Pink

pink-girl_00040446When did it all begin, she would sometimes wonder.

When did she first realise she was a girl.

Was it in the toy store, when her father brought her a pretty baby doll and her brother a toy car?

Did the soft touch of lipstick and the rustle of dupatta whisper it to her?

Was it when her mother made her sit next to the hot burning stove while her brothers played cricket in the backyard?

Did the clock teach her with its insurmountable curfews?

Or was it much before that, in the blue of his covers and the pink of hers.

Prompt from 100 Word Challenge: Julia’s Place

Advertisements

Taste of Home: A Flash Fiction

Prison Guard, Stockholm. Public domain photo.

Standing on the bridge, Gaurav cast a long look at the white expanse of deserted snow and the snow-capped mountains. There was no movement to be seen. Not even a stray leopard or a jumping goat met his eyes. It was like the terrain itself had frozen. Somewhere across the snow-white horizon was Pakistan, but all was quiet on the border today.

His breaths rose like hot mist in front of his eyes. Guard duty at the military outpost on Siachen Glacier was a lonely job.

He looked at his watch – five more minutes before his turn ended, and the next soldier took over. Right at six his reliever arrived. “They are making malpua in the kitchens”, he said.

Gaurav hurriedly took off. Malpua was his favourite dessert. As he ran towards the mess hall he remembered how as a kid he would pester his mother to make it for him.

The mess hall was warm with hearty food and cheerful company. The cook slid a brown malpua glistening with golden syrup on his plate.

Gaurav took a bite and smiled to himself. He patted his pocket where lay the last letter from home: “…when you come home, we’ll find a  good match for you. Come home soon, son“. 

***

malpuaMalpua is an Indian dessert, similar to pancakes, and is eaten with syrup. It is one of my personal favourites. You can find the recipe here

Siachen Glacier is located in the northern part of Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, and the no-man’s-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level. Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire. Both countries agree on a need to demilitarise the glacier, but neither side wants to take the first step.(Source: HindustanTimes.com)

Book Review: Ramayana The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams

Growing up in an Indian Hindu household, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, narrated to you since childhood by your mother and grandmother. As you grow up you further see the epics played out on the silver screen by TV actors in popular TV serials. Whether you ever pick up the epic or not, you end up with a vague idea about the plot.

How then is a modern-day English reinterpretation valid or even relevant, especially in face of other readily available  English translations?

Yes, it is relevant.

In his series ‘Ramayana The Game of Life‘ based and inspired by the epic, Subha Vilas has rewritten the incidents of the Ramayana in chronological order. What makes the book all the more charming and relevant in today’s society are the engaging little insights that Vilas provides to the epic. The reader is not left floundring in the dark, trying hard to glean the knowledge and wisdom inherent in the epic. Subha Vilas has interpreted every facet of the story in painstriking detail and written down his interpretations in small excerpts throughout the novel. The language is simple and easy to comprehend.

One of my favorite parts in the novel is when Sumantra summons Rama and Sita to Dasaratha’s chamber. He is going to banish Rama for fourteen years and Rama, the avataar of Vishnu, in his infinite knowledge already knows this. He looks at Sita and places a garland around her neck, symbolizing (according to Vilas) that in the future all he will be able to give her are forest flowers. Sita smiles at him, indicating that she would stay with him despite his change in fortunes.

What follows this charming incident is a small box note by Vilas listing out the importance of communication, even silent communication in a relationship.  In this way the book can also be seen as a Guidebook to Life, and since each such lesson is enshrined in a box, it is very easy to just flip the pages and read the short extracts, without having to read the entire novel each time.  Some of these are tenets on management and leadership, and bears relevance in even today’s corporate world.

Each page further has little footnotes explaining Sanskrit words or cultural traditions of that time. In this way, the book helpfully transfers the reader back to the era when the epic was originally written, and gives us a brilliant insight into the life and society of ancient India. Some of the footnotes also contain motivational expressions, not unlike the extracts I mentioned before. For instance when Dasaratha visits Kaikeyi and foolishly promises to give her anything she asks for, the footnote derides his decision and all such decisions made spontaneously and recklessly out of lust and without proper consideration.

The character development throughout the novel too is commendable. The book is about Rama but Vilas has not ignored the other characters in his life, who help and support him in all his decisions. One commendable aspect of the book is that it portrays Sita to be as important as Rama. She is his courageous companion who braves all difficulties to support her husband in his time of trouble. Lakshmana is shown to be a caring, devoted brother. Dasaratha’s love and pride in his sons too is well established. Even Bharata who only appears at the end of the book,  is shown as a dutiful and filial brother.

Let me now list out what I didn’t like about the book:

  1. This book doesn’t provide a modern day retelling of the Ramayana. There is little explanation provided for the more fantastical aspects of the epic. The narrative has stayed true to the original epic and sceptics like me might find parts of this book rather hard to digest.
  2. The dialogues are long, repetitive, overly-melodramatic and irksome at places.
  3. There is very little empathy between the characters and the readers. Subha Vilas has placed his characters on a divine pedestal, and readers are only meant to read about their actions, but not question them.

All in all, read this book if you are inclined to learn about ‘Ramayana’ or want a self-help/guide book rooted in Indian culture and mythology. Read it to learn, but not to discern. 

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Untouchable…yet Raped

She lay shivering on the cold hard ground. In the distance she could hear the sounds of her attackers laughing and walking away, till the sound of their footsteps died down. She got up, and wrapped her torn dress around her shaking shoulders. Silently she made her way home. She knew what the police and the judges would say, if she or any of her friends dared complain – no upper caste man will sully himself by raping an untouchable like her.

During the nine-year period between 1981-86 and 1995-97 a total of two lakh cases of atrocities on the scheduled castes were registered, which means on an average 3,000 cases of atrocities were committed on the scheduled castes annually – and these are only the ones that got reported. The breakup of atrocities for the year 1997 shows 504 cases of murder, 3,452 cases concerning grievously hurt people, 1,002 cases of rape, 384 cases of arson and 12,149 cases of other offences.

Things You See On Mumbai Locals #5: The Hand of the Modern Indian Woman – The Best Of Two Worlds

image

From in between the half a dozen Nike and Adidas armbands, the symbol Oum tentatively peeks out

…..

– this is the arm of the modern Indian woman. The red tikka or vermilion mark contrast sharply with her GreenDay t-shirt. She is just as punctual for the first day, first show of the latest Tom Cruise thriller, as she is for every puja or religious ceremony in the temple. She revels in her culture and is unapologetic of her bold sexuality.
The way the young girls in Indian metropolitan cities have assimilated the modern day trends with the traditions of the past is admirable and worthy of being written about.
In my college, for instance, girls have the option of choosing between two ways of dress – ethnic or western. A girl can, if she so chooses dress in tight figure-hugging jeans and a tee or a short black dress, but she would look just as attractive in an azure blue salwar suit with silver lace on the duppata and dangling silver earrings, with a tiny diamante bindi to finish the look. You could also, and many do, combine both forms and mix ‘n’ match – an ethnic kurti over jeans, a duppata thrown casually with a dress, or something as insidious as a traditional block printed dress or a tie and dye shirt….options abound, and the modern Indian woman is determined to make best of all of them.
If you move from her wardrobe to her food habits a similar fusion prevails. For instance, today on the train it was the birthday of a passenger. She is in her early 40s and travels regularly to work with a group of her middle-aged friends, who all wished her with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday!’ today. She distributed packed chocolates and wafers among them, and they gifted her a packed red box that contained coconut barfi. Or the other day, I overhead a 30-something woman tell her friend that the manchurIan balls she prepared for her son’s birthday party had been praised by all, as had been the rice payasam she had cooked.
Just like the sacred thread which hides underneath the more modern accessories, underneath the modern exterior, the Indian woman has preserved her heritage and culture. Over the years, instead of discarding one for another, we have chosen to learn from all that’s new and modern while not forgetting the wisdom of the ages. Be it in her wardrobe or her kitchen – the modern Indian woman has skillfully fused the best of both worlds.

10 Indian Foods You Must Eat Before You Die

(This was a creative writing assignment in class).

1. Chicken roll from Kolkata
2. Qurbani ka Meetha from Hyderabad
3. Tender Coconut Ice-cream from Naturals, Mumbai (It’s not technically a traditional Indian food, but you will miss out on a lot, if you restrict yourself to technicalities in life).
4. Indian Hakka Noodles and Chilli Chicken – These may be termed under ‘Chinese’ food, but its the Indian inputs that make them a street speciality every where around India.
5. Prawns in Coconut Milk or prawn malaikari from Bengal
6. Spicy Pani Puri from Mumbai
7. Vada Pav from Mumbai
8.  B.B.C (Boneless Butter Chicken) with Biryani rice and raita
9. Malpua – a kind of fried sweet jn syrup that will definitely leave your tastebuds asking for more.
10. Shrikhand from Gujarat – a dessert made out of curd.

( Update: In retrospect, this post is a little too oriented towards non-veg cuisine. For more vegetarian options I would request you to check out this post by Priyanshipandey).

Top 11 Books That Will Change Your Life

I am a bookaholic, I swear I am. That being said it’s nearly shameful that I hardly wrote any posts about books!! Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt I have decided to turn over a new leaf, and start writing about books, as I had originally intended to, when I first started my blog. I, however, was afraid that my blog would revolve too much around books, and that might make it boring. So, in attempting to evade a possible error, I over-corrected myself.
Enough time spent repenting, time to start writing. What better place to start than with classics. Here are some classic books that changed my life, and that I would recommend to every young-adult out there:

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: No book helped me more through puberty than this poignant tale of the 4 March sisters. I must have read it a thousand times over the years, fingering through the familiar yellow pages and finding solace, comfort and advice, that I sourly craved for. I empathized with the March sisters, wept at their sorrows, and rejoiced at their joys. I revered Mrs. March as a mentor. I turned to her for advice on those petty issues (read: boys and fashion) that I couldn’t confide to my mother.

Little Women

2. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee: 
One of my favourite literary quotes are from this book:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

I love it for its sheer simplicity and also the its veracity. To really understand a person you need to understand HIM – his background, his past experiences and his frame of reference. Put yourself for one minute in the shoes of the worst person you know, and see how your opinion about him, mitigates (if not change).

lookmama_mockingbird

3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: I recently read thisbook for an Economics project and was touched to the core by the story. Though the novel is set in the Great Depression in the United States of America, a country I have never even been in, it somehow manages to give voice to the exploited and the homeless across the globe, including in my country. My favourite quote from the book is Tom’s farewell speech to Ma Joad. It echoes my belief in the fact that one should always, always fight for one’s right, if only in the hope that someone else like me, in the future, won’t have to go through what I went through. 

Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there.graors of wrath

4. The Chronicles ofNarnia by C.S. Lewis: I love this book. I love how simple it makes the eternal struggle between good and bad seem. You have to support the good, just because it is right. There can be no excuses. Especially, I love the portrayal of paradise in the last book, as a place with all the good things and all the good people of Earth. Earth is, according to the book, simply like a trial round for all creatures to see who deserves Paradise:

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.

the-chronicles-of-narnia

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: I read this book as part of my fifth-grade reading list, and I have been in love with it ever since. It is a thrilling tale of vengeance, but my favourite scene is when the Count asks forgiveness from Mercedes, and bades her farewell. He asks her where shall they meet again, and she tells him they will meet in heaven.

the count of monte christo

 

6. Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde is easily my favourite playwright. This play, highlighting the hypocrisy of society, especially the concept of ‘a good woman’ seems as relevant to me, in today’s age of feminism, as in the Victorian Society.

Lady Windermere's Fan-8x6[1]

7. Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle: Do I even need to explain this?! The adventures of this great detective will help you happily spend many a rainy day. It might also increase your skills of deductive reasoning.

holmes

8. And Then There Was None by Agatha Christie: As we are on the topic of mysteries, I must of course name my favourite lone-standing mystery novel. This one is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that will keep you guessing till the end.
and then there were none
9. Jeeves by P.G. Woodehouse: When I first read this book I kept a dictionary beside me, and I will frankly confess that I had to turn to it more than a dozen times, to get through a single page. But I am glad I persevered, because this is undoubtedly one of the wittiest and most humorous books I have ever read!
Jeeves
10. Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan: Not sure if this counts as a classic, but R.K. Narayan’s beautifully described plot with its vivid imagery will transport you to the idyllic villages of India. It is indeed awe-inspiring the way he managed to weave such poignant tales out of the petty problems and daily obstacles of the average middle-class man.
rk_narayans_malgudi_days_volume_hindi_dvd_video_icl086
11. Nirmala by Munshi Premchand: Premchand does a wonderful job in this novel at giving voice to the subaltern masses and highlighting the social evils of pre-independent Indian society. I love it for its boldness. His protagonist is a woman, and not a rich princess, but a common everyday housewife – the one, who was in this era, usually secluded behind the curtain.
nirmala
…I could go on forever on this topic, but the old doubts are returning now. I don’t wanna bore you, and hope I haven’t. Try reading some of these books. I promise you won’t regret it.

15 Quintessential Characteristics of Indian English

Planning a trip to India any time soon? Here are some quirks of the Indian English that you may experience during your stay here:

  1. Prepone – to schedule things ahead of time. An indigenous antonym to ‘postpone’.
  2. Secure marks – In India, we don’t get marks. We secure them. It is a common thing to say, ‘I secured 95%’ instead of ‘I got 95%’.
  3. Gymming – working out in (you guessed it) a gym
  4. Taking Tension – Getting Tense. E.g. ‘You are taking too much tension about this trip’.
  5. Pursuit of studies – It is a common thing to hear someone say, ‘I am pursuing engineering’ or ‘She is pursuing a degree in media’.
  6. Out of station – Not in town. ‘Schedule all my appointments after 10th June. I am going out of station’.
  7. Looking smart – You might hear people tell you, you are looking very smart today. No, they are not using x-ray vision to look at your brain. It is just the same as saying you are looking handsome.
  8. Good name – An indigenious translation of the Hindi word ‘shubh naam’. It is same as asking what’s your name?
  9. Years back – a long time ago. I bought this house many years back.
  10. Na – an added extra emphasis. E.g. ‘you don’t mind, na’ or ‘she likes it na’
  11. Rubber – Don’t worry, it means an eraser. Nothing more 😉
  12. Pass out – Graduate. I passed out from school two years back.
  13. The Hierarchy of Promises – We, Indians have a strict hierarchy of promises. God Promise > Mother Promise > Father Promise. If someone says God promise, it means one must be speaking truth, because no one takes the name of God in vain! Mothers are also very important to Indians. We revere them above all others. Mother promise, is a literal translation of ‘Aai Shapath!’ or ‘Maa Kasam‘, both of which means, that if I am lying may harm befall my mother, something no Indian will ever wish upon his/her mother. Fathers, or ancestors, get the worst deal in this hierarchy, it is true, but even that oath holds a lot of weight! You may lie if you take an oath, failing which harm would befall you, but you can never lie once you take your parents or God’s name.

In a resturant:

14. One by Two – meaning divide the one dish we ordered into two equal portions, for the same price. E.g. ‘we will take sweet corn soup, one by two’. Other variations include: two by four, three by six, etc.

15. It got over – it is no longer available. E.g. ‘the rotis got over’ or ‘the chocolate ice-cream sundae just got over. It will take 20 minutes to make a new one’.

If you think of any more such indigenous usage of English, let me know. Till then, marvel at our quriks. What can I say? We are like this only.

2w559c0.bild_

 

 

To Vote or Not to Vote

vote

Every day in the bus, on the road, at work, at college, at the station  or at the market, there is always someone or the other complaining about the government’s inefficiency – be it for price hike of vegetables, safety of women, proper state transportation, potholes on road, corruption, police ineptitude, and the thousand other problems that surround our society. But what we forget is every five years we are given the power to bring about CHANGE in the society, and our lives – WE CAN VOTE!! 

Every Indian adult citizen has the constitutional right to vote for a representative for themselves, and this set of elected representatives form the government at the Centre. In this sense even though we can’t be physically present in the Parliament to put forth our opinions on a new law or bill, we can elect a representative to be our voice and do so. Does this not seem like an important enough reason to go out, once in five years, and cast your vote?

I was recently talking to a friend on the phone, who was reluctant to go out and vote. ‘Chood na, ek vote se kya hoga?’ (leave, what difference will one vote make?) he told me. It does make a difference. If you don’t cast your vote, somebody might misuse your name and power as a voter to vote for a inept representative – and you will spend five more years in hypocritical and ineffective rants.

‘I am not interested in politics. It bores me’. This is a common sentiment, not restricted only to my friend, but spread across the current youth. Yet this statement is absurd.  You might as well say that I do not care about who rules over me. I am happy being a slave. As a citizen of your country, you cannot be impervious to what happens in your country. But even at a more fundamental level, if you won’t vote for your country’s future, vote for your future. Vote for cleaner and regular water supply, vote for better roads and infrastructure, vote for less delays in the railway, vote for more playgrounds, vote for more employment opportunities, vote for better education, vote for change – vote for all the things you have been cribbing about the last five years. It is very easy to sit in a air-conditioned restaurant and remark casually over drinks, ‘the country is going to the dogs’ ; or to read an article on displaced and impoverished tribals, and say ‘the government ought to do something for them’. Vote to Act! 

 

I found this on facebook.  I think it sums up the post perfectly!

I found this on facebook. I think it sums up the post perfectly!

22nd February 2014 – An Indian Weekend

# Statutory Warning: All incidents mentioned her are strictly true…more or less. 

So, today while sitting in class and aimlessly doodling in my notebook while my professor droned on about ‘The Effects of Media on Adolescence’ I had a sudden brainwave of keeping an online diary. Heck why not? I thought. I am hopelessly single, a term employee at Jobless Incorporated and have a negligible social life – so I definitely have the time, and I have been itching to try something new for quite sometime now. Though knowing my innate and astonishing ability to procrastinate, it might soon reach an inevitable end anyways….well that’s enough depressing talk for one day, and before you start wondering how in the world you ended up here, I better start what I intended to start when I start(ed).

Most Indian Colleges have still to catch up on the true meaning of the concept of ‘weekend’. As far as they are concerned it means getting students to wake up at half-past five and come to college looking like zombies, so that you can further doom them with tedious lectures, and finally pile up enough homework and assignments to make sure that they don’t even have time to breathe on Sunday. Indian College Professors would excel at world domination. Anyways that’s how my day started. The only perk being that the hot guy I kinda-sorta like sat next to me in class today – I wish it was because he wanted my company, but I have a nasty feeling it was only because that was the only seat left available in the classroom when he arrived – and every now and then during the two hour long lecture, his hand would brush against mine. Once he actually started tapping my fingers with his, probably a game, or a desperate attempt to keep himself awake – whatever the case it generated enough adrenaline (and some other hormones) in me to keep my eyes open in class.

On my way back, in the notoriously slow Western Locals of Mumbai, I met up with a friend. She told me of another disastrous weekend she had with a couple of her friends. All of them had bought drinks and gone to one of the boys’ house for a booze party. This was the first time that they had purchased vodka, and thus did not have much of a clue as to when to restrain themselves, and also ignorant of the fact that the effect of vodka takes a while to sink in. So they kept drinking till they felt ‘high’ and the result was they passed the borderline of sobriety and sanity. After an extremely wild party they went out to a family restaurant to display their inebriated state to the entire world. One of the girls, my friend told me in between bursts of embarrassed laughter, dipped her paper napkin into the gravy boat and ate it. Yet, she continued, the worst part of the evening was yet to come. “You see, we were so drunk that we had forgotten to clean up the place; and when my friend went home he found all the bottles we were supposed to throw out on the table, the place stinking of alcohol and his parents standing in front of him, arms crossed”.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“Oh nothing much. He made up a story. He told his parents that did they honestly think he was stupid enough to drink, if he did drink, in his own house, and not clean up”.

“And they bought it?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh yes! You see his parents thought that no one could be that stupid. But we were. That stupid!”

“So, you were saved because his parents underestimated your stupidity!!” 

And that’s enough for today. I write again soon….maybe. Please feel free to leave a comment on what you think.