Thursday, December 29, 2016

Water Flows..... - Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad

Indian Bloggers

 "Water does not resist. Water flows.....Water is not a solid wall.......But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.......Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does." So advises Penelope's mother to her daughter. An advice that she understands not much at that time, but applies later in her life, while waiting for her sly, adventurous husband to return. Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad  is a re-telling of the Greek myth but from the point of view of the muted, 'shrouded' queen Penelope who is plagued by suitors devouring her estate. Her son Telemachus is a patriarch-in-the-making, expecting her mother to 'behave' in an 'appropriate' way and disregarding her as a figure of authority in his father's absence. With little support from anyone in the household, Penelope turns to the youngest 'twelve maids' who work as her spies, sometimes being raped, sometimes loved, but forever bringing news to the Queen. Odysseus's nurse, Eurycleia, is not consulted, not confided into the matter. A fact that causes much misery and deaths in the end. Atwood uses the element of story-telling while being aware of the fact that a story remains a story - a version that might be different and at times contradictory to some other version of the same thing too. Odysseus's adventures are stories heard by his wife through various sources and there is no way to authenticate them other then just believing them. But when it comes to the 'story' of Penelope, and her maids, some periods are imposed to bring 'closure' to the narratives that exist in the 'master's' absence.

The killing of the 'twelve' maids is a strand that runs through the novella, questioning justice and fairness in a patriarchy that demeans a woman by raping her, by considering her as a 'prize' or 'trophy' - a thing to be kept locked up. Atwood questions the objectification of women through history and myths in the chapter titled 'The Chorus Line : An Anthology Lecture' where the maids stress that they are "pure symbol". They continue to haunt Odysseus after death. In Hades, after re-births...probably asserting that injustices continue to happen, the male continues to wander off, and justice never delivered. Penelope tries to dissuade the maids but they shun her too, and Atwood leaves us to speculate Penelope's thoughts as she sees their feet 'twitching' - unable to touch the ground.

The book is a quick read, blended with humor and sarcasm. Atwood's use of The Chorus helps in setting a pace for the novella, reminding the reader about the temporal setting of the narrative but then the prose breaks through it and reemphasizes that the issues raised are far from that - they are persistent and move beyond time and territory.

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(This review has been posted on Goodreads)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Music is the language of love.....

I am writing this blog for #MusicDilSe Blogging Contest at

For rules, and details, see this link

The prompt I have chosen is Music is the language of love.


"You're too well known, Wladek. And you know what? You musicians don't make good conspirators. You're too...too musical."                                    

                                                                                                  Jehuda Zyskind in The Pianist

In the movie, The Pianist, there is a beautiful scene. The protagonist of the film, Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jew, has been discovered in the ruined city of Warsaw, by the German officer Hosenfeld. In a gripping plot where suspense over his fate looms large, Szpilman plays Chopin's Ballad in G Minor. The officer listens quietly. The music reflects the agony of the pianist in ways words cannot describe. The effects of the brutality of the war, and the utter hopelessness that human race has been subjected too, are well-countered by the sound of music. The harmonious impact of music melts the officer's heart. Instead of exposing Szpilman to his mates, the German officer aids him in hiding and keeps bringing food for him later in the film. Mind you all, this is not just a scene in the film. It is part of the real narrative of the life of the pianist during the second world war. He plays on his music while everything around him dies. Yes, he is lucky to survive. But yes, his music helps in a major way too.

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In another real life instance, Jack Tueller, a war veteran from World War II narrates an incident where love conquers the savagery of war. A German sniper is hiding and ready to attack. Amidst all the tension and in the face of possible death, Tueller thinks about his trumpet. That moment makes him realize the loneliness of his enemy. He picks up his instrument and plays a German love song Lili Marlene. The lyrics of the song go like this :

Right next to the barracks by the main gate
there stood a lantern and stands there up to date
We're going to meet there again
Next to the lantern we will remain
Like then, Lili Marlene
Like then, Lili Marlene 
(For full song translation, click here)

The sniper comes out crying - a young officer, undone like many others, by the illogical, heartless war. The thrust of the trumpet's tone has shaken him to the core. His hearts beats for his beloved again, and all he can think about is not, war or death, but love. That is the power of music.

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The two instances I describe here are important because of the time and situation in which they occur. What hope can there be from a bloodthirsty and merciless war? Not all those who fight in wars want it really. Music brings out their humanity. Words cannot reflect the miserable pain they feel due to the circumstances they are trapped in. Music brings them out from the coma induced by the barbarity of war. Music in a way, conquers war. And sends across a message of love - universal love, a shared brotherhood that unites all humanity.

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Pete Seeger says it right when he says that songs can change history. The power of music is something that can only be felt as words fall short in conveying the depth or the intensity that music creates. The magic of pitch, the spell of melody, the bewitchment of rhythm, the dynamics of the instrument used, and the enchantment of the voice that is lost in the incantation are mesmerizing and enrapturing features that place music above everything else. Throughout history, songs have been used to build bridges, to consolidate communities to a cause, to fortify the feelings of patriotism. Music is medium that connects the devotee to his/her God. It is the language of love, the language that needs no translation, the language that surpasses all barriers.

If I were to think of a song that has touched hearts across time and history, a song that has moved generations, a song that has impressed upon each one of us the importance of unity and love, then it would be We Shall Overcome. The song has its origins perhaps in the Civil Rights movement in US. But it has been adopted as an international anthem of peace. It is a straight song with not much twists or complexities and yet, it manages to captivate hearts and transmit a message of hope, love and peace. It is just one example of how a simple song with an easy melody can empower people and strengthen their beliefs. It is not just a song of protest against the injustices of the society. It is a song of promise. It believes that love and unity are the only way things will change. Martin Luther King, Joan Baez, Robert F Kennedy, Roger Waters are just a few popular names who used the song in support of their cause. They all supported peace and stood up for universal love.

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What role can music play in one of the most violent cities of the world? I am talking about Caracas, the largest city of Venezuela. And yet, Jose Antonio Abreu chose this city and its kids to spread music and counter the ill-effects of the extreme poverty they live in. His organization El Sistema works with the underprivileged children. They are taught music. They sing, they play instruments, they work together in an orchestra. The power of music enables these children to think differently, to be more humane, and according to Abreu, to fight against "poverty and inequality, violence and drug abuse".

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Music is magic. Music is remedy. Music is probably the most powerful way to bring unity. It is a language even a baby relates to right from, or even before birth. Music speaks in its own way, whether we know the language of a song or not. And that is why, it bridges the chasms of prejudice. Many people around the world have used, and continue to use music as a means of bringing change within their communities. I was amazed by the whole range of results my google search came up with when I started reading about music as a means of change. It just proved my belief that Music is undoubtedly the language of love.

Written for #MusicDilSe Blogging Contest at

For rules, and details, see this link

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Indian Bloggers

Dear Zindagi,

कहाँ से शुरू करूं ? Ruth Ozeki की किताब A Tale for the Time Being पढ़ रही हूँ।  कहानी में Nao , जो प्रमुख पात्र है, इस ही सवाल का जवाब सोच रही है और उसको जवाब मिलता है कि जहाँ हो, वहीँ से शुरू करो।  बात अच्छी लगी तो मैंने सोचा की क्यों न ये करके देखा जाए।

तो नवम्बर की मीठी ठण्ड में सुबह ५ बजे उठ कर नाश्ता और lunch-box तैयार करती हूँ।  सारा काम ख़त्म  होते ही अदरक वाली कड़क चाय और bread के दो toast बना कर बैठ जाती हूँ, तुम्हे ये letter  लिखने के लिए।  India में होती तो मम्मी और भाभी भी चाय के साथ कुछ गप-शप लगातीं और चाय पीने का मज़ा दोगुना हो जाता।  पर New Jersey के शहर Edison के एक apartment में बच्चों के उठने से पहले ये चिठ्ठी लिखने का मज़ा भी अलग लग रहा है।

बाहर बिलकुल अँधेरा है। खिड़की के blinds हटा के देखती हूँ तो आस-पास बस छोटी-छोटी टिमटिमाती lights नज़र आती हैं।  न कोई चिड़िया अपने घोंसले से बाहर आयी है और न ही कोई इंसान।  Blinds बंद करते हुए ख्याल आता है मम्मी की kitchen की खिड़की का।  पिछली बार जब India गयी थी तो वो खिड़की तो जैसे मेरी दोस्त ही बन गयी थी। जब भी बाहर देखो तो, Dear Zindagi , तुम अनोखे अंदाज़ में मुस्कुराती इतराती नज़र आती थीं। कोई गाय अपने झुण्ड के साथ जाती दिखती थी, तो कोई scooter वाला ऑफिस जाने की जल्दी में तेज़ रफ़्तार से निकलता नज़र आता था।  कहीं स्कूल uniform में बच्चे bag और पानी की bottle उठाये बस का इंतज़ार करते दिखाई देते थे।

खिड़की के बाहर, सड़क के किनारे एक पेड़ था। मम्मी ने माली से पूछ के बताया कि वो kigelia का पेड़ है - हिंदी में बलम -खीरा कहते हैं। न जाने मैं कितने साल उस पेड़ के नीचे खड़ी हो के अपनी स्कूल बस की wait किया करती थी।  उसी पेड़ के नीचे पापा ने एक चबूतरा बनवाने की सोची।  गर्मी के दिन बहुत थकान वाले होते हैं India में। पापा ने सोचा की बहुत चलती सड़क है , तो क्यों ने राहगीरों के लिए एक पानी की प्याऊ बनाई जाये। पक्का चबूतरा बनवाया गया।  मिटटी के मटके रखे गए - आह क्या खुशबू होती है मिटटी के मटकों के पानी की ! आते-जाते प्यासे राही जब वहाँ रुक कर पानी पीते तो लगता था कि प्याऊ का होना जैसे सार्थक हो गया।  पर ऐसा बहुत देर तक नहीं चला।  जानते हैं क्यों - क्योंकि शायद पानी की प्यास पूरी करने से ज़्यादा ज़रूरी कुछ और लोगों की अनजान पर महत्वपूर्ण ज़रूरतें थीं जो मटके या मटके के ढक्कन को चुरा कर बेचने से पूरी हो पाती थीं।

खैर, प्याऊ का अस्तित्व बनाते मटके गायब होते गए।  हार कर मटके रखना छोड़ दिया।  बेचारा चबूतरा तनहा हो गया।  एक सुबह खिड़की से देखा कि zindagi  एक नए रूप में चबूतरे पर सजी थी।  प्याऊ की जगह चाय का खोका खड़ा था।  सर्दी हो या गर्मी, चाय पीने वाले मौसम नहीं देखते।  धीरे-धीरे जमघट बढ़ता गया और चाय वाला तुम्हे, Dear Zindagi, एक बार फिर से ख़ुशी से जीने लगा।

कुछ दिन बीते। जाने चाय वाले की चाय ख़त्म हुई या फिर उसको zindagi ने कुछ नई राह दिखा दी, वो भी चबूतरा छोड़ के चला गया। पेड़ की हरियाली चबूतरे के खालीपन को कुछ दिन तक भरती रही।  कभी दोपहर में खिड़की से बाहर नज़र जाती थी तो दिखता था कि दो बंधु पेड़ से कुछ तोड़ रहे हैं।  बलम-खीरे का उपयोग जोड़ों के दर्द, गठिया के उपचार आदि के लिए किया जाता है। शायद घर के किसी वृद्ध के दर्द दूर करने के लिए बंधु पेड़ पर चढ़े होंगे।

एक दिन देखा एक सफ़ेद गाड़ी से एक आदमी बाहर निकल कर चबूतरे पर कुछ कपड़े रख रहा है।  सस्ती टी-शर्ट्स, जो न सिर्फ कीमत में पर देखने में भी सस्ती लगती थीं , उनका खरीददार कौन होगा, ये सवाल मन में उठा।  पर जवाब जल्दी ही मिल गया जब सुबह, दोपहर और शाम, कई दिनों तक, चबूतरे पर लोगों की भीड़ लगी रहती।  साइकिल सवार हो या बड़ी गाड़ी चलाने वाले अंकल, सबको उन टी-शर्ट्स में कुछ तो बात लगती थी।  समय बीता और zindagi का ये रंग भी किसी और गली-कूचे को रंगीन करने निकल गया। 

पर चबूतरा तो मानो सबको मोहित करता था।  कुल्फी वाले भैया ने वहां खूब कुल्फी बेचीं।  लोगों को गर्मी से राहत मिलती और भैया की जेब थोड़ी गर्म हो जाती। 

हम खिड़की के इस पार  खड़े यही सोचते थे कि अब ये जाएगा तो कौन आएगा। जैसे कोई मंच  हो मानो , जिसमें एक पात्र अपनी भूमिका निभा के जाता और फिर दूसरा आ कर उसकी जगह ले लेता। 

zindagi आगे चलती रही।  पर चलते चलते कभी पैर थके तो कभी जूते फटे।  चबूतरा सब देखता रहा। जहाँ कभी कपड़े , कभी पानी और कभी चाय या कुल्फी थी, आज वहां जूते रखे गए।  लोग आये।  जूते पहन कर देखे।  किसी को भाए तो लिए नहीं तो आगे बढ़ गए घड़ी की उस सूईं की तरह जो किसी का इंतज़ार नहीं करती।  

Dear Zindagi , कितने रंग हैं तुम्हारे!  तुम्हे जीने के लिए इंसान क्या नहीं करता। क्या हो तुम - एक उम्मीद , आगे बढ़ता एक कदम, एक छलावा, या एक भटके हुए राही की आखिरी मंज़िल ? उस दिन जब वो शराबी, जिसे किसी ने पागल कहा और किसी ने तिरस्कारा, क्या वो तुम्हारे आँचल में छुपा तुमसे कुछ सवाल नहीं पूछ रहा था? चबूतरा शायद उसको एक पालने के जैसा लगा होगा तो वो नशे में चूर हो वहां सो गया।  kigelia के पेड़ के तले कुछ गहरे सपनों में खो गया।  सब ने दूर से देखा और कहा कि शायद कोई पागल है, नहीं तो कौन भला ऐसे सो जाएगा।  कुछ पल बीते, कुछ घंटे और फिर पूरी रात।  शायद तुमने उसको बहुत थका दिया होगा zindagi .... तभी तो इतनी देर तक सुषुप्त रहा। सबने सोचा की शायद मर गया।  नींद में चबूतरे से नीचे सड़क पे भी लुड़क गया।  भीड़ जमा हुई।  सबकी साँसें थमी थीं कि जाने कौन है , क्या हुआ है।  कोई हमदर्दी से पास नहीं गया शायद, पर उत्सुकता ज़रूर उसके पास खींच ले गयी - सब जानना  चाहते थे कि ज़िन्दगी ने उसका साथ छोड़ा या नहीं।  

कुछ पल बीते।  साँसें चल रहीं थीं।  चेतना लौटी और शराबी/पागल अपनी मंज़िल की ओर बढ़ गया।  देखने वालों को कहानी मिली सुनाने के लिए और देखने के लिए मिला zindagi का एक और रंग। चबूतरा चुप-चाप एक मज़बूत मंच बन डटा रहा, जैसे कह रहा हो कि कोई भी मौसम क्यों न हो , मैं zindagi को बुलाता रहूँगा , कोई गीत गाता रहूँगा। धुन कभी दर्द देगी तो कभी हंसाएगी, पर ज़िन्दगी यूँ ही चलती चली जाएगी। 

ये सब लिखते हुए न जाने कितने पल बीत गए।  लगा कि मैं  फिर वहीं उस खिड़की के परदे खोल रही हूँ।  पर परदे उन यादों के खोल रही थी जिन्होंने मेरी ज़िन्दगी को सजाया है।  कुछ खट्टी यादें, कुछ मीठी यादें -  नम आँखों से टपकती यादें, मुस्कुराते होठों से छलकती यादें।  कहानी तो चबूतरे की लिखी पर स्कूल से सफर करती हुई आज के पल में आ के ठहर गयी।  कितना कुछ खोया इस सफर में - पापा की हंसी , भाई की शरारतें, बेपरवाह बचपन।  और कितना कुछ पाया - भाभी के रूप में एक पक्की सहेली, मम्मी की निकटता, बच्चों की मासूम शैतानियां। खेल खेलना खूब जानती हो तुम zindagi , कुछ लेती हो, कुछ दे जाती हो।  

क्या शिकायत करूं तुमसे.... मालूम नहीं।
सोचती हूँ बस चलती रहूँ। 
मंज़िल कहाँ है, क्या पता।  पर ये जानना शायद ज़रूरी नहीं। कुछ रास्ते छुपे रहें तो ही अच्छा है।  न जाने किस मोड़ पे कौन सी  खिखिलाहट रू-ब -रू हो जाए।  रही बात आंसूओं की, तो उनसे बातें करना तो तुमने सिखा ही दिया है। 

स्नेह सहित 
zindagi के मंच की एक पात्र 

“I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Fever Catching Up with the Challengers at

Touted as being the director’s most mature film to date, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil released to eager anticipation of Karan Johar’s fans across the globe. Not only was the film shrouded in a great deal of controversy but had a story-line which could put the director and his film in trouble due to its subject matter. Rumor has it that last moment changes proved to be the film’s saving grace.

Unlike KJo’s previous attempts, this movie lacks the soft romantic fluff which was his trademark for more than a decade. This is more like a coming of age movie where love is not all sweet and romantic. It’s all those things but it’s harsh, it’s bitter and it’s sexual as well.

A perspective on what all modern love stories are like, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil's story is one which would stay with you long after the movie is over. It’s almost like taking a walk down the memory lane.
The heart break of unrequited love, the melancholy and the wistfulness all come rushing back as you see the characters on the screen undergoing similar situations.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Songs a Firm Favorite with Challengers at

The music of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is one of the reasons why you must actually go and watch the film. Besides having a great story line, it has haunting music, the notes of which linger and pull at your heart strings making you hum along. The winning combination of Pritam and Amitabh Bhattacharya’s composition has always been a sure fire hit and works well for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil as well.

The title track sung by Arijit Singh is melodious and has the right amount of pathos. What starts with a softly flowing piece of music slowly gains crescendo and proves Arijeet’s prowess as a singer.
However, the challengers at Funkaar have tried their level best to sing this beautiful song with the same gusto for the #MusicDilSe contest. Check out the harmonious rendition of this beautiful number by Sarabpreet Singh from Jammu and Kashmir. He is an aspiring singer who dreams of making it big in the world of music and Funkaar is the perfect platform for him to showcase his talent. To listen to his song, click on the following link.

The second song Bulleya isn’t far behind. Its unforgettable music and lyrics have made it a firm favorite of just about everyone who has heard it. Check out its rendition by Ankesh Sagar for the online music contest by visiting

Another track from this film which has a haunting poignancy is Channa Mereya. It is a song about heart break and pathos when a lover sees his beloved being betrothed to someone else. The fusions of western beats with the desi musical instruments like the dholak and shehnai give this song a universal appeal.  No wonder Arijeet Chakraborty gives us a flawless performance all the way from San Diego, CA. It’s a beautiful mash up of Channa mereya and Phir le aya dil. To listen to his unique version, click on the following link:

Looks like there is no dearth of Indian music fans, no matter wherever they are from. That is exactly what Funkaar is all about, bridging distances and bringing people closer together.

Make sure you check out all the entries from the talented challengers across the world. Also take note of your favorite singer and don’t forget to vote for them. The more votes they get the better are their chances of winning. Though the prize money at the moment is Rs. 20,000, it is going to increase based upon the participation in the Music Dil Se contest.

Stay Tuned....!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Calling all Singers and Music Lovers for #MusicDilSe Contest - Launch of

All singers and music-lovers, age no bar, are invited to participate in the #MusicDilSe contest being held by .

Prize - Rs. 20,000 (or equivalent in local currency). The best part is that the prize money will increase based on the participation of the artists!

A few words on

Not everyone is blessed with a great voice. Anyone can be a bathroom singer but it takes a great deal of guts to actually sing your heart out without a care in the world. Some of the best talents often remain unrecognized due to the absence of the right kind of platform.
However all that is a thing of the past. The internet has made life easier for everyone. All the time, you get to hear success stories of how people became overnight sensations just by showcasing their talent and uploading it on the web for the world to see.
Have you ever wondered if there is someone who could discover your true potential as a singer? Well if you have been thinking about it, it’s time you put your best voice forward and let the world judge you for how good you actually are!

The Launch of Funkaar

Diwali 2016 marked the launch of the singing platform at Funkaar Beta. Some of the entertainment world’s most renowned personalities graced the event with their presence. The brightest and the best in the singing fraternity attended the event.

To gather a number of people to perform on a single place can be a great deal of hassle. However, if the platform is web based it becomes easier to connect to thousands of people. Those thousands then in turn help spread the word. So if you are ready to become an internet singing sensation, make sure to upload a video of you singing your favorite number. The more votes you get the better are your chances of winning.
The additional plus is the prize money which would keep on increasing as the days go by. Fame and fortune abound for those who dare! So make sure you dare enough to get your voice heard and let everyone know the great singer that you are by uploading your singing video on funkaar beta.
After all what is a song which isn’t sung with the heart. This is exactly what Music Dil Se is all about, singers showcasing their talent for the world to see. So what are you waiting for, make sure you keep your vocal chords in perfect order and perform to the best of your abilities.

It’s all really simple, juts make sure you sing your very best and upload the video on
The best thing about this contest is that people anywhere in the world can participate. There are entries pouring in by the dozen from across the world. When are you entering yours for the world to see?

What’s more you don’t have to worry about any sort of bias. This is a contest for the people and the judges would be the audience who views your singing talent. Why let a handful of judges decide who wins. Winning by popular vote is the name of the game!

Share the information....Spread the Word.....!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Indian Bloggers

कल सुबह जब उठो तो सुनहरी धूप की गर्मी में कुछ पल नहाना
नमी में डूबे गीले पत्तों को सहलाना
नए दिन की शुरुआत का गीत गाते परिंदों को सुनना
बदल रहे मौसम के इशारे समझना
गर्म दिनों में सुबह की मंद शीतल पवन से अंतर्मन को पुलकित करना
पतझड़ हो तो गिर रहे पत्तों की बारिश में कुछ पल खो जाना
शिशिर ऋतु की ठंडी बर्फ से देह और मन को चकित करना
वसन्त में नन्हे पौधों से थोड़ी बातें करना।.....

जानती हूँ तुम्हारे सपनों की तालिका बहुत लंबी है
बहुत दूर तक जाना चाहते हो
सितारे छूना चाहते हो
पर उन सितारों को देखने वाला भी तो कोई होना चाहिए
वो ऊपर आसमान में टिमटिमाते चाँद और तारे यूँ ही तो नहीं बने
अस्पष्ट अँधेरी रातों में जाने कितनों को राह दिखाते हैं
अपने अस्तित्व को सार्थक बनाते हैं।

अकेले भागते रहे तो कभी थकोगे भी, कभी गिरोगे भी
कोशिश करना कि कोई हो जो तुम्हे थाम ले, उन पलों में संभाल ले
तुम्हे टूटने से पहले समेट ले, तुम्हे बिखरने से पहले बटोर ले
तुम्हे याद दिलाये फिर से मुस्कुराना
कुछ पल ठहरना
फिर से चहकना
फिर से खिलखिलाना
सपनों की वजह से पीछे छूट रही ज़िन्दगी को
फिर से थामना
फिसलते जा रहे ख़ुशी के लम्हों को
याद रखना कि सपने कुछ पूरे होंगे
कुछ अधूरे रह जाएंगे
पर ज़िन्दगी के गुज़रते लम्हे फिर वापस नहीं आएँगे।

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Linking to Write Tribe's  #FridayReflections prompt

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Use this quote in your post or as an inspiration for one.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

One Amazing Thing

Indian Bloggers

"I screwed up my life big-time, a lot of ways. Did a lot of stupid stuff. But at least I saw one amazing thing."

------One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

2013 was a blow. It was a year that filled our lives with much sorrow. It was a time of emotional ups and downs. Two deaths in the family and a birth. My father-in-law's sudden death was followed by an unexpected calamity - the departure of my only brother. I was expecting my second child, my daughter, whose arrival I could not in any way celebrate. I became cold in many ways. I started forgetting people's birthdays, something I had been very particular about since I always liked to wish them on their special days. I would hate when someone remembered mine, because all it reminded me was the last surprise celebration my brother had planned for me. I stopped praying. It seemed futile to sit with folded hands and eyes closed when there was no one out there to listen. I looked around and saw death, loss, grief, pain everywhere. I wasn't the only one to suffer. I would look at a solitary cloud floating in the sky and that would take my back to my brother. It was as if he was in it, flying freely while I stood on the ground searching for him, in vain. When on the road, I would be lost in the deep woods that bordered NJ freeways. They would beckon my spirit silently and I seemed to follow, hoping that he was there, calling me, waiting to talk to me.

But he was not there. He could not be.

I had to come back, empty-handed, always.

Life was utterly hopeless.

I had to find a way out. But I did not know how.

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Then one day, a close friend of mine called me. She was feeling very low. I tried to cheer her up on the phone, Later I wrote something for her. It was my first blog post - For You, My Dear Friend. It was from here that I named my Blog, When I Stopped to Smell a Rose. I did not know what would happen next. It wasn't as if all my agony had swept away. No, I still felt that void. I don't really thing it can be filled in any ways. But it did touch my core in an inexplicable way. My heart ached to write.

I had started on a journey almost unawares. I was clueless as to where it would lead me. But I was willing to be led. Some unheard voice guided me along. Some unseen hand nudged me gently and I started walking.

It was later that I realized a strange thing. I had posted my first poem, my first writing on my grandmother's birthday - October 15.  It was a strange feeling, an astonishing realization, a sign I willingly acknowledged as a blessing. It was an amazing thing to see that tiny speck of light amidst the bleakest, gloomiest part of my life.

I remembered all the birthdays I had celebrated with her, the cards I had made for everyone special to me, the happy moments that had given me so much precious memories to hold on to. Do you think I cried then? No, I cleansed myself of the heaviness of the sorrow that was crushing me.

I got up, and I decided to walk around, with others, to lighten them up, to cheer them up.
To smile.
To make them smile.

Through the foggy blindness of my pain, through the blurry denseness of others' misery, a hope sprung inside. And I decided to write.

I have continued. Somehow, despite occasional setbacks, I have continued. What started on October 15, 2014, has completed two years.

My blog has survived.
My hopes have survived.

The lone distant cloud still fills my heart with yearning and the deep woods still intrigue me.
But something stays put. Something holds me together. The healing continues.

All I need to do now is to extend a Big Thanks to all of you, my family, my friends, my fellow bloggers, who have tolerated me despite my irregularity.

I never thought I would be here. But who can, really, even if one plans. Do we ever have any absolute knowledge of even one moment of future. No, I don't think so.

But then, if we had the knowledge, would it be easy? The answer is again NO.

As I end the post, I want to share one more thing.
Last night, we dined outside. It would have been just like any other moment of eating outside but for one thing. Our table was next to a family who was celebrating an occasion. It was a very special one. The eldest member of their family, their mother-in-law, had turned 90! It was amazing to be part of this celebration although we were not part of the family. As we extended our wishes to the birthday girl, my heart was filled with amazement. I felt after a long time that birthdays are special!

Linking to Sanch Vee 's #FridayReflections  prompt

Did you think you’d be doing what you’re currently doing in life? Write a personal essay.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Simple Wishes.....

Indian Bloggers 

"What is that boy doing?" The little eager eyes were looking at a boy standing near a fountain in the middle of the park.

"He is throwing coins", her mother replied.

"Why?", she asked.

"It is a wishing well, dear. Some people feel that by throwing a coin in the fountain, your wish will come true."

"Can I have one, please?" The little girl started jumping restlessly. Her mother fumbled through her wallet and took out a penny. The girl grabbed the penny and rushed towards the fountain and threw the coin aimlessly. As the coin plopped into the water, she squealed with joy. She ran back to her mother. 

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"Did you see that, did you?" The look of pure delight in her eyes was priceless.

"Can I have one more coin, please?"

The reluctant mother took out another penny. Her daughter snatched the penny and grabbed her mother's hand. She pulled her close to the fountain. Then, again in a casual way, she tossed the penny into the fountain, waiting to hear the plop, as if that was all that mattered in the world.
Unmistakable laughter - pure and hearty - filled the air.

"One more,, only one.....please", she pleaded to her mother.

This time, her mother took out a handful of coins, and started giving them to her one by one. And she couldn't resist smiling at her simple pleasure. With every plop, there was a moment of a bellyful of laughter. After sometime, both the mother and her daughter were laughing their heads off.

"No more coins left, dear", Mother said. "Let's go."

"My wish came true Ma", the little girl confessed as they walked away from the fountain.

Mother stopped. "What wish?", she asked.

"I wanted to see you laugh, and the fountain fulfilled my wish. You were sad today. I didn't like that."

Mother was stunned. She was so little but she observed so much.

"You did not laugh at first Ma. But later, as I kept throwing the coins, you started feeling happy too. It is a wishing well Ma. We will come here often."

Mother hugged the little one tightly. She had never realized how much her daughter understood. As for the wishing well, perhaps, some wishes were meant to come true. Or perhaps, for wishes to be fulfilled, all you needed was a simple heart that never stopped trying.
Linking to #FridayReflections with Write Tribe and Sanch Vee

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Hold Fast to Dreams...."

Indian Bloggers

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She stared at the pages of her diary. For the past fifteen days, this diary had been her sole companion. Something had happened to her lately. Nobody knew what. She woke up one morning without any memories. She knew not her name, and who she was. 

In the facility where the doctors were trying to treat her, people came and went. They would come with photographs and other trinkets with which they tried to goad her out of this oblivion. First ones to approach were a child accompanied with his father. The man claimed to be her husband. And the child's little hands craved for her motherly touch. She felt a pang in her heart as she reached out hesitantly to the boy and hugged her to comfort him. But in her heart was just a torment. Who was she? "You are my wife", the man had replied. "Mom", the boy had cried.

Later came an old couple. They were her parents. They embraced her with a touch that gave her some relief. They brought with them stuff that had been dear to her when she had not forgotten anything. Stuff like books, paintings and her favorite food. Her gaze remained vacant as she held each of those things in her hand. "You are our daughter", the couple had pleaded before they left the room.

Some came who were about her age, though she had no idea how old she was. They were a jovial lot, her colleagues. They brought memories from the school she worked in. They humored her with silly jokes. They told her that her students missed her a lot. "You are a teacher, you ought to come back soon", they advised.

A woman simply clad in black and pink dress came and recited her favorite poem to her - Dreams written by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Before leaving the room, her friend tried to remind her that she had had many dreams she wanted to pursue. "One was to write a book, remember?" and saying that she dropped the diary in her hand.

She stared at her diary again. She took a pen and started writing something.

On the first page she wrote - Wife
On the next she wrote - Mother
On the next - Daughter
Then, Teacher.
Then, Dreamer.

Then in capitals, she wrote - WHO AM I?

and she closed the diary shut.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Also Linking to IndiSpire #132 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brick Wall that disappeared......

Indian Bloggers

When I was little, I used to have a dream. It was recurrent. In the dream, I would be walking on an unknown path and in front of me stood a red brick wall. It was shaded with beautiful trees. It would beckon me with its mysterious beauty. I would try to reach it but before I could cover the entire distance between me and the wall, the dream would end, and I would wake up. I don't remember when I stopped having this dream. I did not discuss it with anyone since I believed that if I do that, I would stop having the dream. It was as if I wanted to face that wall in its alluring charm again and again and again. 

I never tried to read into the dream too. My dad had a book about dreams and their meanings which I would stealthily read every time I had some weird dream. But for this one, I did not want to. I wanted no interpretation of that path I was taking, of that wall that seemed to stand in between, and the color red. Now, after all these years, I could interpret it in many ways. Perhaps, my dreamy heart wanted to venture into the unknown horizon and live the adventures it had to offer. Perhaps, the wall stood for the many hurdles I would face in my journey which I would have to overcome. Perhaps the color red signified danger or rashness or aggression or passion. 

The path never appeared  uninviting. I never sensed an unease during or after the dream. I wanted that brick wall to appear right in front of my eyes so that I could cross it and see what lay on the other side.

I never met that brick wall. Or may be I didn't seek hard enough. In some shady nook, in some fanciful corner, it might still exist, waiting for me to reach it, touch it, cross it. 

तुम्हे शिकायत है कि राह में दीवारें बहुत हैं 
मुझे दुःख  इस बात कि चलने की कोशिश ही न की 

(You crib that there are many walls in the way
I regret that I never tried to walk....)

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Linking to #MondayMusings on Everyday Gyaan

Saturday, August 20, 2016


For this post, I have written on Write Tribe's #FridayReflections prompt Chaos — how do you feel about it?  I have done a Free Write as suggested by Suzy Que in a previous post.

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Lot of prompts have been doing a round lately, and some of them have been really good. But for one reason or the other, I have not been able to write- have been either exhausted or busy. This time, the Write Tribe prompt on chaos set me to work...What is it that attracts me so much to the word? I don't know. When I think of chaos, I think also of creation. That's how it has been, right? Out of chaos has come our universe. The universe that we are trying to kill by our prejudices, by our recklessness, by our un-satiating desires. Oceans are dying thanks to the chaos caused by our senseless use of plastic. We try to keep everything clean only by shoving away all that is dirty here and there. But we pretend. We pretend to worry. We make and watch videos. We write and read articles. We like and share posts. We crib and complain over the chaos that is ruining us. But we don't accept that we ourselves are the cause of it all. Rational beings chaotically charged!

So are our thoughts. Where is the order inside our brains? Thoughts seem to burst rather than sprout. We act rashly. We give vent to our anger. We become intolerant because we think the entire world is against us, and hell-bent on hurting us. But we end up hurting only our peace and dignity. Waves of wild anger rise high and wreck our lives. What is left is only chaos. How will we stand again? We need to calm down. We need to stop hurling abuse on others. We need to become receptive. We need to open the gates of our hearts.

Gates - refugees are looking for open gates these days. Fleeing from the chaos caused by atrocity and injustice, they are fleeing to safer places. Many make it, many don't. There are kids who die. Alan Kurdi dies. Omran's picture is trending these days. I writhe in pain at the anguish in those little eyes. My heart bleeds at the sight of Alan's listless body. We are all responsible for their fate. How will we ever be forgiven? Who will grant us forgiveness? How will kids like Omran ever recover from the trauma that has devastated their houses, desecrated the innocence of their childhood, ripped apart their families? Who will bring peace to them? 

Little ones are supposed to smile. They are meant to be bundles of happiness. They are dying - the tiny seeds which were meant to bloom in a well-tended garden - a garden which has been uprooted. I wish some gentle breeze carries them to a meadow of love where springs of love flow. I wish they can smile again.

Smile - it is so essential. It is the thing that can counter chaos. A true, well-meaning smile. Not a sly one. Not a fake one. A smile that is as pure as the laughter of a child who is popping bubbles. A smile that is as chaste as the smile of a baby cooing in response to her mother's songs. 

Why have we forgotten that smile?

Why have we become so tumultuous and explosive?

Why are we ready to burst? 

Why do we love to bring chaos in other's lives when we hate to have it in our own?

My mind is in disarray.

Chaos takes over. 

I can write no more.

Linking to Write Tribe's #FridayReflections

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review - The Story of a Suicide by Sriram Ayer

In 2012, I sat in front of my TV anxiously awaiting the judgement that would be meted out to Dharun Ravi, an Indian immigrant student at Rutgers University, New Jersey. He had through a webcam witnessed his room-mate Tyler Clementi's private moments with his boy-friend and later on had invited other friends and Twitter followers to witness the same through his web-cam. (The second part however never happened.) The entire incident resulted in Tyler Clementi's suicide.

As I sat watching the trial on my TV, I was at loggerheads as to where my sympathy should lie. I saw Tyler's mom waiting for a fair judgement. Her son would never return. Her loss was irreparable. On the other hand was this boy whose immaturity had landed him and his family in such a terrible situation. Dharun's mother sat in a corner weeping silently, praying for minimum punishment possible for her son. Dharun was charged on account of invasion of privacy. His crime was not categorized under 'hate crime' or 'discrimination' since nowhere did he show bias towards Clementi's being gay.

The case reflected how a foolish use of technology had ruined so many lives. It highlighted how important it was for us as parents, and for the society as a whole to act responsibly. If only, kids like Dharun knew that they had no right to invade the privacy of others. If only, kids like him realized that whatever they do could have serious consequences. And also, if only kids like Clementi had the love and unconditional support of their friends and family. If only kids like him knew that they would be accepted and loved for who they were.

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The Story of a Suicide

I began my post with the case of Dharun and Clementi because when I read The Story of  a Suicide by Sriram Ayer, I was reminded strongly of that tragedy. But the book however has more issues to deal with then just this. The key players of the story are Hari, Mani, Sam, Aditya, Priya, Charu and Alex. Hari's parents, 'He', and the twitter friends are important too in the role they play in the development of the plot.  The title of the novel is well-chosen. This is the narrative of not a man or a woman committing suicide. It is the story of suicide itself - how it happens, what factors or forces are responsible for shaping it up. It is not as if an individual decided to end his/her life and went about doing it. There are circumstances that make it happen. The novel is an exploration of those determinants at work.

I am going to divide my post according to the themes I felt are crucial in understanding the story as a whole. Then, I will conclude showing how each theme intertwines in the plot to bring about a completion in the narrative.


The narrative of the novel hinges on the thread of insubordination. There are different levels of disobedience that are examined in the story. To begin at the beginning is Sam and his relationship with Priya. As becomes evident quite early, Sam is driven into technology so much that he can see nothing else around himself. His inattentive involvement with Priya ends their relationship. Tweets are more important than a meaningful conversation. But when Priya calls it off, Sam's ego is hurt, really hurt. If we begin to feel that he might really be in love, Charu enters and Sam is floored by her beauty and confidence. But Charu is a very different woman. It is never clear how committed she is with Sam. There are points of confusion, moments when she wants to fully surrender to Sam, and then when she completely cuts him off. Sam is a typical male in this regard. The conversations he has with Aditya, and the tweets he makes about women, reveal how he objectifies the female body. The disregard he meets at the hands of Charu and the rejection from Priya are way too much for him to handle.

Then, there is the failed disobedience of Hari with 'He'. The way 'He' traumatizes Hari as a child and the inability of Hari to oppose it is very poignantly handled in the novel.

Mani's failed attempt to commit suicide as he is unable to cope with the pressure of studies is another example of insubordination - his refusal to accept the standards set by society due to his 'inabilities'.

These three are different kinds of non-compliant behaviors at work in the novel.

Abuse and Negligence

In the stories of Hari and Mani are hidden the accounts of countless kids and teenagers who suffer due to parental negligence and social expectations. The pressure to stay within the bounds of conformity are too much to handle. The inability to see that abuse is lurking right under their nose is the cause of much misfortune. Hari is unable to overcome the childhood trauma even when it is not physically present. The scars left on his soul are sore wounds that refuse to heal. For Mani, it is the expectations society has from toppers that intimidates him and threatens to undo him. Both the boys find in each other a possibility of a relationship that will be based on trust and understanding. But past blemishes are not so easy to rid of, and so their relationship too walks on a tightrope.

An intruder called 'Technology'

It may well be argued whether it is technology or its senseless use that is the cause of all the trouble. I feel, that it is both. Technology has entered so much into our lives, it seems to have invaded our sanity too. The addictive spell of technology and the rashness of youth is not so great a combination. The urge to post our 'status', to lure of remaining 'anonymous', the ignorance of thinking that with anonymity we can also wash our hands off our mistakes, to live more in the 'virtual' rather than the 'real' world around us - all this remains central to the plot.

At the same time however, we can not overlook the larger patriarchal forces at work. The hegemonic ideas we conform to, the disciplines we consider 'normal' and 'normative' and the standards we maintain to 'judge' and 'punish' people go a long way in determining why we act the way we do.

Conclusion - Punishment and Patriarchy

 The 'disobedient' women in the novel, the docile child, the failed student, the enraged boyfriend, the unhappy parents - they all work in a given social set-up. They have become what they are in a society that has certain rules of decorum, certain definitions of respectability, certain stereotypes based on which men and women are expected to behave. Although homosexuality is not directly attacked in the story, the fact that it remains closeted in the novel speaks volumes about the homophobia at work. The tragic end of the novel is shaped by forces which were working on getting some other results, but which may very well have brought about a similar fate if homosexuality was directly targeted. As Gayle Rubin has rightly said, " The suppression of the homosexual component of human sexuality, and by corollary, the oppression of homosexuals, is .... a product of the same system whose rules and relations oppress women." The bonding between Sam and Aditya, the fetishizing of the body of the woman in the conversations they have, and the 'desire' to 'correct' the 'aberrant' behavior of the beloved are instances which reveal a sadist misogyny at work. When Charu writes the FB post where she boldly uses words that would be taboo in a polite society, she is breaking the rules of patriarchy that does not expect a woman to have a voice. The "homosocial" (borrowed from Eve Sedgewick's book Between Men ) planning of Sam and his friends is very much in keeping with the ideology of patriarchy that sits on dominance, discipline and punishment. The 'dominant' absolute male considers it his right to punish the intractable 'body' of the woman. She will remain an object of desire, a spectacle, and also a subject of punishment. 

This same 'patriarchy' maintains a structure and places individuals accordingly. In such a set-up, it leaves no room for what it considers 'deviant' and hence there is no place for the 'third sex'. This provokes an 'indifferent' mentality towards homosexuality. It cannot be 'recognized' because no-body in the patriarchal set-up will acknowledge it. Hari's parents are the representatives of this very ideological positioning in the society. The dream sequence that Hari's father, Mr. Hegde has reveals that he is somehow aware of his son's 'different' leanings. The author insinuates that even through the account of Haridas, the labourer, who is revered in the theater but condemned outside. It is through the imagery of 'dance' that Mr. Hegde feels that his son's life is in 'danger'. The dream reflects the opposing forces Mr. Hegde is caught in between. There are 'beasts' out there who will kill his son, he screams. But what or who those beasts are is something he does not ponder over, or may be he does not want to.

He, like most of the heterosexual, hegemonic, homophobic society, refuses to acknowledge its presence. And for that reason, even in the book, the theme of homosexuality rests on the hinges of the narrative. It is there, very much there for us to probe, to understand, if only we are sensitive enough to give it its deserved space.

Abuse becomes the tool of 'discipline' and 'punishment'.

The illustrations of the book are hazy yet powerful. They reflect the confusion and chaos of a society that wears the pretense of politeness. Like the dream sequences in the story, they are at times blunt and catch you off-guard. They tease us out of our oblivion. They mock, they prick, they interrogate. 

Time to interrogate

Each chapter of the novel has a set of questions for the reader to brood over. These questions are exercises of introspection and analysis. They are meant not just for those who suffer a heart-break, or are abused. They are also meant for the supposed power-holders of the society - those who wish to judge, discipline and punish others. The relevance of this kind of interrogation is crucial since the way we handle the incidents in our life can make or break us. These questions are meant to evoke a response that can help us handle rejections, promote and practice compassion, and develop an understanding for those who are 'different' from us, but still as human as we are.

The havoc that is wrecked in the novel happens much with the aid of social media and the brutally indifferent use of technology. Thus it is imperative for the care-givers, the parents, the teachers and the guardians of our society to teach well the kids and the youngsters on how to use it to achieve harmony and not create chaos. 

Following are some important points I feel we need to go over: 

1) We need to understand and respect everyone's right to privacy.
2) We need to realize that whatever we do has consequences. Responsibility for an act, done anonymously or otherwise, can never be done away with. 
3) We need to teach the kids from an early age that the desire to possess can only bring about ruin. Freedom, and space in a relationship are the foundation of healthy relationships. 
4) If someone says No, we need to respect that decision.
5) We should assert our refusal powerfully if our dignity is threatened. To hide the matter, no matter how much we are afraid, can only bring more abuse. We have to speak up before it is too late.
6) As friends, we need to pay attention to each other when we are low. A confident and caring person is all we need in times of crisis.
 7) Virtual life, no matter how addictive, remains just that. It can never replace the authentic, committed relationships we can actually have if only we are willing. What is not out there is just a chimera. It can create illusions, and hallucinations, and can take you away from the real world. It can ruin you. 
8) Conversations - talking and listening - can really help someone in need.. We ought to pay attention to signs and words. Don't overlook just because you don't like it. Our likes and dislikes are less important that a life in pain. That life can be saved if we are vigilant.
9) Accept who you are, even when you are different from others. Be proud of yourself. 

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This post is written in response to Indiblogger IndiChange Topic - Review the book The Story of a Suicide by Sriram Ayer