Saturday 21 February 2015

For the love of books...

It might have come to the mind of regular readers of this blog that I have lately started writing a lot of book reviews. Before the advent of book review programs by popular blogging platforms eg Blogadda, my blog was just about cartoons, short stories and poems. I liked books but, I was not the kind of reader who would finish a book in one go and have strong feelings about it. I had purchased and started reading many classics but, couldn't finish even a single one.I wondered what it took in a reader to finish a book without losing interest midway. I applied for some of the book review programs on Blogadda and Indiblogger and slowly formed networks with many more book bloggers. Now the situation is such that I get review requests sometimes from publishers and authors themselves.

There have been incidents when I angered the authors by being too honest with my reviews. I don't think I can review the typical Leadstart authors anymore. (It's a publishing house which gives preference to beginners). With no disrespect to the publishing house, it has to be a little discriminate in choosing its manuscripts. I think it can take a hint from the publishers by the name of Aleph Publishing House. I think their books have relatively good quality of language.

I had signed up for IndiReads Book Review Program and ended up over-criticizing their pulp-fiction novellas. I have now realized that language is really important for me. There are authors out there who have a story to tell. They are ill-equipped in terms of medium i.e. language but they have content. All I can suggest for them is to get a good editor on board and get their book edited.

After all this experience and tumult, I am now ready to diagnose myself. I grew up in a household where Shakespeare and Shelly were lying around in the living room. My dad being a Literature post-graduate had a big collection of literary novels. I did read comics and other non-serious fiction as a young adult but, as a kid, my eye was slowly trained to look at literary fiction with special respect. I could never finish any of the classics and found them excessively boring but, whenever I had time, I would take out those hardbound, old books and look at all those lines that were written with much effort.

That is why I think in most of my reviews, I am looking for a certain literariness in the book and am disappointed when it is either too bland or too pretentious. My this habit lets me fall in love with books but doesn't let my enjoyment levels, while reading, remain on a steady graph. When they're classics, I am put off by the long descriptions; when they are thrillers, I am put off by the cheesiness. But then, I am in love with the printed word. That is for sure. If I could buy all the books in the World and keep them in a giant library with ladders and shelves, I would!

What is it about those printed and bound sheets of processed papyrus that makes the human preserve them in wooden shelves, dusting them, picking them up from time to time and flipping their leaves? There is something comforting about having the written word in your possession. The keeper of records and the protector of history is a role that may be bland in real life but has been much romanticized in films and stories.

I guess there is a certain power associated with owning books. It is intangible yet, very real. But I am not after that power. Or maybe I am. The point is, I could ramble on and on about books and that's why, I have started reviewing books.

Until later,


Thursday 19 February 2015

Before and After Proposal: Learning from Rejection in Love

I am in love! (Part 1)

Of late, I have been feeling a little bit in love. Oh, who am I kidding, I am once again away from the shores, diving in the deep trenches of this endless ocean! The feeling is liberating but it ties to down to an extent too. I can no longer feel like a boat without an anchor. The girl who I love knows how I feel but she, to quote her own words, is “not sure how she feels about me.” My initial knee-jerk response to that was that if she isn’t sure, she is not in love and I should probably run as fast as I can. But, it was only after seeing her once again in a crowded marketplace, when I realized that although it would be wise to not love at all, wiser even to love someone who loves you back but, if there is one thing that love lacks, it is reason and wisdom.

I know, it sounds very sappy and romantic. It is the cheesiest thing to say ‘I love you’ to someone these days. Mostly because you hear it being said to freely and sometimes insincerely. But, there is literally no way I can restrain myself from loving her. I am enjoying this state of helplessness and it gets cheesier from here but I am not gonna apologize for feeling a certain way.

When I hear her voice, I want it to be the only thing I hear; when I see her smile, it brightens up my day. When she says she likes me, I hear nothing else. This feeling, even when unrequited, un-reciprocated is blissful. I want to hang on to this feeling, even if it means getting hurt.

Although, you don’t need reasons to love someone, let me try to explain who she is and why I love her. She is that girl who would sit by your side and you’d feel richer by a million dollars. She is dusky, the crisp baked colour of golden sunshine. She smiles with all her teeth and her eyes get all squinty when she does that. She hides just the right amount of shyness at the ends of her smiles. Her smiles get crooked at the corners due to the extra-playfulness of her lips. She talks with her hands- gesturing vividly as her nose gently twitches with a mischief. Her hair come a little ahead to cover her forehead on the sides as if trying to protect her from all things bad. I haven’t even come yet to her best part- the eyes! She has the eyes of someone who roams the ancient deserts. They have such power and they are such happy eyes at the same time. I look at them and think to myself- wow! Those are the eyes I never wanna see crying. I have been in love before but not this way. It has always been someone who I either adore or admire. She is someone I adore AND admire. And of course, I love her.

I know all this gooey romantic jazz is kind of a put-off. Girls fall for men. Men who can fix things, men who can carry them along the rivers. I am not her saviour. I am her friend and I want her to love me. I don’t know how to seize the day, how to win her or floor her. Perhaps, she will never find her man in me but, I don’t want that either. I want her to feel what I feel for her. I think that is good enough to make it work. For once, I think I have fallen for a damsel who doesn’t need saving.

She Declined (Part 2)
Remember how I was in love a few weeks ago? Well! Just like all my old love stories, this too didn’t have a happy ending. I guess there is a ripening time between wanting something and asking for it. I always rush that time and end up with an egg on my face. It is maybe my fault or maybe not. In my heart of hearts, I believe that I did nothing wrong. I told her how I felt and she didn’t feel the same way. So, I dropped it.

There is a curse associated with every no. Once someone says no and you still pursue them, you are literally asking them to ignore their first instinct which is dangerous. I am a big believer in instincts, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. If no one opens the door at the first knock, the second knock would need force. And forced entry into anyone’s home is never welcome.

One question that arises is ‘Do I still love her?’ I did ask myself that. Of course love doesn’t die a sudden death. There are stages. I was quite liberal in my usage of the word. So, let me first define ‘love’ as I felt for her. Love for me was not the ultimate union of two souls but the proposition of the same. ‘I love you’ for me meant a letting down of the guard and being vulnerable. It is like when a child lets someone else touch his favourite toy. Love was that degree of trust which I was willing to bestow onto her. It was totally one-sided and I knew what I was doing. I do not know any other way to fall than flat on my face. So, I tried it. I did fall and I enjoyed it. It would have been much more fun, had she also fallen with me but it was not the case. Now, where do I go from here? Of course, the guard cannot be down forever. It will heal like an open wound. The knowledge that she doesn’t love me will work like an ointment and it will seal itself clean, like nothing ever happened.

Admiration will remain and so will compassion but, love? It will fade. I am thankful to her for saying no. Whether or not something was there is debatable but, letting someone go is the kindest thing you can do to them.

Can I be friends with her? Won’t my feelings come in the way? Well, love as a feeling is known to be pretty unpredictable. Of course there will be weakness. It is like ordering fries when you could have just ordered a hamburger. But then, I realize that friendship should not be looked at like it is ‘settling for less’. Friendship in itself a pretty huge contract. Love comes with its own terms and conditions but so does friendship. She does want to be my friend. ‘Can be friends with her or not?’ is a question I did consider and the answer was yes. Because she was truthful to me, I know it without a doubt that there is nothing possible between us. She will never lie to me. All I need to remember is that she does not look at me in a romantic way. In life, if you know where you stand, how can you make a wrong move?

I do wish the best for her and I have coaxed her into wishing the same for me too. Now, until I find someone who makes me let my guard down again, I shall keep looking. The best part about this game is that you have unlimited tries and need to win just once!

Onward and upward!

Saturday 14 February 2015

My interview with Blogadda.

Abhyudaya S

Yes, I gave them my 'Dentist Rajnikanth' photo for the interview. It might not have been a good decision but, I guess it is catchy.

The interview (click for the link) is looking good and as always, I have been very verbose.

Do let me know your thoughts... :-)

I won't love you...- Valentine's Day Special

I recently came across a very nice post on how not to love and it moved me to write a guy version of the same (That post was by a girl).

To Future Lover,

I won't love you like your ex-boyfriend. I won't love you like your dream boyfriend. I will love you in my own way. What is my own way? Well, I don't know that yet. Because I haven't met you yet. I don't know what I like best about you. I am not looking for anything specific. The God is in small things but those things are not specific. It can be the way you wipe your nose once you've got the sniffles, it can be the way you make a long face when I drop your favourite crockery. I have not planned anything. Nor am I going to, your future birthdays, our anniversaries included. I do believe in making someone's day but, I don't think I am good with making plans.

The funny thing is, you can mould me into forms you like. I can wake up early or late depending on your sleep patterns. I can be okay or not okay with public display of affection depending on what you like. Yes, I have had a dating life but, you're not going to be fitting in a pattern for me. You won't be taking a place of someone else. You will be making your own place. I won't love you like I love others. I haven't set the rules for you and I hope you won't either.

This isn't a letter about lowering expectations. I want you to expect me to sweep you off your feet. I just don't want you or anyone else to plan it for me. Not even those love songs and films that you've been watching. Expect me to love you, just don't expect me to play the role of someone who loves you or loved you.

There is a reason for all this. It is not as if I am against teddy bears, chocolates and roses. It is just that when you have a clear-cut job description, people who are lousy at their jobs have more chances of getting fired. I don't want to get fired. I will rather take my chances with someone who doesn't want a spot filled in her life. Someone who is complete.

I do have a few promises to make though. I promise that I will...

... Wait outside the ladies washroom for you. I will never be the lover who lets his girlfriend/ wife shop alone except when you want to. 

... Take lots of detours. I promise never to fall in a routine. When we're returning from your cousin's boring wedding, we are going to that hilltop just to soak in the night sky for a while.

... Tell you everything. 

I am one of those guys who don't make phone calls unless they have something important to say. I also fumble with grand romantic gestures. I sometimes do not reply to texts immediately. If you turn me into someone more vocal, more loud; I perhaps will. For me, changing my approach toward a relationship is like changing the wrapping of a gift. The gift still remains the same. The catch is though that- I don't want you to ask me to change. I want you to make me want to love you more. That is only possible when there is a competition between us- 'Who Loves The Other One More?'

If I sense that you're competing with me in that arena, then by golly I will defeat you in that game. I will love the heck out of you.

I know love is not supposed to be conditional, it is not supposed to be sane. Sadly, I am not insane initially in a relationship. I am like that mysterious unicorn who only respects the one who he sees fit. Once you earn my respect, we can be competitors at this game o' two for life.



Wednesday 11 February 2015

Thoughts on Kejriwal and AAP

On 10th Feb, 2015, Aam Aadmi Party created history in Delhi politics by emerging as the single largest party in the State elections. AAP won on 67 seats out of 70. To be honest, I didn't expect the party to fare this well. It was not because I had any doubts in Kejriwal's ability as a crowd-puller but, the negative publicity that had been done by the political opposition seemed to have struck a chord with the Delhi common man.

I can only admire Kejriwal's skills as a human resource manager to revert back from that sort of low where even he was pushed to admit that resigning from the post of Chief Minister was a mistake. He was cornered and there seemed to be no way out. Of course BJP blundered by fielding Kiran Bedi as their CM candidate. Her obnoxious personality beamed through in all her TV interviews. It was not that she was a bad orator. It seemed as if she had sold her soul to the devil and was gung-ho about it.

Yet, something doesn't add up. There was a strong case for BJP in the wake of this new Modi era where BJP was projected as a saviour from all sorts of evil. Congress will loot you, AAP will abandon you, only BJP can save you. If I am not mistaken, the air was laden with a lot of favouritism toward the Right-Wing. Now, here is the time to sing accolades to the beauty of democracy. You can never take anything for granted.

BJP dug its own grave by keeping mum on controversial 'ghar-wapsi movement' and 'four-children per family statements'. It also stopped talking about development and Modi brand and focused on defaming Kejriwal. Even when there are kids fighting, the kid who keeps quiet usually gets less rebuttal from elders. BJP was the other kid- the tantrum throwing, sulky, brash, annoying kid. I think that is what happened.

Even then, 67 seats to a party which had lost its face. In Lok Sabha elections, AAP had performed poorly and even schoolteachers refrain from giving good grades to a child who has recently flunked. The Delhi voter is no schoolteacher I guess. It patiently watched and weighed its options. I am not saying AAP was a bad choice, it was common sense to vote for AAP but, it is just too shocking to see common sense prevail so widely.

You can convince an urban rich person to vote for AAP because even though its politics has certain flaws, it is not dirty politics. But, to convince the poor that politics can be free of issues relating to religion and mud-slinging; and then convincing them to vote for a relatively new party- it seems tricky.

I am not saying I know the secret of AAP's success. I am just saying there has to be a way around populist politics which AAP found. It was either the meetings that Kejriwal held in different Delhi localities, or the alluring campaign which focused on clear and direct promises. Whatever it was, it was a work of genius and all I can say is- well done, crusaders.

On a side note, I admire how Kejriwal has a sense of humour about things. Here's a video by TVF proving that-

Book Review- Ramayana- The Game of Life- Shattered Dreams- Shubha Vilas

ISBN-13: 978-81-8495-531-6
Title- Ramayana- The Game of Life- Shattered Dreams (Book 2)
Author- Shubha Vilas
Publisher- Jaico Books
Price- Rs 350
Genre- Religion and Philosophy/ Self Help
Pages- 387
eBook- Available

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

In the spiritual and motivational series by Shubha Vilas, this book is a sequel to Ramayana: The Game of Life- Rise of the Sun Prince.

The Author

The author Shubha Vilas is a spiritual author who has degrees in law and engineering. He holds motivational talks and attributes his wisdom to his grandmother whose eloquent narrations of the epic inspired him to write this series.

The Cover
The cover has a eerie tragic aura to it. The lamentations of Dasaratha, the evil which had surrounded him in the form of Kaikeyi's demands and the restlessness of Rama are all well-depicted. It paints a gloomy picture in stark contrast to its prequel. The red-brown tinge to the sky signify the impending doom and calming radiance in the backdrop serves as a cryptic message.

The Plot
The first book was based on the first chapter (Bal Kanda) of Ramayana- the epic. This book takes the story forward from the point when twelve joyful years have passed to Ram's marriage to Sita. The drama has just started unfolding now as the clouds of gloom are hovering over Ayodhya.

The book begins with Dasaratha's inner turmoils and as with the previous book, there are footnotes that contain author's insights on the situations in the story. These serve as lessons for the reader who is also a spiritual seeker.

The book talks about ideals to be followed in real life. Lessons are explained through the relationships between Ram and Lakshman, Ram and Sita, Ram and Bharat and Lakshman and Urmila.

At its core, Shattered Dreams is essentially a book about human relationships and idealism. One might think that the book would be unnecessarily preachy and boring but the thing is, Shubha Vilas has incorporated delightful chunks of information in it to keep it palatable for the wandering mind.

There are boxes which contain various interesting facts along with the author's analyses. These boxes are a joy in themselves. One such box is at page 155 where Rama's composed behaviour is contrasted against Lakshman's volatility. It gives a lot of insight into what goes in the making of a hero Lakshman is called Shesha because he is always incomplete and is not anything if left alone. He is just a method by which God has tried to depict and define greatness. So, just by standing in front of Lakshman's volatile behaviour, Ram showed the world why poise and dignity are important.

The Quality
The grammatical errors are few and far apart. The font is easy on the eye and the pages are nice and crisp. Jaico has rendered the book utterly delightful and completely fitting for gifting etc.

The Audience
Who should read this book? Well, it is a book meant for all ages but most importantly, it is for people who have a philosophical bent of mind. The parts where Rama and Sita are walking in the forest with Lakshman by their side are distinctly realistic portrayals of the characters. People with a deep sense of understanding of human emotions will rejoice in these small instances where the trio learn valuable life lessons from nature itself.

All in all, a delightful read for everyone!

Friday 6 February 2015

Speaking for a friend...

So, a friend of mine wrote to me about how she detests people who want her to change. I didn't agree wholly to everything she had to say. But, in this blogpost, I want to just represent her thoughts for the World to see. Let's see how it feels to be a mouthpiece of someone else. This article will be written with the perspective of a girl so, if you point out any flaws in it, you will be considered a misogynist and stoned to death. Ok, here we go-

It has been a while since I have been complimented. It is not that my ego needs constant feeding. It is not a hungry lion caged in its own pretenses but, it is also not a dog that needs training. I have been deluged with advice on changing and improving myself of late, so much so, that I have decided to not change at all! All this while, I have been building up my case and have now convinced at least myself that I am perfect the way I am.

First of all, all the good advice supposedly begins with a 'be yourself' keynote. How can I improve if I have to be myself. All the messy, annoying, cringe-worthy habits that I possess make me unique in my own way. According to my mother, I need to discipline myself, guard myself from too much fun and frolic and learn homely skills that will prepare me for the ordeal called life. I do not think she knows that those lectures are an ordeal in themselves. My elder sister wants me to take my career seriously. I know I have to do something in life but, when there are others more concerned than me about my own career, I cannot help but wonder if there is any point in changing myself at all!

Personal improvement is a good thing and I know one should always strive to be his best self. I do that too. But sadly for my guardian angels, my best self is not good enough. My best self wants to sleep late and wake up in the afternoons. It wants to keep reading a fantasy series until its eye give in. My best self wants to make friends with guys and hang out with them. My best self is not a typical good girl. To put is succinctly, my aim in life does not revolve around being a suitable bride to someone else.

Then there are people who want me to be promiscuous. There are guys who are just there for 'a chance'. The pressure from both quarters is immense. My answer to both is that I do not want to fall or rise due to any drive which has a locus outside of me. If I want to go to America and pursue higher education, I don't want the reason to be parental pressure. If I want to lose my virginity, I don't want the reason to be my boyfriend's intense sexual desire.

I have been listening to everyone's appeals with extreme patience but, just like any human, my patience has reached the brim now. I do not want to change. I want to grow. I want to fall in love. I want to fly but I want to do it because of a motivation that comes from within.

My parents', especially my mother's fears might be right that the motivation might never come. She fears that I will spoil my life, these precious years, without doing anything worthwhile. I might. But, there comes the point. What is worthwhile? She wants me to eventually have a good family life and a stable career. Do I want those things? I do. Who doesn't? But, do I like the way people take to get there? Can I do what is needed to be successful? Can I study continuously and cut myself off from friends and fun? My answer is, if I could, I would.

I know there are people who can sacrifice their personalities in lieu of a stable life. I just love myself too much to do that. I do not deem it necessary that I have to sell my soul to the devil in order to succeed. I also do not thing I need to become an angel either. I guess, I am a big fan of Buddha's middle path and no matter what the society wants me to do, I will just take the middle path.

Now, I know couples who gave up on their relationships because of certain personality clashes. The boyfriend wanted to smoke cigarettes, the girl didn't like it- they got separated. The girl wanted to wear short dresses and hang out at parties, the boyfriend got insecure, they got separated. Now, what would have happened if these people had decided to sacrifice their habits (good or bad) for the other person?

The person who would have 'adjusted' or 'sacrificed' would have done so as a favour to the other and every other fight that they would have in the future, it would be tainted with the blood of their former selves. If you change someone, their blood is on your hands. Yes, people improve and rise in love, but that should be voluntary and the drive should come from within. And that's my entire point.

Now as a  footnote, let's talk about 'flaws' a little. This article is about me so let me talk about my flaws- I am a girl who likes to wake up late in the morning. I have been doing that all my adolescence and that's how my body functions. I am a late night person. Let's say I become an early riser. Biologically speaking, there will be slight adjustments in my body clock and then I will become a morning person. With practice, I can also be made to like a subject like say, Sanskrit, which currently isn't something I am attracted to. I can be given new hobbies, new language, new identity even. But, when I am molded into this mold of so-called perfection, will I be perfect?

Is it ever possible to know what is the correct way to live? In the book 'A Brave New World', Huxley portrays the perils of hedonism but, my point is- if hedonism is so bad, why does it feel so good? I am not saying that either industry or hedonism based lifestyle is good. All I am saying is, and I speak to all those who argue for either kind of lifestyle, that how do you know which way is the right way?

If there is no clear way and I am doing okay on my own, should't I be allowed to gravitate to my natural self? That way, even if I end up being a nobody, at least I will not be that grumpy old woman who is honking at the traffic signal not because she is getting late but because she is angry at her family for not letting her fulfill her dreams!

You may call me out on being a rebel without a cause but, although I have no cause, I have definitely been provoked and I say NO to change!

I feel I should end this post with a Jai Hind so...


Tuesday 3 February 2015

On AIB Knockout

Here are the videos for those who live under a rock-

So yeah! That happened! And the internet has been taken by a storm. Haw! How dare they? How could they? That was so racist! They brought in their families to watch this? Values? Society? OMG!

The knockout created all kinds of furore and although I am not a big fan of cussing, I do understand how it helps one exaggerate and make a point. There were no punches pulled and most jokes seemed to be well written and rehearsed.

Problem? The problem is that as a nation, once again, we have overreacted to something so trivial. It is just a video on the internet targeting no one in particular and offending everyone on purpose. It is an art form and is being pursued earnestly. In parts, they failed but only because the punch didn't come along as nicely as thought. How can a conservative person watch these videos even after being given due warning and then pass a decision that it was bad or good. The people who are critiquing it are doing it on grounds that it contained foul language. The funny bit is, AIB is not contesting it. It announces in its opening shot that the show is going to be offensive. People watch it, take offence and then lodge complaints. Funny country. Imagine what would happen if a bunch of atheists tell you how to offer prayers to God! Would that look sensible?

Is it a bad influence on kids? Well, it isn't that kids have no access to internet these days and this video specially is being dropped in their laps. If there is due warning and it is available only for a mature audience, it is now an issue of good or bad parenting if you let your kids watch foul language.

Coming to the jokes on Ashish Shakya's colour and Tanmay Bhat's weight. They took it pretty well. It was insult comedy. Maybe it was distasteful but they're not contesting it. So, a bunch of guys had fun and uploaded their video on the internet. Nobody was offended and you're offended about the fact that these people are so chill about their body image?

You might say that such videos encourage cruel jokes on dark-skinned and fat people. So, umm.. you mean to say AIB invented racism? India is the worst country to grow up for a dark-skinned person. These jokes were at least funny and were on adults. I, as a dark kid in school, had to listen to the meanest jokes about the colour of my skin from kids who were spoonfed since childhood that black is ugly.

'Don't play in the Sun, you will be dark and then no one will marry you.', 'Mishraji's daughter is otherwise good, it is just that her complexion is a bit dark, tut, tut!' - We are one of the most racist people on Earth and now we're offended by a 'Kala Khatta' joke? I am clenching my fists at the mere thought of this hypocrisy.

I am not saying what they did was good or bad. All I am saying is, chill!