Prompts this week: Illustrate, Incite, Irksome, Intruder

Irksome thoughts intruded her mind while she contemplated her response. How dare he ask her that? But it wasn’t really his fault – it was his job after all.


What was it about his words that incited that ginormous need to take up his offer? She had to weigh her words before responding.

What if she gave in today? This was a difficult journey after all. But it also meant falling off the wagon on day 2!

Now, his tone seemed annoyed, but it snapped her out of her reverie.

“Mam, you are holding up the line. Would you like chips or apple with your salad?”

Fighting the urge to scream “CHIPS!!!”, she sighed as she said “Apple, please”.

Darn diets!!

The Bride Who Would not Burn


Image Courtesy: Internet

Young and smart Delhi girl Poonam Bajaj takes a chance at connubial bliss with Ravinder Arora, a small businessman from Delhi. The match is arranged by their families and the friendly neighborhood panditji, the marriage broker who is more interested in lining his own pockets rather than ensuring the compatibility of the individuals he sets up for a lifetime of togetherness.

An arranged marriage in India which celebrates the union of two families rather than individuals, is a potpourri of human expectations and this story is filled with the most ambitious ones, depending on which person you ask! The mound of expectations that make up this story are those of:

  1. Poonam, who dreams of a cozy future with her husband,
  2. Mrs. Bajaj, Poonam’s mother, who is in a hurry to get her daughter married and is also kind of broke but nevertheless promises a fat dowry to the family of a possible match for her daughter
  3. Mrs, Arora, who dreams of nothing but a big fat dowry, a daughter-in-law that would also act like a live in maid  and a never-ending sponsorship for her son that would help him meet his business goals
  4. Ravinder, the easily manipulative son who wants the excitement that comes with a pretty wife and a big fat dowry
  5. Papaji, the senior Mr.Arora, a truepenny and Ravinder’s father who genuinely wants his son and daughter-in-law to be happy
  6. Panditji, the marriage broker who pulls of the ultimate coup by bringing all the above parties who have nothing in common together

As a  result, we have a  wonderful book that takes a look at the compelling issue of dowry practices prevalent in modern India in the form of a plot that is filled with humor doused with a heavy dose of reality.

The chapters about Poonam pressing her mother-in-law’s feet while churning out of innumerable cups of tea and dusting most of  time reminds the reader of the umpteen saas-bahu serials that seem to run on cable all day. Then there is a dawn of realization that this is the kind of life that many woman face on a day-to-day basis in India.

The book is written in the format of a play, complete with notes on stage setups, props and costumes. The entire story is a conversation between a judge who would be presiding over the dowry case of Poonam Bajaj who thwarted an attempt to burn her alive by delivering karate kicks to her husband and mother-in-law, a public defender representing Poonam and a litigator representing the groom and his mother.

The author brings the reader’s attention to the double standards in our society as it applies to women very cleverly through the arguments between the judge and the two lawyers. What starts as a conversation of the usage of Section 498 A of the India Penal Code moves on to sensitive issues about how women and men are judged differently based on the way they behave or the various traits that they exhibit as a person . For e.g. A man who is well versed in martial arts would be viewed as strong and brave whereas a woman would be deemed aggressive! A woman with an extraordinary sexual appetite is judged to have a low morals whereas a man with the same desires is supposed to be normal and virile.

The book goes on to depict how weddings these days are more like business deals, ritualistic and a cheap display of wealth and one-upmanship rather than the spiritualistic celebration of love and harmony that they should be. If weddings are about the display of wealth and power, the marriages resulting from such weddings seem to be all about expecting the world of the new bride and her family. Nobody is happy if a bride enters her new home with jewellery and gifts for her new family because when compared to another bride in the neighborhood who probably got more jewellery and bigger, better gifts for her new home.

What started as a practice of a bride’s family giving her a wedding gift based on the capacity of the family during the days when the Indian law only entitled sons to inherit family property has now morphed into an ugly practice that makes it mandatory for parents  to send their daughters to their marital homes with fat wads of cash, gold and diamonds, silks and expensive gifts for her new husband and her in-laws. It seems like an entire country missed or rather chose to ignore the memo that clearly states that daughters can inherit family property too and that there is no need to unnecessarily compensate them in the form of a fat dowry!

The author describes this beautifully through the words of one of the characters that states the following: “only when this age old practice o dowry combines with modern day consumerism that the resulting concoction makes for a deadly cocktail

So what does a family who is not happy with their new daughter-in-law’s dowry do? They turn abusive and in many cases they do away with her for good! In India, women are still burnt to death when they don’t satisfy the dowry demands of their new marital homes and most of their deaths are made to look like kitchen accidents.

What’s worse is the fact  that even the courts of law investigate such cases from the point of view of the abuser rather than the victim especially when the victim does not conform to societal norms of being a woman. And that is precisely what happens in the case of Poonam. The puritan judge that listens to the arguments of the two lawyers believes that on some level that Poonam probably instigated her husband and mother-in-law to set her on fire and that she is probably the one at fault rather than those setting her on fire.

All these issues and more are brought to the forefront by the simple words of the author, Rajesh Talwar. The play manages to keep the reader’s attention throughout and even manages to raise a lot of relevant questions in the reader’s mind. By doing this Mr.Talwar has managed to educate the readers about a very serious issue plaguing the country and has also initiated a thought process on what we could do rid away with this ugly practice still practiced in all echelons of the society.

Since I am someone who feels very strongly about such issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about some of the cultural practices that plague India. At 223 pages it is a quick and easy read about a sensitive issueIn fact, it would be a great idea to have a student friendly edition of this play to made available at schools all over India to educate our young minds about the practice of dowry and its effects on the lives of the people involved.What better way could there be to nip this process other than making the next generation of young people to seriously think about such issues?

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities

The Amma and her Maid! It’s Complicated!

Booking page 1

Image Courtesy: Internet

Maids – those powerful women who can get away with pretty much everything! You can’t live with them, their attitudes, their non-existent leave plans, their tardiness, their sorry tales and all their drama! Yet, you can’t live without them! A slice of Indian life from the town of Chennai 🙂

Sunita looked visibly annoyed as she listened to the yarn trailing out of the her maid Anu’s mouth. The woman had disappeared for 3 days in a row without any prior notification, leaving Sunita to handle a house full of guests, the resulting loads of laundry and the never ending piles of dishes along with a full time job!

This was not the first time that Anu, who had received several warnings from Sunita  in the past about being fired  had gone AWOL*.  And yet, here they were again, listening to the tall tales that Anu spun about how her daughter had eloped to get married, while her son was ill from an infection on his foot!

Sunita was exhausted and Anu’s high pitched voice with dramatic undertones irritated her more than usual. She cut Anu off mid way…

“So, is your daughter married now?”

“No amma, she has run away with that useless boyfriend of hers and we are still looking for her!”, responded Anu

“Who is we?”, questioned Sunita

“My son and me, amma!”

” I thought your son was ill when all this happened! You said he cut his leg on some pieces of stray glass and his feet have been bandaged! How exactly is he helping you? I am getting sick of your lies…why can’t you just let me know before you take off? What good is your phone if you don’t answer it?”

“He hurt his feet while we were looking for her!”

Anu was trying hard to patch the gaps in her story. Pushing her luck she continued, “Please don’t fire me amma, I need to take my son to the doctor again and I need more money. Would you consider giving me an advance?”

“What?? You still owe me thousands of rupees in back loans! I am not giving you any more money!”

“But, I need to buy my daughter a new saree and some jewellery….”

“I thought you were angry with her because she ran away with a man you did not approve of! Now, you want to buy her gifts?”, exclaimed a confused Sunita

“I still need to give her dowry…what will my son-in-law’s parents think of me?”

Mindful of being dragged into Anu’s family drama, Sunita raised her voice and ended the conversation “Just get back to work and next time you do this, I WILL fire you!”

Anu scampered away as fast as she could while flipping out her cell phone to call her son and remind him not to show up around “amma’s” house as his feet were supposed to be bandaged!

Sunita heard her and sighed! This would happen again, maybe when Anu’s daughter returned (if had she  run off in the first place) and she would still not fire Anu.  She would probably loan Anu more money to throw a feast for her daughter and new son-in-law.

Finding a maid was the hardest thing to do in the city of Chennai! Yes, the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid could be best described as complicated!

*AWOLAbsent without leave.

I See You


Image Courtesy: Internet

“Liam’s life has become a waking nightmare. He’s plagued by constant headaches and is hounded by inexplicable events bordering on the insane. He is convinced that his vindictive ex, Lily, despite her vehement denials, is the one sending him disturbing packages. The only bright spot in a life gone berserk is Aliana, the woman Liam has loved ever since he saw her in a parking lot. But a shocking revelation about her leaves him questioning everything he knows. As Liam plunges deeper into the twin abysses of unbridled love and unexplained insanity, he has to do all it takes to stop his life from spiraling out of control

If you are in the mood to be spooked out in the most subtle manner, you need to get a copy of “I See You” by Aindrila Roy right now! I won a copy of this book in a give-away hosted by author Sharath Komarraju along with some other scary gems 🙂

As implied by the title, the plot is about a spirit that only its victims can see. The book starts out slowly, introducing us to the main protagonist Liam Redmond and details the nuances of his life. The only thing that stands out initially is the fact that the protagonist suffers from migraine headaches which disappear miraculously every time he meets Aliana Swinn, the girl he has fallen in love with.

The plot thickens as Liam’s health spirals out of control and his nights are filled with hallucinations, nightmares, visits from a mysterious entity and a cat which follows him around in the most creepiest of ways! What happens? Who is Aliana? Does Liam suffer from kind of mental disorder or is he crossing lines between reality and the supernatural? Can anybody help him?

Well, I cannot say more without giving the plot away so I am going to control myself. However, let me tell you, I started reading this book at around 9:00 p.m at night and had to put it down around 11.00 p.m while the rest of the family was asleep because I was getting creeped out!

For an author debuting in this genre, Aindrila Roy has done a wonderful job. In the foreword she mentions  that this was a story that had been written years ago and has been refined multiple times to the book that it is today. The hard work definitely shows and has not gone to waste.

I loved the fact that her language was simple and straight forward, devoid of any complicated words or rhetoric! This really helps to keep the reader’s attention on the plot and ensures that we keep turning the pages of he book without having to look up words in a dictionary.

Initially, I did wish that the book had been Indian in its setup. However, now I believe that it is perfect just the way it is!! Also, at about 218 pages the book is quick and satisfying read.

Grab a copy if you enjoy reading horror and the supernatural.

About the author:

Aindrila first penned a short story, of a princess defending a fortress, as a 11 year old. Glad that it was out of her system, she threw that piece of paper away. But over the years, her imagination kept tormenting her with story ideas, until she decided that it was time to finally let them out.

She now writes full-time, mostly horror-fantasies, filled with complex and anguished souls, fighting monsters within and without. She is fascinated by Indian and Greek mythology, Japanese animes, high fantasy novels, and paleontology, all of which have found their way into her stories as subtle tweaks to the backdrop.

‘I See You’ is her first published story

Love is Vodka – A Shot Ain’t Enough

"Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring." ~~Page 4 Image Courtesy: Internet

“Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring.” ~~Page 4
Image Courtesy: Internet

Being a love child; Moon is anything but a conventional teen. With a leading TV news anchor as her mother, an aspiring entrepreneur as her boy friend, the word LOVE baffles her. The whole idea of having one partner and love being eternal intrigues her.

Life turns upside down when she falls for her mother’s boyfriend. Destiny further complicates things by blessing her with a mega modelling assignment and turning her famous overnight. A war between her head & heart exposes her to various hues of love.

Will she decipher the true meaning of love? Embark on an exhilarating rendezvous with Moon and discover love like never before

Of late, I have been reading loads of books that have been heavy on relationships and emotional quotients and wanted to take a break and read something as light as possible. When I found this book on BlogAdda with the interesting blurb and even more interesting cover it seemed like the ideal choice – a chick-lit that promised some light reading and some smiles. Well, the book was definitely light and did make me smile but it also made me squirm quite a bit [could be because I think I am a bit old fashioned!] but more on that later.

Can love be found with just one person? What is the difference between love and loyalty and why are the two connected especially when “Love is all about freedom whereas loyalty is just another form of slavery.~Page 6

A story about finding true love and how one needs to sample several “the ones” before finding the actual “one” (see inset above). And here comes the comparison to Vodka – a single shot is never enough to enjoy the heady feeling that the drink promises! The book has been narrated from the point of view of a nineteen year old girl with a unique name – Moon. With a powerful single mom who has given her everything that money can buy, Moon comes across as one of those confused kids who have everything in life but don’t feel quite settled. These kids seem to be looking for that one particular thing that could anchor them somewhere with someone – that crazy little thing called “Love”. Those of us who have heard of or seen kids of rich and powerful parents who don’t have much time for their kids can easily identify with the kind of rebel that Moon is.The plot is fairly simple – it details the evolution of Moon from a lost and spoilt teenager to that of a mature individual who finally finds her true love and accpets herself for what she is through a journey of bad affairs, jealous boyfriends and a strained relationship with her mother that mends gradually through the course of the book.

Things that baffled me about the main protagonist:

In spite of having a steady boy friend Moon is still on the prowl for “the one” and in the process falls for the 48 year old boy friend of her mom! Now, this I really didn’t get; only because kids these days are much smarter and mature than to get into a messy affair this complicated, especially when they seem to have the whole world on platter! Especially when they are 19! Maybe if Moon were in her mid 20’s it would have made more sense (or not!). The chapters describing her relationship with “D” and their amorous escapades put me off!(Recall my reference to what made me squirm!) And it just got worse because she happened to be cheating on her steady boyfriend whom she treated as an on demand chauffeur and a walking personal bank account whose job was to swipe his credit card for her whenever she required.

What are we trying to teach young Indian girls in post independent India? This does not make much sense when women are trying to break away from all shackles and establish themselves as individuals in their own right nor is it correct to make it look like men can be treated this way. I am not saying that the author is trying to do this but then when such statements are repeated often, that is the idea many readers would get.

Somewhere along the plot, the readers find Moon gradually getting addicted to alcohol! First she sneaks into her mother bar and pours herself a shot and this gradually becomes a habit. Soon she is sitting around in pubs, nursing a glass of the same (seems like a scene out of Sex and the City) but then the age of the protagonist doesn’t really make drinking look cool and stylish even if she is a model! I am sure there are many models don’t drink at every given opportunity. Thank God! she doesn’t become an alcoholic but all the tell-tale signs of the same are present – I wish this could have been handled differently..

Something that I appreciate about this book is that a male author has been able to reflect the turmoils and feelings of a teenage girl  well. I havent not read chick-lits by any male authors till date!

On the whole, a quick and light entertaining read if you have a few hours on hand….I rate this book 3/5

Leaving you with some lines from the book that make you think as a person and also if you happen to be an Indian woman immersed in the midst of the myriads of Indian culture, societies and practices :

  • Why can’t we all exist the way we like, without catering to anyone’s expectations, beliefs or value systems?
  • Why can’t there be freedom of choice in life?I mean, share when you want, close the doors when you don’t want to.
  • We spend so much time socializing, putting our best foot forward and trying real hard to make people like us, to garner social acceptability. In the process, we clog our organizers with birthdays, and anniversaries, just trying to show others how much we care. All this to win some so called friends.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!

Foolish or Wise?

A note worthy incident from my childhood ; an act that was performed without much thought, an act that was not quite dangerous(depending upon how you look like it) but an act that cannot be deemed smart either, especially when you are in class IV. In fact, the right word for what I did is “Foolish”!

 Back when I was in primary school [am ignoring the jabs about how long ago that was :)] I used to take “Bharatnatyam “ dancing lessons and the dance school was about a 10 minute drive and a 30 minute walk away [this was the 80′s and there wasn’t much traffic, other than the scooters that zipped past and the normal amount of cars that went at the approved speed limits] My dad always dropped me at class before 5 and picked me up after around 6.00PM – sometimes he would be delayed due to other chores but I would hang around the gardens with the other kids or play with the black dog aptly named “Karupaiyah” [meaning the black one in Tamil].

 One particular evening, my dad didn’t turn up until about 6:45 p.m. The other kids had left and I was getting bored sitting by myself. My dad had never been this late before and I was getting restless. Being the carefree kid that I was, I decided that he as busy dealing with other matters at hand and I should help him out by finding my own way home. Taking matters into my own hands, I decided to walk home by myself – yes! the 30 minute walk! I knew the way, so I thought why not?? I started walking and after a few nervous minutes, [considering that this was the first time I was doing something by myself] I started getting confident and was even thrilled at the prospect of going home without adult supervision! Oh! I felt so grown up! I even stopped at the Ganesh temple on the way to pay my respects to God. By then, I was only 10 minutes away and I was in such a good mood that I even practiced some dance steps along the way! It must have been a funny sight – a kid in her dance uniform dancing on the road 🙂

Just as I was swaying my hips (like dancers of course) and dalking [my new word for walking+dancing], someone called out my name with an element of shock, surprise and relief. It was my dad, apparently very relieved on finding me. He had been late, thanks to a punctured tire and had panicked when he didn’t find me at the dance school. He had been rushing back home looking for me frantically all over, when he spotted this crazy kid dancing and walking on the road! Must have been a hilarious sight! Well, I went back with him on the scooter and got a earful after we reached home on how I should not disappear without informing people and that I should exercise more caution!

“It is foolish” they said, “not to forget ridiculous!!” The best part is that my parents were actually trying to control their laughter while trying to be strict with me…the sight of their daughter swaying her hips on the road was too hilarious to be serious about! The icing on the cake were their baffled faces when I offered them the sacred “kumkum” that I had got at the temple!

“You better be careful” said my mom, “Not all kids who wander by themselves are not lucky to get back home safely.

“Be brave, but exercise caution and common sense” declared my dad.

There was no point in explaining life and the impacts of one choices to a bewildered primary schooler! So, that conversation was saved for another day with and I was let go after the appropriate warnings. Stumbling upon this contest made me wonder what it was that day that made me do what I did. After much thought I decided that it boiled down to the fact the that I did not think much or had much fear of the unknown. In my head I knew the way home, I knew the traffic rules(they had taught me in school to use the footpaths; these were quite usable back in the 80′s and I also knew the look right and left rule while crossing the road) and I was just spunky enough to take the route and walk. I had NO FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN and did not think that I would go wrong – I knew I was going to reach home and I was thrilled about doing it myself! I was excited and optimistic – rare qualities that are displayed these days in the face of the unknown…..

These days it is all about analyzing any situation to death and then planning the next move with every care and precision possible. Now, I am not saying that this is wrong but many a time we end up not doing what we want to do! Many adventures are not experienced and we always look back on certain choices and situations with a small amount of regret laced with “What Ifs” and “coulda, woulda, shoulda”. We live our lives dreaming and not acting or implementing – all because of the fear of what may go wrong and the feeling of insecurity that stops us from leaving our cozy present, even if we hate it! I would love to make that mistake I made that day when I was in class IV, every now and then and see where life takes me! Maybe I will not regret being wise enough to be foolish! NOT FEAR THE UNKNOWN, but embrace it and be courageous enough to do what I dream of!

Also sending this entry to the Write Over the Weekend contest, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

A dummies guide to visiting famous South Indian temples!! – Part 2 [concluding part]

The previous post on this topic stopped at the point where all the darshan lines merge at a single point at the sanctum sanctorum! Simply put, you see a lot of heads, pushing and shoving to determine who gets in first!! The concept of line etiquette and patience is pretty much unheard of! So here is how you deal with the rest of your journey 🙂

Image Courtesy: Internet

Pray to God for mental and physical strength (as if you hadn’t all this time) as all of you try to get into a single file. Be prepared for the disdainful looks you may receive from those in the free darshan lines and the condescending looks from those in a line more expensive than yours…If it gets too much to deal with, do the following:

  • With a smug look on your face just start saying your favorite sloka loudly or
  • Start singling your favorite prayer songs or
  • Start saying “Om Namo Narayana” or something on those lines or
  • Do the “Govinda, Govinda” :-p

Just when the others are taken aback by surprise or irritation, you can get squeeze into the line! Oh and make sure you pull your spouse and kids with you! Especially the kids – what the heck, if the kids are small they can ride on your shoulders! As long as they look cute and say their prayers or even do the “Govinda, Govinda”, you will be ok…..

Just when you are wondering when this will end you find yourself right upfront  and the vaadiyar (priest) is in a hurry to get rid of all you! But wait you have seen only the feet of the main deity and not his face or any other facets of the marvellous being in front of you! The vaadiyaar is shouting at you to get out while you like others try to make the best of the opportunity to get a good look at the detity and submit all your prayer requests at that moment.

Now the best way to avoid the priests yelling at you, pull out a curreny note in the highest possible denomination you can afford and make sure that the vaadiyar can see it!! Bingo! Now that you have his attention…slide towards him to get the best seats to look at the deity and start praying…you might probably get an extra 30 seconds but then its worth it compared to just having 5 seconds!

Image Courtesy: Internet

😡 Be prepared for a lot of jostling as there are those behind and around you who feel that you don’t even have a right to stand there… there may be pushing (usually a lot of it),  some name calling (not anything outrageous, it is a temple after all), etc.,

When your 30 seconds are up, make sure you drop the currency note into the vaadiyar’s plate; don’t worry if you are lost in your payers! The vaadiyar will definitely remind you to drop off your dakshinas! 🙄  It’s all about the money baby!! Do budget for the Dakshinas too!!

If you are generous you can drop the note you have. If you feel that the vaadiyaars have no rights behaving the way they do by denying the rights of a devotee to see God in the first place or if you feel that they wanted to get rid of you anyway, you can pull out a smaller curreny note at that point and drop it in his plate and rush away from the spot before the vaadiyar can say “Show me the money!!” You know he can’t run after you…the crowd will get in his way if his stomach doesn’t! 😆

Trust me, getting away from the hullabaloo is always a walk in the park!  It’s  always easy to get out than it is to get in!

Image Courtesy: Internet

By now you will be filled with a feeling of exhilaration by your achievement of having seen the deity for whom access should have been easy in the first place! But then what can you do about the ways of the government, a population that  never shows signs of slowing down and the functioning of  temples which these days has become more business like rather than personal!

For the grand finale: you can look at the other poor devotees standing in line about to embark on the same journey that you have completed with a look of achievement and pity and then be off to embark on the next journey! To visit the next deity in the other part of the temple! But do hurry there are only 800-1000 people waiting in line. And make sure you have budgeted for the expenses and have an energy shot before you get into line!

Good Luck with your temple visits!!! As long as you have a sense of humor, you will find that these visits do rejuvenate your soul 🙂