violence in the Japa community, by placing them right amongst our own undeniably corrupt, power-hungry and violent context? I believe so. 

Ritu Lalit uses the ideas of dreams and signs as narrative techniques splendidly well, positioning them at nodal points to take the plot forward, or to explain a thread left behind. Roma was plagued with the dreams of a grey pool with silver lights above it, a dream that scares her then and becomes her reality later. Her dream is important because it is so far removed from her situation then that it generates a feeling of suspense in us when a minute back, there was not the slightest hint of it. It makes us look forward. Sami’s escape route with Hemant from out of the Baoli too is something she says that – ‘Came to me in a dream.’ Suspense also makes it’s surprise appearance as nonchalantly as Saloni checking her grandmother Sinduri’s mobile for call records right after Sinduri’s ‘you are a good child’ and the bone chilling thrill of an escaped Roma checking the temple ruins. 

And then there are the humorous bits too, a classic style that the author enjoys and mastered in her previous book. The innocently mischievous donkey-riding scene from school is an endearing example. Then, when Nita sits down to chew on her sandwich with an appreciative smile towards a topless Jorawar, musing – ‘There should be a law against so much hunkiness’ we are caught off guard! Lata Tai’s chiding telling Sami ‘it is Japnis like you who create a mammoth head ache for archeologists. Ancient Siva temples end up in Brazil. Painful!’ cannot but make you smile. The board that Karam Japa installs at the entrance of Icchpujani Ashram with its ‘No, we do not rent rooms’ certainly made me laugh out loud. But not harder than when Mickey, on seeing Roma and Sami jump into the Baoli, shrugs – ‘The oldies will get them out.

But how can we miss, peeping from behind all these over-arching themes and teller techniques, the author herself? The narrator’s cloak making way to show us the author’s mind, that is, if there was a dichotomy at all. ‘Age is a great leveler’ she muses while describing Kusumlata Sivan. Marjina’s feeling of impending danger and the author saying – ‘everyone has a phobia, a private fear that gets internalized as a danger signal’ makes us nod a yes. A social comment makes its way in when she says – ‘South Asian countries are hard on their women…kidnappings, rapes routinely happen.’ Another comment gets put in Sikka’s mouth instead of coming to us directly – ‘This is Delhi, not Texas. In Delhi only the Jaats and politicians carry guns’. And even her opinion on short men (Vansh) being ‘like many short men, very pugnacious.’ And we smile. 

But I put all of the above aside, and talk about that one aspect of the book that stood out for me. If conflict and power-play is the underlying theme of the book, the spine that finally stands it up is the idea of family. Not in the conventional sense, no. The power that the book glorifies is the power of the feminine, of each Japni - glorious in her uniqueness yet part of the "sisterhood" that she nurtures. 

Blood binds, blood calls’ but do note, the men are not the givers here. Marjina awakens Nita to ‘not turn away from what you are, girl’ A sense of self is affirmed, even though contained in the world of witch craft, a world hunted down by men as is evident in a nostalgic moment of Sulo jiji when she muses – ‘They call us witches. We worship Nature. We worship Mother, the divine Goddess. It is Kaliyug now.’ Sami feels so good burning down one side of the mountain, a feeling matched within Roma as she plays with her own fire. An intrinsic link. When Sami ‘contained multitudes within. She will never be alone again’ it is like a sustenance she is drawing from her own power, her own core. Inside the Baoli, Sami ‘drew energy from her aunt’ Nita to survive, a symbiotic relationship. And in the culminating scene, Roma screams that the bones in the Baoli are ‘Indu …she wanted to live … have babies.’ Thus get included all women-kind in this powerful self-sustaining network of women. The Baoli itself becomes symbolic of a dark labyrinth, like a womb – where many died but through which many take birth and find themselves too.

Now for the problems with the book. Few and far between, but there.  

While the author tries her best to present us with a quick introduction to the Japas and Japnis, one wonders if it is enough. Surely, we learn about them as we read on, but what does seem clear is that we are only half-aware. And that the amount of information given to us about them is just enough. Is this Ritu Lalit's way of making us see only what she ‘believes’ as true? Of fulfilling her aim to portray the ‘intrinsic violence’ in peace-loving clans, knowing all the while that the reader knows just exactly what she has told us? Or was she assuming a certain degree of pre-knowledge in her readers' minds when she wrote the book? 

Misplaced punctuation marks or confusion between Bhoomar-Bhumar I will put aside as editorial mistakes but talk of others which seemed graver to me. One, strange first person language makes its way into the narrative at a few points. A glaring example is Sami yelling 'Psychotic bitch, stupid cunt' on being bitten by Roma. No where did the characterisation of Sami prepare us for this. Then, there are some disappointing lacunae in the flow of narrative too. I call these gaps in the narrative “mood-gaps”. At the time when Nita’s apartment burns down and she is nowhere to be found, even as the readers feel the tension the children in the book do not seem too stressed. Then, the day after the temple girl sacrifice scene, Roma wakes up and does her morning exercises and chakras. Did she do these before, or is it only now, in her present avatar? Who taught her these? Sami’s childish fascination for the Rebel Chief makes her worry for Roma fade. Slightly unexpected, this sudden frivolous swing of heart, and then again a page later, ‘she did not have a taste for so much cheeriness, it was shallow’. Sami’s emotional portrayal in Lata Tai’s house seems to be fluctuating each passing page. The same oddity comes through when Nita reunites with Sami and Mickey, but nicely forgets to worry about Deep, who has run away.

However, call them slips on the author’s part if you will, they only go to show how emotionally involved we as readers were, perhaps worrying about Deep even more than his own blood. By the end of such a fascinating journey, you cannot ask, where did the lehenga for Nita’s wedding homa come from? Perhaps the elements conspired to blow one her way. Or maybe it was express delivered in the "bat mobile" Lata Tai owns. We need not know, even if we notice this small detail in the middle of so much else that grips. 

The book comes together very effectively, after her introduction with its aim. While we cannot say with confidence that we take the author's word for it, and like her 'believe' what she did about the powerful Japa clans (like I said, trust the tale not the teller!), as readers, we cannot miss to notice her skill at crafting her ideas in this one-of-its-kind book written by an Indian author writing in English.

In the end, a full circle has been drawn. 'Chakra' began with a homa which destroys and culminates with one which stands for hope, a beginning of sorts. I will venture to call it a positive note but I am wary of doing so. Tapan Japa’s exclamation in the beginning of the book – ‘This Homa has been cursed. There will be no peace until this distrust and hatred is purged. The end is approaching’ rings clear in my ear still, since the whispers continue to mar the mantras of the wedding homa. Of course, the end of each civilization contains within its folds the start of a new one. As Yeats’s gyres turn within each other, we close the book seeing Nita finding the ‘purpose for life.’ However open-ended and far from a closure this may seem, for now, the elements and the chakras are resting, and so are we. 

Monday 20 January 2014


He looked down at his faded tee. It seemed more stretched around the chest and stomach, certainly more since the day he wore it first for his college farewell celebrations, under a jacket he bought especially to go with it. The M and A of the rubber print were shedding off, like old plaster, leaving behind a -CHO. 


He used to be that, or certainly imagine himself that. Seemed like a long time ago though, those days that were and time that was gone forever. The shirt, however, was yet to meet its threadbare fate. It was still worn under sweats and sweaters, not because it was worn out but because it was like second skin to him. Just like the idea of being macho was to his mind.

He was proud of his masculinity. 

But marriage had changed him, and more than just his waistline. Days of gay abandon were over. The days when he would keep a comb in his back pocket, a few buttons undone, metal tacks on his belt and in his front pockets his two thumbs. The rest of the fingers dangled free. He enjoyed a swagger, and especially accented it when pretty girls he passed. Run fingers through the gel in the hair, and send over a side-ward glance. A half-a-smile too, maybe, but nothing too cheesy really. He had a busy social life. Very busy. Even on the farewell day, actually. 

They had eaten the free food on offer, danced with their batch mates all evening, and retired in the girl’s green room behind the auditorium stage to mist up the glass windows. The thick curtains kept the squeals away from the ears surrounding them. Her sari he had to help drape back on, after he had dusted his shirt clean of confetti strewn around. The logical-next-steps of life had followed that youthful night. A night which they both whispered was ‘good’. 

After 4 years of wedlock and a baby girl, he was with the woman he fell in love with on that last day of college. 

Not much had changed between them. Why, they had a lovely angel at home to seal their love with a living evidence. But like the tee, he seemed to be fading in his own eyes. He was giving the roles of father and husband everything that he could. Even more, sometimes. But, for the last few times now, he felt he was failing her, disappointing her and not living up to his image rubber-printed in the message on the tee. Especially the last time, when he could not even hold on for three seconds. He had seen the watch. Exactly 3 seconds. He panted, perspired and that was it. And another letter seemed to powder off his tee. Leaving a half-beaten CHO behind. 

So he broke a law. A home-made rule to be precise. His promise to share his worries and his vow to not hide, anything. Not do anything strange, or hidden from her eyes.  

Home alone, with the wife away and his daughter at the grandparents’, he opened a bottle. Too ashamed to ask the chemist for instructions, he had quickly picked two of them and hurried home. He was 35. Thirty-five! Trying to walk briskly, almost running home with the brown packet tucked in his pocket. Held tightly with one hand, as if it was the last straw to get the M and A back to the CHO. The sweat and breathlessness reached home in time. But there was no spare time to lose. She will return soon. And she had her expectations of him, why not. So here he was now, staring at 2 pills lying side by side on his hand. They looked pretty, the pills. But like a couple sleeping facing away from each other. Without saying their ‘good’ nights. He wondered why the image popped in his head.


He stood still for a while, half expecting an explosion of sorts. Will his stomach churn and sends waves of electricity up his spine and down his legs? He looked down, and then at his feet, refusing eye contact with the CHO. Almost mumbling, 'macho macho'. His heart was certainly pumping with an excitement he did not understand. Like a little child’s, or a young lad’s, who could run the football field five times and lose not his breath. He moved his toes and then his fingers. Not much there. Perhaps, one is to wait a bit. No pill is an instant dose of magic is it? And this is a 35 year old body we speak about! Father to just a four year old but alas!

In she came with excited footsteps, filling up his married home with her angelic presence. He knew what she would want, soon as the hug was gone. She would demand it, almost like a schoolmarm. His mind raced with an anxiety about his performance. Three seconds, the last time. No more. At 35, that is all he could manage? The watch seemed to frown already. Come what may he will not disappoint her this time. The 2 pretty pills silently dissolving in his insides seemed to nod vigorously. 

Up he heaved her and held her there as she squealed in delight, asking him to let go but wanting to remain. Higher, she screamed and let me fly, please. He, with the faded tee screaming against the out-stretched seams, could feel the end coming. Already. In his legs and in his arms. In the lower back too. Had it been more than 3 seconds? Oh, he had to let go now! He just had to! His body was wriggling to breathe and the tee looked glum with a big wet patch around the neck. And then he did let go.

Down she dropped. Giggling but happy. A little girl. A wow escaped his lips, and hers too he hoped. He tried to read her face for any signs of disappointment but could see none. He stood up straight and stretched his back with a moan and his arms in the air. His belly peeped out from under the tee and roused her curiosity. She suddenly exclaimed with glee, the ribbons on her plaits dancing with excitement  – "Papa, you are a superman. I went zoom like an aeroplane. Oh now look at that, your belly button is so deep!"

He looked down again, not at the tee this time but the belly protesting to come out of it. Revital is not what he needed to be a fit-and-fitting father at 35. He needed to start jogging again.  Exercise too, maybe. Tuck in that belly. Feel good, feel young and even feel his dearly-held version of macho. 

His favourite tee smiled, as if in agreement. The M and A should be back soon.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was Breaking the Law - Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?]

Saturday 18 January 2014

The Little Toot

Is that me? Of course not! I look much better. Any day!

Do you think I can toot my own horn? I possibly cannot.

Although, some people call me The Little Toot. But I am certain it is their problem not mine. And sure that blowing my own trumpet is not one of the talents I enjoy. Neither can any fancy training make me learn to do that with élan. None, whatsoever.

Look at the humble me.

On FB, I mean. I never change my profile picture on a daily basis. The last I changed was when I was 2, or my son. Such regulars other people are, always putting new poses and positions for public viewing. Arrey? Where is the need and what be the aim? A simple smile on a haircut day is enough. Or an evening gown with a jeans-tee husband on the side. Also, why add 5000 friends? Such indiscriminate attitude towards true relationships cannot be next to Godliness, which friendship is supposed to be. I only have 600. Then, I never ‘promote’ myself, after I heard that it is paid. Even otherwise, I am sure I would never have promoted myself. And pimping my work you call it? Tauba! Never never. Just a little self-love for what I do. Just like you too love your food or kitty or bags or shoes. Buss. Prudish privacy settings are not for me. Like Mr. Anonymous once said in his classically wise way - It’s FB for Heaven’s sake. Need some space? Try Orkut. The last I checked there was not a soul there and a lot of solitude to enjoy. Privacy settings complete! Or was it me saying that?  

Of course I am not tooting my own humility horn. Am I?

I am suddenly reminded of a well-schooled me!

On the road I blow my horn. But certainly not as much as every car, scooter, bike, tractor, truck and bicycle around me. Bai God! I never toot at red lights, as those who do thinking they turn green out of sheer frustration at the loudness. The modest (envious? No, baba!) me notices toots making sure their Audi is noticed, even if it is crawling as fast as the bullock cart I’m driving next to it. Often, some go honk-honk generally, since there is not much else to do with their hands, or maybe to give background music to Honey Singh playing on the radio, or in their hearts. I did try it too. I once tooted and tooted at a wheel that was crossing the road, thanks to a little child spinning it with a stick. I am sure the wheel heard me. And made way! But me going beep-beep indiscriminately? Never!

Toot-toot-tooty? Why are you singing that for me? Or is it my cart calling me?  

So simple I am I wonder how to explain.

Weddings I like. I know how to whistle with my fingers in my mouth. The front-benchers-in-small-time-cinema-halls kind. And get whistled at too, if all those badly suited tender-age boys staring my way are to be believed. Here and bare I was, standing with my back towards the crowd. Enjoying the little attention coming my way. And there, hey Ram, came a group of damsels in varying degrees of wardrobe distress. And hair! Glitter in the hair? No wonder the metallic butterfly thought it was a flower. And chose to sit. Two balls, perhaps 24 carat like the tops, hanging low from the blouse on the back. To be seen. They even rang, like a bell, as they passed me. Such 'shimmeriness' and I waned in comparison. Because I had only one hanging behind me, and tops the size of a peanut. But choro parrey! Who has the time to go look at others? And envy I never feel. Most of the time, I am busy looking at my modest simplicity in every glass door that I pass. You may look like the bride, but I simply aim to look like her sister, that's all.

What? Why the face? I can like myself for my dressing-sense or not? What goes of the orchid in your hair?

I am a very charitable person.

Religious too, somewhat. See. Thing is. We need to go to heaven. So every Tuesday I go to the temple and distribute sweet orange balls of Prasad (3/out-stretched hand) freely to the needy around. Then, I carry the idea of giver around my neck and the label in my head, before I zoom home to eat my paneer butter masala. I am charitable, but I don’t toot, mind you. This was just a passing reference. Really! I do look at others around who indulge in holy-toot. Bhai sahib! You think blocking the road with your larger-than-life langar pandal will prove a point? And not letting my bullock cart pass will earn you extra bucks, or blessings as they are called? Hey prabhu I invoke, yes, even the one in gold hanging gladly around some necks, desperate for cynosure. Think properly, will you? Or are you drunk, like the goons on trucks invoking Shiva. Oh by the way, I never drink in the name of religion, or charity even. Just saying. When I give that Re 1 to my mall cashier for a good cause I understand not, I don’t do dhindoraa-peetna at all. At all! It’s not like I gave off my jaydaad, or my choc-a-bloc bank locker. Is it?

Optimum amount of charity and religion in my life. Buss. Not tooting, but stating a basic fact of my existence. Including about my locker.

As for my writing, what to say?

I am sure I stand apart. I am sure. It’s the dirty competition that kills me. Appreciate and you are sycophant. Don’t and you are a prude. Try to improve and they think you are still a kid. Don’t improve and you are a dinosaur. Arrey bhai? Write and let write doesn’t sound nice or what? I never meddle in people’s writing affairs. I send a polite ‘check your tense will you’ message, often. Feeling not one bit superior in language, though I do take my writing very seriously you know. Much more seriously than the one who just wrote a Haiku on over-boiled rice. No, not tooting my horn with my pen cap. But I love my ivory tower. Precious and exclusive it is. Like me, maybe. The rest is just a Ladies club on picking of Teej Queen day. Sexist me? There, you start judging again!

I notice your frown. Confused, if it’s you I talk about or myself? Worry not, I love talking about me, even though I toot no narcissistic horn when I say that!

Now, do you finally believe I cannot toot my own horn?

[Written for Project 365 aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Toot your Horn - Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favourite thing about yourself."]

Saturday 11 January 2014

To Nature We Turn

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But why? How about going looking for a lemon tree instead? Maybe it is in full bloom, and shows you those pretty white flowers too?

There is much that nature has to offer a child. Or even a grown up mind. More so, because in our everyday lives there is just no time. No time to appreciate it and feel grateful for it, or even to simply realize its beautiful presence around us.

I write this as a woman who had to leave her mango and litchi trees behind in her home town to make a living out of life. And I speak as a mother to a 3-year-old being brought up in a typical big town flat, sans a garden to weed or trees to climb. Maybe a few potted plants to adorn the balcony, add some green to the concrete. But, that’s about all. It is this that makes me wallow in nostalgia the colour of flowers, but also makes me go that extra step to open nature’s treasure chest for my son to enjoy.

What is it, big or very little, that nature holds within its whorls?

[To read more, please click here]

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Pre-school Picture(s)peak

A short while back, Let’s Play, School! was born. A still shorter while later, I sit here, forgotten as a mom. As my son warmed up to the newness of a routine in school and new play mates to use his abundant creative and naughty energies with, his mother was relegated to a singular role - that of dropper to-picker from school, hanging the bag and bottle behind her ageing back. And turning away a little disappointed every morn. Why? Well, the ta-tas to her were said as cheerfully as the good morning to the teachers. Sometimes, while running excitedly to enter his school, he even forgot to turn back as he waved adieu. While I wallow in this disappointment trying to gain a saucer full of sympathy from fellow parents, I also reveal how happy it makes me to think that not a single time did he say – ‘Mumma, no school today.’  

However, to be curious is human; but to be killed by curiosity simply stupid. Curiosity, the cat had its paws around my throat and was knocking on my heart’s door saying – Are you not eager to know what your child does 3 hours away from you every day? Don’t you want to see what happens within those beautifully coloured and welcoming walls – between him and his friends, his teachers and his didis? The devil ruled away all thoughts of appropriateness, and off I went to consult the principal if I could spend a few minutes in their school, hidden from my little imp’s view but with a camera to capture what it could. 

Here it is then, a sneak-peak into my pre-schooler’s life, where I will let the pictures speak. Well, almost. 

[To see further, please click here]

Monday 6 January 2014

Season of Light - AAP and Us

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.’

Who would have thought that Dickens’s opening line for ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ written during the French Revolution would reverberate with such topical relevance so many centuries later. Today, a revolution of sorts is brewing on our home turf, with its epicentre in Delhi but with ramifications far exceeding its geographical boundary, or any boundary. While it digs its heels firmly into the ground to prop itself up fully, there continues a coexistence of hope and despair, wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity. You read that right! Hope, belief and wisdom have made a comeback in the political sphere. And you know why.

‘Season of Light’

The Aam Aadmi Party stands for change – an ideological one that has been brought about already when voters gave them 28 seats, and more that is to follow as they proceed on their promises. After ages, democracy is being spoken about in a language that befits the idea. The electorate is looking for direct participation in the running of our country. This, combined with the anti-corruption platform AAP offers, is what brought the hope back in our political lives. AAP emerges as our mouth piece, voicing our age-old concerns and issues and promising to deliver in the real world, rather than the world that (mal)functions behind closed doors marked VIP or that which refuses to go beyond futile rhetoric of election speeches. 

As grand and often unrealistic as the ideas of AAP sound, we sit today wondering, almost hoping – is this the beginning of a new way of functioning of politics, in a larger context and for all times to come? Terms which adorned books on administration are now being mouthed generously – governance, accountability and most importantly, citizen politics. And urban India is sitting at the edge of its chair, with an excited mind and of course, hope for clean and citizen-friendly governance. All this, even as it cheers a party free from any caste or class based propaganda. One which promises a crackdown on corruption across party lines, a Lokayukta with teeth and the dream of ‘swaraj’ in its modern concoction and after years of it being used for the first time. 

Indeed, this is the Season of Light. 

How, what and ‘Winter of Despair’, still?

Incredulity breeds questions, and unanswered ones lead to cynicism. Cynicism equals the feeling that we have nothing before us. A feeling that the season of darkness is here to stay, and no amount of light can shine Hope’s way through. AAP and its ideologies continue to keep a school of thought a little distant from rejoicing just as yet.

AAP’s agenda remains blanketed in confusion. Many feel that even as AAP promises clean governance, it offers nothing very concrete by way of an agenda for governance. Transparency is a way of working, not the work itself, the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’. Then, is it an easy promise to keep, that of a spotlessly clean shop? More so since cut-in-stone party ideals may not match well with every party member’s personal list of principles? What next, except rubbernecking media and powerful opposition parties swooping down on them the moment they smell a scam. The very expectations of aam junta which sat AAP on a pedestal will withdraw its hands. And we know that is something we do not want to consider as a possibility.

Doubts also abound with another aspect of ‘how’ the party intends to function - AAP’s stress on consulting people to reach decisions and forward the idea of grass root democracy. The debate of Local level versus national level (Yes, the CM is a few days old and we are thinking of a bigger tomorrow already). While implementation of health and public order can be achieved at local levels, macro issues like inflation and national security cannot be handled at local levels. Sceptics say consulting people all the time hampers rather than facilitates governance. Referendum upon referendum may turn out to be a jog on the treadmill, good for keeping the democratic mood healthy, but sans any movement ahead. 

And then, the perpetuation of the culture of subsidies, as free water and subsidized power tariff please the common man but burden the exchequer for short-term benefit, has generated mixed responses. Calling privatization ‘just a grand theft with official collusion’ has not helped either. 

Some have gone as far as to compare Kejriwal with Mamata Bannerjee, foreseeing a Bengal of Delhi, with leaders who are pro-poor, simple and connected with people but impulsive, aggressive and limited in their knowledge of how the field works. Where direct intervention for solving people’s problems is given priority over sitting and chalking our systems to be put in place for all times to come, the revolution seems to carry the tendency to burn itself out, or be forgotten in oblivion.            

Let it remain a ‘Spring of hope’ 

AAP with its 28 became a sea to reckon with, and if whispers and announcements are anything to go by, the bigger wave is yet to reach the shore of our political lives. Perhaps, to re-write that which has been documented in the colour of a dynastic quill, or one which stands clothed in saffron and not far behind. Blake said ‘without contraries there is no progress.’ Well, good to hope so, and certainly better to remember as we, on a daily basis, receive and perceive the changing face of Indian polity and assimilate our views in times where perceptions live as impulsively as they are born.

The last winter of despair need not be forgotten completely. Doubts may continue to remain, and raise newer heads each passing day. But we need to accept that things are a changing. Smell the change in this spring of hope instead. AAP has shocked us all, even as it took its own members by surprise, by sweeping to power with a unique model that challenges the traditional party system. Something that we collectively wished for has come about, thanks to you and me. Yes, thanks to us. We asked for it written all over placards and in candle marches. We found a role for ourselves in protest mode, and then as voters. 

And it does not end there. It should not! 

Even as Kejriwal and AAP continue to awaken our dormant social forces, we need to wake up to our responsibilities too. Meaningful ways to bring about social change need to be found and healthy dialogues that break accepted but obsolete norms need to be regularly held. Even as we mail the CM our complaints and lay on AAP’s shoulders the responsibility to deliver all that we desire as part of our idea of ‘change’, we need to start working on it at our own levels too. We voted the broom in, time to clean our own houses too. 

Then and only then can parties like AAP stand on their own feet – confident and inspired enough to promise and deliver, both.   

Willing-to-Work Idealism has an official address today. Let’s not fritter it away!

[The post was published on NewsYaps. It is originally written for the Project 365 aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Call me Ismael - Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post."]

Saturday 4 January 2014

Inclusion, and a Book

You know what inclusion means. It means the act of being included.

What it also means? A practice of ensuring that people in organisations feel that they belong.

When I was invited to be a part of Write Tribe, a support-system managed by Corinne Rodrigues to provide motivation and guidance for those in their salad days of blogging, I rejoiced. I was green and I needed ripening, gradually but urgently. This inclusion in an exclusive support group meant I could hold some hands now and learn to be a better blogger.

Then, the second kind of inclusion happened. I was not just a part of the handful, but I was also made to feel at home amongst writers who I aspired to be. I was read extensively, and was taught how reading others is essential to growing as a writer. How appreciating was as important as getting appreciated. My technologically-dim cells never stressed over HTML hurdles and as I shared posts which had touched me, I picked up something new, something beautiful and something inspiring each passing day. 

This Christmas, I got a gift. For the first time I was one among 36 to be published in an e-Book called ‘The Write Tribe Anthology’, compiled by Vidya Sury, for no lesser reason but that she wanted to give further and share further love that she abundantly carries within.

Christmas is long gone, but the cheer is here to stay. On page 66 is a part of me, a handful of paragraphs but an opinion I carry etched on the walls of my mind, and heart. My post ‘Fresh and Tasty Home-made Feminism. Anyone?’ sits there. Proud is what I feel, considering the masterpieces which surround it – from meaningful poetry to rib-tickling humour, excellent pieces of fiction to endearing letters, inspiring posts to those which strike a philosophical chord. It’s all in here, where I was included to be, and made to belong.

Turn these leaves and experience them.

You may click on the image below to download your free copy. 

Happy reading! 

The Write Tribe Anthology – Book 1

Wednesday 1 January 2014

The Old, the New and Burp!

The weather girl looked dressed for snow inside her newsroom in Delhi. The weather app showed a few digits over zero, only. Out the window was a dull, grey and almost gloomy evening as the car windscreen stood patiently still under all the dew. And the trees shook not a leaf, blanketed by all the mist. 

Just another wintry 6 pm it seemed, the evening of 31st December, 2013. 

The eve of the new and the culmination of the old. The threshold to staring at a different calendar the next day and not just turning the page on an older month. The last night of 364 nights gone by – some short and warm, some really long. But by gone, all. The old was going to make way for the new. Readiness was all.

And what is it that I and my family were getting ready to do this evening?

Not a banquet of choices to pick from, but certainly a platter full of invitations lay on the console. All opened but none picked. Was it just the cold keeping us from dressing up in hot clothes and exiting the house? Or was it because our wallets had been emptied in the last holiday? Perhaps, it was simply the fact that all the invites with drunk wine glasses and swaying trumpets sprinkled with hearts also carried a message in bold red – Children not allowed. 

We exchanged smiles. Once upon a time, we would pick the best place to go shake a leg. Call friends too, have a fun eve of eating, drinking and merry making. Time it all such that we were sure to be on the dance floor as the clock struck 12 am. And certainly by each other’s side when it did. Today, the invitations remained the same, but the ‘No Children’ painted inside a neon star glared at us like a schoolmarm with a birch rod. A warning. An exclusion. And a way to spend the last night of the year feeling every bit a couple but the least bit of parents, at least to us. 

Age, stage or something in between convinced us to make air planes out of all the invites, for our son to fly. To those grandparents kid-pooling their night away baby-sitting the partying couples’ issues we sent a polite thank you. To friends who thought of the 31st of December as drinking-to-the-lees night, we sent in a "maybe some other time". To extended family far and wide, we messaged greetings for the new year in advance and promised to call once the jammed telephone lines were freer in their minds. 

And at the stroke of midnight, all parts of ‘Madagascar’ had been watched with utmost glee, the necessary number of ‘Cheers!’ (plus one for good luck) had been said and swallowed neatly, and my mother’s home-cooked food sat in our tummies, happy to have been consumed with so much relish. In warm blankets in the lamp’s yellow light, the first tight hug of the year was shared between us three. Such a beautiful feeling until …

Happy *Burp* Year, mumma papa’, said he.

Silence. And then we laughed. And laughed and laughed as if that was the most rib-tickling wish we had ever heard. Because it was. 

This was no simple coincidental burp making its presence felt. It was the one which came from the bottom of his tummy to make the bottom of our hearts happy. Big long burp, as if making place for what is to come in the new year ahead, at the same time announcing how happily satiated it was with what he had had in the old.  

The night before the new year walks in is always so special. The excitement, the planning, the anticipation and then the countdown. It is because we make sure we are where we want to be on this special eve. I did and I am sure you did too. Felt love and togetherness, family and friendship, joy and something to look forward to. Praying for nothing more than good health and happiness, as a family and for our families. And nothing less than big burps of satisfaction from the little tummies too.

Happy 2014 to my readers.

[This post is written for the Wordpress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Stroke of Midnight - Where were you last night when 2013 turned into 2014? Is that where you wanted to be?”]

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