Monday, October 27, 2014

Do You Need to Make Space?

The most important thing about writing (besides the actual physical act) is being true to oneself. Whenever I put on a guard and try and write the perfect sentence or try and come up with the perfect topic, I end up a) either not writing or b) writing the most boring stuff or c) putting up a quote on the blog. And whenever a, b or c happens, I know I'm not writing for myself.

I went over my blog entries from the beginning (Nov 2009) and noticed a gradual change in the posts. What I'd love to write here is that the quality of my posts, both in terms of content and writing style, has improved manifold but the truth is far from that. My posts on the bean bag started off in a voice that was honest and well, mine. But later posts, say in the past two years, are more contrived and boring. I'm trying to make an effort to woo readers and make people like me. And in doing so I've alienated myself from myself. 

Finding a solution to such a dilemma demands willpower and courage. The courage to face the fears and the obstacles within plus the willpower to bring a change. Friends can reach out for support and say words of encouragement. Self help articles or books can raise motivational levels. But real change can only come from within and ONLY if we make time for it. Whether it is writing, or working out, or doing yoga or reading - if we don't make space for it everyday, it just WON'T happen. 

So the moral of the story is simple. So simple that all the above can be narrowed down to two words - make space

I have to Make Space for writing

What do you need to make space for?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Girl Power

It must be taken as given that a man who happens to be the world's most powerful, most terrible, most  deadly sorcerer, must have a woman at his side. But it does not follow, my children, that a woman of similar proportions requires a man at hers.
        Now then , who wants to be a tyrant?

(The Bonehunters - Steven Erikson)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Escaping Reality

It is so easy to lose oneself in a book and forget reality. Especially if reality sucks. 

Since childhood I've found fantasy fiction to be the best hideaway. Maybe this feeling came about after I read Tilsm-e-Hoshruba at age eleven. No matter how crazy everything became around me, here was the answer to all my problems. Not just the story itself but the possibilities the story provided to my imagination. Solitude was no longer scary because I always had imaginary friends, mostly characters from the novel, at my beck and call. I was queen of my realm and my wazir was a deadly cobra who was constantly at my side but invisible to all. 

I found similar abandon in some works of Neil Gaiman. Step into Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, or Stardust and the world ceases to exist. While reading such books dread starts to settle in as I get closer to the final pages. I was gripped with such great fear of reaching the end of A Mirror of Beauty (Shamsur Rehman Faruqi) that I've yet to finish the book. These days I am lost in the world of the Malazan House of the Fallen - a ten volume fantasy fiction saga by Steven Erikson. I'm just starting book six.  

Maybe this is an ostrich approach towards life. It is easy to hide behind a paperback and let the world dissolve. To become friends with certain characters of the book and channel all the emotions inside one towards them. Doing so makes it easier for me to let go of my emotions for then I am crying with or for the characters, not at myself. I direct my angst towards the twists and turns in the story and thus manage to obliterate the sources of the pain from my environment... least till I turn the last page. 

Queen or not, I could really do with that deadly cobra now. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nostalgia post-Karachi jalsa

The first time I went to a big gathering that featured Imran Khan was in Quetta - 1992. He was the captain of the cricket team and they were on a tour all over Pakistan with the World Cup. The details escape me but we all went to cheer the team. While my brothers and father stood on the road looking out for the truck (containers weren't the mode of travel then) carrying the team and the cup, my mother and I went into a girls college where the team was due to make the first stopover before going to the main gathering area or ground. There was a lot of excitement of course but the logistics were such a nightmare that we all came back home without catching a glimpse of the team. Going there and being in the thick of the action was enough to inspire me to write a poem on IK. I don't have it with me now but I think the first few lines went something like 'Imran Khan is a great Pathan....' and so on. At 12 years of age, rhyming is very important. 

22 years later.....

Yesterday was the third time I went to a big gathering which featured Imran Khan. The urgency and excitement was similar to that of 1992. Then, the 12 year old me had wanted to catch a glimpse of the team and the cup. However, the present me went to show solidarity with a cause. A cause that, we hope, will bring a change. A cause that, I believe, has brought a change. When people of all ages and all social backgrounds can come together in front of the Quaid's mausoleum without any fear, on a humid Karachi day, that IS representative of the change that is seeping into our lives.

I voted for PTI in the last elections because I want a new Pakistan. But I also know that IK doesn't have a magic wand that will change everything. He is the harbinger of change. He can only do this much. It is up to us, through our actions, to bring the real change. For the simple truth is that Naya Pakistan, or something similar, is a dream which we've all had at some point. 

The question is can we play a role, no matter how small, to make the hope and dreams of a better future into a reality? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Little things matter

'Look for the little loves, find and shape the little bitternesses. Savor them in your mouth, try them on your typewriter'. 

(Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What are YOU reading this week?

There are some new books on the beanbag. I'm really looking forward to reading one of the books I got from Goa; Samhita Arni's 'The Missing Queen'.

And I've also got hooked to the epic saga that is the Malazan, House of the Fallen series. I read the second book, Deadhouse Gates, for our Desi Writers' Lounge - Karachi Readers' Club and now I'm reading from the beginning this amazing fantasy fiction series. So, Gardens of the Moon is also on the beanbag this week.

In case you're interested, check out my review on Deadhouse Gates here and a pictorial of our Readers' Club meet here

One last thing - there are some new titles in the book donation drive so if you'd like a free book delivered to your doorstep, just click here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I lost my books to the aliens...

Or in other words, how I never managed to finish the 15/15/30 project.

It wasn't the number of books, or the number of pages, or the lack of time or motivation which led me to abandon the project. Nor was it the fact that no one was reading along with me although I had high hopes that someone might join this crazy attempt. I am now revealing the actual, real and TRUE reason behind why I lost steam. 

There was an alien invasion in my backyard the night of 11th of July and these particular aliens only wanted to read books by female authors and since they were short of time (if they overstayed there was a slight chance of detection by the dog next door. Who is actually a four legged creature, with a tail and all. No subtle references here!) they grabbed the first books which they found which just happened to be the very stack which I was planning to read. Of course you can imagine how I went into a state of misery and shock to find no books the next morning when I woke up and thus, I was forced to abandon the project. 

No? You don't believe me? 

Well, there is another reason but it doesn't sound very plausible to me. There just might be a teeny weeny chance that I sort of backed down from the project because I didn't like the quality of my reviews. And I came to the conclusion that I am a failure with words and what makes me think I can ever write?  But, the likelihood of THAT happening is so much less than aliens disappearing with my books. 

Or is it?

[In Search of Love and Beauty was the fourth and last book I read for the challenge and you can find the incomplete review here].

In Search of Love and Beauty - (the incomplete review)

Aren't we all?

If you are not familiar with any of Jhabvala's work, I'd recommend you rush off to the nearest bookstore and buy Heat and Dust. In case you only know her for her collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions on many of their projects, you still need to rush to your nearest bookstore and buy her novel.

Jhabvala's novels are like quicksand; once you start the book you sink into its world completely. Her stories revolve around ordinary people living ordinary lives and facing ordinary dilemmas. What makes her novels an extraordinary read is the way everything is woven together. All the characters are linked in some way or the other and most, if not all, of them are in search of some sort of fulfilment. Her storyline is devoid of major twists but has very strong and well thought out characters.   The people in her story are alive; they have likes, dislikes, distinct personality traits and they change and bend according to their circumstances. While reading her novel, A Backward Place, I couldn't shrug off this feeling that these characters actually exist in people around me.

In Search of Love and Beauty is one of those books which, if you read in one day, can actually leave you a bit morbid. All the characters in the story are, as the title suggests, in search of either one or both. The novel starts in New York of the 1930s and revolves around the life of a group of wealthy European immigrants living in exile. The beauty of the story lies in the non-linear, episodic manner in which Jhabvala shuffles from past to present, explaining and revealing the lives and secrets of Louise,  her daughter Marietta, her grandchildren, Mark and Natasha and their association (and dependency) with the 'former Adonis', guru, spiritual healer, quack/genius - Leo Kellermann.

The story was absorbing but there was a feeling of gloom surrounding the novel and it came as a great relief when I finally finished it. The one thing which is common in all Jhabvala's novels is the end - it is usually very vague and almost without any definite conclusion.

[I wrote the above while going through my 15/15/30 challenge during Ramazan. Why I never completed this review and what happened to my reading marathon are questions I've answered in 'How I lost my books to the aliens..'].

Friday, July 11, 2014

Finding the Right Read

There are some works of literature which are permanent fixtures on every reading list. We read these works because they are supposed to be read by everyone. Initially we are introduced to the abridged versions by our parents (mostly) who try to force the reading habit in us by making us read the 'right' thing at the 'right' age. But this is the stage when we  stumble upon and are more interested in the 'forbidden'* books on the shelf of an uncle, aunt, elder sibling or grandparent. 

Then there are books which enter our lives as gifts and exit the same way. As we grow older we try and read what we fancy and this trial and error method yields both great finds and horrible reads. Sometimes acquaintances at school/college/work recommend an author and insist that after reading him/her we'll be fans forever. Others give us the book of some writer we've never heard of and we not only absolutely fall in love with that particular book, we try and get our hands on other works by the same author. Or we see a book in the hands of another person; it (the book) arouses our interest, we make a mental note to buy it only to regret it later. Or not.

Internet has made all this process so much more easier and less personal. But no matter how or why, sometimes a book finds you and sometimes, you find the book. 

* Forbidden mostly because they are not considered the 'right' book. Tess of the D'Urbervilles falls into this category if you're eight. 

Photograph: Farheen Zehra 

Types of Readings

"There are readings - of the same text - that are dutiful, readings that map and dissect, readings that hear a rustling of unheard sounds, that count grey little pronouns for pleasure or instruction and for a time do not hear golden or apples. There are personal readings, that snatch for personal meanings, I am full of love, or disgust or fear, I scan for love, or disgust or fear. There are - believe it - impersonal readings - where the mind's eye sees the lines move onwards and the mind's ear hears them sing and sing.

Now and then there are readings which make the hairs on the neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark - readings when the knowledge that we shall know the writing differently or better or satisfactorily, runs ahead of any capacity to say what we know, or how".

(Possession, a Romance by A.S. Byatt)

Monday, July 7, 2014

How real is The Real Life of Sebastian Knight?

When I was selecting books for the 15/15/30 project, I wanted to select female authors only, 2014 being the 'Year of Reading Women'. But I was short by three books (which was a reminder that I must read more female authors) and looking around the shelf in the last days before the challenge I came across this Nabakov novel which I'd just bought from States and I decided to add it to the reading pile along with Wodehouse and Thurber. 

It wasn't a good idea. 

Before I go on I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Nabakov. Some of his books are amazing reads (Laughter in the Dark, King, Queen, Knave) while others are a punishment (Pale Fire). I had great expectations from this book especially after reading the blurb, which started off saying:

'The Real Life of Sebastian Knight is a perversely magical literary detective story - subtle, intricate, leading to a tantalising climax - about the mysterious life of a famous writer'.

So I fell in the trap. Wouldn't you? 'Magical literary detective story', 'tantalising climax', 'mysterious life' and finally, 'famous writer'. All the ingredients that make a perfect read. But in reality it turned out to be a very odd sort of detective story with a climax which was far from tantalising about a writer who was not in the Rowling or Gaiman category. The blurb, however, failed to mention that this novel was partially autobiographical and full of nerdy chess references. 

The first mystery in this detective story is the detective/narrator who is the half brother of the dead writer Sebastian Knight. He has made it his mission to write a book on Knights' life although he has no experience in writing whatsoever. Besides love and admiration for his half-brother, what is driving our narrator to write this book? Guilt? Or a desire to set the record straight about his half-brother's life? We never really find out. While filling in the gaps, our narrator stumbles upon information about a 'femme fatale' who destroyed Knight - personally and professionally. The hunt for this wanton woman and the subsequent meeting with her provides some interesting moments in the book. The end was indeed 'baffling' and  far from being 'uniquely rewarding' as the blurb promised. 

Even though I couldn't understand a lot of references Nabakov was trying to make, the beauty of his prose did leave me in awe at some places. Also, his dark humour was very entertaining especially the summary of Knight's first novel, The Prismatic Bazel.

What I loved and laughed over the most was this perfect description of 'the whimsical wanton that ruins a foolish man's life'. 

'Books mean nothing to a woman of her kind; her own life seems to her to contain the thrills of a hundred novels. Had she been condemned to spend a whole day shut up in a library she would have been found dead about noon'.

This was Book #2 of the 15/15/30 project. For a review of Nabakov's 'King, Queen, Knave' read here

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jeeves is Always Right!

How Right You Are, Jeeves and how I wish you were my butler!

When people ask me which book changed your life I'm at a loss to answer. But if there is ever a mood changer, it's the wonderful world of Wodehouse novels. Especially that inhabited by the foolish simpleton Wooster and the great man himself, Jeeves. The man who reads Spinoza, quotes Hamlet, prefers Dostoevsky's work and has a solution to every problem known to mankind.

This book is a perfect example of the 'idyllic world created by Wodehouse' although Bertie might have a thing or two to say on this. The action takes place in Brinkley Court, the country house of Bertie's Aunt Dahlia. Bertie is summoned by the 'old ancestor' to keep an eye on the various 'inmates' in the 'old snake pit'.  An American playboy (Willie Cream) and his mother, a famous detective writer Adela Cream, are among the guests at the large house. Also present is Bertie's headmaster from his Malvern House days, Mr. Aubrey Upjohn, and his stepdaughter, Phyllis. But the most dangerous presence of all is that of young Bobbie Wickham, the one of whom Jeeves rightly said, 'I would always hesitate to recommend as a life partner a young lady with quite such a vivid shade of hair'.

The silver cow creamer jug (Wodehouse readers will be familiar with this grotesque prized possession of Bertie's Uncle Tom) makes its appearance also and creates bucketsful of trouble for Wooster. Hearts are asunder, engagements made and broken but no Jeeves around to fix it all until better sense prevails and Bertie decides to fetch Jeeves from his holiday at Herne Bay where the butler was, among other things, judging a seaside bathing-belles contest. Which comes as a relief because how can a man only survive on Spinoza?

No matter how high or low the tide, once Jeeves is around the solution is not far behind. Something of the sort happens here too and the day is saved at the cost of declaring Bertie 'off the rocker', a 'kleptomaniac' and a 'man who has lost his marbles'. But Bertie bears it all in good stead if it helps the business deal of his dear Uncle Tom with Homer Cream (BIG American Tycoon). It was his Uncle Tom who used to send Bertie postal orders, sometimes for as much as ten bob, in the miserable Malvern House days. And Wooster is always there for his family. Even Aunt Agatha, 'who is known to devour her young and conduct human sacrifices at the time of the full moon'. 

Some might accuse the Bertie and Jeeves novels of being repetitive but that is an incorrect and unacceptable view. They have a timeless quality about them. And even if they don't change your life, they will always change your mood for the better. 


Image: Google

This was Book #1 of the 15/15/30 project. For more Jeeves and Wooster reviews on the blog read here and here

Thursday, July 3, 2014


15 books, 15 blogs, 30 days. 

You can join this crazy challenge too. All you need are fifteen books, a blog and some super reading powers. If you have a blog, please post a link in the comments below so that I (and maybe others) can  check out your reads. In case you don't have a blog, join the Facebook page (15/15/30) or follow the #15/15/30 on twitter. 

Let the reading..BEGIN! 

Photograph by Farheen Zehra

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ramzan 2014- eat, sleep, pray and READ!

I'm embarking on a crazy project this month which involves a lot of reading (on an empty stomach) and blogging. It is something similar to a project I did a long time ago (read here).

Image: Google 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How the POET differs from the NOVELIST

"For the difference between poets and novelists is this - that the former write for the life of the language  - and the latter write for the betterment of the world".

                                                                        (Possession - a Romance by A.S.Byatt)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Lost Chariot of Helios

Either Helios has lost his way while driving his chariot around the earth or one of his 'fire-darting steeds' has collapsed while he was crossing over South Asia. Or is it us, who by slaughtering the cattle of the sun, have aroused his wrath?  

If the latter were true than Helios must and will unleash his fury on those who slaughter innocent people everyday, sometimes in broad daylight? 

The answer is a resounding no. Helios, like our leaders, is only concerned about his chariot and his steeds. 

The sun shines, strong and bright, while the 'fire-darting steeds' are rested and fed. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The True Writer

A writer only becomes a true writer by practising his craft, by experimenting constantly with language, as a great artist may experiment with clay or oils until the medium becomes second nature, to be moulded however the artist may desire. 

(Possession - a Romance by A.S. Byatt)

Friday, May 30, 2014

More Books 4 U...

There was a time when I thought I'll never ever part with any of my books. That, for as long as I live, I'll keep every single book I've ever bought. Every single one. Have I stuck to my book pact? I'm afraid I haven't. Over the past few years I've donated many of my books. You might ask, dear reader, what brought the change of heart? More like change of space - getting customised shelves made is very expensive these days.   

But more than the cost, I think it was the very act of hoarding books which lost its appeal. Why collect books which a) I didn't plan to re-read, b) didn't plan to read at all or c) disliked? Why not give them away to new readers who might actually enjoy both reading and owning the book? With this noble thought in mind, I donated many books to a couple of bookstores. I also wrote little notes in them (mostly about my thoughts/feelings about the story or characters) and an email address asking the new owner to write and tell me what he/she felt about the book. Considering I didn't receive a single email, I have a bad feeling that those books are rotting in the dusty shelves of the book stores. Or maybe whoever found the notes assumed that this was a desperate attempt at 'friendship' and ignored them.

So I decided to use a more personalised approach. I posted a list of books on my blog, asked people to write in if they wanted a title and promised to send over the books via courier. To my surprise (read: shock), a few readers reached out. I was overjoyed! Somebody had actually read the blog and asked for a book! And not just that, these books were going to people who wanted them. It might sound very strange (and creepy) but it was a very comforting thought that my books will be in good hands. 

After sending out four books, I've made this book donation drive a regular feature on the blog. If you're interested in getting hold of some titles, just click on the Books 4 U tab on the homepage of my blog and you'll be directed to the book list. Then all you need to do is follow the instructions and I'll send the book to you. Simple.

Well.....what are you waiting for? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eccentric vs. Conventional

"Eccentric people, he concluded, were good for conventional people, simply because they made them able to conceive of everything being different".

                                                 (The Sandcastle-Iris Murdoch)

The book in my suitcase

No matter how hard I try, books usually end up in my suitcase.

It's a habit I've tried to rid myself of, albeit reluctantly. For someone who carries a book in her handbag and gym bag, it's rather hard to not take a book on a holiday. In all honesty it is never 'a' book but several and often, not always, I end up reading the books I've bought during the holiday. The folly of my habit hits me when the luggage exeeds the weight limit on the return journey. I'm also not one of those who leaves her own books behind for the pleasure of other travelers. Firstly, if I take the trouble of carrying a book (or books) with me it is quite obvious that I like it/them and secondly, I don't read thrillers, vampire novels or trashy romance.

The right book in the right location is a killer combination. I read 'The End of the Affair' (Graham Greene) while on a holiday in London and being in the same city, travelling on the tube and taking the same lines as the characters made it so much more enjoyable. It's not necessary that the setting of the novel be similar to your physical environment. I was reading 'Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party' on a beach last year, enjoying the sun, sea and sand as one of the main characters was skiing to her death. 

Sometimes it is fun to match the book with the location and it was this thought that was dominant in my mind today as I browsed through my book shelves. 

'A Capote Reader' has found its way in my suitcase. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Some thoughts on 'The Mystic Masseur'

I'm not a huge fan of V.S. Naipaul and the only reason which propelled me to read this book was the Ivory Merchant film made on it. The movie was a disappointment which came as a surprise since most films made under the Ivory Merchant banner are very impressive (I recently saw Anita Desai's 'In Custody' and liked it immensely) but this one fell short especially where the screenplay was concerned.

The book, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. It was the right length unlike 'A House for Mr. Biswas' which seemed never-ending. The few conclusions I've come to (on a lighter note) after finishing it are:

1. The quantity of books on display in your house is directly proportional to making a good impression on people. Especially if you live in a place where most people are illiterate. 

Even though a lot of literate people around us don't read these days, I'm afraid large quantities of books will fail to impress people in your social circle. Invest in an expensive, designer book shelf and fill it up with expensive looking 'coffee table' books in order to impress. 

2. If you're not able to do something it is because it wasn't meant to be rather than your lack of skills or hard work. As the protagonist, Ganesh, put it, "We never are what we want to be, he wrote, but what we must be".

See? Just blame fate. 

3. A tip for a successful marriage? Don't read or buy too many books. Unless you have a back up plan of becoming a 'mystic healer'. 

4. The new 'it' word is mystic. 

5. It's a good idea to become a writer in a place where a) no one belonging to your race/nationality has ever written anything, b) there are no literature festivals and c) the only printing press just prints wedding cards, or handbills.

6. Your physical appearance is very important when it comes to climbing the ladder of success and wealth. Don't just play the part, LOOK the part. 

7. Coca Cola served in very fancy glasses on a hot summer day is guaranteed to win people over. These days replace it with something stronger and preferably NOT black.

8. Politics is the way forward to change your life forever. (Remember the emphasis is on YOUR life).

9. It is okay to change your name from 'Pundit Ganesh Ramsumair' to 'G. Ramsay Muir'. Modesty is not in fashion these days.

And finally,

10. Write what you want to write and if you pour your heart and soul into it, it will find the right readers. 

Image: Google

Friday, April 4, 2014

Opening lines that make you go...Oomph!

"Later he was to be famous and honored throughout the South Caribbean; he was to be a hero of the people and, after that, a British representative at Lake Success".

Does this opening line tempt you to read any further?

It didn't tempt me but since I want to watch the movie after I finish the book I must read on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finding the Perfect Protagonist

I made an elaborate reading plan last month and, wait for it, I managed to follow it also. Not completely because there are days when I'm just in the mood for 'a' particular book. Making a reading plan is good in some ways but it's okay to derail from it a bit otherwise reading just becomes a task....and not an escape from life and its many, many tasks. 

My choices last month were very varied. I read Greene's Brighton Rock even though I had every intention of starting reading all of his work in chronological order. But on a visit to Frere Hall I happened to find the book, Greene by Cedric Watts (published by Pearson Education), which was a sort of biography on him and it had a section on Brighton Rock so I dumped the chronology idea. Brighton Rock was unlike any Greene I've read so far. It was dark, and had very strong religious themes. Even though it was quite a thriller and read like a detective novel, it made me think and not just speculate (read: what's going to happen next). I think Pinkie is one of the most complex protagonist Greene has created. He is young, rash, arrogant and above all, a murderer. And even though you know he is the bad guy, right from the start, you feel differently towards him as you progress through the story. At least I did although I never really liked him at any point and it is very seldom that one hates Greenes' protagonist. 

The other planned choice besides Brighton Rock was Tales from a Vending Machine by Anees Salim. So this particular vending machine dispensed, like many other such gadgets, tasteless tea and coffee. But it is important in the narrative because it is manned by our young, beautiful, naive, ambitious and somewhat selfish protagonist, Hasina Mansoor. The reasons why she's stuck at a vending machine at the airport are the usual ones - father's shop is in loss and someone has to provide for the house and the education of her siblings. There is a love affair thrown in, a family feud and a horrible boss. The humor in the book helps...and there is a fabulous twist in the end. As the central character and the narrator, Hasina tries to make the reader like her or atleast sympathize with her. I have to admit that there were a few moments when I did feel sorry for her like when her boss invited her to his granddaughter's wedding, much to Hasina's delight & surprise, only to make her stand at the beverages stall. Overall she wasn't very likeable.

At this point, I was feeling rather sad with my choices. There was no one to root for in my last two reads. Not one character. It was distressing. 

And then, even though I had promised myself I won't read any of his books this year, I turned to Gaiman.

In my defense, it was a last minute decision. As I rushed out of my room to make it to a very important interview I picked The Graveyard Book from the shelf....... 

.......and I found not one, but two characters who made me wish I had them as friends. 

Maybe I do. 

Images: Google

Friday, March 21, 2014

After 7 days on the beanbag, I think...

... I'll follow Kushwant Singh's advice on life. Although various elders have proffered similar advice but human nature dictates that we follow the golden words of some stranger. As the adage goes, 'ghar kee murgi daal barabar'. 

[I'm restarting this thread on the blog. You can check out the previous two I wrote here and here].

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Book is Looking for You

Many years ago, I had made a vow that I'd never part with any book in my collection. I've broken that vow a million times over. If a book doesn't appeal to me, I feel that it is meant for someone else and it's better to send it back into the world to find its rightful owner. 

Last year I decided to personalize my donation drive. Every book I donated had some comments (in pencil) on different pages of the book. I even made a new bookish email account asking the buyer to write back to me giving me his/her opinion on the book. No one, not one person, has written back. 

Which can mean one of two things. Either all the books I've sent out into the world have not found a new home or the buyers have just dismissed my email address and comments as a lame attempt by someone desperate for friendship.

So I've decided to reach out to you. Send me an email and I'll share with you all the titles which, I think, need to find a new home. Without my bookish email scribbled on page 58. 

Comic Strip: Google Images

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Happens

When we fall in love, the scenery around us changes from bright colors and defined forms into fuzzy Instagram pictures.

I experienced life the Instagram way when I met my husband in Dec 2008. From the very first interaction, everything around me assumed hues of warm, endearing colors. Our courtship just lasted three months which, as my friend assured me the other day, was enough to lend excitement to my otherwise regular arranged marriage story.

I've been struggling to write about love. What made me believe, in a matter of a few weeks, that my husband was the one? Besides the common interests, love for books & theatre, what made me so sure that this person will keep me happy for the rest of my life? That he'll take care of my needs and support me in every way? That he'll be able to fulfill all those dreams and hopes that I had tucked away somewhere in my soul and forgotten about?

And my answer is simple. Nothing.

Love can come by when you're least looking for it. When I met Adnan, I had crossed our society's 'marriage-able age' mark. I wasn't on the look out for a Prince Charming myself and was ready to marry whoever my parents deemed fit for me. In this case, I must admit, I was very lucky because had my parents ever come under societal pressure, I shudder to think where I might have landed. 

I found love at the right time in my life and this love has made me a completely different person from who I was five years back. And that, I think, is what real love does. It makes you grow and blossom into the person you were always meant to be. And when a man loves and takes care of you when you're down with fever and throwing up in the toilet or when he doesn't snub you when you're complaining about a bad hair day or shares your enthusiasm for almost all your hobbies- you've found true love. 


'The deepest love is not the most carefree.'
Travels with my Aunt - Graham Greene

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Colette on Writing

"We cannot paint a beloved face without passionately distorting it - and who speaks willingly of the things that belong to real love? But we can catch and hold - with words or with the brush - the crimson flush of dying leaves, the green of a meteor against the blue night, a moment of dawn, a catastrophe...Pictures which of themselves have no sense or depth, but which we invest with meaning or sharp foreboding - they bear forever the stamp of some particular year, mark the end of some mistake or the culmination of a spell of prosperity. For that reason no one of us can ever swear that he has painted, contemplated, described in vain". 
( My Mother's House - Colette)

January 28th was Colette's birthday. Read about her novella The Cat here on the blog.

Image: Google

A Word, a Song, a Tennis Player = Nostalgia

Watching Pete Sampras at the second semi-final of the Australian open last weekend transported me straight to my school days. The match was one-sided anyways (although I was rooting for Rafa but it was rather sad to see Fedrer lose in straight sets) and frequent camera shots of Sampras in the audience sent me into flashback mode.

The year was 1995. I was fifteen and had this SUPER crush on Pete Sampras. In fact it wasn't just me, my entire group of friends was in love with this tennis demi-god. My room was an altar to his greatness and whenever pictures of Sampras appeared in the sports section of the newspaper they found their way on a wooden makeshift board in my room. 

The period from 1995-1998 was the most fun and carefree time of my life. Of course, it is only now that I look back at those days so fondly because during that time we were drowned in books, exams and grades. I guess it is always in retrospect that we find life more attractive. This was the time of cassette players, dish antennas and VCR. When Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was released, each one of us fell in love with SRK. It was easy to identify all who had watched the movie over the weekend on Monday mornings (clues included a dreamy expression, sighs the entire day and references to the movie in every conversation). There were endless discussions over all the music albums and an intense rivalry existed especially between fans of Awaz and Junoon. Inquilaab was the one album we all played excessively during our college days. It was (and is) my favourite album by Junoon. I remember when they released Azadi, their fourth album, my friend called me and we discussed (in great detail) every song of the album. The conversation lasted at least two hours, on a landline which was the ONLY telephone in the house. 

One glimpse of Sampras was all it took to unleash a flood of memories. Photographs are not always the only route down memory lane. Sometimes all it takes is a word, a song or a tennis player

The Blank Page, Truly Madly Deeply (Savage Garden) and Pete Sampras

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 - The Year of No Resolution

It's not a good idea to pen down resolutions and keep them neatly in a folder. You're bound to find the paper (or papers if you are ambitious) when you're throwing out the old to make space for the new (an exercise some of us indulge in when the new year starts) and once you've come across those lined sheets there is no other option but to make a trip to the guilt motel.

After making several trips to the guilt motel last year, I have deleted the word resolution from my life. Resolutions, in my experience, are dangerous creatures. When I made resolutions last year, which I duly noted down, I limited myself to those six or seven points. I made a parameter around my life and put in 'ifs' and 'buts' over every action. 'If I do the above in two months' time, I am entitled to this. If I manage to finish this by ------ I will -----------'. I had become my own moral, emotional and spiritual policeman. A control freak. A sort of nasty departmental head.

Resolutions made me lose my spontaneity. If I wasn't able to meet a certain task at a specified time, I lost interest in doing it. Listing things down into neat sentences and keeping it all together in a folder did not make me a more organized person. It made me an unhappy person. And yet I kept going back to the list, hoping that by rearranging bits of it I'd find answers. It was only in the latter half of the year that I realized that the answers lay OUTSIDE the list. 

The past year I did a lot of things which were not part of my resolution wish list. And it was these unplanned events which made me a different person; more fulfilled, happy and confident. As soon as I let the resolution list collect dust, I was able to leave my comfort zone and discover the new old me. 

So I resolve to make no lists this year, except for grocery. Unplanned grocery shopping is a one-way ticket to the guilt motel! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014