#WhatIRead – The House That BJ Built

Anuja Chauhan’s sequel to ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ reemphasizes the same thing through the entirety of this book:

‘I won’t sell. My jhuti won’t sell. Even my Ghosht won’t sell ‘.

Now you know exactly what the story is about – a love story set in the backdrop of an ancient house that’s got a complicated history. Throw in a handsome hunk with Bollywood connections complete with the hot bod and aqualine nose(My assumption of Chauhan’s nose fetish is confirmed for sure!), a righteous but arrogant voluptuous protagonist who keeps chamchamming her way through the storyline, and 4 annoying af cows, er, I mean aunts.

Bonita Singh ‘s name has many synonyms to upp the entertainment quotient. Bonus.. Bonu..Boner.. You see where it’s going?

It’s a fun read given some trademark Chauhan’s Hinglish, her ability to provide offbeat humour, some incredulous Bollywood-like Tamasha, and well-placed mush. (We’re sucklers for old school romance, aren’t we?)

The ending becomes somewhat of a drag and you can think of so many alternate scenarios that could have finished the plot a few pages early.

Nevertheless, if you’re in the mood for a light and entertaining read, do pick up this one and guffaw your way through it! 😂

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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!

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! 😉

Floodgates

A floodgate opens by, of memories rushing hither

Within that diary, my emotions nearing wither.

‘Twas us against the world, a battle was fought.

Left you strong, but I was broken and distraught.

What do I do with these papers and this ink?

The dusty fabric has secrets aplenty, you ‘d blink.

There was love there, and tenderness and care.

But then, you made clear, those feelings you did not share.

It took me time, a great deal of distance.

And here I am, relishing my sustenance.

Yellowed pages, dogeared ends..

They call out to me, and show me the bends.

Of lies, betrayal, heartache, and all the evil rest.

Move on, Life did, for it always knows what’s best.

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?

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! ❤

Dig Through The Data For Insightful Thoughts

I think this is the dream.
Sitting in an airport café – the window overlooks the runaway and you see these beautiful non-natural birds gliding and taking off right next to you, and you’re sipping on a mocha-café and aren’t worried that it has cost you a bomb. This phase – the pre-travel anticipation for a much-needed holiday, it’s a blissful feeling. It’s like you’ve worked your ass off, or maybe not so much, but just a little bit, for these moments.

Sitting opposite a stranger, exchange polite hellos, and before it becomes imperative to exchange more words, you take out your laptop and start putting into words the emotions you feel. Writing is a boon, to those few who have discovered the perils of doing so. I call it peril because when you write, you leave a lasting impression of yourself, on record to the world. You may move on, move worlds and pass into nothingness, but your words, those creatures of your mind, they will survive the test of time. They’re potent, yet latent, The dangers will be unleashed only if discovered by people.
For a private journal writer, I am amazed at how curious I am about other people’s work. It’s beautiful seeing people open up to inanimate paper because you don’t hold back at all, then. I recently discovered a colleague’s office notebook – I read some of her words – a letter to her friend, some words to take off the heaviness in her mind, and some random scribbles. It gives you an altogether different insight into the person. She will never know I did that. For she will never want her pages back. And that, only adds to the appeal of the words.
It’s so beautiful – the gift of gab, albeit in the written format.
I was often asked why I wasn’t into journalism – I could have been one but I didn’t fight hard for it cause I didn’t believe in my abilities. I didn’t believe I, a meek and introverted person could be bold enough to follow up with people, to dig deep into minds and I didn’t think I ‘d be resourceful enough.

I still don’t think I’d make a good journalist. For writing, is only a small part of the qualities that you’d need to have. I hate pressurising people to open up. But if you do want to open up, I will listen to you with my heart and soul and try to respect your thoughts, words, and opinions, more that I would believe in. For faith is another beautiful thing.
While I was on the drive, en route to the airport, I couldn’t help but think about the people in my life, who I love.
I came to a few realisations, that are not altogether selfless. I do not see myself as a person who can be loved. When people accept me for my flaws and idiosyncracies that is when I begin to like them. I feel amazed – like how can you even like someone like me? If you are brave enough to take that step and are not turned off my the results, who am I to not respect the beautiful piece of art that you are? That is how my emotions grow.
They say that love is not selfish. I disagree. The intent to love can only begin if there are certain emotions that are brought to the fore. And for that to happen, you would need to be aware of certain attributes, that may not al be rosy.
When my desk at the office was changed after 3 months of joining the new corporate place, I was aghast. I didn’t like that I was seated in between two people who had the unfriendliest of faces. One was super polite, one was super quiet. Every time one went for a smoke, I could feel the reek and stench of the tobacco for minutes altogether and I hated it.
It took me about three months more to actually interact with the smoker. I realise that time is the biggest catalyst in your relationships with people. Take your own family members for instance. There are different phases and emotions that you can trace from your childhood. The overwhelming emotion is of love.. but if you separate them, you can see how it stems in.. When you’re in kindergarten, you are just awed by your parents. They are your biggest heroes – the know-it-alls, the solution to your everyday problems, your biggest support.
Move on to your teens, and you begin to see your parents as your enemies. You don’t get them, their logic or lack of it seems lame to you, you want to distance yourself away and you even manage to do it quite ruefully. It’s a hard phase for them to be in. And your dramatics do not improve the situation but hey, you are the Rockstar of your life and you think that you have every right to be that annoying ass that you are.
After a slow and painful teenage and a rather rough start to your twenties when your career decisions may be impacted by your folks, you are just beginning to accept things, and you are neutral to your folks. Then comes that long-distance phase with your parents. You may move to a new city in pursuit of new ambitions and goals and suddenly you realise the importance of your family,, Things may not get back to the idolising that happened to you as a kid, but you’re at somewhat a balanced phase now.
Now is the time you begin to value the sacrifices they’ve gone through. The early mornings, late nights, mundane job responsibilities and the likes. It’s a little too difficultfor you – because you don’t even know if you could ever do the same for somebody. Not until you’re in that situation, maybe not even then. You respect and love your folks more now, maybe see them as lovable frail hearts, that are slipping by you with time.
I don’t know the purpose of this post/rant, but the homecoming and the homegoing, both are always slightly emotional. For all the perks that living away offers, home Is always love, and always will be.
Perhaps that is why whenever you go back home, no matter how long ago it’s been, it always feels like you never left.