Book that Made a Difference in my Life

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

It is akin to deciding whom do you love best among a dozen of your offspring. How can a mother desert one and prefer the other? It is a difficult task to pick any one character among the numerous who swim around my head; signify some part of my life or the other. All my favourite characters form a component of my life; in some milieu or the other I have identified myself with them…I think we all do that. We see ourselves in so many characters, in some nuance of their approach or conduct. There are as many characters I have encountered in my life, as there are people. In a way, they have a life of their own, blending their cheerfulness with my own when I am in high spirits and bringing about the camaraderie of obscurity when I am down and out. The truth is, I really do not have a particular literary character that I favour more than the rest.

 In truth, just because I do not have one particular character that I prefer, I did not want to be quiet on the issue. I want to list out my favourites…

 Pinocchio is a spirit I grew up with. My childhood memory of his story is vivid even to this day. I remember each time I told a lie, the image of Pinocchio and his growing nose would come up and I’d look at my nose with disdain. I have a particularly sharp nose and I used to imagine it growing even longer. The thought used to give me shudders. That should have actually made me dislike Pinocchio more. On the contrary, I identified with his childish pranks, his waywardness, his truancy, his contrition and his subsequent acknowledgement of doing everything with conscious thought.

 As I grew a little older and transited to the period of a teenager, my heroine was Josephine of Little Women fondly and popularly known as Jo. She reflected my life, my struggle as a teenager who grew ahead of her years. Not all of Jo was there in me, or, perhaps there still is, like Pinocchio, but I thought we were very much into the independent stream. I wanted to work and even landed my first job as a part-time teacher in a school when I was thirteen. It made me think that she was a silent companion to me.

 Of course, as we grow older, our reading habits take a stable turn. Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead simply took my breath away. His logic and rationale of thought processes, his clarity of vision, confidence of what he wanted out of life…raring to go in today’s world, he swept me off my feet. I remember thinking about his character for weeks after I had finished the book.

 Along came Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Donald Shimoda from Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions respectively. Each time I have been dissuaded from doing something I think of the grit of this seagull and find strength to go on. I find that I can achieve so much more. There are also those times when belief in us is wavering. Donald Shimoda gives me faith to believe that there are all kinds of possibilities in this world; only, we have to dare to believe in ourselves and dream on impossible things to achieve. These two characters have made me believe that there is a lot that lies beyond immediate vision, a whole new world of possibilities that needs a little bit of daring, a tiny dose of foresight, and ounces of courage to turn them into distinct realities.

 Romance, love, soul searching and the search-for-soul mate came knocking to my door with The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach. Such a brilliant ramble of deep thoughts and analysis of what the human soul is all about was hard to compare. Where Kahlil Gibran opened my mind to seeing life as more than what meets the eye, this book filled up that open mind with the inquisitiveness required to be able to understand another person.

 A couple more years down the line and I found the ability to analyse and strategize, plan and effectively initiate plans. This valuable lesson came to me through Jian by Eric Van Lustbader. Such a gripping book! It taught me to look beyond when dealing with conflicts. I found I was able to look at a problem that was really impossible to tackle and be able to come up with not one but five alternates to approaching it and resolving it to my advantage. My ‘win some and lose some’ became ‘win more lose less’.

 As I grow older I look ahead to a self-made life and I see possibilities of other characters who will worm their way into my life at appropriate moments, to be the tiny guiding light that shines in darkness…to lead me to horizons beyond my reach today. My spiritual horizons have expanded and Out on a Limb by Shirley McLaine really opened doors of wisdom and and perceptive thought.

 Some books teach, move, make you ponder, ruminate, absorb, inspire, motivate, rejuvenate…these are a few of such! And now…I am reading Secrets!

Copyright Hiyaa

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Categories: Books, Life, Opinions, Thoughts

The Young Generation Indians – Will They Walk the Talk?

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This is not a post aimed to jeer or throw taunts at the Youth in India.

This is an observation and my thoughts and concerns about what will happen to India ten years from now.
I have not written myself off. I choose to think I am young still. But then, I never quite thought I was growing old….yet, this is a concern that comes to face me these days when I look at the mirror. I am practising looking at myself in the eye longer than five minutes! I have a long way to go. I am concerned because it will also be my daughter who will turn eighteen in ten years then and will have the right to vote.
What will she decide then? I am nobody to push political views on her. She is too young for that now and will be too self-assured for it later. Between now and then, I look at my country and wonder how we landed up in such a gory mess. Gory?
It’s too strong a word, is it? Not really!
Gory it is! I have lost a number of family members to terrorism. My concerns are real. Is it real for those who have not lost a member (yet). Terrorism is not the only thing that concerns me. I recall when I was in school we had to write essays on ‘My Ambition’ ‘What will I be when I grow Older?’ We wrote pages of aspirations and twenty percent of those aspiring to be someone wanted to be in the Armed Forces. Some even wrote about becoming the Prime Minister. Some of us managed to retain and turn the thought into reality. Some let it fade away and moved on to more socially and economically oriented state of being.
What do children write today when given the same topic? Are we a nation that has ruled out possibilities of being an Officer or Soldier?
Post 26/11 there has been a series of forwards and posts on the 26/11 scenario vis a vis our attitude towards our defence forces and the various uniformed agencies that protect and safeguard our life for us while we lavishly or indifferently let it pass. I will not say that non-uniformed citizens have offered nothing to India. My question is – What is the legacy we are creating for the tomorrow to come?
The Armed Forces is facing an acute shortage of Officers and Soldiers.
Entry into the Armed Forces was an aspiration and a dream for us when we were students. Now, these positions have to be glamourised and displayed (with feel good and look good pictures) on billboards asking the youth to join. Any takers? Hmmn!
The politicians have more or less remained the same throughout playing an endless game of musical chairs – are there no new ones? How many of those in their late 20’s and 30’s are graduates of Political Science? Or…have they withdrawn the subject from the colleges and universities? Whatever happened to those who passed out? Did they foray into politics or did they stay out of it because they knew what it was likely to be inside out?
Singing the National Anthem with these leaders shifting and moving and some even not bothering to stand up leave alone stand at attention for it. How I have longed to wring those necks and render them backboneless forever!
A major number of Indians have now protested that it is time for a change. Who is the change? Us? Are we to anticipate change by doing the same things over and over again? Talk about it, write about it and then what? Nothing? The truth is, if we continue to do the same things over and over again and expect a different result at the end of it, are we not being stupid. It does not take an immense amount of intelligence to figure that out. BLING! Did some lights switch on now?
Are we forgetting India Today is a legacy we have to pass on to our future generations. The history books will not re-write the Pre-Independence Days differently. The glory days will be told with even more pride. Then will come the Post-Independence Era where people will study about the Agricultural progress, the Emergency, the unrest in the North-East, the Indo-Pak Wars, the assassinations, the riots of Delhi, the modernization of the metros, the Punjab Militancy and the Kashmir Militancy, the Gujarat Riots, the Naxal Issues, Bollywood (though God alone wonders why but somehow, I know it will make it to history), the Parliament blasts, the Mumbai Blasts, the 26/11…..The children will then wonder what kind of an educated environment did we live in. They will wonder why nobody woke up even after decades.
They. They, the children who pour out of schools when the bells ring, they who are learning the alphabet, they who are singing ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab’every morning at the assembly, who are our future.
We will be older then, perhaps in old age homes because we have allowed things to take that course, slowly, like deemak…decaying our innards slowly, bright and colourful on the outside, bragging about how much we have achieved? Have we really?
I am cynical today. Yes, I am. I am hopeful too that somewhere it will ring a bell and we will all wake up and rise beyond this.
When I start to think….it takes me crazy places. It is like seeing the disasters of tomorrow on a film that refuses to fade away. My thoughts about my own country is a nightmare.
And…who am I at the end of it all?
I am still a selfish little nobody, working up a loud vocal voice to be heard but little to move me out of my warm cushy cozy corner I have built my world in.
I am the Indian in my generation writing a poor history for the future. Tossed between this world and the next, will I be able to clean up my NOW?
Copyright Hiyaa
Categories: India, Opinions, People

Once Upon a Star

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Beyond the end of the road a single track wound up the slope to the tea garden and crossed over in a mesh on smaller dirt trails. Sonia hugged herself and brought her coat closer to ward off the icy wind that bit across in the silent moonlit night. Night sounds magnified two-fold as she walked rapidly towards the house set at the far side of the purple carpet spread across in front of her. At a distance, dogs began a sonorous howl and Sonia shivered, digging her hands into the warmth of her overcoat. The warmth did nothing to reassure her. She moved on with a courage she found wavering every now and then, dogged determination leading her on.

The gate opened quietly, the house welcoming her with old familiarity. She stopped to gaze at the fine looking bungalow. A British official had built it, before Independence came and packed him off to his beloved England; a warm cozy retreat of a place with wooden floors, waxed with loving care and a fireplace in the centre of the wall opposite the main doorway.

She walked around to the kitchen garden and was relieved to find the door was unlocked. It was as she had anticipated. She would have had to knock at the front door otherwise. The familiar smell of the place hit her at once, a spicy tingle of rosewood with old whiffs of well-used fabric, old memories. It was quiet. Faint dying embers gave a reddish hue to the surroundings. She sighed.

She turned to the right and entered his room. Dhruv was asleep. Even in the chilly night he slept with the quilt pulled up to his waist. The moon filled the room with silver. His face was relaxed, devoid of all the mean streaks of his persona that had a habit of reflecting on his features when he was bothered or irate. The rush of memories filled her, threatening to choke, the blow of hurt almost physical. She had given him all of herself. It seemed just yesterday when she had been lying there in his arms, satiated after the abandoned madness of their lovemaking.

Dhruv was all she saw, breathed, lived and loved all of those eight months until she blacked out one Sunday morning and the doctor told her she was pregnant. She was ecstatic, excited at the prospect of becoming a mother. Sonia hurried to tell Dhruv. She found him making love to a young striking girl she had seen working at the tea garden. He had not even appeared to be embarrassed at being caught. The telltale love bites on his chest screamed at her a story of its own. Sonia’s cheek burned as she realized that she always made love with a gentleness and thoughtfulness that he had probably never appreciated. The girl had hurriedly picked her clothes and disappeared into the bathroom. He had laughed then when she told him about the baby. She could still hear the sneer as he asked her, “What is the proof that it is my baby?”

Sonia had been stunned into silence as he lashed out at her calling her a whore and telling her to rid of the baby and get on with her life. Just like that. The tears flowed in a rush as she hit out at him, at the betrayal of it all, at the indignity of being stripped to her very soul. He had hit her across the face with his fist and she was too stunned to say anything further. Her soul and body on fire, she gathered the shards of her broken heart and left. She walked out, tears of self-pity streaming down her cheeks, a part of her dead and gone forever.

Now, as she stared at him sleeping, she felt just a simple fury that threatened to erupt. She closed her eyes, willing herself to calm down and do what had to be done.

“Dhruv…” she called out. Her voice rang clear, no sign of nerves. Her heart raced as she called out to him again. This time he stirred and awoke slowly recognizing Sonia in the haze of sleepiness.

“You!” he sat up. “What are you doing here?” Sonia drew her hands from her pockets.

“I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?” he snorted, “Are you going away somewhere?” He reached out for the bedside lamp and the room filled with a soft amber glow as he lit a cigarette, with exactness, drawing a protracted breath and blowing up wisps of smoke in an unhurried practiced manner.

“When did you return from Calcutta?” he asked.

“An hour ago, and I leave tonight.”

“You came all the way to say goodbye?” the sarcasm in his tone was unmistakable.

She saw it was over. There was no point.

“Say your prayers Dhruv” she said, calmer and now firmer. “I came to kill you.”

He laughed. Sonia winced at the memory of that cruel laughter and cocked the pistol she held in her hand. Mira had managed to find her one when she was in Calcutta. Sonia had called the managing director and told him that she would not return to work for him. He had understood why. Dhruv had a reputation in town and he had been relieved to see Sonia had seen reason finally. Dhruv worked in the tea estate as his deputy and very little had missed the man.

Sonia drew up the revolver and aimed. She stood just a couple of feet away; there was not much to aim at. His laughter died mid-way and he drew himself up seeing the hardened eyes focused on him. He was incredulous. She even had a silencer fitted to it.

It all happened in a matter of a few seconds. She pulled the trigger and straight it went in the vicinity of his heart. He fell back, a look of disbelief on his face, the cigarette toppling and charring the depleted carpet. He died gasping for breath, watching her light the carpet with the Zippo, her gift to him on his last birthday.

“Goodbye Dhruv.” He heard her as the flames licked at the rug. He died.

She was out, breaking into a run until she was well across to the road where she had parked the van. Nobody had seen her.

Two days later an inset in the Times of India stated how the Darjeeling Police had found the charred remains of Dhruv Chopra after an accidental fire razed the bungalow he lived in.

II

It was August; a blistering sultry wet day in Calcutta. The baby was born amid the scuttle and noise of the Calcutta milieu.

“What will you name him?” the nurse asked as she bade farewell three days later.

“Mira?” Sonia turned to the woman beside her and asked.

“Dhruv?” grinned Mira. Sonia broke into a smile, turning to the nurse and nodded.

“Oh, the star?” mused the nurse.

“Yes. The star.” Both answered in unison.

III

It was one of those rare clear evenings when they both sat out at the balcony of Mira’s Salt Lake Apartment.

“Tell me,” asked Sonia, “just a matter of tiny detail I want cleared. How did you get the pistol for me at such a short notice?”

Mira gave a quiet smile and propped the baby onto her lap, pointing to the sky.

“Look,” she told him, “ That is your star Dhruv.”

“Mother!” cried Sonia exasperated.

After a long moment of staring at the star, she turned to face her daughter.

“What do you think happened to your father?” she asked.

Copyright Hiyaa

Categories: Fiction

Fame

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I stand above and watch
as people crowd around,
at last concerned
peppery heads nodding.

All comes to a standstill
on the hot tarmac
on the sweltering afternoon road.
Flies busy themselves
bees buzz afar
and sure enough,
I am the centre of their attraction,
free at last of the pain,
of the body in which I lived,
the life of a cripple, a beggar
that mercifully God released
and let me have
my share of fame
as some unidentified person
who died on the busy road
and I
made it to the papers
finally.

Coyright Hiyaa

Categories: Life, People, Poetry

Hello world!

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Here I am.

I would like to say I have arrived…but I do not think I have. Not yet.

For now,I would like to say that my journey is not yet over. I need to smell the flowers, discover, learn, grow and tap those hidden energies, direct the ones that are not that hidden, merge with my inner self and actualise.

Here I am.

A beginning, yet again.

Categories: Uncategorized