Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Insomniac


As the dark envelops the earth like a pall of gloom,
I stay wide awake in my room,
Tossing and turning in the bed,
I wait for the sleep to come to my aid.
But sleep remains aloof,
Ever elusive,
No matter how much I cajole it
To descend on my drooping eyelids.
Instead I drift into a fitful slumber,
Only to get awake by a lurid nightmare.
Slowly the darkness fades away,
And the first rays of sun lights up the horizon;
I silently pray for serenity to return
And all turbulence to be gone.

The Evening Musing


An imminent April evening,
The afternoon tea, a dusty city road-
And your hand on mine,
I left those far behind in time.



Here the ruddy glow of sun lingers long,
Before giving way to a calm twilight;
Like the after-taste of a passionate kiss-
That lingers long on taste-buds after it's finished.



Now all my evenings are dull and vapid,
Colored by the grey quotidian monotony;
A solitary moon hangs here-
Among an ocean of twinkling stars.



Unbidden, the night comes-
Dark, sultry, humid April nights;
The solitary moon shines night-long,
As it has been shining since eons.

Diamond Harbour Diaries - 1



The Hooghly River at Diamond Harbour, West Bengal, India

Linking to: Through My Lens

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Book Review: I've never been (Un)happier




I've never been (Un)happier: (Penguin Petit)I've never been (Un)happier: by Shaheen Bhatt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Your pain, like your fingerprints, is unique to you. In other words, you can buy happiness off the rack- but sadness is tailor-made just for you."
----- Shaheen Bhatt

I read quite a few books in the month of February. However, I chose to review this book as it kind of shook me. It deals with a very relevant topic of our times: Depression. However, unlike physical illness, there is so much stigma associated with mental illnesses that one hardly talks about these. In this context, Shaheen Bhatt's writing on this subject, that too based on her own life experiences, is truly remarkable. For those of you who haven't heard of her, she is the daughter of Mahesh Bhatt and sister of Alia Bhatt. And she has battled depression for seventeen long years.

"We're taught early in life to keep our emotions hidden and we're especially taught that negative emotions have no place in a public domain."
This book breaks this stereotypical thinking. The book begins with acquainting us with what depression is and what are the symptoms. In the process, it succeeds in creating awareness on the taboo subject. Very often, we fail to recognize the symptoms of depression even if we ourselves or a close acquaintance of ours is passing through this phase. Shaheen's own personal experiences in this regard is truly gut-wrenching. She lets us see the inner turmoil and the profound pain of the person suffering from depression.

What I found most endearing are the last few pages of the book. Almost all of us have underwent down phases in our lives, though not all of us are clinically depressed. The words of Mahesh Bhatt are truly inspiring to all of us. In our constant bid to be happy, we forgot that happiness is an ideal, may be non-existent, state. "You're constantly trying to reach this non-existent, ideal state of emotional well-being. It's not real." And then, "You can't spend your life feeling bad about feeling bad." Shaheen rightly points out, "Happiness is a one-note emotion that doesn't challenge you in any way."

Do read the book. Even if you don't want to learn about depression, read this book to look differently at the ever-elusive "happiness".


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Monday, February 18, 2019

Come February



"I thought of you and how you love this beauty,
And walking up the long beach all alone
I heard the waves breaking in measured thunder
As you and I once heard their monotone.

Around me were the echoing dunes, beyond me
The cold and sparkling silver of the sea-
We two will pass through death and ages lengthen
Before you hear that sound again with me."
----------- "I Thought Of You", Sara Teasdale

"Love it, hate it but you cannot ignore it- the month of love has officially begun." So read the e-mail from an online shopping site, offering discounts on various products on the occasion of Valentines Day. These e-mails and my news feed in FB never forget to remind me that it's February, the month of love. Remember, how you used to whisper "I love you" to me on every Valentines Day? And I used to answer, "I love you 2, 3, 4..." It was almost like a ritual- these confessions of love on every Valentines Day. And now that you no longer exist in my life, I have only your memories to accompany me on every 14th February, or for that matter, on every other 364 days of the year.

You know what, recently a friend of mine saw our wedding pictures and commented, "Your ex-husband was so handsome." Was it your handsome face that I fell in love with? Or was it your constant care for me, like a father cares for his daughter? Or was it the way you loved me that made me fell for you? Probably none of these accounts for my love for you. Because I never needed a reason to love you. Just like a flower never need a reason to bloom. Or just like a butterfly never need a reason to spread it's colourful wings. For I always believed in the craziness that love brings. If love is rational, within the realm of reason- it's anything but love.

On this week of love, when the world celebrates love, I look for my world in every nook and crannies. For I have lost my world. Forever. I never had any world other than you.

A heaviness settles inside me. It refuses to budge, no matter how hard I try. So now I am jotting down all my incoherent rumblings borne out of that heaviness. May be as the words tumble out, the weight may lift, making my heart as light as a feather. What are you doing now? Do you miss me? Or have you forgotten me altogether? We could not remain together in this lifetime. But may be another life of togetherness awaits us. We'll surely be together- on the other side of death. Do remember me, till death do us together.

I am not sending kisses, because wives don't kiss their husbands in public view.

Your ex-wife.

This post titled "Come February, I Can't Help But Think Of The Love I Lost" has been published on Women's Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked up by the editors of Women's Web each day. To read the full story, Click here.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Book Review: Chokher Bali

চোখের বালিচোখের বালি by Rabindranath Tagore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rabindranath Tagore is one of the most cherished renaissance figures of India. He put India in the literary map of the world by winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Recently I read one of his prominent novels- "Chokher Bali" ("Sand in the eye"). There have been many movie adaptations of this novel, including the famous movie of the same name directed by Rituparno Ghosh. Tagore's writings are well-known for his deep understanding of the nuances of female psychology. And this novel is no exception. It portrays some strong female protagonists, who are sure to etch indelible marks in your memory once you finish the novel.

The Plot

The plot revolves around four protagonists- Mahendra, Ashalata, Binodini and Bihari.

Mahendra is the only scion of a rich family based in Calcutta. Bihari is his childhood friend, who frequents his house. Mahendra's mother wanted him to marry Binodini, her friend's daughter. But Mahendra refused. Then his mother requested Bihari to marry Binodini and save the poor girl which Bihari refused. Eventually Binodini got married to a man who died soon after marriage. Meanwhile, Mahendra married Ashalata, a poor orphan girl. Mahendra was besotted with his wife, when Binodini came to live in their house. With time, an extra-marital relationship develops between Mahendra and Binodini, which threatens to destroy his marriage with Ashalata. But soon Binodini discovers that Mahendra is a self-obsessed person, unable to provide a safe shelter to her. So she inclines towards Bihari, who lives life by principles. Throughout the novel, there is an implicit implication of Bihari's affection towards Ashalata, though he never crosses the boundaries of relationship. At the end, Bihari falls in love with Binodini when he came to know of her feelings towards him. He proposed to marry her, which Binodini refused saying that she doesn't want to 'dishonour' him further. During that period (the novel was written in 1902), widow remarriage was not well accepted in society. That may partially explain the reason behind Binodini's refusal. At the end, Binodini leaves for Varanasi- a fate that awaited most of the widows in those days.

Characters

The novel portrays the contemporary Bengali society and the treatment meted out to widows during that period. I loved the characters of both the female protagonists- Ashalata and Binodini. The character of Binodini is well-crafted. She is the kind of woman who was far ahead of her times and she had to pay heavily for it. She was educated- a trait quite uncommon among women of that era. Her father arranged for a 'missionary mem' (a missionary woman from Europe/England) to educate her. Even after she crossed the 'marriageable age', her father never bothered about her marriage. After her father's death, her mother began searching for a suitable groom. She got married and after a short period of marital bliss, she became widow. Though the society prescribed an austere life for widows, but Binodini was a rebel and refused to succumb to societal pressure. She was young, beautiful and intelligent. "...Sikha ek vabe ghorer pradip rupe jwole, ar-ek vabe ghore agun dhoraiya dey" (The same flame which lights the room, can destroy the whole house), observed Tagore. She craved for love and companionship like all, inspite of being a widow. She mistook her feelings for Mahendra as love and came close to ruin his marriage. Later when she realised that Mahendra is too blind to understand her, she left him and boldly sought shelter to Bihari. But the end of novel fails to do full justice to her character. When a woman as strong as Binodini chose to stay at Varanasi for the rest of her life, like all others, readers like me are disappointed no doubt. In Rituparno Ghosh's film, Binodini joined India's ongoing struggle for independence at the end. I think that befits a character like her. Though Ghosh's movie doesn't strictly adhere to the novel.

The character of Ashalata seems dull in comparison to Binodini in the beginning. But when her husband left her for another woman, she took charge of her ailing mother-in-law and the entire household on her own.

The character of Mahendra seems narcissistic. He lacks any definite purpose. Being self-obsessed, he went on from Ashalata to Binodini who rejects him. Then again he came back to his wife who re-accepts him.

Overall Rating

No need to mention that reading this novel was a sheer pleasure. If you haven't read this novel yet, do read. For readers whose native language is not Bengali, you can go through the translated version of the book. Each of Tagore's work is a masterpiece on their own.


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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Reading Challenge 2019

"There is no friend as loyal as a book"
---Ernest Hemingway

It's January and it's time to decide on my TBR for 2019. For the past few years, I have been participating in Goodreads Reading Challenge. This time, though, apart from that, I wanted to be part of another Reading Challenge. In the past few years, I have read some really amazing books of fiction. This year, though, I want to explore non-fiction on a greater scale. I am keen on learning something new. So I decided to participate in a Non-fiction reading challenge. My goal in 2019 is to read at least 18 non-fiction books, which roughly translates to 1.5 books per month.

I am participating in 2019 Nonfiction Reading Challenge at Doing Dewey.


I am participating in 2019 Reading Challenge at SMS Nonfiction Book Reviews.

Learning Something New 2019 Reading Challenge - check it out!

At SMS Nonfiction Book Reviews, the challenge is simple:

  • Read at least 3 books on a topic you’ve not read much about but would like to learn more about.
  • Challenge runs Jan 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019
  • You can use any types of books (physical books, ebooks, audiobooks etc)
  • You can overlap your books with other challenges
  • You can pick your books as you go or pick ahead of time, whatever you prefer
  • You can use children’s nonfiction too
  • You can pick your topic now or later and you can change it anytime before you read your first book.
  • It can be something you’ve never read about or something you’ve read a bit about but not a lot.
  • Pick ANY topic you want.
  • You can review the books or just write down your thoughts.
  • You can have a blog or not. Social media is fine.
  • Use #LSNReadingChallenge if you want
Here goes a tentative list of the books meant to be read in 2019:

1. Money Smart: The Indian Woman's Guide to Managing Wealth by Reenita Malhotra Hora & Divya Vij

2. Indian Mutual Funds Handbook by Sankaran


3. The Problem That Has No Name by Beity Friedan


4. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant


5. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King


6. Everything you wanted to know about Investing by Shalini Amarnani


7. Seeing Like A Feminist by Nivedita Menon


8. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf


9. Coffee Can Investing by Saurabh Mukherjea, Rakshit Ranjan, Pranab Uniyal


10. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir


11. Income Tax Guide For The Taxpayer by Subhash Lakhotia


12. Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood


13. The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo: MENSTRUATION by Karen Houppert


14. Chanakya's 7 Secrets of Leadership by Radhakrishnan Pillai & D. Sivanandhan


15. The Heartfulness Way by Daaji


16. Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani


17. The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen


18. A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf


However, this is just a tentative list. I may pick-up new books as the year progresses or I may skip a book or two from this list. So lets start reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Book Review: I am a home to butterflies

I am a home to butterfliesI am a home to butterflies by J. Alchem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"This collection of poetry is all about you and me, but I am afraid it will no longer be about 'you and me' once a reader picks it up. It will then be about them only."

Yes, the themes around which the poetries of this collection revolve around are the ones anybody can relate to. So when the reader starts to read them, these poetries become his/her own. The serenity of love, the sharp heartache that love brings, the laughter and the tears depicted in this collection are felt by all at least once in their lifetime. I'd rather call them quotes instead of poetries, as most of them are very short- some of them even have only a line or two.

The poetries in this collection are arranged in a few groups, each depicting a particular theme, such as Life, You, Love, Obstacles, Break-up, Awakening, Wisdom, Love again. I fell in love with some of the poetries, took screenshots of few and shared with my friends. I am sure if you read this book, you will also be tempted to take screenshots of the poetries. They beautifully convey such deep emotions in so few words. I'd like to share few of my favourites here:

"There is another sky
under the sky
that's you, for me."

"The world
is already
full of temporary people
you,
please,
don't be one."

"And then you left
leaving a story
incomplete."

The second part of the book is named as Letters. It contains a few letters written by a man who is separated from his lover. Strangely for reasons unknown to the reader, they are all written on the 19th day of different months. Reading these letters has been a painful experience for me. I felt choked by emotions. The last of these letters is a reply from his estranged lover, which brings an unexpected twist at the end.

Overall, a good read. The book can be finished within just an hour. So if you love poetries, do give it a try.

P.S.: I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. But the views expressed here are unbiased.


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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A New Year's Poem

We belonged to an era bygone-
We believed we would get what we long,
For the first day of the year is auspicious,
"কল্পতরু" would grant us wishes precious.

So, make a wish
On this auspicious day-
And see how this comes true.
Because the world is a wish-granting factory,
All you need to do is seeking blessings of the Almighty.

We believed in such fairy-tale,
That wishes made on the first day of the year never fail.

Now the pages of old poetries lie tattered,
Crisp, yellow pages- here and there- scattered.

And when I try to pen down a new poetry-
It still reeks of melancholy,
Nostalgia,
Wishes that never came true,
And sibilant whispers of old, long-forgotten fairy-tales.

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