Saturday, April 21, 2018

Srinagar



"Are you a guide?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Can you show us around Srinagar?"

"Sure."

We passed through Dal Lake and Shalimar Bagh. The couple, on their honeymoon, handed me the camera, as they posed against beautiful backdrops.

The Apple Orchard came next, my favorite.

"Look," the husband pointed towards the bark of an apple tree. It was his wife's name, engraved within a heart.

She was surprised, "Wow. When my Dad was posted in Srinagar, I often played here with a friend. He made this mark. But I can't remember his name. "

I hid my name badge inside my pocket.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Friday, April 20, 2018

Rishikesh



I closed my eyes and chanted 'Aum.'

A revered spiritual guru had organized a 3 day Meditation Camp, and people flocked in large numbers. I was one of them.

I had come to Rishikesh for a special mission, to do what I was afraid of. I needed all my will power.

Three hours later, I was walking towards the bank of the Ganges with my friends. They were all excited about river rafting, while I was scared.

However, it was a different experience today. I never knew I could befriend water so easily.

I had finally captured my fears.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with



Thursday, April 19, 2018

Quilon



They reached Quilon by noon.

"Welcome aboard," the Captain greeted.

Backwaters! She felt at home.

The houseboat waded along Astamudi Lake. Suddenly, a thunderstorm erupted out of nowhere. With no time to anchor, the boat overturned.

The crew hung on to their life jackets. Her husband was caught unaware, and struggled to stay afloat.

She swam faster, and brought him on shore. Her husband was unconscious, but he would be fine.

She was, however, worried he would know her secret. The mermaid had to dry herself before he regained consciousness, so that her tail would again turn into legs.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Puri



I was 15, he 10. Our parents had taken us for Rathyatra, the biggest festival in Puri, and the crowd pulled him away.

Frantic searches lead to nowhere. My brother was lost.

I got married a week ago, and my husband insisted we take our blessings at Lord Jagannath's Temple. So here I was again, reluctant.

We offered our prayers and came out, when we saw a young man distributing food to poor. Those eyes. That smile. I knew them. His face turned towards me, and our childhood returned.

I found my brother, and also my faith in God.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ooty



I have counted mists like pearls on seabed, careless, beautiful. A slight drizzle, and my counting broke.

I woke up with a jolt. Nathan was sleeping peacefully beside me. It was just yesterday that we reached Ooty, but it seemed a lifetime now.

I walked towards the mirror. Outside it rained. Inside, parched. I touched the glass, and the surface reverberated. As the ripples died, Nathan was smiling at the other side.

I stepped into the mirror, our souls met. Behind, two bodies rested on bed. Lifeless.

We should have held on, trusted ourselves. In death, however, we united.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with



Monday, April 16, 2018

Noida



It was Sam's first day at SmartTech, a Noida based IT firm. He was surprised as he entered. There were robots all around. He was greeted by one such robot and taken to a cabin.

Suddenly, the cabin door shut, with Sam inside.

"Hey. Open the door!" he shouted.

"Welcome to SmartTech, where AI meets Reality. Please hang on while we extract your brain, and replace it with AI," the robot replied.

He was scared, and then noticed, the robots walking around were actually humans, with their brains replaced with AI.

He was going to become one of them.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mumbai



His movie was releasing all over the country. He took his Mom for the First Day First Show screening. Being from a poor family, his mother had never visited a cinema hall. He wanted her to witness his success today.

The cinema hall was packed. Audience clapped in almost every scene.

Post the climax, his Mom asked, "The movie was nice, but where are you in it?"

He pointed towards the screen. The end credits rolling out had his name in bold: "Spot Boy: Vikas Anand."

His Mom had never been happier. Her son had made it into Bollywood.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with



Friday, April 13, 2018

Lucknow


Rohan, 13, was on a trip to Lucknow with his parents.

At Bada Imambara, he rushed towards Bhool Bhulaiya, a labyrinth of  thousand passageways.

"Mom! Dad! I am going in."

He walked through various pathways, when suddenly he realized he was lost. He got scared.

It was turning dark. The sound of 'azaan' from a nearby mosque calmed him. After a while, he noticed a flicker of light. He walked ahead, and saw his parents standing beside a cake with burning candles.

"Happy Birthday Dear," they chorused.

Rohan was delighted. He found his best birthday surprise, after being lost.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kolkata



The Rabindra Sadan auditorium was packed. This was her first time in Kolkata, and she was nervous.The soliloquy she had practiced now seemed jumbled.

She began, but realized she had forgotten what her act was. Her eyes welled up, and she cried.

Suddenly, a person started cheering for her, and the entire audience followed suit. Why?

Nevertheless, it gave her confidence. The lines returned, and she performed with aplomb.

She looked out for her Saviour, but He wasn't there. Instead, she found Him in a portrait on the wall. Tagore - her Messiah, smiled back.

Art never failed in Kolkata.


#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jaipur


They couldn't speak, but that didn't stop them from entertaining hundreds of audiences everyday in the busy Bapu Bazar of Jaipur. He was the Prince, she the Princess.Songs and narrations were played, and they performed to the tune. They were happy, and so was their Master.

One unfortunate day, a little girl requested, "Can I take the Prince?"

The Master readily agreed. He received Rs 200, with which he could buy another one.

The Princess cried, and pleaded, but who would listen to a puppet? She might have a new partner tomorrow, but all she needed was her Prince.

#99wordsfiction

Shared with



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Imphal



I met her for the first time at National Sports Academy, preparing for the Commonwealth Games.

"You are from North East, right? I've heard it's beautiful," I tried to strike up a conversation.

She smiled, "I'm from Imphal. North East is a direction, not a city."

There was an unparalleled dedication in her practice sessions. "Seems you will earn a number of Golds this season," I winked.

"I have to. Today, I'm just a girl from North East. A Gold for my country, and I'll be hailed as an Indian athlete. Indian - that's the identity I need, and deserve."

#99wordsfiction


Shared with




Monday, April 09, 2018

Hyderabad



"Can you cook?"

"Yes."

Their families had contacted each other through matrimonial sites.

"That's great, because I'm a total foodie."

"Me too, and I have a surprise for you."

"Where?"

"Come with me."

While the elders were talking inside, they ran to the roof.

It was a full moon night. Right at the center was a small table for two.

"This is what I've made for you, ma'am," he pulled the chair and handed her a plate.

"Wow. I love it. How did you know it's my favourite?"

He knew. It was easy.

No one can dislike Hyderabadi Biryani.


Shared with




Saturday, April 07, 2018

Gurugram



The evening shone brightly, and all the five malls, lined sequentially one after the other, looked inviting. Having successfully cleared a telephonic interview, he was offered a job in Gurugram, and he grabbed the opportunity instantly.

He didn't know anyone here, and thus befriended Tinder, and here he was, on his first ever date.

"Hey! Where are we meeting?" his phone vibrated.

Which mall should they go to? Each of the malls outshone the other. His head spun in confusion.

He made his decision.

Tinder was uninstalled.

He roamed the malls, excited, all by himself, embracing his new life.

#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Friday, April 06, 2018

Fatehpur Sikri


"They say you get whatever you wish for in the sacred Tomb of Salim Chisti. I just want our family to be complete. I even tied the thread of faith on the holy screen," she rested on his shoulder, tired but ecstatic, after their trip to Fatehpur Sikri.

He felt his left pocket. He had untied the thread. He didn't want her wish to be heard by the saints.

A sudden guilt enveloped him, but did he have an option? He liked her, but he had to convince her for divorce.

His secretary, Maya, was his new love now.


Shared with



Thursday, April 05, 2018

Ernakulam



"Camera Photography - Rs 100."

"You hide the camera in handbag. No one will know," said the husband to his wife, standing outside the Kerala Folklore Museum, Ernakulam. They were celebrating their honeymoon in Kerala.

Once inside, she took out the camera.

"Stand in front of that statue," he clicked.

"Why don't you pose with that weapons cabinet?" she flashed the camera.

Delighted, they came out, "We saved 100 bucks. Let's check the snaps."

They scrolled through the pictures, shocked. None of the artifacts  were captured.

Instead, all the pictures had a common background, the signboard - "Camera Photography - Rs 100."

#99wordsfiction

Shared with



Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Delhi



10 years as an engine driver of Delhi Metro, and I was still excited by the noise of the platform and the rushing crowd. Today too looked no different, and I started the train at Samaypur Badli.

7 stations passed, and as the train approached Vishwavidyalaya, I was jolted by a sudden horror. I applied the brakes hard. Someone had jumped on the track.

"Suicide!"

"Is he dead?"

"Call the ambulance."

There were loud instructions everywhere, deafening me.

Did I just kill someone?

I got no answer.

I walked out of the Metro. I could never drive it again.

#99wordsfiction

Shared with




Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Chandigarh



"Where did you get this money from?"

She didn't reply. She wanted peace after a hard day's work.

His husband had other plans though, "Did you steal from my wallet?"

Her eyes welled. Her strength didn't.

"Remember Rock Garden we visited last month? It was created from trash. Rubbish like you. A good for nothing woman, staying in the house and stealing my money."

"These...these are mine. I earned them," she retorted, loud and clear.

He was shocked.

"Remember Rock Garden? Trash can be beautiful too."

The home made pickles in her kitchen counter were ready to be delivered.

#99wordsfiction

Shared With

PS: While I was wondering over what to write for Prompt 'C', my wifey, Anusha, came to the rescue and suggested me the idea for this post, which I penned down. Thanks wifey.

You can visit her wonderful blog here:
http://anushadas.blogspot.in



Monday, April 02, 2018

Bhagalpur



"I'm glad I am out of Bhagalpur. Phew! I'm born to reside in a big metro, and not some small town."

I heard a haughty voice on the opposite side of my train berth. I leaned. A young lady, clad in gorgeous silk saree, was demeaning her ancestral place among her friends.

I couldn't stop myself. "Ma'am, excuse me, but your saree is beautiful."

"I bought it from a mall in Noida. It's the world famous Tussar Silk." She boasted.

"Do you know where Tussar Silk Sarees are manufactured?"

"No," She shrugged.

She watched dumbstruck when I answered, "Bhagalpur."

#99wordsfiction

Shared With



Sunday, April 01, 2018

Agra



It's beautiful. It has always been my dream to visit the Taj," she said, a radiant smile emanating from her lips, as he sat beside her, satisfied.

The Agra sun was breathing down heavily, but that didn't deter the couple from their expedition.

"All the seven wonders, we would see, one by one," he said, pressing her hands.

"Yes," her voice excited, "We would see, one by one."

Gradually, she stood up, holding his hand, and her walking stick. In her world of darkness, this was the light.

She didn't need eyes to admire the beauty of the Taj.

#99wordsfiction

Shared with


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Little Maryam - Review



While giving an acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize nomination, Dr. Saadiq Haider, a renowned gene therapist and professor at Stanford University, receives a phone call that changes his life. Abandoning his duties and responsibilities, Saadiq hurriedly boards a flight bound for India, embarking on a journey that spans thousands of miles and pulls him back into a past Saadiq thought long-buried. Seated next to him on the flight, Anne Miller-an intrepid journalist with a nose for headline news-senses the reclusive genius has a story to tell. During the flight, Anne manages to break through Saadiq's hard exterior and listens, rapt, as he unfurls a tale fraught with love and heartbreak. His story transports Anne back in time to a small, sleepy town nestled in the mountains of northern India, where Saadiq spent his childhood. Through Saadiq's narrative, Anne meets Maryam and witnesses the friendship between Maryam and Saadiq mature into an intense love; a love that is tested when tragedy strikes and the lovers are separated. Try as they might, their devotion is no match against the workings of fate, and the tighter Saadiq and Maryam cling to one another, the faster they slip apart. Now, after two decades of trying to forget his past with alcohol and drug abuse, Saadiq tells Anne that fate has acted again; Maryam is in the hospital, her condition critical. When their plane lands in India, the newfound friends part ways and while Saadiq rushes to Maryam's side, Anne returns to her life, grateful to have met the enigmatic man. Months later, Anne learns that after wrenching Maryam from the indomitable grip of death, Saadiq took her back to America, where they finally married. But, her assumption that the greatest love story she had ever known would end happily is shattered.

About the Author
Hamid runs a successful market research company, providing customer insights to some of biggest names in the industry. He is a voracious reader and has been one for as long as he can remember. He started penning short stories at a very young age, but never thought of writing a full length novel until the idea for Little Maryam popped into his head. He writes as fast as he reads, which is sometimes just a little too fast. Apart from enjoying good books, Hamid is passionate about travel and food. He is sometimes called "the culture connoisseur" by his friends because he loves having long conversations about different cuisines, exotic travel locations, and of course, books. Hamid lives in New Delhi with his wife and two wonderful kids.


When one sees the front cover, with the silhouette of a little girl swinging by a tree, a pre-conceived notion can be formed about the novel. A story of a girl named Maryam, who is playful and fun-loving, and his association with the tree to which the swing is attached, is what I guessed the backdrop to be when I first glanced at this book. This is true in a way, the only addition being the other protagonist of the novel – Saadiq Haider.

Saadiq and Maryam have been in love since the time they first met each other, during their childhood. Maryam was the daughter of Colonel, while Saadiq’s father, Haji, was his gardener. However, the Colonel treated both Haji and Saadiq with dignity, not allowing their different lifestyles affect their bond. When Colonel had gone away for work, Haji had introduced Maryam to Saadiq, so that she could get a companion in her father’s absence. Little had he known that this companionship of childhood would churn out a bond so strong and unforgettable.

Hamid Baig, the author, does a commendable job on his debut. He highlights the friendship between Saadiq and Maryam in vivid colours, as they grow up, remaining loyal and attached to each other. The fact that Maryam belonged to the echelons of higher class didn’t deter Saadiq, who had a modest livelihood. It only instilled in him the desire to work harder and get into the good books of Colonel so that some day he could seek his permission to marry his daughter.

 Saadiq loved Maryam, and cared for her. He grabbed ice-cream from other boys for her, and hit those who teased her. Saadiq and Maryam’s favourite hang out was swinging by the Kalpavriksha (the same tree that is displayed in the cover). They spent hours together, basking in each other’s company, happy and contented.

However, love stories seldom have a smooth path. The story takes a sharp twist, a rather harsh one, and we, the readers are left gasping for breath. We feel pity for Saadiq, and Maryam, but we do believe that things would again be fine for them. The rest of the story is a progression from darkness to the desperate search of light, draped in the hardships and struggle of the lovers, their successes and failures, and Saadiq’s everlasting devotion to the first and only love of his life.

Saadiq as a character develops through each page of the story. He is everywhere, in the stanzas, chapters and even in the readers’ minds. Saadiq isn’t the perfect hero. He has flaws, and there have been instances when I have hated him for his behavior. His successes made him arrogant, and he is rude with others. He hit people due to his own obsession with Maryam, and also tried to play a few tricks using his power. However, when we re-analyze his actions, we find them to be a mere expression of human emotions. Are we not selfish towards our wants and desires? Don’t we like to protect our love and grant all the wishes that he or she might have? Saadiq actually behaved like any of us would, placed in those circumstances, and that’s when we realize that he is a character which isn’t just the author’s figment of imagination, but also could be a real person. Beneath his tough outlook, he has a heart that beats only for Maryam. He is both a lover and a guardian to Maryam, protecting her and her interests. And by the time I reached the last chapter, I realized that Saadiq has a heart of gold, winning us over with his act to safeguard his love’s happiness.

Hamid Baig is fluent in his narrative. He has painted the visuals beautifully, and the chapters flow seamlessly one after the other. None of the events seem stretched or unnecessary. However, there are  a few grammatical glitches which could have been avoided. Also, none of the characters, apart from Saadiq and Maryam leave a lasting impression. Nevertheless, ‘Little Maryam’ by Hamid Baig should be your go-to book this spring. It will reach out to you, enthrall you, and gradually seep within you, so that the characters, Saadiq and Maryam, will keep beating inside you, even after days.

Title: Little Maryam
Authors: Hamid Baig
Publisher: Notion Press, Inc.
Publication Year: 2018
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Romance
No. of Pages: 296
Price: Rs 225
My Rating: 4/5



Saturday, March 03, 2018

Education - Right And Duty

I came across an interesting article yesterday while surfing through social media sites. It was the account of a daily wage-earner, a single parent, who despite limited means and tough financial conditions, admitted his son to school, took great care of his education (even though he himself didn’t study beyond the fifth grade), and ensured that he fared well in his studies. It was heartening to read how his son stuck by the belief of his father, earning high grades throughout school, high school and university, and is now working as an officer in a reputed Government organization.

We take things for granted, out education for example, but we can never undermine its importance in our lives. Again, in the past, there have been several cases of dropouts due to financial restraints, but owing to the new development in policies, primary education has now been declared as a right for all. Different types of schools, catering to people of all means have come up. Parents are more aware of the value of education, and the students are also growing smarter. The values they imbibe in childhood serve as a base as they grow up.

We can consider education as a triangle, with parents, teachers and students forming the three vertices. There should be mutual coordination among all three in order to have a successful education system. A good school isn’t just enough, it requires good teachers too, someone who can educate and not just teach, someone who can impart values and throw light on the next stages of life. A nascent mind needs guidance, and parents and teachers have equal responsibilities in nurturing a little child. A good understanding between the two is a must for a child to develop.

Schools conduct parent teacher meetings at regular intervals, a platform where they can share ideas and focus on their child. Parents should open up about the challenges they face, and so should the teachers. Education is a goal for them and a journey for the child. With proper care and diligence, the destination can be reached successfully.

There are schools for everybody now. We have public, private and charter schools. There are various models like the non-profit network of Rocketship Education, which follows a teacher-led, technology supported approach to personalized learning that suits the requirement of the students and their parents. Now, one doesn’t need to be rich to send his son or daughter to school. He should just have the understanding and know the value of education, and that is what is expected from all current parents, so that we have a brighter and smarter next generation.

Education is our right, as well as our duty, and we should stay true to both, for us, for our children, and for the society at large.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Smiles

We are so used to despair, that we consider smiles difficult to come by. And even when they do, we doubt their credibility. "Is it really the smile we have been awaiting since long, or just another disappointment in disguise?" we think, sceptically.

We assume all possible negative scenarios, forgetting that smiles are a gift for our patience and perseverance, and should be relished whole-heartedly, without an iota of doubt.




Shared with


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Ramayana-Stand Strong - Review



The Ramayana is not a story. It’s a way of life. It’s the game of life.
Life is a constant reminder that nothing, however powerful in one season, remains unchanging. The endless cycles of change can truly us if we are unprepared to face its realities. However, we often see these changing times as problems larger than they really are. Many issues in life when perceived with fear, result in pain; but when perceived with CLARITY, result is FREEDOM.
Situations of helplessness are almost always created by our own limited imagination.
Do you have the courage to face your fears?
Stand Strong, the fourth book in Ramayana: The Game of Life series reminds us through its eternal stories -- such as the tale of brothers Vali and Sugriva -- that life is like a high-risk treasure hunt: one often has to walk through a maze of confusing paths while being chased by dangerously complex dilemmas to find the hidden treasure of wisdom.

About The Author
Shubha Vilas is a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker. He helps people in dealing with modern-day life situations through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and other dharmic traditions. He conducts leadership seminars in premier institutes across the world and inspires deeper human values.



I have been an ardent follower of Ramayana – The Game of Life series, not only because I love reading Indian mythologies, but also because the author Subha Vilas imparts the tales with such lucidity that one seems to be witnessing the story on a first person basis. Along with the fluent narration, Subha Vilas also adds lessons based on the learning from the epic that we can apply to our day to day activities.

Stand Strong’ takes the story forward from its prequels, ‘Roar With Courage’ (Book 1), ‘Conquer Change’ (Book 2) and ‘Adopt Patience’(Book 3). As the title suggests, this book imparts the message to be strong and wise in all adversities. The story starts with Rama and Lakshmana’s search for Sita, which takes them to the Rishimukh mountain range. Here, they are spotted by Nala, Nila and Taru, who failed to recognize them and rushed towards Sugriva to warn him of upcoming danger. Thus commences the Kishkinda Kand of Ramayana, which revolves primarily around the vanaras and how they serve Rama in his mission.

‘Stand Stronng’ also introduces one of the most loved characters of Ramayana, Hanuman. We get to know about his birth, childhood, and the boons and curses he went through, in crisp details. We are made aware of his journey, his powers and his prowess. Hanuman is humble and despite being more powerful than Sugriva, he has no qualms in serving the latter. He performs his duties with utmost sincerity, and can rightly be considered as the backbone of this great epic.

The fight scene between Vali and Sugriva is one of the key highlights of this book. Initially, one might be apprehensive towards Rama’s judgement and his actions during the fight between the two brothers, but as we read along, we understand the deeper meanings of Rama’s deeds. We realize how he analyses the situations, and like a true leader, he knows what would be the right decision for a particular course. However, there are moments when Rama feels low and disheartened with the loss of Sita.  He misses her with the change of seasons, comparing her and their love with beautiful metaphorical references to the world around. At such times, his brother and able companion Lakshmana provides him mental support, urging him to have patience and be calm and strong.

As always, Subha Vilas does full justice to the epic. He has narrated the events in such details and with utmost beauty that the readers will be transported to that divine world. The characterization is perfect, with every protagonist in the book being provided with their own space to grow and form an image in the mind of the readers. We, while reading the book, find ourselves questioning the actions and the deeds of the characters, forming our own judgments. This indicates how well the author has managed to create a connect with the readers.

Though I have been familiar with the basic premise of the Ramayana, it’s still a delight reading this version, an added plus point being the numerous back stories and anecdotes which we are not aware of, but which still play integral roles in the development of the plot. This is a must read for all lovers of mythology, and for those who are not, this book might well be able to pique their interest towards this field.


Title: Ramayana-Stand Strong
Authors: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publication Year: 2017
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Mythology, Religion
No. of Pages: 316
Price: Rs 295
My Rating: 4/5



Saturday, February 03, 2018

Strangers

I wrote another piece in Hindi today, and tried converting into English. Though I personally like the Hindi version more, I feel there are lots of rooms for improvement in both. Let me know your suggestions :-)




Shared with



Thursday, February 01, 2018

Once In A Blood Moon

I witnessed the Blue Blood Moon today, a celestial phenomenon which I might not be able to experience again in this lifeline.

And then, the poet in me raced to form a few lines.

While the original poem came in my mind in Hindi, I tried to translate it to form a piece in English as well.

Hope you like them!





Shared with




Monday, January 01, 2018