Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I was out with my camera on Christmas Day and tried to take a picture of the kitchen utensils that were being sold from a wooden cart. But the vendor wanted me to take his picture too, and the moment I trained the lenses on him, his vendor friends joined him too, and gave me their best smiles. Must say I am far from unhappy with the result!
Friday, May 28, 2010
The first couple of messages were the usual, “are you so and so?” and “I never thought I would ever get in touch with you” ones. They were filled with anticipation- we had lived most of our lives without the other, and only the next few days would tell us if we had drifted so far apart we had nothing in common except a shared past, or if we had each grown in different ways but ended up becoming soul buddies.
Her profile told me was that she was single (was she divorced or separated, or never married, or just living out a fantasy on her facebook profile – I knew people who fit into all three catagories), that she worked for a prestigious school (could be in any capacity from curriculum developer, to teacher to administrator), and that she still called home the city we had grown up in. It did not tell me who she was and whether we could grow to be friends.
Gradually, she started telling me about herself. She was single by choice. Was working as a nursery school teacher. And “in the days before the recession in the art world, was a painter”. In the two yeas that I had known her, she had never displayed much talent in the arts, so I was surprised at her initial career choice. But even more, I was stunned by her statement that she had been a painter when the markets were booming- didn’t that imply that she had stopped paining after the market tanked?
How could she? I know writers who write because they cannot bear the thought of not writing, and dancers who dance because they are not happy unless they do. I had always presumed painters were the same- that they painted because their paintings haunted them till put down on canvas. I never thought it was possible for creativity to be available on tap- to be turned on when there was a market for your creations and turned off otherwise.
I know I am never going to make money out of writing, but I write because the characters in my head just refuse to go away unless I do. I know many of you have made want to make writing a career, but did you start writing because you wanted to sell books, or because you wanted to write books that would be read?
Maybe I was doing her a disservice, but I did not reply to that message. Somehow, I did not think I had much in common with her.
And speaking of writers who write because their stories will not leave them alone till they are put down on paper, Clarissa Draper has put her first mystery on line.
It's a 90,000 word mystery with ciphers to crack. So far, no one she knows has cracked the cipher without reading the novel all the way through. She is even willing to drop hints if someone wants to attempt the cipher, and if someone does crack it before the character in the book, she will consider giving the person a prize.
Five chapters are up already, and they are fantastic. Do yourself a service and click across to see for yourself. The book is complete, and she'll be posting a chapter or two every week.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
If I were a: DAY, I would be THURSDAY, of course. I was born on a Thusday. Thursday is in the middle of the work week, but is close enough for you to start making plans for the weekend. The fun of being there, the excitement of looking forward to something new.
If I were a: TIME OF DAY, I would be EVENING. The time when I come alive. Time with my kids, time to read, time to write. Time to be myself.
If I were a: SEASON, I would be SUMMER. I crib about the heat and the humidity, but unless it is really hot, the rains wouldn't come and the crops wouldn't grow. That's me. I can be irritating at times, but serve a useful purpose. .....and, I like to belive I am hot in my own way.
If I were a: PLANET, I would be JUPITER. Jupiter is the largest one, which is not me. But it rules professional gratification, which is totally me.
If I were a: DIRECTION, I would be UP AND AHEAD. Don't tell me that is not really a direction, but I prefer to look forward and not look back, so there you are.
If I were a: TREE, I would be MARGOSA. A large tree, which shelters lots of birds, provides shade for people on tropical highways, and has more medicinal uses than most other trees put together. I also find he pretty, though not many people agree.
If I were an: ANIMAL, I would be CHEETHA. She's fast and loves running. I would love to go like her someday.
If I were a: MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, I would be DRUMS. Or something equally accessible. Something that doen't need much practice, but which you can really practice on too if you so wish.
If I were a: FRUIT, I would be MANGO. I am an Indian, 'nuff said.
If I were a: FOOD, I would be BOMBAY STREET FOOD. Something that is whipped up in a jiffy, is wonderfully tasty, and which is affordable for (almost) all.
If I were a: COLOR, I would be GREEN. I love plants. Can I choose any other colour?
If I were a: BOOK, I would be a WiP. Lots of work yet to do done on me, but getting there.
If I were a: SONG, I would be TWINKLE, TWINKE LITTLE STAR,perhaps. A simple song, but deceptive in its simplicity.
If I were a: MOVIE, I would be one of those complicated ones that nobody ever really understands.
If I were a: FLOWER, I would be LANTANA. Not the most showy of plants, but one that grows on you. And it keeps away mosquitos and other pests, and attracts butterflies.
If I were a: FACIAL EXPRESSION, I would be
If you figure out what that means, do let me know.
I'm not tagging anyone because I am not sure how many of you have already done it. But please feel free to pick it up if you want to do it.
And off to read what others have said - didn't want them to influence
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
As many of you know, I am a member of 'The Burrow", a Writing Group. Many of us participated in NaNoWriMo in November (only two won- though three others did a large chunk of work during the month), and all agreed that November was not a good month professionally or personally, and we should attempt a mini- NoWriMo in June.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
When I first came, the waitress tried to draw me in; spoke to me, offered to introduce me to others. Now, she leaves me alone. The fact that my coffee and croissants materialize before me even before I place the order, the only sign that she recognizes me. This here table is my table. Nobody tries to claim it for themselves. Nobody asks if they can share it with me.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
“Ridiculous, isn’t it? We work in the same office, have lunch together in the cafeteria almost every day, yet find it so difficult to schedule a girlie afternoon out!” Udisha fixed her startling green eyes on each of the other three women in turn, as if each of them was personally responsible for causing the delay.
“Well, Revathi has been travelling almost constantly. Shefali had to take a couple of days off when her kids were unwell, and I ….”, began Malathi.
“Yes, you Ms. Sinha”, interrupted Udisha brushing back a stray curl that had worked itself loose from her ponytail. “What about you? Why have you been so grouchy and distant lately?”
Malathi frowned, deep lines creasing her once smooth forehead. “You have no idea what Rohan puts me through. He just gets more and more demanding every day, and nothing I do seems to please him. I never thought being a single parent would be so difficult.” She buried her face in her palms for a few moments, then looked up. “Frankly, I have no idea how much longer I can take this strain. I feel like I am walking on the edge, and the slightest push will send me tumbling down the cliff.” The dark circles under her eyes were darker than usual, and her nails were bitten short.
Shefali put her hand on Malathi’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Rohan’s at a funny age, Mala. He’s starting to discover himself as a person, and the way he can do that is by testing the limits. Don’t let him bug you. And even if he does, don’t show it. This phase too will pass.” Serenity seemed to ooze out of those huge brown eyes, and Malathi gradually felt her confidence returning.
“I really don’t know how you do it, Shefali”, she said, running her fingers through her short, home coloured hair. “Just listening to you makes me feel better.”
A blush crept up Shefali’s fair cheeks, and she gave a nervous laugh. “Don’t be silly, Malathi. It is always easier to give advice than to follow it. You are going fine.” She looked around the table. “Come on girls, are we going to sit here chatting all day, or does anyone even want to order?”
“Yes, let’s order. I am famished.”
“Revathi Srinivasan, looking at you, anybody would think you starve yourself. And yet, you eat more than all of us put together.”
“Nazar mat laga, yaar/ Don't cast the evil eye on me”, drawled Revathi. “I’m just blessed with great metabolism. When I was younger, I actually used to swallow a spoonful of butter morning, so I would fill out a little and look less stick like. Now… ”
“And now, if you were just a couple of inches taller, with your figure and all that gorgeous hair, you could pass for a supermodel.”
Revathi coloured slightly. “Oh come on. When was the last time you saw a supermodel in spectacles? Now, can we order? I’m dying for butter chicken and garlic naan. As long as you order that, I am indifferent to everything else.”
Monday, May 17, 2010
A strict disciplinarian, she managed to impose her will on a school that was not particularly known for its adherance to discipline. Any attempt to flout authority was nipped in the bud, and she all attempts to tamper with the dress code were dealt with forcefully.
As a student who consistantly topped in class, I rarely had to face her wrath, and since I represented the school in various extra-curricular activities, I often was often the recipient of her praise.
But that was not why I remember her. I remember her for the speeches she made several time a year - to the class while handing out report cards at the end of each semester, to the student body at regular intervals, and to informal groups when the occasion warrented it.
My class was the most studious one in the school, and I remember her once imploring us not to become "miserable bookworms", because some of had petitioned her to allow them to miss the Physical Education class so they could prepare for a College Entrance Exam. After delivering the speech, her eyes had swept the class, and the only pair of eyes that her met her's were mine - I had known I didn't qualify for the denouncement. Her eyes had softened, and she'd said, "There is one exception in this class. There is one girl who participates in everything, and even represents the school in inter-school events. She does a lot of things well, but even the things she doesn't do well, she puts her heart and soul into. And surprisingly, she does better in her exams than most of you, even though you get out of anything not related to studies." I was walking on clouds for days after that.
But the most memorable speech she made was to our Graduating Class. She'd said, "there are three types of people in the world. The ones who blaze new trails and accomplish a lot in life. The ones who do what they feel should be done, and keep doing it despite falling down many times. And the vast majority who are neither the leaders, nor are constantly failing. I wish all of you could be in the first category, but only some of you will. But what I implore all of you is to not allow yourself to fall into the third category. Whether you succeed or fail, do what you feel has to be done- don't let yourself become a mindless follower."
Those words stayed with me, and often guided me when I had to take major decisions, specially professional ones.
Last year, I met Ma'am on Facebook, and exchanged a few messages with her. It felt strange to re-connect with someone who had played such an important part in my life, then disappeared from it completely. She was in a different city, but I hoped to meet her someday.
Yesterday, I, and two other classmates, met her. I had been really nervous before the meeting- just thinking of her made me feel like a schoolgirl again. But when she hugged us, we connected like two human beings who had shared a part of an important journey together. She was not the principal, and we the students. We were just four individuals meeting after a long time and getting to know each other.
When one of us mentioned that she was probably the same age then as we now are, she calculated and told us she had acutally been younger than we now are. "Sometimes, I think I was too young", she told us. "Had I been a little older I would have been able to handle people better."
Ma'am, the Formidable, having self doubts? It seemed almost impossible. Not only had her students looked upto her, most of the parents had been overwhelmed by the force of her personality. Hadn't she been perfection incarnate? How could she have done anything better?
But, thinking back, I realise that it was precisely because she was "too young" to manage a school that she made such an impression on everyone. Her idealism had not been tempered by experience. She brought passion to her position because she did not know better. She had her own ideas of how a young lady should be moulded and she set about doing it because she didn't know it was too difficult a task to take on.
Ma'am, the most splendid teacher anyone could ask for. It was wonderful finding out that she is just as wonderful as a friend.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
And what applies to that chapter would apply to many others. I am pretty sure that if I take the red pencil to the document, I can easily cut out at least half the fat, which would give me space to fill in a lot more muscle. The synopsis wouldn't change, neither would the story, but the book would be much better to read.
Editing reminds me a lot of the process by which a fruit becomes a fruit. Pollination is needed to get the flower to decide to become a fruit- that is the first draft. But after the flower swells up to become a fruit, and before the fruit actually ripens, is the multiple drafts and re-drafts it takes to make a WiP a finished Manuscript. Once you accept that editing a document is not much different from gardening, things become so much easier to accept. Or don't they?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Here's a scene from my current WiP, "Lipstick in the Boardroom".
On the way back, Dipesh dumped his laptop on the front seat, and stretched his hand out on the back of the seat. Try as she might, she couldn’t ignore the implication behind the gesture any more. Dipesh hadn’t just put his hand behind the seat because it was comfortable. He had put it there to force her to make a decision. The gesture was at the same time an invitation and a challenge. Revathi knew she had to make the next move. She could either pretend she didn’t understand what he was implying, and ignore it. Or she could respond. Every rational thought she was capable of told her to ignore it- ‘Dipesh is a colleague and a friend’, she told herself. “Leave it as it is. Don’t complicate things by introducing something new into the equation.’
But she couldn’t deny the fact that Dipesh’s proximity was doing things to her. She wanted him. She really did. Try as she might, she couldn’t ignore the electric sparks flying between them. Just knowing he was so close to her made her want to draw his body to hers. She wanted him. That she couldn’t deny. But did she want to deal with the complications that would arise later?
She stared out of the window, concentrating on a blue flap of tarpaulin fluttering from a solitary balcony on an unfinished skyscraper. If she stared hard enough, would that patch of blue give her the answers she was seeking?
"Forget it", she told herself sternly. "Flirting with him was fun, but would you be able to continue working with him if you let yourself do something foolish now?"
“What are you thinking?” Dipesh broke into her thoughts.
“Nothing. Nothing in particular.” Revathi’s voice was hoarse. Dipesh was affecting her in ways she had not thought possible.
"That's enough", she cautioned herself. "Besides, don't forget you are already engaged to someone else." The cab went over a pothole. They were both thrown about, and Dipesh's hand brushed against her bare neck.
"Sorry", he said, though he looked anything but contrite.
"That's okay. It was an accident", she muttered, but the catch in her voice gave her feelings away. Dipesh held her gaze, his look was a command. Revathi looked away. This way or that, things were going to get complicated. She reached a decision. She knew what she was going to do was fraught with danger, but sometimes you just had to take a couple of risks.
"Revathi, you have been a good girl for 28 years. Don't spoil all that now. Please." She ignored her inner voice, and reached out to pull his hand down over her shoulder. She stared straight ahead for a few minutes, her fingers twined through his, then turned around to face him. Her eyes sought his, there was a ghost of a smile playing about her lips. His eyes locked into hers. She mirrored the smile he gave her, and looked away again. Her fingers continued to play with his. She bent down and planted a light kiss on his fingers, then started ahead contently, letting her fingers do the talking.
“Kiss?”. His voice was barely above a whisper.
She nodded almost imperceptibly. His lips sought hers. She surrendered to the pleasure.
“First time?”, he asked when they broke apart. She nodded; she didn’t trust herself to say anything. “Again?”, his eyes seemed to ask. It was much longer this time, and Revathi didn’t want to let go of him even after their lips parted. She rested her head on his shoulder, and let him stroke her hair.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
My untied shoelace changed my life. As I leaned down to re-tie it, I kicked away a few leaves. When I turned my head slightly to look where the leaves had been, I was astonished to see a rubber-banded wad of hundred dollar bills nestled in a little indention in the muddy ground.
I could do so much with the money. My older daughter could have a new dress to wear to the prom. It could pay for my younger one’s chess lessons.But the money could be someone’s egg nest- they would hate to lose it.But if not me, it would be someone else who finds it. A person who hides money in a public place, is asking that it be taken.Maybe it was an act of charity? A test?I dig out the money, and give it away to the homeless. One hundred dollar bill at a time.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Sometimes he'd come back from trips loaded with gifts - sweets from the best confectioner in town, pretty cardigans, pearl necklaces, books and toys - sometimes, he would just not have found the time to shop. But he never came home without those five airlines toffees.
I started working around the same time he retired, and the tradition was reversed. Now, I was the one who'd bring five airlines toffees everytime I came to visit, and he was the one who'd gleefully polish them off in one sitting.
Parkinson's started claiming his body, and dementia his mind, but his sweet tooth remained his own. The last few times I visited him, he barely recognised me. But when he saw the toffees, he proudly said, “My daughter gets me these toffees too.”
Last July, I was on a plane winging homewards. I'd just got the news that my father's heart had finally given up. There was Regret (that I missed seeing him by just four days), Remorse (that I would never again watch him watching my son throw a ball at him), Relief (that he'd finally shed the body and mind that constrained him and could go back to being the man he was meant to be) - but, no tears. How does one cry for the passing on of a man who is not really your father, and who your father would have hated becoming?
After settling in the kid, and putting the baby to breast, I buckled my seat belt and was waiting for the plane to take-off, when the stewardess came around with the tray of airlines toffees. My hands automatically reached out for the tray, then pulled back - never again would I pick five airlines toffees from that tray. The dam burst; tears flowed.
Before deplaning, I asked the stewardess for five airlines toffees.
When we journey to the other world, we are not supposed to take anything with us, but as his ashes floated down the river, my father had something clenched in his fists - five airlines toffees to sustain him on the Journey.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
‘That colour really suits you – I do think peacock blue is a most beautiful colour, don’t you?”
“Where did you get that handbag – I have been looking for something just like that for ages.”
There are better places to be in than the early morning local train on Mumbai’s Western line. In fact, there are better places to be in than Mumbai.
Get woken up by the ringing of the alarm clock at 7 am, brush your teeth before you are fully awake, stumble into the kitchen, nearly burn your tongue gulping down a scalding cup of tea, shower, change, check that you have your purse, mobile and keys in your hand-bag, pick up the daily paper and tuck it unread under your arm, bang the front door shut, hail three autos before the fourth agrees to take you to Bandra station, fret and fume at the traffic lights, silently curse the pedestrians who prefer walking in front of your auto to being on the pavement, rush onto the over-bridge, grab the last remaining seat on the 8:57 local, catch your breath, open the newspaper to check if the government has fallen or India has lost yet another cricket match.
No wonder then, the only expression you see on people’s faces is a vacant one. Surviving in this City is so tough, who has the time to Live?
Which is where the compliments come in.
The unwritten rules of Mumbai local trains are clear. You avoid eye contact and NEVER speak to someone you do not know. But one day, I found myself standing next to a lady wearing such a pretty dress, I couldn’t but comment on it. She was clearly shocked that a total stranger had complimented her, and barely managed to stammer out a thanks, but five minutes later, I found that a secret smile was still playing around her lips.
Without intending to, I had introduced some colour into an otherwise grey existence, and I was sure that in her current state, she would inadvertently pass her cheer along – a seat given up on the connecting bus, a receptionist greeted with more than a polite nod, perhaps another compliment that made someone else’s day.
I decided then and there to pass one genuine compliment every morning. It had to be sincere – if your nose is red from sneezing, you know the person doesn’t mean it when you are told you are looking great – and it had to be something the person herself believed could be true. To make one person happy per day, everyday.
What is one person in a city of over twenty million? Does one person even matter among the six million that uses local trains everyday. Maybe not, but if even some of those people pass the happiness along, and some of the people they pass the message onto pass the message along further… well, you do the maths!
And even if they do not, making one person happier for a couple of minutes is better than nothing at all.