Thursday, 5 July 2012

Miss Marple or Madeline Bassett?

After a huge gap, here I am posting for the writer's circle again. The topic for June (I know I am late!) was chosen by Amruta and when I saw the topic, I had so many things I wanted to write that I couldnt decide which one to go for. Her topic is
"If you were a character in a book, which book, which character and why?" or "Which book would you have wanted to be a part of?"

For some one who can live on books (reading them, not eating!), this is quite a tough topic. I had so many books that I wanted to be a part of. How do I select only one? As for being a character in a book, again I would like to be so many of them but with some minor changes. So I am going to cheat a bit and list a 'few' books and characters here instead of just one.

To start with I would love to be Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, but a younger version of her! Or should I say, I would like to be Miss Marple when I grow older? I like detective/spy stories a lot and so being a detective would be my first natural choice. Having said that, I am not very good with violence and too much blood (The reaction of David Suchet as Hercule Poirot comes to mind in 'The cheap Flat' episode of the televised version!) , so the Agatha Christie mysteries are perfect for me. They have murders in them of course, but they are rarely ever gory or too bloody. The mystery is solved using logical deduction rather than a blood bath! There are twists and turns to keep the reader interested and completely glued to the story and it is great fun to try and guess what might happen next or who might be the murderer. 

To continue with the same genre, I would love to be a part of a Hercule Poirot mystery as well, and this list can never be complete without a mention of Sherlock Holmes. I wish I could be the Dr Watson to him but I would like to be a little smarter and cleverer than the original Dr Watson, giving my contributions in solving a mystery!

I would also enjoy being part of one of the Dan Brown books with Robert Langdon. What could be better than going on a treasure hunt of sorts, following cryptic & ancient clues?

And I can not forget the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. I like all the books in the series but Bourne Identity is my favourite and one which I would want to be a part of. I don't think I want to be a character in the book but it will be great to be a part of all those thrills and chills that the book packs in, and actually experience them happening. The film did not capture the whole essence of the book, in my opinion. But then I have rarely liked the movie versions of any book that I have read, you can say I am partial to my books.

Moving away from adventure & mystery, I am quite fascinated by the English way of life in the  pre World War-I era. One of the authors who depicts this time period in his books and modestly describes how the British upper society lived, is P G Wodehouse. I have read all his books in the Jeeves & Wooster series and it would be great to be a part of one of these books and experience fun, chaos, mayhem & excitement, the Wodehouse way.  Bertie Wooster's cousins (Honoria Glossop, Madeline Bassett etc) make for very interesting characters and it would be nice to dress up in those lovely clothes, dine on the fine British food and generally behave like typical girls in those days!

There are many more books that I have loved reading, they were the ones with a lot of depth in the stories and strong characterisation, but most of them also tend to be very intensive in terms of what happens to the characters. If I have a choice why shouldn't I opt for something lighter in life and forget about the more serious and intense things?

What are your favourite characters that you might want exchange places with?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Back to the Future

The writing Circle is going back in time this month. The topic was chosen by Seema and she asked us to write a letter to our 20 year old self. So here it goes.

Dear 20 yr old me,

I hope you are doing well. I am trying to think what you must be doing now, but I am struggling here. Gosh! Has it really been that long or in other words, am I so old now?

Anyway, after much brain racking I now remember that you must be in the middle of your Engineering course, still coming to terms with the endless assignments, journal writing, practicals, lectures, results etc. If you think the tension and stress of the studies is too much, let me tell you that in future you will have various moments where you would wish for those days to come back. So enjoy this phase while it lasts, I know it will seem endless but it is not. These days will end and the next phase will start before you even realise it.

Oh and I have to remember not to make this letter a  very long one. I know you will be quite busy with your friends. Have you had your daily mandatory 30 min call to each of the friends (from school, Junior college and Engg college) yet? Now that I think about it, I am amazed how you get the time to do that, after such a hectic day at the college.

But I have to take this opportunity and thank you for all the great friends you made. In fact this is probably one aspect where I dont have any advice for you at all, you have done very well here! I am especially thankful that you got over a prejudice made a life long friend in S, you know who I am talking about. Yes, that anecdote about you two being bitchy about each other and then turning into best friends is still going strong. I take every chance to narrate it and always get the same expected reaction of awe from people!

Now, let me talk about the things you have done so far and what you will do in future. You have been a good daughter so far, except for some minor incidents where you argue and don't listen to your parents just like any other teenage girl. You have been quite a good sister, in fact a friend, to a great brother you have. Keep it up, I would say, but there will be some moments when you will be forced to think if you have done enough for them. Well, all I can say about it, is that nothing can ever be enough, just hang in there and do your best.

Although things may be looking quite tough right now on the education front, you will manage to complete your engineering and look back fondly, at the days spent in the college or "Shantiniketan" as you guys are calling it now! The wait for the bus to Vashi station which seems irritating and tiring right now, would come back to you as one of the most enjoyable times of your college life. And dont forget the coffee, Wada Pav and the dosas at the station (both Vashi and Nerul), you would really end up craving for them in future. Even writing about them is making my tummy rumble right now!

You will not only land a very decent job doing what you like and love, in your chosen field of Telecommunication, but also make some great friends while working too. You do realise that you have a knack of making good friends and you have your parents to thank for those genes, think of all the great friends they have.

In fact you will have the best friend you can have, for life, and who will be with you always, supporting you all they way. I am talking about your future Hubby. He doesn't own a  Silver/Black Mitsubishi Lancer as is your criteria at the moment but believe me, you will never miss the Lancer! And who knows, I may very well influence him so that he buys one any way! You will have an adorable daughter who will give you sleepless nights and make you run for life, almost literally, but it will all be more than worth it.

This reminds me, do pay more attention to what Amma says, you will end up repeating the same things to your daughter. You might be resenting all the things you have to hear now, including " you will understand when you are a mother yourself" but trust me, that is how things will be.

Keep up with your cooking, that will be something which will keep you sane when things seem to be going totally out your hands. Would you believe me if I told you that you take up baking too, in a big way? And that you would write a food blog, enjoy it and be proud of it too? I should really resume it actively now.

Speaking of food, you should have really kept off the junk food a bit and may be got into the habit of going to the gym or at least have some form of exercise everyday. And however you may justify to Pappa, doing Pranayam for 15 minutes and then devouring a plate of Sev Batata Puri does not help you at all. Stop fooling yourself there!

On second thoughts, forget whatever I asked you to do. Go on, continue to eat the way you want, plonk yourself in front of the TV and watch all those Salman Khan movies as much as you want, continue to 'pester' amma by pretending that you dont listen to her. After all you have your future life to contemplate on all those things. For now, enjoy yourself . I just hope that if and when we come across each other, we can laugh at all those things and agree with each other about the choices we made in life.

Would love to hear from you too!

PS: I still have loads to write about but as I have promised, I wont make this a very long one. And as you can see you will maintain your habit of writing PS after every letter/email, whether it is really needed or not!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I have the Power!

The Writing Circle is all about having super powers this month! The topic that we are writing about is - 'Given a choice, the Power or sixth sense, I would like to have.'

Although I chose this topic, I was very apprehensive since it sounds very cheesy and straight out of a Beauty Pageant. But then, come to think of it, we all have at some point thought that it would be so good if certain things were under our control. We could have faced this moment at any point in our lives - waiting for that crucial train/bus/flight which seems to have been delayed on purpose, losing out on winning anything by just a hair's breadth and especially when things are not working out for us and we need them to just fall in place. I have experienced this so many times in seemingly small things - cooking Malai Kofta and letting it simmer for 5 minutes longer led it to stick to the bottom of the pan and there I was, wishing that I could go back in time and switch off the gas!

But to come back to the one thing I would like to be able to do, I am quite clear on what I want, although there is one another thing which I will mention later. I  would want the power to know what others are thinking, I want to be able to read every one's mind just by looking at them! The need for such a 'sixth sense' for me, might have stemmed up from the fact that I am particularly affected by what others are making of my actions or words. I say something & then keep wondering if the other person actually understood what I really meant by that or whether I offended some one unknowingly.

Imagine how lovely it would be if we all had such a power. It will be so easy to just clear up any misunderstanding brewing in a person's mind because you know how they are thinking. There will of course be other complications. There wont be any diplomatic talks/discussions, no need for elaborate gadgets to detect lies, salary negotiations would take a completely different form and of course there will be no poker! It will be very easy to call some one's bluff and so every one will be forced to be honest & truthful. No so bad, if you think about it.

The other thing I wanted to mention here is the power of one's will. Now we have all read about accounts from people in adverse conditions who overcame their difficulties due to their will power. But is it possible to control the happenings in your life through your will power? Can  will power really make something happen or prevent something from happening? If there is any possibility, I would like to have that power too!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fiction: Hell can wait!

The Writers' Circle is back and this time we are trying our hands at fiction. 
I have given this a tentative title for now, but would welcome any suggestions.

Hell can wait

He opened his eyes and found himself standing in front of a huge gate. It took him a few moments to realise what was happening. He had been dead for only a couple of minutes but it felt like eternity. He wasn't sure what would happen next.

And then he saw some one approaching him from behind the gates. It was a welcome sight to see another 'person' and suddenly he realised that he must be standing at the gates of heaven. "So this is how it all ends, at least I am in front of heaven." He felt happy.

The Apsaras were all excited too, at the thought of having a chef come and stay with them.
 “Finally I can learn how to make perfect souffles!” Thought one of them.

But the chef was being told some thing else by the gate keeper “ You know we would love to have you here in heaven but although you have done a lot of good deeds by pleasing a lot of people through your food, there is one thing that is preventing you from making heaven your home.

You have broken a lot of hearts through that program on TV, where you judge a cooking competition. Your caustic remarks and harsh language made half of those aspiring chefs to abandon their dreams and some were so depressed after that competition, that they thought they were good for nothing.

But you are still being given a chance. We have arranged a similar test for you where you have to cook something with the given conditions. If you succeed you may enter heaven, otherwise the other world is waiting for you. But you are used to Hell’s kitchen arent you?"

The chef smiled, after all this was something he did every waking moment of his life. How hard can it be?

He was then led onto the kitchen area. Everything looked different. It reminded him of his long lost & forgotten village kitchen where his grandmother used to cook. There was nothing he could identify with, no non stick cookware, no ovens, no gadgets, not even a proper sink! He was handed a sheet of paper with instructions and was left alone.

"Cook something savoury using Chickpea flour and the other things provided." Said the sheet. He looked around for other ingredients and found a tray with some basic essentials but only a few teaspoons of oil. So frying was out of question. He looked around and could see only one sauce pan, a few spoons, a few plates and a small herb garden. For once, he was stumped for ideas. His mind went blank and he could not think of anything at all.

As he gathered himself and started to think, all ideas he came up with, required elaborate ingredients and costly gadgets. While he was looking for a way out, his thoughts kept returning to one student who he had criticised a lot. He would always look lost in the plush kitchen of the Chef's culinary school. The student would always make something that his great aunt would make at home for him and the Chef would always ridicule him for that, saying, how did he expect to serve something as plain as Khandvi to the distinguished guests in his 5 start restaurant. His Khandvi had tasted great and was so simple to make though.

"Of course! Thats what I can make now!" He tried to remember what the student had done and how.He quickly gathered everything he needed to make it and went about preparing it. He was just adjusting the coriander garnish, when the gate keeper walked in and asked him to stop, since his time was over. The chef proudly presented his dish and waited for the verdict.

To his own astonishment, he was actually sweating with tension and was really scared of what he would hear about his creation. Is this what the contestants went through while he smugly went on tasting their creations and said whatever came to his mind. Hardly ever appreciating any one, always keeping them on their toes and conveniently ignoring their best efforts?

He looked at the gate keeper's  facial expressions for a clue and was even more tensed. He took his time tasting the Khandvi, looked at him one last time and said “ I will let you know the decision but after our special guest has tasted this." As they all looked on, a young boy, no more than 5yrs of age entered the kitchen and went straight for the dish. He took a mouthful and instantly spat it out. The chef could not believe what had happened, a first for him. He was about to give up completely when the boy returned to the plate and carefully picked out the coriander leaves with his fingers, then picked up the 'clean' khandvi and relished it.

He turned to the chef and said " Its delicious but without all the green leaves that you put there for decoration." The decision was made, the chef could stay there but on the one condition that he would cook for them and be prepared for their criticism every day.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

India Shining? Definitely!

This post is a part of what I call a " Writers' Circle". We are a group of friends (some real life, some just online) who write on a common topic every month, in an effort to keep our love for writing alive (At least that is what is behind my posts, a few others do manage to write regularly without having to wait for the compulsion!)

This month's topic chosen by Deepa,  was India Shining: 2 Things I like about India and 2 things I would want to change.

As soon as I heard "India Shining", the first person to come to mind was the former Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. For those of you who don't remember his blink-and-miss tenure in the Govt, it was during that time that the phrase "India Shining" was first coined. It has been extensively used by everyone since then, sometimes with proud and sometimes sarcastically.
Since I have been living outside the country for more than 6 years now, this topic is even more significant for me. Overall, I feel that as a country we have come really far and I would consider India's standing in the world as an achievement. Having said that I also realise that there are a lot of avenues that need huge improvements, as would be pointed out by some of those cynics out there. Dont get me wrong, I am very pragmatic when it comes to my thinking and feelings but to just snigger over any comments of development by saying that there are so many things we lack is being very pessimistic, in my opinion.

Now before I get too serious and wander off from the topic let me start with the top 2 things I like about India. It is very tough to choose only 2, but I have tried.

Unity in Diversity - Cliche to some, but absolutely unique according to me. Where else can you see people from so many different backgrounds and culture, living together and flourishing in each other's company by sharing everything. On the last count there were 29 states and 6 Union territories in India. Each with its own culture, heritage, beliefs and language. In fact you would find many different dialects of the same language in a single state. Now add to that the population that India has, and you get numerous combinations of people in any given town/city. Barring a few communal and caste instigated incidents, we do manage to live peacefully with each other, enjoying every festival and every occasion equally. I can go on and on with instances that I have myself seen and experienced about this unity.

Tolerance and Adaptation - I didnt really know how put this one. Let me try. India has always been exposed to various foreign cultures and trends over the years. Now there could have been 2 scenarios with this - either the foreign culture could completely take over or it would be totally rejected keeping in mind the traditional values. But the thing I like very much here, is that we have managed to create a balance between the modern foreign trends and our own traditional values. An average Indian youth wears Levis Jeans, eats at McDonalds, dreams of owning a Mercedes Car, is hooked on to Facebook completely but is still deep rooted in the family values and traditions which we are so proud of.

Now for the things I dont like so much and want them to change

Civic sense in people - I think this would be a classic pet peeve. Why cant we think of others too when we are in public? Why cant all of us make it a point to throw the rubbish in the bins, not spit wherever it pleases us, respect others' right to the road and other public amenities, not always be in a rush and have some patience basically.  There is no point in honking your horns when there is a huge queue of vehicles in front of you. If the person in front of you could drive on, he most definitely would. He isnt really interested in camping out in the middle of the road, you know. And then again, if we all were a bit patient and did not cut lanes or force ourselves onto wrong lanes there wouldnt be a traffic jam to start with. So for once, why cant we stop blaming the Govt for everything and start acting responsibly?

Small - no the word I am looking for is trivial - Issues! - There are loads of things, very important and some even very critical that need attention in India, but the majority of our political brigade seems to be concerned with issues that are beyond my realm of understanding (and I am sure lots of others too!) in terms of their significance and importance. We have fights over naming of roads & by lanes, riots over the incidents such as a statue covered in bird poo, endless discussions over what to call the city/town, renaming of airports and other landmarks and not to forget what is being shown on TV & films and their names & songs too! Remember how "Billu Barber" was renamed "Billu" just because the the Barber association did not like it? We have several law suits filed to protest against how some one dresses up, what some public figure said what occasions we celebrate (Valentine's Day for example). Add to that the fuss created by top politicians & celebrities when they are required to go by the rules at airports, Govt offices and other such places and the list can go on.

Let me repeat here that it has been very difficult to limit myself to only 2 things in both the categories because there are a lot of other things I really like and dislike, but that could be material for another post some other time perhaps....