Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No ordinary love story: Part 1

"Hold on. You said you love her, right? Why did you have to hurt her so, then? No, I just don't get it."

"Yeah I love her. I love her more than I would ever be able to love anyone."
The words were slow in coming.
"I love her more than she can imagine."

The fingers stopped fidgeting and the face of the 30 something man looked strikingly older. There was an eerie calm on his face. One, that by being utterly plastic, bespoke of the raging tumult inside.

 "As to why I had to do what I did, well, precisely because she loves me as much as I love her."

As he said this, Deepak's dreamy eyes looked down and a painful smile appeared on his lips. Sonali was more bewildered this time, but she sensed Deepak was not done yet. She didn't ask him to clarify. She knew she had made an opening in the dam, and that soon enough, it would burst and bring forth all that it had so painstakingly kept from brimming over.
She wasn't wrong. That day the dam did burst. Finally.

"Her love for me was unconditional, in the truest sense of the term. Pristine love, unadulterated by expectations. Constant, never ebbing, never changing." 

The light in Deepak's eyes while he spoke those words didn't go unnoticed by Sonali. She was glad Deepak looked happy after what seemed to be ages but at the same time, she couldn't help feeling scared. This happiness was ominous.

 "You won't find a more undemanding woman on the face of earth. And I haven't come across a woman more confident about her relationship. That we were not married, that I had no plans to marry her, that she knew she could never change my decision……. never seemed to figure anywhere in her love for me. No matter how crazily I behaved, no matter how many reasons I gave her to doubt me, she was always secure in the knowledge that I was all hers. Only hers. The only person on earth who knew that this gritty businessman who controlled the fates of lakhs of people working for him, had no control over his own behavior, was her. She understood that with me, things just happened. She never allowed herself to feel offended or upset with me. Far from that. All patience, all kindness. That was my Ishika"

The light in the eyes was aglow even more now. Could excessive happiness kill a man? Sonali brushed aside the stupid thought and felt almost guilty.

"This made things easy. Handling me is no mean task, but she made it appear effortless. I would often get mad at her for silly reasons and she would do exactly as I would want her to. She would leave me alone for sometime and then coyly approach me the moment I needed her. And then she would apologise no matter who was responsible. She would apologise  for what were clearly my mistakes. Apparently, she believed she should be able to help me keep my temper in check and that whenever I did blow up, she was equally responsible in not being able to prevent it."

Ah! The rare smile appeared again. This was surely an unusual evening. Sonali was swooning over her success.

 "That was my Ishika. Strange do you say? So she was. All tenderness, all love."

The pace of the words tumbling out of the recluse businessman's mouth was steadily increasing. He was in a happy space and didn't need to be prodded this evening.  The reluctant romantic was definitely enjoying what he was being made to recollect. Sonali wondered again about the rationale behind not being allowed to use a voice or a video recorder.

"The part that attracted me most to her was that she didn't know that she was this amazing. And she never thought that our love for each other was any different from that of her parents' love for each other. She never considered our story to be any different than that of any other couple around. She doesn't know of her greatness, neither does she know of the greatness of our love story. When you tell her what you are writing down she won't have a clue that it is she whose glory is being sung."

Deepak chuckled and his dreamy eyes drooped down again. Sonali had at least one of her questions answered now. She couldn't help being amused. The man knew that the woman didn't know about her and their greatness. The man knew about his greatness and of hers and of their story but didn't want the woman to know any of it. Wow!
Who said only Ishika was strange.

Sonali lifted her head up to see the tough business tycoon in tears. She was about to offer a tissue from the bowl on the bedside table when Deepak turned towards her and said smiling, " I'm going to tell you my story. All of it. You'll have to take it down really fast. If you blink, you miss." And he winked. The tears continued to flow but the mischievous glint in his eye, the playful smile on his lips and the glow in his face made her drop the tissue back into the bowl. This man was in a happy space, no doubt. He was in a different plane altogether. 

The eyes scanned the horizons and some more tears rolled down his cheeks.

"I'm going to tell you my story. All of it. No ordinary love story." 

Wow! Sonali couldn't wait to hear.

 Read Part II here
Disclaimer: A work of fiction

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Milgram's Experiment- Or why our society is frighteningly screwed

Stanley Milgram was a regular ol’ psychologist at Yale, minding his own business, but fascinated by the trial of famous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann (by law, every German war criminal had to be named Adolf). An interesting thought struck Milgram – was the average Nazi soldier a thinking, willing accomplice, or just a ‘soldier following orders’? Then, as psychologists are wont to do, he took the idea, and went batshit insane with it.

Read on to find out what happened next, here in my next article for SoundSmartAbout.

Now as to why you should read this article which has apparently something to do with psychology (and not iPhone5 or Barfi)? To know the answers to the following (I bet you can't answer w/o having read the article):
$4 for an hour was not bad in 1961

- What does a Nazi war criminal on death trial have to do with an experiment in social psychology?
- To what extent will people go, against their conscience, just to follow orders of a man in a lab coat?
- One of the many reasons why humanity is doomed.

Feel free to ask questions or still better, if you are on facebook, post your comment right there in the SoundSmartAbout page itself. Which writer doesn't need feedback, after all?

For the new visitors, we at SoundSmartAbout, a close to two month website, write on topics you must know about to sound smart in your conversations. You can call it a poor man's wikipedia that uses a lot of pop culture references and interesting snippets so that you don't leave an informative article midway. We understand that you are pressed for time (busy you, surfing 9gag and youtube) so we keep them short. Small, fun, digestible bits of complicated concepts like the Drake Equation, the Peter Principle and many others drawn from a wide variety of domains are what we write.
Do drop by sometime.

Exquisite Gems from 'Eleven Minutes' by Paulo Coelho

Eleven MinutesEleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Far more important than talking about the plot summary and the characters or what I liked and disliked about this book right now is to share with you the exquisite gems generously scattered all through the narrative of Eleven Minutes.
Just so that you know, I'm in love with Paulo Coelho, all over again, and with God, for ever so lovingly and intelligently placing into my hands right books at the right time. Read on. You will understand.

"At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss."

"You can't say to the spring: "Come now and last as long as possible." 

 You can only say: "Come and bless me with your hope, and stay as long as you can."" 

"In order to avoid being tempted by love, she kept her heart for her diary."

"Yes, I love you very much, as I have never loved another man, and that is precisely why I'm leaving, because if I stayed, the dream would become reality, the desire to possess, to want your life to be short, all the things that transform love into slavery. It's best left like this- a dream. We have to be careful what we take from a country, or from life."

"'What is more important in life? Living or pretending to live?
Should I take a risk and say that this has been the loveliest afternoon I've spent in all the time I've been here? Should I thank him for listening to me without criticism and without comment? Or should I simply don the armour of the woman with willpower, with the 'special light', and leave without saying anything?"'

“A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace” 

"'How does light enter a house? through the open windows. How does light enter a person? Through the open door of love."'

"Ralf Hart, you are a man in the most beautiful, intense sense of the word.You have supported me and helped me, you have let me support and help you, without there being any humiliation on either side."

“'All my life, I thought of love as some kind of voluntary enslavement. Well that's a lie: freedom only exists when love is present. The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly.
And the person who loves wholeheartedly feels free. 
It hurt when I lost each of the various men I fell in love with. Now, though, I'm convinced that no one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. 
That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.” 

"But their relationship was based on freedom, and no other sort of relationship would work- perhaps that was the only reason they loved each other, because they knew they didn't need each other."

“Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn't have the courage to say "yes" to life?” 

“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” 

"'Oh yes, I loved, I loved very deeply. I loved so deeply that when my love asked me for a gift, I took fright and fled."'

"'This is for you. It contains some of my sweat, some of my concentration and my willpower, and I'm giving it to you now.'
She placed the pen gently in his hand.
'Instead of buying something that you would like to have, I'm giving you something that is mine, truly mine. A gift. A sign of respect for the person before me, asking him to understand how important it is to be by his side. Now he has a small part of me with him, which I gave him with my free, spontaneous will."'

"'I carry with me part of your past, and you carry with you a little of my present. Isn't that lovely?"' 

"She had not understood a word of it, but, at times when she felt she had lost control of herself and of her destiny, the book had served as a reminder of her objective in life. It had been a silent companion, with its plain yellow cover, its series of graphs, but, above all, it had been a lighthouse in the dark nights of recent weeks."

"'I'll come and see you tomorrow, then, at the Copacabana.'
 'No, don't. Wait a week. I've learned that waiting is the most difficult bit, and I want to get used to the feeling, knowing that you are with me, even when you're not by my side.'"

“Really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other. 
Generally speaking, these meetings occur when we reach a limit, when we need to die and be reborn emotionally. These meetings are waiting for us, but more often than not, we avoid them happening. "

“If I must be faithful to someone or something, I have, first of all, have to be faithful to myself.” 

"She was terrified. she was beginning to realise that after long months of self control, the pressure, the earthquake, the volcano of her soul was showing signs that it was about to erupt, and the moment that this happened, she would have no way of controlling her feelings."

"'I'm thinking about him because I was able to talk to him."' 

“No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it”

"She would not cage the bird, nor would she suggest he go with her to Brazil; he was the only truly pure thing that had happened to her. A bird like that must fly free and feed on nostalgia for the time when he flew alongside someone else. And she was a bird too..."

"Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it - which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? 

I don't know.” 

"After all we are human beings, we are born full of guilt; we feel terrified when happiness becomes a real possibility."

"...but I couldn't stand living without love any longer; I had reached my limit....I'm not sure he'll come back, but, for the first time in my life, that doesn't matter. It's enough just to love him, to be with him in my thoughts and to colour this lovely city with his steps, his words, his love."

"Certain things cannot be shared. Nor can we be afraid of the oceans into which we plunge of our own free will; fear cramps everyone's style. Man goes through hell in order to understand this. Love one another, but let's not try to possess one another.
I love this man sitting before me now, because I do not possess him and he does not possess me. We are free in our mutual surrender..."

"She had finally discovered that real love had nothing to do with what she imagined, that is, with a chain of events provoked by the energy engendered by love- courtship, engagement, marriage, children, waiting, cooking, the amusement park on Sundays, more waiting, getting old together, an end to the waiting, and the, in its place, comes your husband's retirement, illnesses, the feeling that it is far too late to live out your dream together."

“I need to write about love. I need to think and think and write about love-otherwise, my soul won’t survive.”

“Sometimes life is very mean: a person can spend days, weeks, months and years without feeling new. Then, when a door opens- as happened with Maria when she met Ralf Hart- a positive avalanche pours in. One moment, you have nothing, the next, you have more than you can cope with.” 

"Believe in me, as I believe in you."

"'I want you however you want to be wanted."'

"'I love you.'
 'I love you too.'
 'I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm saying.'
 'Nor do I.'"

"It's really easy being as romantic as people in the movies, don't you think?"

 "She kissed him, utterly indifferent now to what happens after the words 'The End' appear on the cinema screen.But if one day someone should decide to tell her story, she would ask them to begin it just as all the fairy tales begin:
Once upon a time....."
All in all, the poetic prose and the heart warming messages made me absoloutely fall in love with the story and the story teller both.
The predictable ending made so alluringly unpredictable made for the icing on the cake.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 10, 2012

And I turn 20!

The special day is here and I'm already on my way to make myself feel special :D

Going by last year's experience, there will be many people who will make me feel really really special in the next 22 hours, but me being me, I hate depending on others for my happiness.

This day is going to be all mine, entirely mine in every possible form. The beginning has been in typical 'me' style- as I write this, I have switched off my phone and there's not a single soul impinging on my dear privacy- only God watching over me, perhaps amused. I had already told my friends in the pg to not wish me at 12 as I would be busy (somebody special? They asked, with smug smiles and raised eyebrows) so this much-wished-for solitude is not going to be gate-crashed.

I took a moment to be clear on what my idea of celebration is. No cutting cakes. Neither blowing out candles nor passing around drinks and gifts. Dancing like mad with friends, getting 'high'- no, not that either. 

What then?

Dwelling on the genius of God, thanking him for the bounty that surrounds me, reading thought-provoking spiritual stuff, getting drunk on poetry and finally pouring out my thoughts on to a page in Microsoft One Note- what bliss!

Turning 20 feels nice. I have always thought myself to be a grown up person and finally stepping into the grown-up club is cool. 19 isn't exactly teenage, but it still is not 20. 20 is different. 
Nothing, of course, is going to change in a day as part of stepping out of the officially-allowed-to-be-mad age bracket. Much will remain the same, except those that I'll try to change on a conscious level. Like?
See the change in me yourself. We don't want to kill the mystery, do we?

The bed beckons me. There's so much to say but it's high time I slept. Only if there was enough time for us to read all the books we wanted to read and say all the things we wanted to say!

Anyways. Happy birthday to me :)


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: Love, Peace and Happiness- What more can you want?

Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want?Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want? by Rituraj Verma
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title, firstly, is ordinary yet thought provoking at the same time. Depending on how much you are ready to dwell on each character, each story, you will either find this book pretty ordinary or rather thought provoking. More on this later.

It's a collection of short stories, all dealing with urban Indian middle class characters caught in a web of difficult choices having something to do with love, money, fame, value systems, morality, death etc. with a generous sprinkling of circumstances beyond control in each one. Now obviously, I'm not going to review each story separately but that's not because I'm lazy(though my parents may disagree) rather because the takeaway for me from this book is no single character, but a very general impression- you never know how a single decision could bring your world crashing down.
Scary? Yeah, some of the stories will jolt you out of your smug I-know-what-my-future-is-going-to-be-like illusion but there are quite a few others that will put a smile on your face and leave you beaming.

The 'About the Author' section and the foreword, the latter by the author's wife Smriti Verma, lend a humane beginning to the book and the 9 stories that follow are interconnected in a very interesting manner. Some characters make fleeting appearances in many stories. The first time it happened, I didn't get it. Rather the foolish reaction was- not the same name again! But as it unfolded, sinking gradually into my mind, I was impressed with the ingenuity. Why I say ingenuity is because I had never come across any such thing in literature though it is an age old formula in daily soaps. I daresay, I would have given this book 2 stars had it not been for the last story. That one does a brilliant job of amalgamating most of the important characters into a single tale and leaves the reader with the feeling that his destiny is invariably connected to many others' whom he may not even know.

A number of typo errors just killed it for me a number of times. I hope the next reprint takes care of it as for some readers like me, one grammatical error can just dampen the mood. The language is very simple and straightforward, perhaps keeping in mind the target population. That too killed it for me. Used that I am to depth literature, there's only a point up to which I can admire stories with not-so-great prose. That's one reason I rarely pick up Indian writers. This one, by the way, was sent by the author himself, in case you were wondering how I came to be under the illusion that this one figures as 'depth literature'.

This book has many things going for it, one of which is that "it's different".
Now what makes it different is also it's USP- alternate endings for each story. If you don't like how a story ends, you can check several alternate endings on the author's website. The links are provided at the end of each story. Even better is the far-sighted idea of letting the readers craft their own endings if they are not satisfied with those there on the website-

Unfortunately, for me, this didn't turn out to be what it could have been.
I read either when I'm tired of the things around me or when I have nothing better to do(observing people in the metro doesn't appeal to yours truly). To ask me to go online and check out alternate endings is asking too much.
There were stories that were going great and then the ending was a real disappointment- perhaps a way of getting readers to explore the several other endings on the website. Such stories just ruined it for me.
As it is, I don't have a taste for short stories yet. I relish my erudite tomes.
I suffer from post-partum depression very easily and quickly; so ideally, a book should not end for me till I feel justice has been done to the build up and to all the characters (or till it has tired me, on second thought). That's one reason I relish heavy books and to the disbelief of my friends I have no trouble finishing unabridged versions of a 'Gone with the Wind' or a 'Les Miserables'in a week.
So low key endings are just not my thing. Alternate endings on the web are not my thing. Changing the ending myself, again is not my thing (my parents may be able to tell you why).

In short, I'm just the wrong person to have read this book because some of my reading habits and a few peculiarities of my taste make it impossible for me to be able to appreciate all the brilliance that it posseses. The average Indian college goer should find the stories extremely readable and the characters somewhat memorable. What didn't work with me shouldn't necessarily 'not' work with others.
One thing though that I must concede is that the stories are thoroughly thought provoking. To me, at least they were. There's this flavour of understatement which disguises the message of the story in such a way that you leave with a feeling of the stomach being empty still, if you haven't let the characters bite into your skin. Yes, you need to give them some time, in your head. If you don't, you may just miss the whole essence that the writer has been trying to convey.
But I figure that doesn't come naturally to most since a number of what could be better endings wait to be explored on the web.
For a reader like me, the USP of this book may actually turn into it's Achilles's heel.
Whoever said the world around is predictable?

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why a porn star maybe smarter than you

Intelligence quotient. That’s what IQ stands for. Now you know that. If you already knew that, pat yourself on the back. You know why? Because you’re smart. Some might even say you have ahigh IQ. But you know what? That’s probably all crap. Here's why.

If you have been following this blog, you know that this is my next article up in SoundSmartAbout. For my new readers (helllooo), there's this website I'm writing for these days which is sort of your wikipedia minus boring, lengthy and confusing stuff. We take up interesting topics, topics you should know about to keep up with your classy and smarty friends, and break them into fun, digestible bits. We tell you just about enough so that you can sound smart about topics that will invariably be there in your conversations with that cute girl in your class who has a thing for intellectual people.
Our head editor Ayush makes it sound sexier (he has a knack for that). Here.

From Higgs Boson and Schizophrenia to the Blackjack Strategy and Hyperinflation, name it and we have it. Yeah, we are a team of 10 drawn from diverse fields like Economics, Physics, Mathematics, Psychology and History and we write on topics far diverse than that. We have a new section called Better people than you where we cover famous personalities you must know about. Yeah, diverse, as I said.

If you think you are funny and have a knack for writing, hit us a mail- We are looking for writers.
Alert- We pay nothing and the editors are tough task masters.
The good part- It's helluva fun and you learn a lot along the way.

Ok, now about my newest article there. 
What is intelligence, as the psychologists define it.
What are IQ scores and how important they are.

Who to blame if you don't have a high IQ.
Why Kim Peek could never have been a Mensan. Before that what is Mensa and why do Mensans have a right to be snobbish. You know Kim Peek, don't you? You don't? Really? Really?
Ah! Why a porn star may actually be smarter than you. Holy shit.
And lots more.
Go read it. You know you want to.