Beauty and the Beast

“Here” she thrust the folded piece of paper hastily torn from a notebook into my hands. Her perfectly manicured nails, though the school didn’t allow us to wear polish, scratched my wrist and drew blood.

“Give it to him”. I watched her run away. Her lithe figure and grace made even the grey tunic of the school uniform look elegant. I remembered holding the skirt straight while she cut the extra inches of cloth away till it was high enough to ride dangerously above her thigh when she sat. Silver earrings dangled from her ears, hair tied in a messy ponytail and just a hint of eyeliner that was too subtle to break the ‘no make-up’ rule of our campus.

Plump, graceless and clumsy I was the antithesis of my best friend. Our friendship was the biggest mystery of our school. All I knew was that Parul had been my friend ever since I could remember. We had entered kindergarten holding hands and grown up together, sharing everything from toys to homework.

We lived next door, played together every evening, swore a blood oath to be best friends forever at eight, lost our first tooth on the same day, bled together for the first time and even received the same marks in all exams. Yet puberty decided to bestow on her a gift while all I got were pimples.

Suddenly she was the most popular girl in class and I was the fat nerd. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ our classmates called us. Parul would drag me along to birthday parties I hadn’t been invited to; shopping at stores where nothing ever fitted me and to lunches with the other girls….till I complained and refused to go along. Yet every night she comes over to my house, and over homework tell me stories of her life, as far from mine as possible.

Boys fell all over her but she would politely kept her distance from all of them…till Abhimanyu arrived. His family shifted from Dehradun and he was wonderful! Tall, smart and a wonderful sense of humour. Sparks flew from the moment Parul and Abhimanyu met. Abhimanyu wrote a poem for her and put it in a Nicholas Sparks novel that he lent to Parul.

I never expected to see my friend act like a lovestruck heroine from the movies, but she did. She would suddenly drift off into day dreams that would make her smile and blush, and behind her notebook she doodled hearts with ‘A+P ‘ written in them.

She penned down a reply to his poem but her courage wore off when it actually came to giving it to him.

He was sitting with a gang of friends in the garden. I walked over. The other boys sniggered at my audacity to approach them, but Abhimanyu smiled and shifted to make room for me to sit. He was always kind to me, and sometimes when Parul had other plans we would walk to the bus stop together. When we were alone like this he would tell me stories about his childhood in Dehradun, and cracked jokes that had me doubling over with laughter. I loved those afternoons.

“I have a message for you from Parul”.

He looked at me expectantly. The note fluttered in my pocket.

The words came out in a rush, “She doesn’t like what you wrote. She asked me to ask you to stay away from her”.

I ran as far from his disappointed face as I could. And once I was out of sight, I took out the folded note, tore it into as many pieces as I could and threw it in the nearest dustbin.

If this was a divine test of my loyalty I failed.

Cupid in Hell smirked.

 

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Growth Pangs: Flash Fiction

YM-growing-up-too-fast

Meg looked around the apparel store in dismay. Her mother tapped her foot impatiently, “Are you done deciding what you want?”

Yes that frilly pink dress from the kids section that is a size too small for me, and the light blue shirt from the ladies section that reaches my knee.

Her mother made a clicking noise and noticeably checked her watch. “Nothing here is to my style” Meg said, and marched out of the shop. Her mother followed her with a bewildered silence.

*

“Touching a boy can get your pregnant”, Elsa said confidentially.

“Nonsense”. Helen rolled her eyes.  Her confident proclamation followed: “It only happens when you kiss!”

*

In the family function Meg sat in a corner listening to the grown-ups talk. “Come play with us”, her cousins begged.

“You go. I will come in a minute” she shooed them away.

Her parents were talking about the war. “Why don’t the two presidents just shake hands and apologize?” Meg asked. It seemed like a sensible question.

The ladies tittered. “Why don’t you go out and play with your cousins?” her mother suggested.

Meg felt her cheeks redden. A surge of fury and humiliation coursed through her veins — “You never understand me!”

“Young lady, is that the way you talk to your elders?” her father’s voice was taut. “Go up to your room”.

As she stormed out, she heard her mother mutter to Aunt Rosa, “I really don’t know what’s come into her nowadays…”

She slammed the door of her room. Her eyes burning with unshed tears, she looked out from the window into the twilight yard where her young cousins played the childish games that no longer afforded her any joy.

*

The Fault In Our Stars – Not The Usual Review

Much has already been said about this book, and much more will probably be said about it in the distant future. It is one of those books that no matter when or in which era you pick up, it’s still gonna affect you, like it affected the first person who read it, simply because it talks of that eternal entity we call Life.
Lot of my friends had told me a lot about this book – “oh, it’s beautiful. I cried”, or “those two poor lovers! It really makes you believe in the power of love”; and yet I was apprehensive of reading it. I assumed, as I had been led to believe, that the book was an emotional tear jerker, manufactured in the assembly line of tragic love stories, that had once given us the masterpiece of Romeo and Juliet, but since then due to lack of Innovation, resorted to hackneyed clichés. Two young teenagers, suffering from cancer, meet at a Support Group and fall in love – it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out what’s eventually gonna happen at the end. I assumed that it would be one more story about star-crossed lovers that would make me cry, but provide little reading pleasure. I assumed wrongly.
Don’t get me wrong. Some cancer stories are really heartrending, like My Sister’s Keeper and Walk To Remember, but what differentiates this book from them is that in the former, we as readers are separated from the characters. We sympathize, but we rarely empathize. We read the book, and think with a shudder ‘that could have been me’, and that realization makes the book all the more poignant. We, in short, behave like Hazel and Augustus’s friends who feel scared and sorry for them, but at the same time they feel relived that it didn’t happen to them. What they and we often fail to realize is that those who live with a disease do not always need our sympathy. Their zest of life, as the book proves, may outrun even ours.
The Fault In Our Stars however is written in a way that pulls in the reader, elevating him/her from the status of an eavesdropper to one of the characters. The story isn’t about facing life amidst hard obstacles, it is about facing life, despite all obstacles, and isn’t that what all of us do, everyday. Cancer in the story is merely co-incidental. They do suffer, but which one of us don’t suffer in either love or life, or both. Some may argue their obstacles and suffering were greater than anything we can ever imagine, but how exactly do you measure suffering? At its essence the book is simply a story of two young lovers, written with such crisp wit and wry dark humor that you can’t help but laugh. I thought the book was a tear jerker. I was wrong. If anything, it’s a laughter jerker.

The world isn’t a wish granting factory.

The message of the book is simple : Life is unfair, but then it doesn’t have to be fair. Nature doesn’t owe any one of us happiness – a mistake we commonly make. Death is inevitable, whether at 17 or at 77, and in between you are further doomed to face intense physical and emotional pain, heartbreak and loss. Life isn’t about haggling over how many years you live. It’s about how much you live in the years assigned to you. 18 is too young an age to die, but for the father whose daughter died at 9 years, those 9 years are a luxury his daughter didn’t have. Death is a tragedy, whether at 18 or 88 or 108. All of us (and books) die in the middle, and some dreams remain unfulfilled. Even if the book had ended with both the characters alive, their story was destined to end the way it did, in their fictional universe, someday.
The achievement of the book and its characters is that they managed to go beyond their disease. We don’t remember Hazel and Augustus only as two cancer kids, but two young teenagers, just like you or me, who had dreams and ambitions for the future, who hated studying and going to school, who loved books, poetry, traveling, video games, their family, and most of all each other.
My favorite part of the book is when it doesn’t end with Augustus dying, but with Hazel realization that she has to move on; that though she will always love Gus he belongs to her past and she must move on alone into her future. 
The book is among the best the young adult genre has ever produced and I would definitely recommend it as a read to everyone. It is NOT your usual sappy romance.

Renovated Proverbs: 12 July 2014

One of the worst sights in this world are watching a train you intended to catch, leave.
So while I sit at the platform waiting for the next train, let me tell you a little bit about my day. Today in creative writing class, my teacher had the unique idea of giving us half of a popular proverb, and asking us to complete the sentence. These are some unique renovated proverbs me and my classmates came up with:

Better safe than…. Pregnant
(Only for Mumbai residents – the proverb me and my friend thought of was Better Safe And Leave Early Than Take A Virar Local)

People in glass houses shouldn’t… Change Clothes.
Also People in glass houses… Should use solar cookers.

Strike while… The Mother’s Out.

It’s always darkest before the… Movie Starts.
Also It is always darkest before… You turn the lights on.

You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t… Do That With A Lion.

Do not underestimate the power of…Desperation.

Do not bite the hand that…Pays You.

Love all, trust… Me.

Where there is smoke, there is… A Cigarette.

Somehow I like some of these, More Than The Originals 😛

The Soundtrack of Life: Writing 101 Day 3

Writing 101 Day 3 Prompt: Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.

I will be frank – this was a difficult prompt, and it took quite some mind and memory rummaging to come up with three songs that are associated with some significant memory in my mind. But here are the three songs that you can play if I ever get amnesia, and I think somewhere in the deep recesses of mind a memory will start blossoming.

  1. Les Chaps Elysees by Joe Dassin: Last summer I took an intensive French course. Our teacher had an unique way of getting us attuned to the French accent. She played songs, and gave us fill-in-the-blanks sheets of the lyrics. It was our listening exercise. But the day she played this song, after we all had finished the day’s exercise, she suddenly announced that she was going to teach us to line-dance! With great trepidation and excitement, the benches were pushed to the sides to be our silent spectators. That was probably one of the best days of the entire course. We danced and giggled to our heart’s content. Every now and then, someone would bump into their partner, and begin a domino chain of people bumping into each other, but nobody seemed to mind. We were too busy having fun to notice stubbed fingers!
  2. Katiya Karoon by Sapna Awasthi, Harshdeep Kaur from the Bollywood film ‘Rockstar’: I still remember the date – 14th November 2011. It was a friend’s birthday, and as a treat she was taking all her friends to watch the newly released blockbuster movie ‘Rockstar’ starring Ranbir Kapoor. All of us were still new acquaintances, having joined high school together, only six months ago. Like new leather shoes, we were still getting the feel of each other, a little afraid of getting shoe-bites. That movie screening was our test and we passed it with flying colours. We laughed and cried through the film together, and did not leave the theatre even after the end-credits had rolled, as we were too busy acting as film-critics. It was only after janitors arrived to clean the theatre for the next show that we realized we had to leave. Once outside nobody seemed to want to go home. So, still hung-over from the film, we started singing the lyrics of Katiya Karoon out loud, and dancing on the street. We were young, carefree, and surrounded by friends. Nothing seemed to exist except that moment. Even today when I remember my friends from high school (most of whom I have lost contact with)an image rises in my mind of a deserted street at twilight and a group of teenagers dancing down it.
  3. Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams: This song embodies in my mind all the sweet concepts of nostalgia, companionship, memories, childhood and friendship. My favourite lines in the song are:

When I look back now, the summer seemed to last forever

And if I had a choice, I would just wanna be there.

Those were the best days of my life!

I Hope We Meet Again Someday!

It is funny how I seem to spend every summer with a new set of close friends! The same set who might have become my rivals by the next summer, or worse, just drifted out of touch. If I am lucky one face or two might remain constant, but the dynamics of our relationship never have. Yet if you take a time machine and go back and ask any of us at any one of the summers (including the present one) we swear we will be friends forever. The very thought of the opposite is ridiculous. We share everything, we know everything about each other, how can we not remain friends till the end of time?! But things change, and friends drift apart. Kind of like two railway lines, running parallel to one another for a while, but sooner or later they will have to drift apart, and all that will remain are sweet memories on the warm summer breeze. This song is the most fitting ode I have heard to lost friends and to Time.

 

Everything I have ever been

Today’s Daily Prompt: If you were one part human, two parts something else — another animal, a plant, an inanimate object — what would the other two parts be?

A lot of images run through my mind when I read this prompt:

  1. I am 10-years old, and standing on the boundary wall of the playground. The earth seems so far away. I shake my head, and tell my friends, I can’t jump. One of them shouts, Chicken! You are Chicken!
  2. I am 12 years old, and my mother is telling me: A Woman should be like Water. She should fit in whatever bowl or situation she is poured into, perfectly moulding herself to the requirement. I remember her words vividly till day. It is some of the best advice I have ever received.
  3. I am 13 years old, and my mother is screaming at me – You are a Locked Chest. You never tell me anything anymore. This was the age when I first started keeping secrets from my parents.
  4. I am in ninth-grade. I am 14-years old. This was the time when my biology teacher devised a nickname for me: Dictionary. I was a voracious reader, and thus had built up a vocabulary better than the average 14-year old student. I don’t remember which word it was whose meaning I was able to correctly tell her, but soon she affectionately started to call me Her Dictionary. Whenever while reading out a chapter in class any student would ask her the meaning of a word, she would turn to me. When I couldn’t answer, she would be so disappointed, that I soon started making it a point to read up lessons before class, and learn all the difficult words I didn’t know the meaning of. In a way, I guess, I did become the class dictionary then.
  5. I am 16 years old. I have recently joined high school. The teacher asks something and I know the answer. I raise my hand, recite the answer, and become my friend’s Encyclopedia. That was my nickname in high-school, sometimes inter-changed with ‘Wiki’ (from Wikipedia).
  6. I am 17 years, and my article has been published in a magazine. My friends look at me with awe. One of them say, You write so well. You are like a Pen. Words flow easily from your mind.
  7. I am 19, and taking an online test What Animal Are You? The answer comes – Beaver (Really, I have never even seen one in my life! But apparently, I am like one). 

If you ask my opinion, I am one part human, one part chameleon and one part of a budding flower. 

I am a chameleon. You will never be able to categorize me in one pigeon-hole. I am made up of many colours: red for assertiveness, blue for desire for peace, black for recklessness, yellow for cheerfulness, dark blue for sadness, gold for joy, green for imagination and pink for femininity…..and white to absorb all these colours into one. 

I am a budding flower. I blossom a little more everyday. Everyday as I learn something new, I open my petals a little further, and look at the world with a new perspective – see something that I never knew existed before.

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6 Words that I use a lot

‘Words that you use a lot’ – a question I first saw in the once-popular  Facebook app ‘Slambook’, when I was filling one of my friends’ slam book. I remember I left it blank, back then, but it did get me thinking.

Then I came across today’s Daily Prompt. And after much serious contemplation came up with this list of words, I use all the time and every time:

1) Obviously: Obviously, I obviously make rather an obviously obvious use of the obvious word ‘obviously’.

2) Freaking: It is kinda freaking me out the freakish number of freaking times I freaking use the freakish word ‘freaking’.

3) Pathetic: My pathetically pathetic use of the pathetic number of pathetic times when I use the word ‘pathetic’ is really pathetic.

4) Great: After seeing the great number of great times I use the great word ‘great’, you might just greatly comment with great sarcasm ‘Great!’.

5) Boring: To think about the boring number of boring times when I was so bored that I used the word ‘boring’, is boring, and bores the very word ‘boring’.

6) Nice: It is nice, the nice number of nice times I nicely use the nice word ‘nice’ to nicely describe a nice thing or nicely compliment a nice person.