September 16, 2014

Pause

The sunset was glorious today. The kind that makes you want to write poetry about it. The kind that makes you long for life on the highway, the wind in your hair and destination unknown, and not behind the picture glass window in front of your desk that gives you a wonderful view of the sky. I stood looking at it for a long time. Till the orange ball of light dipped beneath the horizon, playing peekaboo with the clouds, painting them in ravishing golden hues. I watched it till it disappeared, exhausted from the day's work, both me and the sun.

The beauty of the sunset kinda takes away from the brutality the sun unleashes upon Chennai during the day. It's not fair, right? All day long, we curse the heat. And then at dusk, even grown men stop for a moment to stare and admire the view (and click pictures, of course, because you simply HAVE to click pictures of everything nowadays). It's weirdly like an abusive relationship where the woman puts up with the man's abuses and assaults, but at the end of the day, turns putty in his hands when he seems to repent and says "I'm sorry. I do this only because I love you so much? Can't you see that?"

I stared for a long time at the sunset. I stared till one of my colleagues yelled "Enough Divya, it won't stare back at you." And everyone laughed. Who said it won't stare back? It was staring right back at me, in all its golden glory, telling me, it's ok. What do they know? For them, the moment is over the minute they click a picture and post it to their Whatsapp group, with people commenting "wow, beautiful". For them, the magic is over the second the colour dulls. They don't have the patience to stand and look at the multitude of shades the sky was getting painted in. Who has time for all that?

It was telling me, it's ok, life is not all that bad. You may have bad days, you may have tough phases, you may have to deal with difficult people with a smile. But it's ok. For every bad day, there are hundred excellent ones. For every tough phase, there are innumerable extraordinary ones. For every difficult person, there are hundreds of others who love you unconditionally for who you are, who don't ask "Why are you, you?"; who don't expect you to 'stick to the template'.

For every brutal Chennai day, there is a glorious sunset at the end of it.  

September 6, 2014

Of birthdays, marriage, and turning 28

I don’t like my birthday. I always get depressed around the time. My thoughts range from “I’m getting older, not younger. What’s there to be happy about?” to “I am a year older and I haven’t done anything significant in my life. And people want a treat for that. Rubbish.” A birthday is usually more of a celebration for the people around you than for yourself because you are kind of obligated to take them out for lunch or dinner. And this is especially true when you are working. Your colleagues won't buy you a present, but they will expect you to treat them. They get you a cake, sure, but there again, who is the cake really for? You or for the rest of the team?

I never had such an aversion towards birthdays when I was younger. I used to in fact look forward to it. Getting older was an exciting concept, until I actually did get older. I couldn't wait to be a teenager, because aren't teens supposed to be like the coolest phase ever? I was dying to turn 20, because that was like a window to better opportunities, independence. A couple of years into my twenties I realised that with opportunities and independence also come expectations and responsibilities. And that's when my birthday stopped being fun for me anymore. Now when my birthday is around the corner, I feel a solid weight in my stomach and a dull thump in my heart, as though something bad is going to happen.

A few days before my birthday last year, the first one since getting married (and I mention this specifically because it holds relevance to what I'm about to say next), everyone was like, "So, first birthday right? What plans?" And I, first genuinely nonplussed, then pissed, answered "What do you mean first? I'm 27, not 1". "Ya, but first one after getting married right. So that's different". "I'm sorry, but how is it different? Just because I'm married now, does it make the preceding 27 years of my life and the birthdays obsolete?" That my  husband got me a voucher for a tattoo and took me out for dinner is a different matter. Which I totally appreciate. I finally got myself inked in February this year.

Another conversation with ex-colleagues last year went something like this:-
Them: So Divya, your birthday is coming up no?
Me (with zero excitement): Ya, whatever.
Them: Why are you not excited?
Me: What's there to be excited about? I'm a year older and have nothing to show for it. I have done absolutely nothing significant in my life.
Them: What do you mean, nothing significant? You got married, right?

:/

I mean, what can you even say to such people? Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. But I don't think getting married was an achievement. It was something that had to happen as a natural progression in life, so it did. It had nothing to do with my capabilities or my talents (although, the whacky profile that I wrote on the
matrimonial site did help me in finding a suitable partner). It was a significant life event, sure, but it was not something that I did because I was good at it. Because, let me be honest, being a good wife doesn't come naturally to me. I'm not unselfish, I'm not so noble that I will put my husband's needs over mine, I'm unreasonable when I want my way, I don't cook everyday, three times a day for my husband, sometimes, at the end of a long day at office, all I want to do is sit and watch sitcom reruns with a glass of wine and Dragon Chicken from Wonton; the clothes are not always washed in time, and my family, the one that has looked after me and stood by me all these years continues to be my top priority, and that will never change. But then again, who decides what the qualifiers of a "good wife" are, right? Because let's face it, no matter how much you do, there will always be a few people who will pronounce you a bad wife just because you don't wear sindoor or thaali, or order in dinner.  

The last one year has been quite eventful, though. I switched jobs after only four months at my previous company. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I got a job that I wanted, and I've been having a whale of a time there. I work crazy hours, but I love it. You know that sleep you get at the end of a long, satisfying day of work? Bliss, right? Of course, it  comes with its tensions, and me being me, obsesses over every tiny thing. But I am lucky to have got a wonderful boss and team. And I'm doing well there *touchwood*

April 9, the day I completed my probation and got confirmed, was the day my little niece came into the world. Mrinalini - a.k.a Millie, Millie Mouse, Milsoo, Milsa, Millieboo, Millsie, Soudamini, Pankajam and whatever else catches my sister's and my fancy - is a little ray of sunshine. She is gorgeous and is the centre of our universe as of now. A precious little child.

Soon after that, I participated in an inter-corporate cultural fest. I was part of the group dance team. We cleared the prelims but could not win in the finals. Considering that this was the first time ever we were participating, we put up a commendable  show. It was a rigorous three weeks. I would put in 8.5-9 hours of work, and then two hours of solid practise. By the time I would get home by 11, I'll be ready to just fall into bed. As strenuous as it was, it was an exhilarating experience, plus it helped me lose some weight.

August by far has been the most interesting month this year. It started off with the finals of the dance competition. The weekend of August 15, we headed to Pondicherry. And I did my first ever scuba dive. I honestly cannot put into words how amazing that was. I have claustrophobia, so I tend to panic when I go underwater. Ironically, I love water sports. I get scared initially, but  I  go anyway. And every time I get dunked into the water, I think that I'm about to die. Strangely enough, it's whenever I've felt like I'm about to die that I've felt the most alive. Like when I went river rafting in Coorg and the raftsman pushed me into the water (for fun, of course, because I said something cheeky to him), which he later told us was 80 feet deep. Of course, I was wearing a life jacket, but when you're pushed into the water in the middle of a river (the monsoon was in all its glory that time around in Coorg), your life tends to flash in front of your eyes.

Anyway, the dive. So they took us about five kilometres into the ocean, fitted us with the tank, mask, fins and other gear, and then splash! The beginners are to hold on to a rope attached to the boat, called descent line, at all times with one hand. As we go down, we need to keep equalizing so that the pressure difference doesn't hurt our ears. And it WILL hurt. Badly. Even though you have the regulator in your mouth, you will try to breathe through your nose and when you realise you can't, you will panic. At least I did. But after a few minutes, you'll calm down. And you know what will calm you down? No, not the assurance that the diving instructor is there with you all the time. Not the safe support of the descent line. Not even the knowledge that one's body is buoyant by nature and can float in water. No. What will calm you is the silence. Ming-fucking-blowing. All you can hear down there is the sound of bubbles as you breathe in and breathe out. Nothing else. And it is so incredibly soothing. Eerie, if you are the kind who can't take that silence. We went about 13-14 meters deep and saw many schools of small fish. Unfortunately, the water wasn't very clear, so we couldn't see a great deal. And as luck would have it, my mask filled up with water completely and I couldn't see anything, so I had to spend a good amount of time clearing it (on a side note, I have renewed respect for contact lenses). The dive lasted about 30 minutes, but it felt like 10, honestly. I thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride to and from the dive spot. Fortunately, I don't get sea-sick (touchwood touchwood). On the return ride, as we saw the harbour approaching, the first thing that crossed my mind was "Shucks, back to reality". For about five hours, we were cut off from the mainland, no mobile phones, no internet, no books, no laptops, no office. And hardly any conversations. A boat ride into the ocean is hardly the place where you feel the need to make idle chit chat. It was a wonderful weekend; not even the terribly humid weather or the horrible hotel dampened our spirits. And if you like  to eat, Pondi is your place. Bloody expensive, but yummy food.

The following weekend, I participated in my first ever marathon - the annual Terry Fox run. Except, I walked the 6 kilometers. I'm not a runner. So I half-ran half-walked. I am glad I completed it, even though 6 kms is hardly a distance. I hope to do more.

Just when things were getting back to routine, S fell ill. Nothing serious, but we were in the hospital for five days. We're still here, waiting for the discharge papers to come as I write this.

So yes, it's been an eventful year from when I turned 27. Highs, lows, new experiences, bouts of moodiness, a new addition to our family (one who lights up our days with just a smile)... The only thing that hasn't happened is writing. Let's not dwell much upon that for now. As my birthday approaches, the weight in my stomach seems lighter and the thumping in my heart is considerably more mellow. I still feel I haven't done anything significant in my life, but last month, I made the first step towards making a difference in somebody else's. I started sponsoring a child, something I'd been wanting to do for a long time, but didn't know the avenues to do so. It's just been two months, and it's not a huge amount, but it is something. And I registered to be an organ donor. I'm not putting this up here because I want any praises. I'm saying it because I wanted to share the joy with you. When I got the sponsorship kit from the organization with a photo of the child I'm sponsoring, my eyes welled up. To be honest, I don't even  know how much of a difference I will make in his life. I don't even know how much of the money I'm paying will even be utilized for his benefit. But I feel like I'm finally doing something worthwhile with my money.

Turning 28 hasn't been so bad, after all.

*If you managed to read the whole post, thank you for your patience. This is what happens when I don't write very often. I tend to ramble endlessly. 

June 24, 2014

Book Review: The Winds of Hastinapur*

Title: The Winds of Hastinapur
Author: Sharath Komarraju
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Mythology





It is the season of remakes and retellings, from the looks of it. To be honest, I’m a little wary of film remakes. I mean, why redo something that was already done well? It’s akin to unravelling a perfectly knitted sweater and then trying to do it all over again.

I’m not making any sense, I know. That is what happens when you write after ages. You start to lose coherence. Thankfully, that is not the case with Sharath Komarraju, author of The Winds of Hastinapur.

TWoH is a retelling of the Mahabharata – nothing new here, since there have been quite a few retellings by other authors. What DOES make the book different is the point of view from which it is being told – the women.

“My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do  ot  have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place once I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water... it is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.”

TWoH retells the epic through the eyes of Ganga and Satyavati, the two wives of King Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur. Ganga, or Jahnavi, a young river maiden, lives in Meru,the land of celestials. At the ripe age of 14, she is sent to earth to set right a curse that the wife of sage Vasishta cast upon Prabhasa, one of the celestials. Thus Ganga goes to earth and becomes queen to King Shantanu, promising him a son who will be his heir and future king of Hastinapur. And bear him a son she does, but not before bearing seven more before him, and killing all seven of them soon after their birth. This was her curse. She soon returns to Meru after fulfilling her duty on earth, but brings her son, Devavrata, the supposed future king of Hastinapur, with her, because she cannot bear to part with him. The second part of the book is from the point of view of Satyavati, also known as Kali, a fisherman’s daughter who goes on to become King Shantanu’s second wife. Her rise from being a mere fisherman’s daughter to becoming a queen, the role she plays in shaping Devavrata’s destiny, etc. forms the rest of the tale.

I liked the fact that the book was written from the point of view of the women of Mahabharata, and that too the lesser known ones, than the men. It gives a very fresh perspective to the epic. It took me a while to get going with the book, because I felt that the first half is a little slow. But it picks up speed towards the second half. But then again, a retelling of an epic is hardly meant to be a racy read, right (the exception being the Shiva trilogy by Amish, maybe)? Do not pick up the book if you have no time on your hands to read. I unfortunately couldn’t relish the book much because I was hard-pressed for time and had committed to review the book by a particular date. I will be going back for a thorough reading soon enough.

A few pointers to the author and editors – I found the text used very annoying. The bold font throughout the book was quite an eyesore. Next time, maybe used a bigger font size and cut out the bold type, please? Also, the cover. Not. Done. Na-ah. It reminded me of some of those tacky mythological adaptations on televisions. It does not do justice to the book at all. Sharath Komarraju is a truly gifted writer, no doubts about that. But I would have preferred it if the pace had been slightly quicker. And the editing could have been crisper, maybe a few pages shorter. But that’s just my opinion. I’ve become a lazy reader of late.

Retelling of epics is a tricky business, I must say. And to stand out amongst a long line-up of writers who have made an attempt at it previously is no mean task. Sharath succeeds in this. Go for it if you are a mythology fan. Go for it anyways, if you appreciate a good book. It is definitely worth your time.

My rating: 3.5 / 5

Check more about the author and his writing here.

*This is an author-requested review. 


P.S:- I forgot to give you guys a very important update. I am a proud aunt to a gorgeous little girl now. She was born on April 9. I have honestly never felt such unconditional affection for anyone the way I do for the little munchkin. She is a beautiful beautiful baby. 

March 8, 2014

Book Review - Sorting Out Sid by Yashodhara Lal

Title: Sorting Out Sid
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reviewed for: Indiblogger and Harper Collins

To be honest, the synopsis of Sorting Out Sid wasn’t the most appealing. It sounded like just another coming-of-age-of-messed-up-dude story that we are all too familiar with.

But I’d absolutely loved her first book. So I thought “Why not? Let’s give it a shot”. So I did.

Sure, Sorting Out Sid, in its true essence, IS a coming-of-age story. And it’s not very different from the many others we’ve read. But it’s not the story that makes the book an enjoyable read. It’s how it’s written.

Sid (short for Siddharth, of course) is 36, works for a toilet cleaner manufacturer, is one of the most promising stars of the company, chugs beer like water, and is an over-all lovable guy. But behind all that, his 15-year old marriage is falling apart. He and his wife don’t talk anymore, and whenever they do, it is to fight. He has good friends, albeit slightly over-interfering ones. And his relationship with his parents isn’t exactly warm. He happens to meet Neha, single mom, artist, and there’s a spark. Is it anything more than that? Is it love? Can Sid and Neha move past their turbulent marriages and give each other a chance? Will Sid and his ex-wife be able to call it a day peacefully? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Sorting Out Sid is a good read, one of those books that you would pick up over a weekend and finish it in two days. It is well written in simplistic language, which I suppose is characteristic of the author, and that’s fine, because by now, I’ve come to realise that the mark of a good writer isn’t exactly the use of big words and literary language. The characters are well etched out, starting from Sid to his ex-wife Mandira to his friend Aditi, they all have their place in the story and add significantly to the story, instead of just walk-on parts.

I had initially found the character sketch of Sid to be rather clich├ęd, and was prepared to put up with an annoying hero who is lovable to everyone in spite of having no redeeming quality whatsoever (ala the protagonist from Shuddh Desi Romance. I wanted to shake that guy and slap the stupidity out of him- and out of the girls who keep falling for him for no discernible reason). But due credit has to be given to Yashodhara Lal for not overdoing it and creating a believable true-to-life character (no doubt inspired from real life / lives) who we all come across, or can identify a bit with.

The problem with having a hugely successful book as your debut novel is that it comes with the baggage of expectation. The only area where it fails in this department is the humour. I had found ‘Just Married, Please Excuse’ to be incredibly funny. SOS (Ah...NOW I get it! Clever) isn’t as funny, although it tries to be, sometimes a bit hard. The toilet jokes get a little redundant after a point, but Sid is one those who suffers from foot-in-the-mouth disease, so that provides quite a few opportunities for laughs.


On the whole, a well written book. It’s not going to change your life or give you any life-altering epiphanies. But it WILL make you smile and want to turn the page to know what happens next in Sid’s fucked up life, and whether he gets sorted out or not.

My rating - 3/5

January 11, 2014

Sunday Morning Sounds

Back when I was studying in HCU, I used to call up home every Sunday morning at around 10:30-11:00. I used to call up to listen to ‘Sunday morning sounds’. The radio playing at full volume, Amma  exasperatedly telling Acha to turn it down, the mixer running in the kitchen, whistle of the pressure cooker, voices of neighbours who had dropped in for a casual chat. If I listened very very carefully, I could even hear the pages of the newspaper rustling as Acha pored over every word, sitting in the cane chair in the balcony with his second cup of tea (well, not really, but you know what I mean).

What is so unusual about these sounds, you ask? Nothing, really. But as a girl who was staying away from home for the first time, these were sounds of comfort. Sounds of familiarity. Sounds that I had grown up hearing, but never really listened to. I would have just finished eating yet another crappy MESS breakfast of alu-paratha (which was like the Bermuda Triangle for potatoes. They always went missing) and tea that never tasted like tea, but was at least edible. I never regretted leaving home. In fact, I was one of the few girls who didn’t even cry when our parents were leaving after settling us down in the hostel. I was excited. I was scared, of course, but I was excited too. I was about to embark upon an adventure, the very first REAL adventure of my life. Away from the sheltered life that I had grown accustomed to. Away from the city that knew me so well. No more hot home-made food waiting when I get back from classes famished. No more clean clothes that get magically washed and dried and ironed without me having to do anything at all. No more maid to clean the room for me. No more of knowing that no matter how late I get, Acha would come and pick me up. The Sunday morning calls were the one thing that I held on to. They helped me get through the rest of the week. Because I knew that no matter what changed, no matter what disaster had happened during the week, Sunday morning would bring back to me the familiar, and would restore faith in me that all is right with the world. Every time the pressure of assignments and studies got to me, and I wanted to just chuck everything and go back home, the Sunday morning sounds were my strength. They were like my ticket to sanity.

But gradually, the Sunday morning sound calls waned. I stopped calling home to hear them. The regular calls happened, of course. But not the Sunday morning ones. Or rather, it stopped mattering to me. Even if Amma did call me on Sunday mornings, which she almost always does, I never bothered to listen to them. I never paid attention to them. Why is that? Was it because I had grown up and grown out of it? Did I not need my Sunday morning sounds anymore? Did I not need that comfort and familiarity anymore? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because once I moved out of the hostel and started living on my own, I got so wrapped up in ‘being independent’ and ‘fending for myself’, that I didn’t feel the need to hear the familiar sounds. It was not a conscious decision. It’s something that happened without me even realising it had.

I didn’t realise this had happened, until last a few days back, when, the whistle of a pressure cooker from a neighbouring apartment triggered off the memory in my mind. The memory of Sunday morning sounds. And just like that, a hand clenched around my heart. I had this sudden urge to call up Amma and tell her “I called up to hear the Sunday morning sounds, Amma”. But I didn’t. It wasn’t a Sunday, of course. You can’t hear Sunday morning sound s on a Tuesday morning, can you, silly? So I waited.

And this morning, I called up home. And there they were. The radio playing in the background. Pressure cooker whistle. Acha talking to someone. Amma saying that a neighbour had dropped in for a chat.
And all is right with the world again. J

Do you have any such ritual, anything that you do just to reassure yourself that some things never change? Come on, there’s gotta be something.


P.S1: Happy New Year, folks! Have a great one. 

P.S2: I was in a mood to ramble today. To be honest, this post reflects my earliest kind of writing, when I used to write just for the heck of writing, not to be read. I wonder why I'm not able to write like that anymore. I hope I didn't bore you. 

P.S3: P.S's can be annoying no?