Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another Moment Of Self-Appreciation

Growing Up- 5

I loved birthday parties as a kid. When you're young and have no idea that blossoming youth eventually makes way for wrinkles and arthirhitis, growing a year older seems like the best thing in the world. Older kids boss you around, and somehow, when you celebrate your birthday, you get one step closer to becoming one of the older kids.

I celebrated my birthday till I was eleven. I don't remember my first few birthdays because I was way too young. So, the first birthday I remember celebrating was probably my sixth or seventh. That year, for some reason, my birthday hadn't been pre-plannd. A week before my birthday, I wanted to invite all my friends in the neighborhood but there were no cards. So, I made my own cards. My father had got a print-out of ten thumbnail-sized Micky Mouse images and I cut out each one of them and stuck them on 5" by 5" pieces of ivory paper. With glitter pen, I wrote the time (some time in the evening), date (my DOB) and venue (my address). But I had forgotten one thing- my birthday party was a few days after my actual birthday because that was a Sunday, but I had still written the 16th January, my real birthday.

None of my friends liked the cards. They usually got one of those Archies or Hallmark cards with captions written by proffessionals and cute images. But their parents loved it. i was now the artist of my group.

Another birthday I remember was when nobody showed up. I had one 'friend' who didn't seem to like me much and never came to my birthday, btu I invited her anyways. As usual, she was a no-show. But the disappointing part was that none of my relatively closer friends came. Everyone had prior engagements. besides, I had stopped going out to play for a while now and I wasn't really on anybody's radar anymore. So, I celebrated my birthday that year with children who weren't really very good friends of mine. But I still thank God that someone showed up.

My most memorable birthday was nine. First, one of my friends' brothers leaned over the balcony railing and almost fell from my third floor apartment. Thankfully, my mother spotted him and brought him inside. Then, in a bizarre, unsupervised game of tug-o-war, somebody let go of the 'rope' and my neighbour fell down,. hit head hitting the nails poking out of the base of my living room sofa. He started bleeding and his parents had to be called to take him to the hospital. Even though it was supposed to be my birthday, everybody blamed me for the accident. These weren't my real friends. They were the kids who always dominated over me, and at that age, i had no problem with it. My mother was super embarassed at having an injured kid coming out of her house, but my injured friends' mother assured us this was his seventh head-bleeding accident. My mother oesn't have sons, so it was hard for her to even conceive the idea of one child having had his head banged up so many times.

I was always a supporter of the 'birthday parties at home' team. My friends, especially those who had working parents, had their birthdays in amusement parks and kids restaurants. It was practical I guess, since their parents couldn't give so much time to all the preparations that a birthday party demanded (invitations, decorations, food, cake, return gifts). Sometimes, I was jealous of how great these parties looked. But now I realize the amount of effort my parents and sister and housekeepers gave to celebrating my birthdays at home.

I don't remember exactly ehen it happened, but at some point, I stopped having these parties. So did the other kids, but for them, parties were now substituted by movies or a dinner/lunch/mall tour with friends. But that didn't happen for me. Maybe it was the fact that my friends slowly lessened in number till a point where I had none (Yes, that was the level of my social isolation. Looking back, I had some major issues back then.) but my best friends always wished me on the day and gave me gifts, something I did on their birthday too. We were going through some family problems at the time, and as a present from my family, I settled for nobody yell at me or lose their temper on my birthday.

I'm seventeen now and I already look at the institution of birthday celebrations cynically. If I'm under so much stress now, what will happen when a few years are added to my age? I see my childhood getting left behind. But if I let myself think clearly, I know I'm not even 'young' yet. So, I guess I still have a few good years on me. But no matter how much I try, I can't help but feel a passive sadness at being past the age of cake-cutting and invitations with Micky Mouse cut-outs and and birthday parties gone wrong.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Growing Up- 4

What's growing up without friends?

If you're reading this, there is a good chance you'll admit you've changed your frind circle several times in your life. If you're below twenty, you remember all those friends that came and went. Some stayed for a long time, some are still with you and some lasted around as long as the latest fad.

The first friends I remember are two girls from my school I met in nursery. We were nicknamed 'The Three Musketeers' by all the teachers. Frankly speaking, one of us was the leader (not me), and the other two just followed her around. She was a fair-skinned, adorable little girl whom everyone adored and me and the other girl were her complete opposite. I only have vague memories of this friendship, but one thing I remember clearly is playing in the sprinklers and getting wet. We did this in the school backyard everyday with some other children till the day we got caught by our teachers and were punished.

Two years later, my 'leader' friend left school and moved to America and the other two of us drifted apart.

Then came a long list of friends I don't ven remember. Somehow, I always had a huge amount of trouble being liked by the other girls (and boys too, but that didn't matter at that age). They left me out of everything and acted as if I didn't even exist. Sometimes, they said mean things to me. It was almost as if I was beneath them somehow. As a child, when you haven't yet developed a personality, it's hard to fight back against such things. You just want to make some friends, even if it is at the cost of basically being huimliated.

But the moment I began growing up, things changed. All of a sudden, I didn't want bad friends, I didn't need them. I started pursuing other interests and it was just a matter of time before I got over my desperate self. even then, it wasn't as if everybody was dying to be friends with me, but at the same time, I had developed a stange confidence which allowed me to just say, "You don't like me, but I won't change for you".

Now, this part is important- sometimes your friends change, but that doesn't mean you have to change with them. In fifthI was friends with the most popular girl in school. She was nice, until the day she became a total... I don't even want to even say the word. All of a sudden, it was all about making fun of people and throwing herself at guys and I didn't like her anymore. So, I stopped talking to her. Somehow, we became enemies after that. Neither of us said anything, but it was clear we hated each other. Because she was still the most popular girl in school, a majority of my classmates started hating me and even if they did like me, they wouldn't admit it. At times, it was hard being surrounded b so much of negativity, but the fact was, I didn't want to be a sell-out who acted like one of those It-Girls they show on TV.

All that being said, I have to admit I haven't alwas been perfect. I know I have been bossy with my friends at times. I have also killed a lot of fun for them becuase I didn't know how to have any. To be completely honest, when I saw all the girls who walked around school acting like they owned, I was so scared of turning into them that I forgot all about socializing. For me, talking to people who wanted to be with these girls was like giving in. I tried to be as different from them as possible and it made me come across as cold and standoffish.

I'm hoping to change all that now. It's not so hard for me to smile and say "Hi" to acquaintances anymore. I try to mingle with more people. And also, since I work a lot, I get to meet more people. I am pretty sure people still make fun of me behind my back, but at least I'm not being humiliated like I once used to me.

Now, let me tell you about my good friends. I had two good friends in Delhi. One was a Muslim girl who reas everything I wrote and another was a Bengali girl who argued with everything I said. I still love both of them, even though I know we won't be friends again. Time and distance make it hard to rekindle lost friendships.

Right now, I am friends with a few girls in school who are exactly the kind of girls I respect. They are above the whole 'popularity' thing, they don't try to get attention, they try and sometimes succeed at being good at things like academics and most of them are good at heart. And yes, they can be really, really, really boring sometimes, but that's a small price to pay for having friends who're not just your social circle. In particular, I have tow girls whom I hang out with the most and I really enjoy spending time with them. Now, as we all face the possibility of leaving each other behind and going to college, we're trying to stick close together. Some of us are thinking of joining Facebook. Me and my best friend are thinking of trying to get into the same college (she's a hell lot smarter than me, so that's not going to happen).

In conclusion, I would just like to say I'm happy with how far I've come in the 'friends', but I know it's still going to take a lot of hard work to keep the friends I have and make new ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Growing Up- 3

Probably the biggest part of growing up is deciding what you want to do with your life. What will be your hobbies? What about your interest? And most importantly, what will be your career?

In Eclipse, the third disaster of the Twilight movie series, there is a grand total of one funny scene in which Bella's friend, Jessica, delivers her speech as a valedictorian. She says throughout their lives, they have been questioned about what they want to be and her answer has gone from 'princess' at age five to 'astronaut' at age ten. But now as they were ready to graduate, the same question is being asked all over again and this time, a serious answer is expected. And the answer she gives is- "Well, who the hell knows?"

I didn't like the movie, but I loved the scene enough to want to turn the whole series around to make Jessica the proatogonist in place of Bella. This particular scene was not there in the books, but it is the only memorable one for me because it captures the dilemma of not being sure of one's goal in life and it being okay because everyone is going through the same thing.

The first thing I wanted to be was a dancer. A lady in my neighborhood who had done her PhD in classical dance had conducted a workshop for children below the age of eight and I was part of it. She was convinced I had the grace and skill to become a professional dancer and I believed her. Not once did it cross my mind that maybe she was just trying to make me and my parents happy. I danced around the house, in neighborhood programs, in events and festivals. And just as suddenly as it had come, the dancing fever wore away.

Then came the fashion designer phase. My father's company was working on a textile project and I drew some designs for the catalogue. But the fact was that fashion wasn't my passion. It was just that I had the talent for painting and drawing and that made drawing designs easy. But God-given talent doesn't always equate itself to interest.

Most people thought I could be an artist and I think my parents really wanted me to be one. But drawing didn't stay with me. I could only work when inspired and not at other times. Looking back, I sometimes feel that prettiness is not my forte. I feel confined by it. I still continue with art, but more as a hobby than as a passion.

Then, I started writing and if you're reading this blog, you know what I'm talking about.

I was the only kid who was considering writing as a career. Nobody else seemed to get it. None of my friends could really appreciate it. At some points, I thought a lot of people in school thought they could do the same thing as me. Not to brag, but more amatuer novels came out of my class than anybody else's and incidentally, they were all written by my friends. It was irritating back then, but it's flattering now. SOme people believed having a good command over English is all you need to become a good writer. Command over language is important, but not all-important. I was expected to know the menaings of all the complicated words and the jealous kids got to make fun of me when I didn't know one meaning. The truth is, if you can write, you can write in any language. It's something which comes from your heart and brain and it doesn't matter what language it comes in.Also, people always expect me to want to become a jornalist, but I always say no. That's not the kind of writing I want to do.

So now that I had figured out what I loved doing, what happened next? Well, I grew up.

At some point, I realised writing couldn't be a full-time profession and I had to think of something else. So, I took up Science in school and am now trying to get into engineering because that's the safest, most common career ooption in India. I also have kept the option of doing something in psychology open because human behavior interests me. And I know how bad all this sounds. I know I sound like someone who killed her dreams, but that's not it. Life isn't just about dreams. There's a lot of other things to be worried about. Your parents will always want to see you doing something stable and secure. You yourself might end up in a very bad place if your dreams go unfulfilled, the chances of which are high. In areas such as art and entertainment, there is so much of competition that most careers get over before they even start, so why would you want to find yourself in that position?

I've realized you shouldn't be so quick to judge people. Don't say somebody didn't have the courage to follow their dreams without knowing their full story. For example, I know an engineer who is trying really hard to be an actor and scored himself a role on a TV show. He worked nine to five Monday through Friday and then travels to the opposite end of the city to attend castings. The bass guitarist and vocalist of Indian Ocean is a graduate from one of the world's most reputed universities (B.Tech from IIT, Kanpur and PhD in Environmental Engineering Cornell!!), which means he got himself a degree before he became a part of what is arguably the hottest band in India. Am I happy doing what everyone else is doing? The honest answer is no. But since I am fighting for a future in a country with a population of 1.2 billion people, I just decided to be practical. I still write a lot and aspire to be a writer, but I am also keeping in mind that having a stable career is important. Hopefully, I will be able to strike a good balance between dreams and reality.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Growing Up- 2

Boys. The word is relevant in every teenaged girl's life, whether she admits it or not. No matter how mature I pretend to be, if I'm being completely honest, I have had my moments too. The whole weak in the knees, butterflies in the stomach feeling isn't something I'm unfamiliar with. So today, I am letting you into my secret closet full of crushes and first loves. Yes, first loves is a plural.

My first crush was Shah Rukh Khan after 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge' came out. I don't really know what happened to me, but for all I understood as someone who was practically a toddler, I was in love. I didn't care he was married to a woman named Gauri. I didn't care I was his daughter's age. I just kept expressing my wish to marry Shah Rukh Khan. It's embarrassing now, but it was funny back then. People kept teasing me. They probably thought it was cute for a baby to want something so... grown up. Even today, Shah Rukh Khan is my favorite actor in the whole world.

Then came my first real crush when I was in pre-school. It was a boy in my class. I hadn't even learnt the alphabet, but something about playing in the sand pit with him melted away my heart. I knew he was the one. So, I asked him, "Will you marry me?" He said, "I'll ask my mom". The following day, he informed me his mother was against our matrimonial union and that was the end of the youngest love story of all time. What a tragedy! I don't even remember all this, but my parents do, and they keep reminding me of it every chance they get. If I saw that boy today, I wouldn't recognize him, but I know he was my first real live love.

Then came a string of crushes that last about a week. Every time, I thought I was in love and every time I fell out of love as easily as spitting out chewing gum. I used to be a tall kid, so the problem for most of them was that the guy would come up to my shoulder. Girl kids are mostly taller than boy kids as boys have their growth spurts much later. This simple truth of nature made it hard for me to be attracted to any boy for a long time because eventually, I would just start thinking of him as... short. I know that's shallow of me, but I had just started growing out of my baby phase and I was still allowed to think love was all about having a 'happily ever after' with a prince. I now understand how stupid I was back then.

A few bad experiences also made their way into my life. First was a senior boy who had a weird thing for me. I was in eighth, he in twelfth. Can I call him a pedophile? Okay, maybe that's too extreme. But I didn't enjoy his attention. I had no interest in him. His friends kept making cheapo comments about me and I wasn't yet ready to deal with senior students. I was scared of the school bus because that's when I saw him. When I tried to tell my friends about this, they thought I was just trying to get attention. Having a senior guy crushing on you is quite cool, I discovered. They thought I was making up a story to look like the cool girl.

Then came the new boy who joined school and totally had a crush on me. He would go to all lengths just to sit next to me. That was all very flattering because I was not and still am not the girl guys want to be with, and having a marginally good-looking guy expressing interest in me was new and interesting and fun even though I never dared to admit it. But the flattery faded away the day he stopped liking me and fell for my friend.

Amidst all this, did I fall in love even once? At one point, I thought I did. I really cared about one particular guy and always wanted what was best for him. But he was still a child. He didn't deserve my care. I tried to be a good influence on him, but he didn't want to be as good as I thought he could be. Perhaps, I too wasn't ready for any relationship whatsoever. So, it was time for me to move on. I can be all feminist and say it was easy, but it was hard as hell. I couldn't focus on studies, I slept all day and the amount of energy that went into  pretending I was happy was enough to power five cities. But I am the bright girl. I should be more than just the girl who fell for a guy and lost her prospects in the process.

I must say that nobody is allowed to judge me for being attracted to guys. The independent girl is always shown to be the one who doesn't care about guys and 'focuses on her future'. I didn't fulfill both criteria. But I don't invite any judgement. I went through what most girls my age go through and I am not ashamed of that. I am not proud of a lot of things, but I am of some things. I am proud I never changed myself to become what any guy would want me to be like. I never tried to be the stereotypical It-Girl every guy chases after. I am proud I always placed my family and the people who really love me over some boy who probably didn't even care about me. I never lied to my parents or did anything wrong because of a stupid crush. I am proud I didn't become one of those girls who giggle around boys and are okay with being sidekicks to them. So, I forgive myself for my marquee of silly crushes. It's not always about getting it right. It's about not letting your infatuations overpower you and learning to do that is a part of growing up.

Growing Up- 1

One of the biggest parts in the life of any Indian student my age is exams. There's lots of them- hard ones, easy ones (those are rare), routine ones, class tests, first term, finals, semesters, boards, competitive exams- you name it, and there is an exam to fit the category.

I clearly remember the time when this wasn't the case for me. Before I moved to Mumbai, exams were never really important. My parents called me lazy, insincere and what not because they were worried I would never become serious. But I think I wasn't any of the things they said I was. I was just.... a kid. 

Till I was in fourth, I never opened my book. Studying was an alien concept. I admired and sometimes envied the kids who scored good marks and got good grades. All the teachers thought they were the cream of the school and paid extra attention to them. But still, I never made the effort to be like them myself. At the time, my painting and writing wasn't taken very seriously either, so I didn't have the excuse of being good at something else. 

Usually, teachers call parents on parent-teacher meetings to tell them their kid isn't doing enough academically. But in my case, it was quite different. My teachers didn't like my academic record, but my class teacher liked me for my behavior. She always took my side. On the day of the parent-teacher meeting, my mother asked me to wait outside the classroom while she talked to my teacher. I knew she wanted to complain about me not studying at home. But my teacher was shocked. She didn't even believe my mother and said there was nothing wrong with the way I was working. Looking back, I realize my mother was right and my teacher wrong. i had a good impression on my teacher and she believed in an image of me that wasn't realistic. But my mother knew  me better and was more concerned about my well-being. She was the one with the correct opinion.

Two years later, exams became a little more important. I started middle school and now got to see a lot of older kids who were serious about studies. So, I started studying before exams. All year, I would do nothing, but two days before the exam, I started learning notes. One of the biggest problems of the Indian education system is its emphasis on memorization of facts. But this flaw helped me during that time. In-depth study requires time and effort. But the time and effort I was giving was enough to mug up facts. So, I went from the bottom 25% of class to bottom 50% of class. It wasn't very good, but still, it was a climb up the ladder.

This went on for a long time. But my intelligence kept growing (even if I say so myself). I read a lot of books and learnt a lot of things by this habit. So, studies somehow became very simple for me. I had now started learning, not just from textbooks but from other sources as well. My favorite subject was human behavior, which didn't help me write tests, but gave me a better understanding of things.

Then I moved to Mumbai and something inside me changed. I started taking my education seriously. I wanted to be a good student, a sincere schoolgirl who did her best, but at the same time I didn't want to become a bookworm. Exams became serious business. I actually prepared for them. I used reference books, things I had never even looked at before. I started getting up early in the morning so I would have time to study without giving up on other things like writing.  Exams are still a struggle for me. I may still not be able to get into one of the best colleges. But I am trying now.

It's not just about reading. It's about realizing it's important to take responsibility for my life. I am a privileged girl from a good family. My parents take care of everything for me. But I want to do something for myself. I want to give my education due importance. I want to continue doing the things I love, not letting exams and books overshadow my other interests. I am a student, learning is my job, so why not do it? You could ask me if I'm happy. Well, frankly, the ten-year-old girl who slacked her way through school and was still adored by her class teacher had more fun than I ever do, but I can't go back to being that even when I see a light shadow of that version of me in my friends' faces. Being a child is good, but growing up is something to be proud of and growing backwards is just frightening.


The Growing Up Series

I am suffering from the disease I dread the most- writer's block. Symptoms include lack of time for writing, nail-biting, creative frustration and nightmares about losing one's writing talents forever. But I can't just stop writing because I don't have any new ideas right now. Writing is a bit like sports- you have to keep exercising your muscles even after you've been injured or have gone into retirement. It's a part of you, a channel for your thoughts. The written word means to be what the spoken word could never be and I must keep doing it.

So, I have now decided to do a series. It's called the 'Growing Up' series. It is not a new idea for me. It's something I've wanted to write for a long time but never really got to it. 

An introduction- We grow up in different ways, but we never realize it when its happening. It's only when we look back that we see how much we've changed. In my series, I will trace the different parts of me that have grown up in the seventeen years of my existence. Hopefully, all my friends and followers will leave their comments and share their comments too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How To Make Friends Without Alienating People

Popularity really is something, isn't it? The guy all the girls chased after in high school might remain your abject of envy or admiration even after you grow up and have a job that Mr. Popular can only dream about. The prettiest, most fun girl who became College Queen can go on to become a housewife with naggiong kids, but in your memories of her, she will always be who she once was- effortless in mingling, charming, smiling all the time.... Some people have the privilege of getting a lot of attention, and no matter how good you become, you will never be considered as great as them by your peers. You may be beautiful, but people will always find them attractive. You may be intelligent, but they will be the clever ones. That's just how it is.

But what exactly makes people popular?

I probably spent the whole of my teenaged life being the one that got left out. Now that I'm about to graduate from school, every memory involving school events seems to have me in it. That it, working in it. I am always either writing speeches (for myself or for other people), delivering speeches, doing debates, helping in the decoration commitee, participating in writing contests (and winning them) and even going to the extent of singing on stage when nobody else is willing to (trust me, singing is not my strong suit). My parents think I must be the girl everyone looks up to in school, but quite frankly, that's not the case. There is a separate group of kids that everyone wants to be with or be like, and that group doesn't include me. This simple truth has never bothered me much. I have always felt more at home with my friends, regardless of the fact that a lot of people don't even know our names.

But it can be a struggle sometimes. Being part of so many extra-curricular activities requires me to interact with students who are not my friends and I always end up feeling lonely in such situations. I have never been good at making friends because I need to work with someone because it feels forced and superficial, and a lot of school events in the last two years have been complete and utter nightmares for me.

So what is it that makes some people popular and the others not? I have noticed some traits in all popular people and following is a list-

a) Conformity: Most popular people are good at changing themselves as per company. I have never been good at that and neither have my friends, but it is a skill which can put you to a great social advantage. When you're with the smart kids act like Einstein is your idol. When you're with the bimbos, act as if your make-up and clothes are the centre of the universe. When you're with the other popular kids, act like you're friends with them even if you think of them as competition. So, rule number one in the great struggle to popularity- learn to conform.

b) Be Seen With The Right People: Some people have an undying thirst to get noticed. So, they attach themselves to people who themselves get noticed. They arrange people in order of priority. The may be having a good conversation with you, but the moment someone more popular comes along, they scoot over to siply walk away from you without remorse.

c) Remember the Beaming Smile: Is it normal to smile and say an enthusiastic 'hi' to everybody, even when you don't actually care about them? Well, some people are capable of doing that and it's not really a bad thing. It is a little superficial, but it makes people feel special. Practicing a range of expressions to show excitement, joy, admiration and so on is very imprtant if you want to be popular.

But a lot of really nice people are popular too. Sometimes, being helpful can make everyone like you and this is one method which involves no fakeness. So if you're interested in being liked by everyone, try this route. It will be the most rewarding in the long run.

A Moment Of Self- Appreciation

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Pick, My Power

What is it that makes one feel empowered?

Is it money- the thing that can buy (almost) everything? Is it status, with people following you around and making you feel indispensable? Or perhaps it is fame, the drug for which there are no refills and the withrawal symptoms last forever once its effect wears off.

If you carefully think about it, it all boils down to one thing- the liberty to make one's choices.

Why is it that people are posessive about their money? Why do they equate it with power? It's not because of the comfort it offers. It is because of the choices that it offers. You can pick out which house to buy, what car you like, where you want to send your kids to study, how you want to relax post-retirement. This liberty is the source of all power. In our subconscious mind, we are always aware of this. Money merely gives us the power to be who we are in our most magnified form, and it is this freedom to live large that makes it empowering.

Its the same with fame and status. People enjoy having not only their pick of things, but also their pick of people. With everyone trying to be on your good side, you're the one who gets to make the choice. Plus, people become replaceable. You have a rough patch with someone, you can always have someone to replace that person by next morning. It all sounds really mean, but the fact it that it can be really flattering, not to mention, convenient too.

I have always known money, fame and status weren't what empowered me. I'd be a liar if I said I never dreamed of these things, but on the inside, I know these aren't things which I'll ever have control over. So my way of getting power is to be in control of my life, to do things the old fashioned way. I admit I falter sometimes, but I try to live a disciplined life and have my priorities straight. Let me illustrate this with an example- I will try my best to get into a good school. I know there are a lot of not-so-straight ways to get into schools but I want to become the aspirant who gets to choose between a few good schools. Being a good candidate for things will hopefully fetch me some choices in life.

But there comes a point where freedom chains you. You can't look past it and you keep wanting more of it. But power isn't the only thing in one's life. Soon, everything else that's important- family, real life, real friends- can go out of sight because too much power can blind you. When money is all you care about, what happens to your family? When you treat people as mere options, what happens when you're not so high and mighty anymore and the people who once chased after you find someone else to replace you?

As far as I am concerned, what will happen to me when my efforts don't pay off simply because the world isn't always a fair place?

So what's the best we can do? In my opinion,. we can try not to lose sight of reality. We can aim for the right things, the right amount of power and when we get it, we can just focus on keeping it instead of wildly reveling in it. I'm just a young girl who's still learning about life and I might be wrong about everything. But right now, I'm the enjoying the choice I'm making- one to keep my head screwed on straight.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Life's Worth Of Hair Drama

Who has the worst hair in the world? A few years ago, the answer was.....ME!

I have always had thick hair, which is a good thing. Most people aren't blessed with thick hair these days. But that's not the only quality your hair needs to have to be considered beautiful. Gone are the days when actresses had gorgeous but attainable hair. These days, Priyanka Chopra walks around in a sleek, chic bob which I'm sure requires hours of maintenance daily. Deepika, Sonam and Katrina have long, silky tresses which always look perfectly done up. The worst part is that pictures of these people are flashed across TV channels, newspaper columns, billboards and posters, and we tend to think whatever they have is the only thing that's beautiful.

My bad hair days started when I was about ten. I had spent the initial years of my childhood with really short hair, but later on, I decided I didn't want to look like a boy anymore. So, I started growing my hair. The hair wasn't so good. Here's a basic description- imagine a broom, paint it black, use it around the house a hundred times, put it in water and then dry it in the harshest sunlight. What you'll get should give you an idea of what my hair looked like. Everyday, I looked at my hair in the mirror ans said, "Wow!" but I didn't mean that in a good way. I blamed it on the hard water supply to my house, but the fact was that only I suffered from this problem, not my family or neighbors. I tied my hair in a ponytail as it was still too short to be tied in a plait. So, everyone could get a fairly good look at my hair.

Public humiliation accompanies bad hair. My friends treated my hair like a free freak-show. They touched it just to know what bad hair felt like. Once they got a good feel of it, they would say to my face, "Ewww!" People would keep giving me advice- use this oil, use that shampoo, cover your hair in a wet towel and go to sleep (the last one doesn't work). Even the teachers got involved. They had never seen hair like mine. They pitched in to improve its pitiful condition. Very soon, I lost count of how many times my teachers asked me to oil my hair thoroughly. This is exactly the kind of stuff they talk about when they speak of 'peer pressure'.

Then one day, I cut my hair. The hairdresser made the mistake of cutting it too short. When I went to school the next day, I was met with gasps of shock, mocking laughter and plain surprise. It was almost as if people couldn't accept my haircut. Everybody mentioned my hair. EVERYBODY!!! But most importantly, I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't tie it in a ponytail anymore and the front part kept falling on my forehead. It took three pins and a lot of combing to do my hair every morning.

My short hair wasn't pretty and it didn't suit me, but after that, the Commonwealth Games were announced. You must be wondering what that has to do with my hair. Well, to improve infrastructure in preparation for the Games, the hard water supply stopped and we finally started getting good water. Shampoo days weren't nightmares anymore. The roughness slowly went away. The haircut had gotten rids of the split-ends. In short, I had brand new hair. (That's the good part of growing up- you go from ugly duckling to swan.) For the first time in my life, I could look at my reflection and say "Wow" and actually mean it in a good way.

Even today, I have hair issues, but of a different kind. My parents think I take way too much care of my hair. They say they never had to do much, so why would I need to? And then there's the whole jealousy problem. I have curly hair, but the fashion around me seems to be of sleek, straight hair. Girls who have hair like that get more compliments than me and that can be annoying sometimes.

But the important thing is that I love my hair. My friends subject their hair to straightening irons and serums. I let my curly hair grow and stay curly even on occasions. I like my hair just the way it is and I don't want to change it to look like someone out of TV. I take good care of it. Every three days, I oil it and then use Dove shampoo and conditioner. Here's my personal advice to people- oil is good for you. Maybe that's why Dove came up with the new Oil Care range. Always try to either use oil or some substitute. It will keep your hair soft and glowing. Sometimes, I use lemons to get rid of dandruff and add natural highlights. I try to stay away from chemical treatments and hairsprays. Right now, I'm trying to make my hair grow, so some vitamin and folic acid supplements help. I like the feel of my hair on shoulders and would love to have it flow down to my waist. And the best part is, I can never be unhappy with my hair because no matter how it is, it can never be as bad as it once used to be. 

(This is an entry for the blogging contest organized by  Dove.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

False Shadow

Your shadow lurks right behind
The curtains as I go through my daily grind
Trying to distract me from my life
From reality which is sometimes a strife.
You stand for all things simple and pretty
You attract me and don't let me be gritty
You might be beautiful to observe
But beauty doesn't always serve
The ones like me who need the truth
Not a handsome facade whose insides have soot
From burning with negative feelings
And from ignoring life's true reelings.
You mislead me to think and feel
That you would ever think of me with zeal
But the truth is now in front of my eyes
I can see past all your lies.
Now I need you to go away
More than I can ever say
I need you to not come back
With any more honeyed verbal attacks
No more sweet words should reach my ears
So I can save myself some tears
When they prove to be all false
As I can't ever get past your heart's walls.
Change yourself before you return
And until then my back is turned.
Don't look for me for you won't find
The girl who always followed you behind.
Now it's time for me to move on
Without you, embrace a new dawn
Without you to pierce needles through my heart
For we will be miles apart.
I can already see myself
On a fancy library's shelf
Beaming out of the novel's cover
As you simply sit there and hover.
I can't do this as long as you are
There to give me more and more scars
So until you grow up, this is my goodbye,
I can't handle another lie.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Language v/s True Creativity

This is for all my writer friends out there. Today I raise a simple question- which is most important for creative writing? The 'creative' or the 'writing'.

I live in a country where English is the second or language for almost everyone who knows how to speak it or write it. 'English', quite frankly, is still a novelty for a lot of people. I mean, you can impress people of high rank by throwing a lot of complicated English words their way. It's probably like knowing fluent French in a predominantly So, in my writing 'career', I have seen a lot of people who are more impressed by the use of fancy words and sophisticated language. Work which employs simple language but novel ideas may not be appreciated that much.

So my question is this- what is more important, language or ideas.

It is true that good language is imperative to write a successful book. A lot of books out there which are doing very well in the market have achieved success at leat partly because of the lucid flow of language used by the writer. However, there are instances where these books don't really give much food for thought. On the other hand, a lot of great writers of the past centuries have not exactly been masters of language. I mean, 'To Kill A Mockingbird' didn't become what it is today by virtue of the language employed by Harper Lee. It became what is is because it explores so many themes- racism, injustice, petty gossip in towns, feminism- in such a simple way through the eyes of a child that it is hard to not relate to it, even if you're a seventeen-year-old in India facing problems which are absolutely different from those talked about in the book.

In recent years, I have seen more blood and less sould in a lot of young adult novels. One exception was 'Thirteen Reasons Why' in deals with how the 'snowball effect' drives a girl, Hannah, to suicide. Small incidents slowly turn into big ones and cause her to end her life. You feel her pain, her anguish due to the bullying she has to face. You can feel that despite being a pretty, nice girl, she is all alone. You feel that whenever she reaches out for support, the tragic turn of events cause her to withraw her hand. And above all else, you might feel she did the cowardly thing, but you understand whjat caused her fear.

Dear writers, please don't underestimate your readers. We appreciate it when you make your works relatable. We don't always live in the land of vampires, warewolves and shape-shifters. So next time you write a love story (or I write one), perhaps we can toy with the idea of.... Having to break up to go to college? I mean, everyone who had a boyfriend/girlfriend in high school has had to face this at some point or
the other.

As a part of my school activities, I have to participate in a lot of writing competitions. Sometimes I lose and feel it's because of my use of simple language. But I treat writing like something sacred. Trust me, it has helped get through a lot of unimaginable mental anguish (I am not making that up). So I can't change my writing to win prizeas. Interestingly, Americans who have read my stories think my language is too 'formal', not exactly reflective of my generation. But that's how I was taught to read and write English, and since most of my characters are from the upper-middle class Indian society, in my head, they think and speak the way I write them to. So, for me characters and language are strongly related.

Now I raise the question to you- what is more important, language or true creativity?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Only Memory I Have

The only memory I have of that place
Is my childhood best friend's face
Her cheeks still chubby, her hands still soft
Her tantrums as we played on her loft.
I remember when I first went to school
On that van which had it's own rules
'Don't you peek out that window
and don't reach, for then you'll know
What it feels like to be hit by a car
And in daylight, to see bright stars'
We did just as we were told
And never quite tried to be bold
We felt we were in trusting hands
Of people who saved us from fearsome lands.
We entered school and as a bunch
Sat close together during lunch
As grown-ups taught us to hold spoons
And then sent us back to our classrooms.
I remember always asking 'Why?''
never fearing I would die
of being embarassed when a face
Disapproved of the question I raised.
Fairies still were real for me
So were the magic and knowledge tree
Anything could happen in my life
Even an angel could relive me of strife.
'Innocent' was what described me best
But in my mind there was just unrest
No way to quench my unquenchable thirst
To get all my facts right first
As no matter how much I trusted
The stories that were enthrusted
Onto me without my permission
To enchant me into submission
I soon found hard facts my way
Which is how I got where I am today
But my memories of that place are blurred,
That place that's called my childhood world.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Your Sometimes Friend

You see me and your heart flies
But you never give me anything but lies
You steal glances but never look me in the eye
You thrive with others but before me you die
I see you for who you are
When you're just pretending to be a star
When you're really shrivelling up inside
When you're just trying to hide
For  I am a friend, even though you can't see
This simple fact about simple me
You feel you can be who you are
When you're with, you don't hide your scars
But you make the most awful choice
You choose to kill your own voice
And assume a gruff roar that's not yours
Against yourself you fight some wars
Because it's adulation that you crave
Instead of just being brave
And realizing that I'm a good friend
Who'd help you help yourself and defend
Your own self when your flaws come out
Who hears you whenever you shout
You smile because that's what they expect
Hoping you will gain some respect
But they only see a picture of you
Caught in time when you weren't being you
They admire you as they need
Someone off whom they can feed
Someone who can be their face
Someone in popularity's race
But what happens when all this is gone
And it's time for all to move on
And you are your true self again
No longer the image on which you had lain
Then you'll remember me, no doubt
You'll think of love and I'll not be about
Your friend will be gone and you'll be alone
As time and tide have finally shown
That you lost me when you chose them
When chose to play that game
Where you feel important and can act
Superficial and ignore the facts
But I don't want it to come down to that
So I'm warning you before that
This is just a friend lending a hand
Before you fall right into quicksand
So next time you steal a glance at me
Just hold it longer so you can see
That sometimes I stare right back
I'm the friend you clearly lack.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Airplanes In The Sky

The ground thundered and a roaring sound pierced the atmosphere. Argha looked up and saw two jets streaming across the sky. To someone else's eyes, they were just two grey dots leaving a trail of grey smoke, gliding through the pale blue sky. But all saw was the elegance of the jets. He could only imagine their elegant and streamlined shape, the magnificence with which they took flight like an eagle.

It was his dream to be in the air force, to fly a jet that he could look at with pride. True, the  idea wasn't completely original. His father had been in the air force. His admiration of his father was probably what inspired him to dream of a career which had his life at stake. The only sad part was that he had to think of his father in the past tense. His father wasn't with him anymore.

He remembered almost nothing of his childhood, but he remembered that day. He was making the obligatory amount of fuss about drinking his daily glass of milk. His mother was chasing him around the house. This was routine. Till that day, he had been like any other child. He wanted the same things the others wanted and cried when he didn't get them. But it was the year 1999, and many children like him met the exact same fate in the span of a few months. At precisely ten in the morning, someone rang the doorbell and his mother kept his milk cup on the table to go check who it was. The next thing he heard was his mother crying. He peeped through the living room door and saw two men in uniform. His father's jet had caught fire. He hadn't survived.

The day should have dissuaded Argha from being in the armed forces, but it had quite the opposite effect. The day changed him forever. Now all he dreamt of was fighting for his country. For him, jets stood for freedom, a soldier's uniform stood for patriotism, a badge stood for honour and nothing else mattered.

"Goal!" someone yelled. Argha got distracted. He fixed his eyes on the football game in progress. A group of kids crowded around the one child, the one that had scored the goal. After some pats on the back, all the players dispersed, resuming their positions.

Argha sighed. He was a 'different' kid. He wasn't like them. He cared for his country, not some stupid football game anybody could play.

A small boy with lanky legs ran in Argha's direction. He looked new. Argha had never seen him in the neighborhood. Nobody was letting the ball come in his direction. Argha smiled. One day, he's be on a jet, leaving behind this petty little playground where kids didn't know how ro make the new kid feel included.

The new boy ran left and then right, and in the process, his eyes fell on Argha. His eyes asked the question his voice did not, "Why aren't you playing?"

Someone else answered on Argha's behalf, "Let him be, he can't play".

The word 'can't' [pierced through Argha's little heart like a dagger. The hurt was something he faced everyday, but everytime he felt it, the wound felt raw and exposed. 'Can't' was the wrong word. It implied inability. He chose not to play. He wasn't like the other children! He was different! He was special!

"I can play. One day I will!" he cried out. The game stopped and a multitude of apologetic expression were directed at Argha. "They said I'll be able to do everything one day! They promised!"

But nobody had the guts to comfort him as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Feeling alone in a sea of sympathy, Argha grabbed his crutches and tried to get up without his mother to help him. He failed. He could dream of being the great man in uniform, but he was just a little boy. He could dream of flying jets but he was the boy who couldn't walk. He was the boy who really was challenged, the one who would have to learn to take a step before he learnt to take flight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Art of Losing

I recently came third in a short story writing competition in my school. My reaction made people believe I was cranky, because I wasn't too happy. But the fact is, they don't understand why I was upset despite winning.

My father is also a writer. He's been writing for magazines, journals and newspapers for more than half a decade.Since he writes a lot about travel, he sometimes gets invited by European governments as a journalist. he has been to European countries most Indians don't even know about. In short, he may not be a bestselling novelist, but he is a writer.

I don't deny that my father's talented, but the fact is that what I lack in talent, I make up for in enthusiasm. Neither my dad nor my grandfather began writing at the age of nine. It's my dream to actually pursue writing as a career. I won't be unrealistic about it, but I won't rule it out either. But the sad truth is that the moment people find out my father is a writer too, they believe the only reason I get published is because my dad puts in a word for me.

Now, it is true that my father can be a big help sometimes, but not always. Actually, even the idea is funny, because it's not like my dad is the biggest writer in the country right now. To be quite honest, most of my writing assignments are all mine. For example, this blog isn't about him. All the posts are written by me and everything, from the design to the ideas, is exclusively mine. If I couldn't write, I wouldn't be doing it. But people want to see things in a negative light sometimes.

I know it's petty, but I constantly keep trying to prove people wrong. I try to win competitions which are supposed to be fair and unbiased, so nobody can question me. But now I am starting to realize it doesn't really matter what people think. Good people will encourage me for whatever talent I have and people who themselves are not used to working hard for the things they get are the ones who always suspect that everyone else get things in twisted ways. So from now on, I'm just going to try to be a good writer and hopefully, I will become one. What people say simply won't matter.

All I Want

All I want is a reason to be happy
To not feel like I need something more
To feel relaxed, not move quite so fast
To run around till my feet are sore
As I chase the joy I may never have
Fill my life with achievements so I'll believe
I'm doing great when really I'm not
My happy moments have slipped out memory's sieve.
I want a real friend who'll suit my moods
Someone who won't judge me when I make mistakes
A soft shadow supporting me through
In her suffering, my hand she'll take.
I want to know I'm good enough
And stick to that confident notion
For frankly speaking, I'm doing good for myself
I'm fighting through all the commotion.
I want to know I am secure
I have a future for which I can hope
To know I have the capability to work for it
To know it without being told.
I want to live a simple life
With no drama from here and there
For every time I get attention
I'll also be met by frowns and snares.
I want to reach a point in life
Where it won't matter what people say
I won't have to remind them and myself
Of my own existence, come what may.
I want to learn what's worth my energy
And who is just a waste of time
I don't want to chase after those who don't care
Just because they'rem worth more than a dime.
I want the simple things in life
Which girls my age usually crave
But I don't want to be tied down by age
Or to give up and instead be brave
To fully understand life's still ahead
And it never really matters what happens now
It matters not who's considered the best
Who is the subject of their peers' awe.
But above all else I want to stay this way
To continue fighting for my happiness
To continue living on my own terms
To not compromise in my life's mess.
I just want to be able to be myself
For I am the girl who knows what's true
My spirit may flicker because of what I see and hear
But this is still me, right in front of you.
But...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dressed To Kill

Recently, a friend of mine told me I was the only girl he had ever seen who didn't enjoy dressing up. Okay, so maybe he is right to a certain extent. Having detailed discussions about fashion and clothes does make me uncomfortable and I don't spend a huge chunk of my time deciding what to wear, but the fact is that even I put some thought into what I wear and how I look.

I have had my good moments but I have had terrible ones too when it comes to fashion. It all started when I was about nine or ten years old. My mother had just gotten a new set of clothes for me and it had been a long time since I had owned something new. The newness was so fascinating that I ended up wearing my new T-shirt and shorts everyday to the neighbourhood park for a month. At first, nobody noticed. Then, they noticed but politely remained silent. Finally, they spoke up and raised the obvious question, "Why do you wear the same clothes everyday?"

I didn't have an answer. My new clothes made me feel great and new, but somehow the empowerment they gave me were embarrassing to put in so many words. That's when I realized- my clothes didn't empower me as long as I was not completely frank and confident about them.

Then came the bad hair days at the age of twelve. First, my hairdresser cut off my hair so short that I couldn't tie them up in a ponytail anymore. This was traumatizing, even though I put on a brave face, because my hair had been short when I was young and now, when I was finally enjoying long tresses, my hair had been cut off again. When I went to school the next day, everybody told me how bad I looked. Maybe they were just being honest, but from what I remember, I didn't look that bad. I just looked very different all of a sudden. Then started a long string of bad hairstyles, frankly because I didn't know what to do with my hair. Leaving them the way they were wasn't allowed as per school rules and I still hadn't grown my hair enough to tie it up.

Then came the bangs. They were a mass of short hair covering my forehead while I let the rest of my hair grow. My parents compared me to Sadhana, an actress from a bygone era is Bollywood. When I looked in the mirror, it somehow looked like a black rat was swallowing my forehead. But I kept the haircut for a long time. Even now, I keep some strands short in the front of my head. I've grown used to it and the black rat somehow no longer makes an appearance.

Now that I'm a little more grown up, I have a strict policy when it comes to shopping. When you go to shot, look at everything in the rack for exactly one second. The ones that catch your attention are the only ones you should take. Don't get into discussions over your choices as long as the discussion isn't about your budget. Basically, don't talk much and you will end up buying okay stuff.

My friend is right. I don't enjoy dressing up as much as other girls. But frankly, I don't hate it either. But when you look back on all your fashion experiences, you'll see your clothes have changes but you haven't changed accordingly. You clothes don't always make you. Just because you spend hours dressing yourself up doesn't mean you're pretty. Just wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, whatever gets you the kind and amount of attention you want and I promise, you'll look fine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hero

It was the year 2150 and Ayan Joshi was embarking on his most ambitious project ever as a director. This film would undoubtedly fetch him all the major awards and make him the greatest personality of cinema of the twenty-second century.  If he died after the film came out, he would die happy, for he would already have achieved what he felt he was born to do- making the most magnificent film ever.
But making a good film in 2150, like all things good and important, was not an easy task.
First of all, he was short on money. He had achieved financial success as a director but ever since fuel had disappeared about fifty years ago, his creative life had become difficult. He could manage his own life. He could well afford the transportation costs, even though using nascent oxygen to burn artificially synthesized carbon compounds was a costly affair. He could afford his food, even though heat generated by some high-tech use of radioactive elements (which he didn’t quite understand) was starting to burn a hole in everyone’s pockets. He made enough money for himself, but not for his filming unit. Since he was also producer, he would need enough funds to support his unit during filming. Otherwise, no actor, cinematographer, choreographer or even spotboy would agree to work with him.
In the twenty-first century, such challenges would have been considered unusual for a director, but these days, it was a common problem. Things were expensive and all because of fuels. Ayan Joshi knew that somehow, he would tide over this problem. He had done it before during the filming of ‘Shadow of Me’, his last movie, and he could do it again.
But there was a problem on a deeper level, a problem which constantly tortured his soul. He had always prided himself for his creativity. He had loved himself for being able to create larger than life characters, to create heroes in his films in a world which lacked heroes. But this time around, that was what he couldn’t create- a hero. Maybe the dismal nature of his era had started getting to him too (the thought really worried Mr. Joshi). Or maybe it was a simple case of writer’s block. Even the biggest geniuses had suffered moments where they had been forced to question their own capability when unable to come up with a story.
He had already announced the film. Now there was no looking back. He had given hope to everyone, promised he would make a masterpiece. He had to think of something, to conjure a hero. Till, then, he would have to keep pretending he knew what he was going to do.
As they say, behind every successful man, there is a woman. Ayan Joshi’s grandmother was that woman. She was confined to her bed, not lucid all the time. But still, he went to her for solace. She reminded him of his childhood, a better, simpler time.
That day, it seemed as if his grandmother was the one with the amazing talent. She put one wrinkled hand on his head and said, “My dear, what is it that you really aspire to make”.
“A period film. A film about a bygone era, with a hero at its centre. The hero may or may not be fictitious but he should be able to make every person watching the film feel his emotions. They should cheer at his triumphs, laugh when he does, cry when he fails, sigh with relief every time he has a narrow escape. Basically, he should strike a chord.”
His grandmother was silent for a while and then said, “Sometimes, what you are looking for is right in front of you but you fail to notice it. Look around you. In our times, people with superpowers were what caught the audience’s fancy, but things are different now. A distance of ten kilometers can be a struggle to travel through. Basically, life is hard. So, think of a man for whom life, somehow, wasn’t so hard because he found a way to tide over bad times”.
After that, she closed her eyes and went to sleep.  But her grandson had what he required.
His behavior in the days that followed had everyone worrying about him. All he did was research. He listed the problems people had to face these days and then went on to research the early 2000s, when life was different. How would a person be happy in 2011- that was his question. After a month of intense study and brainstorming, he finally came up with an idea for his hero.
His hero would be- the common man.
It would be the man who practiced carpooling. It would be the man who took public transport. It would be the citizen who stayed abreast with the most recent developments in fuel prices, who knoew of its rises and its…. Well, rises. It was the man who know when tough times were ahead and planned ahead. It was the man who switched to diesel when required, to save money so his child could have that extra chocolate. He knew how much fuel affected him, he knew how to manage his finances during fuel hikes. It was the man who BEAT THE FUEL HIKES.
Ayan Joshi did become the greatest director of the twenty-second century, and his hero became the greatest hero of all time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

From Black And White To Color

HP Laser Jet had organized a blogging contest with the topic' Take Flight With COlors'. Bloggers had to think of something black and white and then re-imagine it in color. Unfortunately, by the time I saw the contest, it was already closed. But I can still write a post, can't I.

When I think of black and white the first thing that comes to mind is....me. Well, not exactly me, but a picture of me. Till I was in second standard, I always took my pictures for school in black and white. The passport-sized snap would say absolutely nothing about the red pattern on my shirt or the cute little duckling on the front of my tunic. This picture would show up in my report card, the front page of my school diary and all other school diaries.

I also think about our black and white TV. We had a color TV, but it gave us technical troubles sometimes and we had to switch to the black and white one whenever that happened. These days, I don't see TV sets like that anymore. It looked like a box. It was tiny, but it still took up space unlike the flatscreens of today.

I think of the few black and white movies I have seen. The first one was Solvaan Saal, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Indian movies rarely ever made sense. From the clothes to the make-up, the cliche storylines to melodramatic actors- everything was wrong. We were going through a bad phase as far as movies were concerned. But this movie told me that things had been better at some point. There was no flashy wardrobe, sizzling item numbers or typical poor boy meets rich girl plot, and that was what kept me hooked. Over the years, I have developed a taste for old movies and most of my favorites are from the 60s and 70s.

But when I put it all together, I realize that black-and-white basically reminds me of a time that is now gone. I switched to color photos. We own an LCD TV. I watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara which had basically no connect with Indian society. Somehow, I don't mind going back to the time of black-and-white. I don't mind the simplicity. I don't mind the excitement that had prevailed all over when color display came to mobile screens for the first time. I don't mind the allure that color held when it wasn't there. Basically, the transition from black-and-white to color is something I use as a metaphor for the world changine from uncomplicated to strangely materialistic. The color has come, but the picture is grainy because we have lost the depth.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Life As A Tourist

My dad's one of those people who are destined to travel a lot. His old job took him all across Europe and the one before that took him to North America. He always encouraged traveling for us. Ever since I was a kid, he's taken me and my family to the greatest of locations. We lived in Delhi but were never content with Shimla which is a convenient distance away from the national capital. Mountains were our thing, but we were never satisfied with hills. We liked mountain. Like, real mountains. Like, high, rugged, Himalayan mountains.

So today, I decided to do a post on the places I've visited.



Kashmir: If there's a paradise on earth, it is here.
  

 

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Kolkata- My family lives there. I could have gone for something more picturesque, but these pics define the city.




All you have to do is just imagine being here. It's like living in the sky in a land which is so unlike any other you have ever seen in its language, culture and landscape, and is yet so wonderful.


Rajasthan- One of the best tourist spots in the country, with palaces, sand dunes and abundant history. Beware of monkeys though, they plague most monuments.

Nepal- I can't get any more pics right now. That's my mom in the centre. I would suggest going during the festive season. True, the natural beauty is spellbinding, but the unique culture is the main attraction.


 




Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Love In The Time Of Infatuation

The last boyfriend I ever had was when I was three-years-old. We went to play-school together and for all I knew, I was in love. For me, the world was just like they showed in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. You could fall in love, have some exciting adventures and eventually get married. Given my habit of coming straight to the point, I skipped the middle part and jumped right to the conclusion- I asked him to marry me. He, being the mother's boy that he was, said, "I'll ask my mom". The following day, he came and informed me that his mother was strictly against this union.

So that was how my heart broke and my love story ended.

Ideally, my first love story should have come in my teenage years, but I have a tendency to be leaps ahead of my peers when it comes to life. But now when I think back of the vague memory I have of the proposal and the subsequent rejection, I think of how simple it all was. It was easy to tell someone how you felt without thinking of the consequences, and when the consequences came, no matter how negative they were, they were easy to accept and moving on came naturally.

When the time to date and maybe have a boyfriend finally came, things in and around me had changed.

There were one or two girls in school whom every boy wanted to date and I wasn't one of them. The desire to prove myself set in. I no longer wanted to be given attention to just because of who I was seeing but because of what I was doing, and sure, I never did anything miraculous, but at least I wasn't just another girl people knew from rumors. I made some silent enemies, I made some friends, but I never really had any association with any of the boys I kind of liked. Next year, I will be an adult. I have friends who have already had girlfriends/boyfriends. I am still unlinked. In a lot of ways, I don't feel sad about that.

Love and romance are good in their own place and when the time for them comes, but when we are young, we are way too selfish. A lot of the popular, smart boys in my school have girlfriends who pose absolutely
NO competition to them. Many of the pretty, intelligent girls are not dating. Teenaged years are basically a race to get attention, and people never want the attention to leave them. So, they date someone who won't threaten their status in school. Besides that, there is also a defense mechanism in the working. People always want to be the one breaking up, they don't want to be broken up with. They want to have the upper hand in relationships, and truly speaking, it's not their fault. If you get dumped, you'll be labeled as pathetic. Nobody wants that.

People who ant attention get it, people who need companionship get it and everybody else gets their piece of gossip. Everybody's happy, right?

Wrong.

The whole limerance thing may be exciting, but it has its downsides. Heartbreak is the worst feeling ever. So is jealousy. You might be chasing after a futile relationship and losing sight of a friend who really cares about you and deserves you more.

But mind you, there are exceptions. I do know a few people who really seem to like each other. I hope things work out for them without affecting their studies and careers in any negative way.

I'm still young and I'm still figuring things out, but I'm still mature enough to know when I'm not ready for something. And dating is something I'm not ready for and I choose to stay away from it. I'll get the attention I need to get from somewhere else, doing something else. Meanwhile, I'll keep looking for the simplicity that I once enjoyed.

If only it hadn't been for the mother....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die

I am not the average fun-lover. I don't like loud, noisy fun which involves a lot of fun. I have never been a purposeful rule breaker and rebellion just for the sake of it doesn't interest me. So, when I asked some of my friends about what they would like to do before they die (I know it's a little premature to be asking such questions), their choices were clearly different from mine. Almost all of them had bungee-jumping on their list and one boy had surfing (I can at the very least give him some points for attempted originality). At the time, I hadn't really thought about what I wanted to do, but once I got the answers I knew what I did not want to do- try adventure sports which have me hanging by ropes or falling from a height of thousands of feet. Now, there are several reasons for this. Firstly, I have an issue with heights. I feel uncoordinated at heights, not exactly scared, which is bad because it is fear which can be overcome, not poor hand-eye coordination. Second, trying an adventure sport isn't exactly doing something for me. If you have the money and no fear, you can pull of the stunts and you're not really achieving anything, but that really is just my point of view. If I had to do something, I would probably choose deep sea diving because I am okay with water (as long as the sharks and whales stay away) or maybe parasailing because from it looks less scary than other height-related stuff.

Later on, I started thinking about what I wanted to do in my life and the answers just kept coming.

First of all, I want my own book to be published. Preferably it should become a bestseller. Ideally, I would love to become a novelist, but I am practical enough to know dreams don't always come true. So, it is my dream to have just one book written by me out there. This desire is probably just a manifestation of my dream to be remembered after I'm dead. Perhaps someone in the twenty second century will find a dusty, dog-eared manuscript during an archaeological excavation and see my name on it. But most importantly, it stems from the desire to achieve something by doing what I love, what I'm good at.

Secondly, I want to travel. My aim is to travel through at least one country in every continent. Right now my list includes Italy, Greenland, Pakistan (the Kashmiri part), New Zealand, Congo/Morocco. As far as Antarctica is considered, well, I never really thought of it as a real continent. My father has great luck in travel. Hid work has taken him to almost every country in Europe and North America. Hopefully, I will travel more than him.

I want to meet my favourite authors. That could prove to be a problem because most of them are dead, but Ann Brashares is definitely on my list. She is an American writer and what I love most about her is that she writes stories for girls which have nothing to do with the perfect man and the perfect pair of shoes. They are real, relateable stories about school, college, love, friendship and life in general.

Last but not the least, I ant to live freely. Ask any of my friends and they would probably say I am the most tied down, serious person on the planet and they would probably not understand this dream of my life, but they should. I like living alone or with people I love. I don't necessarily need to be surrounded by others. If that makes me cold, so be it. If I ever get too competitive, it is because of my own ego, not because of what someone else says. I like taking responsibility, which is not exactly the coolest thing to admit at my age. I like not living like the other kids do, I like not having to conform. I like the fact that I am obsessed with 70s counterculture and not the present pop culture which I don't totally understand. I know that at some point, I may have to change. I may have to learn how to be friendlier in public, to feign interest, if not for myself then for somebody else, but my wish will always be to live the way I want to.

Somehow, I think jumping off a cliff with a harness and a rope would be easier than to do all things I want to do in my life, but I think I'm willing to take the chance.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The History Of Storytelling

I have always wanted to be a storyteller. It's true that lately I have been doing more of non-fiction, but my long term goal is to become a great novelist. But the thing is that the art of storytelling keeps changing. Over the years, plots, characters, settings and other such things have undergone transformations, with every era having a characteristic style of storytelling.

The oldest variety I can think of is that of fables and fairy tales.  They represent an ancient yet timeless world, where anything can happen- animals can talk, people can fly and you can wear glass slippers without wearing them. Although they are mainly read out to children, they can be fully understood only by the mature. They not only have hidden meanings, but there are stories behind their origin as well. For example, the Panchatantra were said to be written to educate three ignorant princes the 'wise way of life'. Perraults's Cinderella has this moral attached to it which despite not being the ideal teching to impart to children, is quite true- "Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them. However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the blessing of a godfather or a godmother." Soma may interpret it to mean that our virtues are meanigless without someone taking us under their wing, and others may take it to illustrate the importance of well-wishers in our life.


Cinderella at the ball

Panchtantra
Then comes the kind of storytelling which is reflection of a time gone by. One good example is that of Jane Austen's novels which mainly have to do with the obsession with marriage and money in her time. Sometimes, novels are written to depict a present which is better than the one that actually exists. They can also be representatives of a society which longs for change, say for example, Premchand's 'Godan'.


Pride And Prejudice

One genre that has been very popular in the last, say, fifty years, is that of crime novels. I have never really been a big fan of them. To me, they can be called 'pulp fiction' with a little bit of foreign intelligence, a gorgeous protagonist and some sleazy action thrown into the plot. But I understand I shouldn't generalize. Anyways, the truth is that many crime novelists have a steady career which spans decades and also make a lot of money. This only shoes that readers of today like fast-paced, action-packed books. They don't like to read through pages of interpretations and analysis. This is connected with the lifestyle of today. People don't have much time and unless you can get them hooked, you can't appeal to them.

Last but not the least, teenagers of today seem to like nothing but paranormal fiction. Most internatonal bestsellers in the last ten years have to do with vampires and magicians and fairies. Even though some of the subject matter of these books are questionable, there is no duobt that they make teenagers pick up books to read which is a good thing.

I can plan to be a storyteller today, but byt the time I actually become one the world and it's tastes would have changed. Acoordingly, I will have to modify my skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that someday.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Me As A Student

I am an okay student. I would give myself an eight-out-of-ten on the good student scale, but the two points I cut for myself basically make the difference between a good engineering college and an average engineering college. It sounds harsh and is unfair in a lot of ways, but it is true.

Sometimes I can't make much sense out of my own student life. I seem to be doing better than most people, but I'm never at the top of the class. I like Science, but I am not particularly inclines to it. I just took it because that's what most good students did. I hate the hard work I have to put in as well as the cut-throat competition which seems to be lurking all around me.

But at the same time, I can't imagine my life without all this.

I start my day at 4:30 a.m. After freshening up, I start studying. My school is a long way from my house and traveling takes a lot of time, so I have to make up for the lost study time by compromising a bit on sleep. By the time I get back home, I am exhausted but never has anyone been able to guess how tired I am. On days I have to attend coaching classes, my day starts at dawn and ends at about nine at night, which means I have to give about seventeen hours to studies and related matters (I should tell you that the 'related matters' take up a lot of time).  It is taxing and I am not happy with it, but I can't imagine my life without the hard work. It's almost as if I were given an easier life, I wouldn't want to live it. Less burden is like a place I would like to go on vacation, but would definitely not want to live there.

I am just confused why it is so. Maybe it's like having kids- they are the biggest headaches possible but you love them and can't live without them. Or maybe its just me- I'm just genetically wired to keep working and hate every minute of it. But whatever it is, I think it's the only thing which propels me to compete further, study more and try to do better as a student. Nobody ever told me to aspire for a ten on the student scale, it's just something which comes from inside me.

To be quite honest, my only fear is that one day I'll wake up and realize that despite all the hard work I did, I didn't really do anything. It's not the fear of becoming common, it's just the fact that I can't stand the thought of not having had a moment to just look back and ask myself, "What is it that I really want?" But then again, maybe that day will never come. I'm sure everybody looks back on their life and things of the un-memorable times and wonder is they could have done more, but mostly, they are satisfied. They may have done the commonest of things, but they know how much of work those things took.

The only good thing that has come out of all the thought I put into all this is that now I know what kind of a student I really am- I am a student who is learning about life. Life goes on and that may be why I can't imagine not working.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Fair Mrs. Pierce

Everyone saw what went up on stage but nobody saw what went into putting it up there. That’s the thought that comes to my mind whenever someone talks about my senior play.
I was chosen to play Mrs. Pierce in the ‘My Fair Lady’. Now, let me tell you that Mrs. Pierce is a very important character. She’s housekeeper to the male protagonist, Prof. Higgins. Considering what a fussy man Higgins is, you can understand how important Mrs. Pierce is in the play. Being in the play wasn’t just a school activity for me. My grandfather worked as an actor-director in many plays in his time and some of them went on to become hits in parts of Bengal. On the day of the play, he would be in Navi Mumbai. Being in the play was my opportunity to show him my acting skills just once.
For those of you who don't know what 'My Fair Lady' is all about, here's the plot: Eliza Doolittle is a flower girl who isn't exactly the quintessential definition of claass. A chance meeting with phonetics expert Henry Higgins opens new doors for her, as she now wishes to take lessons from him to improve her speech. Higgins,a full-of-himself British gentlemen, is quite sure that he can transform Eliza into a woman of society in a matter of weeks. What follows is a humorous journey full of speech training, some of them involving saying vowels day in and day out, speaking with a mouth full of marbles and repeating tongue-twisters. Then comes a point when Eliza is ready to leave emerge into society without Higgins by her side, but perhaps that's not exactly what she wants.
Even though the day we performed is clearly etched in my memory, what really affected me personally were the days of practice. For those of you who have never been in a play, I should tell you that it takes a lot of work on the part of actors, directors and coordinators. Starting from the day of casting, we all worked extremely hard to get every line right. We were trained as to how we should raise or lower our voice, how we should move, how our expressions should be- all to make our characters look more authentic. It made me believe that no matter how good actors are, they are nothing without the director, which in our case were the teachers-in-charge. It’s with the help of their vision that actors deliver a performance. Without them, the play is a blank slate full of improvisations with probably no coherence.
Costumes play a big part of any play. Through them, we turned from twenty-first century school student from Navi Mumbai to ladies and gentlemen of Georgian England. In flowed the coats, skirts and heels. We borrowed from our friends, went to costume stores, tried on dresses for size and left no stone unturned to make our clothes authentic. Everybody had their signature costume pieces. I had my pink gown and white apron (I had never imagined I would be wearing something like that one day). Eliza’s father, Doolittle, had his cap which he wore even during rehearsals and everybody fell in love with it. Higgins had his prim suits but his most remarkable outfit was the one in the first scene, a trench coat strikingly similar to the ones worn by actors in the movie and stage adaptations of ‘My Fair Lady’. I should tell you that the coat is actually meant for winters. While you saw a calm and composed Higgins on stage, the actor, who also happens to be our Head Boy, was sweating profusely. From day one, Eliza’s multiple costume changes were a concern. We managed to get a copy of the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in a scene in the movie and were worried she won’t be able to change out of it in time. She did, and she made it look easy. The thing that was hardest to get were Carpathy’s medals and they showed up only on the day of the performance.
A special mention must be made of the dances that were in the play. Without them, our play wouldn’t have been what it was- a musical. It was because of the dancers that the play became so entertaining. The ballroom dance sequence got a lot of attention from the day the rehearsals began. It stood up to expectations. The market dance, which was the opening act of the play, set up the world Eliza originally inhabited. The helper’s chorus showed the frustration of the people working at Mr. Higgins due to Eliza’s intense training session. Some of the songs were acted out by the main actors. I was in the song ‘I Could’ve Danced All Night’. It was my grandfather’s favorite moment in the play.
I admit- I do want to relive the curtain call, listen to the applause on more time, wave out to the audience again and just be on stage, but I know that won’t be what I will remember ten years from now. I will remember the stay backs and coming early to school. I will remember making plans to make everything look good on stage, getting props and watching the stage take its final form. I will remember the first and perhaps the only time I went to a recording studio. I will remember my pink dress which I’ll probably never wear again. I will think about Higgins, Carpathy, Doolittle and Pickering taking some time off rehearsals because the India-Pakistan match was on air and they needed to get score updates somehow and discuss the game. I’ll look back on the children who were in the helper’s chorus, whose sequence I helped choreograph. I will want to relive the final moment, but I’ll carry the journey that brought me and my friends  there forever.