The sunflower

sunflower.jpg

Despite yet another sleepless night she had punched in her attendance right as the clock struck 9 am. She had then gone through her day on an autopilot. Though she loved her work, today her heart hadn’t been in it.

Her thoughts were far away.

Why have they forsaken me? she asked herself again and again, I loved them so, they were my family. They are my family, she corrected herself furiously. She wouldn’t give them up. She couldn’t give them up. They were her very life.

It’s a phase, she had told herself initially, they will come around.

They didn’t.

Maybe if I ignore them they will seek me out, she had thought. That plan was a fail right from the start because try as she might, she couldn’t ignore them. They crowded her mind pushing away all else away, making her turn up sloppy copy at work and prompting her editor to ask if everything was fine with her.

Tears had risen unbidden to her tired eyes. No, nothing is fine, she wanted to scream in anger and exasperation. But she had only nodded her head mutely.

Back home she tried reaching out again and yet again all she got was frustration. It was as if a blinding fog lay thick between her and all she loved.

As she sat listlessly fiddling with the bunch of pens and pencils that crowded  her desk, her glance fell at the sunflower in the vase. Something about its happy yellowness reached out to her. Her heart filled with sudden fresh optimism.

Damn this writer’s block, she swore under her breath as she took up her pen. She’d get rid of it today. Today she would break through the fog. Today she’d reach out to her beloved characters and she’d write. By God she would. You will have to come to me, she threatened out loud in the silence – thoughts, ideas, plots, characters, are you listening, all of you?

She opened a blank notebook and began to write.

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

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Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

library

‘No bookmark, no book,’ she would say in an impervious tone and that would wreck my entire week. That was Ms B our library teacher in school.

She’d stand their one eyebrow raised in a silent dare – challenging me to challenge her. Torn between my fear of her and my love for reading – it was fear that always won. And I would have to make do with re-reading an old book or borrowing from friends.

Books were my sole entertainment back then. We were allowed three books each week – each of them a treasured treat. We had a wonderful library – not the few cupboards at the back of the class that double up as libraries these days. Rows of tables were flanked by glass cupboards full of rows upon rows of the most enticing books. Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys all sat there along with Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and scores of other authors. Within the pages of those books lay the most exciting times my young self had ever seen.

However between the most exciting times of my life and me stood Ms B, a bit like Cerberus. She had an acerbic tongue and a short temper and she wouldn’t let anyone pass unless they showed her a book-cover and a book-mark. And woe betide anyone who forgot to get their books on the assigned day! They were condemned to a book-less week. No allowances, no concessions.

Not just that, she took it upon herself to discipline us on almost anything that caught her eye. ‘Put your plaits back, who do you think you are, Rekha?’, ‘Don’t slouch’, ‘Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk’ or ‘Why must you always wear black?’ (we didn’t have a uniform in class 11 and 12). Those days teachers wielded pure dictatorship. Yet we emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.

Despite such ‘ill-treatment’, on Teacher’s Day today, the first one who comes to mind is Ms B. While she didn’t teach me any subject nor was she directly responsible for kindling a love for reading she did teach me some very valuable lessons.

She taught me to respect and love books. That’s a habit that has stayed obstinately on. It drives me crazy when I see anyone manhandling books, folding pages, scribbling in the margins (use a pencil for goodness sake if you just have to), turning down corners.. aaargh!

She taught me to widen my reading horizon. But for that raised eyebrow I would be stuck onto fairy tales forever. After she gave me one of those ‘looks’ I was forced to look at other genres and developed an eclectic taste. (I have to confess though, that I still pick up a fairy tale somedays).

She taught me essential library etiquette. I learnt to keep quiet – not a mean feat for a 12 year old. I learnt to shut out the world and lose myself in a book as also to not disturb a person engrossed in one.

She taught me discipline and punctuality – a useful lesson even outside the library.

So tell me who is that one teacher that comes to mind when you think of school?

We Will Meet Again – A Review

We Will Meet Again by Tarang Sinha

We Will Meet Again

The Story

We will meet again is the story of Paridhi, a mass media student in Delhi. Life for Paridhi is all about course assignments, lost pen drives and urgent submissions. Harried and running against an unexpected deadline, she bumps into Abhigyan, a young, good-looking, wealthy young man – every girl’s dream. This meeting however isn’t one bit romantic. She meets him again at her best friend’s wedding. While he is clearly falling for her she is rude and angry and rebuffs him all the way. However, Abhigyan is not one to give up easily.

What I liked

Told in first person this is no-pretence young love story. There aren’t many twists and turns – no unbelievable coincidences, no unrelenting parents, no over-the-top drama. And for that I liked it.
The book has quite a few characters, along with the protagonists, and each one is well crafted, except perhaps Abhigyan’s mom, who is a bit of a stereotype.
I liked the relationship Paridhi shares with her sister (she comes home to find her sister wearing her T-shirt – that was sweet, I thought, and so true). In fact Paridhi’s entire family – her dad and her aunt – is very believable, one you’d find in any regular Indian home. And that makes the story real.
I enjoyed the descriptions of hostel life (reminded me of my hostel days) as well as the wedding hullabaloo. That was nicely done.

What I didn’t like

Editing remains a sore point. I found many a missing article and wrongly constructed sentences.
Given that it is in the first person, we get Paridhi’s point of view, we see her falling in love and yet holding herself back but we get nothing from Abhigyan. Why would a man lose his heart to a girl who is unexplainably rude? Again and again and again? I would have liked to know what made him fall in love with her.
I also have a complaint with the ending – it was too clichéd (Something I’ve seen in one of my favourite SRK flicks, too).

However, this one remains a clean easy romance that college students would enjoy or perhaps one that can be carried along on a trip.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

A Broken Man – A Review

A Broken Man by Akash Verma

A broken man

The story

A Broken Man is the story of Krishna, A Dalit boy from a small village in Bihar and his love story with a Brahmin girl Chhavi from Lucknow. The two are students at the Lucknow University, which is where they meet and fall in love. Forced to choose between Krishna and her father, Chhavi chooses her father. A broken-hearted Krishna makes his way to Mumbai with a box full of belongings and Chhavi’s recommendation for a job at an advertising agency. Then on, the story traces his journey as he makes his way from the ad-world to tinsel town.

What I liked

I begin with a disclaimer of sorts. I picked up this book because of its setting – my hometown Lucknow. And it scores a perfect six on that front. As the story took me through the campus, the departments I’d been to, the library I’d passed a thousand times, the restaurant I go to even now, it left me with a warm nostalgic feeling.

My personal liking apart, A Broken Man captures student life at the Lucknow University to a tee. The hullaballoo of the election, the speeches, the street plays, the student politics – all just as it happens.

While there wasn’t much to the story I did like the way it was told. The bits of Hindi poetry were beautiful, the little grandma’s stories that Chhavi picks, endearing.

Also, I loved how Chhavi remains a part of Krishna’s life, how he constantly summons her in his imagination at every significant point in his life – at each moment of doubt, at each victory.

What I didn’t like

Editing editing editing. I am wary of new Indian authors for this reason alone and A Broken Man proves my point yet again. Phrases like ‘KK took a waited look’ (What is a waited look??), ‘KK had eyes that ached of pain’a drink from the well-stuffed bar (how about ‘well-stocked’?), stand out like sore thumbs.

The narrative is teeming with adverbs (The author would do well to read Stephen King’s On Writing, a very useful book for writers, aspiring or otherwise) and repetitions.

Take this instance – The blurb reads ‘high caste Brahman girl’.  Either Brahman or high caste should suffice, specially on a blurb. Am I nitpicking? Maybe. But the thing is, it can get tiresome when it goes on page after page.

There is much ‘tell’ and less ‘show’.

Lastly there are some factual errors. I know this is fiction not fact, and allows for liberties, but because I applauded the book for its real-life representation of the University campus it is only fair I point out the flaws too.

One, A girl could never ever walk into a Lucknow University boys’ hostel in 90s. I’m not sure it’s possible even now.

Two, a Dalit boy cannot arrive in a village with an obviously high caste girl (‘she can’t pass off as a Dalit girl…. her skin glows like fresh milk’. The author’s words, not mine), be seen by the high caste men and go without comment or action. Nothing remains a secret in a village. She will most definitely not be left in peace to make out with the Dalit boy by the side of the pond in the middle of the night. Just not possible.

Then, there’s Mumbai. Without adding spoilers, all I’ll say is that the story in Mumbai, becomes overly simplistic and predictable.

In the end I’d call it a simple story that could have been better told – pick it or leave it.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Writers Melon in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Go Read a Book

Read a book

As I pack a gift for your friend’s birthday I hear you groan, “A book, again?” I hear it, though you think you’re being discreet, trying to spare my feelings. And yes, it’s going to be a book every time.

When you come to me and say. ‘I’m bored,’ I know you have your eye on the iPad. But all I say is, ‘Go read a book’.

When I start a book club I know you come for your friends (and for the cupcakes!) but I go ahead anyway. I invite your friends, I get the cup cakes and I pick out stories – of thrill and adventure, of children like you. And as we craft and play and eat and talk I quietly squeeze in Gaiman and Rowling.

I do it because I once made a promise.

Years ago, when I was a child like you, I had a somewhat drab existence. Until one day I fell in love – deeply irrevocably. This love of mine swept away the dreariness. It opened up a canvas wide and colourful and so very cheerful. It made me new friends – toys that could talk and little pixies, a Polish boy and a German girl, a mighty magician and a young ballerina – I shared their stories – their joys, their sorrows.

I had fallen in love with the written word.

Then one day, wonder of wonders, I found I could create a world of my own, my own colours and my own friends. And that filled me with such great joy. I was a creator, a little like God!

I had learnt to make up my own stories.

That is when I made that promise: that I’d never stop trying to share my love, that I’d help it touch each life it could, I’d help it help each one get wings and I’d help it make many little gods.

That’s a promise I’ll always keep and so I’ll try to get you to read.

I’ll push and I’ll wheedle, I’ll tempt and I’ll tease. And it’s not going to stop till you open a book, till you begin to read.

It’s the  very last day of the # BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Promise’.
I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

 

 

Tweaking the tales

heart.jpgIf I had a wish to wish for me
I’d go on quite a wishing spree.
I’d ask to get into my favourite tales
Just to make sure they stick to the rails.
A little tweak here, a gentle twist there
And I’d save people from much despair.

When I’d see Romeo at Juliet’s grave
I’d jump right there in time for a save.
And “Thus with a kiss I die” as he says
And to his lips the poison raise,
Stop! Will you! She’s alive, I’d cry
There really is no need for you to die.

And when Darcy’s making his darned proposal
The one that earned Lizzy’s disapproval.
Tread here with plenty of care, I’d advise him
For goodness sake don’t be condescending.
Let your heart talk, the one that loves her
Lose your pride, that really bugs her.

When Scarlett is abandoned by Rhett all alone
I’d tell her he’d be back, he wasn’t all gone.
And while I’m there I’d give her a shake –
It’s him you love though he might be a rake.
Look carefully, will you open your eyes?
it was never Ashley, it’s Rhett who’s your prize .

Perhaps I’d drop by Jeeves for a chat
I’d tell him all my tales and hope for a pat.
He’d give his wise head a supercilious shake
Unimpressed he’d say, ‘That’s a piece of cake’.
Don’t want to spoil your congratulatory party
But I’ve been doing this for years for Bertie.

That’s true of course, his case he does rest,
As a setter-righter of things he’s the best.
All along this time that’s exactly what I’ve wished for
I want to be Jeeves to my favourite characters.

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It’s Day 6 of the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Wishful Thinking’.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

Also linking to  Mackenzie at Reflections from Me

The teacher

slice of life fiction

The Teacher

Sangita’s eyes drooped. Who ever said sleep deserts the old, she thought to herself, as she struggled to keep her eyes open. There was a time she could stay awake well past midnight, waiting for her husband to get home from his shift at the steel foundry. But now, come 10 o clock and she was asleep already.

Nani ma you need to pay ATTENTION!” Pia’s plaintive cry snapped her eyes open. This little granddaughter of hers – what a delight she was and how determined, just like her mom… and like me too. She smiled to herself. Oh the wars she had fought with Pia’s mom! There was the great tattoo fight and the late night curfew battles…..

Nani ma you are dreaming again.” Ah Pia..

“Come on. Hold the pencil like this and copy that first letter once more. Remember I told you it stands for the sss sound in your name? And that dot on top – that’s for the nnn.”

“Just three letters Nani ma and then you can sign your name,” enthused Pia, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Then you can learn to read. You can read up new stories to tell me.”

Sangita looked indulgently at the eager face staring up at her. She adjusted her glasses. She had been trying but those squiggly letters refused to make sense.
“I am too old for this, darling,’ she said with a sigh.
“But you say one is never too old to learn new things. You don’t know what you’re missing. Come on, take the pencil and try again, please,” begged her granddaughter.

She couldn’t say no to the fervent entreaty in the those honey brown eyes. Struggling to put herself in Pia’s tiny shoes, to feel at least some of her enthusiasm, Sangita wrapped her bent old fingers awkwardly around the pencil and began to write.

It’s Day 5 of the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Tiny Shoes’.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON