Friday, 12 December 2014

Gearing Up

School. It's a mono-syllable word that holds more meaning than any other in the mind of a student. Right from the age when we're still sucking our thumbs to the age when we gear up to get our driver's license, we live a life that revolves around school. On the list of places that define me, my school gives my home a tough competition for the top spot. I believe it is the most under-appreciated part of our lives. In fact, since the beginning of this year, I have been at a point in my life where I became impatient for school to get over. All I've wanted for over a year now is to get rid of it, to get out.

But, on the last day of school, I couldn't get enough of it. Yes, I still want to step out into the world, but I'm reluctant to let this place become a part of my past. It's suddenly hitting me that no matter where I go, a part of me will always be in this building, on this amazing campus. And a part of this school, in return, will stick with me until the very end.
I'll always be the first person to criticise this place, just as I'll always be the first to defend it. I reserved that right fourteen years ago, when I took my first tentative step past that towering green gate in my Nursery overalls.

So, I've decided to write an account of all things nice and nasty about this weirdly endearing place - institution, whatever - that my school is. It's a clich├ęd, coming-of-age post, it isn't particularly well-written, and it won't be too much to say that it's kind of pathetic, but it's just fitting, and I'm not ashamed of it.



The first image that comes to mind when I think of school is of the school campus. We have a sort of love-hate relationship, the campus and I. On one hand, I hate the dilapidated state of the infrastructure. And there isn't any love lost between me and our "state-of-the-art" wash rooms, with their haunting smell of ammonia. On the other hand, I love the corridors, the old staircase, and the drive way, where I've loitered around countless times since middle school. I've skived off enough classes to bask in the winter sun on the school field, that rest assured, I'll never forget the smell and feel of freshly mown grass (that was ruthlessly plucked out and promptly thrown in the next person's face). I'll never forget the primary school playground, the swimming pool, and the skating rink, where I have my more earlier school memories. I'll miss the canteen which was our daily hangout, even when we didn't actually have money to spend. I'll always feel proud when I think of our school auditorium, where our sister-schools came for their annual functions, because their campus lacked a hall as grandiose as ours. I adore the classrooms filled with memories; so what if they are also filled with creaky desks and chairs that have been repaired far too many times?

Then, of course, there are the teachers. There are all kinds of teachers in our school: the chilled-out ones who mind their own business, the annoying ones who seem to have a problem with every breath you take, the too-sweet ones who will use their big smiles to get their work done, and all other kinds in between. But, no matter what kind, I have had both negative and positive experiences with every teacher who taught me at some point.  In the end, I guess I'll miss almost all of them.

Besides the teachers, there are all sorts of other people at school - the administrative staff, the gardener, the janitors, the book-shop guy, and many others whose job description I'm unaware of. But the only ones I might miss are the canteen-vaale-bhaiyas, although it's more because of the place they remind me of than the people themselves. A close second is the 'mini-shop' across the front gate, even though it isn't technically a part of the school.

There are also the people that I would gladly strangle with my own bare hands, without so much as a flinch. It's a short list, but there's a certain sari-clad woman in a position of power - well, sort of - who makes several appearances on it. I could have included her as a teacher, but I never had her subject, fortunately. Oh, and her pawns - the guards! Those annoying people in SIS uniforms, lurking in every nook and cranny of the school, giving offensively questioning looks to passers by. I understand that they are merely doing their job, but it's fucking annoying, and it makes you feel like you're in prison. As though school were a love child of Azkaban and Tarturus.

Our school uniform is... well, let's face it, our uniform sucks. Big time. What sort of a colour combination is that, any way? The only good thing to be said for it is that we never had to suffer through a salwar-kameez. And by now we're so used to the colours, it hardly matters. And... what else? Let's see. I could talk about school books, but when I think of those, my mind turns up nothing but a certain technical error. Error 404: File not found.

A particularly amazing part of school life are the 'educational' trips. Whether it's a day trip to Worlds of Wonder or a four-day excursion to Nainital, school trips are always awesome. Heck, even if it's not really a trip (you know, one of those overnight on-campus camps?), even if it's one of those free trips to bio-reserves and such places, they are pretty damned memorable. Take a group of school friends and dump them anywhere on this god-forsaken planet, it's highly improbable that they won't have a blast. (So much the better if they happen to be carrying their smart phones.) I remember every single trip I've been on, and I doubt I'll be forgetting them any time soon.

I could go on and on; school life comprises of a lot of things, after all. I will miss my friends, perhaps more than anything else, but I don't think I need to mention that separately. Most of all, I'll miss the routine that my life has had for the past fourteen years - hell, I already miss it. Sometimes, when something interesting happens, my mind immediately jumps to the moment when I'll be telling my mates about it at school the next day, before I remember that that won't ever happen again. There's no school the next day, or the one after that. Or ever. I'll still go to that building for my remaining exams, until those, too, are over. But there'll be no more classes, no more efforts to hide our giggling fits, no more inconspicuous passing around of a lunch box during those classes. There will no longer be a school routine - no longer a school, at all. (Add to this the uncertainty I feel for the career path I've chosen, and the constant anxiety about college admissions, and what you get is a complete mess for a brain.)

But, even though I know that after a couple of years I'll probably settle into another routine and get bored of my new life, at least for now, there's also excitement and wonder. Excitement, for all the new experiences that await me, the new people I'll meet, and the new places I'll see. Wonder, for where these experiences will lead me, and for the ways in which I'll get to explore my potential. And, of course, there's the eagerness for these exams to be over, so I get to that lull in my schedule that'll last for a couple of months (at most). I've got too many things to do - too many books to read and too many TV shows and movies to watch, lots of things to paint, and lots of places to visit. So what if I might not come out on the other side in one piece? I'll come out nonetheless: that, I'm sure of. And that's what really matters.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Unpolarizing



I've grown up telling the world that I'm a tom boy. Or was it the world telling me? I don't know, honestly. But I do know that I didn't scream, 'I am a tom boy!' when they cut my umbilical cord. I learnt the term when I heard people use it, right? Then, perhaps, I chose to apply it to myself. Because it's easier that way, isn't it, describing your personality in two syllables? The world sees you in a better light if you fit one neat category.
But, did I know that as a kid? No, duh. I just thought it was a cool pair of words, and yes, maybe I could associate those words with myself somehow. Maybe I thought they fit me better than any other words. (Maybe I just had a poor vocabulary.)

Light, as most of you would know, is an electromagnetic wave, and it travels in multiple planes. But when you pass this light through a polaroid, the component of the electromagnetic field of light that is perpendicular to the polaroid gets absorbed. The light that then passes through has a lower intensity, moves in a single plane, and is called polarized light.



I believe human beings are similar to light, in that they have multiple layers to their personality. Not unlike a polaroid, society - or civilisation - acts as a filter. At an early age, you become a well-groomed individual, and that grooming involves shedding your quirky layers. When you come out on the other side, you don't even realise that you now exist in a single plane, and are a low-intensity version of yourself.

Society, pea-brained as it is, expects people to exist in tidy rows and columns, like numbers on a spreadsheet. It doesn't understand that humans were borne of chaos. And what is this society made up of? Humans. We want to create order out of chaos, and that can lead to something beautiful if it's applied correctly. But if order leads to animosity, to people being forced to have a monochromatic, plane-polarized existence, I'll choose chaos any day.

I know, I know, major tangent. Sorry about that. I didn't write this post to discuss broad subjects. Society. The world. People.
Nope, none of that. Today I'm going to act more self-centred than usual, and talk about myself.

So, what type of person am I? Am I an introverted nerd? Am I a social butterfly? Am I a tom boy? Am I a girly girl? Am I brave? Am I craven? Am I polite? Am I rude? Am I a fucking elf from Ellesmera?
N-bloody-O.
I'm none of that. Or maybe I'm all of these things (except the last one, of course), but not JUST. I am much more than that, and everything in-between.

I may be extremely polite at times, and at others, I might curse like a sailor. I can be found wearing faded jeans, or a short dress, or sweat pants, or an ethnic suit, or even dorky overalls! One minute I'll be drooling over Benedict Cumberbatch, the next I'll have moved on to Emma Watson. One hour I might have my head full of physics/chemistry, the next one my art supplies will be out and I'll be painting my shoes or some such. One day I'll be reading gay fanfiction, the next I'll be watching the Hulk do some serious butt-kicking. I might come off as egotistic when I talk, or humble as a Hobbit; kind and empathetic, or a snarky bitch. One day I'll spend studying for twelve hours straight, the next I'll waste away on the intertubes. I may have fun arm-wrestling guys in my class (and beating a few at it), but I equally enjoy talking about shoes and dresses.

There are many other sides to me - lots of other extremities and lots of intermediates. So, being labelled? Not my speed. I am an ordinary person, and like all ordinary people, I am a complex human being living a chaotic existence. And that, most certainly, is NOT a reference to my clumsiness.
Put it this way: I am Kanika Kalra, I do what I want, and fuck you.






I read that line in a fanfic. This seemed as good a place and time as any to use it. :3

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Grab Your Own Muffin!

We all have dreams that we long to fulfil, but most of us spend half our lives worrying about where to begin. Only a rare few have the courage to start from scratch and show destiny who the boss is. Mudit Murarka, self-acclaimed multimedia essayist and one of India’s youngest, most talented, internationally recognized film makers, is the rarest of the rare. He started his film-making career at an age at which most of us had not even begun to realise the full potential of the life we have ahead of us (well, some of us still haven’t), and has since made over twelve complete short films. His films have won numerous national and international awards, including a BAFTA (London, 2012) for his short film, The Mirror. Now, Murarka has hit the tabloids again, for his latest short film, Muffin.




Specifically, Muffin tells the story of a 16-year-old boy called Sam. But, in its essence, it is a story that brings to light the not-so-glamorous parts of growing up that all of us experience at some point. If we look back at our childhood days we realise exactly how much our perspective has changed – or should I say evolved? The reality that we now see was happening with as much unsightliness when we were kids, but we were too innocent and carefree to feel its impact. When the adults stopped shielding us from the truth, our lives became more confusing and some of us decided to shed the cocoon entirely to make our own way in the world. Muffin successfully outlines this metamorphosis while simultaneously covering other themes like isolation, changing family structures, expectations and teen angst in a highly intriguing way.

I, personally, discovered that there are a lot of layers to the story - you notice something new every time you watch it, and the beauty of this film lies in the fact that every viewer can take away something different from it. The story is made even more captivating by the exceptionally well done lighting, colourisation, and background music.



Murarka might have been the mind behind the project, but the film could probably not have achieved the level of perfection that it has without the combined efforts of the entire team. While the Director of Photography, Ddevh Sharrma, the Art Director, Radhika Seth, and the editor Mudit Murarka himself have done a splendid job at direction and cinematography, one cannot miss the effortless talents of the lead actors Shaurya Pandit, Aviral Vaid and Radhika Seth. Put together, the Muffin team packs a punch that has yet to be matched by another all-high-school film making crew.
In a nut shell, if you haven’t watched it yet, you’re missing out!

Muffin is an Award of Merit winner at the Best Shorts Awards and is an official selection at the YoFi Fest 2014 in New York, as well as at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival (UMFF) 2014 in Atlanta. Currently, it is giving its professionally-produced co-contestant films a run for their money in the world's largest online film competition - The Viewster Online Film Fest.
If it wins the Audience Award - that is, if it generates the most attention as per the parameters listed on the site - Viewster will donate USD 20,000 to the charity War Child on behalf of the team behind the film.

You can watch Muffin at the Viewster site from 13th-27th November, by clicking here.
If you like it, don’t forget to leave your comments and share the film on Facebook and Twitter. You may also download Viewster’s mobile app and vote for the film. As it is up for the Audience Award, every vote, like, and comment counts, so please help this team of budding artists add another feather to their hat of glory. Go, grab your own muffin!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Extra Ordinary By Choice

She is in her late forties. She is beautiful; she is the very image of modernism. How do you picture her, when you read those words? No, wait, let me guess. A tall, slim, middle-aged woman wearing a pair of trousers and a classy button-down shirt, sunglasses perched just above the hairline?
You're not even close.

As appearances go, she is an Indian female corporate-worker. She lost her youth years ago, in the laugh lines that now surround her dark eyes. But even today, you can see a determined young woman peeping through them; the young woman who dreamt of a successful future and worked towards it with all her might. This grown-up lady smiles down at her past self, with a look that says, 'Oh, just you wait, little girl. Life has a lot in store for you.' She has experienced struggle and luxury, failure and success, grief and happiness, and other things in life, of which she seems to regret none.

It should have become obvious by now, but for those who are still wondering: she is my mother. Or at least, that's one of the many roles she plays.

When she goes to work, she dresses in a crisp dark-coloured Indian suit, with her shoulder-length hair let down, a no-nonsense brown tote hanging from the crook of her arm, and a determined look on her face. The friendly domestic help lady carries a laptop bag and an office case, as this woman trots up to a well-worn sedan that's about to complete its decade. Looking at the car, you just know it's going to give in any day now. But she settles in behind the wheel, starts the ignition, and that's how you know she'll make the car survive yet another day. Together, the woman and her ride zoom off into the buzz of morning traffic, inching towards another dull office day packed with hard work and lots of coffee.

Whether on a weekday after work or on a much anticipated weekend, whenever she is at home, she favours a light kurti and a comfortable salwar, her hair pulled back in a tiny bun, and her lips spread in a pleasant smile. She spends her weekend juggling between her various responsibilities - her three kids, the grandparents of the house, and the house itself, meant for a family of ten. She is not perfect, but she is nothing short of being remarkable. She orders around the domestic helpers all day and yells at anyone who interrupts her when she's hurrying about the house. She takes it upon herself to ensure that everybody goes about their day as per schedule, which involves making her youngest child do basic things like taking a bath, and negotiating the day's chores with her older children. Yet, somehow at the end of the day, she manages to gather enough patience to settle down and listen to her kids talk about their lives.

I wonder how an ordinary person can do all that. When you are a daughter, a wife, a mother, can there be enough of you left, for you to be your own person?

This thought induces in me a range of battling emotions. First, I feel sheer pride at the fact that I was born to a woman of such superhuman strength. It almost makes me believe in myself. Then, panic with a pinch of dread. Will I be expected to achieve all that, too? The realisation makes me want to burrow into the ground and hibernate for the rest of my life. As the panic dies down, I feel a dull throb at the back of my mind. Sadness, mixed with a sense of loss. There are so many things I want to do in life. Surely, she must have had dreams of her own? There is so much about her that I do not know. Her childhood hopes, her teenage dreams, and what became of them as she began to shoulder new responsibilities. I promise myself I'll ask her. For once, instead of telling her my stories, I'll ask her to narrate hers.


When this battle comes, at last, to an end, from a tangle of thoughts and emotions, one emerges as the victor: complete and utter respect. Respect for the girl who decided to shed her sensitive skin and don the toughened hide of a woman, and respect for the woman who then decided to become an extra ordinary one.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

How To Make A Book Nerd React

Conventionally, book nerds tend to be quiet, introverted people who’d rather spend the weekend at home in a comfy corner with a cup of coffee and an interesting book, than go out and party. When in public, we prefer not to talk much; we are content to listen to and observe others, because it’s just like reading a book. I mean, I've heard people complaining about never getting a reaction out of me more times than I care to count. However, just underneath the calm and composed exterior, we are bat shit crazy. We just appear dormant on the outside. It’s easy to lure us out if you know where to poke.



So, if you’re looking for the red detonation button, you might find some of this useful.

#10: Want to poke the dragon? Tell me Twilight deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as great titles that form the vast world of vampire literature. Like Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. And then don’t ever show me your face again, unless you want a nose job.



#09: Talk about the ongoing Amazon-Hachette feud.
I prefer on-line shopping to the physical kind any day of the week, and more so when it comes to books. But, I respect my favourite authors more than I care about my own convenience. I've got to admit, Amazon is just behaving like a big dick. Cutting e-book prices so low? As if being a writer didn't already mean tight budgets! People have no idea how difficult it is to earn a living from writing, these days. Not all authors are J. K. Rowling, you know.
I can go on about it, but you get the gist. This is one of those debates on which you can’t hope to convince me otherwise. All book nerds may not be of the same opinion on this, but the point is, once you mention it, you’d be hard-pressed to make us stop talking.

#8: Ask me where I stand in the e-book versus print book debate.
Or don’t. I’ll tell you anyway. See, the thing is, I can’t answer this one single minded-ly. Had you asked me a couple years ago, I’d have made it very clear to you that e-books are worthless, and that they will never compete with print books. Today, though, I feel quite the opposite about the former. E-books are certainly not worthless. Once you give them a shot, you realize they are actually a tad bit more convenient. For instance, I can read an e-book on my mobile phone at night, without having to turn on the lights. I can enumerate a dozen more advantages of e-books over hard-covers or paperbacks, but that’s a list for another time.
The merits of print books are, however, less prosaic in comparison - the smell of books, both old and new, the beauty of a glossy modern book cover or a worn vintage one. The warmth of the rough pages beneath your fingers and the absolute delight of turning a page or dog-earing one that holds a special place in your heart; the memories that resurface when a paperback falls open to a favourite page and the cracked spine of a hardbound that speaks volumes about your reckless reading habits. No matter how pragmatic we become, human beings will always be romantics at heart. So, how can someone possibly believe that the e-book can ever replace the ‘real’ book, when the latter has such beautiful possibilities to offer?

#07: Bring up any book-to-screen adaptation, ever.
Unless you wish to be clobbered with a hard-bound, don’t tell me the screen adaptation was better. Because it wasn't, nor will it ever be. That is an indisputable fact of the Universe. Who are you and I to debate the laws of nature?



#06: Act like you know more about a book than you actually do.
Seen all the eight Harry Potter movies, have you? Haven’t really read the books, though? If you have any self-respect, don’t act like your knowledge of HP is better than, or anywhere near as good as, mine. (Refer to #07).Trust me, you’ll just end up embarrassing yourself. This includes everything from trying to make fun of it, to getting into an argument with me about a piece of trivia. Just don’t.
In fact, this goes for any book that you haven’t read. It’s just that Harry Potter is the first example that came to my mind. (When my friend read this part she expressed her extreme state of what she calls ‘non-surprise’.)

#05: Let me see you reading a book.
Such an act will earn you appreciation, regardless of which book it is. Yes, even if you’re reading Twilight. I don’t have to like the book you’re reading; as long as it isn't a text book, reading is awesome. Just get that in your head, it’s not rocket science.
Of course, you get bonus points if I like the book.



#04: Mention one of my favourite books.
Once you do that, you needn't worry about talking much, I’ll take over the conversation from there, thank you very much. It’s likely to end with me saying something along the lines, ‘You should definitely read it! You’ll like it, I promise!’ and you agreeing to read it, possibly just to shut me up.

#03: Touch the feels.
At your own risk. Any breakage will require to be paid for, in kind.

#02: Criticise one of my favourite books.
And prepare to die.
Actually, no, you won’t get off that easy. When you mess with a nerd, be prepared to be humiliated. Most of us have open minds, so we’re not against a healthy debate, or well thought out, intellectual criticism. In fact, we welcome it. Feel free to criticise, and we’ll feel free to prove you wrong. I must sound very cocky when I say this, but darling, trust me, there’s no flaw you can point out over which we haven’t already had numerous debates amongst ourselves. Just remember that a book nerd is used to analytical reading, no matter how big a romantic she/he is, at heart.




#01: The simplest of all ways to get us charged up and mad, however, will always be to say these words: I don’t like to read. This phrase, or a similar one, induces in me such a strong surge of battling emotions, I CAN’T EVEN.
Kristen Scatton, a fellow blogger, explains the struggle quite thoroughly in this amazing article. (In fact, it was her article which inspired me to write this one.)
She explains how, on hearing these blasphemous words, we go through shock, disbelief, confusion, judgement, pity, and finally arrive at acceptance.


But, I believe that if you don’t like to read, you just haven’t found the right book yet. And if I like you enough, I will help you find the right book if it’s the last thing I do. It’s a promise.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Book Review | Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
My Rating : ★★☆☆☆

If you are one of those readers who like cutesy YA romance novels full of cliches, then you will LOVE this book.

Sadly, I am not one such reader. But I'm not gonna drag the author through the pit just because her book was a pint too adorable for me (not to mention thoroughly un-researched). Because it was my decision to read it, even though I knew exactly what kind of shit I was getting myself into.

It's not the first time I've done something like this, actually. I read this kind of muck every once in a while, in between a couple of awesome Sci-fi and/or Fantasy book series.
Why would someone do that to themselves?

To quote Anna herself, "I must be a masochist to keep putting myself in these situations. I need help. I need to see a shrink or be locked in a padded cell or straitjacketed or something."

But, no. I think it's more because, from time to time, I need something to criticize. You know, to keep the critic inside me nice and sharp.

Anyway, let's talk about the story, now.

Anna is an American teenager who has her fair share of first world problems.
Her Dad (whom she doesn't waste any opportunity to call a selfish bastard, just because he looks like a Ken doll and writes lame novels that get made into even lamer movies) has sent her to Paris for her senior year at high school. This means she has to leave her mother, brother, pet guinea pig, and friends behind, and go fend for herself (read: live at campus along with the rest of the students) in an unfamiliar land. How can she stay away from her mom for four straight months? She's only seventeen!
No, in fact, that's not what she's really mad about. She's mad because her father doesn't give her a choice in the matter. She is so upset about this that she cries when she sees her parents leave (and I'm not exaggerating, she has a proper break down with tears and shit).

If all that wasn't enough, she feels that her father has sent her here to be cleansed, because her new school's name is SOAP. School of America in Paris. (Seriously.)
Once she manages to score an amazing group of friends the very next morning (I kid you not), and develop a teenage crush on one of them, she faces her next problem: she doesn't know French.

But that's not why I think she's dumb. (Oh, I didn't mention that I think she's dumb?) She's a film buff, and has a serious plan to study film theory in college and become a famous film critic. But, guess what?
*drum-roll*
She doesn't know that Paris is the film capital of the world. In fact, she's surprised that Paris has so many cinemas! Come. Fucking. On.

Now, let's rewind a bit to this mysterious crush of Anna's. He's an American guy who was brought up in England and has a French name: Etienne St. Clair. Yeah, for real.

He is another Jesus figure in the world of YA romance. You know, has broad shoulders, amazing hair, is callipygian (which, incidentally, is a word I came across for the fist time when I read this book. It means 'having beautifully shaped buttocks'. Figures.), has a dazzling smile, a charming demeanor, an accent to kill for, is a history buff and keeps a meticulously clean room. Phew. Basically, everything about him except for the fact that he's short, screams of YA cliches.
Oh, and he also already has a girlfriend. Whoa, I didn't see that one coming (totally did, though).

As the story unfolds, she falls in love - big surprise, that - and then we see her break down all over again as she toils to gather up the remains of her shattered social life.

What will happen next? How will Anna sort out her tangled love life? How will she deal with her enormous problems?
Wait. What did you say, she doesn't have enormous problems? Are you kidding? Her life is miserable. Puh-lease.

So, go read this book if you wanna find out how Anna's life ends up - which, by the way, is totally unpredictable. NOT.
But it can also be useful if you are looking for a way to make yourself gag.


* * * * * * *

I've never done a book review before. Not on my blog, anyway. But, since we're talking about cliches, there's a first time for everything, right?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Owl Post | The Harry Potter Lifestyle

To all those who read Harry Potter, I thank you, for being the awesome peeps that you are. I thank you, for being part of a community along with me. I thank you, too, because you are the only people who will truly understand what I've tried to express here.

I don't like to say, 'I've read Harry Potter.' I prefer, 'I read Harry Potter.' Because Harry Potter is not something you read, and like, and then put aside. It's not just another series on your 'Books I've Read' list on Goodreads.
Like Daniel Radcliffe has been quoted as saying, Harry Potter is like the Mafia. Once you're in, you're in for life. Except, with Harry Potter, it's because you don't want to leave. It's not a phase that you get over after a while. Once you get into the fandom, you'll stay with Harry, until the very end.

How is that so, you're wondering, I'm sure. Here's how. Harry Potter is not a series of books, it's a whole world within our own (like a pocket universe, if you're a sci-fi fan). It's a lifestyle, of sorts. There is just so much to do, once you've jumped onto the fandom wagon. So, hold on tight and get ready for the ride of your life.

You read the books. You watch the movies. You ask everyone you know to do the same. You even listen to the audio books. You watch the Starkid adaptations and that starts another landslide fandom for you. You listen to songs from A Very Potter Musical all day long. And before you know it, you're watching every single video related to Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, and the cast, that you can find on YouTube. You talk about it not just to your friends, but to unknown people on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and what not. You spend hours completing chapters, practicing spells and brewing potions on Pottermore. You end up making a facebook page, a separate Twitter account, just for fangirling. You scroll down your News Feed/Timeline commenting on HP-related posts and pictures, discussing theories, answering quizzes, and then you post your own edits, or memes you found on the net. You fight in shipping wars. You want to take part in cosplay. You mourn the death of your favourite characters each year, on the sixteenth of May, the anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts, along with tens of thousands of potterheads across the globe. You read fanfiction on the internet. (OMR, the fanfics! There are new fics on the internet every day. There would never come a day when you'll be able to rightfully claim that you've read all the fanfics ever written. This is something that will play a significant role in ensuring that you never stop reading Harry Potter.) Then, one day, anxiously, you write a headcanon and then your own fanfic, or at least you try to do.

At the end of the day, whether you've managed to do none, some,  or all of these things, all you want to do is get in bed and read the books all over again!

And that's not the end of it, either. These are just the things that you are able to do right after reading the books. And most of them are things that people from all fandoms do. But there is so much more. Stuff that you want to do, stuff that you're not sure you'll be able to do yet you keep dreaming about. One day, you tell yourself, one day I will do all this. Here's my bucket list for y'all to read:

1. Collect Harry Potter book sets in all my favourite book jackets.

2. Buy all the HP merchandise that I can possibly buy. This includes Hogwarts robes, scarf, a wand, charm bracelets, rings, lockets, yada, yada, yada.

3. Get Harry Potter tattoos, at least three.

4. Meet J. K. Rowling (and David Yates, Tom Felton, and Emma Watson, and oh my god, so many other people!). Okay, this one is definitely not going to happen, but I'll never give up hope.

5. Go to the following places (which are all half a world away from where I live):
Like I said, there's so much to do. Harry Potter doesn't mean a couple of weeks of book reading, it means a lifetime of adventure.
(That sounded so much like a tag line, it made me laugh. But I always did enjoy laughing at my own dumbness, so that's nothing new.)

Now, rejoice, my imaginary readers, for this is where I stop blabbering on about my fandom. But it's just what I do. D'you know why? Because I read Harry Freakin' Potter.

******

The title says 'Owl Post' because that's a new section I've started, where I'll write about Harry Potter. So, if any of you want to avoid my Potterhead ramblings, just ignore my Owl Posts. :)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Time Warp Required

My final year at school has begun, at last, and it has been drilled into my mind - by not just my parents but by anyone whom I happen to have a conversation with - that I am gonna have to put my nose to the grind stone this year. At first, I thought, whatever, I really don't see how this year can be any worse than the last. The Universe Guy must be waiting for me to have this thought, because it suddenly dawned on me how much stuff I have lined up this year. I've got so much to do this year, I might need a time machine to fit everything in. No kidding.

So, I decided to do some quick math and see what exactly my schedule will look like, according to the time I'll have to spend on everything per week.

  • 40 hours of school
  • 9 hours of tuition
  • 10 hours of entrance exam coaching
  • 7 hours of exercise
Some people might question why on earth it is so important for me to exercise when I'm in class 12 and already on a tight schedule. Now, I can be a good girl and tell you that I am overweight and I'll soon be bordering on obesity, so I have my health to think about. But, to be honest, I am not psyched about this whole exercise thing. That's kind of a result of my mom's intervention. Kind of, okay? I couldn't win the argument because she's not exactly wrong.

Anyway, let's do the math.
If I have to do all this, I am left with a hundred and two hours per week. Assuming that I need seven hours of sleep per day, on an average (which is actually more than I can afford, but if I don't get at least that much sleep I'll definitely end up dozing off while studying), I'll have fifty three hours a week to spare. After accounting for at least two hours of homework per day - including school and tuition homework - I can manage to scavenge twenty nine hours per week, which is an averge of 4 hours and 8.5 minutes per day. Four hours in which I have to include time for eating, bathing etc. So, the maximum number of hours that I can possibly manage to have to myself, amounts to about 2.5. And that's only if I follow a tight, robotic schedule, which is physically impossible for me.
Yep, welcome to my life.

Now, even if I make some cuts on certain things mentioned above (which means studies, of course; I am so not giving up any more sleep than I have to), I will obviously have to cut down on the entertainment, too. I read books and watch movies and TV shows. A LOT. So yeah, sadly, some of that will definitely have to go.
Exactly how much I can resist, only time will tell, but here are my resolutions, for now.

Books
So, okay, to avoid breaking my resolutions, I am going to try and make them less uptight, and more practical. Let's look at the facts. I am currently in the midst of reading two books simultaneously. The Book Thief, and The Iron King. I can easily finish these two by the end of this weekend. No problem there. But the thing is, the latter happens to be the first book in a series of five. So here's what I am going to do. I'll read this series, but I'll take it as slow as I possibly can. Apart from this, I will obviously have to read two books that'll be coming out this year because they are parts of two separate series that I absolutely adore.
Fair enough, I guess. NOT.
Only 8 more books this entire year? Yeah, right.
But okay, I'll make the sacrifice.

TV Shows
This part is simple enough.
I am on the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory. Apart from that, I watch Greys Anatomy (okay, I am going to quit this one after season ten ends, no doubt about that), Suits and Sherlock. So, I will watch TBBT through to the end, and just continue watching the other shows that I follow, weekly. The difficult part will be to not start anything new this year.
Repeat with me, loud and clear.
I WILL NOT START WATCHING A NEW TV SERIES THIS YEAR.
Phew.

Movies
This is the easiest part. I don't really go to the movies that much. There are only very few movies that come out in a year which I feel compelled to watch. So, no issues there. Right now, I have, like three movies that I absolutely need to watch, and I am in no hurry to watch those, either. So, I don't particularly need to hold back on that front.

Okay, fine. I know many of you are thinking that I cannot possibly do all that... and take care of my studies as well.
Guess what? I totally agree with you.

So... what do you think about the time machine idea? That'd be pretty cool, right? Of course, deciding which time machine to use will be another dilemma for me all together, the nerd that I am. Which would you rather use, Hermione's Time Turner, or the Tardis?

Friday, 28 February 2014

Wrinkled Skin, Toothless Grin


When I was a kid, whenever I returned home from a visit to the local market with my parents, there was one question that I could always count on my grandmother to ask.
'Market gayi thi? Mere liye kya laayi?'
Every single time, this question trumped me. When I was very young, I would look up at mom for help. Gradually, I learnt to answer that question by giving her some old toy or trinkle, confident that she would believe me when I told her it was new.
You see, I loved my dadi so much I just couldn't stand the pout on her face which indicated she was upset. In fact, as a kid, I shared that kind of a bond with all four of my grandparents.
And how couldn't I? They were always there to save me from the wrath of my parents when I broke stuff. And I remember, when I was in kindergarten, my dadu used to pick me up from the bus stop, and I would always convince him to take a short detour to buy me a packet of Cadbury Gems. (Except I had no idea they were called 'Cadbury' Gems. To me they were just Gems.) On reaching home, my dadi would bathe, dress and feed me, which would be followed by my shout of, 'Potty!' And after having pooped to my heart's content, I would dutifully shout, 'ho gayi!', so that anyone who heard me could come wipe my ass. (Then one day my mom told me I should learn to do that myself and I had to let go of that luxury.)

Whenever I visited Nani Ghar - as we so fondly call my maternal grandmother's house - nani would give me and my cousin sisters an old tea set she had, and all three of us would gather on a chattai in the verandah to have a tea party. I was always the first to get bored of tea partying. The next thing I would want to do was, 'something new'. So while my cousins continued to pour fake tea and pretend-gossip about their pretend-families, I would yell, 'koi toy nahi hai nani aapke paas!' knowing full well that nanu would be listening. He would then quietly put on his slippers, offer me his hand, and briskly walk out of the door with me running to keep up. We would go straight to the toy shop, where he would wait for me to take my pick. The moment we got home with my new toy, I would yell for my mother to take me back home, not wanting to share the toy with my cousins.

So yeah, as a kid, the most wonderful people in my life were my grand parents. The only things I, in turn, had to do for them were:
1) Fishing out their chappals and juttis from underneath the bed/couch/sofa.
2) Easing my dadi of her joint pains by sitting on her back or standing on her shins, while she lay on the bed guiding me to the exact point where she required me to sit/stand. I always felt great doing that, because it made me feel needed. In fact, my cousin brother and I would often fight over who got which leg to stand on.
How awesome were those days!

Gradually, as I become a teen, my pampering days came to an end. My grand parents suddenly realised that I was their height, and started having expectations of me, just like my parents always had. With my grand parents siding with my parents, I was left to face the 'all adults' team alone. Then little things about them started annoying me.
For instance,
My Dadu: When I come back from school on an exam day, the first thing dadu asks me is, 'Paper kaisa tha?' And dare I say that it went badly! 'Changa nahi si? Kyu? Number kithe katte? Tuition laen da ki fayeda hua?'
To avoid explaining myself to him, I make it a point to put on a smile, and say, without missing a beat, 'Achha tha.'
Then he would respond with another question, which would make me feel a pinch of guilt for lying to him, 'Full aayenge?' As if it were the most granted thing in the world.

My Dadi: All dadu's expectations don't stop my dadi from insisting that I should go out and 'play' when I'm preparing for my exams.
'Saare din kamre vich bayi rehndi hai! Baahr jaa k tappa kar! Jado mai tere jiddi siggi roz khed-di si!'
You have no idea how much I would love to go out and get some fresh air, dadi. I would, if I could! Can't you see I don't have enough time?

My Nani: Last Rakshabandhan, I went over to Nani Ghar one day in advance, just like I do every year. On Rakhi-Day, I put on a new top that I had bought specially for the occasion, and a pair of black jeans. My cousin, on the other hand, just had to wear an Indian salwaar-kameez. She just had to. When we came out of the room, ready to go about doing the usual Rakhi things, nani was sitting in the living room, and she looked up when we entered. Her eyes passed over our get-ups, and when her gaze settled on me her expression turned disapproving.
'Kadi te kudi bann litta kar! Jean-na paaye rakhdi hai saare time.'
Why lord, why me? Look, I have nothing against Indian attire, and I put it on when there's a wedding or something. But tbh, it's not very comfortable. So, sue me if I don't bother to put on a suit at every festive occasion!

My nanu, at least, doesn't nag anybody. Well, nobody except nani. You keep doing your thing and he'll keep doing his. Sitting on the floor in his usual latrine-pose (I have never seen him not sitting like that when he's in his own house), sipping his tea, watching cricket on television and cursing the players now and then. Bliss.

Now, coming back to my paternal grandparents. There's always the repetitive demand of being taught how to use their cell phones. Once in every few weeks, dadu or dadi would ask me something like, 'Ae dass, number kive kaddan aede vicho?'
And more often than not, I'm happy to oblige. But, sometimes I have more pressing matters to attend to and I have to admit (not without guilt) that it bugs me.

My point is that as I grow up, their habits annoy me more and more. Even the parts when they're just showing their love - like when my dadi forces me to eat desi ghyo vaale parathe - get on my nerves. I have grown wary of their remarks that, more often than not, are prejudiced and ancient. They have orthodox mindsets, and I sometimes feel like it's too much. I notice the little triffles my mom and dadi have, and I can't help but think that my grannie is being more than a little unfair.

But, when I think of all the things they did for me when my parents were out working, it sort of warms my heart. Think of it this way. The opinions you call orthodox are the beliefs your grand parents grew up with. Until they reached middle age, nobody criticised their beliefs. Now, when they have lived for the better part of the century with those beliefs, how can you expect them to simply let go of those opinions? Their thinking is faulty, and it's great if your grandparents outgrew it and turned modern. But, even if they didn't, remember that they played a major role in your upbringing, and event hough they themselves are not modern, they allowed you to grow up in an environment where you have the ability to form your own opinions.

If nothing else, remind yourself of their smile, which cheered you up when you were bawling over a broken toy. When you were little, they used to have a crooked dark-toothed smile, and over the years it grew into a toothless one. Remember, too, how loved you felt, when they addressed you with those weird-but-endearing nicknames, the ones that you feel too embarrassed to share with your friends. Remember, that they are at a stage in life where they no longer have their elders to give them love. You and your parents are the only source of support and affection for them, whereas you still have them, your parents, your extended family, and your peer group.

Remember, before time makes a fool of you.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Excuse the punjabi, please. You see, when you are a punjabi, and you're writing about your grandparents, it's very, very hard to resist the urge to throw in a few punjabi phrases.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A Few Words - On Words

Yesterday night, my phone rang while I was reading a book. Usually, when this kind of thing happens, I just turn off the ringer and read on in peace. But this time, unfortunately, I was reading an ebook. On my phone.
At first, I just cut off the call and continued reading.
This person, though, was insistant. So when, for the second time, the screen switched from ebook page to 'as****e calling' (or that might be just what I read, instead of my friend's name), I answered the call and utilised a series of words and phrases that I probably shouldn't write here. After having given him an earful, I asked him what the hell he was calling me about at 1 am. The poor thing, assuming I had been asleep, hung up after hurriedly saying, 'Sorry yaar, aise he call kiya tha, I thought you'd be awake!'
In my defence, I HAD been reading, okay? That's what you get for disturbing me while I read (and I don't care if you had no idea what I'd been doing). Unless you bother me in person, in which case you might also get stuff hurled at your face.
Yep, I'm crazy when it comes to books. Corny as it might sound, books complete me. They just do. Not just books, I like reading anything and everything - except newspapers, perhaps - poetry, magazines, Reader's Digest (because it's too cool to be called a magazine), blogs, books, you name it.
I rarely read poetry, but find it enjoyable when I do. I read it only when I stumble across it unintentionally in a novel, a blog, or when I'm editing the school magazine (which, incidently, will get published god-knows-when). It is an amazing form of literature, but somewhat less appealing to me than prose.
I mostly read magazines to pass the time while my derrier rests on a plush sofa of some waiting room - the dentist's, the hairstylist's, or any other -ist's. And I am not particularly choosy when it comes to magazines. I can read anything from fashion and celebrity news to sports and automobile reviews, and even business and marketing mags.
Reader's Digest, as I said, is like a classy relative to magazines. As a kid, I used to just flip through to the jokes section, but found them too complex to be funny. Then, I started doing the Word Power quiz - and here you have to excuse my boastfulness - going from scoring a zero to acing the quiz in a couple of years. Today, I can read RD cover to cover (skipping commercials, duh!) without getting even slightly bored.
Blogs. I have always loved getting to know different kinds of people from different parts of the world, and blogs provide an easily accessible path to do just that. I like all kinds of blogs - conceptual or random, serious or frivolous, non-fiction or fiction, conforming or non-conforming. A blog gives you an insight into the personality of the person writing it, and you never know when you might bump (virtually) into an interesting personality!
Books. Oh, what can I say!
Books are man's best friends, I've heard. I don't know about the general 'man', but they aren't my friends, for sure. Soulmates, more like. They are a lot of wonderful things - temples for the mind, hospitals for the soul, theme parks for the imagination; always giving, never demanding. There's only so much you can do in one life. Books allow you to live as many lives as you want to, in just one lifetime. Each book is a door - like Alice putting her gold key in the lock, like the secret wardrobe passage to Narnia, like Harry using Parseltongue to open the Chamber of Secrets. Honestly, half the time in my mind, I'm a Wizard/ Shadowhunter/ Dragon Rider/ crazy scientist/ gangbanger, doing some cool shit, when I'm really just a nerd, sitting in bed - reading.
Books are a refuge. The moment you open a book, all your issues and worries get pushed to a tiny corner in your brain, forgotten, as you jump into someone else's life. They're an amazing distraction when you are sad, angry, depressed, lonely, or simply bored. And when you think you are ready to face reality, you can jump back out, into your own life.
In fact, I read even when I am happy or excited. Reading, then, is like a celebration.

Words have the power to change us. With each book you read, you learn a new lesson. In fact, for some books, each repeated reading teaches you something new - a little immaterial something that you can carry with yourself forever. And, if you are lucky, someday you'll be able pass it on - a priceless legacy.

* * * *

I began this post because of my annoying friend. In hind sight, it's just a monotonous allocution about MY likes, MY dislikes, and MY thoughts on reading. I'm too self obsessed, aren't I? Just to balance things out a bit, let's hear about YOUR likes, YOUR dislikes, and YOUR thoughts. Do give me some interesting stuff to read! :)  

Friday, 7 February 2014

A Son Who Loves Dolls

Lori Duron. Apart from being an American blogger who published her first book last year, she is the mother of two amazing sons: Lego-loving, football-playing Chase, and C.J. who, to put it in his own words, is 'a boy who likes all girl stuff'.

About two years ago, I stumbled upon her blog, Raising My Rainbow, and instantly got addicted. Now I know her family the way you know characters from a favourite book which you can read over and over again. In her blog, and later in her book of the same name, Lori writes about everyday incidents in her life and general issues in the lives of families having gender non-conforming kids. It is absolutely heartening to read about her 'adventures in raising a gender creative son', and you will be in love with her kids before you know it.

Her younger son, C.J., loves playing with dolls, twirling around in a tutu, designing his own dresses, and having all things pink and sparkly - stuff that our brain, being tuned to social norms, instantly associates with girls. This woman, though, does not care about making her son conform to gender norms, and I have come to respect her greatly for it.

Even before finding out about her blog, I had condemned gender norms. But back then, I had only ever come across stories of adults who were a part of the LGBTQ community. Her blog took my level of disgust towards homophobia to a whole new level, because it tells the story of a toddler having to explain himself to the world. No child should ever have to do that. Children should feel loved and safe from prejudice at home, at school, in the park, in public places, and everywhere they go, irrespective of their gender or sexuality.

One very important thing that Duron places emphasis on in her book is empathy. She says that if you think teaching children about sexuality isn't appropriate, you can at least teach them to empathise with all human beings, no matter how different they are. This mother is trying to create an environment for her sons where they are not only accepted but also loved for who and what they are. And after a great deal of effort, she has been - to an appreciable extent - rewarded with success. She could not have done all that alone, though. Her friends and family supported her - especially her husband, who was by her side every step of the way. And she's not the only such mother out there. There are several families like hers, families who consider it their duty to love their child, without trying to change him/her.

Unfortunately, they still find themselves at the receiving end of negative remarks from a number of individuals and organisations. Yet, they haven’t given up. They haven’t buckled under the pressure. They’ve stood tall and shielded their kids from the narrow minded society. The only reason they have been able to do this is that they understood that it it's not their child who is flawed; it’s the social conventions.

Makes you wonder - how many parents in a country like ours could do that? How many families would be ready to share their effeminate boy's life with the world instead of hushing it up like a dark secret?
My guess? Next to none. Not nearly enough.

Today, we have skyscrapers, funky automobiles, high-grade technology, and our economy is growing, if not rapidly. But as far as our mind-sets go, we might as well be living in the Stone Age. People see homosexuality as a weakness, a disability - an illness, even. They say it's just another trend - a phase - as a result of which we are exaggerating penny-wise issues. Well, ‘they’ need to open their eyes, as well as their minds. This is not a phase that will pass with the passage of time; this is our respect for the right of every human being to be who they are and love who they want to.

People shun gender non-conforming persons and believe that they are not normal, in the name of religion, nature, humanity, you name it. If you are religious, maybe you should remember that God created them, just like He created you, and contrary to what you might imagine, He will not reward you for treating fellow human beings like scum. If you think gender creativity is even slightly unnatural, let me remind you - these people are also nature's creations, just like you are. Their hormones, feelings and sexuality are no more synthetic than yours. And if you believe they are any less human, let me tell you - they are more human than you could ever imagine being, and they are that much the better for being true to themselves.

I’ll leave you with something to ponder over. Renowned author Ernest Gaines once raised this question: ‘Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable with two men holding guns than holding hands?’

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Musings...

I sit on the couch in our living room, my mind buzzing with anxiety about my oncoming exams. Vaguely, I wonder if I made the right choice. Do I really want to become what I think I want to become? I look around the room, at the people that I call my family.
My mother talks about my 5-year-old brother to my dad - recalling a little incident that took place in the park. It is a very ordinary evening, my parents are both crooning over how their son said a really sweet thing to our grandmother.
As my parents talk, my brother sits right there, playing with his little cars. He hears my mother immitate him, and, even though she means it in a good way, he gets offended. He tells them to stop laughing at him. They try to make him understand that they aren't, but he just isn't ready to listen. He picks up his cars and stomps to the next room, banging the door behind him. After giving him a minute, my mother cracks the door open and asks him if she might come in. He ignores her. She enters the room and, I don't know what happens in there, but two minutes later he is shouting her out of the room.
Meanwhile my dad, sitting beside me on the couch, says, 'What will we do with this kid? He gets mad for the smallest of things!'
I keep quiet. The major part of my mind is following a similar train of thoughts, but the other part is thinking back to my own toddler tantrums. You were just like that, remember? says a tiny voice that I'm sure belongs to the latter part of my brain.
'Wasn't I just like that?' I ask my dad, without thinking.
'Oh, you were. You were one hell of a drama queen. You loved all the attention.'
I smile. Did you, now? Think about it, the tiny voice chimes in, but this time it doesn't sound so tiny.
So, I think. Did I really do it for the attention? I mean, I was just a kid. No. No, I don't think so. Suddenly, I remember. I remember that I hated listening to people talk about me like I wasn't even there. I remember how my parents used to discuss everything about me - good, or bad; and sometimes with my sister - right in front of me. And I remember being mad at them for it. It is a silly thing, if you think about it. But it makes me realise something. It makes me realise how, even at that age, we wish to be treated as equals - it's human nature. And once we cross that age, once we begin to understand the language - to process what we hear as something that has meaning - we become fully human.
To wish to be treated like an equal by adults is, of course, silly. The kid doesn't get that, though. What we can do is try to understand what he does get. We can.
I realise that everyone, no matter how young or old, appreciates being understood. This makes me think of myself, as I am now. A teenager. The category of people who feel misunderstood all the time. Is that how parents think of teenage tantrums, too? Do they really think we like to do it for the spotlight? No, they've also been there, right? They know how it was when they were our age. Or do they? I mean, sure, they know. But do they still remember? And if they do remember, do they still understand? So many questions.
Today, I am in that phase where I have begun to find kids annoying. I have begun forgetting what it was like to be a toddler, to be that innocent and tiny. So how much longer would it take me to forget how it was to be a teen?

A cousin of mine, at 24, has already begun forgetting how certain things were very important to her when she was in school. When I mention them, she tells me I'm stupid to give them importance. Perhaps I am. But I remember how these same things used to be as important to her as they are now to me. She has forgotten all about it, though.
Now, forgive me the lack of seemly modesty when I say that I am a keen observer. I observe people, and I learn little things. So far, I've learnt one particularly important lesson. Everyone does something for a reason. When you are mad at someone, try to put yourself in their place. Try to understand their perspective and their position. Be fair; think what you would do if you were in their place. It'll help prevent you from being a jerk to anyone.
This time, I learnt that 'everyone' includes kids, too. But I wonder. Will the same thing happen to me? Will I grow up and forget how it felt, being a child? Probably. And so, I thought I would write this down, just for the record. 'Cause, as the saying goes, 'Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.'

Coming back to my initial reverie, I think maybe I should become a shrink. Giving people my precious advice, and charging them for it; listening to all their problems... Nah, that one could be depressing. I guess I'm going to stick to my current career plans after all.