Saturday, April 28, 2012

To Brothers

I was the first born girl on both, my paternal as well as maternal side. The family lore, understandably, narrates tales of how celebrated was my arrival in the family. On the maternal side, it is believed, I might have carried a blessing, because each single birth after my own welcomed a sweet little fairy into the family. This tradition continued for long, before being broken, again in favor of two little, insanely adorable cousin brothers.

I was the cuteness you all always tried to influence :P
Despite being incredibly fond of the mini plaything I got when my kid sister was born, I always felt envy towards those girls who had a brother, an elder brother to be precise- to love, fight with and feel protected under. Sisters can be best friends for more reasons than can be perceived on the surface, but I have always felt that a brother-sister bond is more special. It might be the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome, but this is only an honest confession.

Being the eldest sister and the first born girl came with its set of advantages, but also lots of responsibilities, and expectations. I do not rue any of it. But again, a friend in an elder brother is what I have often hallucinated to be the perfect companion, support, guide, and encouragement. Why only a brother? Because I have felt comfortable around guys, having been brought up among them. And I was blessed with the best of cousins to fill in the void I felt within my own family. This post is to collectively thank them all. And brag a little about myself.

Each cousin brother of mine has been very,. very special. I've been lucky to have been pampered for years by them. Random tears, pecuniary support, crap talk, excitement sharing, planning and conspiring, protecting, preserving secrets, understanding from miles afar- I think God had his plans well in place when he gave me no real brother but a lot many more cousins who, today, are people to be proud of. I should be dedicating an individual post to each one of them, but for now, I will quickly mention them together.

Thank you Ayush and Manan bhaiya - You both are as good as real. Besides all the love, I will still keep asking you for recharges, books and other gifts. I mention you together, because I you both are infinitely and equally close to my heart.
Thank you Mayank, my first cousin with whom I somehow share the same relation from both sides of the family. We don't keep in touch, but I fondly remember the days when we would share everything.
Thank you Anjal bhaiya- It is nice to have a brother whose rectitude is an example to follow. You're the one who always looks out and gives me the morally and socially right advice, without judging me for my perhaps contrary actions.
Thank you Prateek bhaiya- the one elder brother I chose, and am incredibly proud of my choice. You watched over me as a little girl and I still feel that presence around me. 
And more recently, thank you Achint bhaiya- you're relatively new to my life but I almost treat you like one I have right over. Thanks for all the love.
Also, thank you Tapan- you don't fall in the elder category, but you've been a support. 

Why all so senti all of a sudden? Because of two beautiful testimonials I received to aid my Narcissism from two of the above mentioned people. In words and in gestures, I've been made to feel so special that getting overwhelmed is only natural.

To each brother out there who cares for his sister, cheers! You all do an incredible job of making your sisters feel they are the best gifts you've got. I know of a few who are hesitant put their affection on display, who speak less but mean a lot in their heart. Trust me, your sisters understand. The bond each brother and sister share is special and should be treated thus. To all those out there who love, God Bless. May the love only grow with each passing day.

The fun, the color, the smiles of childhood, All still so fresh!
PS- It will be nice if you all check out a cute few testimonials written specially on demand for Nascent Emissions, on the page called Narcissism.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I had been playing hide-and-seek with this book for long. I knew that it is a book I desperately want to read the day I read the first newspaper article about it, but for some reason, I always resisted buying it. The procrastination continued for more than a year. Finally, when a cousin used the benevolent flipkart phenomenon to not only bear easy on his pocket, but to also make me fall in love with him while he snugly sat in his office more than a 1000 kilometers away, I knew this book was destined to reach my hands. However, the book did not turn out to be anything I had expected it to be. It turned out different and better. Much better. 

I have stood testimony to various kinds of Indian parenting set ups. While the way kids our brought up in our country, those belonging to my generation at least, differs in very nuanced manner across the nation,- regions and communities- the Indian parenting set up is characterized by a remarkably similar lowest common denominator- that in terms of strictness. "Child is the father of Man" philosophy has not quite taken roots in our country. Our family set up thrives on a strictly built hierarchical setup, (flamboyantly patriarchal, too), where seniority is respected and juveniles are, with all good motives, thought of as nothing more than an off shoot still attached to the main body.  This off shoot is not looked at as an individual, and is most often subjected to the 'stick' approach of child rearing. I, here, by no means, talk for all of Indian parents, but as an accepted fact, Asian parenting is regarded as strict and tough on the child. Ancillary to the same generalization is the fact that Asain kids turn out to be the strongest and brightest and more precocious as compared to their western counterparts.

So, affected (and afflicted) by the most crude manifestation of brown parenting, I was kind of hoping to find some vindication in this book which promised a tour of the world of yellow parenting vis-a-vis white parenting. It did not aid my motive. Rather, the book opened my eyes to the psyche behind the stringent, often ruthless parenting which Asians are (in)famous for resorting to when it comes to the well being of their child. Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother (BHOTTM) is a treat for readers, both young and old. It deals with a topic as sensitive as bringing up a child with remarkable lightness of narrative, and wit and humor. Amy Chua, the author of this book, has written it with honesty which borders on brutal. Her tone throughout the book, is not consistent, but conforms to the ambivalent voice of a mind which has been shaken out of a process it always thought was just and proper.

BHOTTM is a memoir by Chua of how she brought up her two girls, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu) in a strict Chinese style, while co-existing with liberal American parents. Chua is a professor of law at Yale and married to a Jew. Her own childhood was a perfect example of strict, no-nonsense Chinese parenting- an institution she took after once her own daughters were born. Incidents she describes out of her ugly trysts with both her daughters could have, had it not been for the overall light and self incriminating tone of the author, pierced the calm in the mind of a reader like me. However, more than anything, those very incidents serve a purpose in stimulating the minds of readers into the dynamics that govern a Chinese (Asian) family, the bonds which hold it together. To say that Chua was hard on her daughters would be an understatement. She was the kind of mother to whom A minus grade was mortifying, who returned cards her daughters made for her birthday with arrogance and disdain for she found them shabby, who made her daughters practice piano and violin for strangely long hours during the day, who thought play was not supposed to be called an integral part of a child's upbringing, who could call her daughters garbage for underperforming. In short, she was a parent who would be a child welfare NGO's delight- a case to go after, blow out of proportions and attain glory.

It was however, Chua's defiant younger daughter, Lulu, who changed her style of looking at her children. Lulu was stubborn since her very childhood, but the day she stood upto her mother, at a mere age of thirteen, was the day Chua decided to let go. To allow her kids to find their own path.

Don't read this book as a spiced up story of someone's domestic affairs. Read this book because it has something important to discuss. Not to tell, but to discuss. This book offers contrasts of western parenting against Chinese parenting, in thought, theory and even statistics, at appropriate places. It dwells honestly on the psyche of a mother who makes her daughters' welfare her single minded focus, even to obsessive limits. It shows you how a motherly heart reaches out not to her natural offsprings, but even to others who fall under its care- in the case of BHOTTM, two incredibly cute samoyeds. It talks of the strong ties which bind Asian families, where taking care of each other is not a matter of choice, but a way of life. And finally, this book will help you understand why, despite being brought up in the strictest and devoid-of-sympathy circumstances, do Asian kids continue to revere, care for and love their parents.
Chua with her husband- Jed, two daughters-Sophia and Lulu, and her adorable samoyeds- Coco and Pushkin.

Fun and learning- this book at least wins four on five stars. More than that, this books wins my heart. Perhaps the most important thought this books conveyed to me was- Asian parents assume strength in their kids, Westerners assume weakness and gullibility. I pondered on it for long. May be you, too, will.

PS- When it comes to parenting, I always remember these words by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Guest Post For Tharoorians!

I remember hearing these lines by Bashir Badr long, long back-

"Hum toh dariya hain, humein apna hunar maloom hai,
Jis taraf bhi chal padenge, rasta ho jayega"

I do not know the thoughts of the poet behind these lines, but I could most easily interpret them by understanding 'dariya' as a metaphor for youth power. And once I did that, a beautiful and powerful meaning of these simple and subtle two lines unraveled itself.  With belief and perseverance, if the young minds of today get down to some task, there is no hurdle so big or rigid which may stop them from reaching their goal/destination. With power, we know how to break through that boulder. With strength, we know how to scale a mountain. With fluidity, we know how to find a way even through the smallest of cracks in the system.

I have been lucky to personally be in touch with a lot of young, enterprising, and ambitious people who have set unto themselves tasks which are meaningful, and which serve not just some parochial but larger, social interests. In the small life I have lived, I have also been associated with a number of initiatives during my school and college life, which aimed at heralding change, at breaking stereotypes and at evolving progressively from status quo. A few days back, I serendipitously came in touch with a dense group of likeminded people, who dream together of forming an advocacy group to raise a banner for progressive political practices in India. This group, interestingly, calls itself- Tharoorians. 

The Tharoorians, on their official blog, describe their group as "an initiative to get you to voice your opinions and deliver constructive criticism on Indian Politics and Democracy. A little ambitious - we hope to reach out to maximum people who believe India deserves Change." This group derives inspiration and is supported by the eponymous- Dr. Shashi Tharoor- to whom the blog is dedicated and whose values are upheld and propagated by the founders of Tharoorians. This is not to say that the group does not welcome constructive criticism which contradicts any one particular political ideology. As long as one has something to say, the Tharoorians are game to take it up and splash it on their blog as an important opinion sourced from a stimulated and concerned young mind.

I was ecstatic when a blog published my first ever guest post, in which I wrote about child psychology and the ingenuity required for moulding little minds into responsible, dignified and genuine individuals of tomorrow. Now, to be the first Guest Author for a blog which goes by the name of Tharoorians For Change was a feeling altogether different. Because my quill has never trodden on the path of political criticism, I assumed it never could. However, when I did write for them, the group's moderator, Katherine Abraham, was more than graceful to, perhaps, ignore the inconsistencies of content and give value to underlying enthusiasm of just another girl existing in this vast country- but one who at least aims to exist as a responsible and aware citizen of India.

My first thoughts have been poured out in an article called India Calling. Here is why I would appreciate if the followers of Nascent Emissions went ahead and read the article, and also left comments if possible-
1. The article is generalist, and builds upon one of the most relevant concepts of ancient India to highlight problems contemporary in character.
2. It dwells on the admiration- the how and why- I have for Dr. Tharoor and, what in my view, is his magnum opus work- The Great Indian Novel.
3. I share in the article one of my most favorite success stories of reformation, reconstruction and resuscitation of a collapsing unit in rural India. The story of Hivre Bazar.
4. The article is my first honest attempt to make public my views on the political landscape of India, though in a fleeting, almost naive way. For once I wrote beyond love, friends, romance and the routine gibberish I rant on about.

And, not just for India Calling, I would request the readers to hop onto Tharoorians For Change to read some more nascent, but informed and passionate articles from some very inspired youngsters from across India. If you feel there is something you need to voice your opinion about, Tharoorians would gladly welcome your participation.

As a last, I would like to thank Katherine for her guidance and Tarique for introducing me to the concept of Tharoorians.

Web Page Handle

You could also follow the following twitter handles for updates about Tharoorians
@katie_abraham (Katherine)
@Tarique_Anwer (Tarique)
@Saumyakul (Me)

Also, if you already are not among the 1 million odd followers of Dr. Tharoor, may be you would like to be one. Follow him at @shashitharoor. You can connect with him, and trust me, he puts in efforts to connect with you too. He is one of the only political leaders on twitterati who has understood the dynamics behind being on a social forum like twitter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dreamless In Delhi

Guess what? It rained today morning! Early morning. Seven-ish. That, by my standards is very, very early. What I am glad for is the fact that last night was not just dreamless, but sleepless. For that, I thank the heavens, or whoever, whatever power, if any, controls my thoughts, emotions and actions. It is not in an era now that I have woken up to greet the subtle hues of morning. I always wake up to loudness of sun in the afternoon. With respect to me, a fact which has firmly been established is that if I am to witness the cracking of dawn, right at the edge of horizon, I can only do it by keeping up all night. Not in my wildest thoughts can I wake up that early, never even for the fear of God can I wake up without looking and feeling like a zombie.

(Playing in the background...Pyar hua ikrar hua hai, pyar se phir kyun darta hai dil....)

I love such unexpected rains, however brief their tryst with us mortals waiting for them with parched hearts, especially in the merciless heat of rising summer. Rainy season depresses me; it dampens my spirits by not allowing that persistent cloud of  gray to subside and give way for some vibrancy to re-enter the world. My inspirations become subdued, my thoughts overshadow all my need to talk and act, and I wait rather impatiently for the picturesque autumn flavor to arrive. Rains in summers are, aah, just that, rains in summer. Respite. Rejuvenation. Bliss. Beauty. And what I enjoy about them most? What they leave after their sojourn. A cool, subtle, but firm breeze. The kind which is blowing in from my balcony to caress my cheeks right now. It reminds me of the first careful, yet eager kiss planted at the same place by someone. And who also led my heart to race, with palpitation loud enough to compete with thunder in terms of decibels.

The breeze-it makes my thoughts perch on its invisible stream and fly towards the most majestic memories.

(Song changed. The background is now serenaded by Ae ri pawan, dhoondhe kise tera man, chalte chalte)

There are days in life, when you would be too quick to conjecture that chaos is the order in the world. Mess prevails. Yet, in some short lived, rare and magical moments, which are very prone to being missed unless you are highly perceptive and sensitive, Providence does fit in beautifully elements of our surrounding to form a neat, breathtaking, mesmerizing picture. The random brush strokes cluster together to conjure the image of the most pretty floral garden you have ever seen. For me, right now, the elements which combine to bestow the same grandeur are-
Perfectly matched, moss-rich melody from the erstwhile times in the background.
Finish line of work coinciding with starting line of rains.
Just enough rain to uplift and not dampen.
Chirpiness of birds setting out on another day of flying to distant corners.
Memories of friends.
Lingering touch of love.
Space in mind.
A hot cup of lemon tea.
Hint of dizziness to add the glamour.

All this together, and a hopeless romantic like me feels weak in her knees. I could romanticize any and everything today. As it has happened, the sun has started peeking from behind the clouds. Slowly, it is marking its presence his kingdom which had momentarily been taken over by luscious clouds. For once, I do not dread its arrival, for when it will be on ascent, I shall be peacefully dreaming away of love, and castles, and flowers and melodies. I do however, feel happy for this little rendezvous with the very source of vitality on earth, the Sun, whose percolating rays are dancing on my arm as I type away on the keyboard. A happy heart is all I've got to greet everything with. I think that is a good thing.

So, Dreamless In Delhi? So far, yes. But with these lines echoing in my mind, I would not be for long.

 Ek akeli tu, meri saheli tu,
Jiska koi saathi naahi, uska kya jeevan?

I wish I could also talk to the breeze like in these lines and ask questions of unfulfilled love and share memories of titillating romance. But, I still have my dreams to visit.

This post is for all those who missed the magic of rains today morning. For all those also who met the rains, but missed the magic still. I will end by recollecting lines from a recent friend to lend definition to my hopeless romanticism.
Woh bade tajassus se poochh baithe mere gham ki wajah
Maine halki se muskurahat di aur kaha, muhabbat ki thi.

And finally, no one does justice to rains better than the brush of Leonid Afremov. Here is another gem from him, titled
Scent Of Rain

Saturday, April 7, 2012

'The Purple Envelope' by Twishmay Shankar

“Two cups of cappuccino, please. Make it quick.”

"Would that be all, Sir?”, asked the waiter.

Keith nodded. He had been waiting for an hour now. His eyes were tired and dreamy. They drifted across the paintings on the restaurant wall and settled on a stream of starry light coming from a distant grand chandelier. It reminded him of her starry eyes. He had not seen Michelle in the past twelve months. After breaking up almost a year ago, they had never met, never even kept in touch. But that very morning, Michelle had texted him out of the blue. “Keith, I want to meet you today. Meet me at Blueberry Truffle at seven. Please be there on time. From: Michelle.”

He had dreamt about her the previous night but could not recall it now. “Merely a coincidence? Why does she want to meet me now?” - He had been thinking all day but no satisfactory explanation greeted him. He sat there waiting, wondering if he still fancied her.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of a beautiful maiden in a fancy red dress. She looked worried and walked fast. He could not recognize her at first. But Michelle sat on his table and spoke.
“Sorry I’m late. But it will only take fifteen minutes. I have a letter to give you.” She started sifting through her handbag. Seconds later, a purple envelope flashed in her hand.
"Keith, here is the letter. I can't let you read it right now. I will give it to you when I leave.”

He wondered if her voice had changed but he could not remember how it had been. He tried to recall why they had fought but nothing came to his mind. Suddenly, he felt a rage building up inside him. Was it because he hated her so much, he thought, or was it because he still loved her? Was it the same feeling anyway? His mind quickly suppressed the disturbing thoughts which followed. He stared blankly at how a brown fringe partially covered her thin face. He noticed how her hand cleared it and then he spoke.
"Whats in the letter? And why are you in such a hurry?"
"Keith, it has been a year. I still can’t forget you. I keep thinking about you. I hated you when we broke up. People told me it is only a matter of time. Months have passed by but I still cannot ..."

The waiter approaching their table interrupted her. He laid out the two coffee cups in front of Keith.

"Sir, would you have anything else?”, asked the waiter.
"Michele, is that all you’ll have?”
She responded with a subtle nod.
“Yes, that would be all", Keith confirmed.

The waiter kept staring with an unspoken question in his eyes. He walked away with a perplexed look on his face. Keith wondered why, but another flurry of soft spoken words interrupted his thoughts.

"Please listen. I only have ten minutes. You never really listen to me, do you."
"I was listening, Michelle."
“So, I cannot forget you. Do you know why, Keith? There is an image of you in my head. An image I keep talking to. An image who talks back. An image I just cant live without. I talk to him all the time. I talk to him when I'm happy. I talk to him when I'm sad. Am I going crazy?”

Keith kept starting. Michelle did not wait for an answer.

“Keith, we never love people for what they are. We love their impressions in our minds. Sometimes, life makes us realize how those impressions are unrealistic. We should accept this and move on. But I can’t let go of your impression. I talk to him all the time now. The worst part of this is you were never like him. In a sense, he is perfect. He is all that I ever wanted you to be. I came here to check if you’re anything like him. I couldn’t resist. Have you ever felt the same? Tell me please. Have you ever talked to me in your mind?”

"I don't know Michelle. I really can't say the same. I did miss you at times over the past year. But all this sounds crazy. I never saw you in my head. I liked you for what you were and not the impression you created in my mind."

Keith looked at her. She looked gorgeous in that red dress. Her expressive eyes had spoken much more than her words. “Do I still see her in my mind?”, he wondered, when a scene from the dream last night flashed by. “Déjà vu”, he thought. Sitting across the table, there she was, the perfect Michelle he had always dreamt about. He realized he still missed her and wanted to tell her. But she interrupted him.

"I must leave now..."
“Wait, so soon?"

She did not listen. Keith followed her as she got up from her chair and started walking towards the door. A strange look covered the guards face when he opened the door for her. But she smiled and that was all Keith cared for. Once at the road, she signaled for a taxi. A yellow cab stopped by and she stepped inside it.

"Bye Keith."

The taxi had started moving when Keith thought about the letter, the purple envelope. She had forgotten to give it to him. She almost read his mind and shouted.

"The letter is in the restaurant at our table. Bye Keith. I am leaving, forever."

The implications of her last few words dawned upon Keith. He stopped waving and sprinted towards the restaurant. Slamming through the front door, he ran towards the table. The waiter had just finished cleaning their table.

"Waiter, was there an envelope on this table?"

The waiter stared blankly. Had he thrown away the envelope? Keith’s heart stopped beating as he clarified.

“The lady with me tonight left an envelope here. A purple envelope."

“Which lady?”, asked the waiter.

"The lady in the red dress. She was with me at this table tonight"

The waiter's face turned grim. He looked into Keith's dreamy eyes and spoke in a sympathetic tone:
“Sir, you were sitting on this table all alone."

(Written by Twishmay Shankar, for Nascent Emissions. You can read more posts by him at his blog, My Life, The Universe and Everything)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Post 1 : Prelude

The day I got introduced to the concept of Guest Posts across blogs, and I did get introduced to the concept pretty late, I had resolved that the first person to write a Guest Post for me would be someone I respect and admire at a personal level. In not even a split second, two names flashed across my mind. In another fraction of a second, I had decided which one of the two I shall be approaching to do a guest post for me first. After playing around with a lot of skepticism and hesitance in my mind, given that the Guest Blogger I had planned on inviting is a superbusy and a supersocial person, I did finally ask him to write a post for Nascent Emissions in the midst of a casual Gmail chat, and, to my luck's delight, he agreed! Not instantly, but after toying around with the idea for a while. However, the good news was that he agreed! Now I had something really exciting to look forward to. After waiting for less than the length of time I had expected to wait willingly for him to write, today he sent in a revised and re-revised draft of a post which I shall be posting in just a little while here, on Nascent Emissions. But first up, let me just give a brief introduction to my first Guest Author.

Twishmay Shankar- I got introduced to him while he was still pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering from the haloed Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. Today, some years later, I can safely say, I have been lucky to have known him, met him, heard him and learnt from him so much that I might not have come across otherwise. That he is an amazing person goes without saying, for it is nothing short of amazing people that I go gaga over. His picture, this one in particular, paints perfectly his personality- a personality ridden with enviable perfection. And that perfection is perfectly complimented with enviable humility.

Besides, his blog, My Life, The Universe and Everything, is a keen and curious reader's delectation. It has been mine. He usually writes on topics which I do not possess an academic flair in, and so, quite obviously, his articles inform as well as fascinate me. Too humble to ever agree to the finesse of penmanship he possesses, I have observed in him a vigor to better himself with each post he writes. Innumerable 'likes' and 'shares' follow his articles which reflect that this person knows his stuff, and knows it well.

However, to write for my blog, he and I, we were both keen that he step out of his comfort zone. And so, unlike the offensively smart and intelligent, and complex-bestowing stuff he write, we thought it fit that he write something which flows around the theme of my blog. Err, not that I know what exactly the theme of my blog is, but I know for sure, his kind of blogposts would seem to be a gross misfit here. So, exclusively for my blog (and a little less exclusively for his own), he has, I reckon for the first time, written a short story. Fiction. Love tale. Sigh. My kinda stuff! And that short story, I am very, very happy to be posting on my blog, just in a few hours.

I hope you all like it as much as I do, and to end this prelude to the first ever Guest Post on my now 4 year old blog, I am copy pasting this quote Twishmay recently shared on his facebook timeline.

"Never follow your dreams. Follow your effort. It’s not about what you can dream of. That’s easy. It’s about whether or not it’s important enough to you to do the work to be ready to be successful in that business" - Mark Cuban

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blasphemy by Tehmina Durrani

Was this woman me?
Who was she?
Who was I?

Some books are written to shed the veil of goodness which a brazenly hypocritical society covers itself in to deceive its innocent occupants.
Some books are written to shed light on that darkness no human dares to transgress onto even at the peak of noon.
Some books are written to shake us out of that ignorant slumber which shows dreams of lasting goodness and faith in the world.

Blasphemy, true to its name, is a prime book belonging to that category.

This book is written by acclaimed Pakistani novelist and women's rights activist, Tehmina Durrani, who took the world by storm after publishing her autobiography, titled, My Feudal Lord. A very strongly recommended book, My Feudal Lord was my first tryst with this woman of enormous courage and substance. In it, she tells the story of her marriage ridden with abuse and violence and oppression to the man who was called the Lion of Punjab (Pakistan)- Mustafa Khar. An eye opener and a deglamorizing expose on the political and personal life of Pakistan's elite, the book was a sharp attack on a system which perpetuated atavistic feudal ideals to the detriment of women and as treachery to the society at large.

However, this post is about Blasphemy, Durrani's third novel, also hailed as her re-entry to the world of controversies. Blasphemy narrates the heart wrenching story of Heer, a teenager married to a Pir who was more than double her age. Pir, or Pir Sain, as he is referred to in the book is a Man of God, revered and worshiped dearly by people. Pir Sain and his Shrine are the only religious authority in an unnamed place where Heer dwells after her unfortunate marriage to him. Pir Sain, though claiming to be a direct descendent of The Prophet (PBUH) has the most convoluted understanding of Islam. While to the world outside he is a holy man, within the confines of his hujra, he is nothing but a compulsive erotomaniac. Before going onto detail the cases of physical and sexual violence which fill Heer's life upon her betrothal to Pir Sain, the book makes an important expose of the business that has been made out of religion; a business running not just on money but on mad drive for pleasures. Exploiting the weak in the name of their God is the most hideous deed, but is performed with nonchalance, pride and authority by Pir Sain.

He exploits the weak outside and within his home. Imposing strict norms of purdah upon the womenfolk of his haveli, it is the same purdah his rips off with indefatigable mad zeal each night, each afternoon and sometimes thrice in a day. Victimized by his tormentor early in her teens, Heer sees the worst kind of sexual, physical, mental and emotional agony as she tries to coexist with Pir Sain in his household as nothing more than a lurking shadow. Pir Sain is depicted in the novel as a man devoid of any emotions. To such extents spreads his stone heartedness that he ends up causing death of his own heir and does not shy away from attempting incest with his own daughter. A mother's relentless battle to protect her children and a women's unending fight to save whatever scrapes of honor she can to face Allah on the Judgement day form the essence of the story of Heer- one that is going to pierce right through you.

More chilling than the gory contents of the book is a single line in the beginning, which proclaims that this novel has been inspired by true life incidents. I don't know how many times while reading this novel have I found myself whispering to whatever divine power exists out there- Let that claim by the author be fake. How can a woman suffer so much violence? How can a man inflict it with such brutality? How can people deceive people with such blatant impudence? How can people deceive their own God, their Allah?

It was not a tale that moved me. It was a take that shook, stirred and angered me. It revealed to me those numerous satanic elements which exist in our society covered in a 'chaddar with 99 names of Allah on it'. We are not completely out of those ages where women were considered nothing but a burden and a commodity to pleasure men. There still exists cultures in our world where a marriage of a daughter is not celebrated because it is shameful to celebrate giving away of a daughter to someone else's bed. Deflowering a girl is an existing mad passion which infests many a twisted minds, and closer home, till date, a girl has to fight one extra battle (at least) if she is to claim what should rightfully be hers. Women are owned, controlled and passed on from hand to hand- as if the whole society has prepared a schematic to forever forbid them of an exclusive identity of their own. Men and women themselves are equally guilty of perpetuating this tradition of insufferable oppression.

I know there exists positive sides in the world. But for now, the quill of Durrani has done its bit to anger me. Written with a simplicity meant to break your hearts into a million pieces, this books shows you how in our world, black is white and white is black. For all the crusaders of women's rights and empowerment out there, this book is very strongly recommended. For those who believe in the rosy picture of life, this book is recommended still- It is always nice to gain an alternate, real, hard hitting perspective on things. For those with weak hearts, stay away from this book. Though not graphic, still the descriptions of sexual violence in this book are so grotesque that they might make your heart scream in horror. I am one with a weak heart and I had to suffer a nightmare. So despite the fact that I am all ga ga over this book at present, a caveat is definitely in order from me.

I don't know if it is apt to rate this book, but I would give it 3 on 5 stars. I just felt somewhere the book had a potential which could not be exploited, from a purely story teller's point of view. Rest, for bringing out such a story to public eye- Bravo!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ten Things About Me

Long, outrageously long back in time, a very fine blogger by the name of Sanchari, who seeks camouflage under the wings of a psychedelic Serious Butterfly, tagged me to answer 10 questions about myself. Today, since ideas which could have transformed into a fine post persistently elude me, I thought of taking up this interesting exercise. It reminds me of filling those numerous slam books in school, each more creatively than the previous.

So, for Sanchari's 10 questions, here I go.

#1 Describe yourself in 7 words

Fascinated, Searching, Draamebaaz, Colorful, Warm, Hungry, Difficult

#2 What keeps you up at night?

My blog.
My journal.
My friends.
Persistent insomnia

#3 Whom would you like to be?

An upgraded version of myself.
On second thoughts, I would gladly step into any famous Booker winning author's shoes, since those are the kind of novels I may never be able to write myself.

#4 What are you wearing now?

An old, insanely comfortable pink colored suit, stolen from my mother's almirah.

#5 What scares you?

Friends walking out on me.
Nature being wroth with me.

#6 What are the best and the worst things about blogging?

Best- Anyone can say anything
Worst- Anyone can say anything.

#7 What was the last website you looked at?

#8 If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My eating habits.

#9 Slankets- yes or no? 

Hell yes! Bas koi gift kar de!
It looks like comfort and coziness personified.

#10 Tell us something about the person who tagged you.

As said earlier, Sanchari, a smart blogger hidden behind the wings of this really creative butterfly, was my college mate. We worked together in a society which goes by the name of Women Studies and Development Centre. I remember her as the demure writer. Not very outspoken, but silently marking her presence. From what I know about her today, this gorgeous girl is very creative and has a charming way with words.

Thanks for tagging me!
One blog post behind which I had to spend no brains, no energies. I owe this one to you. And all this in very good spirit.

Oh, and I wanted to share this picture of mine on my blog. Since this post is much about me, I guess this is the perfect picture to go with the post. This is me, staring into a newly bought Nokia Lumia, at one of my favorite places in Delhi.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Marathon Baba by Girish Kohli- A Review

"The feet had to run. The heart had to fly"
I am still huffing, puffing and panting under the influence of this littler-than-marathon journey I undertook under author Girish Kohli's incredible penmanship, and I thought it fit, that before the inebriation dissipates, I put across to my readers what a book as unconventional and irreverent as Marathon Baba had in store for a reader of conventional, time tested fiction like me.

In one word, the book was 'awesome'. In two words, the book was 'freakin' awesome'.

Alright, very high on the adrenaline. Lets not sprint too far ahead before we get down to the basics.

In the author's own words, Marathon Baba is perhaps the world's only book written as an ode to a pair of unused running shoes. Technically, at this point while writing a review, I should have glided into a presenting a synopsis of this 254 page long-but-short-cuz-it-leaves-you-asking-for-more book. Kohli's wicked deftness with his pen incapacitates me from doing that. This is one book which prides on and revels in its unabashed, brazen and absurd humor. The protagonist of this book is Karna, who begins much like the guy next door whom the world does a fine job of chaining down in its rigors and customs. However, Karna then decides to break free and run. At the very outset, he is warned- "running is injurious to health", but scarce down he pay notice when his feet have decided to fly and his heart has decided to sprint across into a world he can concoct from scratch for himself. When any of us might think of running away, we might want to do just that, 'sprint' ahead into a new life. But Karna was wiser than that. He realized life is not a sprint, it is but a marathon, where running is not about the 'pace', but about the 'peace'. And so he runs, not just for himself, but for many more like him.

Traversing through a mythical terrain, he exits the bounds of his city, to cross towns which faintly, yet imposingly resemble some of our cities with pronounced historical and mythological significance. In an inexplicable (divine, perhaps) turn of events, all the running turns Karna red- the red color only being a precursor to his soon to be acquired haloed status- Karna: The Red God. Discovering by accident a huge pile of weed, Karna establishes the Marathon Ashram by the revenue acquired from clever drug peddling. The Ashram houses other runaways like him, who, admitted after clearing very stringent admission criteria, are allowed to lead a life of their choice within its sacred precincts. How and what transpires inside the Ashram, a tale of deceit, love, trust, betrayal, redemption, ploys, blackmails, and much else- all woven together in perfect craziness, the kind which left me flabbergasted, is not in my capacity to describe. Want to know? Grab a copy as soon as you can. If you know me, borrow mine. All I can assure you is that you will love the madness which greets you as you turn the pages of this phenomenal debut effort of author Girish Kohli.

What clicked for me at the very first go, even more than the fashionably filmi cover of the book, was the author's note in the beginning. Once you've read it, you will realize you are entering some pages which will drip with wit of the finest kind. The first few pages will corroborate your initial assessment. This is a book written with a flair which makes each sentence of it quote-worthy, and no, I am not exaggerating. Girish Kohli knows his stuff. Wacky, witty and even oddly weedy- you will get a taste of all of it in this book. For the language- 10/10. For the flight of imagination- 10/10. For trashing conventional styles of writing- 11/10.

It is, according to whatever horizons my knowledge of English literature extends to, an absolutely original work, which gives you a break and which also gives you a kick. I've called the book mad, but probe deeply enough and you will know that some odd and unfortunate realities of our mundane existence have been conveyed by the author in very sharp, satirical tongue. I don't know if the author is a Douglas Adams fan, but I did get a whiff of his kind of humor at places in Marathon Baba. And laced with sarcasm, crude ironies and direct puns, that is very high quality humor. I don't know what Kohli can write after writing this book which has a dangerous degree of accolades coming for it, I am sure, from all sides, but as a reader, I am already looking forward to his next. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the depiction and description of each character in this book is as kick-ass as this whole book promises to be.

Kick Ass Fiction- Yes, it is definitely the genre this book belongs to. Rating it would be tough, but 3.5 on 5 stars just about sounds correct for this unbelievably original narrative. What I forgot to mention earlier was that besides some awesome tongue-in-cheek lines and endearing absurdities, this book also floats on the author's brilliant poetic credentials. The rhymes are fun, childish- but they work so well, that you almost decide upon mugging up a few of them. I did.

So that this one review does not become a Marathon, I will consciously apply my breaks.
Dear Mr. Kohli, you have cultivated a fan in me. Hoping for some great new book from you in future. Marathon Baba is a job exceedingly well done. Pat (to sound like a loud slap, to convey the alacrity and appreciation) on your back!

 (Reviewed on request from FingerPrint)