Category Archives: hope

I Quit! What Now? by Zarreen Khan

Meet Nimisha, the protagonist of Zarreen Khan’s I Quit! What Now? She is a corporate drone (think Ranbir’s character in Tamasha except wittier) and works so hard at her job that she hasn’t had a weekend to herself in a long time. Sounds familiar? She hates her job and the daily grind that comes with the territory. She desperately needs some time off to recharge her batteries and the idea of a sabbatical is planted in her head when her colleague takes one because of her pregnancy. She thinks a sabbatical is the answer to all her problems. But life rarely works as per our plan. She is forced to quit when she isn’t granted a few months off. So she starts off with the list of options typed in her excel sheet, ready to dive in. And we journey with her as she goes through the list, trying things, with hilarious consequences.

Nimisha, fondly called Nimi, lives with her mother and maid. With a distinct personality of her own her maid is one of my favourite characters. Nimi has an elder sister and her nieces adore her. They love the stories she tells them. She has a bunch of friends who keep in touch in spite of their busy lives. Her relationships with friends, family, and office colleagues is portrayed in a real manner and there isn’t a single false note.

Nimi is afraid to make a fool of herself like the rest of us.  But she is a diligent worker who hasn’t more or less caught a break in 8 years and feels unappreciated. No wonder the burnout happened.

Nimisha is a likable protagonist but more than that she is flawed and real, like you and me. Initially I couldn’t connect with the corporate droning but I suspect most  people would identify with it. After that the pace picked up and I couldn’t stop reading. I haven’t worked in a corporate set up so for me it was looking in from the outside. A fresh perspective, and a scary one at that. I cackled at her jokes in the middle of a wintry night. There was a very real chance of waking people up and making them think I was a lunatic. Continue reading I Quit! What Now? by Zarreen Khan

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Lessons in life from a little girl (real and fictional)

Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is. – Saul Bellow

There are no words to express the way you feel when you hold the hand of an eleven year old, let her take charge and be your guide. For a few moments I felt like the schoolgirl I had once been, carefree, innocent and oblivious to what the world looked like to grownups. I thought I had left that self far behind but it was hiding in the open underneath the veneer of adulthood. I desperately hope (in spite of knowing that it will) growing up doesn’t rob her of her curiosity.

This child was knowledgeable about the technicalities of photography and that impressed me, I am still an amateur photographer years after professing interest in photography as a hobby. There lies the difference. It is more than a hobby for her. She is passionate about it.

I took to her immediately. Our vibes matched. It would appear strange when I say that because I am a world weary adult (even though I cringe while saying it) and she’s a bright kid. My inner child connected with her and perhaps in her I could see a glimpse of the happy-go-lucky child I used to be.

I have always connected well with children. At the same time, I have been told by my older friends that I am far too mature for my age. I am an old soul with a young heart. And only with a Gemini it won’t be a conundrum.

She was cheerful, restless and bubbling with enthusiasm like children are. It was something I could not have asked for but got in spades interacting with her that day. I was not supposed to meet her but she had come with my friend and how funny it was her that made my day.

The same night I found a book  I had been looking for ages, Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle. I don’t have to tell you that the illustrations are beautiful because it’s a book by Oliver Jeffers. It talks about a girl shutting herself away from the world because something bad happened to her. To live and to just exist are two different things. She allowed grief to overwhelm her and forgot to live until a little girl shows her what she was missing, just by being herself, full of life and not being afraid of the future (the great unknown for most of us unless you are a seer). I was that little girl but I don’t want to be that adult. Finding the way to yourself, and discovering who you are, isn’t that the purpose of life?

Life mirrors art. Art mirrors life. And we continue to live on trying to find meaning in the things we do.

Yesterday I read an insightful interview about Oliver Jeffers’ new book Here We Are which comes out today. The cover looks stunning and I cannot wait to read it.

Wild Child and Other Stories by Paro Anand

Wild Child and Other Stories contains stories about teens dealing with issues that they grapple with. Paro Anand’s earlier book School Days which I thoroughly enjoyed was about tween’s issues but this one is so much darker because of the themes it deals with. Teens are unruly, difficult and moody but always in the need of love, both tough and tender.

This is an award winning book but why does it have such a bad cover? I mean come on, YA audience is used to being treated better all around the world. So glad it has now been re-released by Penguin India as Like Smoke which has 20 stories.

The title story Wild Child deals with a girl who is always bunking school (I had read an excerpt and decided to buy the book), vanishing somewhere where no one can find her. Intent only on punishing her, the elders make no enquiry or try to find out what is the matter with her. The answer when it comes, sheds light on her behaviour. People who deal with children need to be more aware and open, not to mention perceptive, to catch what is really the matter.

This is Shabir Karam is about children whose parents have been killed in Hindu- Muslim conflicts. Kids from different religions live together in a home but they have no love lost for each other. How children, who have no clue what religion is, are caught in the crossfire of hatred and bigotry will make you very uncomfortable.

Children are vulnerable, yet to form their opinions and adults, who are in a position to influence it, do grave disservice to them when they do it to meet their agenda. It makes children easy targets. Early childhood trauma is not something that can be reversed and their childhood is lost somewhere.

They Called Her ‘Fats’ is about an unruly, unfriendly and angry girl. Fatima has no friends and the children in the school spread vicious rumours about her. It is not only adults but children also fear what they don’t understand, and Fatima doesn’t make it easy for anyone. The sports teacher sees the potential in her when she throws the javelin.

Very few people are lucky to find  something that channelizes what they have inside them. It just takes one person to believe in you. What makes the story riveting is that it has roots in reality.

Santa’s Not So Little Helper is in a lighter vein. A boy who writes a creative writing piece in class about being part of Santa’s family. It is funny and did take me back to my school days but it didn’t quite fit in this collection.

In Jason Jamison and Ia star tennis player with swoon worthy good looks is troubled inside. The perfect exterior is a facade. He is the new boy who defeats the old reigning champion. Looks can be deceiving (quite literally) and friendship can spring up in the oddest of places between unlikeliest of people.

Mixed marriages are taboo in India and it is the worst when it is a foreigner. When the marriage doesn’t work out the family is left in the deep end, shunned by the society. What is the child’s fault? But he or she is the one who has to bear the brunt of it.

Hearing My Own Story talks about abuse that goes on inside the house. Physical and mental abuse is a reality for many married women. They have no clue that they can walk out of their abusive marriages and claim compensation. But the ground reality is murky and in India where marital rape isn’t a crime, women are helpless. The social fabric is at fault. Both people, outside and inside the home tell you to keep mum. 

Like Smoke was gut wrenching but felt short and abrupt. Maybe that is what the author wanted to show, how living in terrorist climes is, with bombing and shooting being everyday affairs. How uncertain and fragile their lives are with the threat of death looming on the horizon.

It makes you think about what is really being done about the situation in Kashmir. The militancy is destroying the lives of so many people, who are easy targets because they refuse to leave their motherland; it is the civilians who are paying the price for the unrest. Continue reading Wild Child and Other Stories by Paro Anand

Tagore’s The Post Office and the living

I lay on the bed
for the better part of the day 
looking listlessly  out of the window
the wire mesh blocking the view
partitioning the sky into small squares.
Sleep eluded me
pain overpowered me
I longed to die.
I felt my heart thudding
hanging on to dear life.
Death laughing sardonically
watching with cold glee
whispering in a thin voice

your time is yet to come.

Continue reading Tagore’s The Post Office and the living

Speak

I saw Speak a while ago, the movie adaptation of the very acclaimed book of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role. Despair not, it’s nothing like Twilight (to be fair to her, Twilight fans say that’s how Bella is, in that case excellent acting ) where she has only two expressions (longing and longing) but it doesn’t translate into emotion. She is so much more than a pretty prop. Incidentally I knew that she can act having seen her in the bit role I had seen her in Into the Wild (one book I must get back to again). She emotes with their silence which speaks volumes. The movie does justice to the absolutely brilliant YA novel that deals with teenage rape and depression, alienation as a result of it, very serious issues which parents, teachers and the society at large will rather not admit exist, forget dealing with it. I kept remembering stuff from the book, the lines from the book in the screenplay and the things they missed. I am going to discuss both the book and the movie so you have been warned. Spoiler ahead!

I always follow this rule of reading the book first if I can help it. Like most book lovers or booknerds (I don’t mind what you call us, we are what we are) if I know the movie is adapted from a book I prefer to read the book first (I had to wait for a long period to read Speak) and it has always been rewarding because I get to build the world created in the book, and that joy every book lover knows. Of course, on the minus side the movie usually (I thought of using the phrase ‘more often than not’ but now that I have read On Writing I feel King’s watching me) falls short of expectations, except the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird which was stellar.

I don’t know why so many people look down on YA. Trust me there are many. What you read popular fiction?! The term pop fiction is even more hideous. What’s wrong with the term contemporary fiction? Other than classics and books written by dead writers everything else they look down upon. Book snobs! They deal with real things in a real and sometimes not so grim manner, and do not put people to sleep so that their target audience actually does read and understand it. I was absolutely bowled over by Speak. Anderson is brilliant in the way she captures the voice of a teenager on the precipice of completely losing her sanity and spiralling into a quiet depression, and would have lost herself but for her art teacher who gives her something to look forward to, hence something to live for and she stays in the land of living day after day.

It was first published in 1999 and five years later the movie followed in 2004. At first look the movie appears to tread familiar ground because we have seen so many high school movies but it couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

The book cover had intrigued me for a long time and I took some time to be convinced about the story – I did not want to read about another victim who had thrown her life away. I liked Laurie Halse Anderson’s website, read her blog, bought the book and absolutely fell in love with the cover again, one of the most beautiful covers ever and waited. I believe every book finds you at just the right time. Another way of saying it unless I feel compelled to read something I don’t read it. I read it and it was literally life altering. The author interview at the back gave me some background to the book and the furore it created after its release.

She deliberately goes mute, chooses not to say a word, because when she tries to speak out nobody listens. It gnaws at her inside and she changes from a girl who lived life to just existing. Finally she is the one who helps herself climb out from the horrific past and begins the process of acceptance. She tells herself that denial is futile because she is never going to forget it. The best way to deal with it is to confront it head on, which would someday eventually lead to healing.

The book is a must read. How come it doesn’t top favourite lists here isn’t exactly a surprise to me, it is because of the themes it deals with. I highly recommend it. Speak the book is more powerful than the movie. I will be talking about the book again soon. It’s been calling out to me again. Time for a reread.

You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.

You can’t speak up about your rights and be silent.

You need to  visit the mind of a great one- Picasso who saw the truth and ripped it from the earth with two angry hands. If something is eating at you, you have gotta find a way to use it.

A revolutionary is only as good as his analysis. Why? We should be able to shout out how things can be better.

What’s the plan?

What do you to say to someone, who is a new acquaintance and has no idea where you come from, and thinks that she sees you as you are (how is a conversation or two enough to know a person that I will never know but yes there are exceptions), sees so much potential in you that you wonder if you know yourself at all (lasts for one shaky moment and then it passes as quickly as it had come), and wonders out loud (while you are standing right there) about what are you doing with your life. What’s the plan now? I am sick of this question and I suppose people are sick of waiting for me to figure things out.

It is in everyone’s best interest to shrug it off and run as fast from the conversation and the person in question. I will run as fast as my hypermobile joints will carry me and as long as I don’t end up in a hospital, it should be fine. On a completely unrelated note, it’s true the sure thing boat does not take you anywhere and even if you can’t run your own life, you can at least run away from it, and wallow in self pity. Till life smacks you back into place and drills some sense into your stubborn skull, beyond which there is hopefully a receptive and working brain.

An acquaintance was shocked  when I said that I had decided not to work in the field I was interested in at the moment and she took it to mean forever. Why are people so quick to jump to conclusions and worse, they think they have all the facts? It is difficult to explain the present as it is, forget about the past. It has taken years (basically all my life) to become the person I am today.

How do you explain the many false starts and disappointments? How being ill played spoilsport and took away even the will to live? They cannot be so casually dismissed and taken so lightly as people do. Words fail to communicate where and when they are needed the most.

Keeping mum is the only thing to do here since explanations will always fall short. Trust me, I have tried explaining and it serves no purpose other than making me look like a babbling idiot, frothing slightly at the mouth with a glint in my eyes (She is gone bonkers is what they believe and I do nothing to convince them otherwise). Total radio silence is sometimes the best thing.

But if you can bask in the glory of nothingness and be at peace with where you are in life, and proclaim it gleefully to the world then there is nothing better than that. Sit back and enjoy the puzzled looks on their faces as they try to reconcile what they see with what they know about your situation, and how you should feel.

A song which walks you home

It is eerie the way songs come back to us when we need them the most. Listening to some songs is like coming home, to a part of you that existed long before in a freer time, a part of you which you thought was lost but the song awakens it, long forgotten and belonging to another era, buried deep under the artificial layers unconsciously created to deal with the world. It’s a wonder such a thing exists, untouched by the brutality of the world. It is reassuring to think that deep within, you are the same you that you have always  been – the core of who you are, what defines  your soul and what you hold dear. It is beyond the reach of the everyday world and remains unaltered. Ain’t that a cheerful thought?

I was walking home and a song just popped into my head. I have thought about this song from time to time, in the way that I will put on it my playlist and listen but never do. There are times when I really need to listen to a song and be completely present, as opposed to tunelessly humming it. And when I finally hear it, it is as if I am  hearing it for the first time. A sense of urgency leads to the discovery of a thing which has always existed but has acquired a new meaning now.

 If you associate a song with someone and for some reason it all goes sour, then you berate yourself for losing both the song and the person. Though feelings are not facts, when our mind connects certain things or traits with someone, it is difficult to let the association go so easily. Even more annoying is the fact that it was not done by choice. You must have experienced how difficult it is to hear that song without thinking about all that you have lost.  And then one fine day, you can listen to the song and not think about the past. You have healed and perhaps moved on.

Funny how a song led me back, holding my hand, beckoning me to a movie that I liked once upon a time but I now wonder if I am the same person that liked it because it has such a cliched story-line (I don’t know if it’s growing up or cynicism making inroads into my soul). The movie is sort of a fairy tale, where in the end love triumphs, people find a way back to each other and walk off into the sunset feeling complete. And I realize now that the fond memories I associated with the movie were due to the song(s).

The movie was playing on the TV and I sat through the entire movie looking for the song thinking it will come now but some other song came on. The movie ended and I still hadn’t found the song. And I wondered if I had been an idiot to think it was a part of the movie because I couldn’t even visualize the song. Thinking I had been mistaken for so many years, I was about to switch off the TV when the credits rolled on, and that’s when I heard it. The best song of the movie isn’t a part of the movie, which is about music connecting people together. Talk about irony!

It’s good to know that you can always find your way back home, if you truly want to. That it is possible to return to a place that remains untouched by time, where you remain the same old you, the self that is truest to you.

Living it

“Listen. I don’t like to preach, but here’s some advice. You’ll meet a lot of jerks in life. If they hurt you, remember it’s because they’re stupid. Don’t react to their cruelty. There’s nothing worse than bitterness and revenge. Keep your dignity and be true to yourself.” ― Marjane SatrapiPersepolis: The Story of a Childhood

“We can only feel sorry for ourselves when our misfortunes are still supportable. Once this limit is crossed, the only way to bear the unbearable is to laugh at it.” ― Marjane SatrapiPersepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Dreaming all the time

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.” 
 What a bad dream I had last night. Probably the worst thing I have ever seen or will ever see.I woke up with a jolt and realized that it’s alright, it’s just a dream. It was a wake up call,both literally and figuratively. Everything that I could ever want and the all people I could ever love are right here in my life. This is the life that I had dreamt of. I had on rose tinted glasses so thick that I didn’t realize that it was real life and not a dream. It’s as if I was drugged and oblivious to my own life. As if I had  been looking from the sidelines waiting for something better to happen and someone better to come along, never realizing that this is the only life I have got and I have to make it count. In this lifetime not the next.
I’m an old soul and a weary one at that. Always have been. I wonder where has all the time gone and is this how my entire life is going to pass by, without me actually living it (for most part). For better or worse I still have the ability to laugh at myself and I believe it’s an important thing. It allows me to survive without drowning in gloom and wallowing in self pity. Time to buck up and go to the department or I will be late and will be made to stand outside the class!!

The present is everything it could be and more if I give it a chance. The message from all quarters is clear-just live.

Have a soulful Saturday folks !

We are April people

I am really fond of the month April, not because I was born in April. There are many things about April that I like. Like the lyrical and sweet sound it produces when you roll your tongue and say it, Apprilll.

The weather is sunshiney without being brutal. Clear days with bobbing white clouds, blue skies,  starry nights filled with twinkling stars,trees filling with tender green leaves, the scent of  mango blossoms in the air and the promise of ripe mangoes in the near future.

Vestiges of spring are still there and summer hasn’t yet begun, it’s the best time to be outdoors and be merry. The lovely wind, the whispering trees, everything feels so cheerful.Vibrant hues everywhere.When you cycle slowly through meandering roads, absorbing the calmness round you, everything is abuzz with a quiet excitement. You can almost hear a hum if you listen just right.

It’s almost infectious, you can’t help but feel jubilant and for no apparent reason. That’s when I thank God I’m alive because I feel alive. To feel alive is the greatest feeling,no words can describe that feeling of quiet contentment emanating from within.

Ah the school days, the anticipation of the all things to come in the vacation ahead. So many life enriching things to do, places to visit, people to discover, games to invent, story books to read. Almost a never ending list of things to do.

I remember the days, when flying high on a swing felt like a slice of heaven, playing hide and seek in the buildings around, jumping from trees an act of bravura and helping people do their homework an act of greatest goodwill and sacrifice.

April has always signified a time for new beginnings. The new class in the school year started in April bringing with it a sense of adventure and excitement, of shared joys and sorrows, sharing tiffins and lives, playing hopscotch and land and water, of having a favourite teacher and getting a good word from her making your day, crying over silly things like losing a pencil box your best friend had gifted or somebody not inviting you to their birthday party. No competition just blissful coexistence.That was life.The good old days.

Good things always come to an end but while they lasted  memories were created for a lifetime, which can be retrieved at will and even gone back  to whenever the need  arises. An attack of nostalgia is always good. A time machine would have been even better but I live in the real world so I have to take what I can get.

For me April signifies all is that good in life in the truest sense of the word.
Ergo, April is life.