Monday, May 31, 2010

Is it so difficult to just talk?

Last week, the Canadian goverment refused to grant a visa to a retired high-ranking official of the Indian Army, citing the "poor human rights record" of the Indian Armed Forces as the reason. In addition to taking it up with the Ministry of External Affairs, the retired official went public with the rejection. One news channel carried the story, and before you knew it a pandora's box had been opened. Within the space of a few days, dozens of such cases came to light- the Canadian government had apparently been refusing visas to people who served in the Armed Forces, any Intellegence Agency or the Police for several years.

As a sovereign country, Canada does have the right to refuse to grant visas to anyone, but it was the reasons being cited for doing so that had people fuming. One man who had served in the Punjab Police during the height of terrorism had been told that he was not being granted a visa because he had actively or tacitly approved of the harsh measures being taken by the Police to stamp out Terrorism in the state. Indians old enough to remember those days could not help but be struck by the irony of the statement - most of the masterminds of the Terrorism in Punjab had acquired Canadian passports and were funding the entire operations from the country.

As always, in controversies of this kind, the public was quick to suggest solutions- deny visas to all Canadians wanting to visit India, take it up very strongly in the United Nations, cut all economic ties with Canada, etc, etc. Personally, I thought that what the Indian Government did was the only sensible thing - they had taken the issue up with the Canadian Government, and provided evidence to prove that men in Indian uniforms had a much better record in maintaining human rights than those of most other countries fighting the kind of insurgency and terrorism that the nation was actually facing. But as far as the public was concerned, none of it was enough- they wanted action, and they wanted it now.

But in all the hullaboo, I couldn't help thinking why and how Canada and Canadians had become The Enemy. In blogland, I know and like several Canadians - Jan Morrison, Elspeth and Ann spring to mind. I have two other Canadians who are good virtual friends. I have another real friend who is now a Canadian. If I do not agree with any of them, I can talk to them and sort it out. Why then can nations not do the same thing?

If a person is unaware of the real facts, and is taking major decisions based on the misconception, does it make more sense to educate him, or to fight him? What if the person is actually a nation? Doesn't the same logic continue to apply?

Why is it so difficult to talk, and to listen?

_____
And for something a little more fun. Ann Elle Altman of All Write for Coffee passed on the Sugar Doll Award to me a very long time back. Even though I love receiving awards, I am very, very lax when it comes to passing them on. So lax, in fact, that Ann has even stopped blogging since then :-(

But pass on this Award I will, because there are a whole bunch of Sugar Dolls who I want to acknowledge-
Chary, the wonderful teacher, mother, person and writer from New York
Ella, Lisa and Nikki, because they all define Sugar Doll
Lisa, who just can't stop blogging about a difficult period in her life
Mari, for being herself- though she may say Slug suits her more than Sugar Doll
Tara, the Princess of Procrastination who will always have you in splits
Trudy, for being awesome despite having such a tiny kid at home
and
Clarissa, because what goes around comes around

They are not the only Sugar Dolls in my life, but I tried to stick to people who don't seem to have got the Award, and who I haven't passed anything onto yet.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cafe Terrace at Night, Drabble # 5

[Fifth in a Set of Drabbles based on Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888]

I never thought this day would come. When I would be sitting at a fancy Parisian café with my favourite man. Starry nights are not unknown to us. Many a time we have slipped outdoors during dinner parties - though a country man through and through, he couldn’t’ stand his bourgeoisie neighbours any more than I could. But that is the point. He is a country man. He hates the city, is always anxious to get back. But this time, he seems to be enjoying himself.


Wonder how Dad would react if I get up and dance on the table?


_________
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vendors


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

Why do people who create, create?

I found a friend from secondary school on Facebook the other day. For two years, we had been two of an inseparable foursome, but I hadn’t met her since I moved out of that school a couple of months short of my 13th birthday.
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 .......

If I were a: MONTH, I would be JUNE. Not because I was born in June (which I was), but because the month is so unpredictable. The sweltering heat, the anticipation of the monsoons, cooling down, puddles, waterlogging. It is a fun month, if you can handle it.

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

A Medium Boy, and exciting news

“I am not a good boy, or a bad boy”, my four year old announced unasked. “I am a medium boy.”
“Why?”, I asked.
“I am”, he insisted.

I had to admire his maturity. He had been quite disobedient that afternoon, but instead of getting defensive or angry, he had put himself at a level where he did not have to be ‘good’ all the time. But was that how I wanted him to label himself?

“You are a good boy”, I assured him. “Sometimes, you are naughty, but naughty boys can still be good.”
He loved being told that!

______
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work, exactly one hundred words in length.



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.

Though there is no way I would be able to find time for it in June, a whole host of others aspiring writers are taking part. And the best part is that we welcome rebels.

You can outline, you can do character sketches, you can even start writing before June. All we require is that you write 50 k words in 30 days in the month of June!

We have this really cool logo (thank you, Joris), and a Facebook group If you would like to participate, just leave a comment, and I'll make sure you get an invite.

I am thinking of doing a novel in 30 days too. Only my 'novel' will have 30 chapters of 100 words each. I do not have an idea, or an outline, but given my current state of affairs, that is something I should be able to churn out in June. Whether that will still qualify me for the Winner badge or not, I am almost scared to ask.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books make a Difference

I do not remember a time when I was not addicted to books and reading. Like most Indians of my generation and social strata, I was brought up on a staple of Enid Blyton, and the Five Find Outers were more real to me than many of my real life friends were. Then came the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys phase, which was soon replaced by the Issac Asimov phase.
I was lucky in that I never had anyone guiding my reading, and parents who were more than happy to subsidise my reading addiction, so I read pretty much what I wanted to read, and had a great time doing so. Which makes it very difficult for me to pin-point the books that really changed my life.

My sense of ethics and honour was moulded by my parents and maternal grandparents, and reinforced by Enid Blyton and individual teachers in school. Who was responsible for what, I really cannot tell- all I can say is that between them, they created a person I am happy to call my best friend.

It was only when I went to high school and college that I started consciously taking direction from books. There were three that really shaped my thinking -

Space by James Michener, for making me realise that a life well lived is one where at every point in time you feel things cannot get better - I am living such a life!
Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, for constantly reminding me never to let go my childlike sense of wonder, and for taking pleasure in the really small things
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, for teaching me not to be judgemental and for trying to see things from the viewpoint of the other person

I was lucky I could fuel my addiction to books. My children are lucky that they have parents and grandparents who give them books. But everyone is not as lucky. There are so many kids in world who have never owned a book, and are not likely to own one either. Can anything be worse?

BlogHer and BookRenter have joined forces, and from May 3-28, are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.

For every person who leaves a comment here answering the question, What book has had the greatest impact on your life?, they will donate one book to a child in need. If you blog about the contest and link to the site, an additional book would be donated.

I know we are near the end of the contest, but I know how much each of you owns to books, and how you would all like to make a difference in the life of a child. Please do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Putting it together

When the six-year old outgrew his 108 piece jigsaw puzzles, the only larger puzzle I could find was a 300 piece one of a national monument. Since the only puzzles he liked were ones with cartoon characters, I couldn’t get him interested in this one.

A couple of weeks after I bought the puzzle, I asked my son if he would like to do it with me.

“Okay”, he said.

It took us two hours to put it together. Two hours of him working on the reflection, and me doing the architectural details. Two hours of struggling with the sky, and getting it all to mesh together. Two hours of working together, and yet seprately.

The feeling of success when we finished was exhilirating.

Someday, I would love to work on a five thousand piece puzzle with both my kids. And, I would love to visit the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, so I can see the arches and the embellishments we put together.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cafe Terrace at Night, Drabble # 4

[Fourth in a Set of Drabbles based on Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888.]

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.

People wonder why I come here, and stay aloof.
Can’t they understand that it is enough that I be a part of the scene. I don’t really want to belong


_________
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Water for Plants

I am filled with amazement everytime I pass this garden.
An entire family lives in the one room shack- there is barely enough room for them all to lie down comfortably in at night. The only water the family knows is from the drums that are filled with water bought from tankers every alternate day.

And yet, they have potted plants on the corrugated sheet that makes up the roof of their house, and they share the little water they have with the plants. If that is not love for plants, I don't know what is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pay it Forward

Among the many ‘regulars’ in my apartment block is this bunch of elderly ladies who get together and chat for a couple of hours. Most of them sit down on the low concrete platforms built for the purpose, but one always has the security guard bring her a plastic chair. We know the ladies are there, but they are so much a part of the landscape nobody really pays much heed to them.
Yesterday, the lady who sits on the chair arrived a little early. Her friends hadn’t come yet, and she was standing near the platform waiting for them to arrive.
A six year old was loitering nearby, waiting for his friend to come. He saw the lady standing, brought the chair out, and asked her to sit. She patted him on the cheek and said thank you. He blushed, and ran away.


I did not witness it, but when I heard about it, my heart swelled with pride. The six-year was my son, and his instinctive act of kindness gave me more pleasure than I may have got if he topped in class.

Call it ‘Random Acts of Kindness”, as I do, or “Pay it Forward” as B. Miller does, but I do believe in the power of doing something selfless for someone you have absolutely no expectations from. It invariably creates a ripple effect- whether you ask the person to ‘pay it forward’ or not, he person you have been nice to is invariably nice to someone else, and that person is good to someone else in turn. The circle may or may not close back on you, but it does increase the total amount of happiness floating around.

B. Miller is also running a Pay it Forward giveaway – further details here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something I love doing

Another of those days when I am too pushed to write anything, so am recycling something I first posted in September 2008. I was actually reminded of this“Please do not forget to give my teacher a picture of me doing something that I love most”, said the note supposedly written by my son that he got home from school.
A seemingly simple request – after all, how hard can it be to pick a single picture out of the many that we have clicked – but on closer thought, one almost impossible to fulfill.

What is it that my not yet five year old loves most?

He loves jigsaw puzzles and is excellent at them – he could put together 25 piece puzzles just a couple of months after his third birthday. But is that what he enjoys most? Perhaps not – at one time, he definitely loved puzzles, but he no longer seems as fond of them as he once was. Not a picture of him putting together a jigsaw puzzle then.

There is a gorgeous picture of hanging down with his legs tucked into the climbing bars of the slide in the playground. And another of his exalting as he slides down the same slide. Few photographs capture as much sheer joy and exuberance as those two pictures do. But is that what he loves most – not really. He enjoys himself whenever he is taken to the playground, but if it were something he loved doing most, he would be pestering me to take him down to the playground a lot more than he actually does.

My son loves being read to, and even more he loves reading to his younger brother. There are some gorgeous pictures of the two boys lying on the bed, reading a book. That would definitely qualify as one of his favorite pastimes, but perhaps not the one he loves most of all.

Truth be told, the one thing my son loves doing, seemingly more than anything else, is watching TV. I am sure I must have a picture of him watching TV somewhere, or I could click a picture anytime. But is that an accurate portrait of my son? Sure he watches more TV than I would like him to, but I personally feel that TV is more a habit with him than a passion.

He loves fighting with his brother – kicking, pushing, pulling his hair, having all that done to him and wailing his guts off when it starts hurting. The amount I have to yell at him for getting physical with his brother, I would think that is his favorite pastime. But to be fair to him, he just sees it as a part of the big picture of loving his brother and to call it something he loves doing to do him a great injustice.

He does love his brother a lot, and loves just being with him. Sometimes they are chummy and hug and kiss each other, at times one wants a public display of affection while the other pushes him away, and most of the time they just sit together till one pinches the other and starts off a dogfight. They both love doing it, or do they?

The last couple of weeks, my son has started loving his homework. He feels this tremendous sense of achievement when he manages to write a three letter word in joined handwriting, and he really looks forward to those moments of triumph. I could stick a picture of him writing, but that would seem like sucking upto the teacher, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

He loves watering plants, loves making sprouts, loves hunting for pretty and not so pretty stones, loves squashing insects, loves making complicated clipo structures, loves shooing away pigeons, loves pretending to be a Power Ranger, loves making up stories about Spiderman, loves eating pomegranates, loves talking about carnivorous animals, loves singing his favourite BoneyM songs, loves the idea of going on coffee meets, loves playing with babies, loves helping people, loves drawing dragons, loves ….. The list is endless, which one should I pick?

My son probably loves running more than anything else. Just running – not running to get anywhere, not running in a race, not running as a part of some game – just plain and simple running. Should I then send in a picture of him running?

He also loves sitting in quiet contemplation – “kabhi, kabhi mujhe chup rehna accha lagta hai”, he once told me. Is that the picture that I should send?


Forty-eight hours of thinking about it, and I still do not know which picture to pick. And I know I never shall – the only sensible thing to do would be to pick a picture with my eyes closed and send that to the teacher.

Isn’t childhood a wonderful time – there are so many things you love doing, and you don’t have enough time to do them all. Why can’t life be a bit more equitable – why can’t adults continue to do the things they loved doing when they were children, and continue to love doing those things? when I was filling up the 5 x 5 thing that is still making the rounds of blogsphere. For the question, 'where would you like to be 5 years hence?', I had written, 'doing and loving at least one thing I am not aware of now'. I guess that wish is in line with me wanting to retain the child in me!



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why?

“Mamma, may I?”
“No!”
“Why?”
“Because, …”
“But why?”
“I just told you.”
“Okay.”
Two minutes later, the conversation repeats itself. It is a different thing they want to do, and different reason I give for not doing it, but the entire conversation flows along the same predictable lines.”


Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Do I need to control as much as I do? Would it really hurt if I let them do what they want, and find out for themselves why they shouldn’t have done so?

And sometimes, just sometimes, touching that street-light makes a very pretty picture.
_____
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let's Talk Blog fest

When I write, it is almost always pure dialogue, so when Roni Griffin of Fiction Groupie came up with the Let's Talk blogfest, there was no question of me not signing up for it.

I wondered which piece of dialogue I should choose, and the decision was made when, on Saturday, I decided to junk my entire first chapter and introduce my characters differently. Here then, are snippets of dialogues from the first chapter which has now been completely pruned out.

~
Extract from first draft of "Lipstick in the Boardroom"-

“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

Meeting the Past

I have been taught by a number of very good teachers, but the only one who had a lasting impact on me was my High School Principal. Tall, slim and ramrod straight, she had a commanding presence. Though obviously younger than many of the teachers who reported to her, she had an aura of authority that belied her age.
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

Cafe Terrace at Night, Drabble # 3

[Third in a Set of Drabbles based on Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888. This is a companion piece to Drabble # 1]

The moment I set eyes on her, I knew I had to have her. She isn’t like the others - dancers, models, cabaret artists- they will do it for money. But she is different. She will not sell herself. I have to be subtle, or risk losing her completely.
She has been on the edge all evening. She senses something is up. Has she sensed the magnitude of my obsession? She is buying time. I need time too- to gather courage to say what needs to be said.

I wonder if she will let me paint her…. in the nude.

_________
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tradition, demolished

Earth moving vehicles have taken over the once busy arterial road. Someday, an elevated train line will come up and hopefully ease commuter woes, but till then, the place is a mess. One would think that with the traffic being diverted, the pedestrian woes would have reduced, but it seems only to have got worse.

But none of it matters early in the morning, when these men use it to catch up on gossip after a visit to the temple.

I particularly liked the contrast between the traditional unstitched garments that the Jains wear during worship, and the heavy equipment in the background.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Chess game

About a month back, the six year old decided he wanted to start playing chess. Since the father is a much better chess player than I am, the burden of teaching him the rudiments of the game fell on him.
Within days, however, I realised that when father and son sat down to play, they played- the father was not teaching the son to think.
I then started playing the occasional game with my son, where before making any move, I would make him analyse it completely. His game improved tremendously, but the flip side of it was that he started thinking he was invincible.

When we sat down to play today, I realised the game was going to be different. He had decided not to listen to me, and was playing to defeat me. Since he refused to listen to me, and let his king gallop all over the battlefield, it was not difficult for me to checkmate him. The moment he realised he had lost, he burst into tears and started hitting me. "You cheated and won", he accused.
"I never cheat", I told him.
"But you won", he said, before adding, "and you are a bad player."
So it wasn't the losing that was the problem. The problem was that he had lost to who he considered a bad player.
"I am not all that bad", I told him.
"You said you are bad", he replied.
"Your father is better than I am, but I am not totally useless", I assured him.
But it was not enough. He hated that he had lost a game, and told me he would only stop crying after he played another game and defeated me in that.

I tried telling him that it took months of practice before you could become a good player, that he was good for his age and experience but not yet at a level where he could beat me. I told him that if I played to lose, his victory would be meaningless, and that I would never do that. But nothing seemed to register. I got him to stop crying by telling him that I would play another game with him after a couple of hours.

He's having his dinner now, and we will play as soon as he finishes. And all I am hoping for is that he gets tired of playing someone who is playing for a draw and decides to call the game off. Maybe a different parent may let him win, but that I refuse to do- in life, victories need to be earned, and he is never too young to learn that.

Who says parenting is easy?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From a flower to a fruit

I had a plant full of pretty white flowers one day. The next day, most of the petals had dropped off, but I could see the swollen pistil that I knew would soon become a fruit. One month later, the fruits are still on my tree and in no hurry to ripen. The process takes time!!!!

When I signed up for the Internal Conflict Blog Fest, I knew exactly which scene from my WiP I would be posting. It was a scene that I thought I had got right the first time round, and which I had read through a couple of times without needed to make any changes.

While reading through it before posting, I found that if I changed the setting of the background to the scene a bit, not only could I cut out a lot of unnecessary stuff from the chapter that contained the scene, I could shoot for much greater impact from the chapter.

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

Internal Conflict Blog Fest

I've never done a blog fest before, but when the awesome Jessica announced the Internal Conflict Blog Fest, I had to join in.

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

Open

I'll come clean. When Andre Agassi first burst into the scene, it was Stefan Edberg I had a crush on, and Stefan Edberg I cheered for during every tournament. Agassi with his denim shorts, long hair and don't care attitude was the antithesis of everything Edberg stood for, and I never cared for him too much. I developed a grudging admiration for him, after he won the Wimbledon Championship in 1992, which turned into a more generous admiration after he kept crawling back to the # 1 position after being knocked off the top 100 time and again.

When his autobiography, Open, was released, all anyone could speak of were his revelations about snorting crystal meth and lying about it to the ATP - I did not want to waste precious time reading what I was sure would be the self indulgent story of a former tennis brat. Then a friend told me that it was one of the most honest accounts of a man's life that she had read, and I decided to give the book a try.

And I am glad I did.

The books is ghost-written by a genuinely good writer, who knows exactly how to play with the emotions of the reader. With a mix of candour and humour, the book makes you relive the memories of the flawed genius. You are forced to acknowledge the drive that made him repeatedly bounce back after being written off, and you cannot help nodding at many of the observations, even as you wonder how it is that the man has good things to say about so few people.

Fundamentally, I just cannot understand his repeated declaration that he absolutely hates the game. How can anyone put in such supreme effort into something they hate? And why? Is it worth defining your life by something you are not passionate about?

But at the same time, you have to admire the man for the choices he makes. Written off more often than practically any other tennis player, he could have retired, gracefully or otherwise, dozens of times - yet, each time he was written off, he came back a stronger and better player than he was before. That the man won more Grand Slams after the age of 29 than he did before tells its own story. That most of his later matches were played against opponents who were still in their diapers when he turned pro only underlines the fact that whether you love him or hate him, you have to admire him.

There is a lot about the man that I do not like after reading the book. There is a lot more of the man that I just do not understand. But I am glad I read the book, because there is a lot that you have to admire the man for, and I would not have known about any of it had I not picked the book up.

And of course, I have to admire any man who puts in as much effort into bringing into existance a school for disadvantaged children in his home town. That the apparent rebel that was Andre Agassi insists on school uniforms for his kids shows how far the man has come.


Love the man or hate him, the book is definitely worth a read.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The day after Mothers' Day

“What are you planning to give me for Mothers’ Day?”, I asked me six year old the other day.
“What do you want?”, he asked.
“Why don’t you give me a surprise”, I replied. “You and Papa can discuss what you want to give me.”
“Okay.”

Half an hour later, he returned with a laboriously written note. “We have decided to give Mamma a diamond necklace for Mothers’ Day’, it said. His eyes were gleaming with the pleasure he knew he was giving me.
“Thank you so much, darling”, I said giving him a hug. “But I don’t really want a diamond necklace.”
“But I want to give you one”, he said.
“I’m never going to wear a diamond necklace”, I assured him. “Tell you what. Why don’t you draw a beautiful picture of me wearing a diamond necklace. I would like that more than a diamond necklace.”
“Okay.”

The picture never got drawn. There was no further talk of diamond necklaces. Both kids forgot even to wish me on Mothers’ Day. But I couldn’t care less.

Being a mother to two wonderful kids is the best gift anyone could ask for. To be honest, I don’t really want too much more.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cafe Terrace at Night, Drabble # 2/ Mother's Day

[Second in a Set of Drabbles based on Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888]

“Mamma!!!”
I whipped around, but all I could see was a sea of heads. How would I ever find my five year old in this crowd?
“Mamma!!!” Louder now, clearer. Waves of panic threatened to engulf me. From a distance, I heard a voice call out, “Claudine!”
“Mamma?”
“Claudine?”
“Mamma!”, a happy yelp as a tiny figure detached herself from the flood of skirts, and threw itself on a woman that was not me.
“Claudine!”
“Mamma!”

Claudine!!! My daughter would have been five this month. If I had been able to let her live, would that mother have been me?
_________
Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One hundred dollar bill at a time

Jenny Matlock has started what she calls the Saturday Centus. She provides the prompt, and you get to finish the story in an additional 100 words (or less).

Here's her prompt-
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.

And here is the rest of the story-
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.

Night Scenes

Streets look quite different at night!

Had this picture of the fruit vendor been taken during the day, would it have looked as magical?


And would these fruit look quite as edible?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Five Airlines Toffees, reposted

"Five Toffees", said my colleague to me today. "Five Airlines Toffees", she repeated emphatically seeing my puzzled look, "Five Airlines Toffees!!!"
The third time she said it, my brain finally made the connection. "But how did you hear of it?", I asked, knowing what her answer would be, but amazed that she had made the connection.

A couple of weeks after my father passed away, my reminiscence crystallised into a piece that I called "Five Airlines Toffees". I shared it with a few people, some of whom reacted to it in a manner I hoped they would. On the second anniversary of his passing away, I posted it on my blog, and often sent the link to a few people I thought may understand. And there it remained till December last year, when I was asked if I wanted to contribute a piece to the second edition of "Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul".

My colleague apparently picked up the book, liked the piece, thought the name of the contributor sounded familiar, checked the bio, and realised it was me. I was thrilled beyond belief, because I have yet to come out of the closet as far as my writing is concerned, and never thought a day might come when someone I knew would read and like a piece I wrote even before knowing it was written by me. Makes me start believing in myself a little more as a writer!

I thanked her profusely, but she insisted she was the one that should be thanking me, because "the last line has been haunting me for days, and you know what, it is true." Could anyone ever pay a greater compliment to a writer than by telling them that something they wrote made them stop and think?

And here's the story, reposted.

Five Airlines Toffees

It was always five airlines toffees. Everytime he travelled, my father would bring me five toffees - never four, never six, always five. There may have been some significance to that number, but I suspect, that like most traditions, it just happened.
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.
When I travel, I will always pick up five airlines toffees. Some traditions are worth investing in.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Compliment a Day, and an Award

I am feeling really lazy, so instead of working on a new post, I am recycling one that I wrote in July 2008 .

A compliment a Day
“Hey, that’s a really pretty dress. You look great in it.”
“I’ll kill to have hair like yours. How do you keep it looking so good.”
‘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.


And since we are talking about compliments, Al over from Publish or Perish made me blush (even beneath my enviable natural tan) while passing on the Sunshine Award to me. "Rayna is from Bombay in India", he said, "and blogs about life as she sees it. I would encourage you to visit- Rayna has an interesting take on many aspects of life."

Thank you, Al. I really cherish the Award, and your kind words, even if it has taken me nearly three months to acknowledge both publicly. And if you haven't visited Al yet, you should- not only is he a few weeks (months?) for self-publishing his novel, he is an awesome photographer, and you always find some wonderful nuggets on his blog.

Al passed it onto twelve bloggers, and I guess I would have to restrict myself to the same number. Which is hard, because if sunshine makes my day, every one of you is my sunshine. But let me try and pick a dozen, and to make life a little easier for me, I am sticking to people I already knew when Al passed this award on. In no particular order -

Jane Kennedy Sutton - for being such a wonderfully positive person- if I hadn't seen one particular post of her's several months back, I would have thought she didn't have a care in teh world, except to spread happiness
Marian Youngblood - I named a flower after her, 'nuff said
Hart Johnson - no list of Sunshines would be complete without my Thursday Twin
Clarissa Draper - in this life and a past one, she has always been my sunshine
Jan Morrison - has it been only about six months that I have known her? Seems like forever.
Dipali Taneja - a chance comment that I almost did not leave on a blog of a friend who I happened to meet because of a series of accidents got Dipali to my blog. If that is not Serendipity, what is? We were just meant to be
Lady Fiona - she's got snow in her backyard, while I am sweating gallons everyday. We live in such diverse places, but have so much in common
Diane L. Wolfe - she's promoting her fifth Circle of Friends book, but still finds time to leave insightful comments- oh that I could be like her
Elizabeth Spann Craig - another incredible lady - not only are each of her blog posts a gem, her comments show how well she's read your post
Patricia Stoltey - my first blog Award came from her, but even otherwise, she would have been up there on my list of personal Sunshines
Mason Canyon - not only does she put a lot of effort into making her blogs interesting for us, she's always there with a comment
Sonia Marsh - there is so much I admire about this lady, I can't start to ennumerate them

There it is a dozen ladies who are each my Sunshine. And I haven't even started listing the people I met in blogland in the last 75 days. With so much Sunshine, no wonder it is so hot here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

From Me To You Picasso

I promise to play catch up with Awards this week.

Over two months back, Ann at All Write with Coffee handed over the 'From Me To You" Award, only she called it the "From Me To You (Picasso)" Award, and gave it to me because she liked some of the photographs I had posted that week!

I'm exercising my poetic license, and am passing it on to bloggers who touch the heart with the visual images they create -

Heather of I'm not Hannah
Faith of Sacred Dirt
Fifi of Fififlowers
Jan of Crazy Jane
Marjorie of Everything Emerald
Patricia of Patricia Stoltey

Each is an incredible artist, and I salute them all.

And here's a photograph of a flower that bloomed in my "garden" earlier this week. One of the several varieties of jasmine, Juhi, with their mild fragrance always take me back to my childhood.

Jasminum auriculatum

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

5 Times the Fun


Though I have seen her comments all over blogsphere, Jemi Fraser and I met only very recently. She's tagged me on this Fun Game where you get to answer 5 questions 5 times-

Question 1 - Where were you five years ago?
1. Pregnant with my younger son, but not aware of it yet
2. Stay-at-home mom of a 18 month old
3. Making my first forays into fan-fiction
4. A few weeks away from writing my first original short story
5. Meeting the first of the people who eventually became very close on-line friends

Question 2 - Where would you like to be five years from now?
1. Mother of two kids who perhaps know more than I
2. In a meaningful day job
3. Running at least two marathons a year
4. A published author
5. Doing and loving at least one thing I haven't yet discovered

Question 3 - What is (was) on your to do list today?
1. Finish a grant proposal
2. Make a To-Do List, and share with boss
3. Go to the gym (done)
4. Make and feed my kids lunch and dinner
5. Teach the kids to play hopscotch

Question 4 - What 5 snacks do you enjoy?
1. Chocolate
2. Frozen yoghurt
3. Grilled sandwich with dollops of cheese
4. Mango
5. Roasted peanuts

Question 5 - What would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Endow a foundation to provide educational scholarships for disadvantaged youth, and provide seed capital for young needy entrepreneurs
2. Set up a chain of daycare centres in Bombay, so mothers don't have to stay at home unless they choose to
3. Set up book and toy libraries for children from disadvantaged backgrounds
4. Have one exotic adventure/ outdoors holiday a year
5. Fill my walls with original art that speaks to me

Thanks Jemi for tagging me on this. It was nice to find out that money can't really buy me too much that I don't already have. If you hadn't checked her blog out yet, do - Just Jemi.

I'm going to pass the tag game along to five bloggers I've met recently. I'm looking forward to finding out more about you!
Ellie - Ella's Edge

I wanted to keep the number to five, and I tried not to tag people who have already done it. But if you would like to pick it up, I would love to know more about you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

A little over a month back, I signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge. Today, I am the proud owner of this sparkling new badge-
To be honest, the only reason I signed up for the Challenge was because I find it incredibly hard to pass up any challenge. I did the NaBloWriMo in October 2009, and even though I swore I would not go anywhere near it, I attempted the NaNoWriMo in November 2009. The A to Z Challenge promised to be challenging, so how could I pass up the opportunity to be a part of it?

I have been blogging daily since July 2008 (except one day missed in November 2009), so committing 26 days in April was the easy part. The hard part was forcing myself to think by letter, and plan my blogging in advance. For a very brief period, I tried bringing some structure into my blog schedule, but soon abandoned it because on some topics, I had blogs scheduled weeks in advance, and on others, I ended up dashing off some incoherent nonsense minutes before midnight.

People who know me, know that I rarely quit. I am that crazy person who completes a marathon even though over 2/3rds of the participants dropped out due to the severe heat and humidity. If 26.2 miles didn't intimidate me, why would 26 letters? But some letters were harder than the others. Sometimes it was hard to come up with even one topic, and sometimes it was hard to choose the one topic to blog about.

I am not sure I contributed much to the Challenge apart from my daily posts. I wasn't like some others who left a comment every day, and I definitely didn't visit more than a couple of dozen blogs participating in the Challenge. But what I did try to do was to paint an authentic picture of India, so even if many of the people who visited my blog during the Challenge never do so again, they get a flavour of the country.

The Challenge got me thinking about my blog in a manner different from the way I used to. The first week, I knew what I was going to be blogging about days in advance. By Sunday, I had even written out most of the posts for the week, and had even scheduled them to appear on the right day. The second week was less systematic- I knew some of the letters in advance, but picked many of the words only the day before. All the posts that appeared during the week were scheduled to publish at the right time. In the third week, my schedule went haywire. All the posts were printed online and posted directly. That was also the week when I started thinking of topics only after starting to write the blog post! The last week was strange - I knew what I would be blogging about for V, W and X, but all three posts were written online. Y and Z were written on snatched Internet time. But the posts all got done, and in the ultimate analysis, that is all that matters.

I have been blogging daily from the time when I started the blog, and hope to continue doing so till such time as I cannot do it any longer. But this Challenge has got me thinking along different lines, which should reflect in a slightly greater maturity in my posts.

My biggest take-away from the Challenge has been not the number of Followers I have gathered (the number has gone up from about 25 to nearly 100), but the number of blogs that I have started following. Till about the first anniversary of my blog, I concentrated on blogging. It was only in July/ August last year, that I started following blogs, commenting on them, and making tentative friendships. Till I started this Challenge, there were a number of bloggers I followed, and a smaller number that followed me, but they were all bloggers who fell into a certain type. This Challenge introduced me to a whole new Universe of bloggers- people I would not have stumbled onto in the normal course of events, but who I enjoy interacting with.

And that has been my biggest takeaway from the Challenge. Thank you, Arlee. Thank you, everyone who made the past month so meaningful (I'm not listing anyone because I don't want to offend anyone by leaving them out, but they can't not know who they are). Thank you!
And have a Swinging time!

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