The Devil's Price

Written for the Sunday Mini-Challenge on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. 

Poetic Form - Write a poem that is 14 lines long.


Dowry is a medieval, derogatory, discriminatory tradition that is still practiced with impunity, even pride, in India. 

Dowry is the price that is demanded by the groom and his family as a forced "gift", sometimes even compensation of sorts, for taking the bride in and assuming the responsibility of caring for her for the rest of her life. 
The groom's worth and standing in society is often judged by the amount of dowry he is able to garner. 
The bride's family has to assemble the dowry, no matter how large or beyond their means even to the extent of steep loans and bankruptcy, if they are to preserve the marriage, their honour, and their daughter's life.

In cases where the dowry demands are not met satisfactorily, the rest of the bride's life may not last long enough to justify the dowry. She is liable to be sent back to her parents, abandoned, raped, beaten, burned, tortured, kept as a slave, sold or murdered by her own husband and his family. 

A fallout of the dowry system has been female infanticide, the selective abortion of female foetuses. As a result, the sex ratio in most parts of India is abysmally low, to the extent that there are now entire villages where there are no girls.

Even though it is prohibited by law, dowry continues to flourish in India, because a girl's honour and place in society are dictated by a satisfactory marriage, preferably arranged by elders.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the birth of a girl-child in the more impoverished parts of our country are met with condolences than celebration.

Yes, India is changing. But it isn't changing fast enough for us girls.

The arrival of a daughter is not welcomed with a prayer
But mourned, as though a curse has come to life
From the day she is born, every morsel is counted
And accounted for, For she will have to get married some day

Yes, it won't come cheap, the purchase of a suitable boy
Disguised as a favour bestowed on the girl and her family
If she's lucky, she will be asked, but let's not make it a necessity
Leave it all to those who have to pay for her wedding and the jewels

And the TV, the fridge, the furniture and the utensils
Everything a house needs, maybe even the house itself
And livestock or a vehicle or both, depending on what the demand is for
Unless it's all paid in full, she may not live to use them anyway.

Yes, the arrival of a daughter is not welcomed with a prayer
It is met with laments, and wishes they'd "caught" it before she was born.








My Heart's Desire

My fifth consecutive week winning the WoW Top Post




This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Write Over the Weekend theme for Feb 22, 2013 : Revolve a story around this line ‘My heart was saying “Yes” but my head was saying “No”.


***

I saw him yet again in the park
His eyes radiant in the sunshine
His hair ruffled by the breeze
He knew what was on my mind

In one look, I could tell
He would fulfill my heart's desire
His smile tightened my belly
The heat made me shiver, ice was on fire

My heart was saying Yes
But my head was saying No
I looked beside me, and sighed
My husband was signalling me to go.

I yearned for what he could give
That man in the park..
In my mind's eye I could see
Strawberry champagne, chocolate rock

He would soon be taken, if he wasn't already
Honey-sweet, fruity fresh, delicious eye-candy
Just to look at him made my mouth water
Intoxicating as whisky, wine and brandy

My husband, he'd know what I was thinking
I had to control these sinful thrusts
To my horror, he took me straight to the man
"Fulfill your hunger, quench your thirst"

I looked at him with tears in my eyes
I burst into a silent scream
But I was too far gone, too weak to resist
"Butterscotch, rum-raisin and fruit punch ice-cream"





Reposted for Open Link Monday on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

The Land of Kings

Written for Transforming Friday on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

This is in honour of the desert people of Rajasthan, one of the toughest, hardiest yet friendliest and most honourable people in the world.




Padharo mhaare des

Welcome to my country
An ever-changing land
Landmarks shift with every gust of the wind
Burning, biting, sun-baked sand

We ride our own ships
Four long, spindly legs for oars
That split the desert sea
Ferrying us from shore to sandy shore

Every drop of that heavenly nectar
Treasured more than life itself
We neither envy, nor curse our fate
Waiting patiently for brief rainy spells

We built kingly palaces
Forts unconquered yet
The most intricate of carvings
From sand and sweat

Nomads we are, our homes the sand dunes
Courage, fortitude, tradition, honour
Our dark blood has coloured this soil
Stories passed down the generations are our only banner

Who says this land is barren
Fallow, sterile, infertile
She gave birth to us, we're her children
We don't just survive, we thrive

And with all that we have
All that we possess
We open our arms to you
Come, visit, stay with us

Padharo mhaare des
Welcome to my country





Imaginary House For Real Toads

Written for  Words Count With Mama Zen on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

The idea for this poem is to build a toad-house in less than 48 words. When I searched Google for inspiration and ideas, I found that toads have better houses than we do! 

So I decided to build a zen-themed house that I would want to live in.....



Amidst the mossy greenery
Beside a tiny, pebble lined pond
Bamboo canes curve to form a dome
Raindrops drip enticingly through leafy gables
Turrets of shoots, an airy castle
Doorway framed with curving vines
Flowers are garden chairs
Stone steps lead from
Green home to Water home

(Word count : 47)










Waiting for Purple

Anticipation gnaws at my insides
My gut clenches in raw nervousness
Could it be true?

Unplanned though it may be
The timing is still perfect
I clench, unwilling to release

What if it says yes?
Would I be elated, or wouldn't I?
Am I ready to accept a no?

It may break my heart....

I loosen my clench
And let go
A muted splash, collecting in a cup

Clear, odourless
Is that a good sign?

A dropper full of warm liquid
Three drops to the count
Big, full drops

Falling one by one
Agonizingly slowly
Into the tiny well

I watch with bated breath
As it seeps into the stick
And one purple line appears

I hold my breath
Every second seems like an eternity
And then..

The second line appears
A shade lighter than the first
But it is there, clear and strong

I am with child...




What I imagine a home pregnancy test would be like for a woman.

Reposted for Free Verse on Imaginary Garden with Real Toads


Writing to me is... : 55-Fiction

This is a Blogadda.com WoW contest Top Post



This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


Write Over the Weekend theme for Feb 15, 2013 -
What is writing like? Write a post that includes this phrase, “Writing to me is…”

***

Freedom


Akash stared at the blank paper. It held the promise of anything... everything.

He licked his pen and began to write.  When he was done, he gave it to his mentor for review.  

Then walked to his execution.

His mentor, the Warden, read it with tears in his eyes.

“Writing, to me, is Freedom”.

***

Strength

Booker Prize winner Babita Rai looked at her audience.

Every woman there was a victim of violence. Their faces held mixed emotions – anger, fear, guilt, shame.

They wanted, needed to hear it was possible to overcome it all.

“I was raped by my father.  I put my pain to words. Writing, to me, is strength.”

***
Hope

Chirag cradled his baby daughter in his arms. His tears flowed unchecked.

The funeral was over. Chhaya, his soulmate, was gone forever.

He vowed to make her last wish come true.

“I won’t see my daughter grow up. Writing, to me, is hope. So I write today, for tomorrow – She's a loving, caring, strong woman.”

***
Life

“What is writing to you?”

Dharmesh knew the answer.  He remembered a conversation, three years ago.

I float, directionless, 
Purposeless, useless.
Life holds no meaning
Maybe Death does.”

“Dharmesh, you have a rare gift. The gift of words. You do have a purpose. Write”

Today was his first book launch. “Writing, to me, is Life.”

***

Peace

Eeshwar moved his brush in elegant curves, the beauty of the words reflected in the script.

Outside, a riot raged.  Neighbours for years turned to foes in a matter of hours.

The door burst open. A scimitar gleamed with blood.

“You’re a Hindu. Why do you translate Quran verses?”

“Writing, to me, is Peace”.

***





The Writer

This is a Blogadda.com WoW Contest Top Post




This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


Write Over the Weekend theme for Feb 15, 2013 -
What is writing like? Write a post that includes this phrase, “Writing to me is…”

***



Mayura caressed the paper between her fingers, as though absorbing the words written on it through her pores. Lovingly and with much care, she slipped the rubber band back across the small, much-thumbed annual diary. The kind that had a page for every date. Her mind went back to what she had just read.

 Jan 1, 1970
My name is Meera. I can write.

Two short, simple sentences that every child in Class 1 could write. And yet, Meera had written this at the age of sixty-two. Mayura blinked back her tears. Tears of pride and awe and wonder. Tears that knew the pain, the backbreaking hard work and the countless hours of toil behind those seven words.

Mar 31, 1970
Madam gave me five rupees today. I feel rich. But that is nothing compared to the feeling I get when I hold a pen. I can write. 

Mayura recalled her great-grandmother's face, one that she had only seen in a sepia-coloured photograph, sitting on a plain wooden chair with her toddler daughter in her arms. She was eighteen then, married at the age of twelve, pregnant and widowed at fifteen, with a new-born baby girl at sixteen. Her in-laws had thrown her out of her husband's house a week after her daughter was born. No son to carry on their son's name. No reason for her to be part of the family any longer.

Apr 10, 1970
My birthday. I turn sixty-three today. I know, because the English lady in whose house I was born when my mother collapsed with pain, insisted on writing it down on a piece of paper. I have always carried that paper. It is my identity, the only proof that I was born when I was born. But I read it for the first time only a few months ago.
I told Madam. She told me to put this in my book. I have the best birthday gift this year. I can write.
Sixteen years old, with a baby in her arms and no roof over her head, Meera took a bold decision. She boarded a train, the only train that stopped at the dusty station, 20 km from her village. She spent three days sitting on the floor, eating only what kind co-passengers would give and drinking out of mud pots at the stations that came along the way. When the train finally reached its final destination, Meera stepped out of the train, and stepped into Bombay.

Bombay was monstrous in its size and bustle. People rushed to and fro. Everyone had a purpose. Meera looked about herself, awestruck. She felt tiny and insignificant. What was she to do now?

May 8, 1970
The cancer took Sushila yesterday. I cried till I could cry no more. I feel hollow inside. Who can fill the hole she has left inside me, with love and strength and friendship of a lifetime? My grief can be understood only by me. I would go insane if I didn't have one thing - I can write.

"Oye, girl, who are you waiting for?" Meera shrank back with fright. A hefty girl in a sari stood towering above her, her hands on her hips, demanding an answer. "No one. I am alone", stammered Meera.

"Come with me. Your baby needs food. And so do you."

Meera followed the girl as though in a trance. Her mind was blank, her legs moved of their own accord, her arms automatically rocked her listless, exhausted baby.

"I'm Sushila. I was in the same coach as you. I've been seeing you these past few days. I thought you could use some help. My husband left me for another girl. More dowry, he said. I said, go to the devil.
Now, I have a job as a maid in an English memsahib's house. My uncle fixed it up. He says the job pays well, and memsahib treats her servants right. You can stay with me till you find a job. If your stars hold, you may end up working with me. I don't have much money, but we'll manage. What is your baby's name?", the girl spoke fast and seemingly without pausing for breath.

"Uh. um... I haven't named her yet" said Meera, still blank and out of sorts.

"Oh. I know. Let's call her Rani. We'll make sure she grows up like a queen, not like us. Rani. Do you like it?". Sushila was flushed with excitement and extremely pleased with herself.

Meera looked into her clear, earnest eyes, eyes that held no malice or cunning plans, eyes that were brimming with camaraderie and kindness. She burst into tears, loud, piteous sobs that racked her thin, emaciated body and threatened to rip her lungs. She cried for her lost childhood, for her baby's poor beginnings, for the indifference of her family. The warm glow of pure humanity was washing the dirt away.

Sushila looked visibly dismayed. "We can change the name if you don't like it. No need to cry."

Meera stopped wailing immediately. In fits and starts, she started to giggle, and then laugh full-throated. "Rani she is, and Rani she will be. Oh Sushila, I have only just met you, and you have already done more for me than my parents, my husband and his family combined have ever done for me. I am eternally in your debt."

" 'Eternally in your debt' is a very long name. What can I call you for short?" said Sushila, with a grin.

"I am Meera."

"Meera. I can already sense this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship."

May 21, 1970
Thirteen days since Sushila left me. Her soul is at rest by now. Mine is not, but only because her absence will never let me be at rest. It is like I've lost a part of my body. I can still feel its presence, but it is no longer there. Without thinking, I turn to share a thought or a word with her, but where she used to stand, there is now emptiness. 
I recall our first job together at memsahib's bungalow. Sweeping and swabbing, scrubbing and shining. Days turned to night, but the work was ever present. Rani would lie peacefully, swinging in the cradle made of cloth hung from a nail outside the kitchen. Even as a baby, Rani did not trouble me much. Or maybe because of Sushila, I never felt troubled. Rani was so blessed. She had not one, but two mothers.
Memsahib was God's blessing to us. She was gentle and did not raise her voice. She paid us well. She allowed us to bring Rani to work every day. She even agreed to give Rani a job as a maid for her own children when Rani turned seven. And she fed her and clothed her and Rani played with the English children.  
But Rani could not study with the English children. And she wanted to. Just like I wanted to. But couldn't.
It took me more than fifty years. But I can write. 
Meera, Sushila and Rani worked for twenty-four years in Memsahib's house, right up till the last days of British occupation, when Memsahib packed all her belongings and returned to England. In those twenty-four years, they moved from a hut they shared with five other girls, to a room of their very own. They found a suitable groom for Rani, an orphan from their neighbourhood, a decent, upstanding young man who had loved Rani all his life. And Rani had given birth to a beautiful baby girl that they named Bharati.

With Memsahib's glowing recommendations on their resumes, Meera and Sushila soon found jobs as caretakers in a convent school for girls, run by British Catholic nuns.

Jun 5, 1970
Loretta Convent School. I can spell the words now. But back then, they were just symbols, drawings on a board for me. 
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to know what was written on that precious piece of paper that declared I was born. But there was no school in my village, and even if there had been one, I wouldn't have been allowed to study, being a girl. I did not tell anyone, not even Sushila, about my desire to read and write.
I once applied for the post of an aayah for the lower classes. The tiniest tots, those who were just starting to read, would be my teachers. But the lower classes had their own set of trained aayahs. Mother Mary said I didn't have the right qualifications for the job. Sushila said I was over-qualified for it. 
I was too ashamed to tell them both that I wanted to learn how to write from four and five year old children. So I didn't try again. It appeared that my dream would remain a dream.
But I did all I could to make sure Bharati got the best education she deserved. Day after day, year after year, I watched her grow up into an intelligent, well-educated youngster, fresh-faced and raring to go out into the world.  
The day that she told me she was training to be a teacher was the happiest day of my life. To think that my granddaughter would give the gift of letters to others. 
 That was the day I decided to ask for help. I wanted to write.

Mayura's eyes went misty. She remembered her mother's voice, "Meera Nani crept up to my room in the middle of the night. She woke me up gently and asked if I could teach her how to read and write. She was shaking, fear and shame and embarrassment making it difficult for her to speak. Even with her limited means, she had always insisted on paying my school fees, bought books for me, given me a pen for my birthday every year."

Bharati decided to start her grandmother's tutions immediately. "It was mid-1967 when we first started our lessons. Nani would call me Madam. She was the best student I have had in all these years of teaching. She was sincere and diligent. She wasn't very sharp, but she worked hard, as she had done all her life. And slowly, but surely, she started writing. By mid-1969, she could write anything she wanted to."

Meera had the proudest moment of her life when she signed her name in the staff attendance register at school. Where earlier there was an 'X' in the attendance column, there was now a name. Her name. She could write.

For a long time, Meera did not take out her birth certificate from the plastic covering she kept it wrapped in. It was only on Bharati's twenty-second birthday in 1969 that she decided to read it out aloud, as a present to her teacher. Tears poured down her face as she read the words on the document she had treasured her whole life - "This girl was born on the Tenth Day of April, in the Year of the Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seven".

It didn't even have her name on it. But Meera wept for joy.
 November 8, 1970
 I haven't been able to go to work for two days now. The pain in my chest has become uncomfortable. I don't want to scare Rani, but I think this might be the end for me. If I were to die now, I won't be sad. My daughter has a good life. I have been blessed with joy more times than I can count. And I have what I have always longed for. I can write.
Writing, to me, is my identity. My name. My thoughts. My words. Me.
I am ready to go now. To be with Sushila again. To watch over my children. To write... for all eternity.

Meera died a week later. Mayura never got to meet her incredible great-grandmother, the woman who started life with nothing, and left it with everything worth having.

Meera's diary stood testament to her life. She could write.


Images sourced from Google. All images used here copyright to their owners.

Psyched : 55-Fiction

3-in-1

The camera was rolling. Bulbs flashed.

     “I’m Mansi. 32, divorced mother of three beautiful kids. Looking for a committed relationship.”

     “Yo, Swati here. I’m hot ‘n’ happening. I just want fun.”

     “I-I-I’m A-A-Anita. I-I-I’ve b-b-been hurt b-before, but b-believe in t-true love.”

Behind the camera, Dr. Sneha glanced at her chart. “Multiple Personality Disorder”


***

The Voice

“Get rid of her”. The voice was getting louder nowadays.

He sneaked a peek at her. Washing the car, body glistening with soap, bikini top soaking wet.

She looked provocative and sinful.

“Take her down”, the voice screamed.  He gave in.

Ripping the poster off the wall, he grumbled “Happy, Mom?”

Mom nodded, satisfied.

***

Remembrance

She looked at him as he tied his shoelaces.  He reminded her of someone.  

He saw her and smiled.  She knew that smile.

 “Aman.....?”

He looked confused.  Was he Aman?

A name flashed. “Shiela?”. She didn’t respond.

They both looked unsure.

The moment flickered, faded.

 Fifty years of togetherness dissipated in a miasma of Alzheimer’s.




Child Speak : 55-Fiction

The Little Girl 

"Mama, where do we go after we die?"

"Why do you ask, sweetie?"

"Divya told me we become ghosts and roam the world, scaring everyone"

Mama smiled, patted her head, "All ghosts aren't scary"

Papa came to the balcony. Looking far away, he wiped away a tear. "Why did I survive, when you both didn't?"

***

Magic is Real

The party had a magician.

"Up his sleeve", "False bottom in the hat", "Invisible ink”. Mark called out softly after every trick, watching from the back of the room.

Mary asked wide-eyed, “Don’t you believe in magic?”

Mark shrugged his shoulders.

Mary smiled. “Magic is real”, she said. Then vanished before his eyes.

***

The X-Man

Varun ran across the road. He had to propose to her today.

A boy stood licking an ice-lolly. He stared at Varun.

“Are you an X-Man?”

Varun was taken aback, “Of course not”.

“Then how are you at two places at once?”

Varun followed his gaze.

Varun’s body lay dead, run over by a car.

***

Superhero

“I’m Spiderman”, declared Bunty.

The others laughed and jeered.

“I am. See, I’ll jump to the next roof”, he said and ran over the edge.

The boys shouted and rushed to see him.

Bunty hung mid-air, entangled in a thick web. He was Spiderman.

“Oye Bunty, stop messing up my clothesline”, Sarla Aunty scolded.


My First Liebster Award

Thank you Renu and a Rat (Meera)!

THE LIEBSTER AWARD

The Liebster Award is used to highlight smaller, lesser known blogs, blogs that have less than 200 followers. Liebster (meaning kindest, dearest, beloved, cute, endearing in German) is an award that you accept with an intention of paying it forward.

I am extremely fortunate and grateful that I was awarded the Liebster by The Domestic Goddess-Next Door herself, Renu Sethi.

Renu is a prolific writer who writes about love, life and everything in between in her blog Loves me; loves me not. Her nominations for this award can be found here.

EDIT : I just received another nomination (Yay!) from a Rat who puts down her musings at A Rat's Nibble. Her short stories and poetry burst with characters, emotions and ideas that make you pause for thought. Her nominations for this award can be found here.

This is an extremely special award for me, since this is the first award of any kind that my blog has received. A peer-to-peer recognition is especially encouraging, since it means fellow bloggers and writers acknowledge your work. Once again, thank you Renu and Meera.

While accepting the award you have to:

  • Post 11 things about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions set by the nominator
  • Choose 11 deserving bloggers meeting the criteria
  • Set 11 questions for them.
  • Inform the nominee by commenting on one of their posts.

You are not obligated to accept the award to send it forward. This is just a way to get a word out about new blogs that your followers may not know.

11 THINGS ABOUT MYSELF




  • I am a proud alumna of St. Stephen's College, Delhi and IIT Roorkee.
  • I am a firm believer in God, but I am not at all religious, even though I celebrate all festivals with equal enthusiasm (because there's always good food!)
  • I sing very well (and apparently, I'm not too modest!)
  • I am not a very good cook, but I am a neat freak. So the house is usually spotless, and our takeout budget is bigger than our investments.
  • As the daughter of an Air Force Officer, I have lived in over 10 cities ranging from Chabua (Assam) to Pune, from Kasauli (Himachal) to Mysore. I have studied in 5 schools, 2 colleges and started a new life in a new place every two-three years. 
  • In continuation of my eclectic upbringing, I am a Tam Brahm married to a Bihari, and we live in West Bengal. We strive to epitomize national integration and unity. We mostly succeed at it, except when I refuse to sing Bhojpuri songs and he refuses to accept that curd rice is a valid dish.
  • I love reading fiction. My favourite authors are Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Alistair McLean, Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling. I think I've read everything any of them have ever written, but they are still my go-to choice for a rainy afternoon or a lazy Sunday read.
  • I have read the Twilight series (all 4 books) and the 50 Shades of Grey books (2 of them). I am not proud of this fact, but they held a morbid attraction, a self-loathing fascination. My eyes practically bled while reading them, but I could not stop. (At least I admit reading them. I know people who've borrowed the books from me and declared they've never touched the stuff. Yeah, right.)
  • I am a night person. That is when I'm at my best and sharpest. Early mornings are best spent sleeping.
  • I enjoy watching rom-coms, even the really bad ones like Due Date.
  • I believe that Father's Day, Mother's Day, Sister or Brother's Day, Third Maternal Aunt's Day, Fourth Cousin Twice Removed's Day etc. are all occasions created by greeting card companies and as such do not deserve to be acknowledged. It is hard enough to keep track of birthdays and anniversaries without having to worry about all these other dates.


11 QUESTIONS FROM RENU (AND A FEW MORE FROM 'a RAT')




  • If I gave you a million dollars, how would you spend it? Half of it will go towards building my dream house, the other half towards building my dream school for kids.
  • What do u like most about blogging? It lets me be whoever I feel like being at that moment.
  • If you were deserted on an isolated island and you could take a thing and a person along, what and who would it be? My husband and a laptop with a solar battery charger and a net dongle that works.
  • How do u think, the culprits of Delhi gang rape case should be punished? With a very long, very painful life that would make them wish for death.
  • What would be the first and the last line of your biography? I am/was the best me that anyone could ever be.
  • 5 things that you carry almost everyday to your workplace? Since my workplace right now is my home, I carry only one thing to every room that I have to work in - Myself.
  • One advice you would like to give to your fellow bloggers? Write for yourself. Always.
  • One person you look up to? My younger sister Pree.
  • One city/country you really want to visit? Japan
  • One song that describes you best? When it comes to my loved ones, Everything I do by Bryan Adams.
  • Honest opinion about my blog (Renu's question)? You capture the laughter and the tears, the built and the broken, the meeting  of hearts and the breaking of hearts with words that are sincere and touching. Keep it up!
  • What scares you the most? Being abandoned
  • What is the best word to describe you? Friendly

11 OF MY FAVOURITE BLOGGERS AND DESERVING AWARDEES



  • Debajyoti Ghosh @ Some Facts, Some Nonsense :  One of the best humour blogs I've read in a long time. He's already famous, but I can't help acknowledging his talent :)
  • Bhavana Nissima @  Tilling the Earthwoman : A passionate advocate of social responsibility and a prolific writer. Her posts will force you to reassess all that you thought you knew about our country and its issues.
  • Vishal Rathod @ Travel India with Vishal Rathod : A travelogue written with a warmth and personal touch that makes reading this blog a delight.
  • Subhabrata Dasgupta @ Subh Dasgupta's Blog : He started the Voices for Damini initiative on his blog, a call to share words of solidarity, support and strength on gender inequality in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape case. His personal blog is a great read as well.
  • Amit - The Frivolous Analyzer @ The Shitt Analysis : An author in his own right, short stories are his forte
  • Ganga Bharani @ Scribbled by GB : GB is already pretty well known in blogging circles for her sharp wit and her unusual take on everything under the sun.
  • TTT @ Tangy Tomato Twist : I like her short stories, which can make you laugh and cry in turns.
  • Chips from a life @ Asteria's Canvass : Her BAT entry "and then there were none" is enough to show her prowess as a writer and a creator of human characters.
  • Maliny Mohan @ Chasing Passions : Although she already has a dedicated audience, I am compelled to call attention to her brilliant short stories.
  • Rayla Noel @ Lyrix & Life : Thought-provoking and evocative poetry, lyrical in their composition
  • Ritesh Agarwal @ Some Bedtime Stories : Some enjoyable 55-fiction stories to be read here

I would like to make a few special mentions here. These are multiple-Liebster Award winners, and amazing writers who I envy and admire in equal amounts for the same reason - they are insanely talented.

Meenakshi Malhotra @ Woman 'n' Beyond
Panchali Sengupta @ panchalibolchi
Deepak Kripal @ The Original Poetry


11 QUESTIONS FROM ME TO MY FAVOURITE BLOGGERS



  • What else do you love doing, besides blogging (and sleeping/eating etc.)?
  • Who is your favourite person in the world (apart from yourself)?
  • What is your favourite genre of writing?
  • Describe yourself in 5 words. (Just like this question did)
  • Which movie can you see any number of times (because you want to, not because you're forced to like "Indra the Tiger" that is on every channel,  every day at any given hour)?
  • What do you do for a living (I'm just curious. You are free to lie and say "social uplifter" or something if you're a politician)?
  • If you had to choose between money and love, what would you pick?
  • What has been your favourite vacation till date?
  • If you could be anyone/anything in the world, for one day, who/what would you choose to be?
  • A piece of advice that you would like to give your fellow bloggers - 
  • Who is your favourite Khan among the following - Fardeen, Zayed, Malaika Arora or Kareena Kapoor (I ran out of questions at this point)?

Since you have been generous enough with your time, patience and attention to read this far, THANK YOU!




I know this is one long acceptance speech. If this had been the Oscars, I would have been cued out after the first para itself  :)

I hope you will continue to visit my blog and share your thoughts with me. I assure you, not all my posts are this long, or this much about myself.

Cheers!



Sugar



You were once my love
Sweet panacea for my thirst
But now no more, no more.

Without you, life seemed incomplete
I sprinkled you on everything
You were once my love.

Food turned to ashes in my mouth
Before you, without you; You were
Sweet panacea for my thirst.

Alas, my love for you
Added to my waistline three inches
But now no more, no more.

***

The rules : A cascade is a poem where each line of the first stanza serves in sequence as the last line of the following stanzas (i.e. Line 1 is the last line of Stanza 2, Line 2 is the last line of Stanza 3 and so on) . Each stanza should have the same number of lines as the first stanza. The number of stanzas in the resulting poem will thus be one more than the number of lines in each stanza.

Written for the Sunday Mini-Challenge on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.




I Love Lucy

This post was chosen as a Blogadda WoW Contest Top Post


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Write Over the Weekend theme for Feb 8, 2013 -
The first time you told a non-family member that wonderful phrase, “I love you.” The lead up, and what happens after that

***

Kasauli, 1993

"I'm home. Help me with the groceries" said Amma.

I (aged 7 years) rushed to hold the bag she held out. I heaved the bag on to the dining table with much effort. As I stood proudly, with my hands on my hips, admiring my own strength, I felt something wet and slippery on my ankle.

I screamed and looked down. Two large, brown, liquid eyes, full of playful camaraderie, looked up at me. A fluffy, golden coat, plump body and a tiny stump of a tail that wagged constantly. A beautiful mountain-bred puppy. One of a litter of puppies from the Officers' Mess. Her little pink tongue and damp black nose were the source of the wetness on my foot. Her entire backside swayed from side to side with every wag of her tail.

Image from Google. But this is almost exactly what Lucy looked like.

"Oh God. She followed me all the way from the Canteen. I thought I had shaken her off", said Amma, shaking her head exasperatedly at the puppy. My little sister Pree (all of 4 years old) came in from the bedroom just then and stood gaping open-mouthed at the puppy. Then she shrieked in delight and picked it up and held it close to her. "I'm going to call her Lucy!"

Amma and I knew right then that we simply had to keep Lucy.

Appa came home to find the three of us fawning over Lucy. We already had a basket ready for her, lined with old clothes. A bowl we used for flowers had been emptied of water and floating petals and reassigned as a food bowl. And we'd already placed her basket in our bedroom.

"You know, we can't keep the dog. She needs to be with her mother" said Appa.

When all our tears and tantrums and persuasion powers failed to move him from his point, Pree and I reluctantly took her back to the Mess. The cook however, had a surprise for us. "You can keep this one. We've given the rest of the puppies away too, since they have weaned away from their mother now."

So Lucy, Pree and I skipped all the way back home. She was now ours for keeps.

Initially, Appa disapproved of us keeping her ("You do know we'll have to move to a new place in a year or two. And shifting is always hard on a dog, especially mountain dogs like Lucy, who are not meant to live in hot places"). But soon, he too succumbed to her adoration and absolute cuteness.

Every night, we would tuck Lucy in her basket under our bed. She would yap prettily, give us a quick lick, then settle in for the night. But some time during the night, she would wake up, jump on to the bed, get under my sweater and climb up to my neck. I would wake up in the morning a two headed creature, with Lucy's face snuggled up against my ear. It was the best way to wake up.

She was the gentlest, most well-behaved and friendliest puppy I have ever met, even after all these years. She didn't dirty the house (well, not much anyway), she didn't chew up stuff, she never bit anyone or anything. She chased away the dreaded monkeys fearlessly, and was always energetic and full of life. Above all, she was selfless in her love and devotion to us.

She was our best friend and most faithful companion.

And within a week, I had said to her what I had never said to anyone besides my parents - "I love you... so much".

Obviously, this isn't Lucy and me. I will update this with an actual picture of  us the next time I go to Amma's.

Those few golden weeks went by all too fast. Our upstairs neighbour had recently lost his wife and was left to cope with two teenage sons. He, too, was taken up by Lucy's charm and friendliness, and once told Amma he'd like to keep a dog himself. Taking pity on him, and with Appa's concerns about frequent transfers weighing on her mind, Amma offered to give him Lucy.

Pree and I cried our eyes out. How could Amma do this to us, give away Lucy? Amma, a bit tearful herself, gently explained as best as she could that AB Uncle needed Lucy more than us. He needed a companion, and anyway we could always see her and play with her. She was just a climb up the stairs away.

At that age, giving up Lucy was the hardest thing the two of us had ever done in our entire life. We spent our days looking for every single opportunity to spend time with her, and our nights were steeped in gloom.

Things were made worse when we found Lucy pawing at our front door every morning, begging to be let in. We often found her digging for food in the dumpster behind our house. As it turned out, raising two teenage sons was job enough for AB Uncle and he couldn't be bothered with a rambunctious puppy. I think wanting to keep Lucy was a momentary fancy that struck him, and he didn't actually want the responsibility.

How we hated that man then onwards. First to take away our puppy (he didn't refuse even once when Amma offered to give him Lucy), then to neglect her in this shameful manner and not even give her back to us - what kind of a man does that to the best, most loving puppy in the world?

We took to feeding her and taking care of her again, as and when we could. Every night, AB Uncle would call her back inside and let her out at irregular times during the day. Often, there would be no one at our home when she was finally let outside, and she would be left hungry and uncared for.

Then one fine day, we returned home to find that Lucy was gone.

We later pieced together what had happened from various people (everyone in campus knew Lucy). AB Uncle had, as usual, not fed Lucy enough. She was nosing around in the dumpster by the road, when a passing group of tourists on their way back from the famous Monkey Point temple saw her and picked her up. She had no collar on, and looked like just another stray.

A gardener from the Mess saw Lucy in their arms and rushed to call Appa. But it was too late. They were long gone by then.

Till today, I imagine Lucy in a large garden, living with a warm, caring family and romping happily with gentle, loving children. I have always hoped that Lucy found love wherever she went. I hold on to that hope as much for her sake as mine.

Lucy, my first true love.

In remembrance of Lucy.
Image from Google.


***

You can read more about my childhood experiences in Kasauli here

R.I.P. By Mukul Deva

The vibrant front cover with a  syringe and a bullet -
The weapons of choice of the RIP
Bookmark from Blogadda.com




Title : RIP
Author : Mukul Deva (http://www.mukuldeva.com/)
Genre : Action/Thriller
Language :  English
Publishers : Westland Ltd.
Publication year : 2012
ISBN : 978-93-82618-19-5
Paperback Price : Rs. 200/-
Great deals available on :














A RIP-Roaring Read


The Story -

R.I.P.  was clearly conceptualized and written when the government was reeling under the onslaught of one revealed scam after another, and the anti-corruption movement was at its height. As Mukul Deva himself says in his Author's Note -

"This book was born out of an extreme sense of anger and shame. Anger at the appalling, naked greed so shamelessly displayed by the Indian political class. And shame that they happen to be fellow-Indians"

The R.I.P. - Resurgent Indian Patriots, a vigilante team of Ex-Special Forces commandos headed by Colonel Krishna Athawale, has just executed three corrupt political fixers. And declared open war on the diseased and parasitic political, judicial and bureaucratic system of India.

The R.I.P. came into being when Krishna's tolerance broke under the loss of the most important people in his life, victims of blatant corruption, government apathy and absolute indifference for the citizens and the country. Operating under the principle that fear of death is the biggest motivator, the R.I.P. (who refer to themselves as the K-Team, since all the members have names beginning with K) have made it their mission to rid Mother India of her elected looters.

Jolted by the R.I.P.'s blatant warning, Home Minister D.M. Karunakaran and others, all steeped to their gills in scams, enlist a ruthless mercenary-for-hire, disgraced ex-Special Forces commando Raghav Bhagat, to take out the R.I.P.

Caught in the middle of the two warring factions is CBI Special Director Vinod Bedi, contending with irritants both professional and personal.

Also trapped in the melee are
Reena Bhagat, a news anchor dealing with a painful divorce and rising feelings for Krishna.
Her son Azaan, caught between his parents.
And Sachin, Krishna's son, coping with losses of his own.

As the story hurtles with break-neck speed from mission to mission, a cat and mouse game ensues between Athawale and Bhagat. Fuelled by mutual enmity, personal demons and clashing ideals, the taut narrative heads for a thrilling climax.


My copy of R.I.P., courtesy Blogadda.com


The Writing -

With thinly-veiled references to prominent political personalities, real-life scams and actual cases of subversion of justice, this book reads as a voice for the frustrations of the common man and a stirring, deep-seated rage against the leaders of the nation.

Mukul deftly combines his military experience and storytelling skills to create edge-of-the-seat missions marked by meticulous planning, swift action, sophisticated weaponry and battle tactics. The writing is crisp and builds the thrill of the chase to satisfaction.

His characters are well-fleshed out and easy to identify with. One can sense in Mukul's words his own dejection with the state of the nation. It adds an element of reality to a plot that is already relevant to the times.

That said, however, this is no addition to classic literature. The author uses simple, everyday language aimed at Indian readers, which is fine since this is an action-thriller and not lyrical prose. However, this makes the book a one-time-read only as there is nothing to go back to once the story reaches its end.

The Yahoos J

An engrossing plot, a taut narrative, true-to-life characters and well-orchestrated action pieces. Mukul Deva makes full use of his military background to lend credibility to the missions. An engaging, enjoyable read.

The Boohoos L

Pedestrian language, word-for-word repetition of terms like "rape of the motherland" and extracts from the Bhagwad Gita, and too many coincidences to make the occurrences truly plausible. Also, no wit or humour for the slightest relief from the melancholy that rides throughout the book. There is much emphasis on the disclaimer that all characters and events in the book are fictitious, however it is glaringly obvious that most characters are based almost entirely on real-life people, right down to the names. Since the average reader is intelligent enough to figure that out, the robust disclaimer seems a little insulting.

The Final Verdict - 






R.I.P. is a book that needs to be read for its relevance and its message of citizens needing to take back what is rightfully theirs with decisive action. Mukul combines facts with fiction, action with emotion and enmity with camaraderie to create a fast-moving, riveting page-turner. Don't look for a literary masterpiece, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy the book.


Excerpts from R.I.P.


Colonel Krishna Athawale knew all three men were ready. As would be their backups.... Yet uncertainty assailed him. A deeper, almost existential uncertainty. Krishna was keenly aware his next words would catapult all six of them down a path from which they might never emerge unscathed. If at all.


Doubt faltered.

Yes, we are right. the guilty have to be punished. And perhaps a new brand of leadership would emerge... But would someone... the correct someone... step forward? One could only hope... they had to create the vacuum first... fear was the key.


***
Crack!

The sound of Karan's rifle shot echoed out, muffled by the distance, almost lost in the sounds of traffic, but audible even so.

Krishna's binoculars automatically sought out the target.

The 7.62 mm, full metal jacket slug spun out of Kran's rifle. Racing out at 830 metres per second, the high velocity slug powered through the air and covered the distance in an incredibly short time.

Krishna saw the judge's nearly hairless head explode like a tomato. Blood billowed out.

'Target down! Move out!'. Moving in tandem, the four men of K-Team pulled out.


About the Author


An alumnus of La Martiniere College, Lucknow, the National Defence Academy, Pune and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Mukul Deva was commissioned in December 1981 into the Sikh Light Infantry of the Indian Army. He took early retirement from the army after fifteen years of service, including a decade of combat operations in India and overseas. Now settled in Singapore, he is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and an executive, business and creativity coach. He is also a Mentor on the United Nations Institute of Training and Research Afghanistan Fellowship. He is India's leading writer or military thrillers, including the bestselling Lashkar series.


Thank you Blogadda!


Finally, a big thank you to Blogadda.com for giving me the opportunity to read and review a book from one of my favourite genres, as part of its Book Review Program. 

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

The delivery note and bookmark along with my copy of R.I.P.
Thank you, Blogadda!




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