Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A to Z Challenge - The Curtain Raiser!

After dawdling and doodling for the better part of the week, and trying to convince myself why I shouldn't take up the A to Z challenge this year, I have finally mustered up some courage to dip my hands in the rough seas yet again!

The blog hasn't received much love either from me or the visitors for the past couple of months, and the reason was that my hands were full - full beyond comprehension - with a whole lot of things! Though I was a little apprehensive about the same continuing in the month of April, I think, there has to be someway I can find time for the blog in spite of all that. This challenge, I am sure, will be a good way to get back on track yet again.

Time has been the biggest constraint all this while, but considering the fact that I have done well under pressure, especially in the A to Z kinds, I am tempted to give it a try.

I don't have a set theme this year, unlike the past 3 years, but a little worm that keeps wriggling in my head tells me to make it a 'list' blog fest. So, the idea is to give you 'Five' of Everything... well, not 'everything' but as many things that I can think of!!

Okay, so I missed the date for the theme reveal, but isn't it still 20th of March somewhere on this planet? Well, even if it isn't, I'd rather be late than not diving in at all!

So, welcome, all ye lovelies, and show me some love....see you around next month long.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Last Parlour

“The Last Parlour”, reads the board at the entrance to the room. For someone who has never been to a real parlour all her life, it seems a paradox of sorts that a parlour should be the last place I should visit! I float alongside myself as they wheel me into the room. It feels strange that what had been a single identity a few hours ago, has split into two now. One is me, who is lying motionless on the stretcher and the other is me who is floating with myself. Did that confuse you or did you find that funny? I thought that was funny. But I never thought I was capable of saying such silly things, or laugh at my own jokes! Maybe situations such as these bring out your funny side! Again, it’s a pity I had to wait this long to bring out that side of me.

Someone, probably a ward boy, fishes out a tag that says ‘1729’ and slips it on my left toe. There are two more people accompanying us, perhaps helpers. From the stretcher that has been my bed until now, they lift and park me in the cold storage of the morgue. It amuses me to think how I, who had been Ratna, until a few hours ago, have suddenly been elevated to the status of a ‘body’, and now, I am a mere number.

The ACs in the room tells me I’m supposed to be feeling cold, but I am not. And I’m sure the ‘me’ who is lying inside that huge chest isn’t feeling cold either. That way, I have hated ACs all my life. The men are speaking to someone outside – ah, my daughter. I can tell she’s weeping, and I’m supposed to feel bad that she is upset, but I don’t. She’s waking towards the chest and one of the men pull it out. My daughter looks at my lifeless body and caresses my face. More tears run down her cheeks, and I know I should want to wipe them, but I don’t. I just look. And then, they all walk out, locking the door, leaving me alone with myself.

I want to look at myself now. It’s strange, I have never looked at myself from outside. No, I realise that that’s not entirely true, I have. I have looked at myself in the mirror before, but what I see now is different. I don’t even have to pull the chest out, I can just slide in, but look at the irony, the door to my body is closed. I cannot enter it again. How often have I wasted time trying to open shut doors not bothering about entering the one that was always open. And now try as I might, this door that was always open, is closed and funnily enough all other doors are open and I no longer care about entering them.

I look at myself and wonder if this is really me? I observe the black marks under my eyes and think of all the sleepless nights I’ve spent worrying. I realise how futile that was. I look at my ears - the golden studs are gone. Those were my favourite. How did I even think, I would be able to take them along? I look at my nose – they are wide, visible signs of a tube having fed me all these days. The upturned nose, no longer so. In the end, all it served was to feed me - food, not my ego.

The night passes quickly than I anticipate. The door opens again and this time there’s a stream of visitors. They’ve all come to see me – the me, that’s inside the chest. They look, they weep, they speak comforting words to my daughter, they tell her what a wonderful person I was. I wish they’d said that to me when I was still alive. But again, I don’t think I have said that to any person who was alive either. See? I’m being funny again. Their affection wants me to feel happy, but I can’t. I just look. I float about, looking at people, unable to feel their pain.

Again, it’s time for me to move. People shift me from the chest to the stretcher and then to a van. I float in, hovering above myself. There’s more crying. Many people leave, bidding me goodbye. Some accompany me.

We reach someplace and they shift me from the van to pyre. Moments later, I can see myself burning, but that sight doesn’t move me. Slowly, they leave, one by one. At last, my daughter leaves too. I realise that this is the farthest they can accompany me. I’m on my own now. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next. I just watch the embers glow golden and keep watching till they turn red and finally grey. 

One of my identities is gone. I remain.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: His Drunken Wife by Sundari Venkatraman

The Plot:
It is said, that the greatest gift you can give someone is that of unconditional love and acceptance. This probably sums up the plot of Sundari Venkatraman’s second novella in the Marriages Made in India series, ‘His Drunken Wife’.   

The story:
The story revolves around Abhimanyu and Shikha, characters who we get a brief glimpse of in Sundari’s previous novel. Opposite poles Abhimanyu and Shikha are bound together in a marriage. What is merely an association of convenience for Shikha, is a bond of love for Abhi. He is perfection personified and she’s your wayward girl. The story traces how their paths come together and how Abhi gives her unconditional love and support, helping her overcome her fears and addiction, in spite of her couldn’t-care-less-attitude towards him and the marriage. What’s troubling Shikha? Why can she not bring herself to trust Abhi? How does Abhi manage to win her over? You will have to read the book to know more.

What I liked:
The story is very different from the fairy tale romances that Sundari is known to weave. As the title of the book implies, it touches upon the important aspect of addiction and how it can consume someone’s life completely. It also talks about how unconditional love is very important to help a loved one cope with addictions such as alcoholism. Abhimanyu as the endearing and patient husband is adorable and Shikha as the brash, drunken wife manages to elicit our empathy once we know why she is in such a miserable place.

What I would have liked:
I would have liked to know Abhi a little more in terms of why he is so obsessed with Shikha in spite of her not reciprocating his feelings, like what went into making Abhi the soft, understanding person that he is, his emotions when he is constantly rejected by her, etc. I would also have liked Abhi to have some flaws because it is very rare that someone can be so perfect.

Final words:
This book is sizzling hot in terms of the number of steamy scenes it has. The intimate scenes between the couple are vivid and sensuously described. In fact, I think this book is a notch higher in sensuality as compared to Sundari’s other books. Perfect for cozying up in the winters, His Drunken Wife, is a fast paced read. It’s a book that is in sync with the times because there are a lot of women who have unwittingly or willingly become victims of addictions and substance abuse even in a supposedly conservative country like India.
If you are looking for a quick, romantic read, this book is for you. 

The Blurb:
The badass Shikha is startled when the nerdy Abhimanyu proposes marriage. She loves... herself, and Abhimanyu doesn't figure on her list anywhere. For Abhimanyu, however, it was love at first sight when Shikha walked into RS Software, where the two of them work.

When Abhimanyu shows her that he just might be rich enough for her, a pleasantly surprised Shikha accepts his marriage proposal and moves into his swanky apartment. 

But it looks like the love is all from only Abhi’s side as Shikha continues to drink herself crazy. Yeah, even at their wedding party.

And then Abhi sets out on a honeymoon to Thailand with His Drunken Wife... 

*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.

Title: His Drunken Wife
Author: Sundari Venkatraman
No of pages: 101
Genre: Romance

Friday, December 16, 2016

Time Heals!

‘Antara, why don’t you clean your room today, beta,’ said her mother. ‘Diwali is in a few days anyway.’

‘What? Don’t tell me you haven’t cleaned my room for the past 3 Diwalis!’ exclaimed Antara acting shocked.

 ‘Hahaha, no, no, your room is being cleaned every day, but I haven’t touched your bookshelf. Check what you need and whatever you don’t put it in this carton, I’ll give it away,’ said her mother handing her a carton.

Antara was home for Diwali after a long time and just seeing the preparations - the cleaning, the decorations and sweets and savory being prepared made her realise how much she had missed home. She walked to her bookshelf and smiled. She ran a happy finger over the books, bent over and took a deep long breath, inhaling the dusky smell of her books. It brought back so many memories!

‘Looks like you are going to stand here all day without getting anything done,’ chided her mother.

‘Hahaha, no ma, I’m getting on the job right away!’ she said taking out the first stack of books. ‘College books first,’ she told herself. At the top of the stack was the familiar ink blue cover staring at her. ‘Mr. Kotler! How I’ve missed you!’ she said fondly picking up the marketing management book by Philip Kotler and blowing off the dust on the top. ‘I can’t possibly part with you!’ she said holding it close to her body. One by one she looked at the books and by the time she had finished with the stack, very few books were in the carton to be thrown away.

Suddenly, her eyes caught something at the end of the stack. ‘You are here!’ she exclaimed, ‘I thought I had lost you!’ she picked up a diary with a warm brown leather cover and the year 2013 inscribed on it.  She opened the diary and flipped through the pages. Farewell messages from her friends occupied the pages, some neatly written, some hastily scribbled but all of them exuding the love and affection they shared. She read them one after the other, letting nostalgia flood her again.

 ‘I still remember that lucky shoulder of mine that gave you support when you fell asleep during our field trip to Mumbai’, Nishanth had scribbled. She laughed at the memory. The Mumbai-Goa trip! What fun!

 ‘You were my right hand (literally!) when I suffered a fracture’, her best friend Saanch had written. She had filled in three complete pages before signing off, ‘You are the best! I’ll miss you!’  She kissed the page and hugged the diary, ‘You are the best too, Saanch!’

Then her eyes fell on a folded piece of paper neatly tucked into one of the pages. She instantly knew what it was. She held in her hand for some time debating if she should open it. ‘One last time,’ she promised herself. She opened the folds spreading the A4 sheet of paper and proceeded to read it contents. She had not addressed it to anyone, but she knew whom it was for.

“That evening is so vividly etched in my mind. It seems like yesterday, but almost a year has passed. Nothing about the evening seems farce to me. Everything was as true as truth can be. The feelings, the emotions and the words. They came out in a torrent as if they had been waiting for years for that momentous evening and when it finally came, it washed us away and drenched us in love. I would like to believe that every word was said as it was meant. I hope no one tells me otherwise or it will leave me heartbroken and I will never be able to place my trust on anyone ever again. I trust every word that you said. It stirred feelings within me like never before. It took me to heights I had never climbed before. It was dizzying but I trusted that you will hold me if I were to fall. You did not see me explode with joy when you said the three magical words nor did you see my hands shake and tremble as I said them to you. It seemed wrong but felt so right.

When I think about it, nothing has ever felt more right. Never have I expressed myself more languidly before. Never have I felt so free as I gave wings to my feelings. Yes, I have loved you wholly and completely. I have put my trust in you. You have been in my thoughts every waking hour. You have been in the songs that I listen to. You have been in the books that I read and in the words that I write. It feels like you silently crept inside me and became a part of me.

Sometimes, I wonder why that moment was fleeting. Why did it not last? It got over before it even began. Why then am I still in that girdle? Why cannot I lift myself out of it? Were your words not true? Did you not speak your mind? Were you not as much in love? If you were, then why did you let go of me? Why did you tell me how much I mean to you if I did not?

I refuse to believe you lied. I refuse to believe that was fake. Tell me that everything about that evening was true. Tell me that whatever is holding you back is not me. Tell me that you love me as much as I do. I secretly pray that you love me as much as you said you do. I pray that someday you'd say it again. Just like you did that evening. And this time you'd not run away.

Why are you running away? From whom are you trying to escape? Is it from me? Or from yourself? Maybe from circumstances? Or maybe from destiny? Maybe we were not meant to be. Maybe we will never be too. But does that take away from us the right to love? I want nothing more than for you to tell me that you love me too. This is my wish that I send out to the universe. I hope it is listening and I hope it will come true someday.

I will wait...even if it takes forever. I cannot describe how much I miss talking to you. I miss the way you made me feel. I miss the wit, the humour, the jokes. I miss the way you cared, I miss the tenderness. I miss your words, your voice, your love. I miss you. I do.

She folded the piece of paper and placed it where it was. She smiled. That surprised her because she remembered the day she had written this. Tears wouldn’t stop flooding her face even as she tried to put her feelings on paper. And she had cried on the innumerable occasions she had read it after that. But today, she could smile. She wondered why she had never posted the letter. But today she realised that she had done the right thing not posting it. It was surprising, that today those emotions were gone. It was hard to believe that she could have felt such an intense emotion for someone. She remembered what a nervous wreck she was those days. If someone had told her that three years down the line all this would look so distant and would not matter anymore, she could have strangled them. But it was true. Those memories were indeed distant and they didn’t matter to her anymore. They were only memories now and she had been able to make peace with them. 

Whoever said ‘time heals’ was right.

She opened her purse and looked at the picture of her husband Abhishek smiling at her. It took her three years to realise that it was the right decision choosing not to wait. That forever would have been truly forever! For the first time, she was glad the universe had not listened to her!     

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I was speaking to a friend of many years, over 15 years to be precise. Jakes and I had worked together for 8 years and kept in touch for 7 years thereafter. After a longish conversation as always, he said, ‘Over the years, people have come, and people have gone, some stayed friends even after they were gone, but somehow, you are one person I am most comfortable conversing and being with and enjoy talking to.’  

Needless to say, I was touched.

While I was ruminating over the feeling of warmth he had left me with, I went a couple of years down memory lane.

During my last visit to Nagpur, I met my best friend’s Pavi’s father whom I hadn’t met for more than 12 years, ever since I left the city and migrated to Bangalore. I have known him from ever since I was in kindergarten; Pavi and I have grown up together. ‘You have forgotten me, Ambi uncle,’ I chided him, not having heard from him for long. To that, he smiled, and nodded his head. ‘Every morning when I pray, apart from my own family members, I pray for the well-being and happiness of 5 other people; a couple of my friends, one of Raghu’s (his son) friend, and two of Pavi’s friends. You are one of those few people who are in my prayers every day,’ he said.  

I have no words to describe how I felt. To know there is someone who keeps you in their prayers every day, is a feeling like no other, isn’t it?

A week ago, my dearest friend Aj, told me that when he was watching the movie, Dear Zindagi, there was this scene where Alia is asked to count her top five friends. And then, he told me that 'I' was in his top three. You can bet, I was deeply humbled and touched!

These three incidents brought me to the realisation that it is not very often that we let our loved ones know that we love them, be they our friends or family. While we are quick to let people know through our actions or words that we hate them or dislike them, we don’t think that love needs to be shown. What a silly notion!

This brought to mind a book I had read some time ago. Titled, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom, it has a scene where the old man Morrie holds a living funeral for himself. He is on his deathbed, and so he invites friends over so that he can listen to all the nice things they have to say about him. What good would it be if people said all these lovely things about him after he were dead, he reasons.  He wouldn’t be around to hear them out anyway. 

Very deep, and funnily true, don’t you think?

And that, is the reason for this post.

Imagine, if I were dead and gone and then at my funeral, Jakes were to tell my kin how he enjoyed talking to me, how would I even know? How would I be able to enjoy that feeling of being loved? And what difference would it make to my kin?

Imagine if Ambi uncle had never told me that he prayed for my well-being every day, how would I have the opportunity to be grateful for his love. Just knowing that I am in someone’s prayers, gives me immense strength during my days of despair.  

How would I ever know, if he hadn't told me, that Aj held me in such high regard? 

So, beginning today, remember to express how much someone means to you, how much you love someone, and what an amazing difference they make to your life. No one is going to be around forever, neither you nor them. Don’t deprive each other of this feeling of warmth and happiness.

Stay Loved!

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