Saturday, February 25, 2012

The punch in the drivel

People can surprise you at times, with what they think about you. They don’t surprise me anymore with compliments not deserved, for I guess I have been ‘paidaishi misunderstood’ and so used to it, lol but they did recently surprise me with compliments I couldn’t have braced myself to desire and some that I could never have believed to be honestly given (it is now that it strikes me that I can’t be too sure about the latter :/).

Also, and more interestingly, at times a person, on his own, can be the source of surprise to himself.  It is funny to note what he himself thinks about himself, how he describes himself in front of others when given no time to think and come up with eloquent flowery words and how on retrospect, those very spontaneous words seem to be the perfect description of what one is.

It was a practical class with Dr. Renu Kishor the other day where we were learning to administer a personality test and while discussing Allport’s cardinal traits, we were asked to tell each other’s and our own cardinal traits, as part of the on-going discussion.
The traits we came up with for each other were all agreed to by everyone else and I guess we all felt like psychologists that day, though in retrospect I can see that some were not cardinal traits at all rather slipped into the realms of central traits.Kanta was called deep, a paternalistic kind of a leader (which made ma’am angry, for we didn’t say maternalistic, isn’t that cool?). Chhavi felt ‘self-belief’ was the term that epitomises who she is and others called her extrovert. Aayushi was called a picture of serenity, one at peace with herself and the world. Amrita was called jovial and Anjali was called un-motivated and non-serious by ma’am herself(it was Anjali herself who invited these terms by saying she is all that Sudha is not). Stuti, Medha, Divya, Pragati and Ankhtuya were absent. So this was it.
You see, as I said, most of these aren’t cardinal traits, rather central.

Anyways, for me, the first one was ‘deep’, coming from a person I consider deep, Kanta. Good beginning.
The second one was ‘genius’ and funnily this was unanimously accepted.  For them though, this was not funny (how glad that made me). Thankfully, ma’am somehow knew that I was the topper and so she didn’t find it funny either (she teaches only the 3rd year students and meets the 2nd year students for personality tests for only one term and we are the ones she met just a week back, her last practical group).
But me, well instead of feeling good, I giggled inside- a good natured giggle that dismisses what is said without betraying annoyance :D
One person however whom I wish to have seen accepting this was conspicuously silent and staring at me with a raised eyebrow and snobbish smile, the kind of understanding smile that says, dude I am beyond feeling jealous for I know what you are but I won’t express my agreement all the same ;)(I can see you beginning to get bugged up at the irritating stories of I, me, myself but isn’t this the very think that makes me lovable haan? ;))
Moving on, the next was ‘Wikipedia’. This was too much, I decided. Then started my usual pleas of “oh they are too generous with their compliments Ma’am” and “stop flattering me Amrita” and stuff of that kind. To no avail. In fact Ma’am countered with why anybody would flatter me!
Now it was my turn to say which one trait described me the best, so much so that my entire life seems to revolve around it.

I chose to call myself a seeker, one who seeks and is in love with the seeking, with the process, with the path. One who seeks anything that catches her fancy (not very many things do) -a magnet for things to learn and accomplish; the more difficult the better. One who madly seeks but hates it when the journey ends for she loses all interest after she has reached the pinnacle. 
And as soon as I finished, pat came another attempt at my cardinal trait- workaholic.
This time I didn’t just giggle, I laughed inside. Workaholic, me? Wow! How I wish to be that!
I guess I am a rare specimen of Type A personality who doesn’t find it too difficult to relax and loaf expertly, though only with literature and my blog, I concede.
Yet if I go be a workaholic, my love would feel neglected, and considering the ultimate dumpies that books really are (sorry dearests), I won’t aggravate their suffering by myself joining the list of those dumping them and claiming them back on their whims and fancies and needs. In fact, if I choose to be really really honest about this, and digress a little bit,reading has become almost a ritual, a sacred ritual, so much so that it is difficult to imagine a day when I won’t pick up a book, just like it is difficult to imagine not brushing my teeth or bunking a psychology lecture. In fact, books have become so much a part of my own self that it is no less important to read now than it is to have food. Exams, you are thinking, aren’t you? Let me tell you it is during the exams that I manage to bump into some of the most moving, heart rending words penned down and it is also during exams that I feel the ‘need to write’, a need as conspicuously felt as the need to rest or the need to have food, and every little thing around me throws me saucy inspirations!
I brushed aside the comment and further explained how I hate it when a book ends and how I want it to go on and on and on and found support from the professor who vouched the same.

This was the end of all I was allowed to say about myself for after a couple of questions regarding whether I was also a perfectionist and an introvert, which I seemed to be to her, followed a lot of good natured, but often heard before, advice on how I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself all the time, how I ran the risks of developing OCD and neuroticism and of course, the danger of falling into solitude was always there. I explained that unless I plunge into mini depressions once in a while, I couldn’t write anything substantial or deep (now you know dear reader, why I haven’t come up with anything deep in the last couple of months- working on projects never allowed me the luxury of being down and out!) and we instantly digressed to Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar. When we came back, I found support from two other people in the group who write. This was followed by ma’am asking me to mail her my blog address and I was left with grappling with the violent reproach I felt towards my madness for spoiling it all with my narcissism, for this was also the end of the discussion, with nothing much added to my repertoire of descriptions about myself except ma’am’s observation that I didn’t appear to be a loner to her, that I have a quick smile and that I am very approachable. Only that. :D 

How strange that the term ‘narcissist’ didn’t figure in the discussion! LoL

P.S. “Never place your punch at the beginning of a coloumn or at the end. Sneak it in where it is the least expected. Fill a whole coloumn with drivel, just to get in that one important line”(Dominique Francon speaking to Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand). Now you know the rationale behind this seemingly useless post. Go figure out the punch ;)

Monday, February 20, 2012

On this Shivaratri

I have no idea when and how I came to be a Shiva devotee. I do come from a religious family, one that takes its Gods and Godesses quite seriously but all of them are taken seriously, with no favoritism lol.

Perhaps it was my mother's stories of Shiva being this and that- kind, innocent, easy to please, detached, not concerned with what the world thought of him (which explained his attire), fiercely devoted to his wife- qualities I was in awe of as a child, and still am.
Or perhaps it was his handsome face in the photo in our pooja room lol.
Or perhaps it is because Lord Krishna and Lord Rama never appealed to me much. The former has this playboy image and the latter senselessly left his wife, going by what the 'praja' thought.

My devotion increased manifolds when I came to know that it is Lord Shiva who is the source of all that the Brahmakumaris propound. And it is only poetic justice that Sister 'Shivani' turned out to be the one, of all Brahmakumaris,  who would change my way of looking at the world and become my role model.

Of course my idea of what Lord Shiva actually is underwent massive change after following the teachings of the Brahmakumaris, but after reading the first two books of the Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, I realised that I was more comfortable with the older version of things.

So, yes, Shivaratri is an important day in my calender. Even otherwise, it IS a very important day. It is the day when Lord Shiva married Maa Parvati and hence this is the day when the spirit touches the earth. This makes all meditations on this day 100 times more powerful than those done on any other day.

Hence it is impertive that one sets aside a few minutes just for oneself. Slow down the pace of your life today and sit down for a while to give an outlet to the bird singing within you and the spring of bliss inside, and recognise the God within you.

If u r reading this today and still haven't meditated even once, Do IT RIGHT NOW. I am sure you will have good reasons to think of continuing the practice everyday from now on.

May your meditation today grant you greater perspective into your life and with the grace of Lord Shiva, may you move closer to who you actually are- a miniature version of the Lord Himself.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dressing up for you!

I looked into the mirror this morning
and found myself looking pretty!
And at the very same moment, 
your face flashed in my mind's mirror.
I blushed. 
Not for catching the nerd in me 
being so vain as of thinking herself pretty,
But for the fantastic realization 
that I would actually love to dress up for you someday!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Journey in love: Romancing Words, Romancing Life

In matters of love, it will not be unseemly to regard me as old fashioned.
Good or bad, this I owe to the classics and poetry that have nourished my soul since the last couple of years. Starting from reading most of the works of Kahlil Gibran (Broken Wings being my favourite) and  of Jane Austen viz. Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma (in descending order of my preference) I graduated to The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gone With The Wind, Jane Eyre and finally Wuthering Heights.

I remember plunging headlong into a mini depression for 4 days after finishing Wuthering Heights and experiencing many a peak experience while going through Broken Wings, Persuasion, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gone With The Wind and Jane Eyre. What bliss! What profound bliss these classics endowed me with- not just in the happy endings but also in the parts that made me sit up and cry my heart out.

Actually these few books are the only ones to have succeeded in penetrating my soul and making it capable of realising its beauty and strength.  These books were indeed the first to be found capable of waking up the dormant love inside me, of intimating to me my hitherto undiscovered ability to appreciate beauty and of making me see my past few relationships in proper light.

Since then, life has been this beautiful emotional roller coaster that has often surprised me with the knowledge of what all I had missed in the first 17 years of my life. Not everything has been perfect, but the point is I have been made aware of the depths of my soul, the depths it can plunge into as also the heights it can touch.

You may not agree, but I feel I have good reason to believe that today’s love stories don’t have the same magic in them as the classics. Stolen glances, clandestine meetings, sweet nothings, eternal constancy, singular love, happily-ever-after…..even typing all this makes me go back in time and feel the old world romantic charm of the likes of Captain Wentworth (of persuasion) and Mr. Darcy!

Writing came as another way of giving a voice to the closeted romantic in me. It was only after writing out the discomfort inside that I first realised my capacity of reciprocating somebody’s love.
Now of course I won’t tell you anything more about it, not even its present status lol but it will suffice to say that writing was, at that emotionally testing period, my only mainstay- my comfort, my life, my God.

If I could be made to accept my true feelings, I owe it to writing out stuff. If I could be made to make sense of the mess I had made my life, I owe it to writing out stuff. If I could be made to stay sane when all sorts of stuff happened in my love life, I owe it to writing everything out. And for another reason, writing, even utter rubbish, actually was the lifeline of a very special relationship.
This blog, for a good period of time, was the lifeline of a relationship.

It now seems unbelievable that I spent so many years of my life with blinders on, before reading and writing shone upon me the sunshine that so many others had already been basking in.

A thousand bows to all the writers mentioned above, for opening my eyes and opening up my heart to love. 
Thanks also to the force that made me pour out my feelings in black and white for the first time for the journey I began then, has now become dearer than any destination I may choose henceforth.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On this promise day

The concept of Valentine’s Day has never held any charms for me. Neither has that of rose day, chocolate day or teddy day for that matter. To me, well....all this celebration smacks of frivolousness. 

True love ought to be shown, I believe, every single day, and not as a teddy bear or a red rose necessarily. Promise day, however, seems to be a good idea since we are not given to make promises everyday to our beloved, though it would be great if we could do exactly that. To tell you the truth, a text message from my best friend, asking me to make a promise on this promise day was the trigger of this outpouring :D Pallavi, if you are reading this, promise me that you will be a regular follower of this blog and I promise to keep making you more and more popular :P

I digress so easily :/

Coming back, in my book, there is no place for drama in a relationship that has grown beyond its initial euphoria. At the beginning, yes, one tends to go overboard about showing one’s love and it is perfectly alright. But it is after the excitement seems to wear off and the partners get predictable in terms of gifts that the real challenge appears: of keeping the love alive, minus the drama.

So a glance (not just any type mind you), a smile (one in which the eyes light up and the soul seems to smile with the lips), a hug (just when one seems in need of it badly, or when one doesn’t expect it at all), a romantic poem- not necessarily original (or better still, a long, really long, self written love note) hold more weight for me than a box of Swiss chocolates or an Archie’s teddy bear. These far outlast the frivolity of the still-in-honeymoon period and can carry very strong messages provided the partner has the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the heart to understand the value of it all.

A walk in the rain together, counting stars together, cooking a meal together, reading the favourite parts from the favorite novel of one’s partner, crying together watching a movie, shouting together watching a cricket match, or just little, little acts of consideration and kindness are far, far more romantic than presenting gifts on stipulated dates.

Tell me, isn’t being reminded of how special you are on sticky notes placed on your work desk, or the fridge, or TV, or even on the dressing table more romantic when you are least expecting it, like not on any special day?

Isn’t it more romantic to do special things for your partner on an otherwise not-so-special day and making it special for him? That’s why having only one day in the year for the celebration of love takes the whole juice out of it.

Moral of the story: In romance, being old fashioned is actually being more romantic, truly romantic!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant FundamentalistThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before anything else, kudos to Mohsin Hamid for attempting a monologue that lasted the whole novel, all 184 pages, and for never letting it go haywire.

Unapologetic, frank, not always inclined at being politically correct, charming, seductively polite, a straight-A Princeton graduate, an Underwood Sampsons employee earning $80,000 and a man who made it his mission, on returning to his homeland in Pakistan, as a profeesor in a university, 'to advocate Pakistan's disengagement with America'. That's what our reluctant fundamentalist turned out to be like.

The beginning was good in the sense that it was a flat 2 days flipkart delivery and this slim book served as good company on an otherwise boring department picnic.

I kept expecting for the monologue to end, for i found it really odd, never having read anything of this sort earlier, but it didn't and though it could never escape my consciousness till the very end that it was after all still a monologue, I guess the eerie feeling due to the unfamiliarity soon disappeared.

Changez was the last name on earth i expected the protagonist to have, and honestly, i kept searching for the genius behind the name throughout, without any success. His unusual relationship with his girlfriend ERICA (for AMERICA) and his rapid elevations in his company Underwood Sampsons (for US)as also the motto of his company- stick to the fundamentals (referring to his reluctant fundamentalism)gave the story a good build-up for the ensuing gravity  and brilliance.

the unfinished love story and the abrupt, ambiguous ending added great depth. How fundamentalism takes into its folds the most unlikeliest of victims was portrayed beautifully, I felt, without making the protagonist sound much like a victim and that was really powerful.

I can almost here u say that if everything was so good, then why only 3 stars?
Because, m still not clear whether I liked this book or not.
Tt was sort of a love-hate relationship. I absolutely loved the parts of Erica and Changez and the element of 'understatement' throughout the narrative but somehow, I didn't find the story unforgettable.

For some, the ending was brilliant(a part of me still finds the ambiguous ending very clever) for it provided food for thought and was open to speculation and all sorts of interpretations. but to me, to another part of me, that in itself was also a weakness.
I closed the book with a feeling of being unsatiated, having chewed and gulped much with the appetite still unsatisfied.

A good, short read, but one that finished without making much of an impact. At times brilliant, at times powerful, but for some reason, just not quite there.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: The Story of My Life

The Story of My LifeThe Story of My Life by Helen Keller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I start pouring out what I have been dying to tell everyone, i must say that this book is 'A must read'. And one that must not be read just once and left to adorn the bookshelf. This is a book that can uplift one's soul and give it wings and it must be let to do so.

Even though it is not a thriller, it was difficult for me to stretch it beyond 2 sittings. My hungry soul devoured the elixir of goodness and hope and strength that was showered upon it, sincerely regretting that this book did not fall in my hands before. It made me cry, with profound bliss at having come across yet another specimen of human excellence. It made me laugh, at my petty worries and trivial sorrows. It made me gape, at the strength sheer optimism has. It made me fall in love with nature all the more. It made my soul touch heights it rarely had before. That's what we psychologists call a 'peak experience'. And an embalming serenity pervades my being this moment for having gone through a number of peak experiences while going through this work of supreme beauty and power.

It is impossible not to fall in love with the naughty little Helen while going through her letters that overflow with ambition and wisdom beyond her age or with a little more grown up Helen who found beauty to be a form of goodness and was as much in love with nature as any poet with super sensitive eyes and soul has ever been.

Many of Helen Keller's words hold personal significance for me and that made it doubly pleasurable to go through this book which drips of beauty, love, courage and resilience. Sample this: "Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness." It was with exceeding delight that I beheld that my inspiration found "solitude, books and imagination" to be her dearest pleasures (so much like me!).

Every single page of this book is alive with the sunshine that a single soul can spread all around itself, secrets of how one can find bliss in being the reason of everybody's happiness all around, how one can discover beauty in the mundane things of everyday life and give meaning to life by giving and striving and optimism. "I try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness."

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review- Chanakya's Chant

Chanakya's ChantChanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There can be stories we don't agree with, but the manner of story telling can make us fall in love with it and the same story can go on to remain etched in our memory for a long time. That's the beauty of 'Chanakya's Chant' and the genius of Ashwin Sanghi.

This book did to me what 'Godfather' had done a month back. As a person, there was no way that I could appreciate the 'wisdom' being propagated by either Chanakya or his modern avatar Professor Gangasagar Mishra- that ends justify the means, that all politics is dirty, that revealing your true feelings never serves any good- in short that you have to suppress everything that is human in you and be consumed by the ultimate aim. Yet I couldn't help appreciating the same 'wisdom' as a psychology student. The sheer intellect and raw cunning of the both the kingmakers began to impress me from the word go and the breath-taking pace at which it ran compelled me to finish it in 2 settings flat.

Anybody who has a fair amount of interest in politics or historical/mythological fiction will love this book. Even if she/he doesn't agree with what it espouses.

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