Friday, August 9, 2019

Why Validate with a hug!

Smile no,  a quickened surge of excitement,
whatever but no coy word here i write
As it shakes my firmament
Maybe drawn to affection, first love that's right

But why a need to validate?
With a hug called as warm embrace

It won't smoothen the crumpled fabric
What if it might form a fabric of its own

It won't justify the broken promises of the past
What if it might make a new promise that our lifetime would want to hold

It won't unfurl the pages pressed in between the books
What if it might write a whole story on those pages leaving it untitled

Why a need to validate it?
With a hug!

It won't wipe the tears of the eyes
But it might live as a smudge of the mascara post tears

It might burn down the ashes of the physical need
What if it ignites the need of the soul?

What if makes the heart stutter,
Releasing the prisoned feelings and making it flutter

What if it would form the lump in the throat that will refuse to die down

Why,  a need to validate?
With a hug!

Why cannot it just be,
 Like the ocean lays its bare bosom to the undefile sun

Like a continuous ringing of temple gong at dawn

Let it be like the exchanges of the rain with the parched earth

Let it be

Why validate?
With a hug!

Let it be!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Women, Be Engaged to yourself first

I met my college friends recently and we finally sat in a café for much needed caffeine infusion because what we thought as a retail therapy turned into a retail fatigue. The café looked like a snug retreat with four of us flipping the pages of the old college diaries and reminding ourselves that how we have transformed over the years. Physically a lot but mentally we are still the crazy bunch who get excited with shopping expo and art exhibitions, meandering our way like those socialite aunties in Feb afternoons.

Our conversation went on for hours and it finally rested on a question that strongly demanded me to write an entire page about it.

“What is the first gift you gave yourself from your first pay- check, from your first job?

Our coffee and cake arrived and so did the answers. Each bringing on their own flavor and reminiscing the memories attached to it. My eyes rested on my plain Jane gold ring. What is it about this ring that makes it extra special? Is it because that my mother insisted that I purchase something for myself and I ended up purchasing this? Is it because I loved the way it jelled with my ring finger giving it a prestigious demeanour? Nothing I could decipher. Nothing I could make out. I thought for a while and all of a sudden I blurted out with conviction. I don’t know from where the words made its way but all I could utter was “I am forever engaged to myself”. It took a moment or two for the words to crystallize. My friends looked stricken, wore an expression of curiosity. I raised my right hand and placed it on the table to show them my pretty token of love for myself. I was buzzing with pride. Truth was glaring in front of them or to put it in better words it was ‘glittering’.

The time has passed and things in my life have taken a big leap. Yet the ring is still stuck with me, on my finger. Like a reminder. I have had my own share of woes in relationship, career and to top it all, the internal conflicts that I spent sleepless nights on, but this ring has stuck with me and faced all with me. It not only made me feel independent and secure but also nudged me to become a strong individual from within. It stuck with me. Like a reminder. Not only about what I have achieved and can achieve. More importantly it is a reminder to love myself and unapologetically keep on doing it.
Strangely we all have succumbed to the belief that self-love is a job of the headstrong, obstinate, and the selfish. A woman should not give much care about her happiness and mental peace but should always be on the giving end. This conditioning is costing, our mental and emotional well-being, extortionately.

In searching and joining the pieces of everything in the ecosystem, we are increasingly finding it difficult to even acknowledge the serious issue. Finding the piece of our lost self. Our society demands that we take care of our basic needs. Can a women take care of others without even acknowledging her own need of keeping her emotions in check? Don’t we women, have a responsibility towards us in order to maintain the mental sanity? To love us unabashedly and be not at all sorry for it.

Like the first downpour that hits the earth and before it surrenders it to the earth, it gives out a strong muddy earthen scent. Though it bathes our nostrils with its lovely aroma, the relationship is unsettling. Once the downpour blends and gives everything of it to the earth, the aroma slowly fades away. Women, like downpour, give their unconditional love to the family they love. With time, their sacrifice don’t count for anything and slowly their own emotions fade away like that aroma of the downpour. Committing themselves to the boundaries that society draws around her. For all the things they do, what do they need in return? They shouldn’t. That’s what we have been told and are conditioned with that mindset. Not to seek anything in return. So be it. We don’t have to seek any validation or put ourselves in the microscope of the other. The ring was not only an accessory on my finger, adding an ornamental value but it had a deep-seated meaning attached to it. It spoke volumes.

On women’s day, I would like to share what it spoke:
Don’t seek validation. You are the true judge of your actions.

You deserve better. Don’t be with someone who tells you otherwise.

Enjoy what you do. If you don’t, then it is time to introspect and take action.

Don’t multitask. Be mindful in each task for mental peace.

Don’t be drawn into the world of social media and underestimate what you do for your child. We all are illustrious mothers to our children in our own respect.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Socializing is competitive but don’t be harsh on yourself.

Bring on the positivity by engaging with people who radiate positive attitude towards everything in life. Let go of toxic people.

Tap into your creative energy and give yourself a creative retreat

Discover your passion and make others discover theirs.

And more importantly, Love everyone around you but love yourself a little more. Unapologetically!

Book Review - The Help and Brown like Dosas, Samosas, and Sticky Chikki

Mae Mobley: “Colored folks are dirty. Black is not good.”

Aibleen: Little girl, who is teaching you these things?

Mae Mobley: Our teacher in school – Miss Taylor

This is the conversation that one of the protagonists has with the little girl she takes care of. Aibee  thinks, “What person out there don’t remember their first grade teacher?” Totally agree! Like Aibleen, my jaw tightens and fists get clenched.

The Help is a gripping tale of what it was like to be a colored maid during the civil rights movement of 1960s. It talks about color discrimination and the heinous aspects attached with it, through the lives of housemaids in racially conflicted area – Jackson in Mississipi. “Don’t judge by the color, love all the people”, is what this book determines to tell through the three voices. These bold voices take turn in filling the pages all along. Aibleen - with a balanced mind, Minny – the sassier of the three and Skeeter – though a white, pledge to make life easier for the colored and do not turn back to the prevailing situation and all keeping her life at stake. Skeeter is the example of “The pen is mightier than the sword” as she gets down to that weapon to change the situation around her. No spoilers here.  These women are strong minded in their own ways. Together they bring in devastating sadness, tickling humour and ultimately a shining hope.

How this discrimination exploited the lives of harmless people, ruining their households and forever instilling fear in their minds, glares bright and make our heart bleed. Stockett beautifully weaves the tale showing us not only the ugly truth that existed in that society but also appreciating the brighter sunshine that prevailed in some white households. After I finished I almost ended up whispering “You is kind, You is Smart, and You is important” to my daughter.

Coming to the conversation in the beginning of the post, color discrimination is the last thing you want to hear at the age when your mind along with the body is developing. These minds, now innocent, will turn into an adult with the same thought process, building a narrative which they hear or been used to. Children have a raw emotion and that should not be spoiled with a negative narrative. Though we have come a long way and certainly our minds have broadened, there exists remnant of this ugly truth in few sections of our society. There is a dire need to erase such beliefs from our children’s mind and I am very happy to know that the authors are working on it. I recently purchased a book which talks about the concept of embracing the self, irrespective of difference in the shade of our skin. 

‘Brown like Dosas, Samosas and Sticky chikki’ by Rebecca Manari tells an illustrious tale through a little girl who loves her own skin color even though the Antagonist conjures different tricks. As parents, we want to teach our children to love themselves and their bodies just as they are. This book will stand by that for sure!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

PURPLE HIBISCUS – The fragrance of Hope and Freedom will be etched in your hearts forever

“I wanted to tell Mama that it did feel different to be back, that our living room had too much empty space, too much wasted marble floor that gleamed from Sisi’s polishing and housed nothing. Our celing was too high. Our furniture was lifeless: the glass tables did not shed twisted skin in the harmattan, the leather sofas’ greeting was a clammy coldness, and the Persian rugs were too lush to have any feeling. But I said, “You polished the etagere.” "

The above text appears when Jaja and Kambili return from Nsukku, their Aunty Ifeoma’s house, and witness their place as dull and lacking warmth even though the house glistened like a palace. The warmth that Aunty Ifeoma’s house had carried during the days they spent despite having a nondescript house and where they prayed every day for Peace and Laughter. Laughter among all the things. Because Laughter was valued in their house everyday despite living with shortcomings something that Kambili hardly got to experience in own house in front of her father. Father – a devout Catholic who is a strict disciplinarian and feared authoritarian yet extremely generous towards the community. Aunty Ifeoma’s house had blessed quiet even in those noisy moments and where they did not follow any schedule or have such paper stuck in the walls of the room unlike in those high walls of their own house where schedule mocked their father Eugene’s stoned face.

Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus is a tale of abuse, hope and survival thereby letting the freedom conquer. Reading this novel took me to a different universe. One part of me was living in that universe with Kambili, Jaja and their fearless Aunt and cousins who had a voice. I will stress voice because it was harshly snatched from Kambili and Jaja. After finishing the novel, I felt I have lived one whole lifetime with all the characters yet there stays so much unsaid and so much to be understood. I could still feel Kambili’s observant eyes tracing my actions and asking me to be very careful with what I write. The author has completely lived each scene and experience which is very well exhibited in her body of work.

I lived each scene when I read those phrases and everytime I wondered what it would be to live like Kambili. She is all of 15 but she has so much wisdom, so much clarity of thought, and so much depth and detail beyond her age. All through my journey with this book, I wanted to shake her and ask her to cry. Cry because she should or needed to let all her emotions out and it is no point tugging her heart so much to shield those emotions away from the light. I wanted to hug her and say that it is going to be alright. I just wanted a moment with Kambili. Those observant eyes have so much depth that they meander between right and wrong. For instance when she says, “Father Amadi led the first decade, and at the end, he started an Igbo praise song. While they sang, I opened my eyes and stared at the wall. I pressed my lips together, biting my lower lip, so my mouth would not join in the singing on its own, so my mouth would not betray”  It was shocking to read how the power and control of mere 15 year old on her tongue and her freedom to express were snatched away. Kambili’s eyes! Even though they failed to understand few things because she was in the cusp of womanhood, at times, she understood most of the things without uttering a single word.

Jaja –A character’s name which means throaty laughter in Spanish, gave me an insight of ‘Now’. The power of now. Heaven breaks apart when he refuses to go to communion, a usual ritual at home,  bringing his father’s blood to boil in fury. Even though there were so many unpleasant things back at home, he enjoyed being out there in the frontyard of Aunty Ifeoma’s house asking questions about Hibiscuses. He was out there with Obiora with those buckets of water, and when the time came he remarked that he did not do so much like Obiora who acted like a man and held the roof above his house in the absence of Obiora’s father. And when Jaja covered up for his mother and stood for her when the authorities came, it could be felt that how much Jaja thought about his family.  His words hit the nail when he asks after the demise of his father – Why didn’t the god protect his faithful servant? Jaja, a caring brother, a loving son and a man of the house and without whom, this piece would have been less important and the purple hibiscus would have lost its person. That Purple Hibiscus means freedom in connection with Jaja.

Tensions rise in the Achike house throughout the day, and the political instability as Nigeria falls under the military coup, go on like tidal waves, but Kambili, through her narration, tells a tale of hope and exhibits that this too shall pass and we need to move to the brighter side of the world when time calls. Aunty Ifeoma’s house, the visuals surrounding the vicinity of her house, the peace that her house exuded definitely will make one cry out with joy. Only because as the story unfurls, you would have shed huge amounts of tears and felt for Kambili and Jaja, and because you want them to have their own taste of freedom which has been monitored and circumscribed by high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound.

The book opens with the events on Palm Sunday, time travelling to past and final chapter leading to present. The political unrest in Nigeria is clearly visible and the author brings it to life, all in front of the reader. The unrest in Kambili’s family in terms of Igbo rituals and rigid catholic thoughts continues as the story unfolds.

Read if you think it is going to be depressing. Read if you think it is dark fiction. Read for those very reasons because this is not like any other dark stories that leave you staring at the wall looking for a gleam of light but it is unlike those all stories put together. It is far from dark and brooding unlike those stories. Unlike I say because it sparks hope even in those moments of angst and depressive circumstances, the hope which lurks even in the darkest corners. And that hope balances out everything.

I could feel hope when Jaja shifted the desk to be in front of his door in order to keep his father out of his way. I could feel hope when Kambili did not move but held the painting of her late grandfather Papa Nnukwu when a monster disguised as her father kept hitting and bashing her wildly. I could feel it in those moments when Kambili’s father in his usual beastian way almost broke the figurines and how her mom collected all those precious pieces after the fallout. I could feel hope in Aunty Ifeoma’s house even if there was no fuel in her vehicle, no electric supply, only okpa soup to eat for breakfast. I could feel hope when Father Amadi tells Kambili that she has long legs and she should run. So much of hope lingers even after the taste of oppression beats the energy out of you. Even in the tension and turmoil, a soft feather of unexplained love caresses Kambili and Father Amadi making the former reach out to taste the desire of teen age as well as that of womanhood. Though this soft caress appears in every alternate page in the middle of the novel and keeps the curious reader wanting more of it, the author did not give it a cliffhanger ending but weaves the tale of hearts thoughtfully.

Purple Hibiscus if put in musical sense, it plays Raag Hindol which is a midnight Raag. When you listen to Hindol, it mirrors the state of our mind when we ponder about so many thoughts at the dark of the night, thinking deeply into some of the matters unsaid or unexpressed and suddenly the yawning night reaches out to its crib with a new day waking up to the ray of sunshine or a ray of hope to make you believe that some matters might take their own time to settle and resolve. Such is the effect that this book will produce in your heart. You will find Hindol caressing the pages of this book when you read.

I really loved it for a reason that the story doesn’t unfold with multiple voices but honestly stuck to Kambili's voice along with the shifting perspectives between two households which are distinct from one another. Adichie knows the craft of writing extremely well. Would Highly recommend. This book will surely make one experiment  more African writings.

My Rating *****

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Setting - An important element of Creative Writing

Storytelling is one of the great form of expression of thoughts and ideas. From the ancient days, we all have been practicing sharing anecdotes with our friends and families. There is interesting exchange of anecdotes in informal or formal setting which always excites and charms the listener. It is said that humor added in our story shakes the indifferent from the stupor. So everyone adds their own uniqueness in every tale they share. The foremost element that captures attention in addition to the elements that we are going to read further is our own charm or uniqueness of story-telling. Same applies to Story-writing. A well-defined or written story should have necessary elements which will entice the reader to go further and shove it away. Every element is unique in creative writing. Each holds a significance that will highlight the stories and make it complete.

To mention, story-writing, as a whole, has elements namely plot, character, setting, conflict, resolution and theme. The six elements come together to create a promising story. But it has often left me to ponder that which one is very crucial and which will take the story ahead. Without which the reader will miss the major part in the story. And that thought made me study further on this subject and that led me to write this article.

How significant is ‘Setting as an element’?

Travel is cathartic

Travel is liberating. It is a great escape from the routine life and mundane tasks. What is life without some amount of travel at regular intervals? Travel gives a chance to explore our child as well as wild side. It liberates, cleanses our soul and give us new enthusiasm to take on life ahead. And that is how we look at the element ‘Setting’. It is often a delightful element to write as well as read.

We all are Nomads by heart.

Place plays an important role in a story. Historically we have been nomads and that part of us is very much alive even now and always it shall be. We have the insatiable wander-lust which raises its curious head most of the times. Be it an escape from the mundane life or going for an adventure ride or to discover oneself, we all want to discover new places and weave new stories through them. We don’t hesitate to take the road less travelled and create a new story out of them. Making our journey to remember through penning down its uniqueness, is what most of us want to do.

We bring in that quality in our reading too. We always look for the places mentioned in the books and that which protagonist travels and spends their time in. The place which technically called as ‘Setting’ is thus weaved in a manner that will entice and enrich the imagination of a reader.

We put ourselves in the place we write

Every person writes and describes the place through their own lenses. The place holds a personality of a writer and it totally exhibits the uniqueness of that writer. May it be a beach, any hill side destination, or a garden, the writer puts himself in the location he is choosing to write on. So Setting gives a chance to put oneself on print.

Because we cannot travel always

Travel is not something we can do always. We have our work-life, deadlines, school pressures, household chores to look after, pay bills and the list never ends. Though it is always looked up as delightful escape from the slew of chores and activities mentioned, we cannot do it every now and then. For some it is always categorized as luxury or privilege and not a necessary item. In that case, reading put all our worries to rest. It cures our temptation to travel in a subtle way. We follow the sights the writer has explored, the culture that he/she comes across on his travel and those verdant or fetching landscapes. All through the ‘description of setting’. All through the sight transformed to words of the writer. Not able to travel always is balanced out by reading a nice book full of engaging descriptions of places.

Setting as a first element

We all watch movies. Even the visual communication aims to put setting as a first segment in the story. Some of the best movies start with describing the location without any dialogue. The simple image of birds chirping with the warmth of the sun blanketing the village or a busy urban life shown with sea of humanity walking without meeting each other’s eyes, or an airport scene with chaos. Many movies brim with the element of setting coming first in the order. It cannot always mean the geography or contours of the story but also means much more than what one can imagine. “One shouldn’t appeal for attention, your performance should command it.” As the saying goes, Setting never appeals for attention from the reader or viewer but its description will always turn the reader to come hunting for it. Thereby engaging him/her with the story it will take ahead. The curiosity in the cat gets never killed by the setting but the imagery used in it will always make the reader wanting more.

At the outset, Setting is very important in creative writing. It is the time and place where a scene occurs. It can help set the right tone, influence the behavioral pattern of the characters, time-travel, visualize the scene, and set an emotion to the story. A lovely setting shown on the cover page always makes a reader pick up the book immediately. It is like many tools packed on a beautiful case. The other elements are packed and neatly enclosed with the lovely case called setting.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Yellow Chrysanthemums

On a silver shady night, when on a road
So many thoughts flooded my mind
The visage of the snowy ball that was on board
Winked at me sitting far away in the heaven’s abode

I stayed unmoved and untouched

The memories swept over me,  
Swirling wind brought the sudden rain
Clambering all the way down from the clouds
With a determined promise though
To heal the hot soil and remove its pain

I stayed unmoved and untouched

Rains in November, I could not fathom
Even when it brought lovely outcomes
Playing with the paperboats, the merry hearted children
Pushed and pulled each other in the downpour
Ripples in the water shone in the white light
Like the summer of good memories in the darkest night

I stayed unmoved and untouched
Awashed with water, the path smelled freshness
The trail of lights snaking their way in the inky darkness
Everything felt calm in my senses
Until you came with your traces
Became heavy the air, the lush green filled by yellow
Breathing your soul into me, you had me mellowed
No more dry my eyes were, my neck craned at the view
The verdant landscape did not touch me, only you do

The weight of responsibility thrust on me
To swallow the bitter pill of my past
With the matrimony that left me with a wound
And landed me like a photo on a wall, lonely and downcast

All of these you brought me, then and there
I accepted life was uncertain and not fair

Now I assertively say that my life is not bare

Kissing the sky. Racing sun moved towards the thicket of dark
Occupying each tree and shoots, walking with shoulders square
Playing new music and signaling new day
Your yellow hands beckon, I born again in your each wave

A Strap That Stripped My Struggle And Taught Me Life Lessons

The recent trip to lingerie shop gave me a much needed insight towards life. Yes you heard it right. Lingerie shop!

So here the saga goes,

I have always had been in search of good bras which could give me a correct fit and comfort. And I found it really hard to get one. It was like discovering oneself or to an answer to much sought after question “Does god exists?” The argument is still on. So is the search for truth. The truth here being “Is there any correct fit for my cleavage? Can they ever feel home? I will tell you my encounter with the varied set of bras. Some act like they follow strict guidelines but the minute I get busy hanging out with my schedule, they let my cleavage leap out providing it a freedom. Putting their hashtag ‘breakfree’. Some don’t have strong support system and putting the straps at place becomes another routine work like keeping the tucked hair at place or like the parents of brattish children. They don’t listen to you yet you yell at them. And some gives you that level of comfort where you yearn for freedom from them more than them looking out for one. They are the ones who keep my cleavage very close to my heart. Yes, Literally!

Nowadays, variety in the bra fraternity is similar to the poor alphabet A which stands for so many things. A stands for Artist, Ambedkar, Amritsar, Arjun from Mahabharat and so on. Let me tell you my daughter’s first words book’s saga. Introducing Alligator to a 2 year old toddler, can anyone beat that? A which stood elated with the position as first alphabet is now shedding tears and is feeling helpless. What happened to that fruit which kindled passion between Adam and Eve? What happened to that fruit which has a beautiful red skin all over it with a juicy interior inside? What happened to the humble fruit which enjoyed the status as label for the letter A and played in the innocent mouths of toddlers. That making it sweetest in the category of fruits. A can be nothing but Apple. There is no replacement for Apple. They are entwined with each other for eternity. A and Apple are the couple who enjoy marital bliss forever. Likewise I am in search for that ‘A’ for my Apple in the middle of thousands of options available in bra domain. The one which will keep mine stay in equilibrium and be blissfully married to my cleavage.

Coming face to face with the level of comfort teaches you many things. To name few, it helps you reflect on your struggles which you faced, before you discovered the comfort, giving your life a meaning or a bigger purpose. The comfort that I yearned and the thirst for that comfort was quenched with the right bra. In other words, nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship that is not making them happy, be it a bra or our personal relationship with people or anything in this universe.

Comfort, for many, gets translated into luxury. This is a word which is misconstrued for ages and have taken a form which is completely different from its self. According to yours truly, comfort has two levels which is basic and luxurious. My tryst with the right bra gets a place in basic comfort box. So what are we doing to achieve the level of basic comfort? Why do we put aside the goal in achieving that and toil to stay in the struggle zone forever. It is our foolishness to stay inert at many times and not aim for the comfortable zone. We may remain calm but our hearts will never be at peace. The struggle sometimes captivates us and after a point of time we forget that we ever tried to achieve the comfort.

Why keep on sulking if heaven is at the end of the tunnel? Its you who have to pass through sticky and sickly green snatches in the recess of the tunnel and reach out to the light at the end of it. So go on, step into the right shoes and walk to the path of comfort. Comfort is for one who aims to achieve it. I can understand that every person has a different definition of basic comfort and I am not denying that. But having known what would satisfy your need and pacify your wretched nerves, it is time we make that decision to smoothen the wrinkles on our path and be at peace with achieved comfort. And I am sure every person with their focused effort, can make their A meet the Apple, regardless of the size of the struggle. Like I did mine. Pun intended.

I wish to quote the words of the acclaimed author ‘Mark Manson’ from his book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*&k’, “Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things. You always get to choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.”