Welcome to the myriad of moments that whisper into my Life!
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I stared at the Facebook notification that said I have been invited to a day-long writing workshop at Zorba the Buddha by Kiran Chaturvedi.
I was flummoxed. I knew nothing about the venue and the person inviting me.
I was also a little worried. Do I now need writing workshops? I was pretty sure writing came naturally to me. I quickly looked up my blog for reassurance. I had written so many fiction, a few poetry, won some contests – I was momentarily happy.
Then I checked the dates of my last few posts with a sinking heart. I also knew that I have been trying to take forward my novel beyond just the first chapter for the last many many months.
I also wanted to explore a new place and meet new people. So I clicked on the “Going” option.
On 12 July 2014, last Saturday, I arrived at the venue at Ghitorni 30 minutes earlier! By now, I had conversed with Kiran, checked out her initiative Write & Beyond and knew about Zorba the Buddha. Something told me I was going to like it.
This was my first time inside one of Delhi’s farmhouses and it was such a nice surprise! It is an eco-friendly place, with undulating landscape, water bodies and lots of open space. The huge room where we were to have the workshop had mud walls and high ceilings.
Image from the Facebook page of Zorba the Buddha
After a round of tea and cookies, we settled down on the floor cushions and wicker chairs. I got myself acquainted with my fellow participants and was kicked to know that there was a strong Calcutta connection among us! Kiran and Kanchana, our guides for the day had both lived in Calcutta for some time while Anupama, a fellow participant grew up in my city and even attended Gokhale College! It was so much happiness for a Cal-starved soul like me. When we came to know Nidhi, another participant was expecting, we passed on hearty congratulations and shared wisdom and naughty jokes at the same breathe!
Kiranjit Chaturvedi, a soft-spoken and petite Punjabi (what a lovely oxymoron :)) welcomed us four – Anupama, Nidhi, Avanti and me to the workshop and invited us to take a journey to our innermost being. She informed that unless we connect with ourselves – body and mind – our writing will not flow flawlessly. We closed our eyes, relaxed our whole body and were soon transported to a quiet solitude. The only sound we heard was Kiran’s voice and our breathing!
My skepticism at the concept soon vanished. For many days, I have been trying to pen down some short stories for a few contests but have drawn blank. I did not lack time but was unable to grasp at the ideas. I realised that I have not been able to write anything because my mind had been too cluttered with thoughts which I were not letting go of. Once my mind had calmed down, I realised that my fear of not being able to write was unfounded.
We were asked to quickly write down whatever came to our mind. Even Kiran and Kanchana joined us. After 15 minutes, we read out our pieces and discussed with each other. I realised Anupama has a flair for beautiful words, Avanti has great clarity of thought and Nidhi has a quirky sense of humour. Kanchana shared something from her novel, a work-in-progress.
Kanchana and Kiran engrossed in their writing. Photograph by me.
Soon the potato chips were flying off the bowl, peanuts and other munchies vanished into our tummies and a round of wine was offered to us. For Anupama and Nidhi – the teetotalers, nimbu pani and juice came from the organisers.
We settled down for a discussion on writing craft, with Kanchana as the leader. Soon we were all participating and contributing our bits. We read from and discussed famous books while talking of opening sentences, narratives and characterisation. We also answered the question “Why we write” to understand how to improve upon what we write.
Soon it was time for lunch and we joined many others in the lunch room. The spread of hearty and tasty vegetarian food increased my appetite manifold. We got talking to Ashwin, the owner of Zorba the Buddha and participants from the workshops on calligraphy and past life regression, which were simultaneously taking place in the venue. For me, as an additional treat of dessert, a Baul sang in my language to keep us company.
Image by me.
Post lunch, we were joined by the mentor authors of the day – Nirupama Subramaniam, the best-selling author of “Keep the Change” and “Intermission” and Satyarth Nayak, author of “The Emperor’s Riddle”. After a helpful discussion on various aspects of writing, Nirupama gave us word prompts to write a less than 700-words piece on the spot! I was in a panic. How was I supposed to write down something new in 30 minutes when I have been struggling to do the same for so many days? Even if I manage to write, what if it was bad? How would I then share it with the others?
Image by Kiran Chaturvedi
The mentor authors themselves got down to writing. I closed the incessant chatter of self-doubt in my mind and made myself comfortable with the notebook and pen. I knew that I could incorporate the words into anything that I wrote. So I focused on an idea that has been living with me for many days and scribbled vigorously.
Soon, 30 minutes was up and I had 4 pages of written words in front of me. I tried to quickly do some editing but had to give up when Satyarth began sharing his story. We all applauded his piece and then offered some feedback. He was gracious enough to listen to the non-published members of the group too! We heard some beautiful, funny, tragic, quirky pieces from everybody. For everyone, Nirupama and the others had words of encouragement and tips for improvement. When my turn came, I disclaimed heavily saying that my first draft always sucked. I have always been uncomfortable sharing un-edited writing pieces with anybody before since it makes me feel vulnerable! But that day, I boldly shared a short fiction with my new-found writing friends, all of whom only had lovely words for me. A weight from my chest was lifted. The story idea which was residing with me was finally out.
We spent the next hour picking the authors’ brains on publishing, editing and the likes. A lot of contacts of literary agents and publishers were passed around. We promised to keep connected through Facebook and Write & Beyond and parted ways 45 minutes past the scheduled end time.
I returned happy, satisfied and with a spring in my steps.
Thank you Kiran, Kanchana, Nirupama, Satyarth, Anupama, Nidhi and Avanti for all the love, laughter and encouragement.
For me, Facebook has evolved from a medium to peep into everybody’s exotic and beautiful lives through their photos and status messages to a medium which brings interesting news, views and articles to my fingertip. Today I came across an article published on website of The Atlantic where its owner, David Bradley interviews PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Now I consider Indra as one of the best role model for women who dreams of breaking the so-called proverbial glass ceiling. Whenever I have read her interviews I have found them insightful and witty. This one is no exception. Apart from talking about managing a business conglomerate, she gave her extremely frank opinion on work-life balance for a woman, which got me thinking hard.
I watched the full video just now and immediately opened my dashboard to type out this post, because there are so many things that I want to express out loud.
From the transcript you can see that Indra talks about how her mother told her that whether she was the CEO of PepsiCo or not, did not matter the moment she stepped inside her home – there she was only the wife/mother/daughter/daughter-in-law and was expected to do her duties. e.g. buying milk at 10 pm for next day’s breakfast.
This is so true in almost every household in India – for every women, whether she is a CEO or a professor or a doctor or an accountant or a consultant or a teacher! Every woman is expected to buy groceries and vegetables, instruct the cook or cook herself, do household chores if the maid is absent, pray to the Almighty for the family’s good health and fortune, tidy her house, help her kids do homework, observe fasts on religious grounds, keep the inventory stocked up at all times and satisfy her spouse’s needs – whether or not she stays at home or works for pay. She must leave behind her designation aka crown (in Indra’s mother’s words) and cannot, for the love of God, throw her weight around! She is forbidden to say that she is tired and hence would like to go to bed early, without ensuring a proper dinner at the table. In fact, this is true for my cook too. Even if she returns home tired after cooking in different household, she still has to cook for her husband a decent meal.
This brings me to my second thought. Indra’s mother thought her husband was too tired to go out at 8 pm to buy milk but she was in perfect shape to do it when she returned from a highly stressful workplace at 10 pm. This is again the prevailing attitude of the society. It’s the men’s which are real and actual jobs. The women’s career is just a 9-5 job even if she is globe-trotting for work, pulling all-nighters, bagging a fat performance bonus or heading a team of individuals at office. No matter what a woman accomplishes at work, she will always be considered inadequate and inefficient if she cannot manage her household. Just by being a woman, she ‘HAS’ to manage the household. These days, men have fashionably started to lend a hand to the in-house work, which means it is perfectly fine to expect women to lend a hand to the outside-house work e.g. buying vegetables, picking up laundry etc. If there is bank work to be done, the men cannot take a half day, of course. Today’s educated woman, adept in all financial matters has to take up the responsibility after making excuses at her work place as to why she can’t attend the 10 am meeting. Parents-teacher meeting at the kid’s school is always a mothers-teacher meeting. Craft projects will be brought by the kid to only the mother, who must juggle her Blackberry with black ribbons and paint.
Indra candidly confesses that women cannot have it all, even if they pretend they have! She talks of how guilty she used to feel when she could not attend her daughter’s school programmes. I was happy to know that I was not the only one who goes into immense guilt-trips when I cook a half-boiled dish or discover dust on the furniture or forget to stock up the inventory or feel lazy to straighten the bed or fall asleep without the main door being securely locked. Just like I feel bad if I miss a deadline at work or cannot turn up my best draft. This is because I too, believe that I can have it all; that I can be a brilliant lawyer and a brilliant home-maker and wife; that I can impress people at work with my sharp legal acumen and family with my cooking skills – all at the same time.
Did my belief waver at Indra’s confession? I am not sure. Am I being unreasonable in my goals? Only time will tell. May be I want to try it out myself and come to my own conclusion whether or women can have it all. However the upside is that I have decided to stop feeling guilty for being less than perfect in a few spheres of my life.
Till the time I learn the tricks of the trade of managing both home and work with ease, I raise a toast to all women, single or married, with or without kids, working or stay-at-home for constantly striving to achieve the perfect balance in their minds or according to our society.
I am back with another in my Mind-blowing Monday series.
I love blog-hopping in my free (and not so free) time. Discovering and reading new blogs, especially the ones I love, gives me immense joy. My bookmarks tab in both IE and Chrome are bursting to the seams with blog URLs on a variety of topics, some of which I have shared on my ‘I Follow’ page.
When I come across something good, I always have an irrepressible urge to share it. Recently, while meandering my way through the blogoverse, I came across the blog which won Indiblogger award for the Best Blog for News and Media in 2013. I read a few posts and was hooked! Then I discovered that the author writes guest columns in Gurgaon Times, which I have read before and enjoyed. It was such a pleasant surprise!
I promptly searched her on the holy grail called Facebook and sent her a ‘friendship’ request. Lest she wonder who this girl is, I introduced myself over FB message and waited nervously for a response.
She responded within minutes! Despite all my gushing about her writing and looks (yes, she is a pretty lady), she was oh! so warm and nice towards me. We bonded over blogging contests, living in Gurgaon and joining women-only bloggers group.
Meet Alka Gurha, a witty woman with the rare ability to make fellow women (and lots of men) laugh out loud with her take on everything that goes on around us. Read this post on a day when your boss has staged a shout-fest or your maid has staged a walk-out on you. Then read some more from the blog and thank me for giving you an endless source of laughter.
Be happy and keep laughing :)
It is 6 in the morning, I am told by the Warden. The last day of my life begins.
As a final wish I want to tell Malati that she is my first and only love and ask for her forgiveness.
For raping her twenty years ago on a college excursion in a drunken state.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This week’s theme required bloggers to write a post on what would happen on the last day of one’s life and begin with “It is 6 in the morning”. It feels good to be back to writing fiction in my favourite 55 word format.
- Be very sure that he is the one for you. Whether you dated him for years or have just met him through arranged marriage circuit, only you can know for sure that he is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with – and not your peer group/parents/relatives/neighbours/colleagues!
- Do not look elsewhere after you have decided on your partner. Delete your profile in matrimonial sites, stop listening to relatives who bring you the details of yet another ‘eligible bachelor’, do not eye the eye candy at the bar or the hot, new joinee in office. If you do, then revisit point no 1 and ask yourself whether your partner really is the one.
- Get to know his/her family well – it will help you to understand him better. A man is a product of his upbringing and social and cultural milieu. Talking to his parents or siblings or other people close to him will reveal to you where he comes from.
- Get his views on issues which matter to you. If you are anti-dowry or wish to support your parents in their old age or want to keep your maiden surname, tell him so and get his reaction. Find out if he is willing to share the household chores to ease your load. The key to any long-lasting relationship is communication and keep up a healthy dose of the same before you say yes to spending your life with one person.
- Talk to him about money, irrespective of whether you are working or not. Exchange each other’s credit score and approximate net worth. Ascertain each other’s money personality – spender, saver, smart investor, careful planner, thrifty, lover of good lifestyle etc. If you two are opposites, worry not. Discuss ways to overcome the differences and devise a method of way forward. Decide whether you would have separate accounts and take on different expenses or contribute towards one joint account in a specific ratio (assuming you want to contribute). If you want an equal say in money decisions even if you do not earn yourself, say so beforehand and see if he agrees. Talking about this uncomfortable topic will give you an insight into his personality and save a lot of fights in the future.
- Another very important topic to discuss is your career. Tell your partner your dreams, aspirations and targets from your career and whether you want to take a break in between. If you wish to do something on your own, now is the time to keep him in the loop. His reactions and responses will help you understand him better.
- Past relationships (or the lack of it) may or may not be important to your partner. But it is one thorny topic of discussion which has to be dealt with in time. Being honest right in the beginning will help you to avoid spats on this issue in future. Same goes for history of substance abuse, alcoholism, smoking habits or anything that may matter to you two.
- Partners in real life seldom match the imaginary prince charming figure that women nurture in their minds since sixth grade. Some of the deviations you may live with, some you may not. If you want to change an aspect of your partner, do tell him beforehand and let him decide. Do not spring the surprise on him after marriage, since he would then, most likely be ‘forced’ to comply with your wish.
It is not easy deciding on your partner, especially in an arranged marriage scenario. While in college, one of the most discussed topic among my girl-friends was ‘How the hell would we choose our partner if it comes down to arrange marriage?’ Indeed it was a scary thought! To this dilemma, one friend had said that she would see if she could be friends with the guy; after all, being married meant being friends for a lifetime.
It stuck in my head and years later, when my turn came, I applied it subconsciously while talking to MH (My Husband). Result – I was convinced about him within two weeks of conversation! So whether you just ‘know’ it or you use some of the above pointers, choose your partner wisely and have your happily-ever-after!
All the best, ladies.
P.S. Even though I addressed the post to women, it applies to men as well.
Strapped for 15 years in the stranglehold of a dead marriage and soulless household domesticity, the beautiful, full-bodied and passionate Meera Patel depends on her memories and flights of fancy to soothe the aches that wrack her body to quieten an unquenchable need. Until one cataclysmic day in Mumbai, she finally breaks free…
Bold, brazen and defiant, Sita’s Curse looks at the hypocrisy of Indian society and tells the compelling story of a middle-class Indian housewife’s urgent need for love, respect, acceptance – and sexual satisfaction.
For some time I had followed the buzz surrounding this book. The video promo, reviews on the web, talks in the book lovers’ circle – all painted an interesting picture of this book. Some said it was desi ‘50 Shades of Grey’, some said it was a powerful feminist story, yet others said it was an well-written explosive erotica.
Whenever I review books for Blogadda, I write it immediately after finishing the book while the impression is still fresh in my mind. However, this time, I am writing it after 3 days. I have been mulling over the book, trying to gather my feelings and views and formulating them carefully to see whether my first reaction is indeed the real reaction. The reason behind the same is that I was confused after finishing it. I really liked the book in the beginning, then swayed between extreme emotions throughout and at the end, I was disappointed!
Despite the blurb giving the impression that it was a story of a bored housewife seeking sexual pleasure outside the confines of her marriage, I picked up the book with an open mind. I hoped it would be a different treatment of a hackneyed story line, which it is. However, I was unhappy with the book for the following reasons.
First, I was left unsatisfied with the protagonist’s characterisation. By it, I do not mean her virtuousness or the lack of it. It was rather my inability to relate to and understand some of her actions which led me to finally be completely detached from her plight. It’s my personal view that Meera’s search for bodily pleasures at every opportunity, at times with people whose names she does not know, did not justify her feeling of betrayal and victimisation towards the end. True, her marriage was a rut and her husband suffered from erectile dysfunction, but the attempt to make them the main reasons behind her actions was not right. Moreover her feelings towards Guruji and Yosuf both lacked proper reason. In the case of Guruji, she was immensely attracted towards him and did not find her liaisons with him any wrong till the time she came to realise that her mother-in-law had pushed her towards him at every possible opportunity. In the case of Yosuf, her mindset that romantic feeling has to accompany physical attraction was completely opposite to her experiences with men so far. At the end, losing her mind over Yosuf was something which felt unnatural to me. Meera, as a character began with the potential to give a different flavour to the usual characters of a woman but slipped at it a number of times throughout the story.
Second, the plotline wavered too much for my liking.The storyline of Yosuf was given too much importance despite the fact that he entered the scene much towards the end. Mohan’s behaviour towards his beautiful wife Meera and plain sister-in-law Vrinda was something I could not relate to. True, it was his male ego that stopped him from loving his wife but what prompted his feelings towards his sister-in-law? Or Vrinda’s towards him? There are enough hints in the story towards a connection between Mohan and Vrinda, which led me to wonder whether she was sexually involved with him or was theirs only a platonic relationship. The second seems unlikely while the first would mean that she would be unsatisfied with him, just like Meera was; or she was easier than Meera to satisfy. Either way, some of the characters and the overall storyline was quite vague.
I am sure Sreemoyee has her own reasons and view point for her characters and the story. The story has beautiful descriptions of places and situations which painted a picture in my mind while I was reading it. Her erotic narratives were not vulgar and unnecessary. At places, the flow was poetic, which was a welcome relief from the linear story-telling in most of today’s literature. She acknowledges in the book that her inspiration was a beautiful Gujarati housewife in a Byculla chawl whom she saw regularly while going to work and who she did not see after the floods of 2005 and wondered about her unspoken story. She had also taken experiences from other housewives, who had shared the stories of their desire with her. However, I wish I could resonate more with it since the underlying premise of the story is quite close to my heart.
Title – Sita’s Curse
Publisher – Hachette India
Author – Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
ISBN – 935009780X
No. of Pages – 344
My rating – 6/10
I was born to cricket-crazy parents, who, during their brief courtship period, had spent 80% of their very few telephonic conversations discussing their favourite cricketers – Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar and analysing cricket matches! When I was young, I would bawl my lungs out in an attempt to get their attention, whenever they were glued to a cricket match! To avoid my tantrums, they briefed me about the rules of the game and inducted me into their team so that they could not enjoy their games peacefully!
I started following the game from World Cup 1996, when I was in class IV and just 2 weeks away from the Annual Examinations! I assured my parents that I was on top of the syllabus and just needed one more revision the day before the examination, sat between them in front of the television set and bombarded them with questions about the rules, players, match, teams etc. My parents were too happy to oblige, thinking they had passed on their best combined gene to their only daughter.
That series was my initiation into the religion named cricket! I fell in love with Ajay Jadeja’s ballistic 25-ball 45 in the semi-final against Pakistan and declared to my alarmed parents that I would marry only him.
Examinations, results, studies – all went for a toss the days cricket matches were to be telecast. The television used to face the sofa and the living room door. My mother would be sitting on the sofa with her back towards me and would not notice my small head peeping through the door. Every time she got up, I would run back to my room and pretend to be deeply engrossed in solving the same arithmetic problem for 2 hours!
However after few years, we shifted house and I lost this advantage. My mother, by this time, had become wiser to my antics and she would ensure that I close the study room door before she switched on the television. I had no other way but to stand crouched with my ear pressed on the door to be able to catch the commentary. After all, how could I concentrate on the intricacies of English language when my mind was buzzing with curiosity about fate of the game?
By this time, I had moved on from Jadeja to Shahid Afridi, just after his world record of fastest ODI century in 1996. Apart from all matches featuring India, I now began to follow matches played by Pakistan too. If there were time constraint in terms of homework, studies and class tests, I would beg my mother to let me watch at least the first 15 minutes of a Pakistan batting innings since most of the time, he would last in the crease for those few minutes only! I gradually lost interest as his game and age remained the same ;-)
During the 1999 inaugural Asian Test Championship, I did the wackiest and craziest thing of my life with respect to my craze for the game. It was the first match between India and Pakistan being played at Eden Gardens. I was studying in class VII then. The first four days were on weekdays, which meant the day’s game would be over by the time I reached home at around 5 pm. On the second day, a friend and an equally crazy cricket lover [who now blogs about mouth-watering recipes at Guilt-free], brought a portable radio to school to be able to get updates about the match during class breaks (and to appear cooler than all of us ;-)). That week, luckily both of us were sitting in the last row (our classroom had a policy where students would change rows on a weekly rotational basis). During a very boring Mathematics class, I requested her through sign language to pass on the radio to catch a quick update about the match. Shocked, she mouthed, ‘It’s HER class’, referring to our stricter-than-Hitler Maths teacher. I shrugged, trying to appear totally nonchalant about any consequence of getting caught by her with a radio inside the classroom. My friend passed on the radio and I lowered my head, put one earpiece close to one of my ears and tuned into the commentary of the on-going match!
Imagine the thrill of being able to know match updates, sitting in school, that too in a Maths class! As a favour, I passed around chits to my classmates whenever any wicket fell or an Indian batsman scored a six (and managed to up my cool quotient ;-)). During the class breaks, the radio would be passed around to others, but during the next 6 periods, it remained with me. No one could muster enough courage or rather, had enough enthusiasm to listen to radio when classes were going on. I did not stop even when we had to do our Biology practical class in the last period in an open lab and snuck in a few minutes of commentary every now and then. At the end of the day, my friend told me that she was not going to bring it back the next day for fear of discovery and seizure of her precious radio due to my reckless acts! I pleaded but she stood her ground. I cajoled her with ice-cream but she still would not listen. Finally I promised a poster of Anil Kumble, her favourite cricketer (which would wipe away whatever remained of my allowance for that month) in exchange of her radio for the remaining days of the test match.
That particular test match will be remembered by other cricket lovers for all the wrong reasons – Sachin’s run-out, Wasim Akram’s refusal to call him back, the frenzied Eden Gardens crowd erupting in disappointment, Sachin’s personal appeal to resume the game peacefully, the crowd being driven away from the grounds by the police and ultimately ending in Pakistan’s win. However, for me, this match will always be memorable for the risky and daring acts of defiance committed by a 13-year old me for the love of the game of cricket. Since then, I have done many crazy acts like requesting for an adjournment of a matter (remember, I am a lawyer?) to catch the India-Pakistan semi-final in the 2011 World Cup, refreshing cricinfo.com every two minutes on my newly acquired smart phone during client meetings, shamelessly grabbing every opportunity of going to Eden Gardens to witness a match, even if it meant taking favours from not-so-favourite people, defending my team (Kolkata Knight Riders in case of IPL) in an anti-KKR crowd, losing my voice from cheering and then faking a cough next day in office and so on and so forth. But to me, nothing beats what I did way back in school!
For the children of 1990s like me, the game has changed so much over the years – the format, players, playing nations, rules, even ease of viewing! Star Sports now has free video streaming of the ongoing Pepsi IPL 2014, which allows me to enjoy the matches over internet, even if I am nowhere near a television set! It seems that I have come a long way from radio commentary to internet viewing! Such interestingly innovative times we live in!
P.S. At the end of the post, I realised that I have confessed a little too much! I just hope my parents and my Mathematics teacher will forgive me for these crimes of past. If not, I can always cite the law of Limitation :-)
P.P.S. I had mentioned about this ‘radio activity’ while writing about my classroom antics in this post in 2010.