Day 28 : Dear Zindagi

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NaBloPoMo November 2016

Dear Zindagi was a delightful watch. A leisurely movie about life and therapy.

Alia Bhatt is growing as an actress with every film. Her character is flawed, and focused but directionless. Kaira (aka Koko, her character) is a mixture of paradoxical traits and thus, complicated.

The movie starts wonderfully, but is painfully slow after the Interval. Gauri Shinde could have done well to dig deeper into Kaira’s psyche or Dr. Khan’s background. Instead, she lets the movie meander like anyone going to Goa does. Life just stops in Goa, so does the movie.

I liked how the movie tries to remove some of the stigma associated with therapy in the Indian society. My two cents : Indian society is made up of people who make it their business to become associated with every happenings in the lives of friends, family and strangers alike. It’s bad and good at the same time. When therapy was not this prevalent, people used to talk their hearts out to these friends, families or strangers and get comforted/find solutions from their talks.

With busier lives, people getting more judgemental, and no guarantee of secrecy – we have begun turning to therapists. BD – the brain doctor – as the movie calls them, are a varied lot. Some seem absolutely cuckoo (here, I’d like to say that one man’s cuckoo is another man’s genius), some just sit and nod their head and tell you that the session is over.

Then how does therapy help? If you have the right therapist, (s)he will listen to all you have to say without making you uncomfortable, and offer guidance on topics which relate to a behaviour trait which affects your life. Like Dr.Khan in Dear Zindagi, (s)he won’t meddle with your decisions but let you arrive at a decision after offering several options to deal with a situation. In essence, your therapist does what a good friend or mentor would do.

This is only for minor problems – dealing with life situations. If your problems arise because of a psychological condition like bipolar mood disorder or vitamin/hormonal imbalances, you will definitely need to get medication along with the therapy.

Dear Zindagi shows the goody goody part of therapy and counselling where the psychiatrist doesn’t feel the need for medication for Kaira. It’s a movie where you go on cringing at the protagonist’s decisions and keep telling her to make sane decisions, and the therapist helps her do precisely that and lo! With some of her cringe-worthy traits still intact – Kaira transforms into a new girl.

My two cents, again : Therapy ain’t bad. Consult a therapist whose vibes make you feel good about yourself. OR, if your problems are not pressing and you have reliable friends, family, mentors (none of these strangers), talk to them. Communication is the key to coming out of the downing blues. Whether to communicate with a therapist or a known person – you decide.

Day 18 : Heartbreak

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Youtube put this song in my auto-playlist :

(Disclaimer : I have not seen the movie.)

I think to myself, ‘Wow, this generation is so cool!’ Then I remember this :

Cool people are always cool, irrespective of ‘zamaana’.

It all boils down to my favourite Sahir Ludhianvi line :

‘Barbadiyon ka sog manana fazul tha,
Barbadiyon ka jashn manaata chala gaya’

Heartbreak – happens for various reasons. The one in this post is due to romantic relationships. For the most part of this post, read breakup = heartbreak and vice-versa.

In the 3 decades of life that I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that a human being needs another human beings to make life interesting. First it is family, then friends, and when the age comes – a partner. Humsafar. It literally means a fellow traveller (through life). For some, the binding factor is love, for some habit – depends on the phase of love they are in.

It’s very difficult to comprehend why and how love changes into habit. Small irritations turn into big ones, ignoring these or bickering on each of them ensues, and both sides feel as if they are being taken for granted. It is said that if you really love someone, you will not be able to remain cross for more than 3 days. What brings about the reunion? Love or habit?

I often wonder, nay – I claim, that a marriage is a relationship in which you assure each other that you’ll survive the breakups (trivial and serious) as far as you can bring yourselves to love each other despite these hiccups. To rephrase, a marriage is a steady relationship with on and off breakups that are not publicised. That, when a breakup happens, each tries to find a new/old other who is likeable and his/her ‘type’.

A marriage is a guarantee that a temporary breakup will not affect the whole relationship built on solid foundations of liking the real person on the other side, of knowing his/her eccentricities (and being willing to accept/endure them within limits), and of promising to see his/her brighter side in dark days.

A marriage is a license to enjoy the perks of single life (eh, don get your mind running. By single life, I mean individual space) and couple life at once. A healthy marriage, that is.

I am not digressing from the topic of the post.

Heartbreak. These temporary breakups in a marriage, which come with a guarantee of a no-grudges patch-up, do not imply that they are painless. Heck! Ask those who are married (unless they are like the superhero couple from Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd who never fought)…

The pangs of loneliness despite being together are as bad as (even worse than) an actual breakup. I have a suspicion that they arise more out of the habit of talking to each other. How would your day be if you are in the temporary breakup phase (read marital fight)? Mope around, trying to figure out a way to fall back or concentrate on tasks at hand as if it is not a big deal while it is secretly a big deal for you?

As for me, a little levity always helps deal with such days. Sigh…

So when I first heard this song, the first picture that came into my head was (I hadn’t seen the video then) –

A wife cooking something around breakfast time and humming the first para to herself, while the husband chimes in. This husband is the original or the transformed version of himself (whichever is better), with whom she fell/will fall in love with. At the end of the song, they end their temporary breakup and live happily forever after till another squabbling (which hopefully is far away).

Why does the husband have to change? Well, ask the song-makers!

If it would’ve been the other way round – Ranbeer Kapoor singing ‘Meri sajni se aaj maine Break-Up kar liya’… the picture in my head would be of a husband getting ready for office and the original/transformed version of the wife chiming in with –

Kalti hui jo sajni stupid teri
Jeevit hua hai phir se cupid tera
Baasi relationship ka label hata
Duniya (hum) ko tu hai available bata

Arey mere soye armaano ko wake up kar diya
Arey mere soye armaano ko wake up kar diya
Ke teri sajni se (aaha!)
Tune breakup kar liya…

 

 

Day 14 : Children’s Day

NaBloPoMo November 2016

My school friend called me yesterday (14 Nov 2016). We were in the same class from Nursery to 12th. We used to study together for exams in some of the years.

She was remembering one children’s day celebration that I had organised at my place. I like to rummage through old stuff, which is aplenty in our 150+ year old house and the ground surrounding it (we used to own a ginning factory). One fine day in the late 90s or in the year 2000, I found a framed photograph of Jawaharlal Nehru. Children’s Day was approaching, and a Hindi lesson where a gang of girls decide to clean up their village was influencing me a lot. So I decided to have a gathering where we make our own gang of girls.

Incidentally, the leader of the fictional gang and my friend N shared the same name. That made me believe that we can bring about a ‘Kranti’ – a revolution.

I called up all the interested girls in our class on the 13th. I am happy to say most of them turned up. We were about 6-8 attendees at the gathering.

I dusted Chacha Nehru’s photograph, took out the jumbo chattai (carpet) to spread under the neem tree in our ground – the venue for the gathering, and cleared the neem twigs with a kharata (broom). At around 12 o’clock, the photograph was propped up on the chair, which was kept near the carpet.

My Mom had made snacks for us. I don’t remember clearly, but all the attendees brought something from their home. Yes, I think they did.

The gathering was planned with utmost detail. When all had arrived, we lit an agarbatti (incense stick) as homage to the great soul. I had prepared a speech, which seemed very inspiring to me. Everybody listened till they could, and then shut me up. 😐

We played passing the parcel. The winner got a prize. Then we had our dabbas in the cool breeze under the neem tree, which gave us shade in the otherwise sunny afternoon. Time seemed to stop. When the meeting was over, handkerchiefs were handed out to everyone as a return gift. (I got to know afterwards that giving a handkerchief to someone is considered a bad omen. Your friendships turn sour, if you do. Well, I am happy to say that it is not so and they might be saying that for used hankys ‘cos they spread infections. We all have retained touch with each other and have stronger ties than ever.)

Of course, we did not realise the significance then. We do now. It was an attempt to freeze our childhood which was running out fast – all of us were in already in our teens.

We fought over the futility of the idea, there was reluctance in getting together, but when we did – we made a merry afternoon of the gathering. There were many such gatherings (not on children’s day) at intervals of 5-6 years after each. The reluctance was always present, last minute drop-outs were coaxed and dragged into the train/car to Lonavala and we kept on making memories like that noon.

Thanks N, for reminding me of that Children’s Day yesterday! Love you, and love our gang of girls!

Day 13 : Book Review – The Peshwa

 

Paperback: 356 pages Publisher: Westland Ltd. (5 January 2016) Language: English ISBN-10: 9385724215 ISBN-13: 978-9385724213
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Westland Ltd. (5 January 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9385724215
ISBN-13: 978-9385724213

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I had applied for a review copy from Writersmelon (they send out a newsletter about books up for review) on finding the book interesting.

The cover is captivating. It lends a mystical air to the Peshwa’s character.

I had read a Gujrati book titled ‘Fadnavisi’ based on Nanasaheb Fadnavis’ life. The Peshwa made a brief appearance in it. I was always curious about him since then. Also, the fact that I have visited Mrityunjayeshwar Mandir (near which Mastani lived), Parvati (which is associated with the Peshwa) and Shaniwar Wada makes it near impossible to miss any literature which claims to narrate the life and times of the Peshwa. Add to all this, I did not quite like the version of the tale as shown in Bajirao-Mastani – so I wanted to know if there really is someone who can tell an authentic tale?

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are a History fan, like the Marathi culture or want to know more about it, and above all else – like to hear a story told like the ones you heard in childhood, this book is for you.

THE BOOK

The book is fast-paced and unputdownable because of the beauty of Ram Sivasankaran‘s language. Marathi warriors speaking chaste English is hard to adapt to at first, but after a few pages, the language barrier no longer applies. It helps if you have read Amish’s books though they are of different genres. I may go as far as saying that that Ram Sivasankaran‘s language surpasses the linguistic quality of the narrative in the Shiva Trilogy by huge margins, because even though he uses English, he keeps the voice archaic and graceful enough to suit the time frame, whereas Amish goes entirely colloquial in his books. (I have no idea why I am comparing the two – apples and oranges. I think it is because I keep on seeing the pinned tweet on Ram Sivasankaran’s Twitter timeline where Amish endorses The Peshwa.)

THE PLOT

It is very difficult to write an oft told story such that it will hold the interest of readers who already know the story as well as those who are new to it. The Author has managed to pull that off by narrating the present day (1800s) events along with flashbacks from the 1700s.

The plot is about how Bajirao I established himself as a warrior Peshwa. His coming of age, his romantic side, and initiation into the office of Peshwa. This book sets the tone for the sequel, which I think is named The Princess of Bundelkhand.

I would not spoil the start and the end for you. So I just say that the start is hair raising, even though you might have heard of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s valour time and again.

THE CHARACTERS

*spoiler alert*

Again, in a true historical account, it can be difficult to select characters to expand. The author manages to pick a handful and elaborate only the key influencers in the events.

The Chhatrapati

As we all know Chhatrapati Shahu was a benevolent King, more interested in the upliftment and education of his citizens than waging a territorial war against the Mughals. Ram Sivasankaran’s Chhatrapati comes across as more affable than he might be in real life. However, this brings about the fact that the Confederacy was primarily governed from the seat of the Peshwa rather than the throne of the Chhatrapati, subtly to the front.

The Mughal Emperor

Mentioned only in passing, Ram Sivasankaran succeeds in etching the Mughal Emperor Farookhsiyar’s character – which is in stark contrast to that of the Chhatrapati. Though both have been rendered titular, the Chhatrapati inspires respect for the throne of the Confederacy while the Mughal Emperor denotes instability in the Kingdom.

The Nizam

I like the fact that Ram Sivasankaran gives a humane side to the Nizam, who is otherwise known only for his cunning and ruthlessness. For students who have paid attention to their history classes, the real name of the Nizam will  bring back memories from the syllabus. The Nizam, if I were to speak the language of literature, is a perfect foil for our hero, The Peshwa. His character drills one point deep – loyalty, strength, justness are the qualities of an ideal citizen. A man can be a hero or an anti-hero depending on the side you are viewing the events from. For a Mughal citizen, the Nizam is a hero and a saviour. For the Maratha Confederacy, he is a villain and devil incarnate.

Of course, The Peshwa

The Peshwa’s character has been given a say from his teen years. This lets the reader know how the great Bajirao was conditioned to be a warrior and an able heir to his father’s seat. The reader can see directly into his vulnerability when he is thrown unprepared into an early succession and a full blown battle. Ram Sivasankaran succeeds in giving a likeable hero who matures from a self-doubting young man to a seasoned warrior.

Kashi Bai

Although Ranveer Singh creeped in as The Peshwa, he didn’t as much as Priyanka Chopra did as Kashi Bai, when I was reading the book. The Author has clearly mentioned that he had finished the draft well before the movie came out, but it is difficult to let go of its influence while reading the book. So Kashi for me, was a young Priyanka Chopra (she’s done the role so convincingly in the movie). As far as the narration goes, it is difficult to place her psyche – is she childish? is she well-learned and mature? She seems to show both traits as she dotes on her Rao and defends him vocally in the Royal Court. Well, teenage is such an age, isn’t it?

The Peshwa’s father

Bajirao inherits his statesmanship from his father. The Peshwa, when the book starts, is Balaji Rao, whom Bajirao succeeds. It is inevitable that the biggest influence in Bajirao’s life will be shown larger than life. It is fascinating to read anecdotes about his diplomacy and his conduct with his arch rival (The Nizam, who wasn’t the Nizam yet).

The Confederate Senapati

A traitor who was once a loyal soldier. With Dabhade’s character, the author proves that History can be written as the people in power at that time want it to be written. The Peshwa could very well have made an example of how a traitor can corrupt a whole batch of the army, but he chose to honour his previous valour. A one-off incidence, however grave, could not wipe off the years of selfless service that Dabhade spent with the Confederacy. Loved the whole track!

The Spies

With the Mughals, it was the Order of the Scorpians and with the Marathas, it was well-trained soldiers who doubled up as spies. When this sub-track, which is mentioned more in the offing than as a part of the story, becomes the main track, it hits you – wham! So this is what the author has been doing with the spy track and the flashbacks?! And this has been done so well, in a story already known, that it leaves you wondering – was this part fiction or it really happened?

*spoiler over*

WHAT I LIKED

  1. The oscillation between the flashbacks and the present day.
  2. The book picks an event – the first battle in Bajirao’s life and makes it come alive.
  3. Even a major character like Nanasaheb Fadnavis has been sidelined where it was not needed. This makes the story tightly told.
  4. The pace of the book does not slack for a minute, even with the romantic interludes and the heart-to-heart conversations.
  5. A historical story like this holds interest till the last page. Who would have thought?
  6. The fact that this book is in English, and relies less on local jargon, would make this interesting for readers all over India and even International English readers.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

  1. The extra chapter at the end is too fairy-taleish.
    *SPOILER ALERT*
  2. The romance seems too far-fetched to believe. I doubt Kashi Bai’s father and Balaji Rao would be this lenient.
  3. Kashi Bai talking to herself is irritating.
  4. According to me, in royal families, the rooms for the husband and the wife would be different. There would be no ‘their’ chamber.  This seems a factual error. I am not sure…
  5. I thought the emotional scenes too over done. Especially those with the Chhatrapati. Would the Chhatrapati embrace his mother and the Peshwa at once? Never! Would it be acceptable for Kashi Bai to drop a Puja thali to embrace Bajirao? The news would spread like wild-fire! It would be considered a dreadful omen and Kashi Bai would be held responsible for being careless.
    *SPOILER ALERT*

IN A NUTSHELL

I was hoping for a good read and mainly to compare versions with the movie Bajirao Mastani. But this was a complete surprise. The language, the flow and the characters take you into their era and you wake up into reality only when you finish the book.

You can buy the paperback from Amazon or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Reviewer’s rating   3.5/5

Note : I was sent a review copy by Writersmelon. The views are completely unbiased. I would have criticised the book, or not posted a review if I had felt otherwise. I genuinely liked it and I think you would too. Especially tweens.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

 

Day 7 – Consistency

NaBloPoMo November 2016

I am uber talented. In everything I take up.

Something always prevents me from making it to the top. Even if I do make it, there is a nagging feeling of being unaccomplished. Why?

I do everything in bursts, not streaks. Example : I started NaBloPoMo and fizzled out on Day 3.

Streaks happen when the doer is consistent. Here’s a piece I wrote in January about how being consistent can bring about a major change.

As I mentioned before, I am preparing for pre-nationals in 10m  Air Pistol to be held in mid-November. Our coach has started a new program where we train in group. First he gives us individual targets (e.g- Shoot 46 in 5 shots, each shot has a maximum value of 10 points). Then we are divided into teams and have to shoot the given number of shots to the best of our capacity.

One day, I consistently shot well and won a tie-breaker by scoring a perfect 10 (bullseye). Our team won. Next day, barring some problem with the weapon, I shot okay-ish. The highlight was – a perfect 10, which I followed up with a measly 6. A 6! At this level, I should not be going beyond 8 and this was in the white-space. Anyhoo, our team won one round and next round – we at least did not end up in the bottom.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because despite having all the potential and skill required for a certain task, I often fall short of giving my best to it (forget doing best). And the reason of falling short is – not giving enough time daily to the activity. Be it shooting, writing or my in-pipeline start-up – everything needs chunks of time DAILY from my routine. Instead, I end up doing stupid mundane things like doing the dishes, making food or organising the closet. Or in extreme cases of escapist moods – I can be found dozing off or reading. Grrr…

Coach’s advice : Do not belittle yourself. Pat your back every time you do well. You have to practice daily to achieve a certain level of confidence. But, if you are not coming to practice regularly, you can still shoot well if you believe in whatever training you have managed to do.

Bottomline : You can get away with being irregular, if you manage to do the required thing on time and with quality. To do this, you have to believe in yourself. Because (and I realise this at this precise moment) regularity or repetitions are different from being consistent. Consistency is performing well regardless of how regularly you do the activity. There is a shadow of doubt though – can you really be consistent without DAILY practice? Of course, there is a bare minimum level you need to attain first. After that, you can be fairly good, even great, if you have ‘just enough’ practice and a truck load of confidence (not over confidence).

Do you have difficulty in being consistent or regular? How do you deal with it?

It’s okay if you tell me this is a pretty pointless post, but this self-talk at least makes me post the Day 7 NaBloPoMo post.