Sunday, January 27, 2013

The 7x7x7x7 Writing Prompt

When Corinne from Everyday Gyaan suggested this creative exercise (details below), needless to say, I was tempted to join her! Except for my one poem Is it me? (which also co-incidentally was done only because someone suggested that I do it!) I do not have any poetry on my blog. And thanks to this prompt, here comes another. Here's how the prompt works.

Grab the 7th book from your bookshelf. Open it up to Page 7. Pinpoint the 7th sentence on the page. Begin a poem that begins with that sentence and limit it in length to 7 lines. 

The 7th Book on a bookshelf in the library (since I don't have a book collection at home here) turns out to be 'Sacred Travels: 275 Places to Find Joy, seek solace, and learn to live more fully'. The 7th Page puts me at 'Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India'. Coincidence? The 7th Sentence reads: Located in the bustling metropolis of Jaipur - known as India’s ‘Pink City’ with nine districts symbolizing the sacred divisions of the universe, the Govind Devji temple and Jai Niwas Gardens are popular destinations and the thousands of devotees of Krishna who visit every year. Because the sentence is so super-long, I cheat a little and go for the essence.

Believing in you Lord, they come from near and afar
Some in blind faith, some with their eyes open ajar
They say evil and bad times are here to stay
Morals thrown aside, men gone astray
I do not want to be blind, I want to learn more
But the more I search, I want to know no more
So Lord, give me peace, give me a reason to still believe

I would love to have you join in! If you like the prompt and want to do a post, leave your link on Corinne's post linky set here or simply leave a comment! 

I would love to hear your views!

Enthusiastic fans or overzealous fanatics?

So, Vishwaroopam has got banned in Tamil Nadu, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Malaysia. Muslim outfits in the state have got the state government to ban the film stating that it would disrupt cultural harmony. Kamal Hassan has sought legal aid from the high court claiming cultural terrorism. Well, cultural harmony or terrorism, more on that later. But now that it’s playing at a theater that’s only two streets away, we got to check what all the hullabaloo is about, don’t we? So my husband and I decide to catch the 6 PM show. We reach there at 5:50 PM still expecting to get tickets and are shocked to see humungous crowd that has gathered. I never knew there were SO MANY Tamilians in Melbourne. Australian theaters, just like US theaters, do not have seat numbers printed on the tickets. Basically, it’s an early bird gets the worm. Needless to say, people have queued up to get the best seats. We walk into the theater, we have come this far, might as well try for tickets. An Australian mother and her daughter walk in before us, probably wanting to purchase tickets for a different movie. Suddenly a fist fight erupts between a couple of Indian Tamil guys. It soon evolves to blows and queue barricades are overturned. More people jump into the fracas. Horrified, I pull my husband away from the theater and we make our way home. An alley away I watch the Australian mother and daughter, who had run out before us, watch in confusion and fear. I am not sure what the reason for the fight was - Was it someone who cut in line? Did someone end up praising Rajnikanth or Vijay instead? Or was it something else? I am angry and disgusted at the behaviour of these testosterone pumped men who are no doubt educated and in all probability, work in IT somewhere. Yet the act is completely uncivilized. Looking at the daughter cower in fear, I feel this emotion rising in my chest that makes me want to defend India, that not all of us are that way, yet I do not speak a word and simply walk away.

The next day, we decide to try again for the 5:30 PM show. This time, learning from our mistake, we buy tickets online and reach the theater a half hour early. By 5:15 PM the length of the queue is just like the day before if not longer, but everything is peaceful. At 5:20 PM, the man standing in front of us yells at the facilitator who is standing a whole level above him, separated by about 30-40 stairs and asks him what the time is. This happens 2-3 times. Then he asks the guy why aren’t they letting people in. His wife joins in in the shouting. The facilitator pacifies them and leaves the scene. This is a family that includes a young girl, they have a bag of eatables and drinks that they have brought with them. In other words, seemingly an otherwise normal family. Well, we’re let in soon enough, the movie plays uneventfully. We make our way out of the theater thinking that this was a relatively peaceful day when suddenly outside the theater, two Indian men get into an altercation with an Aussie man and woman. One Indian man is coming to blows with the Aussie man while the Aussie woman is hitting another scrawny Indian man who doesn’t know whether to hit back or not. A third Indian man is trying to mediate, separating the individuals, trying to help. Traffic has come to a standstill with the Aussies car at the front, the front and back passenger doors thrown open. Behind me, an Indian man yells to his wife, “Suja! Come quickly, see there’s a fight!”. More people gather around. This time, it’s beyond disgusting. My husband watches for a moment while behind him, an Indian woman claps her hands excitedly. Again, we are unaware of what started it. While racism is a possibility that comes to mind, I also do believe that racists and such pigs only showcase their false bravado when they have company and the opposing party is alone or fewer in number, not when they’re met with an army of opponents, and the crowd gushing out of the theater certainly is an army of Indian Tamilians. We move away from the scene. I am so angry, I feel shivers for a few minutes.

These happenings bring to mind another such incident which had occurred in the US a few years back when Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was being screened. The queue spilling out of the theater had passed by a restaurant with outdoor dining and when the gates of the theater had opened, a stampede had ensued. Someone threw stones, the people at the restaurant called 911 and the police swooped down like a pack of vultures. However, KANK was brought back the next weekend by public demand (Don’t even get me started!) and that was when the theater owner told us about this incident. Now I have been to a lot of movies, in the US, in India and a few movies in the three months that we have now been in Australia. I might not have interacted with every culture in the world, but I have seen some. Why is it that when faced with movies and in a crowd, we as a people tend to become so uncivilized and out of control? What is it with hero worship that people fall over each other to put the other down? Why do we have temples for actors? For believers, if God is the ultimate power, what makes some people put these actors on such a high pedestal that it transcends God? What is it that makes people misbehave and get away with their behaviour in the names of such actors? Something tells me no man would want his fans to resort to such tactics in his name. Is it just movies or something that's more deeply entrenched? What do you attribute this fanaticism to? 

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, January 14, 2013

IFW Edition 4 - Rediscovering family

What happens when a soldier, presumed dead for five years, returns home to his wife and his son? What emotions plague the wife, who's now become independent and grown to accept a life without a man? How does the son react, then a cute little ten year old, now a grown teen who had to learn the ropes and grow up too soon? What emotional upheavals does this life changing event bring to the family? 

Read my entry to the Indifiction Workshop’s fourth edition here. Conceptualized by two popular bloggers TF and C. Suresh, Indifiction is a workshop for writers interested in fiction. Every edition’s winners define the succeeding plot and judge the next edition’s entries. The winners of the previous round; Rajrupa Gupta, Nabanita Dhar and TF would be judging this round. The plot has primarily been coined by them in conjunction, and can be accessed here. Feel free to leave your comment here or at the Indifiction link!
I would love to hear your views!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The British Are Back! – my entry to the GetPublished contest

Basic Premise:
Karan, like many other engineering graduates fresh out of college, chose to join a software firm. When the opportunity presented itself, he was thrilled at the idea of visiting a foreign country. Days turned into months, months into years as his stay in Birmingham kept getting extended. Back home, his family became hi-tech, learning to use email, chat and then Skype. His mother had kickstarted marriage proposals for Karan. Photographs and horoscopes were traded, phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged. And then one fine day, Karan called saying he liked a girl. As Karan talked about her, his mother drooled at the other end of the phone line. She seemed to be everything Karan’s mother had wanted for him. And then he dropped the bomb. The girl was British. 

Narrated through the eyes of a sister, this is a tale of her brother’s fight for his love. Riddled by doubts about the girl’s upbringing and whether or not she would be able to fit into a traditional Indian family’s outlook, this story is about standing up and for fighting for the one person who really makes your life complete. 

What makes it Real
India is made up of two parts. One part that is moving along with the times, embracing the gush of cultural changes and adapting itself, albeit hesitantly. And the other part, that is made up of rigid beliefs and traditions that have been passed down through the years. As India makes its mark globally, every day, thousands of men and women travel to places new and far in their quest to realize their dreams. As interactions with other cultures, beliefs and people grow, so do the chances of finding a soulmate in a foreign land. This story is real because even today, in most of India, when East meets West, sparks do fly!

Dear Diary,
When I came home from Math tuition today, I was surprised to find Papa home. You know that Papa has never spent a single minute of the day away from his school. If Amma let him, he would love to conduct classes on Sunday too. He was pacing the living room, his eyes bloodshot and his bulging face a beetroot red. 

Amma was sitting at the corner of the room, dabbing her eyes with the ends of her sari. I decided the best thing to do was to sneak off into my room. No sooner had I closed the door to my room behind me, I heard Raghu Uncle’s voice ask my father what was so urgent that he had to be summoned from the shop. And then I heard Papa roar.

“It’s Karan. The boy has decided to marry a gori!” Amma is trying to calm him. Uncle is playing twenty questions. I’m going to hide behind the curtains and listen. Be back soon.

Closing the diary, I chuckled. So, Bhai had really done something major this time!
If you like the trailer and would like to read the rest of it, click on the image below to vote for me ! 
Once redirected, to cast your vote, click on the heart below the number of likes. Show me some love and spread the word!
The British are back - my entry to the Harper Collins-Indiblogger Get Published Contest

Note: This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.
I would love to hear your views!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Starting on a fresh note

I deleted the first line of this post seventeen times (I think!) before I finally decided to use this as the first line of my post. And then I stared at the screen for another ten minutes. The mind is still “__________” and words refuse to come to mind. Fill in the blanks; it’s a mix of emotions. The past few days have seen a slew of politicians and imbecile self proclaimed god-men make some really awe-inspiring comments that have made me wonder if I should laugh or cry. I have had well meaning inquiries from other blogger friends who have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. A very dear friend wanted me to do an informative post around how we could help improve the situation or how women should empower themselves. It got me thinking about the post that I had put together after the Guwahati incident (Link). And it made me want to print it out, crunch it up, stomp on it and throw it into the trash can. Because even if Jyoti Singh Pandey had done everything she could have done; not a single of those techniques would have worked in the face of six monsters aided and abetted by god-men and every single moron who blames her. So instead, I’m just going to shut up and start the year with a post completely unrelated.

A few days back, searching for my old resume in my Gmail, I came across a set of mails from 2010 that I had completely forgotten about. They were from an innocent ten year old somewhere in the USA, part of a volunteering program called In2Books. As a volunteer; you are put in touch with a ten year old from a different part of the nation. Over a semester, you and your pen pal read the same set of six books in a specific sequence across subjects ranging from geography, history, science and such. You then exchange letters with your student discussing the book, answering questions related to it and helping him talk about his views. The school teacher helps answer any questions you might have. You are expected to write a minimum of one letter per book, many write more but then kids need to able to write back too. If you write them too many, they get overwhelmed! These kids are usually from households where they either do not get the required attention and help with their education or they do not get the required personalized attention from their teachers. As a volunteer, I also have to pay a nominal fee towards the program.

Much as this program was intended to help Leland (among others), I believe it was an uplifting journey for me too! It’s very refreshing to read and experience the innocence of young children with their endless curiosities and their untainted views. I2B had creative mail templates that Leland (and I) loved to experiment with. The classroom had a big large map of the United States hung up on a wall and markers for everyone’s pen pals. Leland wrote to me saying he loved to show off that his pen pal stayed in a state where winters were so cold!

He would talk about his family, about his vacations, about the way a certain incident that week affected him and he would want to know what I thought about it. He would ask me about my family and would be awestruck by some of the things I told him about differing cultures. The teachers wanted us to be honest with them, not mould ourselves into their expectations of an American pen pal. Certain books would incite him to talk about his dreams. Little kid dreams of superheroes or fire fighters, but nonetheless dreams. Today, I think of Leland and I wonder how he’s doing. He must be getting into his teens soon, a whole different phase of life, different things to be proud of and a whole bunch of other worries. I wonder if he remembers me, his Indian pen pal friend from across the nation. And I thank the day I signed up as a volunteer, because today, even with everything breaking apart around me, reading those emails can still cheer me up and make me think of signing up again for a whole new semester.

Don’t these lines just make you smile?
  • “What would you do if a hurricane was coming ashore where you lived? I would scream and run like a girl.”
  • “I can’t wait until Christmas. I might get a Blackberry. If you don’t know what that is, it is a phone.”
  • “I like to swim. I like to do Kayate. I am almost a black belt.”
  • “Can any of your family and friends do flips and land them?”
So here’s to starting on a fresh note. As for the New Year, all I want in 2013 is to be able to walk down a road without any fear. It’s as simple as that. Regardless of what I wear or don’t, regardless of whether someone’s my brother or not, regardless of which side of the Bharat Vs India border I am on, regardless of whether my stars are perfectly aligned or not. Or is that too much to ask?  

A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pen pal
A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pal.

I would love to hear your views!
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