Friday, December 27, 2013

On re-connecting with old pals

Day before yesterday I connected with a school-time pal after good 16 years. I did not recognise his voice and to be very honest was quite suspicious till the end if it was the same guy as he said he was. But later on I kept thinking about this particular event.

There was initially an awkwardness to talk to someone whom you have not seen of or heard from for a decade and a half but it vanished as the familiar began to make its way in to the conversation.

The people who have seen us rather known as kids probably are the only people who are familiar with the essence of us, with the core from where we originate. They are probably the only people in the world who know us for who we really are. As children we are at our best. We have not been contaminated yet. We have not been touched and affected all that is good or bad with/ in the world. We are still learning the ways of the world. We might be learning the ropes but haven't perfected our stances while we are kids. These people who grow up with us, they know us in that pure form.

Maybe the adults who see us grow are better at this observational bit but I don't think they had/ have much time to shower attention on the small little everyday kind of things.

As much tight fisted I am with calling people friends, this guy was once considered a friend. When we began to talk after that momentary hitch, it seemed as if a freshly laundered load was tumbling out of a washing machine. There was so much catching up to do. So much to ask and somewhat to tell and still more to laugh about.

Unfortunately, as we grow life and the busyness often comes in the way of friendships. We change, enthusiasm ebbs, promises are broken, people disappear often never to appear again and the suspicion takes place of the familiar.

Ye kya ho raha hai

Bura jo dekhan main chala, Bura na milya koi
Jo  mann khojaa aapnaa, mujh se buraa na hoye

Every few days I get a glimpse of how bad, shallow and scrooge-y fellow I am.
And this without venturing out to see the Bura.
Imperfections and all are okay but mine go beyond the permissible limit. Take my social skills for that matter. they are so negligent that I have been told recently on the face that I am lowliest of the low in this matter of great importance. Maybe, just maybe, that comment was the force behind this particular post. Hurrmmmphh!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why I was not scared of marriage

I wasn't scared of marriage.

I did not think about it could be one reason. And I did not know what all was part of the package could be another reason. But on examining it closer and having read a bit in the past few years, I realised I wasn't scared of marriage because I was not prepared, as a sacrificial goat often is, prepared for marriage.

I think it largely begins and belongs with my mother as it begins, belongs and stays with other mothers. I think I wasn't scared of marriage and what all it will do to curb me as a person because I wasn't trained to be someone else after marriage.

I was, since the childhood, put on a certain mental fodder that I took for granted would not change after the marriage. I am an avid reader and I was never fed the thought that I will be barred from reading when I got married. So why would marriage scare me?

Brought up in such an atmosphere where I was taught by example how responsibilities of the household are meant to be shared and they are not burdens under which one person would stifle and other gained girth, so why would marriage scare me?

I was never asked to do/ learn things, even on the insistence of neighbourhood aunties, because a married girl should know them or why would marriage scare me?

I was implored often to get off my butt and get moving but that was not for the sole purpose of being eye candy for the husband-to-be so why would marriage scare me?

You see I was never asked to be interesting to ensure the husband's interest in me so why would marriage scare me?

There were other things though like being taught the importance of being financially independent, well-read, thoughtful, sincere, respectful and those I imbibed to a great extent and so even after being married for seven years and seeing some of the realities differ, I am not scared of marriage.

(This appeared first as an entry at Women's Web blog where wohooooo 95 people liked it!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

To the child I keep forgetting

Dear Netra

You have been now around for a wonderful six years. I formed this letter in my head much before we celebrated your sixth birthday this October but I could not bring myself to give it shape because I can only write when you are away and when you are away and I think of you I am overwhelmed with my feelings (which range from tenderness to mad anger depending on what I remember of you at the moment) for you.

Anyhow, now that you are out of the house playing and it is all suddenly quiet in here, I am writing this to tell you how happening this year been. You now outrun some other 6 year olds in the building, out-dance even bigger kids, get praise from the yoga teacher for your enthusiasm and have been bringing merit batches for good reading skills from the school.

This year you have acquainted yourself with perfect. You look for perfect in everything from a doll to a shuttle that would just be perfect for your green bats. You have added jokes to your arsenal. You have developed a taste for wordplay. You have learnt hero-worship and Kareena Gafoor is back to being Kareena Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan has become the prince of your heart.

This year, you have turned fiercer. I often tell people that I behave with you as if you are a sibling and another joke that I make is that my teenage years did not get over and yours have appeared way before time. Do you know why? This is because you now respond with such conviction that you can't be forced to do anything that you do not want to do. In that you often make me angry. You have been at the receiving end of my anger very often......maybe since you were a toddler and this seems the right time and place to tell you how awfully sorry I am for the every single time I lost my cool and yelled at you, for scaring you ( I doubt I managed that, but even then) or for whacking you.

Whenever I have been miserable, I have been easily annoyed and in that state of annoyance I often forget that you are just a small child. I yell at you and say things like
Understood? NOT move
Why don't you listen?
Why won't you listen?
Uffffff....NETRA you are so stubborn, I told you not to move.

In such moments I forget that a child will do whatever she is asked to refrain from and saying these things I am just giving you the excuse to do what I would rather you didn't.

When I thought you did not understand much, I poured my troubles to you and told you that you should listen to me because I was so troubled. And then I would forget that you are just a toddler and that I knew that you did not understand much.

I am also sorry for not indulging you more. Like your father. Who rarely ever says no to you.
I am sorry for times I did not have ample patience to dig into for a child as playful as you.

But what I am happy about is that this year you have been asking questions and I have answers to almost all your questions. I am happy that we have had deep discussions of the serious sort in this year. Discussions have not been easy for a patience starved person like me but still I am glad that this way we had exclusive time to ourselves.

This has been a year of growth for both of us. I have grown I am sure seeing you grow. How? I am sure by your next birthday we will know.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gear up, you are getting married!

As your wedding day approaches and all the conversations steer towards it, I am thinking about the time I was in the same spot. Now I have been married for about 7 years, so I have the right to tell you a few things about this whole affair. I hope some of it you will laugh off and the bits that you will choose to remember will serve you well.

I don't know your fiancé so I cant say whether you are marrying the man of your dreams or you are taking on the challenge of starting your life with a boy. Either ways I hope that in life you both will grow into a man and a woman who love, cherish and most importantly respect each other. I hope and pray that you both help each other in becoming the best version of yourselves and do not spend days rather a moment berating each other, recounting qualities you wish he had and virtues he admires in other women around.

I hope in this marriage you find a friend, an ally.Someone you can reach out for solace and hugs; for holding hands; who splurges on you but who also gives you his unadulterated opinion. I hope he will be able to look after you and nurse you too during bad patches.

I hope he can see and then show you the lovely girl you are when you forget it.
I hope he can make you believe in dreams and foster enough faith to share some of yours and tell you some of his.

I wish that when the 'marriage' takes over the 'me' in you, you are able to recognise that giving up some of your personal ambitions can bring joy and peace too.

May you find love and give love generously. In marrying this guy may you be able to find many new meanings.

But also remember marriage is a lot of work. Most of it is hard work.

The lights that are brightening your every waking moment now and the background music that fills your heart with a sweet melody every time you two look at each other at the moment will dim.

The routine will take over and there will chores and responsibilities.

At times the sink full of dirty dishes to greet you when you come back after a hard day at work, wet towel and pile of clothes on the bed as you get ready to leave in the morning, complaints about your cooking (or anything else and at times everything), during those times I hope you will be able to keep your calm and wade through.

Don't ever get into bickering. Nag if you must but don't bicker.

Last but not the least, in our country and familial set-ups marriage is a woman's job and its a 24x7x365x whatever minutes and seconds are there in a day job. So welcome to the club. Gear up and get ready to give as good as it gets!

Lots of Love

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another column

So the good people at The New Indian Express have invited me to write another column for them. This one is for students at high school and beyond. This is a motivational column. I likes this as I likes to jibber jabber with the young peoples. This love was found at Dainik Bhaskar during Quest and Yo! days. Some of the kids have recognised me in the market places and at other old offices and I have felt like a star.
So here is wishing more motivation to the writer and the reader!!!!!!!!!!
Plenty gloating done, go read the article here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To compete or not to compete is the question

I would like to think I am not competitive. I don't even know where and how to compete. As I begin this post I am trying to state things where competition happens but I am failing miserable as I hardly know the arenas. As a child I was least bothered about who stood first and who came second though I was a fairly good student. I don't think I ever considered myself in the queue to get nominated for the rank in the class. It did not matter who wore what and who flaunted what stationery sent by some uncle/ aunt living in States. What mattered to me was how many words could I spell and could rattle the exact dictionary definition. Also maybe the number of books I borrowed in a month. (I can imagine a few smirks here and there)

The trend continued during the college and then university years. I was too laid back to be hurried in and out of classrooms and projects in the name of competing with the classmates. I am slow. I move slow. I often speak slowly and I think very very slowly. This was mirrored in the times when competition could have breathed a new life in the way my life eventually turned out to be.

Anyway, now as a mother to a 6 years in bad times as these, I see parents competing and egging their kids to compete. Yesterday I raised heckles when a friend mentioned her daughters report from a PTM and was ruing the fact that the child had managed 3 out of four stars. Poor thing! I did not let her continue and charged with a 'bloody' moralistic lecture. Intelligent girl that she is, she kept nodding at all the right places in form of empathy or maybe that was sympathy. I rallied on the importance of competition killing the child's spirit, how it was synonymous with comparisons and what good were comparisons at all were; for a good half an hour. Eventually the look on her face made me relent. The same look- sympathy mixed with a fair dose of pity- made me wonder maybe it was important to be competitive. It made me stop in the tracks, literally, as I worked in the kitchen. May be I have been wrong all this while. Maybe I should compete and make my child too.

But the next moment a bigger question faced me. Whom should I compete with and on what parameters? I have almost given up trying to find an answer to this as I am not finding an motivation here to even try. As far as the child is concerned, I will be looking for answers, even though with a wrinkled nose.

Do you have any thoughts/opinions/answers on this?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beautiful Inside Out

Shagufta Ahmed Jawed. and I got to know each other at the YWCA in New Delhi where both of us were learning the ropes of the world after being ushered out of our respective universities. A few years my senior Shagufta worked hard at increasing and improving her educational qualifications besides holding a full time job. I did not know it then but starting her own business was her dream and all her efforts were aimed in that direction.

She went on to establish herself in the field of commodity trading and after years of hard work and today is a name to reckon with. While she was at it, life gifted her two beautiful daughters and a son. She is raising them along side raising her 'first born' as she likes to call her business. Shagufta brings with her an old world charm and set of ethos that are becoming difficult to find in this fast paced world yet she believes in marching with the times and keeps herself updated on the technology front as well. She extends warmth and love to her employees whom she treats like an extension of her family. She organises parties and picnics for them and pampers them on their birthdays. She brings unmatched zeal to the table as she loves what she does and in her own words 'her work gives her an unmatched rush'. She works to ensure that it carries her stamp of finesse, grace and experience.

Shagufta Ahmed Jawed is as beautiful person inside out, just as lovely as her work!

This is an entry for the As Beautiful As You contest, by Tanishq and Women'sWeb.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Worrying about the chicken

I am worrying. 
About the chicken I have taken out of the fridge to cook, which I don't want to cook. 
I don't want to cook it today being a Thursday and this piece of religious sentimentality lodged in my head about cooking and consuming meat on certain days. 
I can't leave it as it has been now lying in the fridge since Monday and the husband fears it will rot. I also share the fear and so may be I will just get cooking.
But I also have two submissions.
There is no lunch ready for Netra if she comes home early today. So I am worrying about that too.
I have not even started on one of the submissions. I have no ideas even.
It is 11 already and the day is running ahead with its own plans and un-kept promises.
A broken tap in the kitchen.
Dinner preparation.
Clothes strewn around the house.
Unmade beds.
Cluttered side table.
Dust on the study table.
Clothes that have been on the rope for the past two days

I think I will just go cook the chicken.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A rainy post

The sound of rain drops falling on a surface, whoever captured that and the music in them must have been a genius. The song from 1942 A Love Story- Bajta hai jal tarang teen ki chaat pe jab, motiyon jaisa jal barse describes it best. The song itself gives a pristine feel, has lovely looking Manisha Koirala and an ever handsome Anil Kapoor.

Though not one for getting wet and all the fun while getting wet or being wet in the rains, I am hooked to hearing and seeing the rain fall. It has happened after years of being unaware of the magic of the downpour, of years in haste, of years of hurry. Being in Kolkata and home alone in this weather, the monsoons, in all their grandeur I fixed myself in a spot near the French window of the bedroom that doesn’t look out to any garden or any such beauty but which offers a wide view of the grey skies. And I watched as it came in a rush like a hurried office goer who has to be present at the appointed hour.

I caught myself humming O sajna barkha bahar aayi, ras ki foohaar laayi, akhiyon main pyaar laai. I love
these Hindi words foohaar, barkha, bahar, ras. The music of this song had been created for a Bengali film and the song is an equally beautiful rendition in this language. Soon I was humming another favourite rain song immortalised by that lovely black and white picture of Raj Kapoor and Nargis clinging to a chhataa... I think Shailender provides the most apt answer to the love puzzle in this song. When the rain drops begin to fall in a puddle, synchronised with the background music and Manna Dey asks Pyaar hua iqraar hua hai, pyaar se fir kyun darta hai dil, you smile. When a lovely Nargis, tortured soul written all over her face answers...Kehta hai dil, rasta mushkil, maaloom nahi hai kahan understand everything there is to it.

Another one that I am reminded of right now is a Shammi Kapoor- Mala Sinha number that we were introduced in Jaisinghpur at my maasi’s place on her two-in-one and which remains a favourite with both us sisters Dil tera deewana hai sanam, jaante ho tum kuch na kahenge hum....
A peppy number is from the film Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya....Laga laga laga re laga prem rog for the simply hot looking Sushmita Sen (whom I adored till she went on and did a horrible movie called Chingari) and of course the one and only Salman Khan.
Sunidhi Chauhan has also sung a rain song that is one of my favs. Chameli’s Bhaage re light and ch
arming. Another one is an Akshaye Khanna- Sonali Bendre thing with all stuff bygone like love letters, buying gifts, dressing up for a meeting. Khanna looks so cute and Bendre is a heart stealer with those innocent expressions accompanied with a little hesitation mixed with certain eagerness....Ik mohabbat ka deewana dhoondhta sa fire, koi chahat ka nazrana dilruba ke liye..... Ek hasina idhar dekho kaisee bechain hai, raste par lage kaise uske do nain hai, sach puchhiye toh mere yar, dono key dil beikhtiyar, beikhtiyar hain pehli bar pehli bahar main

 Majrooh Sultanpuri, one of my personal favourites, provides the naughty quotient for the rains. With unmatchable score provided by senior Burman, no one can feel the full spirit of the rainy season without Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si....Tum hi kaho ye koi baat hai hmmmmmmmmmmm......tan bheega hai, sar geela hai, uska koi pench bhi dheela hai...
Madhubala reminds me of Garjat barsat saawan aayo re from Barsat ki Ek Raat. A handsome Bharat Bhushan and the beautiful qawalis, were the highlights of the movie but the lyrics of this particular song are just lovely.....Rimjhim rimjhim megha barse, tarse jiyarwa meen samaan, parr gayi feeki laal chunariya, piya nahi aaye.

Kaale megha kaale megha from Lagaan again makes use of lovely words kaare, chaaye badraa, bijuriya chamke, baan, amrit, jal but it still is not a great hit with me. Neither is a much popular Barso Re from Guru which though aces in cinematography. Similarly Chak dhoom dhoom from DTPH is okay while one is seeing it as well but does not merit much while simply listening to it. 

There is the handsome Dev Anand in the song Rimjhim ke taraane le ke aayi barsaat which I prefer to watch anything else more recent. I listened to Rimjhim ke geet sawan gaaye on my sister’s phone and fell in love with the line....Main chup hun aise, ke keh doon kaisem mera saajan nahi tu koi aur hai. Rimjhim gire sawan which describes rains beautifully is also amazing and as I found out recently I preferred the female version over Kishore’s.

Rains in Hindi films are also a perfect excuse for some sizzle. No don’t think Roop tera mastana but Bheegi bheegi raaton main, Aaj rapat jaayein, Tip tip barsa paani and Badal yun garajta hai...

Well I could go on and on and still there would some lovely numbers, but as I take leave of this post I cannot miss Asha Bhonsle-RD-Gulzar and not mention Choti si kahani here. And of course my own one and only rain masti song, Shubha Mudgal’s Ab kesawan aise barse.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Too hard or too little

There is a line between any two things. At times it is there fleshed out nicely between the dos and the dont's and sometimes we carve it out for our sanity.

There is a line, a fine one between trying hard and trying little. Not too hard not too little.

May be this moment I am trying too hard to be a writer. May be at that moment I was being too little of a mum. Who can say, if not I?

Balance which brings calm, peace, happiness is difficult to attain; more so to maintain. It is a real beauty. I know I have achieved it off and on. Maybe that is why I crave it.

Why are we so obsessed with adjectives? Why is the girl not sufficient? why does she have to be a good girl or a handsome boy or a succesful boy?

Autism: Parents need help too

One of the most complicated and least understood developmental disabilities, autism, is a result of a neurological disorder that interferes with the development of a child’s social interaction and communication skills. It may begin at birth and its symptoms might become noticeable within the first two to two-and-a-half years of a child’s life. Coping with an autistic child can be physically and emotionally straining. 

The parent needs come out of the varying degree of grief, disbelief and guilt they might feel on getting a diagnosis for their child and help the child discover the beauty of life. An article I wrote for women's web lists some useful hints for parents who have just received the heartbreaking news.

Monday, July 08, 2013

In praise of Hindi

A neighbour has nicknamed Netra Miss Hindi. This was done because Netra insists on speaking Hindi with her friends. She is beginning to understand Bangla and can very well understand and converse in English yet she chooses Hindi to communicate. Its only when forced to use English, she prattles in the said language.

Teaching English is mandatory. We do understand why that is today but we do not know who made it that way. Speaking with your kids in English to familiarise them with the language is great and all but Hindi, our own language, our mother tongue should hold a place of pride, first in our eyes and head.

Hindi is sweet. Hindi is more effective in terms of giving you the exact word for any emotion, moment or feeling than any other language maybe. Hindi is vast. And while we are talking about children, Hindi is far more easier to learn than is English with its confusing phonetics. Though I admit that English wins hands down in being an adapting language that has not shied away from accepting words from various other languages and making them its own. It boasts of a number of words that have been adopted from Hindi itself.

But Hindi has 'rasas'. Forty three  per cent of our population understands and uses Hindi. It is the sixth largest-language in the world. There is a sing song quality that lends itself easily to Hindi. A vast literature bank that lends itself to four very prominent forms covering under them everything from beauty to bravery. What joy in introducing valour by reciting Khoob ladi mardaani wo to Jhaansi waali raani thi or inspiring the little ones to never ever give up by singing gently jab tak na manzil paa sakoon, mujhe a viraam hai, chalna mera kaam hai or introducing them to satpudaa ke ghane jungle, neend se unghte, an- mane jungle!

Hindi is not to be known, learnt or read because it will get you ahead in a rat race or help you perch higher in the job market but parents must encourage children to learn Hindi and love it to be able to take pride in their rich cultural heritage, to appreciate beauty, to find joy in expressing their heart's desire in the exact way that it is being felt. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Quantifying grief

When you don't know how to cope up with grief, you innovate to take your mind off it. Death is an entirely new sort of shock to my system. I did not know how to react to it. I cried. It came naturally. But I did not cry for the gone one but for those whom he left behind.

I tried quantities when his voice rang in my ears.
I counted the people who came.
Then I counted those who wailed louder.
Then those who sniffled.
Then the ones who repeatedly wiped their dry eyes.
Then those who averted their gaze.
Then the few who had words to offer and those who did not pretend to empathise.
Then the ones who were well-versed with the hollowness that death of a son leaves in its wake.
I counted the ones who caught up with friends, exchanged news, had their tea and went their way.

I counted the number of paper cups we disposed off.
I counted the number of meals we consumed.
I counted the trips I made to the market.
I counted the number of faces that instantly aged.
I counted the hearts that were pierced.

I counted many more things these past few days but I could not count the tears his father did not shed and the number of times his mother repeated his name in vain.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti: A Review

I have been on sort of a reading spree. In the past one month alone I have managed to finish reading the Grey series, The Time Keeper, A Thousand Splendid Suns, After the Darkness, as well as a Mary Higgins Clark suspense thriller All Through The Night (Though I neither found it suspenseful nor thrilling.)

I had started Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti (OLoAB) before all of these. I read about ten pages and thought it to
be one of those books that I would not be able to read or even skim. After putting it down for a month I picked it up to lend it to someone who wants to read it and I thought I might as well take out my bookmark. As I was taking out the bookmark I read the page it was placed on and for a strange reason I was hooked to the book. This re-affirms my faith in the fact that it is neither too late nor too early, everything happens in its own right time- a point that echoes in Mitch Albom's The Time Keeper (I loved the book and found what creative writing is about, but that is another post).

So back at OLoAB. I had heard about Mohammed Hanif. When a friend was pestered for a gift this birthday she asked me to name two books I was dying to read so I got her to send me both, A Case of Exploding Mangoes as well as OLoAB. History and Satire were the reasons I was interested in Mr Hanif. I liked A Case of Exploding Mangoes, his first book that was even listed for Man Booker, but not to the extent that i had hoped that I would like it. And so I had come to keeping the decision of reading OLoAB pending.

Anyway, now that I have read it, here is what I think.

It is a class apart. This book is everything that great reviewers at great places say it is a ''deft evil little novel of comic genius" and much more. It is brilliantly written and one can see how the author has evolved since his first one. The story is irreverent. The heroine Sister Alice Bhatti is irreverent. The tale is consuming once you have managed to sink in your teeth which happens after good 20 pages when you get a good idea of what this is all about. The others- Noor, Teddy, Inspector Malangi- are all well-etched out with the rhymes and reasons spelt out for the reader. These reasons are the circumstances that have led to the way the charcacter behaves. These are also very apt commentaries on the state of affairs.

Sample this, near the end of the novel the Inspector is shot, the writer describing his end writes: As he bleeds to a quick death, Inspector Malangi has the same thing on his mind as that on the lips of all the impatient drivers stuck behind the car" when will our nation learn some road manners?

There is another lot of characters like Zainab, Dr Periera who though do not contribute to the story in any constructive way but there stories are told so well that you feel that you know them intimately.

The conditions describe of the Sacred hospital where the story largely unfolds or the French Colony could very well be somewhere in India. Maybe that is the reason that a familiar echo emerges out of the writings of authors from across the border.

The satire is very much dripping out of every page in the novel.  I could imagine the author reading what he wrote during the edits and then look in the distance with a smug smile on his face.

Yes you must read Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and then maybe also give A Case of Exploding Mangoes a shot.

This might also be a very interesting read for those who have read the book or intend to read it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A journey in self publishing

There are those like me who sit and think of starting a writing project. Then there are those who go ahead with the plot, write and get that sweet sweet word on to their CVs- PUBLISHED.

Arti Arlene Martyris belongs to this second category. She not only has two published books under her belt but one of these has been self published. Here is more from her on being published.

Hi Arti! take us to the beginning of the beginnings.

Hi! I belong to Goa. Writing was a hobby until my first story, 'Trauma' was published in an anthology by Writing Knights Press, Ohio, USA, in 2012. Then a poem, 'Am I No More Human?' was published by Indian Ink, a bimonthly magazine based in Kerala, India. Now my first romance novella 'Facebook Pyar' has been published by Indireads Incorporated and Rabia of Chakia is my first self-published romantic adventure novella.

What is the storyline of Rabia of Chakia?

Like I mentioned earlier  Rabia of Chakia is a romantic adventure novella. It heads back to India in 1987 A.D. The story takes place in Chakia, a village in the state of Bihar where a fifteen year old girl Rabia deals with a number of obstacles on her pursuit of true love. A huge blunder leads her to getting abducted by her father's biggest enemy, Rana Singh; a fugitive, a murderer and an aspiring terrorist. What is in Rabia's destiny? Death, misery or an unexpected change of path with the prince of her dreams?

How did the idea of self-publishing enter your mind? Rejections? Fear of rejections?

Neither. A friend of mine put it in my ears and out of curiosity I went about googling and asking people about it. At that time Rabia of Chakia was only a synopsis in my laptop.

How hard or easy was it to self publish your novel?

It was a piece of cake. The tools and step by step guidance on the website was really helpful.
Would you recommend it to budding authors?

Definitely, but yes one has to be prepared to do without assistance in self-publishing, the very reason why 'Self' is used here and actively take part in promotion and marketing of their books.

Any tips that you  would like to share with those interested in taking up self publishing?

Yes, I'd like to make it clear that self-publishing is easy but selling what you've self-published is
a bit of a difficult task specially when you're not a known author and it's your first book, but losing hope and giving up are not friends. And because you don't want to get a negative response on your first book you must revise revise and revise your work before bringing it to your audience. All the best.

Wow! That was interesting and informative. Thank you Arti for taking out time and sharing your experiences here. All the very best for your books and all your future endeavours.

You are most welcome. I am giving away free copies of the book till June 15, so readers can write to me at They can also download the book worldwide through different portals at different prices. The following are the links to the book. [] [ ].

I've recently made it available in India through[ with the first ten pages to preview before purchase. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

A list for Netra

Questions, Fears and Many Answers

After all the fairy tale drama that is ensuing in our life and honestly some of it before  (we- me and the daughter are very melodramatic people) there have been questions and often random statements by Netra that make me wonder how she must have concluded this one or that one. Like when she said very matter-of-factly Love to bhoot hota hai (Love is a ghost) or when the husband and I are arguing heatedly, she will coolly walk up to us and depending on her current favourite, threaten the other one, Main thunder ko bolun ki aapko le jaaye? (Should I tell thundering clouds to take you away for making such ruckus).

She plays with the bottles- her nanhe bachhe- for hours together and can come back with an episode that happened to her in the previous school and ask for an explanation about being bullied or left out of a game in the neighbourhood. These are the ones that I particularly find hard to answer. Human behaviour is difficult to explain, no? But then maybe she can use some advice from  Mark Twain from the book Advice to Little Girls on various other important matters like a pesky mother and her list of chores.

Then there are questions about the universe. Hum kiss cheez se bane hote hain? (What are we made of?) Humko khaanaa kyun khaanaa padta hai? (Why do we have to eat?) I can deal with them, I have studied science. 

Hum apne ghar pe horsie rakh sakte hain? (Can we keep a horse in the house?) Mujhe ek zindaa kutta chahiye, chottaa sa. (I want a dog, alive and small in size.) Animals are not my forte so I leave this to the husband.

Out of many things that Mon Cheri stumbles upon during the course of day varies. When the question will be popped, no one can predict. I try my level best to answer everything and not get worked up by the fury of her questioning when she gets really charged up about the subject but there are times and demands that irk me. I dont want to instill in her any fear about questioning or life. About life and its fears in the offing I read to her this poem by Maya Angelou who says she wrote it “for all children who whistle in the dark and who refuse to admit that they’re frightened out of their wits”:

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

I don't think she understand much of it right now but I think this will be our 'If' - THE parental advice- for the nearby times to come.

And to answer her questions or to pacify me when the next time she says Love to bhoot hai, I must remember to peek inside a book called Big Questions from Little People.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Princess Sundrella and the Disney effect

So the summer holidays are here. We are not headed to either naani's house and we have time to spill. After a couple of days in this spilling I realised that Netra should now be introduced to the princesses. Who else is good at bringing those countless princesses to life than Mr Disney. So I downloaded all the princess movies that have been made under the Disney banner. Starting with Cinderella to the current rebel and if I may say, my fav, Brave's Princess Merida.

There were some after effects that I knew of and expected to occur after so much royalty being doled out to my 5 year old. But there were some more, which nothing could have prepared me for. Her Highness had been insisting on being called Princess for some time now but after seeing Cinderella, she responds only when addressed as Princess Cinderella. When I told her that Cinderella was not even a princess to begin with, I was told "Ban gayi na wo, jaise main ban gayi" (She turned in to one, like I did). She likes being called Princess Sundrella- I told her Cinder means something partially burnt-  so she re-christened herself and may be in the process Cinderella as well.

So now our Princess Sundrella wants birds to help her chores that have been assigned to her. If she can have her way, she might even summon a deer or a tortoise. She can not understand that birds do not fetch her clothes or help her tie her hair, after all they do help everyone else from Cinderella to Aurora. Only Merida, she says did not get help from birds in getting dressed but then she has a white fluffy horse and a bow and arrows. So now the father has been instructed to get a white fluffy horse, which I dread might just be walked into our house one of these days.

One of the personal blows that I suffered due to all this exposure to Disney princesses, was the talk about mothers and step-mothers. My daughter extracted that to be a princess a mandatory pre-requisite was either a dead mother or presence of a witch in one's life. Snow White and Cinderella had dead mother's, Jasmine too; Aurora had to leave home because of the curse cast by a witch, Merida's life turns haywire because of a witch's spell. I tried to point out that these were created situations to test the character strength of these girls but I think I did not strike a chord with her 5 year old brain that was in awe of the palace, the dresses and the high heels that a princess got to wear.

I overheard her asking a friend, do you want to be a princess. The friend replied in affirmative. Then Netra sighed and said, "Phir to tumhari Mummy ko marna padega"(Then your mother will have to die). I could not supress my smile at the sigh.

Another momentous impact of the fairy tales is the fairy herself. A problem was posed that if she was a princess in the making, a mother who-should-soon-be-dead was there al right, but who is this fairy who makes everything alright, turning pumpkins into lovely coaches and mice in to handsome horses. Knowing that my sister has been the precursor of this entire phenomenon gifting her a precious bag with the pictures of these princesses and buying her magic wands and dressy, well, dresses, I suggested that 'Maasis' are the fairy godmothers to whom the dying mothers leave the daunting task of setting things right for their lovely daughters. The point was received well.

I thought that we had almost had everything under control till we caught Tangled on TV. Now the current upheaval in our lives is growing her hair long enough for it to fall down the window of our first floor flat and touch the ground beneath. And there is still Ariel and Belle's world to be explored.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dawn of realisation

writing is a strange thing.
it gives you wings. 
it lets you soar or lie flat on your back all day long
it lets you lose the structure
it allows you to dream
it allows you to give meaning of your own to events, situations

This post was supposed to be many posts that should have been written over a period of time when I did not even open my blog. Horrible ain't I? 

But as is usual, I made plans as well as in some corner of my mind made lists of tasks that I would finish and then get down to writing the blog entry on the topic that has been bothering me for a while or that interesting episode with my daughter. Alas! that time never came and I realise that it will also not ever come, waiting as I do.

I also read, early in the morning, an article by a successful journalist-turned-momee-cum-domestic goddess (yes! it seems that even amongst journalists a species extraordinaire does exist. There goes my excuse for doing everything wrong or not indulging in THAT stuff at all!!!) going back to a posh job after giving her son four devoted years of baked goodies, play dates and everything else that I wanted to do. I am feeling jealous (why wouldn't I? Do you know how much I think about those things?) I am feeling depressed. Okay make that I was feeling depressed till the time the house woke up, and I realised something that has been knocking for a long while.

*Drum Roll and Thunderclaps Please*

As life beckons from the kitchen, I jot down the two things (did I say something meant only one thing, ever? huh??) that I have realised again (yesssirr yet again, if you please)

1. You have to put yourself out there.
2. It is okay to be scared and frightened but even then you have to put yourself out there.

After imparting this infinite wisdom, I proceed to make tiffin with my halo lingering around the laptop till the time I am hit by next wave of you-know-what!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Feast- In celebration of being alive

A party is on cards. The date has been finialised. A theme has been set. The guest have been invited. 

So what are we celebrating, you may ask. Well, what better than the occasion of life! And hence the theme of the party 'The joy of being alive'. The party is going to take place in a huge colonial house in the Dagshai cantonment. The gathering is cosy and comprising of about 12 people. 

Let me tell you more about my party. 

Winters are on the verge and the mountain wind is enveloped in the sweet fragrance of the greenest grass and loveliest songs. 

Invites were sent written on parchment with a quill, informing the guests about the venue, theme, date and time, setting the mood for the occasion. In accordance with my theme, celebrating life, a lunch instead of a dinner was planned as the intent was to let the guests savour the food and surroundings to the maximum. 

The beautiful house has a blooming garden. A table is set in a corner. It has been stocked well with lemonade and other refreshing drinks as well as a large pitcher of cool water of the mountains, in its purest form, has been put for the guests to help themselves to. 

Jute mats and durries have been placed at various places in the garden and cushions with gay covers are scattered for comfortable seating. The blooming garden has lent the breeze a heady fragrance of a pot-pourri and there is a distinct freshness that the guests are greeted with as soon as they come in. The mood is chirpy thanks to the sunny afternoon which is deliciously warm.

After everyone has arrived and caught up with what is keeping them busy, it is time for the feast that has been prepared for relishing and celebrating life in its every possible hue. I firmly believe in the adage 'Live life king size'. So all the guests are ushered in to the dining space that has a low seating arrangement around a rectangular table.  

As they sit the lids are taken off the dishes.There is the family favourite Dal Bukhara as well as Paneer Darbari. The contrasting colours and the appetising fragrances enamour the senses alike. Next to come off is the lid of the huge haandi holding the aromatic Vegetable Biryani. On the other side of this is Kolhapuri Mutton. The mutton preparation is accompanied by the huge favourite Butter Chicken as well as the delicate Murg Methi

No Indian meal is complete without a large dollop of the traditional  achaars and chutneys. So is our table graced with the presence of a delightful Mango  and Jeera Chutney, Tomato Chilli Chutney and a Tamarind and Date Chutney. For the picky eaters aka the small children who everywhere will invariably complain about high spice quotient in the dishes, there is a popular and delicious Strawberry and Mint Conserve is being kept handy.

Hot rotis made from the Multi grain Aashirvaad Atta are also served as they go very well with the dishes that have been prepared courtesy Kitchen of India from ITC. 

After the guests have feasted using all their senses on this exploration of being alive and celebrating life, it is again time to shift the party to the huge living room where after a while hot Jodhpuri Moong Dal Halwa is served in silver bowls with delicate spoons.

Later on as the guests get ready to leave they are gifted the lovely Gourmet Halwa Gift packs bearing the  regal delights of our country.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Healthy power-packed vitamins

For our body to function properly and grow well we need many things. Among them vitamins and minerals play a significant role. Let us find out today what they are, where we get them and the benefit of some of the important ones.

Vitamins are organic substances that are manufactured by plants and animals within their bodies.
Minerals are inorganic substances that are found abundantly in nature. We humans get these various minerals from the plants which absorb them from natural elements like soil and water.
Can you think of some vitamins and minerals that are important for the growth of our bodies?

I am sure you must have come up with a long list of vitamins such as A, B, C, D and K. Amongst the minerals were you able to think of sodium, calcium and iron?

The most wonderful thing about vitamins and minerals is that they are available in all the foods we eat. Be it curd, eggs, spinach, green peas, carrots, rice, vitamins and minerals are present everywhere. It is not that one food product may contain one kind of vitamin or a specific mineral, but various foods have different minerals and vitamins present in them in varying quantities. We just need to ensure that we consume a balanced diet.

Now let us take a look at some important vitamins and minerals and how they help our bodies.

Vitamin A: It is important for good skin, healthy bones and teeth and immunity. The most important task that vitamin A or retinol has is to support vision. Its deficiency may lead to night blindness, so you must include lots of green and leafy veggies in your diet to ensure that your body gets plenty of vit A. Good sources of this vitamin are carrots, cod liver oil, milk products, yellow fruit like banana, spinach and other leafy, green vegetables.

Vitamin B: A whole group falls under vitamin B. This family includes important members like vit B2, B3,B5, B6 and B12. They are found in a wide variety of foods like fish, banana, cheese, poultry products, whole grains like rice and cereals. Their deficiency may lead to weak nails, skin inflammation and fatigue. Vitamin B12 deserves a special mention as it helps in the formation of red blood cells and nerves. Hence lack of this one may lead to anaemia.

Vitamin C: Also called ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is important for the immune system, protection from various bacteria and viruses, healing wounds, reducing cholesterol and for the lifespan of our cells. The deficiency of this vitamin leads to scurvy, a condition with bleeding gums, bleeding under the skin and unnatural tiredness along with muscle and joint pains. Vitamin C is found in tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits like oranges, and in peppers.

Vitamin D: The sun vitamin, Vitamin D, is manufactured by our bodies with the help of sunlight. young children who are not exposed to the healthy rays of the sun are in danger of suffering from rickets. It is a very important vitamin for the health of teeth and bones. It can also be derived from cod liver oil, sardines, salmon, tuna, milk and various milk products.

Vitamin E: This is an anti oxidant which helps to keep the skin healthy and glowing. It aids in cell growth and is important for the health of red blood cells. It is found in vegetable oils, nuts, wheat germ and whole grains.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood clotting, otherwise one may die of extensive bleeding even after a small nick. Vitamin K is derived from green and leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, broccoli and sprouts among others.

(You can read the article in The  New Indian Express here: