Just Another Day by Piyusha Vir, is a set of 3 stories to delight sting in the tail enthusiasts. All written from the first person point of view each story progresses in a chronological manner – back and forth. Within the scope of limited words Vir manages to create relatable characters in a breezy style.
In the first story, Writer’s Circle, an author closeted in a room with other murder suspects only wants to get back to her writing, was perhaps the one I related to the most. Come hell or high water when there is a thought brewing in the mind, nothing, nothing takes precedence for a writer. As the story progresses the cold blooded opinions of Anuradha have one engaged right to the denouement, when the murderer and their motive is subtly revealed.
The second story is innocuously titled – Happy birthday, Saisha. Technically in this story Vir displays a deft hand at foreshadowing, which is both mature and surprising from an author with so few stories under her belt. An author to watch out for sure. But back to the story, one would have read somewhere in the news about an incident similar to what Saisha experiences on her birthday. However, one would not have read the thoughts of a girl who goes through such a birthday. Vir’s handling of the story has you gripping the edge of your seat in an innervation that rises slowly from the pit of your stomach leaving you with the metallic zing of disquiet.
The last story in this triad is Elevator Tales, a smile found itself to my lips as nostalgia hit me unawares. Everyone will relate to this story. All women would have memories of crushes on a handsome dude. If he lived next door that certainly would be the icing on the cake, wouldn’t it? For men too, I’m sure the feelings are the same. Vir’s characters rush of hormones have been experienced by all of us. Sighing and building sandcastles of a future together, embarrassing incidents and certainly being at our undignified best in front of the object of our affections might have been suffered by many of us. Yet, the fondness of those memories is what this story evokes ending with a slight twist to romance.
Just Another Day by Piyusha Vir on the face of it looks like a collection of quick shots at a day where life changing events occur for three individuals, but the depth of thoughts are more than what one would bargain for. Published by Readomania, this collection is available only on kindle @Rs 49 for now. Click here to buy.
A friend reminded me, after my last post how she had been a part of my reading escapades in school. I took a long trip back into childhood and had an epiphany – that my closest friendships have always been with readers.
As I let nostalgia take me on a ride down to my early years of pre-primary and primary in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I gazed with wonder at Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Huckleberry Finn, Dicken’s and a dozen others scattered over my bed. With it came the memory of my first ‘bosom’ friend, Nanda D Gurbani she was to me what Diana was to Anne of Green Gables. Petit and pretty and oh so perfect. Malory Towers and St Claire’s made us Sigh for boarding school and our exasperated parents complied. She was packed off to MGD in Jaipur and I equally unceremoniously waved off to Welhams, Dehradun. With impressive promises and fervent oaths we hoped to keep in touch and then faced with the vagaries of the postal system lost touch forever. I name her here since I do hope there is someone reading it here who will put me in touch with her again.
My first night at boarding school is when I met a minx with a ropes of curls, who I will forever address with her surname and never with her given one. She and I bonded over thousands of pages of adventure and misadventure, classics and non-classics. Both of us would be placed together in dorm after dorm till we parted after the 10th grade. We would exchange books and read them by torchlight, sweating under the covers of our uninspiring counterpanes. After a hiatus of college, marriage and kids we were united by Facebook many years later to my delight.
During the Welham years, there were two more with whom I forged bonds over books that last till today. With one I was her partner in crime. We hid the books we wanted to read from others behind obscure titles in the school library. We borrowed for ourselves and shared with each other, breaking rules of asking the owners before further sharing their books. But, then loyalty was always towards each other and no one else. We coerced relatives and friends with well-worded letters about the horrible loneliness of boarding school, and how the mentioned title would relieve us of it somewhat. Some of our letters were heeded and some sadly went to unsympathetic postees. The one or two books that did trickle in managed to find their senders places of fondness in our hearts till they too turned unsympathetic and were relegated to the dark recesses of a hurt child’s psyche, never to trust such adults again. We read and read, then discussed each book to shreds – dismayed at a character’s sorrows and jubliant at their fortunes.
Then there was the other friend, a delightful cuddle on whose lap I put my head and we read the great romances – Gone With The Wind, Far Pavilions, Thorn Birds; the sagas of Sheldon, Archer, Segal, Steele. A quirk she had which I never understood – reading the end of the book first!! Sacrilege, if there was any term for it! The anticipation of the end is always the most exciting part of the read, I debated. With the coolness that to her was second nature she bothered not to respond. I still have never ever tried to read an end before the rest of a story. The magic would be lost and I still wonder at her. The eternal romantic she found treasures we read, my head on her lap – one book in her hand and another in mine.
School ended and college began. Another girl became my concomitant to the bookstores in the neighbourhood. We shared the same name in addition to a quirkiness of the mind. We bonded over the stories we read and defied the seriousness of the world, laughter rang out and continues to over the love for books and the ridiculousness of the world. She is the one who brings out the ‘stupid’ in me and makes me realise that solemnity is actually a vice. To her I owe in friendship more, in madness even more.
There came a long period of lull, in which I read rather alone. Then came along a group so Drunk-on-books, sobriety suits them not. We read the woes of the world, dissect each aspect of writing and debate loudly on the author’s voice. We eat and drink with the passion we reserve only for the venerated written word. We each bring into the discussion a viewpoint that another has not thought of, a perspective brought on from another way of life. Each book we read and discuss enriches the experience of looking at it through multifarious lenses. The women in this group are erudite warriors whose reading choices make me break out of my comfort zone to read books I would never have picked up otherwise. They are also my biggest support system and champions.
Another group that enriches my reading experiences is one of women who live around me. Rocking grandmothers who redefine the maxims of age and women of my age who rewrite the expectations of stereotypes make up this sapient group. Again the discussions are designed well and structured to be deep and meaningful. A different experience which releases wisdom from the written words of so many authors stimulates my intellect. With laughter and encouragement the group grows, with love and companionship we support.
Quoting PG Wodehouse to end this post, “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.” And I have beautiful friends to share not only literature with, but my life with, too.
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 thatthe 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.
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.
This is in continuation to yesterday’s post – Empty Platitudes https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/empty-platitudes/ you might want to go through that first to understand what I’m trying to communicate here. My friend who despite all her difficulties still manages to make me laugh responded to the post with, “Imagine I used to keep telling my son to write about Mom dealing with Dad’s Alzheimer and here you’ve gone and made me the subject of your post.”
As I begin this post there is a feeling of trepidation. My concern is not on where I stand about what I plan to write today, but on what you my reader, may make out of this. Nevertheless.
We talk about those who have been wondrously sacrificing in tones full of deep respect. Those who do not take on their responsibilities we judge in hushed whispers laced with condescension. Poets have expounded on the virtues of stepping up and our movies have made good money glorifying ‘the right thing to do’. And we do, that is do, what is right, what is expected of us. But, that is not my purpose here, to sit in moral judgment or to glorify the vigor of the person who is living up to the expectations of honor.
My question to you, dear reader is, have you ever thought about what a caregiver to a sick child, parent, spouse or sibling is going through? Let me answer for myself. I had not.
Up until my earnest conversations with my vibrant friend began, I saw others in her situation as brave souls admiring them from afar. I imagined them to be so strong and selfless that their circumstances were immaterial to their happiness. What I now realize is that they are definitely strong and selfless. But happy?
So my friend sent me a text right now, “My great aunt just left, she’s advised me to feed Mom ‘kabooter meat’ apparently it helps counteract paralysis!!” I call her up, this cannot be discussed over a text, shaking with laughter, I ask her, cooked or raw? Then I tell her to stand on the balcony with a net and catch a fresh pigeon to feed her mom. On the speaker aunty laughs along with us as she says, “Bring on the pigeons I’ll soon spring up from my bed and strut like one gutergooing.” Now this may seem completely irreverent to some of you, but, that is one of the small harmless doses of laughter my friend will have in her day where she measures out medications, props up her parents into comfortable positions and where her conversations will be with doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.
As she goes about being the responsible child that she is we have a number of discussions about her day. She tells me of the various demands that her relatives place on her ‘by wanting to be helpful.’ The aunt who insists on making her special ‘biryani’ for the invalids and then hands her a long list of ingredients to be procured from the market. The incessant calling of another for updates, who could not visit as her daughter had an allergy in her armpits! Another who decides to help by accompanying her to the hospital and takes up the doctor’s time by discussing her own problems with him. Such people who are a ‘disease’ themselves for which there is no cure, how do you tell them to keep away while trying not to ‘hurt’ their sentiments (that being of prime importance.)
She tells me with empathy about her mother who is going through the depression that comes with the loss of mobility. She tells me about how she does sweet little things to cheer up her mother, like painting her nails and cutting her hair into a bob. And then we talk about the depression that she herself is going through. She says that she gets a lot of calls daily from friends and family asking her how her parents are. The strange thing she says is very rarely does anyone ask me how am I doing. How am I dealing with the anxiety? The sleepless nights! The endless pressures! The loneliness! This total change in my life, no one asks! Is a caregiver no longer a person? She tells me of an incident and I am taken aback at the callousness of people. When her mother was in the hospital and after a hectic day of rushing around she was very hungry, the first thing she found to eat were golgappas and she ate them. On returning to the hospital when she told someone they were aghast at her ‘enjoying golagappas’ while her mother lay in hospital. Excuse me!! Why is khichdi acceptable and golgappas not?
So those of you judging take a moment and reflect. She is a young person who by all rights should be out pursuing her interests or her career. She should be with her son who will leave for college next year and needs her support, her counsel critically. She should be sitting with a coffee in her hand as she gossips with her friends in a café. She should spend the nights dancing and being drunk on the headiness of life. She should be on holiday with her spouse with whom she has spent the years of struggle as they climbed up the ladder of success. These are her prime years. Does she not deserve this and more that most of us take for granted?
Shouldn’t she be running with the wind on her face, not sitting looking out of the window of dismay, wondering what the next day will bring!
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy. -Shakespeare