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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Me Time

The black crow on my window is singing his favorite song. He has a bad throat. 

Sometimes I wish there were more sweet humming birds singing on my windowsill waking me gently from my slumber. But then this is a wishful thinking. I live in Mumbai where only crows and pigeons can be heard. So its either 'Ghuttar, Ghutter' or it is 'Caw, Caw'. Those beautiful birds with musical sounds have all migrated to smaller rural areas of India.

The day has just begun for me, although my friend who wakes up at wee hours of the morning must already be on other stretch of a day, maybe eating his early lunch. But then his day starts at the time when I have barely taken few hours of sleep; he starts his day, before dawn singing the praise of Gods loud enough to wake up his neighbors too. By the time I wake up, it is too late to pray. Gods are busy on Mumbai streets, taking care of the people who dodge a speedy traffic, bravely crossing the road, also those people who travel dangerously on Mumbai locals and also help those beggars who earn their daily wages at traffic signals post.

Since last two months of bed rest, my time has been ‘Me Time’.

All my social activities are at a standstill. Most of my friends have disappeared. I don’t blame them, I have busy, working friends with whom I normally spend time doing something, like going for an social event or an evening walk, attending a meeting or a workshop, going for shopping, a lunch or a film. Sitting at home on a bed and entertaining has never been on my agenda. Even if some of them have stolen time from their busy schedule to make at least one courtesy call, they had to make their own cup of tea and a snack if they wished to eat. My hospitality is also under bed rest. Most of my visitors have brought me chocolates (even though they know I have diabetes) No don’t misunderstand them, they don’t want to kill me, they are just being nice. But now the question is that what do I do with so many chocolates flooding my fridge? Soon I may have a retail

Maybe I will give a chocolate party when I am bit more social..or a chocolate milk-shake?

But for now its 'Me-time' it’s not bad too. I am on reading marathon and have spent most of my time reading. Whoever said ‘books are the best friends’ must be a very wise man. Trapped within the four walls of my room, I am no recluse. I have travelled places enjoying the company of fictitious characters, reading about their adventures, they are not just words, but friends who wrap me and tickle me through and through. These have been fun days.

In between my reading is my virtual communication on social media and on my smart phone. This is a great blessing. I have my large family spread all across the world but they all fit into smaller family groups on BlackBerry and WatsApp. Everybody has their own time for saying ‘good-morning’. While I am sipping my first cup of tea, my cousin will say 'Good-night'..Well, sometimes I do pretend I am following their time schedule and sleep late. The jokes and forwards is plenty. Then there is a shared communication of what is happening in their town. It is fun comparing notes. While my cousins are shivering at minus two degrees, I am wrapped in thin sheet of shawl. Every hour there is discussion. Can’t decide what to cook, ask a cousin, want to see a film, ask a cousin, comment on news, discuss. Family is here on watsapp from Europe to America to Asia…all ready to laugh with me….

Loneliness has not visited me as yet. 

I am not grumpy, Nah! This is my 'Me-Time', and I am having a great time. 

Wrote this post specially for Marathon Bloggers who have a theme of 'Me Time this week.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Shiva Trilogy 1- The Immortals of Meluha

Look here, like it?” said my 25-years-old nephew as he turned his back to show me the intricate embroidery on the back of his shirt. His dark blue silk shirt had embroidered design of colorful snake wound around Trishul - the tri-fork blade.

Have you become a disciple of Lord Shiva” I asked, slightly amused but quite impressed with the colorful thread work.

Yes I have become the follower of dude Shiva who smokes chillum, uses bad language and is the destroyer of evil. He is really cool man".

My jaw dropped.

Relax’ he said, “after reading ‘The Mortals of Meluha’ you will understand what I mean” he laughed.

I googled the book online to read the burb

The story of the man whom legend turned into a God” it said.

The book seemed to be part fiction, part mythological but how did it impress the young man? Maybe he was impressed with the war and violence that seemed to fill its' pages. Oh, It must be all boy stuff and I dismissed it.

Recently, on being confined to bed-rest, post-operation, I went through marathon reading and decided to read this book too.

Yes, this was un-put-down-able-book

‘The Immortals of Meluha’ is the first book of Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathy, brought up in a Shaivide family where he has been taught to worship and respect all religions.

It is a fast paced book, with interest never dithering a moment.

I loved reading about Shiva and Sati’s gradual love affair that begins when he watches her dance the first time, it deepens over the various meetings up to the time she finally expresses her love when she is seriously ill.

I wish I had told you earlier,” murmured Sati, “because the first time that I am telling you will also be the last.

Shiva continued to look at her, his voice choked.

Sati looked deeply into Shiva’s eyes, whispering softly, “I love you.’

That is the soft moment.

I have always been fascinated about Shiva dance that I have seen it perform by some Shiva devotees during several religious meetings. This dance is very well described in this book.

A beautiful eternal dance of love.

“Dancing was something Shiva was as accomplished in as in warfare. The dance conveyed the various emotions of a woman. In the beginning it conveyed her feeling of joy and lust as she cavorted with her husband. The next emotion was anger and pain at the treacherous killing of her mate. Despite his rough masculine body, Shiva managed to convey the tender yet strong emotions of a grieving woman.”
Shiva is so human and approachable. He makes mistakes and learnt from them.

The character of Anandmayi is also adorable, she being strong, fearless and sensual. She is the one who made me realize that Chandravanshis were not evil people.

Nagas are believed to be the evil forces behind the terrorist attacks that need to be destroyed but a human side of the Naga is shown when they try to save two women from being eaten by crocodile.

I am not sure if ‘Somras’ would be the preferred drink in present world, knowing the growing population of world today and all were to live more than 200 years, but I am equally fascinated by its' effects.

People looked young although they are more than 100 years old. What makes this possible is the brilliance of magic potion called ‘Somras- the drinks of the Gods invented by Lord Brahma. The power of the somras, when administered to selected group achieved a reverential status, which was used for the good of the society. They were not allowed to charge anything for their service, and had to live on alms and donations from others.
The city of Devagiri is a perfect town but I am still impressed with Ayodhya that resembles somewhat like Mumbai city with bad infrastructure, but people living a content life.

Some of the other excerpts that I liked

Page 86
Only your karma is important. Not your birth. Not your sex. And certainly not the color of your throat. Our entire society is based on merit.
Page 153
‘I think’ said Daksha smiling, ‘the most powerful force in a woman’s life is the need to be appreciated, loved and cherished for what she is’
Page 215
‘Transactions are threads that when woven together make up a society, its culture. Or in the case of a person, they weave together his character.’ If you want to understand a person’s character, look closely at his interpersonal behavior or his transactions.
The book is an interesting read. Waiting to read part 2 and 3.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

'Another Man's Wife' by Manjul Bajaj

Another Man’s Wife’ is one of the titles in the collection of nine women-orientated stories beautifully told in a poetic detail with easy flow.

Manjul Bajaj, is a good observer of people’s expressions and mannerisms, her description of characters helps you relate to the persons you might have met sometime in your lifetime.

On page 107 she writes
Nusrat never fussed or hemmed about telling a story like other storytellers do. No clearing of the throat or slipping of a clove into her mouth or asking for water or tea. It was as if the story of the day was in the air surrounding her, waiting to be plucked out and told. “Listen then,” she would say, tilt her head to one side and simply begin
On page 207 she beautifully chalks up the love affair between heaven and earth during rainy season, she writes

Weeding the vegetable patch in the homestead, Kuheli looked with happiness at her maize crop dancing in the breeze. After three successive years of drought, the rain has come pelting down this chaumasa season. The gods had finally stopped clearing their throats and were singing without restraint, the joyful song of falling rain. Heaven and earth were in love again and many good things would be born of their passionate coming together.
I love her style of writing and her bold descriptions of sensual moments, showing sensitivity and insights, the writings that very few Indian writers dare to explore. On page 282 she writes

Betrayed by her knees, she shut her eyes tight and slid down slowly to the floor, pulling him to her, over her, into her. The river of time was breaking all around her in swift spasms, rising, falling, thrusting, heaving, twisting, turning, shuddering, gasping and finally crying out aloud. She heard him whisper her name over and over again, like life-saving mantra, as he climaxed.
On page 144 she resonates my thoughts on women, she writes:
I wanted to tell her that we virtuous women set too much store by our virtue. If we don’t let the man who love us take our body, time will take it anyway, without passion, indifferent to its beauty. I no longer believe that there are thick dossiers on each of us in the heavens and a record kept of our every deed and omission. At most each of us is given four or five chances at happiness. At the hour of reckoning we are left alone with ourselves to answer this- did we grab our opportunities with open arms or did we let them slip through our fingers, did we squander those chances or make something of them, did we sit our life out on the earth caged in prisons of our own making or did we have the faith and courage to walk out and know ourselves as the inheritors of the world and all that it has to offer?
'Another Man's Wife' has been an excellent read for me, I surprised myself when I took 2 days off the social network and paused all my other activities to cuddle with this book and walk with the author, Manjul Bajaj, into the interiors of India, passing through the villages, the deep forest, the Mango orchards, the markets, into the huts, the Shikaras, the private homes, feeling the spirit of a particular community and getting entangled into the folds of women’s mind. 

I would highly recommend this book to all those who like women-oriented stories.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Sitting In a Durbar With Tavleen Singh

I first heard about this book when I stopped for a brief moment at NDTV and watched Barkha Dutt interview Tavleen Singh. The interest was immediately aroused when I learnt that this book revolves around Nehru family during 70’s and 80’s.

I lived in Surinam in late 80’s and being Indian, when Indira Gandhi was killed, I had group of local people gather in my house who came to offer condolence.

There was just a brief mention on Local TV channel about Indira Gandhi, and the social media was non-existent, local Hindustanis, the natives of Surinam, wanted to know more about Sikh community, many of them failed to understand how an Indian could kill their own Hindu Prime Minister.

When I moved back to India, I was more curious about Indian politics than ever before. Almost nothing has been written about the inside stories during emergency and Rajiv Gandhi era, and the beginning of Punjab and Kashmir problems, therefore I was most pleased when I chanced upon this book.

What I liked about this book is that it’s a first hand account of events unfolding as she takes you through the corridors of power and the mistakes that they made, of not being able to change policies or bring about changes when it could have been done.

I saw how my life as a journalist open up doors that made me constantly ashamed of how India has been betrayed by people like me. I believe that it is because India was let down by the ruling class that she failed to become the country she could have been. If we had been less foreign and more aware of India’s great wealth of language and literature, of her ancient text on politics and governance and her scriptures, we would have wanted to change many things, But we failed and brought up our children, as we have been, as foreigners in our own country fascinated by all things foreign and disdain of all thing Indian” she writes

She describes Sonia Gandhi, the president of the congress, as merely a foreigner who loathes the nation she reluctantly adopted as her own, one who fervently stated that she would rather see her children beg on streets than allow them to them join politics.

"Sonia's taste in fur coats was so refined that she was not satisfied with Soviet tailoring and had the coat sent to Rome to be redesigned by Italian fashion house Fendi. These were the stories that are never possible to confirm, but gossip rarely needs confirmation to be believed," Singh writes.

"That Sonia's become the most important political leader in India is a comment on other political leaders," she says admitting that one of her motivations in writing the book was to chip away at the Gandhi mystique.

An interesting book that kept me awake late nights even after I had shut the book and the lights to log on to yet another day.

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