Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The chosen one?


A pair of big brown eyes peered from behind the chariot watching the Kuru princes make their way back to their quarters, after a long day of arduous practice in the sun. Heavy footsteps accompanied by garrulous laughter, filled the air. A few paces behind, the soft crunch of footsteps and quietude could be heard, in stark contrast to the ones in front. In the second lot, the eyes spotted Arjuna, walking with his head held high. After all, wasn’t he the chosen one? The other four brothers looked at him with pride as the Guru continued to shower flowery praises on his favourite pupil.

After they could be seen no more, he emerged from his hiding place. An imprint of the sun marked his forehead and a bright sun-shaped pendant dangled from the gold chain around his neck. A pair of golden ‘kundalas’ adorned his ears and a magical armour was rumoured to bedeck his chest when he was in danger. He was merely twelve and yet was wise beyond his years. His face shone with unexplained radiance, yet the sadness in his eyes was unmistakable.

The Kuru princes were in training under the tutelage of Guru Dronacharya, and Radheya had been watching them hawk-eyed for days. He had approached the Guru requesting to be taken under his wings but had been turned down on account of his lineage.

Today, Arjuna was hailed as the greatest archer for having hit the bird’s eye. The Guru could not stop admiring him!

What a gift that was! Radheya longed to be recognised. Only if he had been chosen to showcase his talent!

Where one would expect anger to burn within him, he was unexpectedly calm. Was it the calm before the storm? One could never tell. But at the moment, the only fire that burned within him was that of fulfilling the challenge. Of showing that he was no less a warrior. Of proving that he was as great an archer as Arjuna.

He hurriedly picked up his bow and quiver of arrows and marched to the forest. Climbing the tallest mango tree, he hung a toy bird from the highest branch. Then he climbed down and took aim at the bird’s eye. He hit it without as much as batting an eyelid! It seemed too easy a target!

Arjuna? The greatest archer? He smirked.

I could do this blindfolded, he told himself.

He studied the bird’s position for a minute and then loosened his ‘angavastram’ and tied it around his eyes. He took aim and again, easily achieved his target! He beamed with joy!

But it didn’t seem enough. Restlessness filled his heart and he paced around, eyes devoid of satisfaction.

He looked around searching for ideas to challenge himself. His eyes fell on a broken earthen pot lying a few yards away. An idea struck him. He filled it with water and placed it under the tree such that the reflection of the bird, fell into the water.

He looked down at the bird’s reflection in the water below and aimed upward at the bird without even looking at it. Concentrating on the bird’s eye, he shot a swift arrow piercing the bird’s eye in one masterful stroke.

Yes! he pumped his fist in jubilation. But there was no one around to applaud. The happiness was short-lived.

But, he did not see Guru Drona observing him from his quarters.

“What an amazing archer!” the guru found himself saying. “It’s a pity I cannot teach him!”

Only if Radheya could have heard that!

Suddenly, the skies turned fiery. A streak of lightning cracked up the sky and thunder roared in the distance. Was it reflecting the agony in Radheya’s heart? Was an achievement still worth the same, if there was no one appreciate it? Was the longing to be the chosen one, the only gift he desired?

Soon, the skies opened up. A slow trickle gave way to a huge downpour soaking Radheya to the bone. He started to hurry home, as the trees shook uncontrollably in the gust of wind that followed.

It was then, that another idea crept up his head! He walked back to the tree and looked at the reflection of the bird in the earthen pot below. The bird shook violently in the storm. Radheya, strung his bow and took aim again.

Would he be able to hit the bird’s eye looking at its reflection in water even when it was moving?

He wanted to test if he could.

He patiently observed the bird and after a lot of deliberation, he released his arrow.

To his pleasant surprise, the arrow hit the bird’s eye, once again.

His eyes shone in the darkness and he puffed up his chest in pride.

He held his bow high above his head and thundered, “Who’s the greatest archer now, guru?” oblivious to being watched by the Guru himself.

The Guru nodded his head in approval. There was no doubt that he was equal to Arjuna in every way, maybe better.

Yet, he could never be the chosen one. That was one gift, he would have to crave all his life.

                                                         ******************



Written in response to the prompt "Being chosen is the best gift you can give someone." 

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#PreBarathon2020 

 

 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"I'm just a call away!" - Really?



Every time we hear that someone has died of suicide, there’s suddenly a lot of palpable interest in the subject. People gather actively on social media, the status of the deceased is discussed – was wealth or the lack of it, the cause of this extreme step? Was it relationships? Was it failure? – the curiosity to know what drives a person over the edge. Maybe, they are genuinely concerned too. But often, we forget that even in death, people deserve their privacy.

Then, there are the speculators – blaming circumstances, and people for the tragedy.  

And last but not the least, there are people posting statuses like, ‘I’m just a call away’, ‘Call me if you need to talk’, I’ll be there for you.’

Noble. Very noble. But pretty pointless.

Wait, don’t fly into a rage, yet!

Because a few days into this tragedy and all is forgotten! It takes another tragedy of this proportion to get people talking about mental health and depression, again.

If you are one of those who want to help someone who is depressed so that they don't do something drastic, maybe this post could help. 

But first, the question that we often have in our mind... 

Is depression real?

Yes! Depression is as real as any other illness.

Don’t belittle someone who is feeling depressed by saying, it’s all in the mind, why don’t you try meditation, stop thinking about your problems… no, it doesn’t work that way.

Depression can push people into a state of hopelessness. And when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, they might give up. It’s often not just their life that they want to end, it could be the trauma they are undergoing, or a feeling of guilt that has overtaken them, or maybe a feeling of worthlessness that has washed over them.                              

We live in a society and rejection is something we cannot face. We want to be accepted in our respective groups. We look for approval, for appreciation. Being isolated could make one depressed. 

 

How would you know who is depressed?   

We could perhaps never put a finger as to who could be depressed. Depressed people try really hard to look happy in public, so we wouldn’t know for sure unless we know them personally. Rather they would not have us know that they are depressed. So that is why I said, putting up statuses, and making yourself available to talk, is pointless.

Don’t put up a status offering help and consider your job done. No one is voluntarily going to approach you for help.

Imagine you are worried about something. Whom would you talk to? Some random stranger who had offered to talk to you if you need an ear? Would you do that? No?

Then what is the possibility that a person who has had enough of life, so much that they are contemplating suicide, will call you and talk to you about it? 

So back to the question, you want to help but how would you know someone is depressed?

Depression does not strike in a day. It’s not like, someone who is fine one day will suddenly become depressed the next day. Events and small incidents keep piling up over months, possibly years. When it stretches beyond tolerable limits, they break down.

Is there anything you can do to help?

Definitely!

1. Look out for people in your circle.

We don’t have to look at strangers asking them if they need help. I don't mean that you shouldn't help strangers. Strangers are not going to open up to anyone randomly. 

But, there are enough people around us – our family, our friends, our employees, our colleagues, our neighbours. Look out for them. Are they going through a difficult time?

Is there a student at home or in your neighbourhood who is writing an important exam and feel they might not succeed? Is there a relative or friend who has lost near and dear ones recently? Is someone facing a financial crisis? Has someone lost their job recently? Is someone going through post-partum stress? Has anyone in their family been hospitalised for a long duration? There could be many more triggers.

Many people do handle all or some of these issues in life and they do pretty well too. But not everyone is sailing in the same boat.

2. Keep the door open for them.

When someone is already dead, it’s easy to say, had I known, I would have done something. But, most of the time, we turn our backs to them when they are struggling. Maybe it is the fear that we might be asked for financial assistance and we might not be able to provide that. But, there are several ways to get financial assistance, and we could at least show them the way. They just need to know that we know their pain.

If we are dealing with a student who fears failure, they need to be counseled. They must know that the parents will continue to support them no matter what. Extra coaching can be given to help with understanding the lessons. But it is the family who has to anticipate what the child’s requirement is and hold hands from the beginning.  

If someone is unable to cope with the loss of a loved one, give them time to heal. Hang along, even if they don't want you to. Cook them meals, take care of their children, or buy them groceries.

If you find they are susceptible to self-harm, help them to get counseling – either from a doctor or from an understanding family member.

Don’t quote examples from your own life, as tempting as it might be! It is very demeaning to the person who is already suffering.

If you can’t be bothered to help when there’s time, then don’t lament when it’s too late.

3. Spend time with them.

If you have committed yourself to help a person during their tough time, you must know that it is long term commitment. It might take years of your time. No one can get better in a day or two. So think before you offer help. Don't disappear after promising to be there. This is one major reason why a depressed person will not open up to anyone. It's important to have their trust.

Often, when someone’s depressed, life seems dark. It is difficult to look at the bright side of life when all your mind wants to do, is see the dark side. Listen to them. Don't talk to them about your experiences!

They could need to be reassured that they are good at what they do, they could need to be urged to let go of things that are hurting. You'll know what they need, only if you listen.

4. Teach them to face adversity.

Life is never going to be hunky-dory. All will never be well. There will be phases when there are bound to be failures, or heartbreaks, or loss, or grief. Teach them to be brave and tough during such times.

Facing adversity has to be ingrained in children right from childhood. Many parents don't realise this. They get over-protective of their children. They don't let them fall. They use yardsticks to measure success. As a result, the child never learns that it's okay not to succeed all the time. It's important to let our children know that they are not going to win all the time. 

To that jittery teen, you could say, ‘Put in your best effort. But despite that, if you fail, it’s ok. We will pick up the pieces again. we will try again. We will do something else if this is too difficult.’  

A woman going through post-partum stress needs to know that she’s not alone. You could let her know that you understand and will be there to help in whatever way possible instead of ridiculing her for being difficult, or acting weird or telling her that she is more fortunate than women unable to bear children, or wondering what’s wrong with her that she cannot enjoy motherhood! Tell her, ‘It’s ok to not want to hold your baby. I’ll help you take care of it. You eat healthily and take care of yourself.’

5. Avoid the urge to put people down.

Many a time, we might not be able to invest so much time with a person, especially if they aren’t your close relative or friend. Yet, there’s a lot that you can do.

Do you think you talk down someone at the workplace? Do you talk behind the back of your family members? No? Think again.

Everyone is in a game of one-upmanship. Everyone wants to be in the good books of people who matter to us – like a parent, an employer, a teacher, or even the mother-in-law!  Subconsciously or purposefully, we might be belittling people all the time. 

'X committed this mistake, I rectified it.’  

‘Z is such a bad parent.’ 

'You're not going to fit in that dress!' 

'Your brother is smarter than you!'

It may seem insignificant, but over the years, you end up effectively turning your ‘perceived power center’ against the other person. So much, that it starts affecting their confidence, their self-respect, their perception of self-worth.  You would have no idea that you have silently been gnawing at their mind while being blissfully unaware of it.

Curb the tendency to talk bad about someone. Stop isolating someone because they don’t fit into your ideas. Open your mouth only if you have something good to say about someone.

If someone has committed a mistake, let them know it upfront. If your motive is to help them learn from their mistake, then, it is them you should directly be talking to, not everyone else.  

There’s a saying, ‘Criticise privately, appreciate openly.’

To summarise…

Pick up the signs. Don’t ignore possible triggers.

Keep communication lines open.

Spend time with people you care about.

Keep them ready to face failure.

Be kind…to everyone. Don’t put people down. 

(This is not a self-help post for people suffering from depression. It is for those who want to help, but don't know how to. I hope this helped.)  


*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are mine. This post is not a substitute for professional /medical advice. 

   

 

 

 

          

 

 

 

                                 


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Spotlight - Arjun's Penance by Sundari Venkatraman





Print Length: 168 pages
Publisher: Flaming Sun (Indie published)
Publication Date: March 1, 2020
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
Genre: Romance

Young Arjun feels betrayed and heartbroken when his girlfriend of two years dies in an accident. In a moment of agony, he does the worst thing possible...

Ten years later, Kiara walks into the office of the Mathur Group of industries, falling for its managing director, Arjun Mathur, who is a ruthless businessman nowadays, and also completely sworn off women.

While the ethical hacker gathers evidence against the ex-finance director of the company who has been swindling money bigtime, she tries to woo the MD into falling in love with her.

Will Kiara be able to persuade Arjun to break his penance?
Add this book to your TBR!!



Read the Excerpt




Sundari Venkatraman is an indie author with forty-five titles to her credit, which have sold more than 1.75 lakh copies around the world. Her books consistently feature in the Top 100 Bestseller Lists on Amazon in both Romance and Asian Drama categories. Her latest romance novels have all been on the #1 Bestseller slot in Amazon India for over a month.

As a child, Sundari loved to read books with ‘lived happily ever after’ endings. They were all about good triumphing over evil. As a teenager, her favourite books were romance novels from Mills & Boon. She was fascinated by them, so much so that she began to visualise the stories set in India.

Sundari was forty when she began her writing journey, completing the first draft of her first novel in thirty-five days. She has not looked back since.

Click here to check out all the titles by the author...

You can stalk her @
      

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Book Thief By- Markus Zusak

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The Plot:

Set in Nazi Germany, during the World War II, The Book Thief is a classic Historical fiction, that follows the journey of Liesel Meminger. The book is narrated by Death, taking us through the horrors of the world war and the lives of those affected by it. The book thief, Liesel finds solace in the books that she steals, and later goes on to write her own book which leaves behind in the rubble of destruction and death.   

The story:

The story begins with death – the death of Liesel’s little brother – in a train carriage, as she travels with their mother. As they bury her brother, she steals her first book – The Grave Digger’s Handbook, that she finds on the snow.

Unable to take care of her children, Liesel’s mother leaves her daughter at the footsteps of foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, in the fictional town of Molching in Munich. The girl is traumatised, yet she finds love in the warmth of Hans’ abundant care and Rosa’s fiery temper. Hans helps her read her first stolen book. The book becomes sacred to her as it is the last thing that connects her to her mother and brother. Every book she steals has some connection to her life.  

She also befriends Rudy, her neighbour, who falls in love with her. Their adventures together and how they stick to one another is emotional, yet fun-filled.

Another interesting part of the story is when Hans takes in a Jewish fist-fighter, Max, whose father happens to be Hans’ friend during the war. Giving refuge to a Jew might have been the biggest risk ever, yet Hans shelters him and hides him from the Nazis. Max and his sketchbooks help Liesel develop as a writer.           

What I liked:

The Book Thief is close to 600 pages, that is how voluminous the book is! Yet there’s never a dull moment in the book. It is not only Liesel, who manages to steal your heart along with the books she steals but every other character manages to wind themselves into your heart too! Whether it is Hans, reading a book to put the scared Liesel to sleep or Rosa, who calls Liesel ‘Saumensch’ – a pig – whenever she’s annoyed and yet it becomes a term of endearment for the little girl, whether it is Rudy who never gives up on trying to get a kiss out of Liesel or Max, who shares an affinity of words with Liesel - we never get enough of these characters!

The narration by Death is gripping, and the book itself is a treasure! As you move along the book, you contemplate the fragility of human life, on the futility of wars, on compassion, on stolen pleasures, and death. The book is not a grim or depressing read though, the narration and characters are lively and make you smile.  

There are delightful expressions like – “The sun – looks like a pat of softened butter – melting into a warm, creamy mashed potato cloud – in the middle of a bottomless powder blue bowl”.

Sample another, when Rudy introduces himself, “Have you ever seen a lemon? That’s what my hair looks like.”  

Or Death’s account of what remains after a war, “So many humans. So many colours. They keep triggering inside me. They harass my memory. I see them tall in their heaps, all mounted on top of each other.

All the little details that the author has put in, the melodrama, the delightful words, and phrases, the mellifluous language, all make it a reader’s delight. In fact, if you are a Grammar Nazi - pardon the unsavoury coincidence – you would find the book peppered with adjectives and sprinkled with adverbs, and phrases that paint a virtual rainbow of words on your page!  

Final words:

There are two ways people enjoy food – the fast food lovers and the ones who like an elaborate dining experience. If you are the former, this book is definitely not for you. But if you are the kind that would take time to take in the flavours, and relish every single morsel at your own leisurely pace, then, this book is a must-read.

It made me cry, it did! And rarely does a book do that to me. I think you get it, right?


Monday, May 25, 2020

Book Review - Love.exe by Manju Nambiar



The Plot:

This is a sweet romantic tale by Manju Nambiar, which details the protagonist, Nitya’s journey into finding the love of her life. The book delicately balances Nitya’s ambitious nature while she seeks to uphold her family values and traditions. It could be the story of every middle-class Indian family ever – be it the familiar coterie of aunts, uncles and cousins influencing family decisions, or the moms and aunts taking TV serials literally, the banter over wedding ceremonies or the travails and frustrations of keeping up with your heart – it touches the chord in all the right places.     

The story:

Nitya is an intelligent girl and is accepted into the prestigious Stanford University, in the US of A. But like all traditional families, hers too will not let her get away unless she’s married. After all whoever’s heard of a single girl living it up in a foreign country, right?! Nitya, therefore, decides to stage a marriage of convenience with the groom chosen by her family. But due to certain twists in the story, the wedding is called off. Yet Nitya manages not only to fly away to her dream destination but also to land a plum job there. Life takes an unpredictable turn when she bumps into her ex-fiancĂ© at her workplace but will she be able to forgive him for the broken marriage? What happens next in their lives is what the rest of the story is all about.    

What I liked:

I liked the story – it’s predictable, but who doesn’t like a mushy romance? The ending left me feeling good and with a smile on my face. The story flows well and the narration kept me hooked to find out more. The setting and conversations feel natural and I could identify with the characters, especially the members of Nitya’s family.  

I also liked Nitya’s character – it’s strong but not arrogant, giving yet not subservient. It’s difficult not to fall in love with her.   

What I would have liked:

I don’t intend to be a grammar Nazi, but I felt the editing could have been better and errors in grammar and punctuation could have been avoided. Also, certain passages were described in too much detail and I found myself unwittingly skipping those which seemed to stretch too long. Other than that, the narration was flawless.

Final words:

This is a nice little story with relatable characters and familiar family values. If romance is your genre, this could be a good book to snuggle in bed with, on a beautiful, rainy day!  

Go for it!





LOVE.EXE: 
A Sweet Romantic Comedy Making You Fall in Love by 
Manju Nambiar



Blurb

If you are looking for a feel-good heartwarming love story with a happy ending, this is your right pick!

Nitya Balakrishnan, a young girl from Kerala had it all planned out. She was going to live the life of her dreams in the United States of America. And she thought she had nailed it when she was accepted into one of the best universities in the world. But the cosmos had other plans and conspired to drop love.exe into her.

He came with a bang and stole her away in a breath. Love was not quite there in her agenda, but her heart wouldn’t hear of it. The human heart has its own little brain with its strange logic that remains elusive to our reasoning. For once, she just let it be, only to realize that there is no undo button.

This coming of age, a beautiful tale of love, relationships, and dreams would prick your soul, bring a smile to you, and tear up your eyes. A must-read!
     

Grab your copy @

Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk 

About the author




"My work is mostly reflections on society with a satirical flavor. The characters in my book are people you can easily connect to and have met all your lives. I try to make the read entertaining, light, and pleasant. To me, writing is a medium to spread comfort, positivity, and good humor.

I have had a racing mind since childhood, which does all kinds of analysis, interpretations, and conclusions of everyday mundane events but have always held my tongue tight for fear of sounding politically incorrect. I found writing to be a perfect platform where I got to finally vocalize my thoughts and ideas. 

Manju Nambiar hails from the southern state of Kerala, India. A computer engineer by profession, she now works in one of the leading firms in San Jose, California where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her hobbies include reading, hiking, playing with her daughter, and catching up on the latest technologies and trends in the Valley."

You can stalk her @

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