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.