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Posts Tagged ‘writings’

Being nosy is not a bad thing. People are generally curious by nature. We like to know what others are upto – good or bad – so that we can judge. Either we wow, emulate,  gossip or ignore. But the best part is finding out.

Despite all the excuses I had prepared to avoid being sociable online, including – I like to hibernate during winter – I realised resistance was futile. ‘Writers are supposed to write, so why aren’t you blogging?’ one friend queried. ‘You’re not on facebook?’ Another stared at me in horror.

So, last year, when I saw all the stuff happening on social networking sites, and after much cajoling, I followed. I took the plunge and jumped into cyperspace. I’m not a social animal in real life, so it was hard to make a committment to people online. I mentally prepared myself to get onto facebook (will not reveal all pics and…bitch), twitter (okay, will not bitch), and blogging (will not write about easy recipes…and…).  I drifted in and out of the social sites.

But there was something niggling at the back of my mind, like an itch on a hot summer’s day.

I pretended e-books did not exist. And when it reared it’s (sleek) e-head,  I made up all sorts of excuses why it just could not survive. How can anyone enjoy a book unless it was experienced with all the four senses? A book in hand is like unopened treasure chest. The enticing jacket cover, the storyline, and the most exciting of all…flipping through the pages…closing your eyes and inhaling the fragrance of a new story and knowing there’s a feast of delectable words, waiting to be savoured. I just knew it wouldn’t last.

But it is happening…like those swimmers who remain in the periphery of my vision…the e-book has comes into focus. I just cannot blink it away.

And….the aargh moment came…my dearest friend, a writer who has done many exciting things in her life, is really cool at fifty-plus and wears nailcolour that’s never paler than electric blue or neon green….has gone the e-book way. I was devastated. I had suffered enough angst with the other e-thingys and now this? My own friend! And then the bummer…at drinks the other night, this guy who wears Gandhi glasses peered at me and said: ‘When can I download your book?’

‘zxdgrrrr***bwqpxrvex.’ I gritted my teeth and said: ‘Very soon.’

 I need to get a book on ‘getting over the e-book phobia.’ Bet it’s not available in bookshops and one needs to download it…breathe…

 Another friend, a sci-fi writer, besides having such a gorgeous book in print with a great story and all, has signed up with this online bookstore and says it’s ‘so convenient’ to be e-book -ed. And just the other day, she emailed the quick-and-easy instructions on how it’s done.

According to Wikipedia – In July 2010, online bookseller Amazon reported sales of ebooks for Kindle outnumbered sales of hardcover books for the first time ever during the second quarter of 2010, saying it sold 140 e-books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there was no digital edition. In July this number had increased to 180 Kindle ebooks per 100 hardcovers.

I thought I was done learning about new e-stuff, but it’s not over. And I realised this after watching a scary movie called ‘Social Network’. The eye-opener was when my son at university sends emails about beautiful algorithms, I used to sit with him teaching him the timestables, and now I don’t understand a word he says, unless it’s related to something he likes to eat.

It’s all happening too fast…but I’m a survivor…a soldier…and I shall make it through the e-jungle with my mind sabre and firing neurons, and I will e-learn everything I need to know so that I can rub shoulders with the young-ones and not look at them like they speak Klingon.

But for now, I think I shall paint my nails cyberpink.

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Two-Face Candy Collectors

I like to get in the spirit of Halloween and it’s usually around the time of the year that I clean out the storage cabinets. I get adequately spooked by creepy crawlies the size of ants. And I wonder how they survived the insect repellants and moth balls. Then I think of possible storylines… I realise that many of the possible plots have been done to death. The genetically modified insects that reach monster proportions have already been screened. The human transforming into a fly has been written about, so has the spider turning into a human. Let’s see…the worms that infest inside humans and exit from the ears – done. I guess I’ll write about something else, like humans turning into vampires…there’s always a market for that.

Actually, the Halloween bug has not just affected me, my entire neighbourhood and on a wider scale the commercial district gets ghoulish during the week before Halloween. Parties and get-togethers are devilishly indulgent in the theme of vampires and blood-soaked garb, not to mention the DJ’s spinning ‘thriller night’ over and over again. At restaurants and bars, skeletons and ghostly garments dangle from ceilings.  The selection on the menu includes finger pie, fresh flesh, roadkill, eyeballs soup and other gory dishes. To wash that down, bloodhounds at the bars provide radioactive drinks for those with stomachs of steel.

Those who are still sane and prefer to stay home, TV movies offer the fear factor. All one needs to do is light up a candle, get out the ouija board and get scared, well not entirely. Some of the movies are worth watching while holding a cushion in front of your face – to shield out the painfully dramatic suspenseful segments where a heavy-bosomed actress is panting strategically in front of the screen, while the shadow of the slasher streaks past, highlighted by screeching music. The panic-stricken ample-cleavaged-female is the only one left alive, after the knife-wielding killer has dissected the rest of her friends and there is enough blood, severed heads, and body parts to create the desired  effect. The slasher is finding it difficult to kill this sole survivor, because she was smart enough to hide in the basement, while her friends were murdered. But now that she’s out in the open (stupid), and trying to get away, the murderer with the glinting blade has to find a way to get to her so that the movie can end.  Little does the killer know (haha) that she is the one who will eventually get him. Still a good movie to watch if there’s nothing better to do, like clean out the shoe cupboard.

Now that my kids are all grown up, and I don’t get to participate in their Halloween fun (candy), I recall their excitement over wearing witch costumes and masks and heading out with an empty bag. They would return with a variety of treats. Some homes, they claimed, had signs ‘no candy’ or ‘doorbell not working’ to discourage kids from being a nuisance. But it was fun to hear their stories which got a little too imaginative and usually I blamed it on the candy they had consumed on the way back home – they didn’t encounter any otherworldly creatures, I’m quite sure… 

The past couple of years, when kids rang the doorbell and screamed ‘trick or treat’, I responded with ‘treat!’ instead of holding a tray of chocolates. Huh, that’s a new one!  Well, I can have some fun too.

Yesterday evening,  five kids were staring up  at me in their scariest outfits – two vampires with fake teeth, one batman-wizard combo, a superman (why do they always have a superman outfit for Halloween?)  And the last but the cutest, was a little girl dressed as Snow White. Confused batman said, ‘Trick or treat!’ And he showed me his hollowed out carved pumpkin. It was half full already.

‘Trick,’ I grinned maliciously, handing him a small can of nuts.

He struggled and finally got the can open. A snake sprung out. There were a few shrieks, and a ‘wow that’s awesome’.  I was quite amused, the trick worked three years in a row. But what got to me was the cute little Snow White who suddenly burst into tears. I felt really bad and gave her a whole bag of chocolate kisses to get her to stop crying. Finally she did and I was so relieved. I gave the boys a couple of chocolate mini-bars, who looked grumpy with the quantity. They turned away, grumbling about the stingy supply of candy from me. I overheard the cute Snow White say – ‘ it’s easy, all you need to do is cry a little.’

Hmmm..I’ll get them next year…

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Ferragamo and Flax Seed

A good friend of mine  – a happiness coach – said that women are drowning their sorrows in Ferragamo handbags. And I recalled what I did. Just the other day I was feeling  low (my short-story was rejected and my publisher’s internet was down)  and I bought a very large, very expensive bag of organic flax seed powder (hereinafter referred to as ‘the stuff’). That evening I sprinkled my braised tofu and brown rice salad with two tablespoons of the stuff. And I tell you, the moment I took the first bite, I realised that if I chose to be unhappy, this was the perfect way to suffer. It tasted like like something slimy was growing in my food (no offence meant to flax seed lovers, but I would rather take the capsule). To fend off any quizzical looks from family members, especially my daughter, who has recently developed a fetish for cooking, I smiled widely showing how much I enjoyed the stuff, packed with Omega-3-6-9 goodness. Offered her a bite, which she immediately rejected. I survived that evening with some Valrhona XTC, and without further ado, stuffed the stuff in the back of my refrigerator and hope it disappears.

The episode led to introspection: why was I not craving a designer handbag when I’m wallowing? It made sense to have something  valuable to cling to when required. The stuff couldn’t have been a reaction to wallowing, it was a one-off, a sign that age was catching up and I was clinging to some drastic measure to stall its onset, and I read somewhere that flax seed was good for you, if you want to stay youthful. It had nothing to do with ‘drowning sorrows’. In fact, come to think of it, I do own a pink Coach, and no, it’s not a knock-off and I do carry it around proudly, but that’s about as far as I would go on a splurge – and Idid it because I felt good, not lousy. I called up my happiness-coach friend and said: one doesn’t always spend extravagant amounts of money on handbags because one is feeling down, it can also be when one is feeling up! And I don’t need to shop when I’m low. The response was – Shobs, sweetheart, you’re one of us – face it – you splurged on flax seed.

Hmmm…the stuff was turning into a symbol of my weakness. All that thinking wasn’t helping. I went into town and bought some organic cheese made in some difficult-to-pronounce village near the Belgian border. Aargh – I splurged again. But my daughter was impressed with my choice. She immediately offered to create a very gourmet-sounding dish. I looked at my cheese lovingly, and let it go. I didn’t bother to ask her if she had recipes to make the stuff taste better, she was more of the real deal cooking, which involved cream, butter, and other no-nos in healthy eating.

My daughter cooked while the men were out of town. It was good training, for me more than her, because I have a very hands-on approach in the kitchen, my domain. With polite but firm instructions she warned that I was not to enter the kitchen while she was in there. I imagined the worst, like fire, or bloody fingers, or measuring cups can’t be found. I paced outside my domain for about half an hour. And after my galloping pulse made me feel faint, and added a wrinkle or two, I called out, ‘you need any help, I’m right here!’ There was no response. And I panicked, all sorts of horrible kitchen-disaster scenerios came to mind. Slowly, I opened the door and eyeballed the place – normal – except my daughter, mid-stirring, gave me the ‘look’, and my helper stared at me with a maam-you-are-not-needed-here smile…

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening bonding with my daughter. We had spinach risotto, and for dessert, it was glutinous rice with fruit. I had rice for lunch. First time ever, I’ve had three different kinds of rice in a day. The starch was kicking in and I was feeling good. In future, I would have to plan the menu with her.

By the way, the green-yellow bag of the stuff still taunts me with its visible presence at the back of my refrigerator where I’ve tried to hide it with tall bottles of chardonnay. My friend who teaches yoga is fascinated by the stuff, and I gave her more than half of it. Looking for other takers –  the stuff is good for the body and mind…better for mine, once it’s finished. I’ll call my friend – the happiness coach.

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Psyched by Hindi cinema

Yes, I shamelessly admit that my formative years were heavily influenced by Hindi movies. And as wild as I was with my imagination, the movies were a definite escape from reality, very far away from reality, at times. My mindset as a eight-year-old, completely resonated with the high-strung emotional drama. And even as others would cringe that the bullet-ridden good guy/mum/dad/brother/sister should just die and get it over with, I was fascinated by the heaving sobs, interspersed with dialogue that created such torture for the living.

Every Sunday, at Kano Club, Hindi movies were screened for the cluster of Indians who socialised there. And despite the fact that I was seven or eight, and had no understanding of Hindi, I watched the moving pictures with fascination. The movies of the late sixties were enthralling love stories, and I sensed the pain and suffering in Rajesh Khanna’s expressions, and the sacrifice of true love in Mumtaz’s pretty face. The same formula was applied to Dharmendra-Hema Malini movies and they too moved me to tears. Every Sunday night I would head home with a heavy heart. When I discovered that Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz were not married in real life, I was devastated, more so, when I heard that Dharmendra was married to someone else and had two-three kids. Real life is not all it’s cut out to be, I realised, and neither was love.

When I was in Singapore, the movie ‘Bobby’ was a trendsetter. It was the first every screened in a movie theatre. First time ever, there were promo materials, black and white pics of the hero and heroine. And just ’cause my cousins had Rishi’s pictures to gaga over, I had to have one too.  I was starting to get cynical about the early eighties era of movies and lost interest in the many revenge-formula, love-triangle, lost brothers, etc. stories. I was beginning to understand Hindi and wanted more out of the culture of cinema. What really entertained me were movies like: Guddi, Chasme Budoor with Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval, Masoom, Naseeruddin Shah was and still is my fav actor.  And as I got older I reveled in  old black and whites with Waheeda Rehman and Nutan. I liked to watch Meena Kumari and Madhubala, and read about their loves, and pain in real life. I was searching for the creation of art, in the artist. What made them who they were so that they could communicate with such intensity on screen. I wanted to find out what made these actors tick. It was an interesting phase.

Modern cinema is still an animal that demands attention. And with a mindset of acceptance, suppressing the cynical side of me, I do enjoy some of them. There are many modern movies that have been personal favourites. I must admit, I do enjoy a good song-dance, lovely clothes, handsome faces, great scenery, and emotional drama. It’s like being a child again.

If you get a whiff of filmy in my novels, I apologise in advance…accept that I have been contaminated, I can’t help it.

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Destiny interrupted

It is said that marriage and children are destined. When it was time for destiny to do its thing, I wasn’t dissatisfied with the changes gushing into my life, I was just not ready for the interruption. It was 1988.

Writing was still on the charts, but they were short spurts of action juggled with domestic priorities. I enjoyed those moments when I had the opportunity to write – it turned out to be a form of discipline that has helped me in completing three books and working on my fourth, not to mention a collection of short stories, and other copywriting and freelance jobs that came my way.  As the children got older and more independent, I wrote more.

Fourteen years later, after freelancing for various local publications, I joined writers’ groups.  Short stories led to novels and as I discovered how much effort it took to combine a plot with characters, and how cleverly one must weave emotion into a story to make it come alive, I realised how much more there was to learn.

Very often, over the years, in the midst of being a mum and a wife,  I felt that I should give up. And I did, I stopped writing. Cold turkey. I would read books instead and some of them would get to me. For days, I would admire the author’s ability to create something so intensely moving, that I was totally consumed by it. I wanted to be able to do that, change someone’s perspective of reality through fiction.  And this desire to write haunted me for months. I finally succumbed,  plunged into the quiet zone of my world and wrote.

Fast forward to 2010…

…The Silent Monument will be releasing soon.

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It was in Antwerp that I thought the restless spirit that came with me from Mumbai, would dissolve. But it didn’t happen, there was this sub-feeling that I was in transit. And I would have to wait at another departure gate expecting an announcement to move on.  And off I would go to another country.  The awareness of this nomadic state, made it difficult to connect. I wasn’t ready to settle, to get to know new people. I wanted to just skim the surface, afraid that with just a gust of wind and I would leave friends and carry a baggage of memories. It  got  heavier each time I moved.

My father didn’t think twice about crossing oceans. All he needed was a reason, and it could be as simple as ‘the experience is good for you, better than what you learn in school’. I inherited his restless spirit. And with that came the resistance to adjust to my present state, or even to bond and build on friendships. I developed an affinity to books, they were  permanent, mobile friends. 

 In Mumbai, our apartment waited patiently for us. Every Christmas we visited our Indian home with a subconcious sigh of relief. I had not realised the effect Mumbai had on me until I had to return to the wintery landscape of Antwerp, where I was in the midst of studying for a business degree. For my thesis, I chose ‘British Rule in India – An economic assessment’. 

Very eagerly, I carried out my research in Pune at the Fergusson College library. For four weeks, morning till late in the evening, I  sat in the dusty, dark halls where rows of books on the history of India became the defining point. It made me realise how much I loved to write about India.  How much it meant to me that the world should know of the unusual diversity of the country. I wanted to explain the beauty of ancient wisdom that existed within every nook and cranny of everyday lives. I needed to express myself beyond the confines of its statistics.

Yet I did nothing…and the fire burned within me. And the restlessness increased.

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Mumbai

I was in Mumbai from 1979 until 1983. The adjustments involved in moving from one city to another was getting to me. Too much happening in too short a time.

I arrived in the city with an ominous feeling, and the dread of starting over. The air was thick with rebellion and dissatisfaction.  And, I found like-minded individuals. Many suppressed their true selves to conform to what was expected of them.

What I remember most about the city:  the intensity of everything. Even the monsoons were a heady, emotional experience. Within a matter of minutes, the gentle listless rain turned into a blasting fury that formed like a thick curtain across the Arabian Sea. From my tenth floor apartment, the unfolding scene was beautiful, from the ground level, watching homeless families huddle under makeshift plastic parapets, it was painful.

Friends were from different walks of life, of such varying personalities, it was confusing and liberating. There were passionate discussions of what needed to be changed, and there was the appreciation of the rich heritage. Some of us agreed that television could bring about a cultural revolution. The process of change was happening right there, in front of my eyes. And many did not appreciate this direction. I was in the midst of the discord and dissatisfaction, the love and hate, the passions and single-mindedness. They streamed into my subconscious mind forming an impression. I realise that much of me was moulded then, an intense timeframe that encapsulated so much that the memories are still vivid in my mind.

The seed was planted…I needed to express, to write, but I did nothing about it.

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