Should I Add More Details ?

descriptive-writing

As an Educator I feel a real high when an experiment works. A little while back, I was struggling with getting my 13 and 14 year old students to accomplish the finesse required for Descriptive Writing. Despite the many examples I shared with them, or the standard teaching tools I tried, every piece they would write would turn into a Narrative. When I spoke to them to evoke the senses, the sense of sight overwhelmed their writing. They would describe what they saw so well, however, miss the point completely with the other senses. I would ask them to add details and they would look flummoxed. There was something seriously amiss and I was wondering where I was going wrong.

It was right about this time my husband came back from work one day and shared an experience he had in office. There was a lunch arranged for him and his colleagues to expose them to the challenges of the visually impaired. They were blind folded during the entire process from finding their own seats to eating the entire meal by just touch and feel. He told me how it felt as if the tastes took on a new meaning and how overcome he was by the entire experience.

It struck me to try a similar experiment with my students. I prepared my materials for the evening class with great care: some scarves and some everyday objects. When my enthusiastic bunch trooped in I shared with them what I had planned and they were very excited. After blindfolding them I handed in each of their hands a different object. The rules were simple, they were to feel, smell, taste, listen for a few minutes in complete silence. I told them I would take the objects away before they opened their eyes and hide them in a bag. They were then to write whatever they wanted to about their object. It could be a short paragraph, an essay, a story, anything. I gave them complete creative freedom. Once they finished they could read out their piece and only then could they view their object. I was hopeful of the outcome of this activity, but the results astounded me. Without much ado, I will share some and let the evidence speak for itself. There are many more. I will add them later as I am still waiting for my kids to share the soft copies with me.

 

The Holy Object

Pragya Singhal (Age 14 Grade X)

As I held the average sized object in my hand a number of ideas floated through my mind. I started from the top which felt grainy and uneven. I moved my hands further down which felt smoother and suddenly there was a huge bump which was hollow from inside. As my hand caressed the part under the bump I felt a pointed nose protruding put and further down smooth lips with a partition in between. I moved my fingers sideways and a curved and smooth ear was coming out on either side of the face. Then I knew that it was a small sculpture of Buddha and a sense of spirituality rushed through my body.

 

Lemon & Honey

Aditi Inamdar (Age 14 Grade X)

As I grabbed the object, my hands felt lubricated and the smooth texture of wax did not make me want to leave it. It smelt like lemon with a drop of honey. It seemed to have lightened up my mood and made me feel extremely calm. The rush of all these feelings inside me made me realize that it was a candle. I slowly moved my hand further up and felt that the wick was hard and short. It was rough and felt like the string of a badminton racket. Around it, was a small depression which seemed to be a perfect, symmetrical small circle. The candle was about the size of my palm. The edges of the cylindrical object were slightly curved. On the whole, the candle perfectly fit in my hands and the fresh scent refreshed my mind, leaving behind a soothing effect.

 

A Common Household Object

Vidush Gupta (Age 13 Grade IX)

The rectangular object pressed into my hand instantly brought rich chocolate bars to my mind’s eye. The crackle of plastic tempted me with the crunchy, creamy chocolate that I thought that it contained. This fantastical illusion was broken by the satisfying click of a button. That sensation and the familiar, comforting shape was reminiscent of the very symbol of control – the remote. The subsequent clicks of multiple, closely packed buttons revealed to me the truth- that I was holding the most revered of common household objects, the source of many wars, crusades and quests, the doorway to the bane of boredom itself… I was holding the elusive, immensely valuable television remote. Legend has it that in the time before time, when flip phones used to be a thing, the television remote was equivalent to Thor’s hammer. Only the worthy and powerful could hold it.

 

The Mysterious Object

Navya (Age 14 Grade IX)

The mysterious object, possibly a paper weight, felt extremely unique in my hands. I had never in the past felt something like it, something so tiny, yet heavy, as if it contained numerous stories and memories. Its upper metal portion seemed as though it was a carving of a pattern or a figure. It felt cool under the comfortable temperature as I slid my fingers about it. The metallic part however, was

attached to a rather coarse base, circular in shape. Textured like sand paper, it was nothing similar to the smooth upper portion of its body. The object somehow seemed as though it was an important and cherished part of someone’s life, gone through years of handling. A thing that I could easily wrap my fingers around, an item so smooth, yet rough, it just reminded me of life. Each one of us faces struggles, endures pain and travels through hardships, yet we bear them and find a solution, a solution that guides us through to emerge as a strong, beautiful and unique being. Our polished exterior is a result of all the rough times and experiences that we have been through. It is this strong base that makes us who we are, gives us support and helps us face challenges. This mysterious object too, possibly a treasured belonging, had a smooth top simply held by a rough base.

 

A Pyramix

Grisham Bhatia (Age 14 Grade X)

The Pyramix felt as light as a feather in my hands. Its smooth surface reminded me of silk cloths. Its numerous and flexible pieces moved as gently as they could. A slight push was all that was needed to move its pieces and give the Pyramix a new shape and structure, a structure which felt as rough as sand paper. The ease with which it changed its entire nature familiarized me with the dark thoughts that people can also change themselves in a moment’s notice. On the other hand, the Pyramix also took me back to my cherished childhood days. Holding it in my hands, I remembered the good old days when I used to play with blocks as small as my fingers, and innovate things which are yet to be discovered or created.

 

The Object That Was Barred From My Sight

Aditya UK (Age 13 Grade IX)

The unknown object which was barred from eyesight felt very prickly, it kind of reminded me of the thorns of the rose but just a lot more in number and less sharp, after observing it for more longer my definite conclusion was that the prickly structures were mini bristles. After feeling the object for a little more time, it seemed to be cylindrical in shape with open endings in both the sides. The object was very light and had these small line-like protruding structures which were fixed in the inside of the hollow cylinder. It had a smell but it was unrecognizable. I thought the object I was holding was a hair roller as it felt a lot like one that my sister uses at home or it might be a mini-pencil stand too.

Needless to say the quality of their writing has improved as they now understand they must not let their sense of sight overwhelm their other senses.

 

Book Review: A Window To Her Dreams

Author : Harshali Singh

Publisher : Readomania

Courage in traditional literature was a word reserved for the battlefield and predominantly for a few men of valour, the others and women were considered too weak to walk the arena that courage inhabited. Modern and contemporary writing has (thank heavens) redefined the word taking it out of the bivouacs permitting lesser mortals to lay claim to its attributes. Singh’s debut novel ‘A Window To Her Dreams’ is all about courage, this elusive quality of mind that enables a person to face challenges that in the strife of life is faced by many. The story grows with the spirit of her protagonist, Aruna, who fights demons of her past with fear at first and then with the confidence that love brings to her, eventually overcoming the wounds inflicted on her soul.

This book is a realistic take on a contemporary marriage that requires the equal participation of a man as well as a woman to make it work. It is also about the sensitivity of men often overlooked with the need to portray them as either invincible heroes or formidable villains in stories that aspire to showcase the strength of a woman. Here Singh deviates from the norm and creates Bhuvan, a sensitive male who has the quiet inner strength that is found in the many contemporary men who make their marriages work. Singh’s, Bhuvan is a giant with a heart of gold, he is complex and at the same time so simple that he wins the reader’s heart from the get go and holds it firmly in his hands to the very end. Aruna’s anguish and the dark clouds of her past influencing her present comes out so strong that despite having never experienced her pain the reader not only identifies with her, but roots for her to the very end.

The book like western audiences would expect is not just about the two protagonists and a marriage. In India, marriage is just not a union between two, it is a balancing act of infinite proportions between families and here Singh manages like a Maestro to bring on a symphony of complex characters. A distanced father dealing with his own insecurities, one estranged sister, another a clairvoyant, a set of triplet sisters with blossoming personalities and a brother who is struggling with the expectations of family and his own ambitions. Strength there is in all the characters that builds up a family that is both flawed and remarkable in their ability to hurt at the same time heal with each other. Then you have Uma, Aruna’s mother the anchor that holds her large imperfect family together with tenacity, not that surprising as it is reflective of many Indian families. The narrator surprisingly is an old ‘Haveli’ that surely has the character to speak about the family it has sheltered through various storms within and without. An inanimate whose existence is inextricably linked with the people it houses. Some questions that Singh leaves unanswered niggle at you long after you’ve put the book down. The mysterious figure of uncle Suresh, what are his feelings for Uma? And what does the Haveli hide that is known only to Uma?

More often than not writers build up their protagonist to make them larger than life inspirational, I was glad to notice that Singh does not do that. Sometimes stories should be just that about commonness and embracing it. Where the book falters is in its editing and proof reading which is sloppy and jarring but once you get past that the story within ‘A Window To Her Dreams’ by Harshali Singh establishes her as a writer worth reckoning.

The book ‘A Window To Her Dreams’ by Harshali Singh published by Readomania is available at http://books.readomania.com/book_detail.php?id=31 and http://www.amazon.in/Window-Her-Dreams-Harshali-Singh/dp/9385854283

 

 

 

 

 

Ripples That Create Awareness

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The first time I came across a person with Down’s Syndrome, I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time but know it was the tween years as it was at that time in life when being under my Maa’s constant reproving glare, I had lost my precocious disregard for keeping my tongue still and had not yet stepped into my obnoxious teen years when I overcame that glare again. What I do remember of that occasion is a deep sense of shame and an overwhelming guilt. The reason for this is that I completely screwed up.

How? The individual was my mother’s cousin visiting my maternal grandmother’s house with his parents. Well I looked at him with great discomfort and then throughout their visit just ignored his presence. Naturally a curious person though, I kept stealing surreptitious glances at him. I watched how he ate, drank his tea and how he sat calmly between his parents not participating in the conversation and how the adults in the room did not address him in any manner at all. He smiled when the others laughed, his eyes darted around taking in everyone, everything. He caught me a few times in my act of furtive curiosity beaming at me every time. In my clumsy tween ignorance, I gave a half smile averting my gaze yet again. But, what I will never forget of that face was his eyes. Completely guileless. Completely innocent. Completely honest. Seeking nothing.

Now why did I not behave better?

Was it because I was not taught to?

Or was it because these conversations were uncomfortable?

Or was it because when we turn a blind eye to something it ceases to exist for us?

Or was it because the sense of inclusion was meant only for the supposedly ‘normal’?

That brings me to my next question. What is normal?

To answer this I looked up the dictionary first to ensure that I did not make any errors. What I found led me to some very interesting ideas. Let me share these with the various meanings that Dictionary.com threw up.

Meaning No 1 for normal: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. Well since, I do not consider ever conforming to the standard or the common type I am not normal. I detest the usual, the regular as too humdrum so I am certifiably abnormal. As for the natural! Well with coloured hair (some of it even ombre) certainly not qualifying for normal.

Meaning No 2 for normal: serving to establish a standard. How interesting!  If I were to go by the behaviour of the other grownups in the room to the said relative as serving to establish a standard, it’s a pretty miserable one. I do not want to serve to establish any such standard.

Meaning No 3 for normal: Psychology, says the Dic, normal is approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment. Now how many of us are going to accept that we are approximately average in any way, so are we all then as the venerable Dic, further explains not free from any mental disorder; therefore sane?

Meaning No 4 for normal: In Biological, Medicinal/Medical terms normal is free from any infection or other form of disease or malformation, or from experimental therapy or manipulation. Hello! With a twist to the wise Prophet of Nazareth’s words “let the first stone be thrown by the normal person.” How many of us can then with certainty claim to be untarred by the brush of fallibility?

So hence my conclusion, Normal does not apply to me. Maybe you feel the same. Maybe you don’t.

There are other meanings for the word ‘normal’ that relate to Mathematics and Chemistry but are hardly relevant to the discussion at hand so I shall not delve there. Also, I feel I have made my point (at least I hope I have) that ‘normal’ ain’t all that special.

So how did I learn to behave better?

That evening I asked my mother, when her relatives had left, what was ‘wrong’ with the uncle. She has always been a woman of gumption and did not sweep my inquisitiveness under the rug as an uncomfortable topic that if not talked about would be soon forgotten. She explained the problem to me in her usual scientific way with a huge smattering of pity in her tone. Pity. As parents, we find ourselves often transferring our biases to our children to protect them from the difficult questions of life. That day my mother transferred pity to mine. Pity. This was a feeling that would repeatedly walk with me as I grew up, crossing paths with more people who were what society terms as different. I honestly think that I got off lucky, pity was an easy bias to overcome. What if she had felt revulsion, disgust or repugnance?  So, let us be careful which bias we are passing on to our children. Once I had rejected the idea of pity my next thought was: Why should we consider them and their caregivers with pity? Isn’t that how we create victims and martyrs. Is that the aim? Over the years having interacted with several people with disabilities and their families there is one thing that I have learned, that ‘pity’ is abhorrent to them.

Then what is it that they want from us?

When I was in school we did not have any child with any kind of developmental disability. There was never any mention of it. It was as if these things did not exist. Nobody at home spoke about it as there was no need for such a discussion. What we didn’t know we did not ask. I do not offer this as an excuse for my behavior in fact on the contrary my reactions on that day were and remain inexcusable. What I offer is a contrast. My kids have had the privilege of studying in schools where inclusion of the differently abled is essential. Thus, I have two beautiful souls who are full of compassion and have never behaved in a manner that would embarrass them later in life as a result resort to writing blogs such as this. My children talk of the wondrous capabilities of their friends and I share their wonder for their friends truly are amazing. What I find most heartening is that my kids talk about these friends with deep affection. Respect and affection that is created by accepting diversity is the beauty of inclusive classroom. Special education professional Gretchen Walsh M.S. Ed., who runs the Academic Support Center at Notre Dame College, gives a concise synopsis when she says “Inclusion is important because through our diversity we certainly add to our creativity. If you don’t have a diverse classroom or a diverse world, you don’t have the same creative levels and I think our strength lies in our diversity.”

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Friendship, love, respect, dignity is that too much to ask? Aren’t these basic human rights? A civilized society is one which is morally and intellectually advanced; that is humane and ethical. Diversity is finding acceptance in the classrooms, our children are moving towards a far better civilization, let us join them walking proudly shoulder to shoulder with them.

What can we do?

Down Syndrome

Solidarity is the union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, that is what the world needs today in all spheres but especially here. When individuals come together to celebrate the rights of the few with Disruptive Abilities heartening stories are born. On the 21st of March the world celebrates World Down Syndrome Awareness Day, it is a day simply for creating awareness. This year in India under National Trust and  IN:For the Cause there were many beautiful stories born. Blue and yellow symbolizing the colors of this very special day emblazoned vistas.17362013_10101577993744884_358703351333889271_n

Names like Google, Microsoft, Nokia,  MED-EL,Harley Davidson, ITC Maurya, Lemon Tree, Forever Mark Diamond Pvt. Ltd., TATA CliQ, We Media Works, Chill Bey, C’est La Vie, Styling Scissors, Madison & Pike, The Social Street, Hotel Red Fox and even a filling station  BP came forward in support blazing the way for their people to pick up the torch to carry the dream into the hearts of hundreds. School children from  Scottish High International School, and from  The Close South, a condominium in Gurgaon, fashioned masterpieces with the two colors winning the joys of many. College students stepped up through the Blue Pencil Blog creating a platform to better understand the chromosomally enhanced who enhance the lives of each one they touch with their beautiful hearts that abound with pure happiness.

Siblings shared journeys of their lives with their very best brothers and sisters.  Parents smiled at their progeny who were successful in every way that society deemed them incapable of. Organisations like MUSKAAN that provide opportunities to the differently abled shared their immense capabilities.   Numerous empathetic individuals also stepped up, ripples are spreading far and wide. Hope has been created. The horizon of many found expansion and the diligent efforts of the organizers were realized.

The busy organizers now work even harder for the next date 2nd of April for World Autism Day. So how about it, will you also join in the efforts to create a better tomorrow?

 

 

Poem – When did, the foe become the friend, And the brethren the foe?

Oh, My country!

When did the dream fail?

When did we stop to care?

How did we let the suppressor wear,

the diadem of friendship?

And the brethren

the thorns of injustice?

When did, the foe become the friend

And the brethren the foe?

 

The multitude that with confidence strode

Glorious heritage upon their brow

Smiling faces did bayonets embrace

With mirth their dying breath.

Oh, Motherland supreme each did proclaim.

To the very end, Hind on their tongue.

What would be their Anguish?

When we made,

the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe.

 

The oppressors were few

yet they did subdue, masses large.

A country enslaved, that passive stayed

Till our heroes stood

Hand in hand

Shoulder to shoulder

Caste forgotten, creed forsaken

Religion that ceased in matter

Blood that throbbed, that bled, that fell

was ever only Indian.

When did we then,

make the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe?

 

Our heroes prevailed, on an enemy racist

The foreign monarch routed,

helplessly departed.

We were FREE

Time stood up and Applauded.

A people found their wings

to fly they should

the world theirs

more glory to be shared.

But with midnight’s peal,

a blight persisted.

For we had made,

the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe.

 

Dover Beach we would aspire

the shingles to kiss.

But the brethren we suspect

We shun

We disrespect

The lines we, allowed to be

Created

With each stroke the

pencil drove

The foe the friend

And the brethren the foe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Noteworthy Bridegroom

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

I must clarify before you read on, this is not a post on demonetisation even though the title  may be a trifle misleading in the present times where the note is more worthy.

At a much younger cousin’s wedding recently a thought struck that has stayed in my mind, growing bigger by the day. This thought has nagged and niggled away at my peace. I must enunciate this now or I shall lose more sleep over as thoughts the fiends that they are, only strike me when I’m comfortably ensconced in my warm blanket half way here and the other half in la-la-land.

It struck at the ‘sehra bandi’ ceremony, the cousin as you would have guessed by now was the bridegroom. Dressed in a golden shervani and safa, the dear fellow was radiant (now that’s generally a commendation reserved for the bride from whom I’m borrowing it for just this occasion, and as I know her to be a rather sporting sort I’m confident she will not mind.) So while participating with all seriousness in the ceremony where the sisters of the bridegroom tie the sehra on his safa (now it’s a known fact that the sisters of the bridegroom don’t really get too much footage at a wedding, so we take our relatively small roles quite seriously.) In our community, the sehra is composed of two parts a silver mukut and a veil made of flowers that is tied over the mukut. This particular mukut that was tied by the sisters has a unique history which will need another post to do it proper justice.

So now back to the thought that crept into my mind as I helped tie his  sehra was how much we hear, read, talk about the bride’s shringaar. We go into raptures describing to the bride her stunning clothes and accessories. From the bindi gracing her forehead to the ring sparkling on her toe, from the gajras perfuming her hair to the chunnari framing her beauty. From the lehngas twinkle to her payals tinkle, poetry has been written, songs have been sung, paintings have replicated the gorgeousness of the bride and the loveliness of her emotions. We cannot stop complimenting her on her happy glow. And we continue to congratulate her as she embarks on her journey towards love, towards a new life.

But, as for the poor bridegroom, he is rarely given the same consideration. Ribald jokes, loss of freedom, being tied to the yoke, a noose scarfing his neck are the only things the poor fellow is thrown in the way of attention. As he laughs letting slide the jokes and expendable dissuasion, the chappie camouflages his gladness effectively. Why does this happen, I question? The two are beginning a journey together, are they not? I wonder at this discrimination!

Discrimination! One would question that word. Women are discriminated against, not men some would say. Yet, I stand by discrimination. I really do feel sorry for the poor sod, who’s the bridegroom for he must hide behind his manliness and is not allowed to emote. Is he fearful of ridicule? Or is it because it’s the done thing? Whatever the reason that’s a quandary for me, that goes unanswered. The woman on the threshold of her wedding day is encouraged to be starry eyed, to express her hopes for a happy days full of love, whereas the man is made anxious with thoughts heavy pressing down on him. We allow the woman soft feelings to nurture on the other hand we don’t permit the man any display of  his.

They do, you know, have those soft feelings but hide them under brashness and bravado. You can see through the screens that they shadow behind, you just need to watch out for the signs. So, the next time you see the young boy who to the despair of his mother has never woken before the evening after a night of reveling with his friends, is up and ready for an early morning wedding puja. Or you witness the eagerness of the young man, who has never been on time for anything in his life, the first to turn up for his sehra bandi don’t be slack-jawed in surprise.

And while we are doing that let us also when telling the bride that she looks beautiful and ethereal praise the bridegroom letting him know that he looks handsome and regal.  We women will continue to hog the limelight with our embellished lehngas or sarees or suits and gorgeous jewelry, let’s pause to consider that the man does so only once, on this day, his wedding day. So, just let us take our eyes off the young lady for one brief moment and look upon this dazzling young man, donned in his magnificent brocade sherwani, hosting a symbolic pearl mala around his neck. Let’s gaze in admiration at the elegant kamarbandh encircling his waist where a sword within a bejeweled scabbard is jauntily fixed. Stop for a bit to appreciate his elegant dupatta and his stately jutis. Stare a little while with wonder at the embellished safa he proudly wears on his head onto which the mukut is affixed by loving sisters, proclaiming to all that he is the bridegroom and it is the happiest day of his life. And let us bless with hearts kind, as he sits astride the ceremonial horse with the confidence of a king, back straight in all his splendor while his sehra hides his joyful glow from any evil eye. Get together and applaud as he travels the last mile to bring love, companionship and happiness home. Allow him this day to express his pleasure just like my cousin did as he danced on the carriage that carried him to his equally and now I shall share the word with her ‘radiant’ bride as their long-held dream was on the threshold of coming true.

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Photo Credit: Richa Pandey Wadhwa

 

 

 

My Write India Journey

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Photo Credit: TOI Books Facebook Page

There was always a distant thought in my mind the thought that I would someday write. A passionate reader since childhood, stories were my best friends who never lied to me, who never betrayed me, who were comfort to me on days that were bleak and days that were joyous. Away from home in hostel from the age of nine surrounded by girls of my age, younger and older ones on most days is great but sometimes home becomes a longing that is difficult to dispel, that is when books became my mother’s comforting touch, my father’s friendly counsel, my brother’s playful antics. Every story I read made me happy and also sad. Sad that it was over, sad that the characters or the settings were lost to me. Sad only till I found another set of characters, another setting that would take me to realms unexplored and thoughts unknown. But then I digress from the thread of thought that I meant to unravel. What did participating in Write India mean to me.

When I first saw the campaign in print for this unique idea, I knew the time had come to begin. To start work on a dream that I had harboured in the far recesses of my heart. With bated breath, I waited for the first prompt which I was thrilled to find compelled me to research for the story was to be set in the past. Amish Tripathi’s prompt made me delve into the annals of history from the Vedic ages to the Maratha rulers. I learnt that feminism isn’t a concept of modern times but was an intrinsic part of the very fabric of the early Vedic age. I read the tenets of Manu Smriti and understood the misogyny that for centuries would diminish the worth of the women in my country.  I discovered the legends of the Godavari in addition to which I learnt the two-thousand-year-old legacy of the weavers of Paithan and the beautiful product that is the Paithani. The unveiling of the second prompt by Chetan Bhagat had me even more energised and I began research on the vulnerabilities of the human body and the broad field of forensic investigation. I googled for information which opened an astonishing world of knives for me: knives of flint, bronze, copper and knives as tools for hunting, sport, survival even knives as symbols of culture and tradition. With this also came the many possibilities of their usage in the killing of a human. In my mind, I cooked up various scenarios for the prompt and even had a nightmare about killing off the love of my life, poor fellow. I realised that thinking like a criminal was uncomfortable and admired those who so vividly describe the mind of a criminal. The next story I wrote was for Ashwin Sanghi’s prompt, intrigued by it I began to create a character akin to the various investigators that had been the heroes of the very many thrillers I had read over the years. Since I wanted my story to have a twist I decided to use another theme now I probed into the obscure world of telepathic communication between the living and the dead. What an interesting time I had writing that story!

Life sometimes interferes with one’s desires and I was unable to write on Preeti Shennoy, Ravi Subramanian and Durjoy Dutta’s prompts due to certain commitments. And then I again picked up with gusto for Tuhin A. Sinha, I did not do any research here and had fun as I wrote a short fluffy piece keeping conversations between my teenage daughter and her friends in mind. Ravinder Singh’s prompt made me think about a young man’s dilemma in a modern marriage that was turning bitter what would he do, I thought, when he was faced with his past, with the woman who was his first love. I wrote an emotional story that earned me the third winners position. Madhuri Banerjee’s prompt made me look up the term ‘Love Jihad’ to my horror I discovered how innocent love was being subverted in such an exploitive manner. Reading Jaishree Misra’s prompt I instantly knew that I would now have to undertake that treacherous emotional journey into my own psyche, the loss that more than two decades later still haunts me of my cousin brother’s death. Writing the story was an experience that was hugely cathartic; I felt later that even though I did not lay all my demons to rest, some had found closure. This was one prompt I am glad I did not win.

The last prompt detailed by Anita Nair had us all in a tizzy. Twitter erupted with debates on literary fiction in contrast to commercial fiction. Participants posted query after query to Anita to understand the rules that she had set. Writing this story was a gauntlet that she threw and I almost did not write intimidated with the challenge that it posed. Till one morning I woke up with a far distant memory of an old woman who came to my childhood home every day. A story began to form and I let it write itself. When I finished, I sent it out with no hopes of a win. I did not even know if the rules permitted me to be eligible for participation after the third place win earlier. The most pleasant surprise awaited me when the results were announced Anita chose it with another incredible story as the winning entry. The feeling of a dream coming true is so difficult to describe, it felt surreal, as if the grace of the almighty has touched you in the form of ‘the daemon’ that the ancient Greeks attribute to creative success. I will be forever thankful to Anita Nair for making this a tough prompt to write on, if she hadn’t I would not have caught the inspiration and let it bleed onto paper.

Over the period of 11 months that the Write India contest ran for and with every story that I wrote I have evolved both as a writer as well as a person. I’ve found reservoirs of empathy within myself and have been managed to express myriad feelings to others. I’ve gone from a woman with no idea what she was doing with her life to one with relevance.

The unveiling of the book at the Write India Grand Finale was as an event as close to perfection as could be. Write India Director Vinita Dawra Nangia’s dream project has given wings to the dreams of so many of us. Her warm embrace fledgling writers such as me is not something that is to be taken lightly, her faith is something that I aspire to fulfil. Gilbert K Chesterton says “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” I take this win with the humblest of gratitude. I also owe my deepest appreciation to Team Write India comprising of these three amazing young women: the untiring Gunjan Verma, the diligent Surbhi and the unstintingly supportive Kalpana Sharma. I need to in addition thank those very many people behind the scenes who made Write India possible.

I cannot end without mentioning the new friends I have made on this journey, my fellow participants and winners Sutapa Basu, Shailesh Tripathy, Nainesh A. Jadwani, Tishampati Sen, Nikhil D. Samant, Ameeta Anand, Kena Shree, Bhaswar Mukherjee, Samah Visaria, Aarati Shah, Kuheli Bhattacharya, Shachee Desai, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Ramya Vivek and Rohit Tandekar. A warm group of people who immediately struck up a camaraderie that I would be openly envious of if I were not part of this group lauded as ‘Gen-Next’ of Indian writers. As the connections over social media strengthen this newfound group and witticisms fly unabated, I enjoy getting inspired by each one of them and their soulful stories. I am sure all my new friends will join me in thanking the celebrity authors for a lot many reasons but most of all for their enthusiastic cheering for the winners of Write India Season 1.

The Write India contest culminated in the release of a book of amazing stories. 36 chosen tales from over 25000 entries, a novel concept of  crowd sourcing by The Times of India. You can order your copy on the following link.

“In The Light of Darkness” – Book Review

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As I read through Tabrez’ dedication and acknowledgement, I had an inkling that the story about to unfold was one I would like. And I not only liked it, I loved it! We all see and feel the ugliness in the world yet are hopeful of the innate goodness out there; this is the book that reiterates your faith. It is a celebration of human relationships.

You will find within its pages characters to fall in love with. The motif of motherhood will be found in Susan. The angry son Matthew’s anguish will make him Matt to you. Meera’s story will fill you with an anger that will simmer yet you will believe that a good person cannot be abandoned. You will find the who-can-see-no-wrong-in-you Aunt who will find her way into your heart via your stomach. You will find the formidable Uncle who will look at you till you squirm with discomfort and spill out your deepest secrets. He will then be your champion but then again he will not mince words when he must.  You will find friends like Maanav, Vidu, Suhana who will prop you up when needed and wallop your behind when required.  In Tabrez’s own words you will find “A Family of Friends.”

This is a book all about emotions. Tabrez’ writing will pull at your heartstrings stretching them out to the point where you think that you will snap and as the tears begin to course down your cheeks she will ease the pace ever so slowly letting the warmth flood your heart. When you finally reach the end having gone through myriad emotions, believe me, you will put down the book with a very self-satisfied ‘Aaaaaaah!’

This book “In The Light of Darkness” the debut novel of Radhika Maria Tabrez, published by Readomania is a must read.