What’s in a name?


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When a little baby girl decided to descend on the face of earth in the cot of a robust Punjabi couple, they jumped in joy and landed back on ground doing Bhangra. Why not! They so wanted her to be their doll. Did it make any difference if she had tiny ears, long face, a flattened head and big bobbly eyes? No, not to them. Looked like an ape, if you ask me. Sure, she descended from apes and her features were a definite proof of that.

She cried.

A meek voice?

They laughed. A Punjabi with such a soft voice! The voice would drown in the roars. But she was their doll. Relatives looked at the oval faced wonder and suggested names similar to eggs, papaya and all things elongated. Thank God, the brother was more enamored by the feather weight than the big eyes and doodle head. He picked the doll that looked at him curiously and announced it to the world, “She is my bubble.”

You ask, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” in the true Shakespearean manner.

But bubble she was. The wind would make her lose the balance; the hops for hop scotch would turn into long jumps as inertia would be close on the heels of her long sticky legs. But she would sway, true to her name, with the wind – carefree, untied, an invisible layer under her feet; she would reflect the color of grass, the hues of sky, the ribbons of rainbow but she would also pop at the slightest touch. The drama played in her eyes, the tears jerked with the smallest of pillow fights. Bubble she was.

So I say, “So Bubble would, were she not called Bubble?

You say, “It would.”

“We doff thy name.”

So Bubble went and entered a new name but the feather weight stayed.

As it couldn’t be her name in the school. After all, what would the kids call her? They would tease her; they would shred her. The holy books came handy, the suggestions came pouring in. The impulse to Google or asking for suggestions on Facebook was so not the order of the day or she would have ended up with the trendiest but oddly unique name. Well, the name was oddly unique now too with the added advantage of being gender neutral. So you pick up a stone, and a namesake would pop up with a big smile nodding the head in agreement. The result – at least three namesakes in her every class with the complete confusion of a ‘Singh’ and a ‘Kaur’ (signifies the sikh-ness). And that was just the start.

But what her new name meant?

‘Someone who sings praises for the lord.’

So she singed, with the soft voice.

First the Shammi melody ‘Aaja aaja’ complemented with a shimmy and then the glorious Michael Jackson. ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’ spilled when The ‘Smooth Criminal’ stuck. ‘Dangerous’ became the anthem until one day her parents reminded her that it meant the Lord up there and not the one living in Neverland. So much for the love of God. Well, now that both of them are up there, together, I am sure whenever I put on ‘Thriller’, I see them holding hands and doing moonwalk. No wonder, the rains are so heavy in my part of the world. The clouds just can’t stop colliding. But I digress.

You ask, “So what about the name?”

The name of course! Friends bent it, cut it, and turned it into jazz in a hippie way.

‘Doff thy name.’

With just the swung notes left, it was now open for the creativity to flow. So as the jazz played in the air, the fingers tapped furiously on the keyboard, ripping apart the code and sending it into numerous iterations to create perfect software. Highly creative, amidst long work hours and non-stop coffee. And then to break the deadly jig, entered another dimension – an extension cord, umbilical cord they say, that marked the journey of creative. Just when the boy stepped out of the tummy, a team somewhere, sitting in a posh office, decided to print a heartfelt article of this mother- to -be. She loved to wield the pen and in a hormonal fit sent this article to an established newspaper.  A week old, the boy, saw his mother’s name in the print. The signal was clear. The snipping of the name and the umbilical cord were working.

So do you still say “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”?

I say, “So Jas would, were she not called Jas?”

You say, “she would.”

Even without the title.


[This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program where the aim is to post at least once a day based on the prompts that they have provided. Today’s prompt is, “Do you know the meaning of your name, and why your parents chose it? Do you think it suits you?”]

I am one of the guest authors at We Post Daily for the month of September.

Mom in the City: A Book Review


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Mom In The City

Handling career, parenting, social life, womanhood, and family commitments means juggling all the balls 24*7. Add to that peer pressure, not from your colleagues but the mommy friends you have gained by admitting your child to a ‘playschool with a difference’ in a classy and posh neighborhood, you are right amidst a saucy mix of lies, self-created situations and chaos. But not all chaos is bad.

‘Mom in the City’ is a book that has brought mommy-lit genre in India i.e. books related to motherhood, bringing up a child, pregnancy, all things mommy but with strong shades of chick-lit. So I would say a chick-lit adjusted to the taste buds of young mommies. The good part about this book is that the simple tips and advices about tackling little kids are neatly wrapped in good humored sentences without making them sound preachy or even as advices. They just pop in and out of the narrative naturally, helping the story move forward and the young moms gaining a perspective or two. But you know what they say about parenting – nothing teaches you as much as the little monster himself, ok not monster for the mushy mommy types who might take it to the heart.

So is the case with Iravati who is a publishing industry professional, and a single mom trying to pick up the threads of her life in a new city, Delhi where she has moved to from California. To fit into the social norms and social circle of the perfectly manicured moms, she weaves a lie. How this lie takes a life and how this single mother walks on these tight ropes of internal tussles, mothering, desires and professional commitments is what this story is all about.

True to the genre

The moments that stand out are the ones between Ira and her son Abhi. The interactions, the emotional moments, the tantrums are what all mothers or all parents can relate to. The balancing act of Ira between parenting and the career goals is honest; every working woman goes through these conflicts. The priorities have to be set and re-set every second. To remain true to the idea of chick-lit, the story is peppered with lots of high heels, fancy wardrobes, and animated discussions that lead to few good laughs. The parenting pitfalls are real; the need to be accepted is justified after the sudden abandonment by her husband. The struggle of coming to terms with the decision and the utter helplessness that follows also takes you in as a reader. The story though is not of helplessness but is of working your way out of it. Some characters like that of an old woman Ira meets outside her son’s school shouts of the loneliness the big cities bring.

The pitfalls

Most characters, however, are stereotypical. Delhi high life speckled with shallow but shiny personalities brings out the superficiality but at the same time makes it look a little fabricated. Having shades of grey is perfectly acceptable because all of us have them in higher or lower proportions but the character assassination of the main rival at the end seems unnecessary. When the dashing college buddy, Vasu walks back into Ira’s life, whom she loved in college, but she was only a friend to him, it gives you a feeling of déjà vu.  I don’t think I have to tell you which movie it reminded me of. The romantic angle didn’t quite work for me. It could be due to the plot’s predictability. But the mushy moms can still dig the handsome Vasu and his chivalry.

The author has tried to tackle many different issues – loneliness in old age, decision to remain childfree, marital issues, abandonment, societal pressures, fickle friendships, friendships with purpose – through different characters. Some work, some don’t.

The writing is refreshing, the premise is empowering with the protagonist being a single mom. The story is well paced. The style is very simple and conversational which makes you pick up the book. A gossip session with a friend at times. It is a light breezy read which has its emotional moments. With this book, I see mommy-lit making a successful entry in India. The book is what it has set out to be, an entertaining read for the lovers of chick-lit.

Author: Kausalya Saptharishi

Publisher: Random House India

Genre: Mom-lit

Price: 250/-


[ The review is commissioned by the author. The views are my own.]

Ram Bharose


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spicysaturdayI refrain from using Hindi words in an English language post. Not that I don’t like Hindi but I feel mixing the languages dilutes the impact, lowers the value. And yet, sometimes it is the only way you can describe the exact state of affairs, of life around you. ‘Ram Bharose’ is how I define it, aptly, precisely.

The current state of the knowledge that we feed our children through the temples of learning, the schools. Last week, I set out on a journey to know more about the indian education system. The more I explored, the more annoyed I felt about what the schools today think is important for the children. Or what they think lures the parents. Aren’t schools meant to allow children to explore their true selves? Not that they were doing that in the earlier times, but the way world is changing, the system, I was hoping, would take a turn for the better.

Right from turning basements into playgrounds to just having a single counselor for 2000 students, that too because the government says so, business is an apt term. They know that there is nothing wrong in commercializing and selling the agenda of education. Because the parents will anyways trickle in, the brand will grow, the branches will flourish. AC rooms –are they a requirement or a vast ground for the budding footballers? The exteriors are polished; they train the future gymnasts too. The fees, skyrocketing.

Then you come to the question for which you are willing to pay that humungous amount. You inquire about the methods of teaching, ‘Ma’m it is concept based. Not rote learning. Individual child attention’. You smile with relief. That’s what it is ‘On Paper’.

But in a hushed tone, if you can read between the lines, one size has to fit all. You cannot be a different fish; you have to grow the stripes, just like everyone else.

You have to fit in.

“Didn’t you say concept based? The child’s way of learning? A fish has to remain a fish and not turn into a zebra.” You turn around and ask. “But Ma’m, in effect, that’s how it has to be.”

That’s right. That’s what is needed at every level. And you are trained to do so; that’s individual child attention. You are trained to toe the line. Now, that’s what is missing in the old schools.

The old schools have prim buildings, large playgrounds, and open green fields but the methodology would put even the buried British to shame. With more than 50 students cramped in a room, does the teacher even remember the name of the back bencher? She writes and writes on the board because she has a target to complete, syllabus to finish. The students will go home, cram it and then spit it out on the exam paper.

Mission accomplished. In old and new alike.

We did that. Sadly, our children are doing the same. Unfortunately, the schools are focusing more on material than actually doing something to change. To make the children think beyond the curriculum, ahead of their time, allowing them to perceive the facts in their own individual manner.

Ram bharose, the children move from one class to another, knowing little about what and where to use what they are reading. If someone happens to be rapt in the class, he or she has more chances of growing big, the rest settle down and accept to be dwarfs. They are made to accept, if they don’t. Because old or new, only the methods have changed; the ideology remains the same. You have to be a diamond to begin with. They will dust you, a little polish and you are ready to face the world with your 3 Carat glow. But what happens to the raw carbons, needing a little heat, a little more nurturing, a potential of 8 Carat, perhaps? They simply suffocate in the rubble without a whimper. Some courageous ones find their calling after years and pave their way. But no one knows how many have died an untimely death in that rubble because the oxygen, the caring hand never reached out to them. Just because they couldn’t comprehend the workings of the world, the way rest of us did. The scenario hasn’t changed. The make-up is on; it looks beautiful. Still no one is ready to make the effort to find that ‘Extra’ to put in front of the ‘Ordinary’.

Zoutons.com: A Website Review


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As I graduate from the beginner to the mid-level online shopper status, who loves to experiment and dares to buy furniture online too, a great deal is a must. A deal that doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket, gives more than the satisfaction of a real bargain, and does that without saying a word. The reason why I like online shopping in the first place. I don’t have to talk, can survey the store in quiet, I don’t have to haggle but who says I don’t want to save a few bucks. I want to get the best price possible and the retailers don’t help me with that. What helps is a site like Zoutons which makes me want to buy more than what I really set out for. The doorbell just does not stop ringing.

Zoutons is a website where you can find discount coupons and deals for almost all the favorite haunts right from Amazon, Jabong, Myntra, Yatra, BookmyShow, EzeeGo to Apple, HTC and Dominos. Pepper Fry too if you like occasional indulgence in furniture. And heavily discounted coupon codes for Flipkart too if you keep buying books on whim just like me.

Zoutons pic

Let’s be specific and look at the aspects that impact a shopper the most:


  • The site is user friendly, easy on the eyes.
  • Navigation is virtually glitch free.
  • The coupons are easy to spot and use.
  • The search bar is big enough, the words are clearly visible.
  • The design is neat and clutter free.
  • The home page has popular coupons displayed that can be activated with a single click.
  • Well defined categories.



  • The search results are less specific; can be made more relevant.
  • The content is generic at times to define two different products in the same category.

Zoutons coupons

I liked the fact that the start-ups are hogging the same limelight as the veterans at Zoutons allowing them to make a mark. New stores are displayed as credibly as the established ones. If you also enjoy online shopping as much as I do, then I would recommend this site to you for all the extra discounts available and the whole gamut of offers it throws your way.


Author’s note: It is a sponsored review. The views are honest and unbiased.

The Last Few Days


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imagesWhen I joined my first ever job, this thing was growing wings. It took a flight and landed straight on my office computer where apart from C++ codes and .Net complications, laid the excitement of reconnecting, rebuilding, refurbishing. Reconnecting with old friends, rebuilding broken bridges and refurbishing the clogged memories in the slots, neatly stacked, in scraps, photos, status updates. Orkut faded all boundaries. Suddenly, the people who were long lost in the milieu of life were accessible. The friends who I knew in school, discussed the smallest of zits with but somehow renegated to background could be shouted out to, with just a simple search, first through Orkut and then through calls.

Everyone was on it; the in-thing.

I remember forming an account and immediately getting down to the business of finding the lost childhood years, comparing the grown up faces with the innocent ones etched in the memory and sending friend requests one after the other , unable to contain the excitement.
It was the time when social networking was not about likes, comments or frequently venting out the happiness, the grief, the humdrum, the nothings. Certainly not the time when every burp after a sumptuous meal was kept a count of. The time when the concerns were more genuine, the Hahas really meant the laughter.

I might have missed it in the deep recesses of my mind or why would just the mention of it made me dig deeper. I ended my self-imposed hibernation and checked my long lost account on which the last conversation happened in 2011. On April 28th, 2011 Orkut sent me a glowing badge of being an early user, reminding me of how important I was, without knowing I was already having second thoughts. And on June 29th, same year, I moved on. To a brighter partner, simply because, my every friend was on it now. I remember not liking it at first because Orkut was more homely and FB a trendy youngster.

But then, FB was the new in-thing.

It is now too. The relevance may have faded, the objective lost but it is there, holding us in its clutches. When ‘Farewell to Orkut’ blinked on my screen, a little after seeing the news already circulating on the social media, I felt a dull pain. Not that I was a loyal follower. After all, I had made an early exit, forgetting all about ‘scraps’ preferring to soak in the world of ‘Likes’. But Orkut marked the first adventure, the first ever flirting with the power to meet friends at the stroke of a key without actually being there. So, I silently logged on to my account, archived it and safely placed the zipped folder in my ‘Important’ documents, but not before going through every single moment this account has seen, all the times that I spent there, sending scraps, receiving them, hogging on the testimonials, clawing on the first pictures that I ever shared with the virtual friends. The list was actually of people I would call ‘friends’. The world was just opening up.

FB and other social media sites might be leading the way now but it was Orkut that set the path. Sad, that it couldn’t keep up the pace with the changing needs, the growing demands, the altering mindsets. Without knowing, all of us have fallen prey to the tectonic shift. Who knows, even Orkut would have eventually turned into a narcissist’s hub, a philosopher’s den or a grizzly bear’s fighting territory but that’s not how we remember it, do we?

Each one of us must be having a piece of our life, living and breathing on Orkut, reflecting on what we used to be. I do. I relived it yesterday, wondering how the tide of life has changed the course. Wondering how my interactions in the virtual world have changed. May be this demise, the slow exit, is meant to remind us of what social media is supposed to be. As the zipped folder lay safely waiting to be opened again to spread some sunshine on a dreary day, I wonder if FB would shut the shop someday, no tax on making the imagination run amok, would I be feeling the same?

Autocracy Over Democracy


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A quiet Saturday night dinner with a group of friends turned sensational when the discussion veered towards politics. NaMo had already seeped in with his heavy breathing and everyday front page ad, Rahul baba managed to do his bit with ‘women empowerment’, Robert Vadra did it just with his pink pants, Arvind Kejriwal made the cut with his ditching in Delhi and dipping in Varanasi, Mulayam Singh went berserk with his wild tongue. The chit chat turned the dinner table into a war zone where everyone, including the plates and cups of my house, had an opinion. One friend dived in Arnab Goswami style and said, “So Ms Soni, India wants an answer. Who do you think can lead our democracy to greater heights?”

I stated a fact that stunned him. “Don’t insult the sacrifices of our politicians by calling our system a democracy. We love autocracy and plate it as democracy. ”

Isn’t it true? We vote; that is the only part where we use our right to topple the government every five years. What happens during those five years is a slap in the face of the system where we continuously look up to that one man or woman on the top to keep giving us baits to nibble on. There are evening shows where Arnab and Rajdeep fight it out for the maximum ratings on the account of these baits. Politicians swing chappals while the smart ones swindle money. The roads remain patchy, the rain water free flowing. We have elected someone to do the job, which is just another peg in the several layers of hierarchy, the layers democracy brings in permanently. It just does away with a single ruler policy for decades to come, allows us the chance to bring in another one as a part of five year plan.

The system has been manufactured with care as we have given them enough evidence that we like being pushed around. Self-containment has always been an issue with us. The truth is that we lack the self-discipline that a democracy demands. We conveniently wrap its absence in the garb of ‘government is not doing anything’, and while saying that put up a permanent paan stain on the wall right next to the man we are talking to.

“Oh! There is so much of filth on the roads”, we cringe our noses feigning disgust and the next moment throw a Lays wrapper out of the car which our dear child has just finished while staring non-stop at the children begging for alms.

“There is so much of chaos”, the morning traffic makes us say that with a disturbing look. The next approaching red light sees us jumping the signal in frustration halting the traffic coming from the other side, doing our bit.

Isn’t it just like expecting fidelity from our partner while performing lap dance to the tune of hundreds?

Hypocrisy at best, democracy at worst.

We always look for somebody to enforce rules on us. If a man clad in khaki stands at the signal, our vision turns 20/20, we notice the zebra crossing as well.   We don’t notice the yellow placards with ‘No littering’ but as soon as a law enforcement officer blocks our way, we start looking for dustbins. We enjoy dictators because they put us back in line, doesn’t matter if they take away our freedom of speech, make hierarchy even more prevalent.

Indira Gandhi was one such iron hand. Politically ruthless, believing in centralization of power, she made outstanding economic decisions that gave India autonomy in number of sectors. But when Allahabad high court charged her with dishonest election practices, using government machinery for the party upliftment, she found a way out. Emergency was declared for the following two years, which brought the power solely in her hands. Police was given unlimited powers, her way of dealing with the opposition. Even the Congress workers who had an independent mind were replaced by her loyalists. Media and publications were censored and not allowed to publish anything without the nod of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. She made many constitutional changes bending the democracy to immune the post of Prime Minister from judicial scrutiny. She extended the state of emergency twice until she believed she had crushed her offenders.

The fact of the matter is that we hailed her. It was only when she showed her shrewd, ruthless side during emergency, she lost some of her supporters.

We like being told what to do. Because you have to admit, we are a nation of talkers rather than doers. We discuss things at dinner table but as soon as we are with ourselves, we unleash our uncivilized side, looking for someone to tame us. We like to tell others what to do and not do it ourselves. Marching orders need to be in place for even self -control. We keep arguing, we keep bringing people down, but don’t like to look inside unless someone holds us from our neck and makes us do that. The irony of the situation is we know that. Perhaps, that’s why there is so much of NaMo chant.

Despite having our best chances with some of the progressive, extremely dynamic leaders, we have mostly chosen the ones who dictate the way and make us follow. Because that’s what we know best -follow. At best, we are an autocratic democracy where the emphasis is only on who is going to lead us rather than how.

The Sounds of the Morning


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I see the dawn break from the huge glass door as my eyes struggle to open and leave behind the dreams that danced in them the previous night. The chirping, the barking of a neighbor’s dog form the perfect background score. The running water in someone’s house adds to the effect. The alarm is yet to ring and tell me how it is now time to head into a new day. I lay in my bed to enjoy that warmth created by the sheet and the bodies, reeling in my mind what tasks to take on today, what chores to finish, what deadlines to meet.

I breathe in, soaking the silence before the whole house wakes up and starts humming. I go to my terrace to take the morning sunshine, the rays trying to reach the deepest corners, liberating the pores, the chirping continues. I see a car passing by, someone already taking a step ahead towards the mission of life. An old couple taking a walk, holding hands, sharing silence. A zealous man jogging in the garden, the light wind creating ripples in the pool. The rays of sun playing on the ripples as if someone has thrown gold dust all over. Few leaves join in the celebration of life too. The leaves that have fallen from a lone tree, the huge branches, now naked, shedding its inhibitions as the summer sun grows strong with every passing minute. The branches revealing the cycle of life when among the brown, lifeless foliage, you spot a green sapling making its way. I smile with the trust that the tree will be green again, the shade enormous, home to life.

A cooker’s whistle breaks the morning hymn. The world is waking up.

As I turn around to wake mine, they lay in the sweet slumber in perfect unison. The hands, the legs, the heads perfectly synchronized as if dancing to the same tune. Why not, father and son they are. So the gene pool does play a role. The shape of hands, the way they put them on the bed even in sleep, the way their heads are tilted, must have been twins in the previous birth.

The alarm senses the deep thought and rings sharply to announce, wake up. The bodies move, the eyes flutter, and the day starts taking baby steps in my house.

Frankly Spooking: A Book Review


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I have grown up watching Zee horror show, movies like Viraana where the ghosts were blister faced and women inevitably encountered them in shower. The coffins opened, custard frothed from the blisters, the heads turned 360 degrees, sometimes without the bodies. Gross, I know but that was the horror served hot on the plate that I would gobble without thinking twice. Then entered the Stephen King’s novels, the real potion. Horror didn’t remain confined to old abandoned bungalows. It plagued the cities, found in the shops, wandered on the highways. A step closer. Though it was just written word, not a movie playing scene by scene, it would make the hairs stand at the back of the neck. The sensation, the adrenaline rush unmatchable.

Indian ghost stories, somehow, have usually been limited to churails, old chowkidars, haunted hills like Mussorie, Shimla, unable to meddle in the daily life. Ruskin Bond’s few stories come to my mind but since they have been set in the hills, they spook me when I am on a holiday. The other ghost stories do provide an eerie setting in the night but never frightening enough to make you feel that someone might be standing right behind you, in spirit, probably seeing every word you are typing on your laptop.

‘Frankly Spooking’ does that.

It brings the ghost to the dinner table, at the places we identify with like malls, classrooms, office, colleagues, your own home that you have been living in for many years. This book is a collection of short stories in the horror genre where ear phones have a life of their own, dead have social gatherings, tattoos breathe. The imagination is uncontainable, running amok at times; the spook it generates is spine chilling.

The scenarios in most of the stories are unsuspecting, people going about their regular work and the ghosts just make their presence felt. A distinct feeling that you get when you read this book is that you are never alone, anywhere. That is a remarkable feat on the part of the author.

He plays with your subconscious mind to generate a reaction, of shock, disbelief and chill. The ghosts don’t have a back story, they are unapologetic and love scaring people. The good part is that the tales are never gory, they scare you but the ghosts don’t gurgle blood or squash you against the walls to create a visual impact. Few of my favorites are Director’s cut, Wall of Silence, Dada’s house, Inked, Together in it.

I think writing in horror genre is very difficult. The length has to be right, the suspense has to be maintained, the chill has to be introduced just at the right moment. A person reading a ghost story knows that a ghost will appear but it is a matter of how and when, the unpredictability, that takes you by surprise. Sriramana does that effortlessly in most of the stories. Apart from one or two, each story stands tall claiming the top spot. Some stories are really short. I wish that they were longer to spook me a bit more. Nonetheless, a treat for the horror lovers.

If you enjoy horror or you are the one who watches a horror flick through the curtain of your own fingers, loving and still not loving, give the ghosts in ‘Frankly Spooking’ a chance. They will scare the hell out of you.

Author: Sriramana Muliya

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Horror, Fiction

Price: 299/ -

The Coffee Shop


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The perk of being a writer who works from home is that you can start your day at your own pace, schedule your meetings as and when you like, work wherever you want to. If you don’t want to work at all, you can spend all your day in pajamas and no one will ask you why. But that’s not how I figured my days would be like. I always needed a special corner in the house to get my thoughts flowing, a routine so that I could stay true to my work. Sometimes the clutter would put me off, at other times the ringing of the doorbell would. I wanted peace, a place away from the familiar faces, away from the whistle of the cooker or the constant nagging of my mother. My good that there was a rustic coffee shop just few minutes away from my apartment complex. The only hitch was that it was inside the railway station.

Hitch or blessing in disguise?

It served good coffee, there were fair share of visitors, there was no peace but there were many stories. Loud mouths, tired bodies, family feuds, sparkling spontaneity, you could get anything you wish for. The head phones provided peace and the eyes provided the stories.

So for months now, I would wake up, have bath, gobble my breakfast, excuse myself from the all and sundry of the household that would chain anyone’s thoughts, not only a writer’s, and make my way through the bustling platform to this coffee shop that functioned 24*7. For nights, only a small part remained open, the whole facility awakened sharp at 10:00 in the morning, guzzled till 10:00 in the night. I would be among the first visitors to reserve the best seat of the house. Best not only because it offered a full view of the entire coffee shop to observe and shape the experience, a broad window to peep out to the world without being noticed but it also had the power plug right next to it to keep my laptop humming for the entire day. What else does a writer need – a cup(s) of coffee and a laptop that never stops buzzing. Despite being old, rickety, the coffee shop had wi-fi to remind you of changing times.

Neither the mornings were dreary, nor the afternoons stretched out. The evenings, particularly busy. There was always one or the other interesting character marching in. Many times, love birds would drop by looking for free wi-fi and a sweet conversation, either real or virtual.

But today was different. My mom had some important appointment so she had left early and with her, the morning cacophony too. Even at the age of 35, she believed I couldn’t function without her. After a complete set of repeated instructions, the whole house was left to me, the quiet and peace I had always yearned. I thought of staying back but somehow over the months, it was my favorite spot that set my brain cells on fire. So I had as usual reached there and reserved my seat. The ideas just poured with every sip and clunk, the faint buzz of the coffee machine, the light laughter in the background. Just when I was totally engrossed in a story that was titillating my mind for hours now and the typing was just not matching up to the speed of ideas that were flowing feverishly, a dark green summer dress interrupted my thoughts. The sparks of her beauty flew all around. She breezed in with a big trolley bag, a long string purse hanging loosely from her shoulders, her waist length hair moving frantically hiding her face as she sat right in front of me, albeit a few tables away. There was an inexplicable pull that made me lift my eyes time and again from my laptop. Her shapely, full legs criss-crossed in the knee length dress, the tender toes adorned with black nail paint made her all the more tempting. I wanted to see her face but a book, a damn book in her delicate perfectly manicured hands covered all her features except… except her eyes. The arched eyebrows seemed shaped by a master craftsman. The lashes, beautifully curled, drooped on the face as she read line after line without moving the book even a bit.

I had always romanticized the scenes at the train stations. Blame the DDLJ and the cheap novels that I read in my teenage. There was a certain seduction in the possibility of a chance encounter with a stranger. But I didn’t see that stranger as someone this young.

Still, it was the longest wait of my life, waiting for her to lift her eyes from the book and look at me. This suspense was now killing my own story. I fidgeted with the chord, the empty cup of coffee, made a loud clunk with it but to no avail. What is it that she was reading that she didn’t have even one glance to spare for me? I looked good and had a good height. I was not the one to be overlooked by girls. Despite my middle age, I had the edge, so I believed, to make them spare a good thought for me. Averagely handsome but deep eyes and a thoughtful look was enough if you overlook the day old stubble and the home slippers in my feet.

“Kite Runner” by Khaleid Hossaini, the title read. I couldn’t count how many times I had read that book. I had the author signed copy resting with pride on my work desk at home. My all-time favorite book was in her hands and I was jealous. Jealous of the man whose writing was getting all the attention and I was lurking there like a hungry dog desperate for just one look. Puppy love…. Was it?

She twitched as if she had just heard what I was thinking and then looked straight at me. Her slightly brown eyes lined with kohl killed me. She drank me gently and in fraction of seconds, she returned back to her book, her eyes, fixated again on the pages that echoed friendship and betrayal. I, for a moment, thought of my friends and how they would react if they saw me going mad for someone who I haven’t even properly looked at. But it vanished as soon as I eyed her again, her beautiful hands moving through her silky, slightly wavy hairs that contoured her face. She looked at the boy serving the coffee and signaled him to get the bill. The book was on the table now, her radiance made my heart beat faster. Her nose, her lips, her chin invitingly innocent, looked shaped to perfection.

I had to make my move now or else she would be gone. I walked slowly to her table and in an attempt to strike a conversation, I said, “Ah! Kite Runner. It is my favorite book. ” She looked at me and said, “Pardon?”

“I said it is my favorite book.”

“Oh! That’s good” and she again started looking towards the counter.

Not to take it lying down, I asked, “Have you finished it yet?” I pulled the chair and sat on it.

“No I haven’t.” She said with an amusing look in her eyes.

“I have an author signed copy with a beautiful dedication.”

“Oh! Really”

Her monosyllables were making me go for her even more. It felt as if she knew it.

Her eyes penetrated deeper into me. How I wanted them to look just at me and nowhere else. There was innocence, a sense of calm yet playfulness in them.

They were betraying her now, a slight nervous streak appeared.

I just smiled back.

“So what does the dedication say?” She asked breaking the connection, shifting her gaze to an invisible object on the table.

“Do you want to read it? I will just go and get it for you. I live nearby. ” I wanted her to say yes, anything to be by her side for few more minutes. And added, “Or you can come with me?”

Her lips made a move but her throat caught the sentence midway. “Well…, I don’t have enough time.” She paused and my heart plunged deeper in my stomach. “I have a train to catch. So thanks but no thanks.” She said in a disappointed tone.

“Can I walk you to your train?” I was smitten. I didn’t want to lose any chance of spending some more moments with her though I knew it would end as soon as the train would whistle goodbye to this station. Her nod was enough to make me collect my things, leave my favorite seat knowing fully that I wouldn’t get it again today. But I wouldn’t get to be with her again too.

“So stranger, what do you do except sipping coffee here and practicing pickup lines?” She interrupted my thoughts as we made our way through the crowd and forced me into a full throttled laughter.

“I write in my free time.” I said with a wink.

“Hmmm… a writer. Sounds intellectual. But at the train station?” She questioned.

“Well, I get to meet pretty strangers like you.” I smiled. “Where are you heading?”

“To my college. The vacations just got over. I am in First Year B.E.”

My hand brushed past hers. We looked at each other; a rush of emotions clouded the judgment. When we unlocked our eyes, that lingered on a bit longer than they should have, there was silence. We made our way through the shadows, not talking to each other, hearing our own heart beats.

Her train was already at the platform. As she searched for her seat and adjusted her luggage, I kept pacing outside alongside her, not to lose her in the melee. I could have gone in and helped her out. But something stopped me. The dainty windows of the second class AC could allow only a hazy view. I moved closer. I pressed my hands on the window and peeped inside. The tubelight created a familiar shadow leaning against me on the other side. The hair were now tied in a ponytail, which highlighted her cheek bones. I squinted my eyes to capture the radiance, one last time, to feel her gaze right into me, to touch her hands that were right opposite mine, through the glass. She said something, I could make out. But what did she say? A smile spread across her face. I moved my hand on the glass as if to touch her face and turned away. I didn’t want to know.

I wanted to keep her in my memory, the way it was just now. What we had, the moment, couldn’t last longer. It would have been diluted with the words; it would have vanished because there was no possibility of us getting together, ever.

But I still sit at the same seat, in the same coffee shop, writing, and in the heart of hearts, waiting for that stranger to walk in again. I still go and look at that train, from distance, in the hope of spotting her, wondering if she thinks of me too.

Pic courtesy: en.wikipedia.org

The Almond Tree: A Book Review


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A generous soul whose answer to violence is peace and a strong headed boy whose answer to oppression is fighting back with even more grit. The Almond Tree begins with the story of two brothers in a strife ridden Palestine and follows the generous one, Ahmed, on his journey to make his mark, create a good life for him and his family despite all odds. It spans across a wider timeline starting from the year 1955 when Palestine was facing the illegal occupation of its land by Israel to year 2009 when the ground invasion was continuing mercilessly in Gaza, again by the same oppressor.

On one hand, it depicts the brutal assault on humanity, clear violation of human rights, the protagonist making its way through the misconstrued system, if there is any, making it big in the foreign land away from the slaughter house as he is a maths genius, offering a life worth living to his family. On the other hand, it shows the ground reality of a man, his brother Abbas, who gets crippled due to a vicious attack, takes on the path of high morality and fights for the cause. The characters are well etched, particularly the protagonist and his guiding light, his baba.

The book began on a promising note. The first chapter itself built a lot of expectation around the narrative, the story, the strife. Add to it, “the story can do for Palestinians what the Kite Runner did for Afghanis”, the quote from Daily Star, I was intrigued. But as I moved along, after few chapters, the clichés started holding true. Though it humanizes the land, the people that have been oppressed for so long, you can’t help but wonder if it is just fate or matter of pure convenience on the part of author to create a lot of melodrama.

Yes, it was and it is the life of hundreds and thousands of people living in the strife ridden country, robbed of their property, rights, mental peace they are entitled to. Who wants to live under constant fear, when your sister is blown to pieces because she chases a butterfly and accidently steps into the mine field, when your father is imprisoned for a crime he never committed, when your brother goes into coma due to a hate attack, wakes up, remains crippled for life, when your house is blown to pieces because your father is considered a terrorist and you live a life of abject poverty. The author manages to put a face to the character that goes through all this. He emerges victorious, wins a nobel prize for his genius too.

The brother, however, as expected, lives a life of downtrodden, hates his brother for siding with the enemy, runs away from home and is one fine day, after so many years, spotted by Ahmed on TV in burning Gaza as a prominent member of a banned Brigade. No wonder, he now wants to unite with his estranged brother and bring him to the mainstream.

After a point, the events in this story almost seem contrived. The situations too cinematic, too dramatized. The heart change of the rebel brother, after the death of his son, also seems forceful as if things have to come together at the end. Hard core rebels who start fighting for a cause are never deterred by the deaths of their own blood and bone. They, in fact, bring in their families and several generations go on to push forward the agenda.

For me, this book is not ‘The Kite Runner’. It does give a peek in to the lives of those who have struggled, are still trying to come to terms with their losses. With this book, the story of such people is spreading around. People who have been living in the darkness of a tunnel, some of them trying to create bridges of hope and peace. It is non-judgmental to a certain extent as well, a sincere effort I must say. But on the whole, a courageous story which loses its heart in the middle.

Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Publisher: FingerPrint

Genre: Fiction

Price: 295/-


This review is posted as part of Book Review Program by The Literary Jewels.


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