A beginning..

It started with a message on Facebook. He had said ‘Hey’. She didn’t see the message until a couple of hours later. She responded with a ‘hey, whats up?’. With the time difference between the two countries, it was unlikely that he would see her message until the next day. She knew it, yet she checked her messages a couple of times during the day. Why would he message me, she thought. She had been introduced to him a few years ago while she was at Amazon India. There were no notable conversations after that. He smiled at her in hallways and she smiled back while she was there. He was very handsome. She remembered thinking what it would be like to spend an evening with him. Why would he message her after all these years? She checked his Facebook profile and like old wine, age had done wonders to him.

She checked her messages again and saw that he was active 15 minutes ago. But he hadn’t read her message. Why wouldn’t he? Maybe he didn’t open her chat? How did this Facebook Messenger work anyways? It is during these ‘urgent’ moments that you just cannot figure out how simple things work. These dumb apps, they probably change the rules with every update, she mumbled to herself. Why was she perturbed? Why did a message from him rev up her hopes? What hopes? It was just a message. Maybe all he wanted to say was ‘hello’.

She was in a frame of mind where she was open to a relationship. She was seeking one, a fling maybe? Not a fling, what she wanted was somebody to tell her that she was a good person. Someone to appreciate her. Someone to love her, even if it were for a short period of time. It was nothing more for her. She was in and out of relationships, they came and went at no particular interval. This is how she liked to live life, on her own terms, in her own space. She never dated anyone from work, it was almost always a friend’s friend. While it was fun, it lasted. Once the relationship.. acquaintance maybe a better word, got serious, she backed off. She did not want someone to tie her down, she wanted to fly, fly to distant lands, freeze the memories in her camera, and write.

Her tryst with marriage and commitment and relationship had died when she divorced her ex-husband a year after her marriage. It was an arranged marriage. Her ex-husband imagined her to be an obedient, dependent person whom he could keep a leash on. He had no idea what her spirit was like. She didn’t have a choice, her independent self was trapped inside during her growing years. She just dreamt of prince charming and thought she lived in a rosy world with happily ever afters. She grew up during the year of marriage, and slapped herself awake. Once awake, she ran as far as she could from him, from her parents and from everyone she knew, till she landed in the land of freedom.

That is where Anu flapped her wings and soared.

It was not until another two days that Jay sent another message.

 

 

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At the movies..

I am a movie buff.. I love everything about the movies, specifically Indian movies. I am that person who will watch a movie in any language reading subtitles in English. Sometimes I watch the movie twice, like a Bahubali, once to read the subtitles and the second time to just watch the magic on screen. I have always watched movies. During childhood it was two movies a weekend via a rented video cassette tape from the video library nearby. Pick them up on Friday and return on Saturday or pick them up on Saturday and return on Monday. My brother got to pick a Mithun Chakraborthy movie while I got to pick a Jayaprada one. As hilarious as it seems now, yes there was a wave of these actors once upon a time. My parents got to pick a Malayalam movie once in a blue moon.

I grew up watching the sanskari-type (Indian culture extravaganza) or the bad guy-good guy type dishum-dishum movies. My brother had an array of toy guns imitating the heroes of these movies, shooting down the villian. Once in college, my mother and I took our craziness to the theatres, buying tickets in black, sitting in the first row, second show, you get the grind. She was my movie-pal.

As I grew out of my last teens, like most other girls my age, I fell into the traps of the lovey-dovey type, dreamy eyes boys, frock clad girls “variety” love stories. An ancient version of today’s chick flick! Meaningful cinema happened somewhere in between where classics like Bharatham, Mr and Mrs Iyer etc crept in. This was when I started watching a lot of Mohanlal movies.

Langauge has never been a barrier to enjoy a story. And well, stories are my thing 🙂. Alaipayuthey steered the way into Tamil, Aparna Sen into Bengali, Kannada was what we spoke at home and went with neighbors to theatres, Malayalam was mother tongue so parents influence, Telugu was from Sagara Sangamam. Every Sunday Doordarshan played a national award winning movie around 1 pm after the news for the hearing impaired. This round lady with heavy lipstick sat in the corner of the TV screen reading the news in sign language. I remember staring at her trying to make sense of sign language. So coming back to movies, Oriya, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati blah blah movies aired during this time. All of them were award winning and slow, which gave me ample time to read the subtitles. I guess that’s where I picked up the subtitles-reading habit.

I shouldn’t miss to mention the umpteen Suraj Barjatiya and Karan Johar type films which I watched over and over again for absolutely no rhyme or reason. A colossal waste of time but pure no brainers, where a dog or a cat or a mouse would win over common sense!!

My young woman years delved into the deeper off-the-shelf romance adventures like Ijaazat, Sindhubairavi etc. Feeling the film became a big thing where I would wake up the next day with a hangover from the film. The characters stayed with me for a few days and that became the yardstick of a good movie. If the characters stayed with me, I had had a wonderful movie experience. There are a few films like Pursuit of Happiness, Life is Beautiful, Fashion, Arjun Reddy, Mahanati, Iti Mrinalini, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Vikram Vedha to name a few; which elevate you to a different level.

Then there is ’96!

The feel the movie created is like it went right into your body and gave your heart a warm squeeze! I don’t think there is a more beautiful and rustic narration of destiny in a movie. It simply says that if two people are not destined to be together, it just will not happen. Period. The subtleties, nuances, every touch has a meaning, every look says more than the words uttered. The music carries you in the sway, like drenching you in a drizzle, like the wine slowly soaking your gut.. like they say in Tamil.. sema feel!!

To life like stories and narrations, cheers always!!

Either left or right…

I was driving to work this morning and as I got onto Lamar Blvd, here in Austin, I hit a red light. There were quite a few people on either side of the road waiting to cross the road. As they were crossing, I noticed most of them were in athletic wear, shoes probably taking a walk or jogging. One had airpods, one had a good grade water bottle, Nike shoes, probably branded clothes… My first thought was, I am driving to work and these people are taking a stroll??!! What do they do for a living? Probably retired or telecommute-blessed people… maybe? My morning had been the regular pack three lunch boxes, breakfast, get ready, hit the road, freeway traffic, 45 minutes to get to work… the same old, you know the drill…

The light turns green, my reverie breaks and I drive on. I am on the left turn only lane at the next light waiting for the cars in front of me to drive ahead. There is a long median along the length of the left lane. As I drive into the left lane, there is a man in old dirty clothes, torn here and there, unkept beard growing from everywhere. He has a handwritten sign clamped to this chest which reads ‘need money for food’. He is walking up and down the median, looking at every car passing by. When the light turns red, maybe there will be one or two cars, who will pause their music, roll down the window and pass a one dollar bill. As I am about to turn into Barton Springs Rd, there is another elderly man starting his walk along the median in the hope that he can make one meal today.

This is the world we live in, extreme to its core. Extremism is the order of the day, be it politics, religion, livelihood, opinions. People vote a party into power and the losing party does everything it can to make the government dysfunctional. There is no need for a world war three to ensue, because we are already living in it. Every country has an ongoing war between the ruling political party and opposition. When will you do the country any good? Religion is maligned with extremists and their opinions. A place of worship has become devil’s kitchen – be it the churches where children are abused or the Hindu temples where judiciary and government are poking their nose. Leave the places of worship to the believers. Don’t turn it into a battleground. Media fills us day in and day out with discussions of left and right parties. Media is such a powerful tool, but to them, throw everything at the viewers face, and let the viewer take sides, has become the TRP mantra. They are the catalysts in this war. In this war of blowing up “my extremist opinions”, we’ve killed everything in the process, balance of life – richer are becoming richer, poorer and middle class are well, hanging from somewhere, the forests – literally destroying them to make more money and make the divide even stronger, animals and their habitat because humans are so greedy, they want everything, water – clean drinking water is one of the greatest blessings of our times, air – fart pollution into it as much as you can. When will people start sitting across the table and actually talk to make this a better place? Maybe never! Everyone just wants to make their booty bigger, take sides, switch sides and what not…

I still go back and blame the technology and internet boom, which brought information to our palms but screwed up our minds. I don’t have an opinion is not acceptable anymore, you have to take sides. Everything is becoming more and more binary, either 1 or 0! Well that’s what this entire gamut of technology splurge is based on, the presence of absence of pulses, leaving us humans more inhumane, day by day.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ released in 1991, we are twenty seven years after the fact, governments have changed, people have come and gone, we are simply getting stuck stronger to our extremist thoughts… Now probably there is no point even trying to…

Frickin’ Fourteen

Being a mother to a fourteen year old is one of the most difficult phases of my life, well, so far. I know other moms going through these struggles will agree with me. Like my friend said, “adolescence tantrums”. What are they cribbing about? The boys, I mean. They don’t have to choose bras, sanitary napkins, go through the obnoxious pain of periods, then what the hell are they so icky about? It was so much easier when they rolled around in their diapers or just tagged along holding our hands, wasn’t it? Their mood swings to top it all, my goodness, is that even allowed?

How many times have you heard, ‘you don’t understand’ or the more polished lingua ‘you don’t get it’! I get it boy, I really do. I went through your age, I was not born as a 40 year old. I went through this without a frickin’ cellphone and internet!! Every time I rant the same gyaan over and over again, I must admit, I get bored! I see the listening switch going off on his face so clearly. I must admit, I am one of those mothers who doesn’t want to be traditional too much, yet want to be a buddy to my kids. I hate it when I nag, but do they even give us a choice?

Text in capital letters, anyone? Oh yeah, I get it. The happy face, kiss, hug emoticons come only, yeah ONLY, when I increase screen time. How did I solve it? You will not get a response if you text me in capital letters. Seriously? We are solving texting issues? How many times have I wanted to throw the cell phone from the tallest building around!

My husband introduced and implemented and monitored (yes, more credit to him, I do that on rare occasions), no-screen-on-weekdays! Yup, for many years now, the boys get to do any screen (expect educational material) only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is so effective that Friday evening when they get home from school, they won’t even notice if I am not home. Oh and screen does not start until a certain time in the morning and ends at a certain time even on weekends. Amreekan bouy says to village-born Indian mother, ‘Who does that Amma (he still calls me that), all my friends get screen everyday!!! (note the exclamations, its unending in his head, I know)

To add to my woes, iOS12 introduced “Screen Time” and I set that up on my fourteen year old’s phone. Everyday, believe me, e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y  ‘my friends don’t have this’, ‘why should I have it?’, ‘I need more time’, ‘my friend’s get to do screen everyday’, with that what-did-i-get-into look on his face. Probably worse, why-did-you-put-me-in-this-family-God? I too have said it, once upon a time. He plays on his phone in the bus, on the way to school, back from school, thats the trend you see. If you don’t do that, you are from the Indus Valley civilization, is what I am told…

Screen-time-activist – I showed my friend that I have screen time and he asked me, don’t your parents trust you?

Ouch!! That went right in…

Village-born mother – its not about trust, its to regulate the time you spend in front of that, playing games.

To top it all, my hero has braces. I have revised my counting to ten thousand (haven’t done that since junior school), by telling him to brush and put his bands on. The money I pay to the orthodontist dances like that devil in the sky, while I continue my rant of ‘put-your-bands’. I feel like I should just record these repetitive statement and just play it in the house, placards maybe?!?

His best or worst attitude is, no attitude. Something didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. Something didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. Missed out on something, so what. The chap is as calm as a cucumber. No hurry to get anywhere, except to his phone and FIFA on PS4 or to the dining table. Do they sell accelerators for people anywhere?

It’s not all a dance of the devil, there are blessings as well. As you see the tiny thing you created grow up next to you, such that you look up (literally) to him. As you revel at his handsomeness, his kind demeanor with people and you think, I must have done something right. I give it to him, for very smoothly handling a riot like his younger brother. Although sometimes he asks, ‘from where did you get this guy?’..

Should I wait for fifteen? Guess its pretty much the same or even worse. Every parent thinks, maybe the next phase is better till you realize the previous one was way better.

Wonder when the girlfriend will make her grand entry… Ooooh myyy God! (Janice style, remember F.R.I.E.N.D.S?)

It’s all frickin’ teens!!

For the record… I love being a mother, it’s my absolute favorite role!

Believe..

All I can say is, dreams do come true and believe in yourself, no matter what the world tells you!! There have been so many people I know and don’t know who have told me how dumb my writing is. I have had people ask me, why do you write, what is the point? There have been many many (repeated word for emphasis) publishers who have sent me automated emails of rejection without even looking at my work. There have been people who have mocked at me and said, you call this poetry? There were some who said so you wrote another maid’s story. Sometimes these comments have put me down, to be honest. I have thought maybe I am not cut for writing.

A recent workshop I attended put the devils to rest, when the group who attended the workshop and the instructor told me, that they loved my characters and content. The Writers League of Texas bolstered my spirit by giving me this signing booth. Finally I am out in the public, standing beside my books. It has taken time and a ton of resolve to stick my head above the water. This simply leads me to believe, that the most important thing is to believe in yourself. Period.

Excited to share the news that, Writers League of Texas is giving me a 45 minute signing slot at their booth during the Texas Book Festival in Austin.

From the website – One of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country, the annual Texas Book Festival features 250+ nationally and critically recognized authors, 20+ venues including the State Capitol, 100+ exhibitors, local food trucks, family activities, and countless opportunities to meet authors and fellow book lovers.

https://www.texasbookfestival.org/2018-texas-book-festival…/

I will be there from 10am to 10.45am on Oct 27th!!

 

At the coffeehouse…

“You really don’t share anything with me, do you?”, I asked.

After many years Akash and I went the coffeehouse we frequented before we got married. The cashier chuckled and winked as we walked hand in hand, eons ago. The place had changed significantly and so had the people…

Akash put down the cup on the table and stretched back in his chair. He folded his hands behind his head and looked out through the window. I sat looking at his face and thinking, this is the man I chose to marry twenty years ago. He looks the same, then what changed between us?

He leaned forward and took my hands in his. He fiddled with my bangles for a bit and looked into my eyes.

“Nandu, I am moving out. There is someone else…”, I sat in silence, my eyes were welling up, why do they do that? Why can’t they wait for the right moment, maybe when I am alone? I looked up, in an attempt to send the tears back to where they came from.

I withdrew my hand. Gathered my purse from the table, my phone and the keys. Why don’t I put everything in a bag instead of carrying fragments, why ain’t I whole? My sunglasses, where were they? Oh they were on my head, holding my hair in place. As I stood up, my saree got stuck under the chair. I chose to wear a saree he got me for my birthday, a beautiful pastel green and now it was stuck. Can I make a clean exit?

I finally walked out… of the coffeehouse…