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Story Review – Cheers to Love

July 13, 2013 Leave a comment

This story is written by Renu Sethi who blogs at http://day-to-daystories.blogspot.in/.

The story was one of the stories in the book, “Love Stories That Touched My Heart”.

Before I begin tearing apart the story, I find it necessary to clarify that I do know the author and yet my attempt is to be unbiased in my review.

A look at the author’s blog gives you an idea of how easily she identifies with the human stories. I refrain from calling them love or relationship based fiction because man or woman, we hope that we all have a love story that we can narrate, write or reminisce about.

We hope that our real life love story is truly special and takes our breath away.

To be truthful, the story is simple and you could guess the end of it. It did not have the thrill or twist but holds ones attention because of the simplicity of the story. The characters were normal people and they exist in many of our households but yet we do not see beyond the obvious in them.

The actions of the lead characters are romantic in the real sense and the use of words to express how one feels is done away with.

It does make one think about the idea of love in a relationship. More than words being mouthed, it’s the actions that speak louder. This does raise a question about perception. What if the person we are with does not perceive actions louder than words?

The answer to the question of perception could be a lengthy discussion on its own merit but in this story one can sense the love but no words are used to put it into a dialogue.

One of the best parts about the story is the lead male character, Uday. He is drawn as a smart, grounded man with a mind and heart of his own, with the power and strength to stand by his decisions. In simpler words, the lead male character had a good amount of spine. It does make one wonder, are there such men in reality or is it just a fantasy?

The story does highlight drawbacks of giving it all in a relationship. The lead characters were so invested in each other that they never invested in any other activity or friends other than each other. In the long run, it’s a recipe for disaster and loneliness if one person leaves the relationship, either by death or by choice.

It’s always tough to critically review stories with a quotient of sadness in them. The stories could have strands of reality of the writer’s life attached to it. They have to be treated with a respect unlike any other story.

As you reach towards the end of the story, you realize that what may look like a repetitive life to many was treasured by the characters and the story works its way into your head and stays there.

“Cheers to Love” reminded me of a story I had read long ago where the man described the daily routine life activity he had with his wife as a dance. The man made the bed and the woman made coffee every morning.

The imagery in both stories is unforgettable and stays with you long after you have put down the book.

As I finished reading the story, I was left with 2 questions:

Can every man be like Uday?

Can every man like Uday, find a life partner like Sarita?

Lastly, using the son as a narrator may sound simplistic but yet it works because the son’s love story is left open-ended with a possibility of the son learning from his parents’ life story and being a better man.

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Smile at a Stranger

July 7, 2013 12 comments

This post is written for That Tuesday Thingy, an *IndiBlogeshwaris* initiative

The imagery and the music of the Time Traveller draws you into a world of simple truths that many of us have forgotten.

Our smiles have been replaced by scowls and we have truly forgotten how to smile at a stranger or walk around with a smile on our faces.

The video is beautifully crafted where there is a balance of human interaction and it also invests in the solitude and pensive nature without physically isolating the man from the world around.

What really struck me were the smiles on the faces of strangers. If Rahul Sharma is the reflection of common people, then his behaviour is the ideal one where he is smiling and interacting with people and when alone, not lonely, he is almost meditative. The santoor that he plays is always when he is alone and it’s not a performance for people.

With each strike of the santoor chords, it’s an attempt to connect to his inner being and lay the foundation of a calm mind.

The light touch on the strings is symbolic of our minds that can produce marvellous music and be creative with the right amount of pressure or break and produce noise and chaos when excessive pressure is applied.

The playing of the santoor alone is withdrawal from the world, not in disgust, but it’s an act used to center ones being and rejuvenate. For others it could be a book, a walk, good music or even restoring an old car.

It’s an act that you do alone, for yourself. It is a meditative act to bring order to the otherwise chaotic mind that travels faster than the fast lives we lead today.

The music video gave a profound message in its simplicity:

  1. Smile for and at yourself
  2. Smile at strangers
  3. Slow down to see clearly
  4. Have a private hobby or activity

In the pace of our lives we do become self-aware and conclude that we have lost ourselves to the pace. The odd part is when we cannot use the knowledge gained by our self-awareness to reclaim our own lives and fall victim to pace of life; something that is entirely under our control.

As individuals and also as a society we want every moment of our lives to be crammed with action irrespective of quality of the action.

We no longer pay attention to the quality of our interaction with ourselves and others and all we remember are the noise and chaos.

The simple joys of life are doing the disappearing act and gadgets and fast food are taking over.

We have to re-learn to live in the present and create memories that bring back the smile to our faces.

On the path of rediscovery, we have to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of a slow waltz and not lose more time regretting the opportunities lost in the past to enjoy those moments.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , , ,

The Sparring

May 28, 2013 6 comments

The summer evenings were hot and humid but the evening sparring sessions were my solace away from the world. It was in these sessions that my thoughts became clear and my head would become empty of confusions.

Today’s choice of weapon for the session was the long stick. As my sparring partner joined me I noticed her attitude. It was uncomplicated, clear thinking and that showed in her body language.

Most men would not want to spar with an expert but I enjoyed it. It felt good to have someone as good to spar and train with.

As we took our positions on the arena, I observed her stance. It was firm, assertive and very confident. Her dark skin and her long hair were distracting but yet she was merciless when it came to training. Ours was a relationship of respect and even though she was very beautiful, I preferred to have her as a friend.

I moved my feet and our sticks clashed. The wooden sound crackled the atmosphere and at that precise moment I dropped all my worries and was trying to disarm her.

My strikes were all blocked and there was no window through her defense. After five minutes of sparring she finally spoke, “You are boring today. There is no fun in the fight. You are not even trying to think ahead of me.” Her irritated and admonishing voice was not lost on me.

“Office was rough,” was all I could mumble.

“Give that reason to someone else,” she said and moved with speed to try and disarm or trip me into submission.

I saw the fierceness in her eyes and evaded and blocked.

“You are in love. There is a lack of anger and purpose in your sparring today,” she stated flatly.

I felt like I was being studied as a behaviour analysis subject and she was looking through me. I smiled and said, “So it’s that obvious.”

She looked squarely at me and moved with precision and speed and her stick connected with my plexus and she easily disarmed me and tapped my shoulder with her weapon and tripped me over.

I was gasping for breath and tried to get up when she kicked me and with her stick held me down.

In her stern, commanding voice she said, “Fight or perish but live nevertheless.”

The session was going to be a long one for me. I smiled as I heard the Devil in me curse and crib about my choice of sparring partners.

As I took in a few long breaths I heard her command, “Once more.”

As I took my fight stance, I was sure and clear-headed of my choices and options.

A small smile escaped my lips a moment before the wooden weapons contact and snapped the air around to attention.

10 Politicians I Want to Chat With

May 26, 2013 Leave a comment

If I get the opportunity to talk to any politicians of my choice at any point in time then the list of 10 politicians that I would enjoy talking are mentioned below. The reasons for this interesting list may be a contest but the idea is intoxicating and powerful.

Politicians are humans with emotions and yet they project an image. This image slips and the person behind the mask is seen briefly and I would want to capture that moment. It’s like putting your foot in the door when it’s almost closing and prying your way inside.

My personal favourite politicians to engage in a conversation would be:

Abraham Lincoln – He was the man who abolished slavery in the US and held on to an ideal. Many were against his ideas and the country faced war and break up but yet the leadership of Lincoln held together the United States. Lincoln said, “The authors of the Declaration of Independence never intended ‘to say all were equal in colour, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity’, but they ‘did consider all men created equal—equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel – He was the first Home Minister of India and called the Iron Man of India. He was the man who unified India and understood that there is great strength in coming together irrespective of our backgrounds.

APJ Abdul Kalam – The People’s President was the title we bestowed on him and I do not think that is going to change for the people who were active under his tenure as the President of India. A humble man who could connect to all ages and held our attention, the missile man of India will always be riding on Wings of Fire.

Sushma Swaraj – I would want to talk to her purely because of the strong voice, clear thought and the ability to put her ideas into words in good simple Hindi for all to understand.

Lal Krishna Advani – He was the senior politician and the Home Minister of India when India tested nuclear weapons for the second time. He had to face the challenge of a plane hijacking and be part of the dreadful decision of releasing 3 terrorists. A lifetime in politics and he has seen India change with times and can identify points in time where society surged for a change.

P. Chidambaram – Having seen him as finance minister and home minister, the one that stands out about him is the ability to answer a question coherently and connect it to issues. His crisp, logical and to the point answers makes him a good conversationalist.

Sonia Gandhi – She has never been seen giving interviews even though she is Congress party president and it would surely be nice to know what she plans for India and Congress and the Aam Aadmi

Narendra Modi – Everyone wants a piece of him. I would want to know how he feels to be hated and loved at the same time. He is the epitome of a conundrum and I am interested in him as a person.

Nitish Kumar – Bihar has seen a sea change under his government and progress has been his mantra and I would want to know how he plans to apply to India as a whole.

Barack Obama – The first black President of the US and for two terms is as historic as Abraham Lincoln. He inherited a fractured country and world and it was interesting to see a president who danced, sang and engaged with people in such a close level.

This post is part of Indiblogger’s WeChat-The New Way To Connect Contest.

Please find more about the contest here.

Find more about WeChat at WeChat’s Youtube channel.

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Unfinished Pages

May 13, 2013 5 comments

We all have them in our lives but over time they are just forgotten.

I was trying to hail a cab to get home as the wait for the bus was turning to be a no-show. As I was waiting for a cab to come my way a piece of paper drifted in the wind and stuck to my legs. Old, well-thumbed, torn and crumpled, I picked the page up and further crumpled it to throw it away.

I felt why not read it once and then throw it away and understand its mysteries. It was a torn page of a novel. Which one I do not know, I will probably never find out.

I finally did get my cab and the 2 hour-long drive was a haze of thoughts.

We all have unfinished pages and books in our lives. Over time they just keep adding and they feel like volumes when all it takes to complete the story is 2 lines. Most of us would like to finish these unfinished pages. Of course there are exceptions, some we don’t want to finish for the fear of them ending and some for the fear they hold over us.

One other possibility is that the pages themselves choose not to be finished. They do not want to complete their stories but leave it in suspense. But over time even that suspense becomes dull much like a long running soap on television. Some of these very pages may reopen another day in our lives, but will we be interested then?

The 2 hours I held the paper in my hand and as I got out of the cab I dropped it for the wind to carry it forward, in hope that it completed its book.

Categories: Personal Tags:

People, Politics and Democracy

December 29, 2012 11 comments

I refrained from discussing the gang rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi that was responsible for outrage and protests. I did take part in a few discussions on Facebook but I was not keen on writing a post in anger that does not give logical methods of change and improvement.

The Real Issue

The real issue at hand is the society that is truly broken. We expect changes in one part of society but it’s really an integrated problem. Rape of a woman is heinous but we need to ask if this behaviour is unexpected from a country that still has cases of female foeticide. Is there any real difference in either case as both are violations of womanhood?

This post would be a multi-part post purely because it looks at flaws of all the concerned parties which includes:

The citizenry

The government, courts, police and lastly

The media

Suggestions to the citizenry

Stop protesting, Start Lobbying

Lobbying is a word that gave Wal-Mart a few sleepless nights but it’s a tool to push through an agenda. It’s not a bad word or a practice. We use it in daily life and business without knowing.

Use elections to force out promises and make it public and hold politicians accountable.

Provide solutions for effective punishment

We, in our urbanized existence have a limited understanding of legal and punishment systems. How many of us have visited a jail or seen how horrible the conditions in it are? Indian jails are overcrowded and we have no idea of what it does to criminals. We pack a petty criminal with hardened criminals and create more problems for us in the future.

We need to study segregated jailing for better punishment management.

In this particular case no one came out with effective jailing systems for the criminals. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are far more violent crimes that go unreported or unnoticed.

I had once heard a story of a Nazi war criminal whose jail walls were lined with rubber such that the person did not bang his head against the wall and commit suicide. I am not sure how true the story is but if we are to punish violent crimes then we need to create different jailing systems.

Personally I believe that the rapists be allowed to live out their lives but in cellular jails like the ones in Andaman and Nicobar islands with no human or outside world contact and all amenities for basic living (a bed and bathroom) inside the cell. Food can be given through the door but no conversation between inmates and guards.

This is a far worse punishment than people think. Living out the rest of your natural life with no human contact in a limited space and no outlet is far more inhuman than a hanging which lasts about 30 to 60 minutes where the criminal would be dead in approximately 20 minutes or castration (chemical or physical). A person rightly pointed out that castration should not become an easy way out for criminals in rape cases.

This punishment system may sound inhuman but it’s an effective punishment. Solitary confinement is known to break humans and make them go insane.

Merely punishment and the systems to punish are not effective in changing society.

We need to document and study the punishment systems and publicize the horror stories in the jails. We may have movies made out of it but reality and make-believe is easily understood by human nature.

We need to make it mandatory for students to visit jails and see the squalor and living conditions in Indian jails.

We also need to make sure that punishments are adhered to for the rich class. Once it sticks for the rich class then there is a trickle-down effect.

The rapists in the Delhi rape case were confident of not being caught. This confidence is a direct result of the many getting away without punishment. Most of those had the capacity to hire good legal counsel but the picture that is portrayed is that the justice system is lax.

Courts can be slow but justice has to be delivered and punishments for all have to stick. The next time a rich person complains of chest pains inside a jail, it’s best if we have a hospital on premises where he or she is strapped to the bed for doctor safety than taking them to hospitals outside of jail premises.

Perhaps it’s time for an inhuman isolation of criminals that perpetrate violent crimes and celebrate and publicize the inhumanity of the punishment as much as we are disgusted with the criminal act itself.

Peaceful protesting is a right that we have but we must accept that there will be people in the crowd who have a violent agenda to derail the real issue at hand.

Many would argue that more violence and inhumanity is not the answer but to stop violence we need to be equipped to hand it back. I am reminded of the Latin saying Sic Vis Pacem Para Bellum. Translated it means, if you want peace, prepare for war. We want to see change in society but many of us are uncomfortable with brutal punishments that are not painful physically; but break the mental strength of the toughest of criminals.

Most of us profess that we can die for the country or family but the question that I ask is; can you sleep peacefully after killing someone who tries to hurt you or your family or country. Dying is easy if it’s quick but being a survivor knowing that there is a demon inside you who can kill takes effort as we have to control the demon and live and interact with people. When we say yes to harsh punishments, each one of us is responsible and a party to the inhumanity that has unfortunately become a necessity.

We are hurtling towards a society that celebrates inhumanity among the free to control the criminals. Tomorrow we could become a society that shrugs the birth of a Punisher (Frank Castle) like character among us and probably even celebrate it.