Sunday 18 August 2013

Modi Opposing the FSB

Book Review- The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri

This book review is a part of "The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program". To get free books log on to

Title- The Homing Pigeons
Author- Sid Bahri
Published by- Srishti Publishers
ISBN- 978-93-80349-91-6
Price- Rs 150

"Not all love stories are perfect, but then, neither are people." - the tagline reads at the front cover of this exquisitely crafted tale of all things lovely and not so lovely. It also sums up the basic theme of the story and is a fresh change from the usual happy-go-lucky sort of stories. Written in the form of twin monologue, one from Aditya - the male protagonist and the other from Radhika- the female one, this novel keeps you hooked till the end so much so that you're almost sad when it comes to an end. The mood of the storyline is mostly melancholic as the protagonists suffer at the hands of not only destiny but due to their own foolish yet, humane errors. The dramatic juxtaposition of 'homing pigeons' who no matter what, return to their partners rings a bell with the reader and keeps hope alive.

The romance is complex and it almost stops being a love story at certain junctures. The end does get predictable as the protagonists take themselves on a collision course with not only each other but their respective fates as a gigolo and a childless rich widow. The characters fight with real problems and the conundrums before them sometimes leave them no choice but to be unfaithful. Love is a force and it binds them together but there are so many problems that pull them apart. This situations are real and the reader will identify with the story contrary to that in the romance novels featuring summer love or teenage romance.
One advice- if you're depressed about something and want to read something upbeat, do not pick this one up as it might end up leaving you distraught. If you do pick it up, make sure you read it till the end. The writing is powerful. The characters are very real and flawed which gave the author enough room to manoevre them around in the plot. The story keeps flashing from Lucknow to Chandigarh to Delhi and does embark on different timelines parallely which might confuse an unattentive reader.

The word selection and the language are a fresh change from the contemporary novels these days. The story's predictability is not a problem as the way it is presented is very novel and complex. It is a page turner for sure.

Priced at just Rs 150, it is full value for money and the good quality of  paper and the nice readable font are a bonus. A few misspelled words here and there fail to bother you because of the powerful and well-knit writing. Here is looking forward to more from Sid's stable. Sid Bahri, the author is a hotelier by education, an ex-banker and a senior executive in an executive industry. He is now a struggling entrepreneur and a happy writer. The Homing Pigeons is his debut novel.

Kudos to Srishti Publishers for bringing out this brave book dealing with themes like male prostitution, forced marriages, abandonment, pregnancy abortion, economic recession and other depressing topics.  The underlying and undying thread of human emotions behind these issues has been well-captured and nicely dealt with.

The cover design has a turquiose, lavender sky filled with pigeons flying all around. It sets the philosophical and melancholic tune for the reader. All in all, a great read. My rating- 3 and half stars out of 5. The half star extra is for the original soundtrack that the book comes with. Check it out on Sid Bahri's website.


Friday 16 August 2013

Two love stories

Story 1-

Love is many things, it is sweet, it’s caring and understanding, it helps you get on your feet, it protects you, it completes you, it is everything you need to live a happy life but unrequited love is a bit different; it slaps you, wakes you up and teaches you a lesson you can never forget.  This story is my tryst with one such “love” which was more like a kick in the groin. I was a dreamy, starry-eyed romantic who was looking for a fairytale romance. It was a #facepalm moment for cupid as Satan laid his trap to get me.

She was my classmate, the prettiest girl in the class- fair, bubbly, chirpy, sweet and many other such meaningless adjectives are not enough to describe what I felt for her. It was the first year of my BDS, she was dating one of the dudes in the class. He was okay- with just the right amount of eccentricity by the present day standards. I think the definition of borderline psychotic has evolved pretty fast in the past decade. Earlier an anti-social who’d shut himself in a room and play counter-strike for hours would be called a nerd and people would make jokes about him, nowadays- nerds are cool. So cool that there has been a new crop of gentlemen trying to sound nerdy and be geeky. Yes, now we have “wannabe-nerds”. Anyway, the guy was head over heals for her and knew that he was dating the prettiest dame in the castle. She didn’t know it yet. She was still like any other schoolgirl, seeking what all teenagers are seeking so voraciously all the time- Approval; hoping to wake up one day and be crowned Miss World with a roaring applause. But as soon as she realized that she was one of the final contestants in the figurative Miss World pageant in college, she lifted her sword and “by the Power of GreySkull”, she dumped her boyfriend.

I was also in a relationship with one of the batchmates. At least I thought I was. She was dating me and her ex, simultaneously. It wasn’t her fault. Love is loaded word and I don’t think either of us loved each other, nay, even understood the meaning of the word. As it was the summer of break-ups, I too, joined in by finally dumping my girlfriend for repeatedly trying to console her ex on phone as I sat there watching helplessly.

So, both of us were fresh out of life-altering relationships which lasted for fifteen days in my case and two months in her case. Then came the fateful night; It was a birthday party, like two lost souls, we met, we hung out with each other throughout the night, chatting, giggling, slapping each others’ shoulders and sharing stuff. Little did I know that somewhere Satan was pulling his socks and getting ready to kick my butt. After that night, as I reached my room, my phone rang. It was her. She called me to check whether I had reached safely. I felt so loved and cared for; where I really should have felt emasculated. We went on to talk, which was mostly giggles, for the next one hour or so. During that hour, though she refutes it till date, I swear she told me she had a huge crush on me and she always wanted to be with me. Later, in the same breath, she did tell me that she had just come out of a relationship and wasn’t ready for dating yet but I was blank all that time as I could only hear- “Abhyudaya,I love you, will you please marry me?” in my head which was way up in my tushie.

The next morning I woke up feeling like her boyfriend. She woke up like it was any other day and went on to casually proceed with her routine. This, my friends, was my first encounter with the legendary and dreaded “friendzone”!! It was horrible, I tell you. You have to perform all the daily chores of a boyfriend and you get none of the privileges. It’s like doing the prime minister’s work anonymously. Of course, I didn’t feel horrible that time. She used to call me daily, tell me everything from the way she brushed her teeth to the food on her table. One day, we also went out to eat a sandwich after college. It was a romantic date for me and my dream came true when she fed me ice-cream from her spoon, with her own hands. Later on, as we hung around with other people in groups, I saw her feeding other guys too; turns out she just liked to feed others. I looked on as she turned grown-up guys and girls into clumsy babies just with her spoon.

Next came the phase of muffled emotions. Right in the middle of our long conversations, which were mostly about how she has lost or gained weight and how she can’t believe that the other girl bought the same dress as hers, I would try saying those three magical words to her but all in vain. My sighs, my emotions, my long pauses, they all went unheeded and unattended. Hindi movies helped not a single bit during that time as they celebrated selfless, unexpressed love where the guy just made a total fool of himself without the girl even noticing and in the end she came running to him in slow motion, realizing that he is her one only true lover. There would be conversations where I’d stop her in the middle and say, “Can I say something to you?” She’d bat her eyelids clueless and say “Sure, what is it?” I’d pause for a moment and then say, “Nothing, it’s just… nothing” and she’d be like, “Okay… so as I was saying, this girl totally wore the same dress as me on purpose. I just hate her…” and I’d nod without listening. She never took the hints, and neither was she ever interested. Yes, you don’t have to grin, I do realize it was pretty lame.

One year passed by, and multiple recharge and night calling plans later, I finally entered the “enough is enough” phase. My love for her was true (or so I thought) and she needed to know it (or so I thought). I loved her scent, her smile, her grimaces, her gestures, her gawk (or so I thought)- I loved the way she was (or so I thought). I just needed to put it out there. (Or so I…) So, it was one night like any other, we were talking on a topic of her interest. I stopped her midway and said- “I think I love you!” As if she was ready for this moment, she went- “No, Abhyudaya, NO! We have a great friendship and don’t you dare ruin it!” I asked whether she wanted to think or whether it was just too early for her and she replied that she had already made it clear that she just wanted to never get in a relationship ever again. I screamed in my head. “That’s just something all girls say after a break-up!” Maybe I had said it wrong- “I think I love you?”, what do I mean by “I think”? I should have been more direct and clear. Anyway, it was done. I was too much of a self-righteous prick to own up to it so I said, “Oh hey! Sorry, I don’t know what had gotten into me; of course we’re better together as friends. Just think that this never happened, sorry again.” Yes, I apologized for speaking my mind. Maybe expressing yourself to someone needs you to let your guard down a bit, put it out and then wait to be either shot down or win it all. I didn’t want to take that risk yet! Turns out, I was ready to take the risk again after two-three weeks. As fate would have it, both of us had the same route via train while going to our native places in the vacations. It was a 36 hour long journey with just me and her. We sat in the side lower berth of the 2AC compartment with me listening and her blabbering away about some random topic as if nothing had happened. I mean I didn’t want things to become awkward between us but I’d really have appreciated it if she acknowledged the existence of my feelings if you know what I mean. She was friendly as always and I was scheming to win her as always. The whole day, I kept giving her the smirk, imagining myself as the wise, all-knowing prince until she pointed out that my zipper was open. In the night, I proposed to her again. This time I didn’t say “I think I love you”. I knew better. Past experience had made me wiser. I had rehearsed this moment over and over in my mind and so this time, I went, “I guess I am still in love you.” I heard it as soon as I said. “I guess?” I could hear the sound of my own hopes shattering. She said, “Abhyudaya, you’re not in your senses, you don’t know what you’re saying, you had promised you’ll never do this again.” It was the guiltiest I felt, I still can’t figure out why I felt so guilty, it was as if I had broken someone’s heart. It does not take a genius to turn down a proposal but, it does take a genius to make the other person feel like he has broken your heart and not the other way round. I hung my head in shame and quietly climbed to my upper berth and went to sleep secretly wishing that tomorrow morning she’d have thought it over and be all mine in the morning. I had many dreams about our marriage and future kids throughout the night. The next morning, she woke me up with a smile. I came down from my berth, grinning like a super-villain whose nuclear missiles were about to destroy the important centers in the world if the world leaders didn’t fulfill his demands. I sat by her side, sipping IRCTC’s watery coffee as I heard her say “I love you too”, I squirted out the coffee through my nostrils, it was happiness beyond comparison. I couldn’t believe my ears. I said, “What did you just say?” She frowned at me, “I said, I think I have flu! What did you hear dumbass?” All my dreams came swishing back to the gutter again. “Nothing, it’s just… nothing.” I fixed my gaze back to the newspaper. She giggled, “What did you think? Say na..?” I said, “Hey, it’s nothing, nothing funny really, trust me!” She persisted, “Tell na, otherwise you don’t consider me a good friend! Please I want to know..” “Ok, if you insist” I said, “I thought you said you loved me too.” She fumed “How could you!? Abhyu, this is the limit. I had warned you yesterday too!” I apologized and went back to my upper berth. I decided- this had to be the last time I let this happen. I am not going after her anymore; making a fool of myself, chasing something that didn’t belong to me. Needless to say, it went on for countless many more times. I was hooked on to the F.R.I.E.N.D.S TV series and could picture her as Rachel and myself as Ross failing to notice that Ross and Rachel were “on” and “off”, like confused lovers; and not “off” and “friendzoned” like me.

I thought of giving her one extra try each time and regretted it later. On her birthdays, I wrote her sonnets, gifted her photo frames of us together, arranged for surprise treats; so much so that people started thinking that we were actually in a relationship. I cried on phone, wetted my pillow, and helped her through her tough decisions like wearing which dress to the party, figuring out whether her friend is really jealous of her looks. I did everything from taking her shopping, postponing all my plans just to run errands for her. God, I was unstoppable! It wasn’t like I got absolutely nothing in return. She gave me company, hung out with, talked to me mostly about topics of her interest but it was blissful for me.  There was one incident where I finally manned up and gave her an ultimatum; either say “yes” or forget me forever. She said, “It makes me really sad to make a choice but I can’t do this to you, so I am leaving you. Let’s not talk ever again.” I felt dumped. It was amazing, I gave her the choice and still she was the one leaving me. I had to get her back, I cannot let this happen. That day, it was a scorching summer afternoon and I went on foot outside her hostel, with tears in my eyes, called her up and asked her to come out. I told her I just wanted to apologize, I had bought roses too. She was angry for some reason. She didn’t come out; I thought it was all over. I was scared, sorry and many more pathetic adjectives for the whole day. The next day, she was talking normally to me as if nothing had happened. I thought it was the beauty of our relationship that it cannot be destroyed by anything on earth, I could do nothing that could break our friendship. It was pure love, it was just something else. Turns out, it WAS something else.

Then came the phase of “the betrayal”.  She had always told me that she couldn’t date me because she never wanted to get into a relationship, she wanted to get married and have kids when the time came. (or so I thought). But then she started finding guys “cute” and to add insult to injury, she started telling me about them; how she couldn’t say “no” if a particular guy was to ask her out. I felt a little cheated but then I saw the romance in loving someone who had lost her way- just being with her, supporting her through her decisions until she truly realized her true calling. There were friends who kept telling me that I should just leave her for my own good; and there were those who thought I should hang on and she’ll totally end up with me one day. I thought the later idea was more romantic. I tell you it’s all Shah Rukh Khan’s movies’ fault. Anyway, our conversations slowly started getting about how some other dude got her number from somewhere and asked her out.  She turned to me whenever she wanted the advice on whether she should go or not. I always told her to give the guy a chance, I wanted her to come back to me after seeing all her options; that way, I could be sure that she was sure about me. Well, it’s another thing that I considered myself to be an “option” too. I was yet to see the hilarity of the situation. It was yet to dawn on me that I was banking on others to perform poorly for my chances to improve. A new definition of “hopelessness” had been revealed. If Oxford dictionary had a picture by the side of the word, it’d be my passport-size photograph with the forced smile; the exact same smile I used to sport when she used to tell me how amazing her date was.

Slowly, our conversations started getting shorter as her boyfriends started hogging my prime time space. I slowly started surrendering, even suggesting her to call up the guy who liked her so much. No, I hadn’t given up hope, I just was tired. She made terrible choices and it was brutal to see her click so instantly with other guys. It was completely different from what I had imagined. To put that in other words, although I thought my love was pure and undying, I was slowly, umm.. how do I put this delicately, losing interest in her. It had been two and a half years and I had been demoted from best-friendzone to  plain, ordinary friendzone. So our daily conversations turned weekly from daily, I started hearing things about her. How she got drunk and threw up in the hostel last night, how she went on a long bike ride with some dude who she barely knew, how some dude got rose bouquets delivered to her room. It was like I had let the noose loose on her dating life and she was free again.
So, then came the phase of introspection. Now that I was away from her shadow, I moved out from my own shadow and had a clear good look at the path I had chosen. I was suffering from a disease; the love in itself was not detrimental, but the love that I had lost in the process of loving her was detrimental. I had stopped loving myself; this is not a story of how I loved her, it’s the story of how I fell in love with myself all over again. I realized that only someone who wants to be happy can be happy and only someone who loves himself can want to be happy. So there she was- all happy as she always did what she wanted to do; perfectly knowing what she wanted from every relation and there I was- feeling cheated because I tried to turn things around when they were clearly heading the other way. I did like myself for that though. I liked the way I persisted; I liked how I loved without trying to mess with the order of the universe. There were so many girls who told me that she was not the one for me and had it been them in place of her, they’d have fallen for me. Everyone who came to know about my story thought I had the charm of a romance novel’s hero, I had what it took to make as the protagonist of a great love story; it was just that this one was not supposed to be my love story.

There was just a small problem- I had dedicated my life to the pursuit of this girl so much that I had no idea how to talk to someone new. I needed a buildup, a story or a context to start the conversation. Three years since that realization, I now have a girlfriend who loves me as much as I love her.  The first story I told her made her laugh so much that she fell for me right that very instant. Can you guess which story did I tell her?

Story 2-

Akriti and I had broken up on good terms. Yes, both of us were very unhappy doing it but it was inevitable. She was tired of my antics and had started liking this guy from her class. I could have stopped her but I let her slip away. It has always been my problem- I assert myself when it’s not required and let it go where it’s really needed. I am anyway of the view that a sacred emotion like love needn’t be asserted. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. Well, it wasn’t. Anyway, it had been one month since my break-up and I was ready to move on. Love is a strange emotion. It is more complex than any other feeling in the world. In its nature, it has more similarities to a drug than an emotion. It needs constant attention. Like a regular dose regime, love needs to be expressed periodically. Unexpressed love either withers away or becomes a topic for sad soliloquies. Love is laced with several other emotions that follow, like a drug’s undesirable side effects. Jealousy, insecurity, suspicion and paranoia, to name a few, are the vices that love invokes. It all stems from the misplaced sense of possessiveness over another person’s mind and body. Love corrupts like no other. Having said that, only a few get to love and be loved. True love actually frees you from all boundaries and makes you a better person. It’s the road to true love that I travelled and experienced and yes, I’d not let go of this experience for any treasure in the world.
It’s very easy to make someone fall for you but, there is no way to get someone to fall in love with you. After the mandatory month-long period of mourning over lost love which consisted of growing a beard, having sleepless nights, introspection and the eventual realization that she was never mine, I decided to start dating again. This new girl was an old facebook friend with whom I never really attempted to acquaint myself. I must have added her on a whim. She was in my friends’ list for no reason at all. I must have added her believing that she and I had some cosmic connection due to a particular coincidental match between her profile and mine. I used to look for coincidences. Her elder sister’s name coincided with the name of my big time crush in college, her name began with an “A”, her interests included reading, travelling and anthropology. These coincidences didn’t mean anything but I sought for a meaning in them. After she added me back, she just sat there like any other facebook connection I had. No real conversation happened except “Hey! How are you?” and “Where have you been?” I had never tried to get to know her. Maybe because there was never a connection or maybe there was, I never really tried. Instead of loving the person, I used to love the idea that this person has been handed to me by the universe. “Wasn’t it the same way with Akriti?” I shuddered. I felt like I was stuck in a loop. I had met Akriti online too and felt a cosmic connection. There were dreams, hopes and ambitions intertwining hardly after our two or three conversations. I was fresh out of a breakup and I just wanted my heart to heal even if it meant breaking some innocent girl’s heart by my false promises. I led her to believe that I was head over heals for her while in reality I was just incredibly sad and lonely. And here I stood again! Fresh out of a breakup, looking for a rebound, and again flirting ruthlessly with this girl who is actually attracted to me.
I decided to give this girl a fair try. I was not going to make the same mistake this time. I didn’t look up and thank the universe for “handing” her to me. The battle for me had just begun. She liked me a lot. She thought I was some awesome dude but, she never got to know the real person in me till now; but all that was about to change. She had fallen for me because of my talent for cartooning and my romantic nature, now it was time I courted her like a man would. I had to make her fall in love with me.
Early in a relationship, people act like Siamese twins. They somehow have similar interests, similar tastes and similar expectations. They are either pretending or are showing the most convenient side of their personality while hiding the footnotes. I was so happy with the new girl. She was agreeable to my life plans. She wanted to marry soon, have kids, travel a lot and join a hobby class just like me. It should have made me happy, right? Well, it got me thinking- Hadn’t the same been the case with Akriti? It’s when you desperately want it to work and you start agreeing more that the first seed of difference is sown. When you say “yes” to everything, you make yourself less readable to your partner. Now, coming to my love story, this new girl wanted to join me on my visit to a book fair in the city. I had proposed the idea to her and she said yes. I dreamed of showing her the books from my favourite authors, smelling the fresh pages with her, walking the aisles and having a great time. I called her up the night before and asked her whether she was looking forward to tomorrow. She paused and then went on to say- “Oh yes, the book fair! Yes! Of course…” That pause got me thinking. The plan was mine, she never told me she was excited about books. I also thought back on the times I used to bore my company in bookstores by totally getting lost in the books. All those waiting, tired faces flashed in front of my eyes. In my heart, I knew I didn’t need a company in the fair. I had asked her out of courtesy and expected her to decline. The same way I expected Akriti to decline my offer of a road trip on a scorching May afternoon. It was a Sunday and thought it’d be cool to smell the burning rubber of my bike on the highway. Akriti was more of an afternoon-nap kind of person. She came with me and got sun-burns all over her face and arms. I will not speak about what the wind did to her hair and throat. I think she held me accountable for this and rightly so. She never really complained but I think it must have gone as a check mark against “Inconsiderate” in my report card. Almost as if woken up from deep slumber- “So, you really want to go to a boring book fair? It’s ok if you don’t come, there’ll be nothing much to do for you there.” I said to the new girl. She hesitated, held on to courtesy for a bit longer and then heaved a sigh of relief- “Thank goodness!” she said “I really didn’t want to go but I thought you’ll feel bad if I decline.” I had unlocked the next level in relationships. It was called- “Communication”.
Promises are fragile but they help validate a person’s credibility, even more so in relationships. You give her your word and it means the world to her. What are love and marriage but promises of lifelong companionship and trust. It all begins with the smaller promises and builds up to the grand one; like a drum-roll. The point I am getting to is that the next level to move up in a relationship is fulfilling small promises. New girl wanted me to take her on a nice weekend getaway and I had promised her that I will. She wanted a nice dinner and a long walk on the beach and then maybe a long ride along the ocean on the bike. I had helped her visualize the whole thing and then shelved the whole plan by putting no deadline to it. So the other day, when she asked me when we were actually going to do what we had planned, it got me thinking- Akriti wanted to study with me as she was finding it tough to study alone. She wanted to clear out some facts and I had promised her that I will. When? Whenever I get time and guess what? I never got time. She had planned that she’d bring her slambook and show me how she had decorated it with my photos but we never found time to do all that. I sometimes wonder how many great moments I just missed by not committing myself to them. I smiled and made bus reservations for two to Goa that weekend. The new girl loved it and I loved it too. The whole weekend was awesome. I fell in love with her as she ran on the beach like a free spirit- laughing, giggling, smiling- Gosh! So this was what I was missing!?
There is also a flipside to promises; as we promise someone a lifetime of happiness, we forget that there’s only so much that can be planned and although we all need some structure in our life and relationships, things need to move at their pace. It was seven days into dating Akriti that I started naming our future kids. No, not in a funny or romantic way where a dreamy eyed lover looks into some far away future skyline and makes a wish, but in a way a square husband makes rigid life plans, like a teacher dictates the syllabus for the academic year to his student. I was way off the mark. When you commit before actually feeling that you want to commit, you are actually lying to yourself and it’s a white lie. She didn’t catch my lie but she felt like the walls were closing in on her. I was dragging her in a fairytale she wanted nothing to do with. She had not asked for a sweet never-ending romance, she wanted some sincerity. Three weeks after dating this new girl, I took her to the movies with my friends and it got awkward when one of them asked- “So, the families of you two are open to intercaste marriage?” I looked into her eyes, she wasn’t ready for the question. It was one of those proverbial gun to your head questions that make you say stupid things. I smiled and said- “Sure but first, let us reach that point where we can ask that question to ourselves.” She smiled. Calamity averted. I’d rather be planning where we want to eat dinner or how I can please her better than plan about something that’s way into the future. 
True love empties you and fills you at the same time. It takes away all your vices and fills you with virtues; it makes you a better person. A lover guards you from all that’s evil, he protects you. The problem arises when definitions of evil differ. When you think you are protecting a loved one, you might actually be crossing a line. Being in a relationship consists of spending a lot of time with that person, giving them special privileges that they can trespass on your privacy anytime but trusting that they won’t misuse their rights. In trying to make that person perfect for you, you start training them. Knowingly or unknowingly, we try to change the person sometimes and it leads us to be skeptical about their personality. We start looking at the other person with a magnifying glass, we start presuming stuff. My next lesson came when my new girlfriend and I went to a birthday party together. It was one of my friend’s party, and she had told me that she wasn’t really sure whether she’ll be comfortable. I just wanted her to mix with my gang. The party had just begun and she came to me requesting me to take her back to hostel. She said she was having a bad headache. I wondered whether it was just an escape strategy, whether she just didn’t want to give the party a chance; I was having fun and didn’t want to leave. Anyway, we excused ourselves from the party and were on our way back. I had two options- ask her whether she was really having a headache and invite an argument or just be bitter about it. None of the options seemed right. I thought back on the time when Akriti had made a snide remark about one of my female friends. She just thought that my friend was selfish and annoying. I found it very unacceptable. I couldn’t let it go. I went on to say that maybe the problem was in her, that maybe she should stop judging people and reflect on her own personality traits. I only stopped when I heard her sobbing. I now realize that sometimes when you think there is a “problem” with your partner and it can be “fixed”, the real problem is in you. So, as I dropped the new girl to the hostel, I patted her cheeks and asked how her headache was. She smiled, gave me a sweet peck on my cheeks and said “I love you”. 
Movies and Television confuse us about the way to true love. We start assuming that the hardest part is getting the girl or saving the damsel. Love is not in the moments of passion when you temporarily stop thinking and just let go, it is in those moments of tranquility when love wraps you, surrounds you and stays with you. It was our anniversary, the day we had met online. My guy friends used to boast about how they don’t believe in celebrating anniversaries and how the henpecked ones bought gifts and spent time with their partners while the cool ones hung out with the dudes. The cool girlfriends were those who didn’t mind this arrangement. New girl was slowly trying to fit in my world, so when I told her what the dudes thoughts, she said she liked the idea- the idea of not spending time together. Akriti and I used to scoff at couples who used to talk on phone till late in the night. “God, these people must have no life at all!” she used to say and I used to agree- “I am so sick of these sugary sweet ideas about romance, I just love it that we don’t act like complete idiots in love.” Turns out, if you’re not a complete idiot, you’re not in love. So, on my anniversary with the new girl, as she smiled and waved, and I left with my dude friends, I realized how big a jerk I was. I made an excuse, turned around and swept her right off her feet. She was pleasantly surprised. That night we went on a dinner and she told me tales about her family, I shared my funny anecdotes and we laughed our hearts out. We looked like total idiots. That’s the way to be in love, I guess.  
I can count the number of times I had said “I love you” to Akriti in the span of one year of dating her. I used to feel that if I say it a lot, the words will lose their meaning. Truth is, love needs to be expressed. It’s the beauty of the emotion that it blooms like a spring flower and is on display for everyone to see. Akriti wanted to hold my hand in public, kiss me in a park, and whisper naughty and sweet nothings in my ear during dinner. I always used to hold her back. It was embarrassing for me. Well, if you’re scared to hold her hand in front of a bunch of strangers, how will you fight for her? How will you hold her hand through life’s most difficult situations? I wanted to set it right this time; this time with the new girl. I held her hand, lent her my shoulder looked into her eyes and was there for her whenever she needed me. I tried to talk to her, try to know how she felt about me, love her and express my love. I said “I love you” to her every time before hanging up the phone and it made her smile every time. She felt loved. I was happy. 
Now, let me tell you a few things about this new girl. She had come out of back-to-back two bad breakups. She was losing faith in love bit by bit. Her first boyfriend used to be a selfish prick who would rather hang with his gang than spend time with her. He did everything wrong, he messed it up but it wasn’t entirely his fault. She was dedicated toward him, she wanted to bear through it all and finally have a happy home with him. She had total faith that she could change the guy one day but she had a problem; a guy friend who pretended to be her well-wisher but secretly wanted to break her relationship up so that he can have her all to himself. He was there whenever she felt dejected. So, one day she just left the first boyfriend and went with him, confused, looking to be happy finally. Alas! That wasn’t the end. She soon realized that the new boy in her life was just a selfish prick too. The first boyfriend, realizing that he had messed up, came back in her life. She welcomed him back in her life and fell in love all over again. Now, to a rational person, this must seem like a huge mistake. How can they trust each other again? Well, love is irrational and there is no “point of no return” in love. Love comes calling when you least expect it so, they got back together. Yes, the new girl is Akriti and the first boyfriend happens to be me. I had introduced her to you as the new girl and told the pre-breakup and post-breakup stories as if they were with different people because in between the two stories, I had a month to think. Akriti and I had met online. I never really fell in love with her but we got into a relationship. Slowly, as love bloomed, I realized how late I had been in knowing the amazing person that she was. Before I could make things right, she was gone but she came running back to me. I knew I had to do it the right way this time. It has been four years since then and I must say I have come a long way following my heart and ignoring what everyone else says. So, this is my story. As soon as I finish typing this, I will pick up the phone and narrate it to her; not because I have to but because I don’t know how not to. I love you Akriti.

Saturday 3 August 2013

PJ maara

Durga Shakti

An essay on Architecture, crafts and computers. (Might be boring)

Since time immemorial, man has expressed himself through art and craft. Art is the mere expression of human imagination while craft is its utilitarian form. Craft takes into account not only the physical beauty but also the efficiency of saving time, money and labour. Craft thus, can be defined as skillful art. Its various forms such as designing, architecture, painting, singing, playing musical instruments and myriad other such disciples have channelized human potential since the advent of art. The skill involved in various crafts adds value to the quality of human resources. The same seems to be eroding of late, with the advent of those pesky little machines that they call 'computers' which have taken away all the fun from crafts.

Although I did exaggerate when I called the computer a 'pesky little machine'- and far from that, it is an efficient calculator but nothing more than that. In fact, it has been a big drain of human attention- as men sit in front of it, staring at the screen, wide-eyed, in awe, as it performs all the difficult calculations and computations for them. It does become a big roadblock for human skill development.

Ancient India was known for its handicraft market. The finely crafted jewelry, sculptures, pottery found to be adorning not only the homes in Harappan and Mohen-jo-daro civilizations, but being important commodites of trade stand to be a testimony for Indian dominance in the field of these crafts. The tradition lived long and various Indian craftsmen flourished though the age of Mauryas (most prominently Ashoka), Post Mauryan age, Gupta age upto the medieval age of Delhi Moghul Sultanate, Cholas and the Vijaynagar Empire. India commanded respect in the west, in Arabic countries and also among neighbours like China. All that changed with the British intrusion in the Indian market. The cheap industrial products virtually decapitated the Indian craftsmanship which is yet to find ground due to further relentless attack by industrialization and subsequent age of the computers.

There is a value way beyond the market price for finely crafted Madhubani paintings, Pashmina shawls, Jaipuri work on ivory etc. and even hand crafted Harley Davidson motorbikes for that matter. They aside from being fine examples of great attention to detail are also products of love and labour. These artworks are also each- unique in itself- causing pride to the owner and creator alike, With the advent of CAD-CAM (Computer aided design and computer aided machining) technology, high degrees of such precision are possible with also the emphasis lying on the quantity of goods produced, their utility; aiming for larger scale of production. This erodes the value system behind the craft-market and makes the products open to cheap bargainable deals. The incentive to the artist is also low as now it has to trickle down from the wide sieves of distribution and marketing along with the manufacturing costs (including computers and machines). Also in this new system, designs are easiled stolen ie copied and replicated.

Similarly, it does perplex a reasonable man when he sees that the structures build in the older times such as the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal of India, Leaning tower of Pisa etc are the only formidable and recognisable pieces of architecture since their creation in their respectives countries and regions. One would assume that with the level of precision and accurcy attained through computerized design softwares, the modern machinery available to man- there would have been a far greater number of such large and marvelous structures adorning the Earth than there actually are. Actually, there are many skyscrapers adorning the big city skylines but none of those give an identity to the region and attaches significance to its heritage and culture. These unimaginative and generic models coming straight out of a computer-generated plan with preset shapes, relying completely on the architectural ideas professed in the past show a lack of creativity emerging among the craftsmen.

Right from the principles of firmitas (durability), utilitas (utility) and venustas (beauty) given by Vitruvius to the ideas of proportion explained by Leone Battista Alberti; to the 20th century architect le Corbusier's ideas about beauty and touching lives- architecture has always had a humane touch. The creativity behind ideas such as "form follows function" by Louis Sullivan (19th century architect of skyscrapers) and other great ideas such as rationalism, empiricism, structuralism, post-structuralism and phenomenology have been the guiding forces behind the creation of phenomenal buildings in various cultures which have been revived by different architects time and again to pay respects to the art and craft.

On the other hand, no new forms have been emerging in the modern times, no new schools of thought, new schools of music, art etc. Computers have not only made things easier, they have divided the field into two specialities- design and project. It is not to say that the computer has been a menace and has been of no help. It has helped create many a gem but also, due to the dumbing down of the craft, it has led to the entry of many unmotivated, unskilled professionals in the field.

The need of the hour is to inculcate respect for the craft in the minds of young professionals so that our legacy, firmly etched and carved in wood, stone or glass can be passed on!

Thursday 1 August 2013

Super Commando Dhruv and his fans

Amreekan Desi- Masters of America - Book Review

This book review is a part of "The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program". To get free books log on to

Title- Amreekan Desi- Masters of America
Author- Atulya Mahajan
Publishers- Random House
Genre- Fiction
E-book available

Amreekan Desi- 'Masters of America' is a novel by Atulya Mahajan. It's the coming-of-age story of two boys with polar opposite versions of the great American dream. The novel falls in the genre of that light hearted humour aimed at a younger audience with life lessons subtly wrapped in little chunks of wisdom gained from experiences without being too preachy. In a way it's similar to the writings of Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Singh but  is different, read superior in terms of the language and wit. The author doesn't try too hard to be funny and dramatic which works in favour of the book.

About the Author
The author, by profession is a technologist at an investment bank. (Ooo... big shot)! He also used to write for the Times of India- Crest Edition which as I am typing this review has been withdrawn from the market. Crest was a good paper, I think it wasn't just marketed properly. Ok, I am diverting from the topic, coming back to the author- the acknowledgements and "About the Author" note at the end of the book reveal a bit of the author's personality. His innate Delhi-ness and his love for aloo-paranthas are out in the display. He playfully chooses just the right words to create a funny picture in mind. This sense of humour can come only after experiencing such things first-hand; which leaves me wondering how mischievous exactly would the author have been during his graduation and post graduation years.

About the Cover

The cover has been given a bright, light humourous red and yellow color theme. Adorning the cover page are photoshopped images of two Punjabi quirky lads. One has been given the body of Uncle Sam while the other is making a funny face, most probably plotting a strategy to score an "Amreekan" chick. The page is replete with American symbols of Statue of Liberty and Coca Cola along with the quintessential "Rock On" hand gesture. It all draws the reader toward the book while establishing the thematic limits of the plot. A fresh change from some other books of the same genre with boring covers. Oh and did I mention, the funny shades on the protagonists, the author's name and the symbol of Coca Cola are embossed!

About the Story
The story is about two guys Akhil and Jassi who reach the Florida State University with different dreams in their eyes. Akhil has the dream to succeed in life with a serious approach toward things while Jassi is the free-spirited, India-hating, US-loving guy whose only goal in life is to "get it on" with some firang chicks in a pool or on the beach. Both lead tumultuous lives with ups and downs and what finally becomes of them is the essence of the story. Akhil is the clear protagonist of the story with most of serious action happening around him. There are myriad other characters falling in various classifications like FOBs, ABCDs etc as classified by the desis in America. The only connection between Akhil and Jassi is that they are roommates but as their stories progress, they seem to be intertwined with each other destined to reach where they eventually do.

The constant switching from one storyline to another is sometimes not smooth. It's like flipping the TV remote watching American Pie and Swades simultaneously but the content in the storylines keeps the reader hooked. The plot seemed to be in a hurry at places as if the author had planned for a certain event to happen at a certain point of time. This hurry shows in the language and sometimes leaves room for some explanation. Explanations are given and all the loose threads are sewed together which gives me a doubt that maybe the book was edited 'too much'.

I was able to predict the future events in the novel but it didn't put me off for a second because of the wit and humour used by the writer. The "love" angle got quite filmy and the whole "Project Kolkata" chapter had me slightly nauseated as I was reminded of numerous Bollywood movies based on such impossibly romantic characters. But if you let the characters grow on you, I think there are times when this simple book powerfully makes you misty eyed with the sheer strength in its characters.

The book although establishes many stereotypes about Punjabis, Bengalis, Parents, Indians in general, Americans in general, Afro-Americans, Chinese people but is quick to break all of them. It does have a universal appeal due to its anti-racist nature and the stereotypes are only there to serve their one and only motive- providing fodder for humour.

There is a mention of nudity, sex and strip clubs in the book but they are not used to titillate the audience. I hope all the budding authors take note from this one. This is a book that sells itself based on its content and not anything else. Good job!

Quality Of the Book
Random House as always, has done a great job bring out the book with almost zero typographical or grammatical errors. The pages are crisp. No printing mistakes. Nice readable font and good lucid language. This book is good value for money. My heartfelt thanks to +nimi vashi for giving me this amazing opportunity.

My rating-
***1/2 (Three and a half stars out of 5)

At the end I leave you with this clip of mine where I thought I was making a funny face for a still photograph but actually the camera was on Video mode- go ahead, laugh at me-

Passionate Ignorance