Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fiction - The Real Enemies

“How much do you make in a month?” he asked.

That should have been my first clue, but I gave in. I saw him walk inside the restaurant and I was already in awe. Seven, seven boys I had rejected in the last week. This one ought to be the one. Moreover, this was not how the eldest sibling among four sisters was supposed to behave.

He was tall, dark and handsome. His profile said he had a decent education and was making enough money. That was enough. Actually that’s how the arrange marriage system works in India – the boy should make enough money, the girl should look pretty.

So when he asked me how much I was making, I thought he was genuinely interested in my career. We hit it off and were married within two months. That should have been my second clue – why so soon?

He seemed distant initially. All the love and affection he showered upon me before the wedding had disappeared. I even had this suspicious feeling that he was into someone else. Oh, I was turning into a stupid wife whom I didn’t like at all.

The mother-in-law laid down the chores for me. I was responsible for morning breakfast before going to the office and ironing clothes after coming back. This was not that bad, I thought. At the end of the month, she called me in her room and asked for my salary.

Now I was new in this house and I had no idea how the finances worked. I thought it was rude to ask for the ‘balance sheet’ yet it was imperative since my hard earned money was now going to be a part of it. I hesitated at first but given her audacity to ask me for my salary, my confidence went up a notch.

“Didn’t he tell you? - We need to pay back the debt.” She said matter-of-factly.

No he DID not! “What debt?” I asked.

“His father took a debt of 50 lakh and lost in betting. When we came to know, he was extremely ashamed. He went to the train station and committed suicide. It’s been 10 years now, the interest has scaled up. We still have to pay off a huge proportion.” She rattled off like she must have done a hundred times before.

And I was told that the father was a patient of depression and that made him commit suicide.

I stood up and walked back to my room. It was all making sense now. Maybe he was into someone else. Maybe I was brought in this house only to pay off the debt. Maybe I made a mistake by just going by the rule book – good looks and good money makes a good husband.

He was coward enough to give in easily. There was a Pooja in his life who was ‘just a school teacher’. His mother had worked hard to provide for his education and so, he had to bring a hen that lay golden eggs. I was the one who had to pay for his father’s betting mania.

Frankly, there was nothing to look forward to in life now. I packed my bags and told him that I will never come back. His family and his debts were his to handle, I was a confident young woman who didn’t need a ‘Mrs.’ tag to live my life. I could be divorced and happy.

I guess the mother-son duo was luckier than the father ‘cause I was back the very next day. Apparently, my parents threatened to commit suicide if I did not return to the place from where only my coffin should leave. Like every other time, I gave in.

That should have been my first clue – my life was going to be miserable henceforth.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stories of Hope

Newly married women have their own problems. They not only have to adjust with a new family but also a whole new lifestyle. Some say that men also have to make adjustments – I totally agree. But it is also true that women need to make many more modifications in comparison.

Take for example their career. I have rarely seen a man moving to his wife’s location of work. It is always the woman who moves to the city/country the husband is working at. I have seen so many women feel absolutely depressed because of lack of career opportunities after getting married.

This is especially true in case of women moving to the Gulf countries. Somehow these countries have lessor prospects for women than for men. Three of my friends – Ananya, Sunaina and Shweta – had a tough time adjusting because of the same reason.

Ananya and Shweta gave a couple of interviews initially only to get rejected. The position was usually filled by a man with a little more experience than them. Sunaina got selected in a place of work only to find herself surrounded by Arab men with whom she didn’t feel very comfortable with. She eventually quit her job after working for about four months.

But I am glad none of them gave up. Ananya kept pursuing her Chartered Accountancy exams till she could start working. She did have an MBA degree but that didn’t stop her from studying further. Shweta also applied for online courses and kept giving exams. Their CVs were improving with qualifications and that was atleast a saving grace.

Meanwhile Sunaina went to India and got in touch with a wholesaler who sold imitation jewellery. She went back to her country of residence and participated in an exhibition. The first day wasn’t any good. But on the second day, her sales boomed and she made up for the cost of operation.

Make no mistake – standing at a stall for 12 hours straight requires physical and mental strength. But it was her desire and determination which made her accomplish that with ease. It has been more than a year now and I am proud to say that Sunaina has participated in most exhibitions that have taken place in her city. She is making good money and is extremely satisfied.

Meanwhile Ananya and Shweta kept looking out for job profiles that would suit them. Ananya got lucky with one and started working about eight months back. She is now a respected employee of her company and is doing really well.

Shweta had an experience in Human Resources and started applying for freelancing jobs online. With her determination and technical expertise, she got a few jobs. Being busy with what she loves makes her really happy and I’m glad she’s doing well too.

These are a few of my favourite stories of optimism. It was the passion that these women showed that led them to the careers of their liking. It fills my heart with positivity and the feeling that if you are motivated enough, you can get whatever your heart desires.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bachelor of Arts

I come from a family where education was never given much priority. I mean, I and my brother always got good grades and our parents were awfully proud. But that was genetic - we did well because we were disciplined and had a decent IQ.

My mother studied only till class 10. My father passed class 12 and joined the family business. They were, in a way, afraid to teach us. We always studied on our own and somehow managed to be in the top ten in our class.

When it was time to decide what subjects we would take for our graduation, my brother was told to take up commerce and join the business. My father said that he can go to the University to sit for his exams, but eventually he will have to sit at the shop. I was too young to understand what would have gone through his mind back then; but if it was me, I would have definitely revolted.

When I passed class 12, everybody asked me what I wanted to study. Frankly, I had no idea. All my friends came from a family of doctors, journalists, the works. They know what they wanted to do. I thought of following their league since I never thought of a career per se.

I had taken up commerce after high school. So the obvious choice for me would have been commerce in graduation as well. But with all the career counselling drama that my friends were going through, I thought of giving my subjects some importance as well.

It was then I decided to go against the family tradition of taking up commerce! I had already started publishing my poems in the local newspaper and so, I had to take up English. I wanted to learn about Shakespeare, read Pride and Prejudice and know more about Wordsworth. With one subject in mind, my heart was already in Bachelor of Arts.

I thought of taking Psychology as my second subject. I was deeply interested in human psyche and so this was an obvious choice. Now the third subject should have been either History or Geography, but I found those two really boring. And so, to neutralize the effect of a bold step, I decided to take up Economics!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the subject. But I also wanted to keep my options open. Taking up Arts was a bold decision as far as my family was concerned. Economics could give them some relief. Frankly, I don’t think my family understood the concept of choosing your subjects, they just thought that the world was studying Commerce and their daughter should not be left behind!

In the time to come, I was the first one in my family to take up an MBA degree. The boy I chose was from IIM. I thought my parents would be proud. Alas, they didn’t know what IIM was!!! Anyway, I am glad I did #StartANewLife with the right thing to do and not the in thing to do. It was a life changing decision, and I’ll always be proud of it.

Best Friends Forever

My friend Pooja, she was expecting her first baby. She and Prateek were childhood friends turned lovers turned life partners. Knowing that she was pregnant was big news for them. Seeing them start a family made all of us extremely happy as well.

I met Pooja in kindergarten. We were chadhi buddies in real sense of the word. From dolls to teenage secrets to notes in college, we shared almost everything. When she started going out with Prateek, our friendship was tested. Her mother would call me at any time of the day enquiring about her. I was an expert at making up stories. Even today, when I think of the excuses I made for Pooja, I feel extremely proud!

She moved to another city after marriage. We kept in touch through phone calls and text messages. But slowly we both got busy in our lives and spoke only on birthdays or special occasions. We always started from where we left, but it was not as good as before.

When Pooja conceived her first child, Prateek was asked to go to America by his company. It was a time when a lot of people were being laid off and so, he could not refuse. Pooja went to stay with her in-laws and that is when the real trouble began.

One day, in her eight month, she called me. I was surprised to hear her crying at the other end. She told me she was missing Prateek and was not comfortable with his parents. She wanted to go to her parents place but because of certain customs, she was not allowed to. It was a very tough time for her and she didn’t know what to do.

That’s when I decided to renew our friendship just like the old days. I gave her a video call every single day to ask how she was doing. We discussed our past stories, our school days, our college life and everything that we shared in the years gone by.

She started to feel better very soon. My calls were like a whiff of fresh air in her dull, boring routine. Her in-laws were not bad people; she was just missing her normal life and her husband. This was the time when she needed him the most but could not have him.

But #together we solved these problems. Ofcourse I could not replace her husband (thank God for that!!) but I could give her the laughter and optimism that she needed. Being in America, Prateek struggled with the time difference. That was another problem that Pooja faced. Thankfully, I was in the same time zone and she felt relieved.

Prateek came back when she was just about to deliver the baby. I am glad they could be #together at that magical time in their life. The little one, Maisha, calls me Maasi. Pooja and Prateek say that they are forever indebted to me for her mother's well-being at a crucial time.  But really, the pleasure is all mine! That was indeed a memorable time for me and I am happy I could be with her and give her the strength and motivation to look up.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

55-word fiction: Terrified

It was red all around her. It seemed sticky and thick and absolutely gross. She flinched and thought of all the cotton she would need to clean it up. How would she go and tell her mother?
This nail-polish bottle was the only one she had before it fell on the floor and broke.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Movie Review – Fifty Shades of Grey

Most people would want to watch Fifty Shades of Grey because of the hype surrounding it. We did the same. To make things clear in the very beginning, I think this film should have been called fifty shades of nonsense/boredome!

It is a story of one Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who meets and falls in love with a wealthy businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). She soon discovers that Christian is into violent sex but still feels drawn towards him. And the ‘gentleman’ that he is, he waits for her to give her ‘consent’ to whatever he wants him to do with her.

Anna takes her time. She lets him do things but not everything. She finds him so charming that she keeps all her confusions aside. There are times in the movie when you feel that Christian is falling for her too – but like Anna, the audience feel confused as well that why he would do such things to someone he cared about. Eventually, she realises that she cannot take it any longer and that Christian would never treat their relationship like a normal couple. In the last scene, it seems she breaks up with him (unless a sequel comes and we learn new things ofcourse!).

Now this movie is like glorified pornography. The uncensored release has bold display of the duo’s body. When the same thing is repeated again and again and again, you get bored. The dialogues, however, don’t seem to be an essential part of the movie! There is absolutely no thrill, no drama, and no acting to look forward to in the movie.
And at another level - this movie is a bad message. It shows how women usually go for bad guys thinking they would change him which usually never happens. It shows how people readily accept domestic violence and still look like gentlemen. All throughout the movie, Christian tries to lure Anna with expensive gifts which do make her smile. I can go on and on but that would just make me feel more disgusted!
I only want to applaud Dakota’s courage for going ahead with such a difficult character. For a woman to put herself out there is not that easy. Other than that, you can watch your ‘collection’ at home and be happy. This movie would not add much. However, I think everyone will watch it just to know what it is about. Maybe we have just run out of good ideas in this world to be so curious about such a pathetic film!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Television Series Review – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This Netflix new series created by Tina Frey (of the 30 Rock fame) and Robert Karlock, started as recently as 6th of March 2015. It is about the story of this girl, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) who lived in an underground bunker for almost 15 years. She, with 3 other girls, was kidnapped by a cult which told them that the world had ended and they were the only survivors who had to live there forever.

 They were rescued in the pilot episode and thereafter Kimmy started her life in New York filled with enthusiasm. She did not want herself to be known to the world as a ‘Mole Woman’ like the news channels were calling her and so she started a fresh, new life. She started living with Titus Andromedon (a gay, aspiring Broadway performer) who becomes her confidant and best friend. Their landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) is as quirky as one can get!

Kimmy finds a job as a housemaid/nanny with a wealthy Manhattan family. The lady of the house Jacqueline Voorhees is shown as a lonely, fashionable woman marked with the absence of a busy husband. She finds happiness in Kimmy’s company. Jacqueline has a teen stepdaughter, Xanthippe Voorhees, who’s always taking Kimmy’s case.

It is an extremely light-hearted series with a good dose of humour. Kimmy’s spirit is amazing and makes you fall in love with her. She’s ignorant of the new world and so her language from the 90’s makes you laugh. Her interactions with Xan are the funniest showing the real difference between this generation and the previous one.

The series is original and witty. You won’t be rolling on the floor, but you will be smiling alright! And it is not totally girly! Surely worth a watch.

The Funny Restaurant

There was a lot of hype around the new restaurant that had opened in the city. Apparently it had taken sarcasm to another level but customers seem to have been enjoying that.

Basically it had truth written all over its menu and people admired that. Plus, the taste and level of service was impeccable which had added to its quick success.

I was quite curious to see what the fuss was about. So I asked my colleague Vanita to join me so that we can go there and critique away to glory for our magazine.

As we entered, ‘’ and ‘’ marked clear distinction between seating sections for singles and families, respectively. The waitresses were dressed as nurses or policemen depending on the kind of menu you wanted – high calorie or diet conscious that is. There was a weighing scale – don’t be guilty later - in the centre in case you were inclined to be served by the nurses on that particular day.

They didn’t have food items listed as appetisers or main course, it was all about ‘Are you a bore?’ or ‘I’m feeling adventurous’. Fries, nuggets, fried rice, butter chicken were all listed under the first section. With Le Pain Perdu and Char Kway Teow, ‘I’m feeling adventurous’ section left me with a loss of words.

I thought a few things were just a little over the top. The atmosphere was quirky, but why were people raving so much about it?

I ordered a hot chocolate from ‘Are you a bore’ section. The nurse looked at me and just smiled. I had no idea what it meant. I would be damned if she thought I was over-weight and should have called the police gal instead.

When my order arrived, I found it extremely sweet. ‘So, the place is nowhere close to what I’ve heard about it,’ I thought.

The nurse took the glass from me and came back with a bigger, better version of the beverage. On asking she explained, ‘It seemed miss, that the sugar wasn’t more like you thought it was. The milk was less and so we thought of upgrading your drink with a bigger version. Cheers.’

Impressed, I gave it the five stars and a huge smiley.

The Routine

We shifted to Jamunagar soon after our wedding day. The in-law's place had only two bedrooms, and there were six of us. Thankfully, Arun explained the situation to his parents and we moved out within a few weeks.

Our new home was beautiful. It was on the last floor of a three-storey apartment building. Our society had six such buildings with a small park in the middle of it all.

Every morning, men and women walked in that park. Older people came at around 5:30 - 6 and young parents walked around after 7:30, when the school buses had just left. Even after 9, grand-parents would sit around laughing and discussing politics.

I watched them all from my bedroom window. I had given my own names to the ladies - The jeans wali madam, the saree-clad didi, the specs wali woman, and the round bindi aunty. Of all the people I saw in the mornings, it was the round bindi aunty whom I found most fascinating.

She came at exact 8:45 a.m. every single day. I knew because that is the time Arun left for work and I use to get free from the house-hold chores. That was my time to breathe after a hectic morning. I use to sit by the window with my cup of tea and stare at her endlessly.

It seemed to me that she use to go elsewhere for her walk because at that time she only sat on the pavement bench looking constantly at the society gate. It was her favorite spot and nobody dared to sit there. Ever.

I loved the way she dressed up so early in the morning. Her red saree, which was sort of a uniform, was always neatly draped. She wore a thin gold chain in her neck. The round bindi on her forehead was almost the size of a 50-paisa coin. I just loved the fact that it was at the exact same place everyday - just like her.

It was our first Sunday in this new house when the doorbell rang quite early in the morning. The guard asked us to join the members of the soceity for a special ceremony that they were having for an elderly resident who had lost his family recently. Aparently, his son died in a car accident and his wife could not take the trauma. It was a sad time for him and the soceity wanted to show full support.

As I was getting ready, I saw the round bindi aunty sitting on her spot. I called Arun to tell him her routine. From our window, I discreetly pointed out the lady to him so that no one in the society would see me.

Even after much explanation, he could not place her. I later realised that the round bindi aunty was still waiting for her son and I was her only witness.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Talking about our Son

To My Husband,

I am writing this after watching the story of one Nirbhaya of our country. When I saw this documentary today, I wanted to tell our son that he should never show us his face again. But then, whom are we kidding? It was probably us who raised him that way.

Do you remember that night when you came home from office and I had cooked okra? You never liked it. You threw your plate away and told me to prepare fresh sabzi for you. I should have known that our son was watching and he will learn to do the same.

When Sanjana, our neighbour’s daughter came to our house to play, we told our son that she was a girl and she would do household chores when she grows up. We told our son that he can be the doctor and she can be a cook. We told him that it was not a good habit for people to stay out of the house till late. This was more for apt for girls. Girls were indeed like precious flowers who needed protection.

I always told him that he was strong because he was a boy. I told him he should not beat girls because they were delicate. But when he saw you beat me, he totally misunderstood the concept it seems. He thought that it was for men to tell women what to do and what to avoid. He thought they were not only delicate physically but also frail mentally.

I left you and he always blamed me for our fights. He thought I was rebelling against culture and traditions and that women should not be disobedient. I never explained to him because I didn’t want him to go against his own father. I thought that by doing so I was teaching him how to respect his elders. It was all my fault.

Really, I should have known that it was all my doing. When he was going to study Law, you told him to get the best grades and become a successful lawyer. We never taught him about morals and values and right and wrong, we only talked about success. He did as he was told. He found the most talked about case and took the limelight.

But he supported the rapists. Not only that, he talked badly about women and what they should and shouldn’t do. I cringed when I saw him on Television. I felt awful that he was my blood. I felt terrible for the parents whom he was fighting against.

I know it was our fault. But how did we know this will happen? I raised him to the best of my ability but forgot to mention a few things. I wish there was a book on parenting which I could hand over to all future parents so that they don’t raise such sons.

I really wish we could do it all over again…

Your Wife.
This is a piece of fiction. Any resemblance to living or dead is purely coincidental.
Image source: here

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

All in the Stars

It was a lonely night. I got thinking about the stars, the moon and all the planets that our country associates with, especially when we are getting married. I remembered the time when mum rejected tens of proposals that came my way because my stars didn't match.

Akshay and my stars matched like none other. My mum was excited. He was living in the U.S., was making good money, had a well-to-do family - it was like a dream come true for her. Even though my gut refused to agree with all the perfect things, I decided to go along and said yes.

We had a few hic-ups initially. But then, all marriages are like that. I thought our stars said that we would be a perfect match, and so I adjusted with all his habits. I was particularly annoyed with the fact that he discussed everything with his mother. My mum said that it was a good trait. He was a family person and would always keep me happy. Mothers were suppose to be right always; I tried to take that by my stride.

Within a few months I started to feel claustrophobic. Mum consulted a pandit and he said things will become better once we had children. Wasn't that the purpose of marriage anyway? I discussed kids with Akshay and he was ready right away. Purna was born within a year. I felt complete.

Seeing me happy with her, mum's belief in stars was reinstated. Everything had worked out perfectly with us. My loneliness was not visible to her naked eye, but I didn't tell her that.

It was my upbringing I guess. We were not suppose to discuss what made us sad. We were suppose to adjust and compromise and be happy with whatever we had. Being selfish was against our culture. Women had to bring up their families and give love to everyone around them.

That night I thought about myself. Purna had left home to pursue her graduation. She would now come only on festivals. I had absolutely nothing to look forward to. I cooked and cleaned and occasionally made love to a man I never loved. What was the purpose of my life - I wanted to ask the astrologer who had matched my kundali with Akshay.

Mother called me a few days later saying that the astrolger told her that something amazing was going to happen in my life. I didn't want to believe it because nothing he had said worked out for me before this. A month later, Akshay had a sudden heart attack and he died on the spot.

Mum cursed the astrologer and swore never to go back to him. For me, I stepped out of the house for the first time and started working as a teacher. I found freedom and great joy in doing what I was doing.

That astrolger was right this time, something amazing did happen in my life.

Image source: here

Saturday, February 14, 2015


They say they’ve lost a lot of matches
They’ve made very few runs, dropped a lot of catches.
The God isn’t there, the veterans are gone
They’ll lose the cup, will be hard to hold on.
But Dhoni is a cool captain
He won’t let his efforts go in vain.
With the likes of Kohli and Mohit Sharma
I am sure there will be some thrill in the whole drama!
And so I look forward to the World Cup
That’s what I’ve always done, that’s how I’ve grown up.
These guys rise to the challenge, they have a good track
I’m rooting for them, we absolutely #WontGiveItBack!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


They plant trees
But no one sits in its shade
They smile a lot
But it’s all a charade
They say they love
But it seems so fake
They make relationships
But time is too hard to forsake.
They say a lot
But do they believe?
They say they will try
But then, why do they deceive?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

She Never Gave Up

I passed her house every day on my way to the bus stop. She sat in the veranda, always knitting something or the other. Occasionally, she would look up and smile at the people passing by. Sometimes I saw her walking around and climbing the two tiny steps into her home.

I never understood why it took her more than a second to climb those steps. I would walk from the Banyan tree which was almost a 50 feet away from her house, I would stroll ahead of the veranda towards my stop, and stand there looking at her but she would have climbed only one by then. Looking at her I knew that I never wanted to be a frail 80-year old.

I would sit on the bus and stare at her empty life. What was her story? Where was everyone who once lived in that house? Was she always that alone? Was she a robust woman in her youth? Several questions wandered in my head every day when I saw her, yet I never had the courage to go to her and ask.

One day, as I was crossing the same path, she smiled at me and gestured like she wanted to talk. I was scared, but the curious girl in me wanted to go as well.

"You are early today. The bus will come after twenty minutes, honey."

"Yes, aunty. I forgot my watch at home. Guess I will wait."

"You can keep your school bag on the chair and wait here if you want."

"Umm. Ok. Can I help you with something?"

"Oh, aren't you sweet. I am absolutely fine, honey."

"What are you knitting?"

"It is a scarf for my grand-daughter. She is getting married next week. They will all come tomorrow from the U.S. and the festivities will begin."

"That's good to hear. Can I see the scarf?"

When I saw that scarf, I got to know everything I needed to know about the lady. On one corner of this beautiful masterpiece were these words which said much more than she could tell. It said - She never gave up.

Image source - here

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fat Chance

Being bullied was not new to her. Being called names was not new to her. But being dumped - this was a first.

‘Fatso’, ‘Moti, ‘Bhains’, ‘TunTun’ -  Triya had lived with a lot of names all through her childhood. She was accused of stealing food from tiffins. Sometimes the accusations were baseless, but a few times, she was actually hungry beyond words. The compulsive disorder to hog all the time made her thick skinned. As long as she was able to munch on to something, she ignored all the rude remarks and accusations.

She was even the funny one. Friends were easy to come by because she entertained everyone so much. As school finished and college started, she didn’t realise that it was time to do something about the weight.

Rahul found her witty and smart. They hit it off at her best friend’s 18th birthday party. From then on, they did everything together – eating out, watching movies, going shopping, the works. She was beginning to fall for him.

But Rahul had other plans. Aparently she was not his type. Triya began to realise that she will have to look better in order to do something for her love life. She resolved she would participate in the ‘Biggest Loser Jeetega’ campaign in the near-by gym and show the world how gorgeous she was.

With little motivation, she began the program. She worked hard for a couple of weeks but then gave up. Meanwhile she met Ajay in the gym. Like Rahul, he was charmed by her personality and humour. They started seeing each other and love began to blossom.

Ajay won the ‘Biggest Loser’ campaign by the end of the year. Triya was exactly where she started. And on the night of 25th December, Ajay dumperd her saying that he couldn’t go out with someone who had no self esteem and motivation.

That was it. Triya looked at herself in the mirror and thought she had no reason to live. Losing weight was not easy for her. She had tried, but it wasn’t her cup of tea. She thought she had no chance of finding love in this life. She decided to hang herself on New Year’s eve.

She got up in the morning of that fateful day with no purpose in life. She had given up her hopes and desires. She sat on the couch with her last bucket of ice-cream and switched on the TV.

The anchor was interviewing a group of obese women who were planning to make New Year resolutions. One of them particularly caught Triya’s attention. The lady was with her husband and was much more over-weight than her. She said, ‘The best thing about the New Year is that we have the ability to start fresh and turn it all around. This is an extremely fat chance, and I am willing to take it.’

There was something in those words that made Triya throw the tub of ice-cream and postpone her suicide plans till the next New Year's eve. She opted to take that Fat Chance and well, the rest is history.

Image source: here