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Photo taken at Plitvice National Park, Croatia by Vibhor Dhote Oh! What are these days I have found myself in! The bagpacks I carry n...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Because You're a Woman

I am often surprised, if not dismayed, when I read those angry articles on women, and especially when it’s penned down by a woman.

A few days back I read a piece of article written by a renowned author quoting that the modern woman instead of seeking to be a man should regain her femininity.

Whenever it’s mentioned what a man or woman “should” do or be like, it disappoints me. Who decides who should behave like whom? Are these the rules written in ancient scriptures, which were written by no one else but men or women like us who happened to belong to a different era? Are these the rules mentioned by kings and queens who no longer reign? Or are these rules conveyed by the Almighty himself/herself whose existence is somehow dubious for some, if not all, of the people?
It must be amusing to look at the world through the tinted glasses one wears; and then whenever a color seems too bright or too pale, to quote it as a misfit.

Where lays the liberty of just being human? Is it really that impossible to breathe in air without judging one’s ways of life?

And then maybe it’s amusing to typecast someone into that one adjective you form in your head about him/her. It seems amusing to simply claim that a woman is “not feminine enough” when she does something that is not quite expected from her. And again she would be “too girlish” if she is obeying all the rules that a woman should obey according to some people. May be men feel the same way about being judged or typecasted.

“You seem to be a tomboy,” said a woman after I spent only around fifteen minutes conversing with her, a conversation in which I asked questions about her instead of talking about myself. She must have felt good to be able to judge a person in fifteen minutes.

“I am sure I am more than just that,” I replied.

It would be wrong to say I was hurt. When someone, who till that point of time was your source of inspiration to reach great heights in your life, calls you an adjective that you do not think defines you, it’s shattering. I had questions in my mind, I wanted to ask why she called me that.

You like the word “tomboy” only when you are ten years old, reading novels for children. When you’re twenty two, you know these words do not define who you really are. In every situation one behaves differently; so how can one person be limited to just one adjective no matter what that adjective is. And not just the word “tomboy”, I often not feel like calling someone simply “good” or “bad” or “girlish” or any adjective. There has to be some explanations. One has to be good in something while in another thing he/she can be bad, ugly, better or even good.

“Why did she call me a tomboy?” I asked one of my friends that evening.

“If you’re a tomboy, it means you’re unladylike.” He replied.

So if the word “tomboy” wasn’t enough, I was called “unladylike”. Not that I wanted to be ladylike but I did not want to be a tomboy either. A tomboy is a girl who behaves in a boyish manner. Why would I want to behave in a boyish manner? I would just behave like myself, right?

And this takes me back to where this post began: the author quoting that a woman should not seek to be equal with man and be feminine instead.

I am sure I will be a great disappointment to these words of hers. I do not seek to be equal with man. But I do not want my being a woman, be a limitation when I really want to do something. And here comes the misconception regarding feminism or the equality of men and women. People often think of the liberty of smoking, drinking and having sex, when it comes to the word feminism. And then they think a feminist doesn’t want to get married or bear kids.

In my opinion, feminism is not a race against men. It is more of accepting who you are. And it is what the motive of this article is, not judging people and not letting such judgments affect you or limit you.
It is not listening to pleas or orders that begin with “because you’re a woman you should…”.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Other Side of the Bed – A Book Review

Published in Fried Eye on Feb 15, 2014. Click Here to read it.

Author: Bhavya Kaushik
Published by: Parlance Publishers
Publication Year : 2013
Number of Pages: 260
Language: English

“The Other Side of the Bed” – When I first read the name of the book I thought it to be the story of a person who has lost his better half. Death, I didn’t think it was. I thought it was more of heartbreak in a relationship, the one that leaves you shattered and lonely as you look at the now-empty other side of the bed. As I went through the first few pages, I realized I was wrong; it was death, something that makes you hollow and hopeless from within, for you know the other person will never come back and you will never be the same again.

As I went through a few more pages of the book, I realized it is not just about crying for a dear one you have lost. It’s much more than that. It is about finding hope and learning to be happy even when there is no reason to smile. It’s about holding on to that only piece of floating wood when your ship has sunk in an endless ocean. It’s about trying to keep oneself afloat in the whirlpool of sorrows. It’s not about forgetting but about accepting your loss.

I went through a few more pages of the book; by now I was hooked to it and I was always imagining what might be next. And then I realized the book is not only about moving on; it’s also about the nine synchronized bomb blasts that took within fifteen minutes in the city of Jaipur in the year 2008. Hundreds of innocent lives were either lost or injured that day leaving behind homeless children, grieving parents and despair.

One of my favourite quotations from the novel - “When a husband loses his wife, they call him a widower. When a wife loses her husband, they call her a widow. And when somebody’s parents die, they call them an orphan. But there is no name for a parent, a grieving mother, or a devastated father who have lost their child. Because the pain behind the loss is so immeasurable and unbearable, that it cannot be described in a single word. It just cannot be described.”

The story begins with Nakul who recently lost his wife, after literally a lifetime of togetherness, due to the bomb blasts that took place. Broken and forlorn, he lives a dead life for a month until he meets Devyani who has a story sadder than his. She apart from losing her mother in those blasts and her father, of whom she remembers nothing, in her early childhood, had also lost her brother in an accident in which she was blamed to be the murderer.

Together the “grief-mates” take up a journey to help each other in living a normal life and, as it turned out later, to help sixteen other lives invigorating hope within them and in the end gifting the society with a unique book leaving behind an indirect social message about the morbid effects of terrorism.

A few hundred words can never do justice to the amazing journey I went through reading this book written by Bhavya Kaushik. One has to read it to find out the various emotions it contains and the messages it imprints on the reader’s mind. Neglecting the few grammatical errors it contains, this book promises to be a wonderful read containing everything a mature reader looks for. From a perky love story to a dark pit of grief and sorrow to a promising bright future, the writer brings forth every side of the story quite well. For me, it’s a must-read.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Atrocity in a Metro City

Published in the October 2013 issue of Fried Eye

“Punugulu,” she said and I considered it to be a joke. I asked her again the name of the food we were served for breakfast that day. And when my room-mate repeated the word, I realized she wasn’t kidding at all. I wasted no time to google up the word and find images of the food that looked exactly like what was on my plate. It’s been two weeks that I am in Hyderabad, yet I find it difficult to recognize the food I am served in my hostel. I was never a fan of South Indian cuisine and hence the ignorance.

“Hyderabadi Biryani” is the first couple of words that come to one’s mind when one thinks of Hyderabad. Well, I don’t know of the adjective “Hyderabadi” but I sure had the Biryani in three or more places here and I can say that the Biryani served in Guwahati was different, if not better.

These differ, everyone’s view points as well as everyone’s taste buds; and I, being a person who has a sweet tooth, have absolutely no palate for spicy food. People here, I have noticed, must be fond of spices. Of course, one cannot judge about the food by what they serve in hostels, but spice is the common thing I find in the food served in almost every meal.

But the best part is the curd they serve in each meal. Curd is sometimes used as a desert and sometimes as a curry or sauce here. But I love curd and I have no issues with its “over-usage”. Getting to eat nice Idlis, Dosas, Upma and Punugulus is an added advantage.

Of course all kinds of restaurants are available here for those who do not like to eat South Indian food, yet it is, at times, nice to have a variety of dishes to eat which you have never tasted before.
Ever heard of lemon rice? Well, it has nothing to do with the image that your mind must have formed, thinking of it as rice and chunks of lemon juice or something similar. It’s fried rice where lemon juice is sprinkled on it and is one of the popular dishes they serve.

But what difficulty a girl like me faces here is identifying the various curries one is served with.  So once, in my rush to office, I took out my tiffin box and began to take the things served for breakfast hurriedly. I usually ask my hostel-mates or the cooks about what is served, before considering them to be taken to office for lunch. Next I know is I somehow catch the bus that was already leaving. Finally being able to grab a seat for myself in the bus, I ruminated over the stuffs that I put in my lunchbox. They were, to my utter disappointment, plain rice which I thought was lemon rice, Upma which I thought was mashed potatoes to have with the imaginary lemon rice, and Ground nut paste which I had no idea how to put into use with the weird combination of dishes I took. No doubt I had to buy my lunch that day in the office cafeteria. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Serenity Calls...

Come to me when the fear does overpower
and I will lull you with the tales of valour
fear not the fear lurking inside you
like the demons, it will be defeated too

Come to me when grief strikes you hard
and I will sing to you the songs of a bard
grief too will falter, sorrow will leave
and the shelter of joy together we will weave

Come to me when you think you are all alone
and I will show you it sits not on a throne
it is love eternal that is within your heart
loneliness will elope, don't break apart

Oh, come to me when you feel there is evil
and I will remind you of your true will
for there's good within you, mighty and pious
evil will diminish, in peace it will leave us

Come to me when cruel seems your life
and all that's bad, we together will wipe
come to me when nothing seems alright
we'll overcome with our spirits blithe...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Utopian Love

Published in Fried Eye - the magazine on 15 September 2013
Click here

“Utopian dreams” they call it when a young girl or boy, mostly in their teens, dream of having that perfect life of “one true love” hyped by almost all the movies in the world. Let it be a movie on patriotism or a superhero movie, there always is an element of love present that gives the audience a good feeling about it. Yes, indeed love is important and I believe it is essential too. Because without love how can a mother give birth to her child or how can a father gift his child with everything the little one asks for. Without love there would have been no friendships and no protective siblings too. But when people do not put conditions on their relationships with friends, cousins or parents, why is it that one expects and demands so much from one’s spouse? Why are there the insecurities and jealousies that help the once-good relationship to fail so miserably? And then one is left to cry alone, feeling cheated and vulnerable claiming never to fall in love again.

Love can be in any form – from a parent, a friend, a pet or even a stranger. Yet we deny that special bonding and crave for that one special person who would come into our lives and complete us. It is probably human nature to ask for what one does not have.

 And if/when someone comes into our lives, we judge them, we ask from them what they cannot give in these days of busy lives– their time and attention. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to text your mother all day long or calling your father every half an hour to know where they are. But no, we do not do that to people who genuinely love us. Nor do we ever doubt their love or complain that they do not care. We do that only to people who come to our lives all of a sudden claiming of love and we, ungratified, ask for more.
We grow up with our parents, siblings and cousins and we all have made a number of friends in our lives; and although each of them is unique and different we love them unconditionally. But when it comes to choosing a life partner, we have a checklist (or a wishlist to be precise as no one would ever be that person with all the qualities we ask for). And then there will be peer pressure when someone finally finds someone who would meet most (if not, all) of the qualities on our checklist. Either your friends will express their approval for the other person and tell you to hook up with him/her, even if you do not want to, or they will disapprove of the person and tell you to stay away from him/her no matter if you like it or not.

“Follow your heart”, people say. But do we, really?

Often my friends come to me to seek some counseling on their relationship that’s falling apart or a budding friendship that might head somewhere else. And even if they like it or not, after an hour or two of discussion and “preaching”, I always say one thing – “Just live and love,” and I end the conversation with “You are allowed to expect all the good things in life, but they will come when you stop demanding for them or whining about them.” Many a times, I have been given a note of heartfelt thanks. Even strangers (mostly girls) have sent me mails, after reading my story “Happily Ever After” from an anthology, saying that they learnt a thing or two about how to be happy with oneself after reading it.

But many times my advice have been ignored too; but I would stick to what I say because that is something I personally believe in. They say, preach what you practice; then why should I act differently just because someone wants to hear a different story, a different truth?

Love, even when it is unrequited, because loving is divine and so is caring for someone knowing very well that there is nothing to gain in return. And if/when you find yourself in a relationship, respect the other one as much as you respect yourself and love yourself as much as you love the other one. There won’t be any place for tears when you count your moments of joy. Give them their space and take your own space too. And instead of making them the centre of your world why don’t you yourself remain in the centre with all your loved ones comprising your world- from family to friends to that special someone?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thick Skin or a Filter?

You know what people can do to you? They can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. And then they can gently give a push so that you tumble down and hurt yourself. They can love you and then they can ruin you. They can make you feel that you’re the best and then they will begin to find the flaws on you. They can show you what’s wrong with you and they can make you feel miserable. They can let you know that you’re beautiful inside and everyone should be like you. And then they can tell you what and how you should be like.


But can they? Really?

I believe they can’t. Well, unless, of course if you let them.

Thick skin, some people call it. But what I believe is that rather than having a thick skin that is immune to all the criticism of the world, one can just learn to be happy while having a thin and all-absorbing skin too.

If you’re peaceful inside and content, not complacent, with yourself how can anyone’s opinion bother you?
How can a break-up shatter you? Or, how can a person make you the happiest in the world?
How can a story make you feel miserable? Or, how can another make you feel good about yourself?

Absorb what is necessary. Reject what is untrue, even only in your opinion. Be a filter rather than a thick skin.

But then, do not listen to me too. Be what you are. Be what you want to be. But don’t always be as you are. Improve. There’s always room for improvement. But improve with each passing experience, each passing day. Advisors will be many (like me :-P), but you’ll be the only one who will know which one is the best for you.

And above all, be happy with yourself. In this way, no one can come into your life to double your happiness or to ruin it. The control is always in your heart, if not hands. You’re the master of your moods and feelings. 
Know it.

If you’re happy because of someone, it is only because you’ve made yourself feel so. And when that someone becomes hurtful, don’t let yourself feel so. Simple, isn’t it?

I read it somewhere – Life is indeed simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Smile; you’re blessed and so is everyone else. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Hate My Brother

This article is published in Vivid Magazine on 31st August 2013

I hate my brother” says 6-year old Rena complaining about her elder brother who is in class 8 and loves to pull her braids all the time. The little girl thinks he does not love her as he plays with her hair despite of the fact that she doesn’t like it. Rena’s mother tells us that her son loves to annoy his little sister yet loves her and cares for her a lot. However, little Rena is too young to understand this and is now unwilling to tie him the Raakhi her mother brought, on the 21st of this month.
In a family with more than one child, and esp. when one of them is a boy, there happen these silly fights for no reason. Usually, the boy enjoys the fight while his sister (elder or younger) is left annoyed and sometimes, crying. Yet on the day of Rakshabandhan, every girl lovingly dresses herself in a beautiful ethnic dress, prepares a thaali with an earthen lamp, sweets, flowers, sindoor mixed with oil for the teeka and of course, the thread of love a Raakhi.

Read the entire article HERE

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scented Paradise

I was brought up in a different house, not the one I currently live in. The new house, I know it from only a couple of years ago. The old one, it was what I called home. Even when I dream now I see myself in the old house. It was cozy and it gave a comfort my new house could never give. The Sundays were perfect there. My home used to smell of marigolds when I would go by the room where the idols of Lord Krishna was kept adorned with flowers and a censer containing a burning incense spreading its fragrance in the entire room. Mother would be in the kitchen cooking my favourite dal and the smell of the chicken curry being stirred would make me hungry and eager for lunch. The parlour would have the TV on being watched by Dad sipping a cup of Darjeeling tea just before lunch, a peculiar habit. The smell of the tea would somehow remind me of a beautiful sunrise on a faraway field sans people but birds and cattle. And my room would smell of nothing else but books; there were five bookshelves in my room filled with nothing but books of all sorts – novels by various writers, encyclopedia, magazines on various topics, religious books, et cetera.

But there was this particular smell I never liked – our neighbour smoking like a chimney and the polluted air entering my room through the ventilators and windows. I am an asthma patient and hence my tolerance level to cigarette-smoke is negligible. Being an asthma patient also keeps me from enjoying many things in my life, particularly when it comes to being able to identify various smells. And when the smell is not strong enough it, without a trace of doubt, escapes my senses.

“Noticed that smell?” I have often been asked while the answer invariably has been a “No” with a shrug.

“Nose block,” I would reason.

Because of my frequent nose-blocks I’d sometimes apply a little too much deodorant as I could never tell how much would be too much. Sometimes Mom would tease me that when I use the deodorant it acts as an air freshener and the whole house smells of me.

This reminds me of my first date. May be I had sprayed a lot of deodorant on myself that day or may be just the adequate amount; I can’t tell but this is what happened. That day when I returned back home I received a romantic text from the guy that my fragrance reminded him of all the good things in the world. I, since that day, made it a point to wear that deodorant every day and to my utter surprise he would always compliment me on the smell I have (the credit goes to the deo of course). Too bad they do not make that deo anymore. 

Ever since I switched my deo, I do not get compliments anymore on “my” fragrance.

But then dates and fragrances always have some connection. So when my deo wasn’t the same anymore, the notice came to the cosmetics I use.

 So this is what happened – I love to brag about how little or no cosmetics I use. I would keep on telling that I go outdoors without applying even a dab of talcum powder. So one fine day, when we were sitting together, he asked, “what’s that smell?”

As usual, I had no idea what he was talking about, “what smell?”

“Aah.. lacto calamine. I love it. You put that on for me?” He guessed the smell of the product I used on my face and to my utter dismay, he was right. I was embarrassed and he had a great laugh seeing me giving in to the contradiction.

Another day, he just guessed the shampoo I used on my hair and that too quite easily.

But of all the compliments I ever got, the best one was a text that said – “when your hair is open, it smells of heaven.”

But then if there is a heaven, a paradise, I would like that to smell like my home, our old house, which is dilapidated due to a sudden earthquake, and the remains sold out.

P.S. This post is written as an entry for a contest conducted by Indiblogger and AmbiPur. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - A Review

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is more than just a tribute to the legendary Milkha Singh. It is not simply a story of how he achieved stardom but it also teaches the viewers how one can overcome his fears and leave behind a macabre past. It also proves those axioms that say hard work pays off and that determination and focus are keys to achieving success.

The movie commenced with the epic scene of 1960 Olympics at Rome where Milkha failed to win the race for some reason that appears to the other characters in the movie as a “silly mistake”.  We, the audience, are shown the emotional turmoil our protagonist is going through and the first impression built in my mind was “hats off to the cinematographer”. The director of photography, Binod Pradhan has indeed done justice to the movie.

The three hours long movie didn’t seem as tedious as it sounded at first (Of course company matters, but the movie wasn’t a bad company after all). For those who watch movies not only for entertainment but also to return home with a larger view of life and/or enlightenment, BMB is highly recommended. Of course, not everyone will be able to bear through a movie with some minor so-obvious incidents without much suspense, but overlooking the minor flaws this movie is one that will remain in the viewer’s head even long after the movie is over.

The story of ambitions, love and reasons was well directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, exploiting Farhan Akhtar’s versatility and skill. Sonam Kapoor and Rebecca Breeds play characters who have affected Milkha Singh’s life; while one was his reason to leave his petty way of living and joining the Indian Army, the other one was his reason for losing concentration and focus in his career.

Other impressive performances were by Prakash Raj, Pavan Malhotra and Yograj Singh playing influential characters that have made Milkha the man he is now. Divya Dutta plays the athletes elder sister who lovingly becomes like a mother to the latter when they leave their village during Indo-Pak partition. A scene where she is sexually assaulted by her husband invigorates terror and disgust in the young Milkha, as well as the audience, and becomes a small turning point in building Milkha’s character as a rebel. Young Milkha is well played by Master Jabtej Singh, winning the hearts of the audience with his innocence and charm.

Dalip Tahil, however, plays the role of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and unintentionally makes the audience laugh and giggle – something that could have been avoided to make the dialogues more effective.

Prasoon Joshi does a commendable job with the script that portrays the emotions well and makes you enjoy the show.

In a nutshell, the movie is a must-watch for those who are willing to sit for three hours experiencing a saga of perseverance, aspiration, love and terror.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Kaleidoscope - Different Strokes for Different Folks

Title: Kaleidoscope- Different Strokes for Different Folks
Published by: Parlance Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Genre: Various
Price: 150 INR
No. of Pages: 250
Launched in: 25 May 2013
Rate: 3.5/5

Springtide, an online English youth magazine in association with Parlance Publishers, organized a contest inviting Indian writers to submit their short stories on any specific genre. The contest went on for the entire month of April’13 and more than 1150 entries were received to be judged by Ashwin Sanghi, one of the country’s bestselling conspiracy fiction writers. The results were announced by the second week of May declaring the top 25 writers whose stories were later published in the anthology “Kaleidoscope: Different Strokes for Different Folks”.

The anthology begins with ‘The Hunter’, a short-story written by Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the winner of the contest mentioned above. The writing is flawless and the story is cleverly written, first indicating a different end for the characters while giving the story a contrary end, an unexpected twist. Other factors that make the story the best are the well-justified conversation between the central characters of the story, the thoughts of the protagonist, i.e., the hunter arising in apt situations, the flow of the story and the good narration that keeps the reader glued to the pages.

Next, in the anthology, comes Deboshree Bhattacharjee’s ‘The House’. Although the beginning of the story is appealing, a raring reader might lose his reasons of reading the story in the middle, but only to get to the beautiful yet tragic ending which makes the read worthwhile. The story somehow reminded me of the short stories our English textbooks contained delivering a message in the end.

Tale of the Knitting Yarn is a sad story written by Nabanita Dhar about an optimist and perseverant Shreya who waits patiently for her husband Ashish to return from the war he had been fighting for the country. No, he doesn’t die fighting the war as a reader might expect in such scenarios. But the ironic end to the story surely makes the reader sigh at the way fate acts.

Renuka Vishwanathan’s ‘Voice Male’ is a “love” (notice the quotes) story totally out of the box with an end that one might not expect even in his wildest of dreams. It indeed leaves the reader uttering “gee” for the protagonist.

‘The Domino Effect’ by Deepa Duraisamy is a story involving various characters and incidences weaved by the fact that one action leads to another and that the consequences of a impish school-going girl not helping a blind woman on the road might be as huge as averting a major catastrophe in just four hours.

Then there comes the spooky story, ‘The Hike to the Temple’ by Prasanna Rao where a small group of archaeologists visit a haunted temple as part of their research. The factor that made this story be in the top 25 is the way the story unfurls and the reader’s lips form a giant ‘O’ as the ending is revealed. One might even read the story twice just to confirm the fact that he couldn’t guess the ending in spite of reading each sentence minutely.

Vaibhav Mukim’s ‘Food’ is a science fiction divided into seven scenes and while all readers may not comprehend it clearly, the writer deserves a pat on the back for presenting the story in a unique manner and for his capability of imagination and the different outlook given to death and immortality.

‘Happy Puppet’ is a story very beautifully written by Bhavya Kaushik. With a nice flow, the story manages to make drops of tear trickle down from the eyes of the reader. Unlike the name, it begins on a sad note and ends with a sadder one.

Garima Nowal’s ‘The White Dress’ is a wonderful story of a girl who considered herself unlucky for various reasons. The story seems to be a simple fairy-tale at the beginning but the way the entire story takes a different turn just by adding that last one sentence in the end is where all the beauty writing lies.

Rafaa Dalvi’s ‘Karma is a bitch’ may not be his best of works but the story surely is different, erotic at times. Although the title reveals the message of the story, the story manages to leave a chill through your spine as it reveals its supernatural tinge.

‘Redemption’ by Harihar Adarsh is an amazing story that takes you to the ancient times where kings ruled and magic existed. A story well-weaved, it leaves the message that it isn’t any king or immortality or power, but love which conquers all.

‘The Last Date’ by Sarvana Kumar Murugan revolves around a couple who faces the anger of a person whose love was unrequited, in the worst form humanely possible. The theme and concept of the story is commendable but a more fluent narration would have made the story much better altogether.

Khushi Gupta, a minor, writes ‘I Love You Too’ in a much more sensible way than expected from writers of her age. A feel-good story leaving a message to all those who fear to speak up their heart, it also leaves a smile on the reader’s face.

Nehali Lalwani’s ‘Alive Inside’ gives that eerie feeling while reading the story that you know something isn’t right but you don’t know what. Nevertheless, it ends on a good note no matter how scary.

‘Theory of Evolution’ by Balaganesh Pitchai, an intelligently devised and well written story, gives a whole new point of view to look at the planet Earth and its dwellers.

‘’I’ Operated’ is the description of an operation keeping the patient, a sixteen-year old girl as the narrator, composed poignantly by Smriti Mahale.

Parul Tyagi’s ‘The Star that Shines on me’ is a mind-blowing story of a Muslim woman abandoned by her husband to live with her four children. Sometimes there is more than what meets the eye. In the same way, the protagonist has more courage and secrets than what we expect from a poverty-stricken burqa-clad conservative woman.

Anurag Bhatt’s ‘The boy who sold books’ is an inspirational story and reminds us of the importance of education and how few children do not get the privilege of going to school.

‘Chaos’ by Rahul Biswas is again another gem in this collection. A wonderful story about terrorism, bomb blasts and a police inspector, it will remind you of all those Bollywood movies about patriotism (or rather the opposite) that contain a lot of action and twists. The climax surely makes you say “wow” as you flip through the pages.

‘Secret of the Murderous Woods’ by Sanhita Baruah (that’s me) is a story involving two friends, a murder and a secret. You can send your feedbacks at

Aman Mathur writes ‘First Contact’ based on a futuristic view of the Universe in the year 2213. It is a brilliantly excogitated story involving a whole new idea of extraterrestrials and an ending with the human protagonist quoting an ironic phrase.

Shishir Dhingra’s ‘The Journey of my Life’ is a simple love story written in a beautiful way, not the author’s best work though. Yet, the impact of this piece of work remains as the conversation and the way the boy proposes his feelings is fascinating.

‘The Unknown Destination’ by Aniruddh Naik takes you from an e-mail at the present age to the medieval ages when Chandragupta Maurya had ruled and then leaves you pondering about curses, prophecies, secret societies and tantra.

‘Crazy Scarf’ is a sweet story written by ‘Prabhat Singh’ about love at first sight but from a different perspective and the protagonist here is a little one (literally) and one has to read it to find out more.

This diverse collection of 25 stories ends with Ayush Agarwal’s story of love that can drive you mad titled ‘When Love Oozed Out Blood’ with three main characters in a love-triangle but not necessarily the way one expects. The vicious scene in the beginning of this story is the show-stealer. The ending is sad and it leaves a message for our society indicating that a change is required in our thinking.

As a whole, this anthology of 250 pages proves to be a nice read for those who love to read stories of various genres. All the stories are good, albeit some are better than the others but none leaves you uninterested.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Three Concubines

(This post is up on write-up cafe on behalf of my team Coup d'East. The 3 ingredients used in this story are - Dead Tiger, Wine Bottle, Superhero. You can also find the story here)

I am called a disbeliever of love; they don’t know I am not. They don’t understand why I prefer to live alone, nevertheless I do. They say it’s ludicrous that I stay away from love; I am not away from love. They say I need a woman, a lover; they don’t know I am in love.

To be honest, I was never loveless in my life. Love came at various times, well of course to me, and not to the other side. After the death of my mother, I was probably never loved back in return. But love would never leave my side. Like a little plant coming out from a planted seed, love would always arise in some corner of my heart and in no time, it would fill my entire heart. But unrequited love is difficult, to say the least, if not homicidal. And all my life, I have craved for love only to be turned down by my fate.

The only love I ever experienced was from my mother.
My father was a good man, socially. I wanted to study and grow up to be like him. But I knew I couldn’t, for I wasn’t half as bright as he was, or as any of my classmates.

“But, you will have a brighter future” my mother would tell me when I used to cry for being dull in studies. It’s needless to say that my father didn’t think so. But my mother, she would always protect me whenever my drunken father would try to raise a hand on me. “Brainsick” he called me when I repeatedly failed to pass my exams for the third standard. Tireless efforts of my sick mother made me pass in the exams of the second standard. And when the results were declared and I returned home to tell my mother that I am eligible to sit in class III now, I found my mother lying dead on her bed. She had finally succumbed to the lung cancer she had been fighting for years.

“Mother, open your eyes, I am finally in class three.” These were the last words I spoke to my loving mother’s cadaver.

Ever since that day, ever since I reached class three, I was never loved again.

Class Three.

The word three holds a deeper meaning for me. For today I divide my heart and the love in it, into three. Yes, I had two concubines in my life. Tonight, I will have my third as I sit on the chair looking at her conveying my love for her and telling about the love we will make tonight.

I will be a man tonight, an adult, eighteen year old and I celebrate my birthday reminiscing my last two loves and I promise to love my third as long as I live.

I was an eight-year old when I fell in love with my first. Like I said before, I am not a disbeliever of love. I believe in all forms of love. I believe in the love of a mother for a child, I believe in the love of a child for a toy, I believe in love at first sight, I believe in love well-thought-of, in manipulated love, in material love, in unconditional love, in bounded love, in well-reasoned love, and in mindless love.

I saw him on the TV. Helping people, loving people, He was the proof that good wins over evil. He was the proof that if you believe in something it will come to you. He was the unsaid promise that if something bad happens to you; he will come to help you. And if for any reason, little children of my age or older take the wrong path, he will, without fail, come to stop them. He would teach lessons of morality. He would teach that we should always love the poor, the needy, and the weaker ones. He would say that treachery, theft etc is bad and you should never choose such a path. He would always say to love animals, for they will never harm you if you don’t harm them. They will always help.

He was the superhero of our country christened “Shaktiman” by the people, meaning a man of power.
It took me four long years to realize that he was just another fictitious character of the Television, a fake, a lesser mortal like all of us. He didn’t come when I had called for him innumerous times to bring my mother back or to come and love me and stay with me. Nor did he come when I had expected him to; to save my second beloved at her moment of dying.

It was love at first sight, my second love which somehow crept into the house of my heart, pushed the images of the Superhero aside and found its place to sit forever. Alas, the love was ephemeral. I didn’t even get an opportunity to know if she loved me back; I just imagine now that may be she did.

I was fifteen then and she was beautiful. The first thing I noticed about her was her pair of divine green eyes. Next her hair, brown hair yet black in some parts. With great serenity she looked at me back and walked towards me. I stood there dumbfounded by her beauty, by her presence. I knew I was in love with her. She walked towards me and I fell in love with each step of hers. She was only a few inches away when I heard the loud sound of a gunshot. It was our guide, Tiwari ji, who had fired the gun to kill the tigress in front of me, the tigress I fell in love with, and probably the only tigress we saw in our whole trip to Corbett National Park.

I had cried that day, I had cried for a month; and I had argued with our guide, with the teacher who was with us as an escort and with father.

“He went to jail for killing that tigress. He went to jail to save you. You are to be blamed. Don’t you get it?” My father had scolded. But I didn’t understand. I thought the tigress loved me. I thought she wanted to be loved in return, for a change, just like me. I thought we were supposed to love animals, like my fraudulent superhero had preached. I thought they don’t harm you if you don’t harm them. Either by my former love or by my father, I was lied to.

It took me a year or two to forget her, my second love. It took me another year to hate my first love. My heart till now was divided into two – the fake superhero whom now I hated, and the tigress for whose death I was to be blamed. It’s pity that I never got to know if she loved me back like I loved her, if she too fell in love at first sight.

Sometimes people fall in the wrong company, sometimes in the wrong love. May be the choices I made were faulty. May be I fell in love with the wrong ones. But God knows that I never could love anyone else. I was made to love them; and I was made not to be loved in return. I was made to live a melancholic life. I was made to beat myself up for somehow killing a poor tiger. I was destined to hate the Superhero I so believed in. And above all, I was destined to hate myself.

But, I am in love again, and I will make love tonight. I have parted my heart into three for her. And she sits tonight in front of me, flaunting proudly herself to me, telling me that I can’t help but fall in love with her. I am now looking at her entire body; I am planning to make love tonight. I am planning to make love with the beauty in front of me. I am planning to make love with the color red that she contains within her. I am planning to be in love with her forever. I am planning to love her - the bottle of wine, red wine, forever.

Monday, June 24, 2013

An evening with Indrani Raimedhi

[ This is an interview of Indrani Raimedhi madam (IRM), taken by Sanhita Baruah (SB) and Abhinav Bhattacharyya (AB) published in the 2012-13 issue of AECIAN, the annual magazine of Assam Engineering College.]

Indrani Raimedhi is a well-known journalist, columnist and writer. She is an Assistant Editor features in The Assam Tribune, a premier English newspaper of the North East region. Author of eight books, she has been the resource person in IGNOU's phone in radio programme on creative writing. Her books have been selected for purchase by the Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation and the US Library of Congress. In 2004 she was awarded the Kunjabala Devi Award for Investigative Journalism on women's issues. Her fortnightly column ‘The Third Eye’ appears in The Assam Tribune, and has enjoyed great popularity.

SB: Madam, we know that your journey in writing started pretty early and you have been writing since your school days. When was it that you realised that you wanted to opt for a career in journalism?

IRM: Actually, I was not aware that a career in journalism was possible. Interestingly, before even getting enrolled in school, my father enrolled me in the State Central Library of Shillong, where I spent the early years of my life. When I got my library card, I came across the book ‘Around the World with Sally Baxter’ in which the narrator goes to and reports from places all over the world. This idea impressed me a lot and that is when I was convinced that I wanted to pursue journalism.  Since I was a voracious reader from my childhood, I have always had a desire to write. I also realised in that tender age that if I become only a writer, it will require me to be detached from the rest of the world, whereas journalism could be a connecting link between a writer and the world.

AB: Indeed, it is. Talking about being a writer, when did your career in writing actually begin?

IRM: Since my college days, I have been contributing articles to The Sentinel and The Assam Tribune. Along with the fact that I was getting my pocket money from writing, it was a source of great satisfaction that my articles went through the hands of someone as reputed as Dhiren Bezbaruah Sir with minimum corrections to be published. I started with being in the lowest position, i.e., sub-editor cum trainee and it has been a learning process ever since.

SB: During the early stages of your career, did you face any difficulty or discrimination because of being a woman?

IRM: Not anything that I can think of, particularly. Actually more than being a woman, it was because I was very young when I joined the industry that I faced certain difficulties. It did discourage me at times and I had to work harder. But I gradually made them realize that I was actually serious about my work. It is a myth that a woman has to prove her worth. Downplaying your gender you can actually work hard to become a better you.
A woman has to manage both her personal life and work life in parallel in order to be happy. It will be disturbing if I neglect my children while pursuing my professional aims. But if I devote all my time to my family a time will come when I will regret that I did not utilize my full potential. Being a career woman, you have to prioritize, give up something to get something and I am not embittered about it. But what I didn’t give up on was books.

AB: Well, that is my idea of success when one can excel in one’s career and yet give time to their family. Is this the same for you?

IRM:  Actually, success is self-containment. Fame comes with a territory. Try to express and explore your potential. Success is not arriving at a place but travelling happily.

SB: If I’m not wrong your first anthology of short stories came in 1986. How difficult was it to get your first work published?

IRM: Surprisingly it was not much difficult. The germ of the collection came from my association with IGNOU. I was a young mother at that period of time and was not working. I was amazed that IGNOU was providing a correspondence course in creative writing. I took enrolment for the same in addition to Mass Communication. I was appreciated by the examiners on the short stories I submitted. Regarding publishing, I approached Modern Book Depot and they were willing to publish it.

AB:  Madam, among the large number of books that you have read, do you happen to have any favourite author?

IRM: It will be unfair if I take the name of only one writer. I like the writings of different authors and for different reasons at different times. Having said that, I must say John Cheever, an American novelist is a gem of writer.

SB:  Madam, how do you think the electronic media has affected the print media?

IRM:  Effect of any piece of work is transitory in electronic media whereas print media helps you to absorb it in your own leisure and go deeper into it. The news in e-media is forgotten easily when a fresher news comes and takes its place. Moreover, there is a struggle for the news to reach a wide number of people. Students of journalism should try both the media to find what suits them best. It’s good when both the media goes hand in hand.

AB: Do you see a day when the print version of The Assam Tribune gets completely converted to its e-version?

IRM: One day I do see it coming as this has happened to some other magazines as well.

SB: Having worked in the field of journalism for more than fifteen years, what changes have you noticed in this field during this period?

IRM: There has been a tremendous change in the technology behind journalism in the past few decades. When I joined this field way back in 1989, we had the PTA system instead of the currently used DTP process. In the PTA system, as you might know, it had boxes in which the bromide paper was washed and hung up and sometimes each individual letter had to be corrected in the case of a mistake. So, it was a very complicated, time-consuming and painstaking affair at that time. Secondly, we had no access to the internet at the time which meant that the images could not be downloaded by a single click as is done today. Moreover, because of limited internet access the research and origin of certain terms was more difficult and the confirming the veracity of figures was very subjective, to put it plainly. So life as a journalist has become much easier today than it was two decades back; thanks to technology. But at the same time, I feel that the journalists today have become intellectually lazy, what with everything available at their fingertips.

AB: While we are on the topic of technology in media, how do you think technology has changed the field of literature and journalism?

IRM: I think it has changed much, though the basic definition of literature has not changed at all. You see, someone might be reading a Harold Robbins or Hadley Chase in a printed form in their hand, and somebody else might be reading Márquez or Kafka in their electronic medium. So it is what you read that matters and not where you read it from. I think the influence of technology in literature has, in fact, made it more exciting and glamorous. Today you can even find videos of Madonna reading verses from classic poems on YouTube and I can only see that helping literature gain a wider audience.

SB: Ma’am, you must have had a lot of joyous moments in the journey of your life. Could you please share a few?
IRM: (Thinks and smiles) If I have to point out then I would say that my most joyous moments were my two sons being born. And also one more was when my elder son got selected in IPS. I feel that joy is not something that you wait for to happen but rather it is something that you create. Little things in everyday life make your life joyous- like, I listen to soft classical music while writing and that gives me great joy. I also derive joy and happiness from reading- I am very fond of reading and I make it a point to read at least something new every single day. So I feel life itself is a very joyous experience if you count your blessings.

SB: And any bitter moments?

IRM: Not really. There has been ups and downs, but nothing substantial to take my smile away (smiles again)

SB: True. I hope your smile always remains as it is. Madam, you were also briefly a teacher at Don Bosco School, Panbazar. How was that experience?

IRM: It was a very good and satisfying experience, actually. I taught there only briefly, for a few months. But in that short span of time, I was able to connect with the young students which, I think, helped me in my writing career as well. I could feel the pulse of those young boys and it helped me understand human behaviour better. I should add that it was also challenging at times, to control those young, restless boys some of whom were very naughty as well. Overall it was a nice experience.

AB: You definitely are an inspiration to many aspiring journalists who would like to follow your footsteps. What is your advice to aspiring journalists and writers?

IRM: Thank you. The first advice that I would like to give budding journalists and aspiring writers is to be observant. One needs to be particular about details, sincere in work and learn from people. Moreover, I would ask them to read voraciously and across a wide spectrum. Read classic literature, non-fiction articles, fiction pieces- just keep reading and you will grow as a writer too. I consider literature to be similar to music, beautiful and having no boundaries. (Pauses) Lastly I will say that a writer should believe that they can change the world with literature. This will give them the necessary motivating drive to keep writing. They should not be afraid to experiment with different forms of literature and be as versatile as possible.

AB: Since you mentioned, I would like to know your opinions on different forms of literature?

IRM: As I said literature transcends all boundaries of time and geography and it holds true for all forms of literature. When we talk about types of literature we have fiction, non-fiction, biographies, short stories, poetry and so on. While in non-fiction the source of research is internet or other sources, in the case of fiction it is mostly experience. I think the difference comes more in the technique of writing than anything else. In short stories, one comes directly to the point and the impact is felt pretty soon. On the other hand, novels take longer build to the characters up and are more of an acquired taste. There is something called flash fiction too that interests me, which basically is a style of writing having great brevity and it presents impactful writings in very short lengths. Moreover, there is another form gaining much popularity among youngsters nowadays known as the chick lit. I am not very fond of this form of writing as I do not quite agree with the content of it; moreover I feel that it has less lasting value and thrives on getting instant attention.

AB: Madam, what will be your advice to today’s youngsters especially the students of Assam Engineering College?

IRM: One advice that I like to give young people is live life fully. Work hard but do not be a workaholic. I am alarmed by how some youngsters nowadays put their life on permanent display on social networking sites. Life has become shallow and exhibitionist to some extent. I shall advise the students of Assam Engineering College to do their studies properly and chase their dreams.

SB, AB: Thank you Ma’am for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you.

IRM: I also had a good time conversing with you. Honestly speaking, I am impressed by the quality of the questions you put forward. I did not expect such in depth questions. I wish you all the best for everything ahead in life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Embracing the Winter you left...

Let that summer be yours
and this winter, it will be mine to keep...

the ever expanding white
and the naked tree standing alone shamelessly
let the green that once was, be yours 
and this pallidity will be mine to keep...

the coldness the sun fails to obliterate
the darkness that falls sooner than ever
let that warmth bygone be yours
this solitude will be mine to keep...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Once in a lifetime, LOVE enters stealthily through the backdoor of your home built with 

high walls, sits in your parlour for a while, so quietly that you don't discover its presence

 until it has made its home inside yours... and then it acquaints you with the paradise it 

brings..and you, like a little child with her new doll, spend your days and nights inebriating 

the contentment it gives.. and LOVE, like an old neighbour, like a sibling, becomes your 


But then it decides to leave, leaving you alone in your empty house like a feeble mother of a 

debauched son .. 

and when it does, it never goes as stealthily as it came... it finds its way to the front door 

and walks out breaking the walls you had once built to protect the home which just 


but you pick up the broken pieces, and build a wall stronger ... :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Love Perseverant

His silence was depressing
His emotions, hidden
He couldn't fake a smile anymore

Her silence was her answer
her integrity, overt
She embraced his sorrow henceforth

He walked a million miles away
she followed his steps
till the end of the day

her tears were her love
his hatred, her strength
she bore the adversities, yet walked forth

his heart did melt
in oblivion, his misery was
he couldn't evade her love anymore

His silence was warm
his emotions, at peace
he took to mend the heart he once tore

her perseverance was answered
their love bloomed
and they didn't need words anymore...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not Anymore

This poem was published in the May issue of Expressions Unlimited. Read it here

She ain’t the same anymore
With expectations
Came her discontents
No one knows whom her wrath is for

No, She ain’t the same anymore
With beauty
Came her hauteur
No one knows how many hearts she tore

No, she ain’t the same anymore
With talents
Came her indomitability
No one knows if any flaws she bore

And I asked her if she has changed
I wondered if times had her feigned
And pondered if destiny had this arranged
That those attributes she reigned

She answers as I, on her, did pore
“With sufferings
Came my existence
Oh Yes, I am not the same anymore.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Love Belated

Plot: Contemporary Beauty and the Beast with alternating narration
Plot Credits: Prasanna Rao
This post is a voluntary submission for the 6th exercise of Indifiction Workshop. Read the story here.

I looked at the pathetically selfish being in the mirror. I was terrified by my own cruelty. The way I just acted in front of poor Priya. Tears trickled down my cheeks and I stood in front of the mirror, crying for the first time in what seemed like a thousand years. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you ought to own that person. “Let her go”, kept saying a voice in my head. I mustered the courage and walked to her room where she was sitting on her bed hugging her pillow all wet by her tears.

“I am sorry, Priya”. I said. “You should go with your sisters to Goa for the vacation like they have asked for. I apologize for holding you back.” I somehow felt relieved after verbalizing those words. Indeed my heart broke a little but it was my penance as in the three years of our marriage I had never let her go anywhere with her sisters, may be because I didn’t trust them or may be because I always had this fear of losing my beloved wife.

“But do come back before the 25th of this month. The grand party of our anniversary will await you.” I added.


Ashok had never been so gentle to me like today. He even made the morning tea for me today and served it with a note saying “I love you, Priya. I already miss you”. I wondered what brought about the change. But no matter what, I was happy, as happy as never before. My sisters were waiting outside our bungalow in a cab loaded with their luggage, as I applied the lipstick Ashok bought me a few months back. Ashok always hated my sisters and prohibited me from meeting them. Even I never insisted as it was them who had conspired to ruin my wedding. Also one could easily blame our late father’s heart failure on them.  Three years had passed now and I was glad everything was forgiven and forgotten.  They had insisted for a trip to Goa as a get-together and Ashok not only allowed me to go but he even volunteered to pay for the entire trip. Too bad that my sisters didn’t utter a single “No” or “Thanks” when he offered to sponsor the vacation, but it was expected as they had always been that way.

Ashok was busy in his office so I texted him and left with my luggage to join my sisters to our destination.


I was attending to a client of mine in my cubicle when my cell-phone beeped to show a little envelope on its screen indicating a new message received. It was from Priya and it read: I will be back on 25th. I promise. XOXO.
I sighed and kept listening to my client talking while my mind kept consoling my heart with the song “Let your heart hold fast. This soon shall pass.”


I never loved Ashok, it was a marriage my father arranged when he couldn’t pay back the loan my sisters had taken from Ashok’s father. I loathed the fact that I was nothing but a property subjected to mortgage, a slave sold, a deal made. It was after my marriage when I realized that Ashok didn’t consider himself my owner but treated me more like a friend. After my father, Ashok was the only person who took good care of me. I never had any real friends; even my sisters were distant from me and when my father passed away, I was glad Ashok was there for me or else I would have been all alone.

“So have you given a thought about what I said?” The voice of my eldest sister Shreya interrupted my train of thoughts. She had been telling me from the last three days how much I hated the idea of marrying Ashok three years back. “Wouldn’t you love to live independently again? The debt is paid in these three years I guess” she had said the previous night. I had cried the whole night listening to her. I wondered what made me sadder- knowing that I was a way of paying the debt we were in or knowing that it was my elder sister who was hurting me with those words. I was still in a quandary wondering if I loved Ashok enough to stay with him forever or wanted to live alone. It was Kriya who consoled me that morning when she saw my eyes swollen and red and teary.

“Let’s go for shopping.” Kriya said when Shreya had again brought the topic of the previous night into discussion.


I woke up early on the day of our anniversary. Priya was supposed to arrive that day. Although she hadn’t texted me in the last few days, I knew she wouldn’t break her promise. I had the party all arranged and the guests were arriving by five in the evening. Each part of my body wanted to call Priya asking about her whereabouts but I somehow refrained myself from bugging her. “Don’t be so nosy, Ashok. Give her some space”, Instructed that little voice in my head.

 I waited the whole day with no signs of Priya, not even a text. The guests had finally begun to arrive. “Priya will come in any second. She will surprise me, she will.” I consoled myself.


I was supposed to leave Goa on the morning of 25th. I had booked my tickets but it was Kriya who was crying from the morning and I couldn’t leave. After all she had been sweet to me when Shreya hadn’t.
“I will miss you, dear sister. Don’t leave, please. Stay with us.” Kriya kept chanting the entire morning and Shreya joined her too. I had no choice but to stay. After all they were my sisters, I grew up with them, I loved them and they loved me. Being with them, I had forgotten all about the party Ashok had planned at our bungalow in Mumbai. And I decided to stay one day more with my sisters.


It was half past nine and there were still no signs of Priya. The guests would leave by ten or eleven and it was embarrassing that I was throwing a party for her and the person for whom I was doing this wasn’t present. I finally decided to make a call. Why had she promised she would come if she was going to break her promise? And she could have informed me at least. Her phone rang twice before a sweet voice answered the call. “Open the door, sweetheart.” Priya said. I turned my head towards the door to look at the love of my life standing at the door wearing a red gown holding a bouquet of red roses in her hands.

We both, just like they do in the movies, ran towards each other as the guests clapped and cheered. I held her in my arms and hugged her tight, I had missed her all these days and I knew I couldn’t live a second without her. She whispered in my ears, “I love you, Ashok. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you and only you. I will never leave you alone.”


I will probably never tell Ashok what happened that day in Goa. Although I want to be completely honest with him, I don’t want to ruin this perfect night. After all, we made love for the first time in three years. It is true love that makes me watch him sleep besides me tonight. I stroke his head lovingly, hoping this moment of love lasts forever. Honesty can rest for a few days. Moreover it will be embarrassing to tell him that my very own sisters were conspiring against us. More embarrassing will be the fact that I eavesdropped on their conversation to find out the truth about them and the fact that I actually left them with bitterness and stormed out of the hotel room with my bags without bidding my goodbyes. Also, it will be extremely hurtful to let him know what our sisters think about us, that they were making a fool out of both of us that they wanted to either break the marriage so that I live alone or to make me steal all his wealth. And above all, telling him all this will turn this extremely beautiful night of lovers to a night of friends griping about something bad that happened. I shall not tell him. May be I will tell him a few days later. Or maybe I will tell this to him tomorrow morning itself. I don’t know. I am still unsure. But what I am sure of is that I will always love him.