Monday, July 30, 2012

Behatareen Jawaab

I read this somewhere, long ago - Comments are to bloggers what chocolates are to chocoholics. No one could have stated it better than in this one line what an effect a simple feedback on our posts means to us bloggers. Yes, there are the kinds who 'write for themselves', to whom 'comments do not matter', yet even these people cannot help exchanging an elated smile with their computer screens the moment they see a appreciative comment, and cannot avoid a wave of despondency from taking them over when a critical comment makes its way to their blog. The crux is, all of us bloggers simply love it when we see the comment meter ticking, and I am one of those bloggers who dares to admit it in the open. Needlessly said, I hold the followers of this blog very dear. I take their opinions seriously, and do not forget to appreciate and express my gratitude to them when an opportunity presents itself. Today's post is precisely about that.

Sumit Pandey is a recent reader of my blog. Unlike most of the people with whom I interact via Nascent Emissions, Sumit is one I also happen to know personally. However, that is not the reason why I have decided to dedicate a post to him. It is because, for the first time since this blog was born, that I have become  a fan of someone's writing because of the way he posted a feedback. In the form of an exquisite piece of poetry. And because I believe that the poetry should not remain constrained to the readers of the single post which it interacts with, I would like to post it here, for each one of you to read and enjoy. If shayari is what you like, then this impromptu shayar you will seriously grow fond of.

Here is perhaps the first ever Guest Post on my blog, written without seeking permission from the Guest Author - Sumit Pandey.

Ajnabi hi tha woh, ya tha shayad kuch jaana pehchana
Alfaaz nikle jab uske to laga kuch aisey,
"...kya itna aasaan hai mujhey padh kar bataana?"
Khud pe gurur tha kabhi , par ab ankhon mein nami hai...
Uski baaton se aisa laga jaise mujhme hi koi kami hai

Keh ke bata naa saki...
Bechaini bhi chupaa na saki...
Waqt guzraa aur aakhir khatm hua ye bhi silsila,
Par shuru hui fir kashm-kash khayalon ki...
Haan...iss baat ka mujhe hai gila

Aakhir kaise koi mujhe, mujhse behtar jaanta hai?
Ya fir bas ittefaq hi tha ,
Ki jo bhi kuch anjane mein wo keh gaya...
Bas mera dil usey haqeeqat maanta hai .

Nafrat nahi kar paayi usse kabhi...
Nazar aaye to bas uski khatir ulfat ke jazbaat...
Mujhe mere hi aks se wo milaa gayaa...
Kya khub thi woh mulakaat

It all began with two cups of coffee

P.S. - These simple and beautiful words touched my heart. Once again, thanks to Sumit. Two other things -
1. This shayari was written as a reply to a post I wrote long back, called At The Edge Of Sunshine. The curious ones can hop onto that post and put the above poem better into context.
2. I too, once attempted shayari. While I was extremely nervous, few people actually liked it. If you have not had a look at it, I request you to spare two minutes more, and check out a post called - A Little Fear Is Okay.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

You Never Know When You'll Get Lucky! by Priya Narendran - A Review

Chick lits have a purpose to serve in our hectic, racey, dull, morose, sickening, mundane schedules. They allow you muffled laughs while traveling in the metro on your way to work, they give you a lighter take on the most serious-but-relatable miseries in life, and they almost always have a love story you secretly wished you could call your own. The characters are lively and real, and even though the literary content is nearly zero, these books' entertainment quotient is akin to that of a masala bollywood movie - give your mind some rest and flow along on a part hilarious, part desirable journey. That too on a path which cuts across your own backyard in some way or the other.

Priya Narendran has given her readers exactly the same pleasures for the same reasons in her debut book - You Never Know When You Will Get Lucky! (YNK.. for our purpose). So this novel, YNK..., did not exactly bowl me over, but had me hooked onto it pretty strong for the time out of my life I devoted to it.

Kajal, a sassy, enterprising, adventurous and boldly smart copywriter working in an advertising firm in Delhi is the protagonist of this book which gives a light take on the personal versus professional life conflict people face so often. She is surrounded by a bevy of interesting male characters, among whom, Dhir, a successful professional based in Mumbai is her love interest whom she meets in a gorgeously crafted opening scene - perhaps the best I have read in the whole of past year. Kajal and Dhir instantly click, only to be separated and reunited much later and click like first time all over again. Her first date with Dhir extends for days, in circumstances which would make any woman (me especially) go weak in the knees, with a 'sigh' here and an 'aww' there escaping their lips. Locked away in Dhir's apartment, with the outside world rendered unapproachable owing to the legendary Mumbai rains, Kajal has the most wonderful time with her Mr. Perfect, who, she knows in her heart of hearts, is THE guy for her. To add to the magical element in their firey time together, this one meeting with Dhir also gives Kajal a path-shattering, career-elevating idea to launch an advertising campaign for condoms - named Lucky with a tagline which explains the title too. This is one of a kind condom campaign, led by two audacious females in a male bastion, which gives Kajal's career a fairy-tale thrust.

However, like the reputed ogress she is, Fate intervenes to eat up Kajal's happiness, sometimes due to distances, sometimes due to misunderstood circumstances. A few other interesting characters are thrown around to make the picture complete, of which my favorite is Debu (Kajal's next door neighbour, a misinterpreted and misrepresented character). How different tracks in Kajal's life converge and where her life heads eventually is captured in a smartly told tale, one worth reading and enjoying as per me.

A novel scores big when its characters linger on in a reader's mind as prominent takeaways from the book. Kajal was that relatable character whose mention will bring back fond instances of romance and stupidity, both. The plot line is not extraordinary, but sufficiently interesting to catch a readers imagination. There are a few amazingly scripted scenes which would be momentous hits if a movie was to be made out of this book. Characters are convincingly crafted. Unexpected twists do also await the reader in an otherwise consistent, though not predictable, narrative. The youthful zeal to excel and the desires for picture-perfect romance are themes which dominate the book. All in all, a more than good read. Definitely a book you should pick up from stands next time you want to read something breezy.

Perhaps the only thing that did not work for me in this book was the way it ended. Somehow, I have been conditioned into expecting overtly grand, bollywood-ishtyle climax settings for chick lits which thrive on love as the predominant emotion. The concluding chapters in this book were subtle. My conclusion here? 3 stars on 5. If you read this one, share your thoughts with me too!

(Reviewed on request by Fingerprint)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Comfort Of Dusk

Love is not a very complicated emotion to understand. Love, however, is a very complicated emotion if one were to try to define it. Love, would acquire an even more complicated texture if a person sought to analyze it in terms of gains and losses. Love is merely a feeling, which is drawn from the depths of one's heart, and which lingers and touches and comforts and gladdens. It can lead to pain and melancholy too, but even in that pain hides an element of fondness, an element of sweetness too.

Happiness, they say, is like a butterfly, which alights on you when you are least aware. Happiness, again, they say, cannot be pursued, but can only be felt. Magicians are those people who have a contagious laughter; those who know the trick of staying happy and the deftness of waving their wand to spread the smiles in all directions. Happiness, pure and unadulterated, lies in the company of such jovial, selfless magicians.

 There was this person I met, when I was in tenth standard, who had an infectiously happy personality. Humble and sincere, his unassuming mannerisms made him a favorite with students and teachers alike. One of the people he effortlessly cast his 'happiness' spell on was me. I remember remembering him like that. He would come, linger around for a little while, say a few nice words, talk to you respectfully, ostentatiously display his modesty and leave you (me) feeling glad (thrilled) for the exchange. That person stayed around for a very little time in my school. Today, 6-7 years down the line, I can proudly say, he is one of the closest people to me on the planet. And this fact, still, gladdens my heart like the teenaged girl who had met him in school.

Life has a way of fooling around. She does this in a bid to give you the best birth to death journey. I philosophized in the beginning of this post about love and happiness. Ostensibly, the subject of this post is neither emotion, but the friend I have spoken of in the above paragraph. Journey with him has been life's way of fooling around with me, but only to give me the best adventure possible. One that I am incredibly fond of.

Growing up in two separate states, with only the resources attributable to students, how we remained friends, I have no idea. What I do know is, we not only remained friends, but kept on becoming better at what we share. What I feel for him today is nothing short of a lot of love, and care, and related things. But love for sure. In our own disparate worlds, our own trysts with this word ('love') have been very different. In the zone where our world's converge, an unspoken importance, almost invisible importance is attached with the same word, the same concept. Time with him does not exactly bear the freshness of the morning or the vibrancy of the afternoon sun. His company is more like the mustiness of the rains. Even more appropriately, his concern is like the homecoming at dusk; the sharing of a cup of coffee as the day recedes into the background.

I quote and believe - There is nothing more truly artistic than loving someone. 
Today, as the artist inside me, yet again, fails me, I resort to my blog.

 Dear friend, on your birthday, I do not know what better can I do. I can think of you. I can tell you what I am thinking right now. And I can also tell you that I always think and wish the best for you. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the love. Thanks, even for the tears, which make me feel alive. 
Hope this is the year which fulfills the promise which all your visions have held for you.
God Bless!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Luck That I Am

Aadya had visible creases on her forehead. She stood pensively in one corner of the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, eyes staring intensely at the metro tracks. Someone, she remembered reading in newspapers, had been received by these very tracks a few months back with an open embrace to escape the rigours of life. Was Aadya contemplating the same course of action? No. Not quite. She was contemplating a course of action which takes her away from these destructive thoughts. However, nothing today was helping her cause. Not her thoughts. Not her surroundings.

She kept still as a metro creaked to halt in front of her. A girl was hurrying in her direction, face lit up with smile, eyes lit up with love. Her smile widened as she approached Aadya, however, in a dazed state, Aadya realized, the smile was meant for the guy standing next to her, leaning stylishly against the wall which Aadya's limp body was falling over. The anonymous, gleaming girl came and eased into a hug, pressing herself passionately, yet carefully against the guy. Their hug might have lasted for an eternity. Aadya felt repulsed at the open display of affection. Why, you ask? Ah, well. It was the same embrace Aadya had been dying for. Not from a boy necessarily. From anyone. Anyone whose one hug could for sometime dissolve her worries - her family, the fights, the miscommunications, the stress and the directionlessness. Wishful thinking, she knew.

Half an hour later, Aadya saw herself staring at a strange, bustling crowd. Heads covered in humility, eyes deep with faith, numerous faces headed in the same direction. Far down the alley, disappearing behind the bend. Aadya felt scared, but she had heard of this place and its wish granting powers. She had heard of the golden domed Dargah, nestled in the midst of winding alleys, of Delhi's most loved sufi saint - Khwaja Nizam-ud-din Auliya. However, it was not his', but the name of Hazrat Amir Khusrau which had caught her fancy. Only recently, Aadya had come across these lines -
"Saajan aisi preet na kariyo, jaisi lambi khajoor
Dhoop lage toh chhaon nahi, bhookh lage phal door."

The desires Aadya had allowed to take root in her heart had a queerly similar quality to the object of love warned against in the above lines. Her love, her desires, were simply not coming true. Standing outside the mesh which protected Hazrat Khusrau's tomb, Aadya contemplated how sad her life is. She concluded, her life is perhaps the saddest of everyone standing around. She stood there, head covered in a fuschia hued dupatta, when she felt her left foot flinch as if a rat had scurried over it. She jerked her leg as a reflex, and ended up hitting a little human figure huddle near her on the floor, She regretted her action even before she had completed it.

Clad in a dul pink T-Shirt and shorts, an almost balding girl sat near her, peeping into Hazrat Khusrau's dargah through the net carved out in stone. Aadya's hands were still raised in a dua, but her eyes were transfixed on that strange looking, little girl. She could tell that the balding kid was a girl solely on the basis of that one smile which Aadya received in return of the unintended kick. That was the only time that girl had looked up, and despite the visible, insurmountable stiffness in her arms and legs, her feminine attributes had been vividly coloring her tired, colorless face. The little girl secretly stole Aadya's heart away. And then, the same little girl caused a tear to trickle down her cheek. The tiny feminine bundle near Aadya's leg was sick. How, she did not know. But sick for sure.

A lady dressed in humble shades of brown appeared out of nowhere, and pushed her pink clad daughter to kiss the stone carvings outside Hazrat Khuswau's tomb, and ask him to make her fine. "Chalo Sabeena, deewar ko choom lo. Aur peer saab se bolo ki humein theek kar dein. Taaki hum khoob khel sakein, iskool ja sakein, and apni mummy ka dhyaan rakh sakein. Chalo, jaldi se dua karo. Pata hai, yeh sab theek kar dete hain." Her, Sabeena's mother whispered into her ears. What caught Aadya's attention were not so much the words, but the infectious smile on Sabeena's mother's face. Her pretty daughter was in a sorrowful state, or so Aadya thought, but here, the mother and her daughter seemed far from grieving. It seemed, that with the dua for getting better, they were also sending via Khusrau, words of gratitude to Allah, for giving them whatever they have, and for looking over them. Such faith!

Aadya gently sat down, giving little Sabeena all her place to play and soak in the sacred air around the dargah. May be the influence of the place reverberating with so much faith was therapeutic. Aadya could not be sure. She closed her eyes, and burst out crying, uncaring for who was or was not seeing her. No one was. It was as if the place understood that grieving is a personal activity, not to be intruded upon. She would have cried for a long time, for she only stopped when her eyes ran dry. As the smell of incence wafted up her nose, Aadya felt as if the burden of a million tonnes had been lifted of her chest. Her mind, which was ready to implode was now throbbing with pain, but with signs of life. Resuscitated, she lifted herself, and walked out slowly from the dargah.

While slipping on her shoes, she was promising herself to smile. She had not a wish left in her heart out of the numerous she had come to seek the answering of. On an impulse, she wanted to wish for pink-clad-blading Sabeena's well being and happiness. But no, she decided against asking for that. She decided in favor of having faith. Through the gestures of that tiny rat whose hand had caressed her bare feet to draw her attention, Aadya had witnessed a lifetime's lesson. No worry seemed insurmountable now. A tiny farishta was all it took to lend her some faith. In our world, sadness coexists with bliss, melancholy with mirth. Experiencing both is necessary to experience life. A little faith and gratitude in our hearts is all it takes to balance those two emotions, and to be able to find the best learning out of the worst situation in life. It is necessary to thank, insane to blame, now understood Aadya. There was a conscience screaming to be heard inside her. There were thoughts waiting to be turned into actions. Everything she needed, she had it within her.

May be she understood all this by herself. May be little Sabeena was actually a divine messenger.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Calendar Too Crowded by Sagarika Chakraborty - A Review

"Yes, my never-to-be-born daughter, I know this is all so true,
But the darkness of death is better than an unequal life that
lies ahead- you should know that too!
So sleep  my little one...sleep for a while in my womb,
For tomorrow the same is going to be
re-christened as your tomb!"
- Can You Hear Me, Ma; Sagarika Chakraborty

The above lines are vivid, lucid and they put on display the remarkable sensitivity of author/poetess Sagarika Chakraborty, whose debut novel I am going to explore in this post. For the book which announces her arrival in the world of published authors, Sagarika has chosen to delve into an issue which is universally acknowledged as the collective failing of mankind on the road to progress, the issue of failing to accord to almost half of humanity the respect and dignity which they are entitled to as being living and breathing members of the world. Call it gender bias, women emancipation, female oppression - the core idea which the author has persisted with in the book is to give a voice to those numerous nameless, faceless women, who undergo tribulations on a daily basis just because they possess, by no choice of their own, a pair of XX sex chromosome.

A Calendar Too Crowded is creative collection of stories and poems regarding womanhood, and lost promises of history at granting an equal, if not an elevated status, to the women who give and preserve life. Why I call it creative is because of the very interesting layout of the book, which is divided into twelve parts coinciding with twelve months. In each month, the author has identified days which are celebrated internationally or regionally as days of importance with respect to empowerment or glorification of females, and a story or a poem has been spun around the essence of the same day. For instance, on February 6th, Italy observes Widow's day, themed around which, the author has crafted the poignant tale of a nameless little girl, widowed at the age of seventeen, whose entire existence was then considered an abomination, whose very identity became that of a witch who devoured her husband (Witch Without A Broomstick). To mark the Anti Child Prostitution Day, falling on April 4th, a story called Selling A Body To Gain A Mind has been included, which sensitively, yet sensibly dwells on the relationship of a prostitute and her daughter. Around 20 stories/poems have been presented in the same format, each of which narrate the story of a girl/woman dealing with numerous taboos and regressive traditions stifling their very existence on the face of our planet.

These stories needed to be told. There is nothing extraordinary about the simple narratives presented in this book except for the fact that as women, having observed the prejudices working against us in family, society and professional sphere, we can relate to these stories without even trying. A wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a lover - in each relationship, women have been expected to play an exceptional, glorious, self-sacrificing and tradition bound role. We all go through these different relationships. We all experience at some point of time the cumbersome expectations which each act brings with itself. If we are lucky enough to not have experienced any discrimination and suppression, we all know stories of our friends/colleagues/relatives who are undergoing unimaginable sufferings solely on the basis of their gender. The fairer sex has been relegated to the position of the second sex, with force and conviction and adamant refusal to change the status quo.

One of the remarkable things which Sagarika has done in her novel is to have highlighted the hypocrisy of progressiveness which entire mankind is proud of. By quoting again and again the example of Panchali, the author has enforced upon a reader's psyche the fact that how in the ancient times, which we understand as primitive, women were regarded as equal, they were respected, allowed their choice and their opinions held weight not just in domestic, but even administrative affairs. A systematic erosion of taken-for-granted equality has been brought about in preceding centuries, the ugly manifestations of which we see in cases of domestic violence, incest, marital rape, work place harassment, molestation, eve teasing, dowry deaths, foeticide, infanticide, child marriages, widow codes, sati pratha, honor killings, and an endless list of related issues. Many, if not all, of these issues find echo in Sagarika's stories. She talks of an aged widow wanting to settle down with a life partner at the age of where people expect you to wait out your death. She takes you into the mind of expecting mothers who seldom think of anything other than what is good or bad for the life inside them. She makes you meet a victim of trafficking and gives you a peek into her psyche with a melancholic rush of emotions. She explores the life of a woman who chose to be a homemaker when the heights of success were themselves knocking on her door. All this and lot more. A Calendar Too Crowded is an apt name for a book which emphasizes on the fact that each day in the life of a woman is a story worth telling in itself.

Where the book does not work for me is in the predictability of almost all stories. Not much of innovative content. The stories are more like musings. You can flow along, and know where you are headed throughout the way. An occasional mention of mythological and historical figures who stood out as women of courage and dignity is interesting, but I felt that the author made similar kind of mentions at too many places, which made things look slightly repetitive.Also, totally out of the ambit of literary criticism, I think the book is priced a little on the higher side. On the plus side of things, relationships were explored beautiful. I did shed a tear or two while being transported deep into the lives of women whose portrayal was sensible and believable. My favorite stories out of the collection, which I will strongly recommend to others as well are The Homecoming, Sisters By Chance And Not By Choice and Knowledge Beyond The Printed Letters. Finding An Ideal Mother For My Unborn Child was one story which was fresh in terms of both, the narration as well as the perspective. These stories rose above the helplessness, and spoke of nurturing relationships and able choices.

All in all, it was a balanced book. Great thought, but the potential of the book, I felt, was far more than what came out in the final execution. 2.5 stars on 5 is my verdict for this one.

P.S. - Having worked closely on issues of gender, and with young girls victimized by their own loved ones, I could not help but feel extremely happy about the fact that a young author put her heart and mind into coming out with something like this. This critique aside, I am quite a fan of Sagarika's spirit, and her lovely smile!