The Class

I just finished with Erich Segal’s award winnings and popular book – The Class. As with any of Segal’s works, I expected there to be situational conflicts with the protagonist and yet a whole lot of TLC. I wasn’t disappointed but I must say, I expected more.

After having read only 2 other books by Segal, I must admit that what he does is rather smart. There’s not 1 but 5 whole protagonists who share page space in this novel, and once you wait for your readers to be invested in each one’s story, that’s a brilliant way to keep the pages turning!

However, Segal’s characters fail to connect with you emotionally unlike in Doctors. Here, you just passively read the exploits of the different (un) heroes and exalt at their victories or admonish them for infidelities.

Read ‘The Class’ if you want to know more about life behind the wrought iron gates of Harvard.

One of the best lines came about during the end when Segal talks about how all the boys of batch 1954 entered Harvard as rivals and now, for their 25th class reunion, there’s a solidarity that transcends trivial emotions like enmity – Indeed life doesn’t spare even the supposedly most successful ones from its throes.

So long, Happy Reading!

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Of Pop Culture Books & Series

Has it ever happened to you that at some phase of life, you felt that your thoughts and actions were mirrored by the universe, manifested outwardly as a book or a TV Show, a song that takes on a real-deep meaning for you, or even a commercial blockbuster movie that strangely resonates so much with you!?

I found this happening to me often with the books that I read while growing up. I am a firm believer that you are what you read. If that is truly the case – I’m one part fantasy, one part crime, a little bit of romance, and some amount of adventure. I am however only fiction, thank you, but definitely have the ability to create non fiction.

Looking back to the correlation between life and books, on the days that I craved some adventure and friendship, there were Enid Blyton’s various books to turn to – whether it was The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, Famous Five, or Five Find-Outers, she really helped widen our imagination as kids and made us crave for the joyous freedom that her characters experienced.

It’s no surprise that JK Rowling’s Potter Saga appeals so much to the pre-teens – it’s got everything that a teen can relate to. Whether it’s about fitting in with the world, criticized for being different, finding and holding on to best friends at school or developing crushes, feeling rebellious, name the emotion and she had it all. I know some of us wished for a bit more romance to add to the sparks but our author knew just how much was too much. Is it weird that I’m counting days for more Potter Mania to resurface thanks to the Fantastic Beasts 2!?

For those of us who were lured by the mysterious and weird stuff, the Twilight Series was a Godsend. I now agree that reading it was utter Trash, but it set our hearts racing alright! I was always Team Edward but for some incidents that made me really sad for Team Jacob and I never looked at Twilight the same way again. Despite all those internal conflicts, I finished the series, even read the leaked chapters of Midnight Sun and I wanted more. That was the age for Drama.

After a while, I caught on to Grey’s Anatomy. My normal Engineering Life was so boring and yet at the same time so much happened that I often kept comparing life’s crappy quotient to the doctors’ drama unfolding on the TV. First, they killed George, then Danny, then Mc Steamy, the cute sister, and Arizona’s legs were chopped off. I still continued hoping that somewhere things would be alright. I gave up on Grey’s Anatomy after Christina Yang left and Mc Dreamy was killed and oh so brutally! Goddamit! Thinking about it still makes my blood boil.

I discovered a lot of Indian author books around this time – Preeti Shenoy, Durjoy Datta, Ravinder Singh, etc. While the quality of language didn’t impress me much, the stories were poignant, slice-of-life stuff that could happen to anyone. Perhaps that’s what made it endearing and abominable at the same time.

A chance reading of Ladies Coupe made me so sad for womanhood in India that I instantly started respecting women around me at least a little better.

There is one dog-eared copy of Mills & Boons that belonged to my Aunt, that I have preserved safely for it became the benchmark of love and respect for me. A story set on a cruise ship between a 22-year old smart and grounded  girl, who takes her first trip abroad and the stern yet reliable captain of 35 years taught me that it wasn’t about money, age, or physique, although those things definitely spice it up. Events in life have also taught me discreetly that a lot of what you think love is, is really nothing but the admiration and respect you feel for people. Sure, your potential friends could still be waltzing in and out of your life, confusing you and enticing you while you look for your Ms/Mr Right on matrimonial sites but I understand now how companionship can work – it’s about whether upon meeting, you both match the same intellectual frequency and have similar emotional needs or are you vying for bigger egos and has/has-nots!?

Coming back to pop culture influences  – it was only after I started my post graduation that I could, in the confines of my room, and with my first-ever laptop really watch FRIENDS and understand the emotions behind the characters and dialogues. You see, it was only there that I understood and appreciated the friends that I’d had and made for life.

There was also a phase where Sex And The City made the biggest impact on me. I just loved how much liberty these women enjoyed and what they really thought of relationships because you have got to admit it, things on the Indian dating scene are not as they were in our parents generation. Watching Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte make crappy decisions, break up with the baddies, and continue to wait for Mr Right, while all the time working on themselves and waltzing through professional life – that heady rush and motivation is just what you need sometimes!

Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, The Middle, SATC, The Mindy Project are just a few series that I can recall currently that made it a relatable treat to watch. For now, I’m taking a break from the popular stuff and bingeing on Sharp Objects / Strike / How To Get Away With Murder. I’m not planning a homicide, don’t get me wrong, I’m just waiting for a good breeze to blow my way, as it often does before I can pick up on something as good and understand the message behind. Until then, so long!

Patiala Date

There I was, seated outside the mall, with my voluminous bag and helmet, waiting for my friend to show up when I saw her.

She was dressed in a pair of violet patialas, her long hair tied back and she’d worn dangling silver earrings that complimented the attire. Every bit the quintessential Punjabi kudi right out of Bollywood – and I’m not kidding, this was actually my first reaction!

In between looking for my friend in the sparsely populated road, I kept an eye on this girl. I saw her in the midst of a face palm – she hit her forehead and probably berated herself for something. Eventually, this girl came very close to where I was seated and asked the person sitting next to me if she could use her phone for a moment. The person refused and I could see disappointment etched on the pretty girl’s face and she made to move away.

The face-palm gesture explained itself and I quickly called out to her, took my phone out and asked her to go ahead and use it! She looked relieved, thanked me and spoke over the phone.

(The fact that I was in a similar situation barely half an hour before meeting her only added to the urgency with which I lent her my phone. Yeah I basically used a stranger’s phone to reach out to Boo with whom I’d accidentally left my phone. I knew exactly how weird she was feeling about her stupidity )

After the call she thanked me and sat waiting next to me. Having nothing better to do and being thoroughly fascinated, I struck up a conversation. In the course of our discussion, she admitted that she was here for a first date and told me about the year-long secret glances and unspoken conversations that she’d shared with Mr Potential who in fact ticked all her boxes. (Woh checklist jo hata hai humara!?)

She confessed to being super nervous and a tad bit annoyed that her exams were around the corner and she never wanted to commit to these things.. I tried to assure her that things would be good, give cupid a chance… My pretty in pink friend made two more calls of which I overheard the sweetest and most respectful – Tussi Kaha hai?

She’d dressed up traditional cause she really liked him and that he loved this attire… She spoke of how his hands were shivering when he made the first move to talk to her and hang out and laughed glibly. It melted my heart and made me feel so happy for her! Small joys in a big bad world, ain’t it!?

I caught her credentials just in time before I parted with a wink and wished her luck.

Just caught up with her on social media and got to know that despite Mr Potential’s Late Lateef act, for which she wanted to slap him, She said Yes!

Lonely Tunes

My bestie recently asked me what was the one thing that I absolutely hated about my life in Riyadh, for I lived there while growing up for ten odd years. For a while, this question took me by surprise…people always assumed that I loved it out there and ended up asking me what I missed about that desert city.

I took a moment to think while fleeting images went past me – a sea of people in black and white (literally, for Saudi men wear a white, free flowing white gown-like attire and women wear Abhayas – the black cloth that bundles them up, covering them completely.

I thought about being away from my grandparents and missing them.

I thought about Riyadh’s oppressive heat, and the boring school life I was subject to… And then it hit me hard.

‘Loneliness’, I replied.

Not having friends of my age in the society I lived in, being at a mentally stimulating age and not having someone to share conversations or games with, not being very rich so as to afford novels and books often, it tore me apart, little by little.

It’s not like I didn’t have friends – school was great when we had lunch hour or free period. But once the clock struck 1.30, that was goodbye to your friends, unless you wanted to chit chat over long calls (which again wasn’t very welcomed by the folks).

I had a few Kannadiga friends that I looked forward to meeting, but that was usually once or twice a month and fun while it lasted.

On a daily basis, I whiled away time with imaginary characters, played stupid and cute games with my baby brother, and kept wishing for some adventure. I was introduced to comics a little late, for I consider 3rd grade pretty late. I took to reading Tinkle comics, Champak I used to loathe, but reading anything felt like a good time pass.. I graduated to Archies, and thanks to my then best friend’s mother, who worked in our school, we got permission to borrow some books on a weekly basis. And then we ended up taking Noddy. What can I say, I missed the whole concept of libraries like hell.

Then I graduated to reading Women’s Era magazines because they would inevitably be at home and I just needed to read something, anything! To be honest, I read quite a few controversial things that made for a good laugh but loneliness – you can’t put a name or describe the feeling… these things persist.

I thought things would be great upon leaving Saudi, and returning to India… That I’d be able to meet and host friends who are quite like me and whose ideas would entice and encourage us to be great. Unfortunately for me, no such thing happened. Reality was that, I was seen as more of an outcast because of my earlier background and I didn’t belong to their groups…

It’s hard being lonely and it’s enough to push you into depression. I know that now but then, I tried to desperately fit in, dumb down, act bitchy and mean to be accepted, found one friend, who happened to be a guy, and you can imagine how that would turn out for a teen?

Ugh. Life sucked. In the end, I cared a damn and gave up on everyone that I was trying to befriend. I cut them out of my life the moment school ended and haven’t regretted my decision since.

I grew friends after that.. When I stopped trying, and I just was. I’m an introvert, so I still have a small circle but that’s completely fine with me. I do wish sometime that I’d be more outgoing and befriend more people.. I talk and meet people, but I think genuine connection is so rare.

But I cannot be more grateful to the people who are in my life.. I’m really happy to have friends who are smart, motivated, dedicated and wholly good people with a good heart. We question our friendship sometimes and then I realise, despite everything that that are, they’re mine.

That’s really all you sometimes need.

Cheers!

Of Slam books and Slammed People

You know when you’re cleaning old closets and drawers and you chance upon some treasures that you want to bury yourself in but can’t, cause life?

Well, today is that day for me.

A day to reminisce and contemplate – read out entries of fascinating glories and conquests that I recorded in my journals long ago, to take a moment to laugh about the hysterics I attempted, or wallow in the dejections I faced. Choices are aplenty.

I discovered my Slam Book from 12th standard; it’s almost 8 years ago. (No, thank you for asking, but I do not feel old yet!)

What’s interesting is that all the people who took time out to write me a few words of affection are just the guys who are pretty much out of my life, at this stage. Except for one exception, who’s always been and will always be a dear friend.

I see entries such as these:

It saddens me that we’re continents apart and rarely ever talk. So much has happened… We’re different people now than we used to be and we let differences creep in when they shouldn’t have.

Here’s another entry:

This cutie is a Mommy now, and she’s going to be starting post grad studies soon. She’s come a long way and I’m happy for where she’s headed.

This is one from an acquaintance:

I’m glad to have been that person who’s always smiling and I will continue to be that. It’s just the easiest thing to do and makes everyone around feel better about their day, doesn’t it?

This one is from a dear friend, who’s pretty much a cheerful ghost to me now. I like to think that somewhere along the way, between teaching some kids and doing the strangest comedy in life, he may just be look at this blog post and go- Aww, Thunk! (You see, that was my nickname back in the days!)

Udox, my homie, if you’re reading this, I still think you’re a pain in the ass, but a good one at that. Keep rocking and drop a text when you’re in town? I’d like to chill and grab a cuppa with you!

Here’s for the last entry, the one I consider best, simply for the effort that was taken in filling it with random crap!

I’ve got to admit, it takes talent to write 7 pages of bullshit. So this guy actually befriended me because mister had a Huuuuggeeeeeeee crush on my bestie. What can I say, I guess being a wingman is one of my weaknesses! 😉

The Perfect Pair

While stepping out of a large restaurant, Boo who was inches ahead of me, navigated through a seemingly closed exit and looked back at me for I hadn’t moved. On being accosted with a questioning glance, I replied that I was evaluating whether there really was an exit out there.

‘So you won’t follow me blindly?’, he asked.

‘Of course not,’ I answered. ‘I’d have to be smart enough to pull us both out of trouble, right. That won’t happen if I follow you without any questions asked.’

‘Good come back, but basically you won’t follow me!’ comes the retort.

‘Well, I wouldn’t ideally to be the Gaandhari to your Dhritarashtra do I?’, I quipped.

That was applaud worthy but mister wasn’t so pleased at not having the upper hand.

A momentary pause later I wanted to add that I’d rather be more like – -Wait! I couldn’t Say Draupadi, I’d then have to find four other equally enticing men.

Could I say Kunti? Having an untouchable better half who’s only rise to fame is because of his sons!? No way.

Radha? What!? No, they never unite except for in famed temples that become huge branded kiosks selling religion!

Well, I gave up looking for inspiration in Indian mythology. Clearly, my search for the perfect couple can’t be found in Mahabharata.

I just strung my arm around Boo with a cheesy smile that said, ‘You know I’ll always be right here!’ and that was that.

The Book Nook

Yesterday was a day full of chores. Most of the important people in life were away and I had all the time that I needed to work on some chores of my own.

I went to the saloon for a haircut only to know that the regular professional wasn’t there. Since I didn’t know if I’d be able to get away anytime soon, I went to a different parlour and got fleeced royally. So much for the occasional saloon visit.

On my way home, I decided to casually check if this tiny old book shop was still up and running.

What a delight it was to see that not only was the shop standing the test of time, the owner was pacing about the shop and instantly recognised me. He enquired about my welfare and whether I was back to the Garden City. We spoke about my stay away and the move back. It was nice to know that he remembered my journey.

It’s been about three odd years since the shop began. I enquired about his business ventures and our common interest, the books around. I was saddened to know that the building that he’s currently housed in was going to be demolished soon. Hence he was going to wrap up from here and move the bulk of his business to the online model.

He wistfully added that he’d look into opening out a similar nook at his residence, if he succeeded in getting a house of his own.

During the course of our conversation, we discussed work, life, balance and emotions. We talked about how it’s sometimes difficult to explain your choices to people, especially when they’re not just exactly rational yet you know that it makes you a happy person.

There was not one moment of awkwardness while discussing so much at a personal and professional level. This connect I personally believe is quite hard to establish even among people you know quite well.

The highlight of the conversation actually occurred when he handed over a printed bookmark with a QR code and explained that he had compiled a series of short poems and had been persuaded by his daughter to publish it as an ebook. He remarked that his wife may have been a little skeptical as those poems were on the romantic front, but he was honestly happy to be showcasing his work after so many years of effort.

He handed the bookmark to me and said that this was the first time he’d given it to someone apart from family and that I was welcome to review, purchase, and share feedback if I wanted to.

I could see the sense of achievement shine out of his shy demeanour and I was both touched and inspired by him.

Here’s a man who’s unconventional by the world’s standards. ( He is part-time owner of the bookshop and part time freelancer as a transcriptionist while his wife works a full-time position. He’s got his own struggles and is slowly emerging victorious.)

I just purchased the ebook and I’m enjoying the verses. More than that, I’m just happy that he’s happy.

Art maketh Men, eh?

Click It To Collect It!

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Growing up, I never had a camera at home. My Dad would borrow his friend’s camera for special occasions like my birthday party or family get-togethers, we’d then get the negatives printed and store all the photos in those fancy albums. It was only when my brother was born in 1999, that we bought a camera after much deliberation. It was a no-frills, Olympus camera. I had a ball just clicking the plush button and seeing the flash arrest the images for posterity. When my Dad bought an Activa some twelve years ago, I excitedly got the camera out and captured my baby brother and Dad on the bike. Without even knowing my frame, Dad chided me for being in a hurry. He explained how symmetry is a very important component of any image and how I had cut off half the Activa and had more of the plain sky foreground. I remember feeling very stupid and have since followed his advice when it comes to selecting my frames and subject placement.

We then graduated to a Panasonic Lumix – to stay abreast of the digital trend. It’s been a few years now since we stopped using the Lumix – we had to replace the battery. Just like a million other chores on the To-Do-List that never actually get done, the camera awaits its resurrection to life.

 

Then came the millennia of smartphones and with it, a progressive upgrade of cameras. My first phone was a Nokia Express Music, gifted to me by my Grand-Dad. It had a great sound system and a fairly decent camera. I then went on to use a Samsung Chat (The least useful phone I’ve had). I graduated to a Lenovo – which despite being a smartphone had the most grainy captures ever. When I bought a Moto E2 with my earnings, I was most impressed with the camera – especially in natural light. I’m currently using a Redmi Note 5 but there are moments when I miss my tiny Moto E2 for its scenic captures.

I have a passion for the ancient – take me to a heritage structure and I’m going to be the happiest – noting, clicking and trying to create the perfect story in my head. Having said that, I’m also awed by nature and have a beautiful collection of nature at its best – trees / leaves/ flowers / clouds/ name it, and I mostly have these clicks. It was while I was en route Ajanta Caves that I decided to start an Instagram Page dedicated to the photo gallery that I have curated over the years.

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Just an assortment of images from my Insta Page.

Despite the magic of photography, there are moments when I’ve resisted the urge to get out my device, because the lingering beauty is so transient, you’d rather live it out and experience it than attempt to capture it and spoil the experience. It’s a call that every one needs to take on an individual level.

More on the link to the page in the next blog.

Adios!

🙂

Photo Story – Mumbai Memories

My last post was a riot of negativity. I don’t really believe in deleting posts but perhaps sometime down the line, I may remove it. Today, let’s talk through pictures.

I have amassed quite a few gems that I haven’t shared on social media and I’d like to take you through the maze.

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Let us start with a picture of an all-time favorite. Indian mothers’ love-hate relationship with this brand will continue forever and yet the kids will continue to love it! Here’s my attempt to rid myself of the guilt of indulging in this bowl of goodness. I haven’t had Maggi for more than a month now because I’m home and home means wholesome meals!

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Continuing the trend of love-hate relationships is this girl – Baman who’s like the Salman Khan of my life. There are phases when I love her, phases when I want to throttle her, and there are moments of pure ignorance. Inspite of all these phases, she’s that rock solid support system – always there. Baman – you be my bro man! Two months will be up soon, so I hope you’re going to want to talk to me soon!

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If there were people in my previous organisation that I’d want to spend hours with – it would be the two of you – Meow and Woof! I can’t stop marveling over how you just click with some people and that gets carried on!

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This lady up here has energy level that can give serious competition to your childhood’s favorite toy – the Crazy Ball. Yep, she’s here, there, everywhere, and rocking at it. Didn’t think we’d become fast friends but man, here we are!

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Mandala colouring is an all-time hobby and I love doing this while watching something. I know this might mean that the series does not get 100 percent of my attention, but I’m okay with that.

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Swag kids getting ready to eat breakfast on a holiday. #NuffSaid

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Faking a wedding pic because Madam Bestie had lied to her friends about the real reason why she came to Mumbai, instead of going on a trip with the latter. (Bestie just missed me and wanted to shower some love!)

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Just casually trying to show off  a tonne of things out here. My mirror image aka the grumpy cat, the feisty nails, and the cute little bag gifted by Boo.

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A pretty reminder of nature – notice the symphony between the soil and the sky.

This was taken on my first trip to Haji Ali. It’s a soulful place and one that is immensely calming. I took some tough decisions out here, sitting on the steps and watching the waves go on till infinity.

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Haji Ali – In all its Friday splendour and glory.

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TBH I also did a double take when it came to this picture. It’s not the finger you imagined!

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Any season, any time, and with anyone (read no one) – Mumbai’s Marine Drive is a favorite and has seen me in different phases of life and emotions.

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Any takers for fluffy flowers!?

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Washroom selfie when you think you’re dressy? Check.

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To Harry Potter – for being the constant companion in life and to ever-growing friendships in life. Also, special thanks to Ashu – for initiating me into our cult, and for being my Padfoot, Always.

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To good hair days and colleagues-turned-friends.

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A pair of earrings that have been on the wish list for a while. In other words, Barielly ke jhumke abhi tak aaye nahi.

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The second time at Haji Ali. Before heading out to Noorani cafe for the best Chicken Tikka Biryani there can be.

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Of goodbyes to the city of dreams…

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To more bends in the road,

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To waking up to a morning full of limitless possibilities….

Adios Amigos. 🙂

 

Maasoom – Of Emotions Warm and Milky

You know that there is a blog post coming up soon when you’re swamped with words and are at a loss to record them. The past week has been one of tumultuous emotions for me – two months ago, I took a decision which brought me to a new stage in life – that of acceptance and of facing reality. Now I don’t know how successful I will be in NOT running from problems (Yes, I know. Escapism seems to run strong in my generation these days!) but I know that I must face the consequences and I know I will.

I was lounging about the hall when a vaguely familiar tune caught my attention – My /mum had just switched on Doordarshan (Did you know DD still has some viewers left?!) and I was intrigued by the film. I spent my evening watching Maasoom.

Now this movie brings up a lot of anecdotes in my head – Let’s go chronologically. I remember my parents watching this movie when I was a kid and I remember thinking – Why would someone watch something so boring that despite featuring 3 kids did not make it entertaining for me.

Much later in high school, I had the good fortune to meet a Social Science teacher – Ms Rachna Ma’am, who reinforced my belief in general knowledge and discipline. I will always remember her chiding me for not knowing the capital of Chattisgarh, for not knowing where which state was positioned and for being a slouch in general. Her arrival into the classroom caused a dissension among most – she actually meant business when she assigned tasks to us and it was different from the norm that we were used to. Rachna ma’am soon became a favorite – not the direct and favorite one, I didn’t want the others to think I loved her. But I did approach her for some issues – read teenage drama. In hindsight – what really stands out was that – my love for knowing and acquiring general knowledge took off from there. She always told us that an Atlas had more knowledge about the world, while costing so less, and all we had to do was absorb and be willing to learn.

Also, Rachna ma’am’s first lesson was to stop calling the subject Social Studies an instead of referring to it as Social Sciences.

Rachna ma’am had to leave our school due to some personal reasons and it was her farewell time. We asked her to sing and she sang – ‘Tujse Naraaz Nahi Zindagi, Hairaan Hoon’. I didn’t understand the depth and complexity of the emotions described in this song until today. Partly because I need to really dissect the lyrics of songs to get their hidden meaning and also because to be frank, I had never thought about it.

Watching Maasoom – the movie, the emotions, the teacher, everything brought up the intensity of the lyrics.

Watching Maasoom also reminded me of a tête-à-tête with my aunt. She constantly emphasizes that it is ALWAYS the woman who can make or break a family. It is always the woman who has to make scarifices – and she must understand this, accept it,and take it upon herself without feeling remorse – it’s the only way that life will be easier for all. I have been contemplating long and hard about this and I feel like she’s onto something.

And here’s the link to the movie if you’re up for some mellow, thoughtful piece of art! Did I mention the brilliant acting?

If you just want the song, here it is:

If you watch Maasoom and are faced with a dilemma that the protagonist in the movie faces – how would you react and what would you feel like?

I would be very keen to know your views. Do write, comment and leave your thoughts while I go get some rest.

Adios amigos.

Stay stong! ❤