All the little things that you’re grateful for.

There comes a certain point in your life, when something just clicks into place and certain memories come flooding back to you, pouring into each other at the rate at which they come and leaving behind a bittersweet smile on your face as you think of the days that went by.

Having shifted base from UAE back to my hometown in the year 2012, the sudden disparity in the way of life came much like a jolt to my senses. Suddenly, it felt like I was adrift, in an ocean, one amongst a school of fish all moving in the same direction, and yet parting ways at different crossroads, making different choices and not knowing if it would all work out in the end. One year on, 2013 had arrived, and yet here wasn’t much change in my situation.

I say disparity in the way of life and not cultures, because, despite popular perception, it really wasn’t all that different. Not to me anyway. Even back in Sharjah, I still came home to Ma’s rice and piping hot sambar, watched the same Hindi and English shows sneakily online, and was surrounded by an ocean of Keralites left, right and center.

There were differences though. It was in the way I, and many of my friends too, found ourselves hesitant to call out the answers in class even when we knew we were right. This coming from a girl who was used to shouting out her opinion without giving a damn about what others would think, even if I was wrong. It was in the vacuum I felt at no longer being able to teach my friends Malayalam swear words and learn a few choice ones in all the other colorful languages my country boasts of. The way in which suddenly I found the tables turned entirely against me, for while I did have a pretty good grasp of my mother tongue, suddenly I found myself being the ridiculed for unconsciously slipping into English at times, something I had never considered an issue before.

While I was struggling to find myself during this time, all the while wondering how someone so confident about the way she wanted her life to pan out since the time she had baby teeth had inexplicably gotten lost, I found my anchor in an Inter-school recitation competition. Or rather, I found it in a group of wonderful, extraordinary, sweet women, ones whom I am fortunate to have called my teachers and even more proud to have known as a girl.

Usha Ma’am, I will never ever be able to fully convey exactly how grateful I am to you for making me pick up The Walrus and The Carpenter. In doing so, you showed faith in me that I would be able to do something I had never done until then in all the 18 years of my life. I still remember the shock I experienced when I was told that I would be reciting a poem by Lewis Carroll. From Alice In Wonderland, of all places! I am ashamed to say that at that point, I did have a rather pompous view of my own abilities, and perhaps took myself a bit too seriously than any 18-year-old must be allowed to. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why such a poem had been given to me. Surely high school students were expected to recite Wordsworth or Tennyson or Edgar Allen Poe? And I would be reciting about oysters?!

A bit of convincing and a LOT of practice sessions later, I realized the point you had been trying to make. Sometimes you don’t have to follow down the same old beaten path, despite what everyone around you says. And you don’t always have to find the logic in everything. “But what’s the point?”, I asked you, after yet another half-hearted recital three days before the competition. I still remember the expressions of doom on all of your faces, clearly wondering what on earth was I going to do in three days, and yet obviously being too kind-hearted to say so. “There IS no point!”, you exclaimed back. “It’s absolutely nonsensical! And that’s the beauty of it!”

With conviction in my heart(finally!) and the entire English Department’s firm guidance with me, I set about to finally give my 100% and do as you told me to. A special mention goes out to Aashna, who was a huge, huge help, truly becoming a cherished friend in the process.

And what do you know? It worked! From someone who had never actually recited on a stage before(it’s true!), we somehow, miraculously, managed to win! I say we, and not I, for if it had not been for you quite literally showing me when to pause and when to stress, the whole thing would have turned into a complete, utter fiasco! (Don’t deny it!)

I’ve gone completely off track. What I was trying to really say was that there was an incredible amount of pressure on me at that time. To put it simply, that year, for various completely unrelated reasons, was one of the unhappiest of my life. I had no idea if I was supposed to swim with the tide or against it, and despite every cell in my body protesting loudly at being put into an unnatural situation, I did as I was told and pursued my studies with a single-minded focus, which, frankly, I hated. It was just so uncharacteristic of me to give up everything for just one, and yet I did it because that was what was expected of me.

In such a time, it was actually those few after school practices(the ones which I actually attended 😃 ) which helped me maintain  my sanity. In a way, though I was still the same bubbly person outwardly, I learned to be happy again, something which I hadn’t been in a long time. I found my strength in your smiling faces and constant support, the way you understood my difficulty in balancing extra classes with practice and yet drawing a firm line when you had to. In showing me when exactly I had to stop neglecting the responsibility I had been entrusted with, and in the process, teaching me that the world wouldn’t end just because I loved two things equally.

It is for these very reasons, that I cherish The Walrus And The Carpenter so much. More for what it stood for, rather than the prize it got me and my school (though that also counts! 😃 ) All those voice modulations meant a great deal more to me than just the purpose it served. And for that, thank you. Thank you Usha Ma’am, Nancy Ma’am, Renuka Ma’am, Meera Ma’am, Theresa Ma’am, and Rajasree Ma’am. A billion times over, for showing me the importance of maintaining a balance in life, and helping me discover the joy that comes with just letting go and turning completely crazy once in a while.

The reason this post has come, perhaps three years too late, is that I finally hd the chance to recite this again at the All Kerala Inter-Medicos last month. And struck gold once again!(Again, all credit to you!) Honestly though, I couldn’t think of any other poem to recite than this one, and that was what set off all those memories and took me back through a journey in time.

Thank you.

PS: Usha Ma’am, you know who I am! I’m going to ask you not to share this on Facebook, because I enjoy the anonymity of being on WordPress, without anyone else knowing about it. It gives me a certain sense of freedom, after all, this helped me stalk your blog much before you finally accepted my friend request! I just had to break the rule this one time though. Do drop me a line here if you can!

P.P.S : Feel free to point out any grammatical errors! 😝

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REVISITING HOGWARTS

I was really thinking of writing something along this line, and this post said everything I wanted to say, and much more.

FalkenScreen

Following the release of the first few Harry Potter novels the film industry quickly jumped on the bandwagon, conjuring up eight movies, a theme park and a merchandising extravaganza to match Star Wars.

Each film was an event, and with the exception of the final two instalments, woefully incomplete.

In all fairness, the confines of the medium should be taken into account. To recreate every scene and aspect of JK Rowling’s novels verbatim for the big screen would be unwieldly and torturous: even the biggest Harry Potter diehard would be hard-pressed to sit in a cinema for fifteen hours without suffering severe fatigue or distraction.

Which is exactly why the medium never suited it. It may have been captivating to see the beloved characters reimagined on the big screen, but there was absolutely no way that any single film could do justice to the complexity of the novels and its multitude…

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Tryst with Paneer

Meet Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.

Now meet me, the girl who puked in a holy shrine.

Yeah, life sucks.

Now, just to clarify, I did not puke because of binge-drinking on alcohol. I puked because that day, at a restaurant, I had this sudden urge to become a vegetarian.

I ordered paneer makhni. That’s basically cottage cheese in gravy with lots of butter. Absolutely delicious. Meat-loving me ordered it for a change. And it was just my luck that their paneer was probably a century old.  I began to feel nauseous almost immediately after the the first mouthful but since I was too stubborn to admit defeat and succumb to the pull of chicken-tikka  being devoured by my brother, I persevered.

I succumbed alright. I succumbed to  food poisoning.

See, I went to pray at this shrine around half an hour after lunch. Barely lasted ten steps into the sanctum sanctorum, before I unleashed the contents of my stomach right there. In full view of every single person present there.

Mommy darling, who is a bit superstitious when it comes to these things, said that God had helped me by making me puke out the bad food. I guess that is one way of looking at it. At that moment, however, I was just too embarrassed. You see, I did not stop after the first expulsion. I had to puke my way to the nearest basin.

Not to mention the fact that my favorite Bossini T-shirt had been irrevocably spoilt forever.

To all those who feel  embarrassed when adults recount their childhood antics at the loudest possible decibel level, trust me, you haven’t known real embarrassment. Real embarrassment is when you visit the shrine one full year after said incident, and the conversation with a shrine authority who is friends with your family goes like this:

Mom: I hope you haven’t forgotten us. I know our family hasn’t been able to visit in some time.

Guy: Oh no, I haven’t. (looking at me) She’s the one who puked that day, right?

Now that’s embarrassment.

P.S. Two years later, I decided to order a hariyali biryani(rice with spinach and fenugreek)  so that some veggies would enter my system.

My bro had the chicken.

I had food poisoning.

I think I’m going to stick to meat from now on.

Being a Phoenix

I write best when I’m not under pressure to meet a deadline. When I actually feel strongly about a particular topic. Which is one of the main reasons that the numerous journals I have attempted to keep in the past have never lasted beyond the first two entries. I just don’t do regular.

I toyed with the idea of starting a blog for a long time before I actually took the plunge, so to speak. One reason was the fact that I just could not wrap my head around sticking to a particular topic and writing post after post on ONE topic REGULARLY. That would mean having to update without fail. And I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

No interest either.

To stick to one topic would just constraint me.  It would set certain boundaries and I would need to ensure I stick to it. And I hate categorizing. I hate labels. Period.

I am not incredibly impulsive at heart, like so many people like to proclaim, as though it’s the new cool thing to be. I am not a stickler for schedules either. I’m just a normal person, somewhere in the middle. I react according to the situation.

I am not a stubborn person, although I can be stubborn. I am not subservient, although I can be compliant. It all depends on the environment, and the people around me.

I follow a certain set of practices for worship primarily because I find comfort in familiarity. These are methods I have followed since childhood, so I continue to follow it for the comfort it brings me. However, I don’t constraint my thoughts about the world purely on the basis of one school of thought.

There are certain historical aspects to the religion I declare I follow on all my official papers, as is wont in India, that I don’t completely agree with. And I also find other practices tagged under a different school of thought, that I completely identify with. I don’t find anything wrong with that. Why do we need to be constrained? I can follow certain practices while criticizing others. Shouldn’t our primary aim be to lead a wholesome and just life?

And I don’t care anymore if people label me religious, as though it’s something I need to be ashamed of. I’m not trying to criticize anybody, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of people loudly proclaim that they are not religious, but spiritual. Spirituality is basically centered on the deepest values by which a person lives. I am a spiritual person too.

I can be spiritual while being a little religious.

Being religious does not mean not being secular. I respect all faiths equally, but I also believe in the presence of God, who treats all of us as equals.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am neither atheist nor theist, deist nor agnostic, monotheist nor polytheist. I don’t fit into any of these labels because I find exception to at least one clause of each of their definitions. I don’t have a name for my belief, and that’s ok. I don’t need a label.

Which is why my blog doesn’t need a label. I’ll write whatever I want to write, whenever I want to write. It could be fan fiction, which I admit to enjoying at times, when the only similarity is with the names of the characters, but still don’t support whole-heartedly, when the story is blatantly a rip off of an existing series. Some of these ff’s are pretty amazing, with characters so fully fleshed out, so different, so real you’ll wonder why they haven’t been published. These writers needed a forum and an inspiration. Everything else is theirs.

And some are so devoid of substance, just a copy of the author’s work, that you’ll wonder why they haven’t been sued.

My posts could also be an entry on political affairs, or just a simple book review.

It’s just me being me.

Of course I have my moments of doubt. I often wonder if I made the right choice. If I will be able to wade through this ocean of doubt. If I will ever make it in the end.

But in a rare moment of clarity, I am sure of one thing.

I am neither white nor black nor gray. I don’t have a colour.

I don’t fit in.

And I don’t need to.

Dear Saleslady,

Dear Saleslady,

I understand that it’s your job to sell as many products as possible to as many unsuspecting customers as possible. However, I do have a request if you want that to happen.

PLEASE STOP BREATHING DOWN MY NECK.

I am a legal adult, and perfectly capable of making my own choices. The moment I step into the supermarket and head towards the cosmetics section, even before I can lift a product off the shelf to check out its claims, one of you arrive, beaming a terrifying smile showcasing all your 32 teeth. Adding to the setting of a horror movie is the fact that she doesn’t arrive alone, but rather with two other minions, all with the same feral grin, waiting to pounce on their prey rather in the same sadistic pleasure with which Bellatrix Lestrange would have performed the Cruciatus Curse.

I try to politely ignore her while searching for the products I use on a regular basis. However, this proves difficult while she keeps spouting  the benefits of every single ingredient in every single product that I lift to examine. Frustrated, yet thankful  that the minions have disappeared off to god knows where, I tell her that I have been purchasing this particular company’s products for quite some time. I am very much aware of the difference between rose oil and  rosemary.

Sensing her dismissal, she bleats weakly about how she wanted to help out if I was checking that chain for the first time, and retreat to a safe distance. FINALLY.

I relish my newfound freedom, finally examining the various masks and balms on display at my own free will, carefully picking out a couple after checking out its properties.  I move on to the range of face washes, wondering if I should try one of the anti-bacterial ones, when I hear something in the background.

Ah. You have arrived.

The conversation goes something like this:

You: Why are you standing so far off?

Saleslady 1: She said she’s been buying these products for some time!

You: ( in a dangerous tone) So?

Lady 1: She said she would pick the out herself…

Not willing to admit defeat so easily, you arrive in front of me, beaming a snarky grin and flashing your ‘EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH TAG.’ You proceed to annoy me even more than the woman before you, forcing hair masks and creams which I discard into my hand, telling me I’m making a mistake and promising me that it will ENHANCE MY YOUTH.

Lady, do I look like a senior citizen to you??

Hoping to shake you off my tail, I move on to another chain, praying that you won’t be as well versed with this one as before.

Good news-you’re not.

Bad news-you persist anyway.

Let me add something here: if there’s one thing about myself that I like, it’s my skin tone. Thanks to all my mother’s concoctions, all traces of suntan have been carefully eliminated on my face. I am fair, and while I’m not prejudiced towards others, this is something that I’m happy to have achieved.

Yet, as I pick up a quick pimple fixer, you ply me with skin whitening products, saying that it will help me achieve the same tone as my arms.

Lady, pay attention. My arms are very much tanned.

Despite the fact that I tell you very firmly that I do not use nor believe in any chemical containing skin whitening products, you keep showing me product after product, ranging from facial kits to pore tighteners to toners and de-pigmenters, insisting that they have been out of stock due to demand. That too, when I can clearly see the manufacturing date was EIGHT MONTHS AGO.

Desperate to have you out of my hair, I decide not to buy anything and rush to the crockery section, hoping for a reprieve. Yet, you insist on following me there, showing me various serums, all to defy the signs of ageing.

All right, now I’M PISSED. I’M NOT 40 LADY. I HAVEN’T GOT ANY SIGNS OF AGEING.

You must have finally got the hint, judging by the look on your face, because you beat a hasty retreat and finally leave me alone.

I head towards the bill counter when my mom asks me to pick up a shampoo for her. As I rush back, you pop out of nowhere, now listing countless properties and promising me that the other brand will help eliminate all traces of dandruff. I HAVEN’T GOT DANDRUFF!!!

By this point, I’m just too tired to protest anymore, so, armed with two shampoos instead of one, I head out of the store, swearing profusely under my breath.

Let me give you a word of advice here lady. Your marketing strategy might be to  annoy people into buying stuff just to get them to leave you alone, but that doesn’t help ok? Seriously. I might have taken the shampoo, but just to get rid of you, I did not buy several products I had my eye on, simply for the reason that if I pick something with wintergreen in it, you try to force every single product with wintergreen into my hand. Just the thought of repeating my refusal at least three times for each one of those was too exhausting, so I moved away.

You want to retain that shiny ‘EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH’ tag?

LEAVE THE CUSTOMER ALONE.

Riverbend: Ten Years Later, Baghdad Still Burning.

middle east revised

It’s been months, well – probably years since I last time opened Riverbend’s blog. It was in the period of 2003 – 2007 that her blog opened my eyes – and the eyes of many, showing us what liberation is like to Iraqi people. Then there was the book – Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq, a compilation of her blog entries for part of 2003 and 2004. Riverbend’s writing was intelligent, witty, warm, passionate, informative, and it always seemed to me – she was as honest as a person can be. Opening her blog today – made me miss her writing so much.

Well, there was something there for me – for all of us who have missed her for years now. She published one more post, first one since 2007. Published in April of 2013, it’s her last one. I wish to repost it here, because I find…

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Madam Arachne

So I walk into my room one night, tired out and all ready to hit the sack. I reach towards the lights, when suddenly, I see IT.

More specifically, a tiny brown spider.

Lets call her Madam Arachne.

( Yes I’m a feminist. No, I haven’t hit the loony bin. Yes, I’m naming a spider. You got a problem?)

Let me clarify beforehand that I do NOT suffer from arachnophobia. I’m just not particularly fond of them. I usually  call in the cavalry, aka my mom, to dispose of the larger, possibly poisonous ones, but the tiny ones? No problem.

So I grab a tissue and move in, all ready to capture Arachne, and I’m just about to kill it, when the damn thing scuttles off to a corner high up and out of my reach.

Curse its 2000 ommetidia and its compound eyes, and the sensitivity of Class Insecta.

Being the patient person I am, I wait for about 5 minutes for Arachne to come back down, but she stubbornly refuses to do so. So I revert to plan B. I retreat to my bed(at the opposite end of the room), all the while keeping one eye firmly on the creepy-crawly and decide to wait up until Her Highness decides to have mercy and descend.

Shouldn’t take long right? ten, maybe twenty minutes? An hour at the most?

WRONG.

It takes TWO HOURS before dear little Arachne condescends to come down, and  by this time my patience has REALLY worn thin. This time, she’s not going to survive.

I inch forward and just as I bring down the tissue again, Arachne FLIES. SERIOUSLY. AND LANDS A WHOLE THREE FEET AWAY( no kidding, I measured it later). ON ME.

Spiderman just got a whole lot more realistic.

Naturally, I bat her away and run away from the room, screaming at the top of my lungs for my mom.

And don’t you dare laugh. The thing can FLY.

Needless to say, I made her spray the spider to death before I step into the room again. And no, I wasn’t hallucinating. Here’s proof.

[Insert conversation between mom and me

Me: MOM! FLYING SPIDER!

Mom: I cant believe you have the nerve to argue with me, but you’re scared of a spider!

Me: I’M NEVER GOING IN THAT ROOM AGAIN! THE THING FLIES!!!

Mom: (after seeing Arachne): Its so tiny! You could have handled it yourself!

Mom starts to leave

Me:WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I SWEAR I WON’T STEP INSIDE THIS ROOM EVER AGAIN!!!

Mom: All right, all right, I’m coming!!! Let me get the bug spray!

Mom enters room. Arachne exits the world.

Mom: That spider could fly!!

Me: SEE!!! I told you!!]

Moral of this story? Stop messing with the Earth. Insects are mutating. FAST.

Long live Pif-Paf. (My faithful can of bug spray. And no I’m not a hypocrite. This was a LIFE OR DEATH situation. It could have bitten me!)

Oh and thank you mom!!! You’ll always be my hero!

RIP Arachne.