Sunday, March 30, 2014

Let the Good Times Roll

I can't believe that just last weekend I was in Lucknow at my grandparents' place celebrating the joy and little wonder that my one month old niece is - 'Tara'. It was a short trip really, but so satisfying, and made me question why I don't do this often? Lucknow is not that far! The love and warmth which you find at your grandparents' place is irreplaceable and definitely worth the risk of travelling without a confirmed ticket! (Oh yes! My ticket was not confirmed. I slept with my Mom on a single berth while coming back on the night train)

The cherry on the cake, of course, was meeting the fabulous Richa of The Philospher's Stone. We got along like a house on fire, our non-stop chatter on life, work and the big-bad-beautiful world of blogosphere seemed endless.

The week flew. Office was busy and I really tried to write out my posts for the upcoming A-Z challenge but managed to schedule only three! Getting the jitters, but I've decided to jump in and have fun, and that's it!

Continuing the fun of last weekend, yesterday two adventurous sisters set to explore Delhi in its myraid hues early morning. We left by 6:30 am and took the Delhi metro to Jama Masjid. This mosque, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650, is the largest mosque in India claiming to hold about 25000 devotees at a time. It was pleasant to walk around the courtyard, clicking pictures, feeding the pigeons, looking below at the tiny lanes teeming with  early morning activities.






Although the entry to the Masjid was free, the camera charges were Rs 300 and as you can see I tried to put my best photography foot forward :)

The below shot is my favourite. I saw this Eagle sitting on one of the tree branches outside Jama Masjid and when I zoomed in this is what was captured!


Just opposite the Gate no 1 entrance of the Jama Masjid is a tiny lane filled with culinary delights! We first walked the entire length of it to survey and single out a joint where we could have a breakfast and finally decided on Al-Jawahar. With a neat spacious dining hall, polite & quick service and excellent mutton preparation, this has now become my favourite joint for Nihari. Served with Khameeri Roti Nihari, often called Old Delhi's power breakfast, is a meat preparation stewed in spices, turmeric and chillies overnight.


With our hearts content and tummy full we moved on to our next Delhi chapter - Hauz Khas.

The morning was still young and this was perhaps the best time to soak in the sepia toned atmosphere in the otherwise chic and posh Hauz Khas village. Leaving you all with a few more pictures!

Caught in action! These were not the only love birds that we found!
Sister Act!
Nature mesmerizes every single time!
Happy Sunday all! :) Let the good times roll!

Friday, March 21, 2014

My Treasure Chest

It's like a champagne bottle was opened last night. Bursting and bubbling the memories poured and I basked in their sweet effervesence, nostalgia took over me and like a child playing with his toys, I was lost in time, playing with my treasured mementos. Many memories fade over time, with the everday-ness of lives taking over our being the past gets blurry. But a memento - a photo, a letter, a card, a gift or any other reflection of the past fills you with such joy and the good old times suddenly stand before you - like it were just yesterday!

I remember every Birthday, dear sister would surprise me with a hand-made card. She has always been a creative person (she almost got into NIFT Delhi but then she chose to go the intellectual way and is currently in IIM-C....Oh yes, I like to brag about her!) but the amount of heart she would put into each of her greetings made me feel so loved and blessed to have a sister like her! Remember these sis? All your cards have been preserved with love and care!


And then the letters came rolling out. Oh it's been more than a decade that I wrote a postcard or an inland letter. When Papa got transferred from Chennai to Kota back in 1998, and then again from Kota to Noida in 2000 I thought that life was really unfair. With a grumppy face I bid farewell to lovely friends in both these cities with whom I had shared the golden childhood days of being carefree, dreaming big, sharing secrets and what not! But we kept in touch and shared our worlds with each other through letters. I remember I was always very careful of my handwriting while writing to my friends and not so much when it came to doing the homework ;) Letters will always remain priceless, even in this digital era and Last night I sent messages to my long lost friends on FB sharing pictures of the epic letters they had written to me! We were so cute! :)


There is another letter that is very very special to me. When Papa got transferred to Kota we were yet to finish with our schooling session in Chennai. And this is when I received my first and only letter from Papa. Everytime I read this I want to hug him! Muuaah!! Ma-Pa, we are what we are today, because of you. You let us make own mistakes and learn from them, gently nudging us to the right path if at all we went astray!


Have I kept the best for the last? It's hard to say! Each and every memento is so special and has an equal place in my heart. But yesterday, going through my treasure chest, I re-discovered an old passion, handed over to me by dearest Grandfather, which I had been sadly neglecting for more than a year now. My beloved stamp collection! Nanaji, who worked with the Health and Family Welfare Dept. of U.P used to travel abroad for his assignments with W.H.O. It is in that period that he started his hobby of collecting stamps and coins from all over the worl. While the coin collection was passed on to my elder cousin brother, I was ecstatic when he handed me his stamp book. I beautified my stamp books with his and later my own collection, signing up with the Indain Posatl Service for regular first day covers, befriending pen friends etc. Thanks to this contest, I am going to take up my love for Philately again!


I want to thank two lovely ladies, Sangeeta and Meena for tagging me and Arti for hosting this fabulous contest! I would like Pixie, Sheethal and Sugandha to go hunting in their cupboards, chests and attics now and share their most memorable memento!

This post is my entry for the 'My Most Memorable Memento' contest conducted by

To revel in the reveal

I revel in the grand celebration taking off today in the virtual space. Together with many excited and joyous bloggers I have taken the plunge to blog all through April (well almost, 26 days that is) for the A to Z challenge! I've never done a month long challenge before and often have found, even blogging an entire week strenuous. But what's the fun in staying in your cocoon and comfortably navigating through known waters, right?
With A to Z, I am looking forward not only to better my writing skills and become a more sincere and regular blogger; but also to make new, enriching and wholesome connections with bloggers all over the world. This year a whooping 1400 bloggers have already signed up for the challenge!!
Goodness, imagine the kind of time and meticulous planning that would go into networking with all these bloggers! And that it is why all the veterans of the A to Z challenge say one thing, 'Plan and schedule your posts in advance".
Following their sage advise we are today doing a Theme Reveal post hosted by our very dear and charming Vidya Sury.

Badge designed by Samantha Redstreake Geary


Frankly, I am not a planner. I am really bad at scheduling and even if I mark my calendars they tend to show a red cross instead of a green tick. So my initial reaction to the theme reveal was no reveal. I thought I'll go with the flow, brave the scorching sun, the thunder storms, the chilly winds as and when they hit me! But I am so glad I didn't act my usual self! Yes I have a theme and it'll be fiction all the way. I plan to write 26 pieces of short stories/ flash fiction revolving around the theme 'Shades of Life'.
Right now I have no post up but I do know my A,B,Cs  - every day I'll pick up a colour corresponding with the day's alphabet and use it as my prompt to churn out a story! I still have time for scheduling my posts and so do you! 10 days to go!!

“You can't plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.” 
― Gordon B. Hinckley


So whatever comes in your mind, just write it down and turn into a post and join us in this month long fiesta!!

Hopping over to some other amazing blog participants of A to Z. You can blog hop too here!

Friday, March 14, 2014

I, Satan

When God made 'Man',
admiring his beautiful creation,
he ordered us all
to bow down to the earthling.
The Angels obeyed dutifully,
I declined with pride.
After all, I rose out of the fire,
the Man mould of just mud & clay.

I am since known as Satan!

I am since blamed for all of Man's sins!

Is it fair to hold me responsible
for all of man's immoralities,
his lust for power, money & fame,
his lack of willpower, his idiocy?
"Oh, the devil must have gotten into you"
"The evil has surely overpowered your soul"
Is it fair to use my name such, 
even when I have not tempted or deceived?

What God couldn't forsee,
was how instilled with pride
when the Angels were made 
to bow before him, Man lost his path!
Man, so full of himself, tended 
only to his needs, trampled
not only on his fellow mankind,
but on nature too!

And the day is not far when 
God will too be forgotten entirely, 
and who else, but I'll be blamed for it!


Written for Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Foresight/ Prescience

Hugely inspired by Orhan Pamuk's current novel that I'm reading, My Name is Red.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Am I asking for too much?

I was 17. Happy. My friends and I were out celebrating Holi when, out of nowhere, my breasts were groped. I was horrified and looked straight in the eye of my molester, someone I knew from my colony and whom I called "bhaiya". He looked back at me unflinchingly and even dared to flash a sly smile. I was shaken, mentally and physically, but I didn’t tell anyone except a friend who is now my husband. He confronted this man and warned him. But this incident angered me for years, even more so when I had to cross paths with the man almost daily, as we lived in the same housing society.
I was 18. Excited. Nervous. It was my first day of college. A new life was calling out to me. I took the DTC bus. Ignoring the leering men, I managed to stand beside the already occupied ‘reserved for ladies’ seat. Then, I felt someone thrust his pelvis behind me. I elbowed him and managed to create some distance. But he did it again. I looked back sternly. It was an elderly man. He repeated the act a third time. I yelled. He turned and managed to disappear into the sweltering crowd.
Unfortunately, every girl and woman has faced a similar situation at least once in her life. These incidents, along with the numerous cautions and curfews imposed on us by our loved ones out of fear for our lives, have made us accept this way of life. We navigate through our own cities in constant fear. But can should we live like that? Should we give in to these fears and walk in our own city suspecting every passerby, looking over our shoulders every minute, struggling to move past the leering men, dodging the groping hands? This fear, this insecurity and lack of confidence to move about freely in our own city – isn’t that a basic denial of our rights?
In today’s age where a Nirbhaya or a Shakti Mills gang-rape incident is a bitter truth, it is understandable to be more cautious, more aware, more guarded. But I refuse to live this kind of ‘protected’ life. I don’t need my men to treat me as a mere daughter, sister, wife, or friend, where they feel it is their duty to protect me.
I need my men to treat me equally, with respect and dignity like any human being, and not as an object! I don’t need the government and the institutions to limit the time I can stay outdoors; I need them to be more sensitive to women’s wants and provide for an infrastructure that allows us to walk freely.
As a woman in the twentieth century, am I being too whimsical to hope for a society free from gender discrimination? From innate stereotypes, even those as seemingly harmless as ‘girls like pink’? From the deeply ingrained patriarchal mindset? Am I asking the state for too much when I demand a safe public transport system connecting even the remotest of places and running till late in the night, a police force that actually cares and reacts for, rather than against, a woman’s complaints, a street well light at all the times without any faults, public toilets which are clean and well-managed without closing as early as 10pm, assuming that a woman’s bladder can hold in after that time?
Am I asking for too much?
This article was first published in DNA India on 13th January 2014.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Into the Night!

I slyly entered the house, holding my breath. I had been keeping an eye on these new kids on the block. I knew how their furniture was placed, which grocery needed a refill as the week ended and of course where I would find my treasure. Alas, a vase tumbled and gave me away. Meow!

***********************************************************************

His loud wails broke me from my deep slumber. I checked my watch; I was asleep only for 15 minutes! All had been taken care of - his feed, his diapers, his snuggly teddy. And then I heard her sweet singing voice. Terrified, I ran to his room. His mother had died giving him birth.

***********************************************************************

Linking this to Day 6 of the Write Tribe Festival of words where we had to show our creative best in just 55 words. I enjoy writing 55 Fiction, you can see my previous attempts here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inspiring women - Real and Reel

" I am not an angel," I asserted; "and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself."
- Jane Eyre

This quote, both describes my guest here today and the main protagonist of the book she is reviewing for me. Aparna Srivastava is pursuing her English Honours from the Miranda House, Delhi University. She inspires me, for the girl she is and the woman she aspires to be.

She describes herself as a passionate reader, writer, science enthusiast and a dancer. Also an amateur cook and avid follower of Tennis. At an age where probably most of the teenagers were rebelling or solemnly conforming with the societal norms, she smoothly crafted a path for herself, getting two of her stories dealing with women and their place in Indian society published in the Chicken Soup Series, simultaneously acing her academics and also performing at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2010 as part of the Bharatnatyam dance troupe.

Her spirit and her passion for the very many interests she has, inspires me and I wish her the very best in whatever she chooses to do in life.

Thank you Aparna for answering a mid-night call and accepting happily to do this for me!


Jane Eyre

Why ‘review’ Jane Eyre? Isn’t it a ‘classic’ reserved for academic papers written by students of Literature, often as they procrastinate?

A brief review cannot possibly do justice to the richness of the novel – but it does remind book enthusiasts to revisit this brilliant novel; and urges the rest to read it very, very soon!

To those unfamiliar with the book, it is the story of an orphan girl called Jane Eyre. From being harrowed and hectored by her unkind Aunt and cousins, to becoming a governess and later struggling to find balance between reserve and passion as she falls in love with Mr Rochester, Jane Eyre offers huge insights into the anxieties faced by the female sex in a society that was deeply hostile to them.

Hostile because women were economically dependent and chained to men, with their few options involving becoming governesses, nuns or well, getting married. Oh, and being the sorry spinster of course.

Hostile because they were physically trapped at home, marred by anxieties of “female incarceration within domestic spaces.” (as Gilbert and Gubar write in The Mad Woman in the Attic…you think I’d write an article without quoting critics? And you must read TMWITAanyway, it’s wonderful)

Hostile because, the women were emotionally trapped by the strict appropriation of ‘feminine’ behaviour where women were expected to be silent observers sans opinions; angelic, ridiculously chaste and devoid of sexuality.

Jane’s story is a journey to find her identity. And the narrative very rich; it is full of metaphors of fire and ice, gothic symbols which express Bronte’s vision (which we now call feminist, and her language that of the female gothic) and are necessary because the world around Jane has no space to encompass desires and needs of women. And therefore Bronte’s language must.

Read this novel for its dealing with madness, read it for the figure of Bertha Mason. The Victorian age was wont to label women acting out of prescribed restricted codes of behaviour as mad and suffering from ‘hysteria.’ The text does touch upon this issue, though Mason’s being a Creole is a rather Eurocentric perspective. Why could not an Englishwoman have been shown to be mad? Why is Bertha Mason a Creole?

The text can be seen as dealing with the idea of psychological doubles: Jane and Bertha as alter egos. Bertha as an expression of the passion Jane must learn to repress. I remember reading Freud and Lacan as I set to understand this idea. Though I did not particularly ‘like’ their ideas, it was one of the most overwhelming experiences I had, as I’m sure rest of my classmates did. As we were groping around in the dark in our first year, this novel was among those that made us fall in love with our course. Understanding the novel was a process I deeply enjoyed.

And I’m sure those who set out to read it will enjoy it too!

-Aparna Srivastava


This is second post in my series of 'YOU' Inspire. Read the first post here
Written as part of the Write Tribe Festival of Words day 4 & 5.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Grateful

It is past 10:40 pm and it seems the evening is just getting started here. I feel energized (super charged actually) after 9 hours of office, 1 1/2 hours of dancing, 1 hour of fabulous twitter chat #blogchatter :) and now I'm sitting writing this, #FreeWrite it's called!
And all I can think about is Food. No I'm not all that hungry but I'm thinking of making fish or prawns with red wine! Sounds great, right? Well there is a reason to celebrate too. Yours truly had the much dreaded appraisal call today and she did great, appraisal bonus and all! :)

I am grateful, that's the only word that comes close to what I feel, for being able to manage and balance my professional, personal and creative life. Last year November, Corinne at Everydaygyaan celebrated the the Living Gratitude Series.Since then I have regularly maintained a daily gratitude notebook  - being thankful to the smallest of things which perhaps otherwise I would have taken for granted in the daily busyness of life. Since then I am more at peace, positive and definitely happy! It is such a simple thing to do really and even on a worse day, you get to be thankful for something - like one day I was offered a seat in the metro (surprisingly in peak hours). If you practice Gratitude, the Universe truly makes things happen for you :)


That's my wallpaper :) (Image source: here)

This is Free Write for Write Tribe Festival of Words. Lot's of catching up to do! And yes if my experimental dish comes out good I'll share the recipe. Lots of Love!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blog Love

I first stumbled upon Sangeeta's blog - My World of Food and Travel early last year ( I think it was a contest entry that led me to her page). I had just started blogging and finding a blog that shared the same love and interest for food and travel was kinda lucky! How to describe her blog...well in one word I think I'll call her space a warm one! That warm and fuzzy feeling - of love, nostalgia, friendliness - all clubbed into one. She writes straight from her heart - her pages and the journeys filled with exotic travel tales, delicious recipes and little bit of this and that.

Sangeeta hails from the beautiful and mystical land of Guwhati. Living amongst the nature for almost all of her growing up years, befriending animals and birds of all kinds, understanding the voices of the rivers and trees, it comes as no surprise that she has an innate talent for bird watching and capturing picture perfect frames from her camera.

Another common factor that sometimes makes me feel so connected with this lady is 'sister-love' :) Both of us are the elder of the two sisters and we are over protective of our 'baby' sisters. Ain't that right Sangeeta? ;) Also her love and strong bond that she shares with her family and cousins comes across through some of her writings. Humble, grounded, independent - that's the lady behind this wonderful blog.


Check her blog here and her FB page and you'll know what I'm talking about. Lately she is also exploring her fiction writing talent which is impressive, to say the least! All the best girl! Keep blogging and I hope to meet you in person soon!

Write Tribe Festival of Words Day 2 came up with the wonderful idea of showcasing a blog you loved. I thoroughly enjoyed bringing to you Sangeeta's blog and I think this is a really good idea to spread some love and appreciation in the blogosphere. I intend to do this regularly. Feels good! :)

Also, check out Sugandha's blog today. Yours truly is feeling like a celebrity :) being featured on 'Shades of Life'. Thank you so much Sugandha, it's truly an honor! Love n Hugs my friend!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Recycling her Life

From the age of 3 all she could remember was rummaging through the garbage outside posh homes for food and valuable items.
Often surprised at the wastage and leftovers, she was secretly glad too as she had always managed to feed her little tummy even in the most precarious situations.
Sleeping near the dump, with flies and mosquitoes buzzing and biting into the breezy nights, with the onlookers covering their noses and sometimes even kicked around like stray dogs, she had accepted the world she lived in.
But it was a summer night of June which changed her life for ever.
As she gleefully admired her treasure find - a cardboard box, which she assumed would have been a packaging for a beautiful doll as seen on it's cover, she was struck by a fascinating idea.
She ran to her den, furiously found a pair of scissors, some glue and ribbons through her collectibles and laboring the entire night produced a life-like doll image cut out from the cardboard.
The doll was so real and enigmatic that she named her Princess Tia.
Sitting and playing with her Princess Tia on the busy red light of Hauz-Khas, she didn't notice the red jaguar stop by.
With a skip in her step, dreams in her eyes, she kept checking her pocket for the Rs-500 note she had received in exchange for Princess Tia and she knew that rag-picking was never going to be the same again for her.

Photo credits Artbox

I'm yet again (nervously ;)) taking part in the WriteTribe Festival of Words. Today's challenge was to write a piece of fiction in exactly 9 sentences. If you haven't joined the action packed week long challenge, do it now!! It's guaranteed fun and the best way to get your creative juices flowing!