Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Things accomplished in 2014: A Recap

This was a post that has been lying in my draft for some time now. 2014 was not such a great year for me. It gave me a lot of highs and lows. But I guess it has made me who I', today. I'm not editing anything here. Just posting what I had scribbled.

Image courtesy: Google

2014 is almost over and what a year that turned out to be! Here are some of my top moments:

# Got published in 2 books
# Blogging (started blogging more frequently)
# Got some great friends in the blogosphere
# Gift of writing
# Reading 
# Closure
# Escaping a dreary desk job 
# Took part in blogging contests and won
# Made new friends who are now dearer than family
# Found out my passion 
# Lost weight
# Turned vegan
# Working out
# Gave up on junk (almost) & fizzy drinks

Goals for 2015

# Write a book (or at least start with one)
# Travel someplace new
# Learn swimming
# Get driving licence 
# Write more- get disciplined

P.S. Shitty post, I know. Hoping for a better 2015. Happy New Year, you guys!

Rediscovering Passion

This New Year's I have decided to rediscover my passion for writing. And that definitely means more on the blogging front too. We often get busy in our lives that we forget to discover the side of us that we love. 

The Micromax Canvas Tab P666 has something for everyone. No matter what your passion is. It is stylish, sleek and chic. Not to mention the lightening fast performance. I'm not a tech savy person, but having a tablet certainly comes in handy most of the times. What I noticed at first was how compact the tablet was. 

Not only does it help you in staying connected through social media, messaging and e-mailing, it also enables you to click high quality photographs with a 5 MP rear camera. Of course, in the age of selfies, it always helps that the tablet comes with a built in front camera of 2 MP as well. 

It also the ideal solution for game buffs too. The tablet also has an optimum storage capacity of 8 GB ROM which is expandable upto 32 GB. There are a lot of preloaded apps which is sure to help you in your daily needs. 

Being a writer, the tablet would be ideal to check your blog, reply to comments and even write posts while on the go. Not only is it much more convenient while travelling, it helps you stay connected through 3G and WiFi as well. 

The Android KitKat OS is yet another feature that helps in customizing your chat conversations. The other advantage is the lenghty battery life of this tablet. With up to 6 hours browsing time and 7 hours video playback time, the tablet is every tech gadget's dream come true. 

Due to the 20.32 cm wide screen the tablet offers, it enables you with a grand viewing experience for your eyes. Did I also mention that squinting at your mobile phones can give you headaches? A tablet certainly soothes a lot of eye tension. 

Built in with an Intel processor of 1.2GHz, , the lightening speed of the tablet is guarnteed. Yes, we all know how irritating it can be when it takes ages for a page to load. No matter what your profession, whether you are a student, a teacher, an IT professional, a doctor or a writer, technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. 

Using a tablet certainly helps in achieving a work-life balance and helps you stay connecgted to your loved ones at all times. It is in fact rare to see a person on the metro or on a bus who doesn't have his nose inside a mobile or a tablet. Though, like all things of technology, the usage has to be limited lest you spoil your health- both physical and mental. 

Technology can be a boon when used at the right time and in the right quantity. Use the Micromax Canvas Tab P666 and simplify your life today!

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Micromax Canvas Tab P666

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

No Writing or Ghostwriting?

Images courtesy: Google

It was a few days back as I was browsing the internet aimlessly that I came to know about the book Girl Online by popular blogger and YouTube celebrity Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella). I was immediately intrigued when I found out that the sale of the book by this twenty-four year old had even crossed the sales of my beloved Harry Potter books! I mean, now that is no easy task to accomplish. 

Of course, I was hooked. I visited the author's blog, her YouTube channel and what not. What I found out was this- she was a celebrity in all her right. Her popular beauty blog and videos are fun to watch and I just loved her accent. But Zoella was recently in the limelight for her book which was published last month. 

When it was revealed that she apparently had 'help' in writing her book, there was a lot of hue and cry that was raised. According to Penguin, she did have some help in writing this novel. A lot of fans were enraged when the name of the ghostwriter was revealed, accusing her of trying to steal the limelight. 

The novel's blurb sounds interesting enough and I would love to read it as well. But what got me thinking was this- can you be really called a writer when someone else has done the writing for you? Admittedly, in Zoella's case it is evident that the basic characters and story line was what she had in mind. 

Ghostwriting is a practice that has been going on time and again. Even the popular 'Nancy Drew' and 'Hardy Boys' series have been written by a series of ghostwriters. True, writers often write simply because they have to and not just for the recognition. But would they feel alright knowing that their names would never be known?

Personally, I feel the credit for the original writer should be acknowledged and their names should be on the cover of the book as well. Don't they deserve some credit after all the hard work that they have put in? 

Ghostwriters are often employed by celebrities and other personalities to draft and edit their autobiographies. Publishers often seek ghostwriters when they want to publish more fiction of a well known writer after he/she has passed away. 

Almost all writers are known to have an editor who helps them in polishing off their drafts before it goes into print. However, it should not be confused with ghostwriting where it is is the ghostwriter who does all or most of the work.

So, tell me, what are your thoughts? Is it a matter of ethics? Or simply the issue of being read and gaining popularity? In the end, is it the writing that always win?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nothing but the Truth

The most important and valuable lessons in life were taught to me right from childhood. But then, it's always one thing to preach and not always those who preached were the ones who practiced it. One incident which remains etched in memory is of one of my class teachers who taught me the very meaning of honesty. 

This incident happened many years back, when I was in Class 6, if my memory serves right. We had one of the best teachers in school as our Science teacher- Monzy Miss. She had given us a class test at the time and had distributed the answer sheets among the students after her correction. As we discussed answers in class, I realized that one of the answers I had written were incorrect, but she had rewarded marks for that particular question by mistake. 

I had two options- either to keep quiet and keep the extra marks or speak up and lose the couple of marks which would make a big difference as my score was quite good. Since she was such a great teacher and it didn't feel right to have those extra marks that I did not deserve, I spoke up and told her that my answer was in fact, wrong. Though she came and rectified my answer, she did not deduct those extra marks that meant so much to me. 

When I asked her why what she told me was this- those marks were a reward for my honesty and for speaking up. Since I decided to tell her the truth. The way she said that to me with a smile and made me feel that moment is something that I shall never forget in my entire life. The feeling was absolutely priceless. Thinking of that incident today, never ceases to amaze me at the greatness that my teacher is. 

It was a small class test and a couple of marks would have hardly mattered but for a eleven year old girl whose entire life revolved around her school and teachers and friends, it meant everything. And the most important lesson of all- one to speak up and not take things that you don't deserve, shall remain with me till the end of time. Thank you, Monzy Miss! 

Yes, there are a lot of incidents when we are forced to lie, or at least omit telling the truth. Simply because it's safe. Or confronting the truth may seem like a huge effort. But does that allow us to go to bed and sleep in peace? A prickling conscience is a heavy luggage to carry. Yes, there are people who are seemingly happy and content living a life based on lies. But is it the life that they want? The ones that they have dreamed of? 

Telling the truth is not always easy. As we grow older, so do the lies that we carry around. The older the lie gets, the harder it becomes to reveal. It slowly becomes a part of you, hardening over time. Sometimes we don't reveal it for we are scared of how much hurt we may cause others. But is it worth hanging an albatross around your neck at the cost of the lie? 

We may all have a person in our life who has taught us the meaning of what it means to speak the truth. In mine, it was Monzy Miss. Do tell me about yours. Who is that one person who changed your life for the better? 

To conclude, I quote from a beautiful poem I studied in school- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 

         Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
         Had I from old and young !
         Instead of the cross, the Albatross
         About my neck was hung.

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Kinley Mineral Water

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pre-Marital Sex- Still a Taboo?

Image Source

In a country which protests against public displays of affection, irrespective of the circumstances, sex is a topic which raises eyebrows. We live in a time when peeing publicly is considered perfectly normal but something like kissing or sharing a hug is a strict no-no. Hence, it comes as no surprise that pre-marital sex is a topic which is very rarely discussed. 

Though times have changed in the recent past with a lot of live-in relationships on the rise, pre-marital sex is still considered a big sin by many. No matter how forward thinking some may claim to be, they are the ones who are usually there at the forefront to judge the decision of others. 

Pre-marital sex when it is between two consenting adults, meaning they are old enough to take responsibilities for their actions, should not be the cause of a hue and cry. Of course, this is simply my personal opinion. There may be people who may or may not agree. But don't you think that's an individual choice? Don't we all have the right to make choices? The freedom to make those choices? 

But when you act as a consenting adult, you are also responsible to face the consequences of your actions. Because, simply regretting your decisions later on is not going to help. Practice safe-sex. Make sure you know what you are getting into before making a life altering decision. 

Introducing a subject like sex education can help children at an early age to decide for themselves on what is wrong and right. My wrong may be your right. But like I said, it's purely an individual choice. But make children aware, especially adolescents. It would be better than them relying on half baked stories from the internet or their peer groups. 

Pre-marital sex can have a lot of downsides as well if you are not prepared for it. Are you ready to risk facing a heart break that is inevitable if things don't work out for you as a couple? Unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases which can end gravely are some of the obstacles that you may have to face. Yes, that's just the tip of the ice berg. You should be prepared to take full responsibility for your actions. 

There are a lot of women who 'save' themselves for marriage as most of our Indian movies have taught us. And heaven forbid if she isn't 'pure'! That would surely mean that she would remain unmarried throughout her life. But times are changing and what is the use of claiming to be a virgin by body when you have a filthy mind? And why is it that only women are subject to scrutiny before marriage? Why is not applicable to men? Why the double standards? 

In times where feminism is on the rise and equality is being preached, the same set of standards should be used before judging a person. Sex is a necessity for all living beings, much like breathing or eating. So yes, as long as you are very well aware of the risks and consequences, pre-marital sex is solely your decision. But it also means that you are liable to your own self. Make love and not war. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with the topic 'YES or NO to pre-marital sex' for Poonaam Uppal. 

Poonaam Uppal is the author of the book 'A Passionaate Gospel of True love: A Mystical True Love Story' which is a story of love, magic and passion. Click on the link to buy her book. 

A Fun-filled Vacation

Image Source: Escape Villas

My fondest memories of childhood are always linked to the two months of summer vacations that we enjoyed during our school days. What fun those times were! You could run about without a care in the world when there were always some elder around to take care of all your needs. Yes, no responsibilities other than making sure that you have as much fun as possible.

But sadly, one has to grow up. And growing up means now being that elder or parent who has to take extra care as to ensure your little one's safety and health. Be it family vacations when you travel with the kids or even times when you travel as a group of friends and family, it is absolutely necessary that the needs of these beings are taken into consideration. 

Children can be a curious bunch which is what having them around makes the trip entertaining. However, it can be quite taxing if you are constantly worried throughout the trip when the whole idea was to relax and have fun. For starters, a well planned journey in advance takes care of half the part. The destination can be a family oriented one when you are taking your children along. Not only does this give them something to look forward to, it gets them excited about the upcoming trip. 

Make sure that you pack some board games that you can play as a family. The games can be customized to suit the ages of the children involved. Carry some books around and spend time reading to them. We are living in a time where probably the only time the set of working parents get to spend time with their kids are on short vacations. 

Kindly avoid taking your mobile phones/ iPads/ laptops and other gadgets that keeps you hooked to technology. Yes, I can that it can be overwhelming at times to resist that urge to check your phone for emails every two minutes. But frankly, gadgets are a kill joy. Spend that time taking some pictures, reading a book, playing with the children, go sight-seeing with them. The possibilities are endless when you are on a vacation.

It is always a great idea to learn something new. So, take your kids fishing. It doesn't matter if you are as clueless as your little one. Who knows, he could end up beating you there for all you know! Learning a new sport together also means bonding time. It gives you uninterrupted time with your loved one. 

Ensure that the safety of children are not compromised. Allow them to play someplace where you can keep an eye on them. Take care to pack extra clothes for them as they are likely to need double the change of clothes from all that rolling and frolicking around. This will certainly help to reduce the number of hiccups that you would face while on your vacation. 

Don't forget, your two weeks off from work will fly away. Cherish the time you get to spend with the people in your life who need you the most. Relax, make memories and live life a little less seriously. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Club Mahindra's Teddy Travelogues

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pixie Dust

Image courtesy: Tumblr

Let me send some pixie dust your way
Filled with hope, happiness and all things good
I wish your pain to ease away
Let this pixie dust kiss your worries good bye
Adding a dash of magic when you need it the most...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Conquering Fear

We spend our lives living in fear; fear of change, fear to break free from the stereotypes of our society, fear of losing out, of following our dreams. This past year has been a challenging one for me. I too, have lived in fear. Fear of a lot of things- the vague future which looks bleary at the moment. But I know for sure that this too shall pass. Life goes on.

The one thing that is constant in all our lives is change. And when the time comes, we try all that we can to resist it. After all, life is much more cosy and safe in our comfort zones. Of course, more than fear itself is the fear of failure. What if we don't succeed? What if we end up in worse circumstances?

And just when I thought life couldn't get any worse, it actually did. But you know what? I'm a stronger person today for it. I know that the worst is over. There shall always be people to point their fingers at you. People who will judge you no matter what you do. The only way to deal with such people is to avoid them. Or ignore them, if they are unavoidable. 

Following your passion may not be an easy task when there shall always be excuses like family, job, commitments. But passion is what keeps you going. The very reason to carry on. To wake up each day with a surge of adrenaline rush. For me, that passion is writing. What good would it be if you wake up in fear each day that you may not meet up to the standards set by society? You shall only know when you explore. 

I still remember how I overcame the fear of riding a bicycle many years back. I was around twelve years at the time and it scared me to death if I would lose my balance and fall down. And of course, I did fall down. I did get lose my skin in a great many places at first. But then I realized the sense of accomplishment when I finally made it a short distance without stopping. Yes, I conquered my fear that day. 

Speaking of cycling, it reminds me of how much I miss it. Maybe, I should take up cycling once more. It's a great way of staying healthy too. With the wind rushing right past you and listening to just the sounds of nature is something that I enjoyed immensely in my school days. 

I have also conquered my fear of being judged. Earlier, I was constantly worried about whether I would make a good impression on others. Whether I was walking in tune to that of the society and the public. But I realized that the only person I need to make happy is myself. Yes, your life should never come at a price of sacrificing your happiness or needs over others. Does that make me selfish? I don't think so. 

It is only when you love yourself and who you are, will you be able to appreciate and value the others in your life. It is only when you are content that you realize that it's always the little things that matter. Conquer your fears. Stand up for yourself. Be your own biggest critique and admirer. Believe that the fears that you once faced and overcame have made you who you are today. Above all, realize that fear is not just a thing to be dreaded; it is also a thing of beauty. All you need to do is peel out the fear to discover it. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Mountain Dew. Join their Facebook page to know more. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Broken Trust

Image courtesy: Google

With each touch, you made music for my ears. Why was it that time spent apart from you always felt like torture? 

It was never meant to be easy; and that's what I loved about us. But no matter what, you took my breath away, each day; kept me grounded to the stark reality called life. 

I still believe destiny played a part, a cruel twist of fate when I broke your trust and you left, only to never return again. 

This post is written for Five sentence fiction for Trust at Lillie McFerrin Writes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Winter

Image copyright: Janet Webb

It was the coldest of winters they had ever experienced in years. The garden was covered in snow and icicles had begun to form on her cherished flowers. 

But Sadie was secretly glad for that winter; her entire family was home under one roof once more. Her children and grandchildren, though disgruntled at being stuck indoors, made her house a home. 

That night as they all huddled together listening to her stories of a bygone era, Sadie smiled to herself. Tomorrow when the snow melts, they would all leave to resume their lives; but for now, she was truly content. 

This drabble is written for Friday Fictioneers- 5th December for the above photo prompt. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Female Writers who have changed Me

Image courtesy: Google

Being a voracious reader, I thought it wouldn't be fair till I dedicated an entire post to the list of Authors who have influenced my life ways more than one. These are writers I look up to. There are books written by them that I worship. Since I have a lot of favorite Authors belonging to both the sexes, today's post shall be on those female writers who have been a guiding light in the various stages of my life, starting right from childhood. Maybe later, I shall do a post on the male writers. 

So, here goes:

# Enid Blyton - Simply because my childhood would have been incomplete without her books. Malory Towers, St. Claires, the Famous Five, Secret seven, Five find-outers... I devoured her book by the dozen from my school library. 

# Judy Blume - For her book 'Are you there God? It's me, Margaret' alone that taught me like a million things during adolescence. If you have read the book, then you know what I'm talking about. I don't think I've read a better book when I was in school that explained the 'growing up' thing better than this one did. 

# J.K. Rowling - Do I need say more? I have literally grown up with Harry Potter. I read the series as and when a new installment came out. Which means Harry and friends were my companions through out my teenage years. I read it at the exact right time I was meant to and my teen self is thankful for that (It helped get me through some tough years).

# Cecilia Ahern - Though she is most popular for 'P.S. I love you' (which had me bawling my eyes out like a baby), there are a lot of great books by this author. Reading her is like reading a fairy tale. She weaves magic into some of her stories that makes you believe in them once more. Another personal favorite of mine is 'Love, Rosie' which is a story about two friends and how sometimes destiny plays a big role in your life. 

# Jane Green - Here is another writer who writes chick-lit that are feel good and fun to read. She writes about characters that you can connect with and like all books of this genre, you end up eating ice cream and reading it simultaneously. After reading 'Bookends', I'm determined to start a cosy book shop cum cafe somewhere down the lane. 

# Jackie Collins - It may not be great works of literary fiction, but the way she writes and the head strong heroines in her books will have you burning the midnight oil. Throw in Hollywood, sex, secrets and betrayals, you know that it would be hard to resist turning the pages. An instant bestseller, if there ever was one. The Santangelo series are simply addictive. 

# Sophie Kinsella - This is where I go to when I need a good laugh or some light reading. Her shopaholic series are addictive and Becky Bloomwood is a riot. For those of you who are not familiar with her work, she writes chick-lit that is doused with a great deal of humor that will have you chuckling in your seats. This is the book that you want to take for your honeymoon (I did!). 

# Nora Roberts - For the die hard romantic in me, provided I'm feeling all lovey-dovey. The number of books that she has written alone has me wondering about how her mind works. 

# Jhumpa Lahiri - Words fail me to describe this author's works. She makes even the most deary situations into beautiful stories. A true inspiration, if there ever was one. Lahiri may not have written books by the dozen, but the few ones that she has written are worth their weight in gold. Be it short stories or novels, the ease at which she writes about loneliness, marriage, death are simply enviable. I highly recommend 'Interpreter of Maladies' and 'Unaccustomed Earth', both collection of short stories if you haven't already read it, that is. She is someone who keeps inspiring me to push the boundaries and be a better writer. 

# Anita Nair - When it comes to writing about the various genres, none does it more successfully than Nair. From contemporary fiction to thrillers to historical fiction, she has written it all. Her book 'Ladies Coupe' alone, is like a bible to me. Each time I read it, I learn something new. 'The Better Man' is a brilliant debut and I want to re-read it again, simply because it is totally worth it. 

# Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - The myriad of human emotions are so complex. Yet each one intriguing. And she explores and dwells into it with such an intensity that leaves you shaken at times. 'Sister of my heart', 'Palace of illusions' are some of my favorites by this author. For those of you who are not familiar with 'Palace of illusions', Divakaruni tells Draupadi's story from her point of view of the Mahabarata. 

# Jaishree Misra- She writes with an ease and characters that are so familiar that it's almost like reading what goes on next door. With strong characters and story lines that are believable, I chanced upon her books some years back and have been a fan ever since. And when I realized I got signed copies after ordering few of her books online, I was over the moon. My personal favorites are 'Ancient Promises' and 'Afterwards'. 

# Kamala Das - I had written a whole post about her during UBC. But this list would have been incomplete had I not included her name. I have picked up couple of her books in Malayalam that I plan on reading by next year. What can I say? I'm smitten. For someone who avoided reading her mother tongue like the plague (nothing to be proud of, I know), now that's saying something. And why I don't like to read Malayalam? Long story! But I'm determined to give it a try for Kamala Das. That's how much I love her! And her poetry? Simply amazing. 

# Elizabeth Gilbert - I have read only one book by her (many years back) - 'Eat Pray Love'. Though I liked reading it then, if I were to read it now, I would probably love it. I have been following her Facebook page for quite some time now and each day the positive messages that she shares are inspiring. Do follow her for your daily dose of inspiration. 

Those are some of my favorite female authors. Have I left out anyone? I hope not. I have a lot more books on my 'to-read list' and this list shall be expanding and updated later on as I finish with them. So, tell me, who are your favorite female writers? You know, the kind that changed you or the ground-shifted-beneath-your feet kind of writing? I would love to hear them. Do recommend your personal favorites if you feel that I'm missing out on something big in life. 

A Cleaner India

Image source: Indiblogger

If you have been on a long train journey across India, you would be familiar with the sights in rural villages. I did take one such journey many years back and the some of the scenes were so vivid that I still remember it with shocking clarity. However, it is sad a state of affairs to notice that things have not improved much since. 

Maybe the story is a little different in cities. But if I were to visit a public toilet, I would still think twice. Yes, the condition of toilets in bus stops, train stations and other common places where the masses frequent are still in a very sorry state. I'm talking about the ladies toilet here, as I know there are a lot of men who prefer the open air to do their business. 

It's humiliating that in a country like India which protests against public displays of affection, relieving your body of its needs in an open space is considered perfectly normal. Bus stops have an overpowering stink attached to them in my memory. Isn't it high time that we did something about our country?

Another memory that is lodged in my mind is a famous beach which I visited many years back. Rotten oranges, pen caps, food waste and other unmentionables were found floating around in the murky waters of what would otherwise have been a nice beach. Tourist spots are often found to be in a sad state in India. 

What is shocking is that in other countries, tourist spots are often the most cleanliest of places. Yes, because their citizens and Government both work hand in hand to ensure that tourists are tempted to visit these place over and again. Maybe we can take a page out of their book when it comes to our tourist spots and country in general. I'm not claiming that all the countries are following this approach but the ones that do, always seem to be prospering in their tourist revenue and also in ensuring that people do not wrinkle their noses or turn their faces while visiting. 

Disposing of waste right on road sides despite there being a waste bin is another problem that's common nowadays. Even while travelling, it's a common sight to see paper cups, plastic bottles, used tissue paper and other waste being trashed outside right through the windows. I have even seen cigarette butts disposed of the same way, which is not only littering the environment, but also harmful to the other vehicles and passengers travelling on the same road. 

But what can we do to help? Cleanliness, I believe, starts right from our home. Think twice before you dispose of waste outside. Is this how we would behave where we in the proximity and comfort of our homes? Isn't our country too our first home? Yes, there are always going to be people who mock what you believe in, but it is time to rise above all those taunts. 

Raise your voice. Don't be a silent spectator. There's a voice inside all of us, one that belongs to a clear conscience. Let the voice be heard. It's true that while you may not be able to bring about a drastic change in a short time, it's always those little steps the beginning of a revolution. 

I applaud this initiative taken up by Strepsils in promoting a neater and cleaner India for all of us. #AbMontuBolega is a campaign that encourages us to listen to the Montu in all of us. And not just listen, but to act on it as well. Learn to say when to say NO. Let's join hands and work towards a Swach Bharat. 

Recycle waste where ever possible. Say NO to plastic. There are a lot of biodegradable substitutes that are available in the market, use them instead. Do not litter when there surely is a waste bin nearby. Yes, maybe that's what everyone around you is doing but you have a choice. A choice to make a difference. A choice to make India, a cleaner one. 

Join Strepsils on for their noble cause. Follow them Facebook and Twitter to show your support for the #AbMontuBolega campaign.

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Strepsils #AbMontuBolega

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Seven-year Itch

Image courtesy: Google

It had started off as small bouts of irritation; a frown here, an exasperated sigh there. But before they knew it, the years of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with each other soon caught up to them. 

Seven years, that was what they had invested into the marriage, nurturing a relationship which was supposed to last forever. 

The tradition was the same on their anniversary night- red wine and candle lit dinner as Beethoven's Moonlight sonata played smoothly in the background. The divorce papers on the table fluttered lightly in the wind; that insatiable itch was soon going to be curbed. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review- The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

Picture: My Own

From the book coverOf all the family gatherings in her childhood, one stands out in Amina's memory. It is 1979, in Salem, India, when a visit to her grandmothers house escalates into an explosive encounter, pitching brother against brother, mother against son.

In its aftermath, Amina's father Thomas rushes his family back to their new home in America. And while at first it seems that the intercontinental flight has taken them out of harm's way, his decision sets off a chain of events that will forever haunt Thomas and his wife Kamala, their intellectually furious son, Akhil and the watchful young Amina.

Now, twenty years later, Amina receives a phone call from her mother. Thomas has been acting strangely and Kamala needs her daughter back. Amina returns to the New Mexico of her childhood, where her mother has always filled silences with food, only to discover that getting to the truth is not as easy as going home.

Confronted with Thomas's unwillingness to talk, Kamala's Born Again convictions and the suspicion that not everything is what it seems, Amina finds herself at the centre of a mystery so tangled that to make any headway, she has to excavate her family's painful past. And in doing so she must lay her own ghosts to rest.

My take: I picked up this book after reading the raving reviews it has been getting. And I'm glad that I did because, this is a gem of a book. I'd read a few articles and interviews with the author previously and her writing has been compared to that of Jhumpa Lahiri. As I started reading, I felt the same too. Immigrant Indians who are living in America, tackling issues such as marriage, loneliness and death are themes which Lahiri tackles with ease.

Mira Jacob has however, brought her own distinct style in giving voice to Amina, the protagonist. They say not to judge a book by its cover. But I say, please do judge this book by its cover. The story is equally, if not more beautiful than the cover. Considering the fact that it took the author ten years to write this book, it should come as no surprise that the book is quite a lengthy read at five hundred odd pages. 

The story moves at a fast pace alternating between the past and the present. We are introduced to a few characters in the beginning like Thomas's mother, his brother- Sunil and his son- Itty. Though they do not have a long place in the book, their presence can be felt right till the end. 

The character that intrigued me most was Akhil- Amina's teenage brother who has a huge impact on her even beyond his death. When a family emergency calls Amina back home to Albuquerque, she has no other option but to go back home to a concerned mother and an anxious father. 

In a country like America, which makes you yearn for home even after years of living there, your friends slowly turn into family. And that is how the Kurians and the Ramakrishnans and the Eapens turn to each other for comfort in times of distress. 

The book goes on to show us how decisions that we took even when we were in our childhood comes back to haunt us later on. Amina is an interesting character in herself, with her dark skin and being constantly criticized by her grandmother and her passion for photography from a young age. She too, has a lot of ghosts to face back home; like her father. Trauma affects us in different ways and the healing process for some maybe time consuming. Others, like Thomas's seldom do. 

I loved the book a lot but for the fact that it felt a bit slow and dragging towards the end. Unless you account for a few hiccups in the second half, the book was nothing but perfect. Due to this very reason, I'm refraining myself from giving it a five stars. 

The book is a brilliant example of the "show, don't tell" technique; be it in the sights or the smells of childhood or nostalgia, the book has it all. Giving 'The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing' a four stars on five. This is one debut novel you don't want to miss. I know for sure that I'm already looking forward to the next one by the author. A highly recommended read!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Healthy Childhood

Image source: Working World

I love kids, or more precisely, the warm bundles of pure goodness, otherwise known as babies! They remind me of all the good things with the world. Be it their innocence or simply unadulterated joy in the small things in life; many a time we can take a lesson or two from them. I love spending my time with them and it's a great stress buster too! Your worries disappear automatically in those few minutes that you get to spend with them. 

Children are fragile and sensitive beings; due to this very reason, it is important to ensure that they remain healthy at all times. Their immune system may not be as strong as ours. Of course, falling down is often a part of growing up. But when it comes to their health, compromises should not be made. All parents go the extra mile when it comes to the health of their children.

As they say, prevention is better than cure. It is always better to take care and avoid the illness rather than treating a sick child. Once a child falls sick, then the entire house goes to sleep. However, due to the lifestyle that we are now thriving in, in today's times, it is not unusual.

With a working pair of parents and the onset of nuclear families, children are often left to fend for themselves. It hurts me to see most of the children that I know are spending their time glued on to the television sets and hardly ever step out to play or meet other kids.

Eating healthy is also important for children, which means more vegetables and fruits, rather than the easy way out through junk food. Yes, it can be difficult in getting a child to eat those things which we often neglect ourselves. However, it is absolutely necessary to limit those pizza times and crispy chicken cravings. 

Most of my fond childhood memories are associated with playing hide and seek, running around outside, climbing trees and cycling as I grew older. It is sad that the children I know today are denied some of the greatest pleasures of childhood while growing up. Even the tiny tots are experts in handling mobile phones and iPads. Reading books seems to be unheard of. Parents reading to their children seems to be even more rare.

It is disturbing to note the number of children who start wearing spectacles due to short sight from a very young age itself. Though it is necessary for both parents to work and be the breadwinners of the family, when it comes to both the physical and mental health of the children, they should take time out from their hectic schedules to make sure that their child is healthy and happy. 

There maybe people who may not share my views. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. But no matter how they may argue, I feel children are missing out on a major part of their childhood if they don't have an opportunity playing under the sun, getting their knees scraped or having the joy of running their fingers through the sand. Children- they make the world a better place to be in; let's make theirs a healthier one. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with  Dabur Chyawanprash

P.S. That adorable sweetheart in the photo? She stole my heart :)

Your Words can Make a Difference- Feed A Child

I request you to take a couple of minutes to watch this video before reading my post. It's heart wrenching to watch the journey of a little boy to a plate of food. Yes, it seems impossible to believe that almost everyday, millions of children are forced to choose between hunger and education. 

In a country like India which boasts of metropolitan cities and growing opportunities for its citizens, it is equally disturbing to take note of the statistics of the number of children who are forced to give up education at a very young age itself. But what can we do to help? Even if you can provide for one square meal in the life of a child, it can be considered a blessing. 

Which is why when I saw this initiative- 'Blog to feed a Child' by BlogAdda, I did not think twice. A lot of my fellow bloggers have been blogging about this and hats off to each and every person who have taken the initiative to write about this heart felt topic. Yes, YOU can make a difference.

A huge applause to BlogAdda in taking up this noble cause along with Akshaya Patra. For every blog post that you write, BlogAdda will sponsor meals for an Akshaya Patra beneficiary for an entire year. Be the CHANGE. Let your words make a difference to the world. Help a child. 

I know of a lot of homes where food goes to waste almost daily. I'm a person who hates to waste food. It is disturbing to see the amount of food that we waste, even involuntarily, when a lot of children in villages are forced to forgo even primary education in order to help out their families for just the basic necessities like food. 

There are a lot of Government aided schools back home in my state Kerala, that I know of, where children who can't afford to pay are provided free lunch. It is sad to note that a lot of these kids are sent to schools by their parents just so that they do not go to sleep on an empty stomach. 

I'm urging you to contribute for this in the little ways you can. It can go a long way in eliminating Classroom Hunger. Your words have the power. Write about it. Let others know. Take a few minutes out of your schedule to write a blog post. Make a difference, or even better, be the difference. Let us join hands and help in making the future a little brighter at least for a handful of the children out there. Be the REVOLUTION

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

P.S. Please click here if you would like to participate. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Just a Touch

Image source: Indiblogger
It was just another day in their life. Nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the blue. This was how she had lived for the past twenty years. Naina knew better than to believe in fairy tales. She was too old for that stuff anyway. Fairy tales was what she believed in before she grew up. Somewhere along the way, she had lost faith in them.

Here she was, at forty, mother of two amazing girls and wife of one of the hotshot corporate lawyers in the country. Wasn't she supposed to be happy, content in the least? Why then did she feel like she was walking through a dull dream, almost everyday? What do you call this heart wrenching feeling even when nothing was physically wrong?

Was it when Rishabh, her husband started seeing through her? Or was it the day she quit her full time job as a copywriter to focus on her girls? Now that they were growing up, Naina was left with more time on her hands than she could manage. The same time that sometimes drove her a little crazy.

"You would be ready at eight for the dinner party tonight, right?" Rishabh's voice broke her from her reverie.

"If that's what you want..." Her voice was lifeless. 

And maybe it was the look she had in her eyes, or maybe it was the clinging desperation that he held on to, that their marriage was holding long and steady, but what they had forgotten over the years was that like any relationship, marriage too needed work. Nurturing. But something in her voice that day stopped him. 

He came close to her and held her face in his hands. She had grown old. There were traces of the woman that he had fell in love with- in between the grey streaks that now speckled her hair, in the smile that was now rare, in the crinkles of her tired eyes. 

He kissed her forehead. There were worry lines where her skin was once firm and glowing. Her hands hinted at the beginning of wrinkles. She had forgotten to take care of her own self, she had been busy in making sure that the girls and him were taken care of, almost all her life.

Was it gratitude that he saw her in her eyes then? He hoped not. This was not how it was supposed to be. How could he have allowed his marriage to deteriorate? It had happened eventually, bit by bit, until there was hardly any left to grasp. Like a monster that slowly creeps into a beautiful dream quickly turning it into a nightmare, it had made its subtle presence into their life slowly, but steadily. 

He was not expecting a miracle overnight. It would require work from both their sides. Her skin was calloused and rough as he ran his fingers over them. She deserved better than this. A better life, a happier life and more importantly, a life for the both of them together. As he held his wife in his hands that night and looked into her dark eyes, he was sure he saw a glimpse of that woman he had fallen in love with twenty years back. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Parachute Advanced Body Lotion #BringBackTheTouch. 
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