Loyal Stalkers – Book Review

Last week, I was waiting for the latest books I had ordered on Amazon to be delivered, and was in for a surprise when I was greeted with not one package, but two. The other was from PanMacmillan publications and in it was Chhimi Tenduf-La’s third and latest book – Loyal Stalkers.

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I am not sure if you remember, but 2 years ago, I had read and reviewed this author’s first two books – The Amazing Racist and Panther, and they had been incredible in my view. This third book, is a collection of short stories based in Sri Lanka.

I am not a very short story person, and I had my apprehensions when I picked it up. There are more than 10 stories – telling us about the lives of people in Srilanka. These people came from absolutely varied backgrounds and situations – what with stories involving smugglers, cricketers, security guards, house-help, rich socialites and even a serial killer. The very span of the different facets of Srilanka living that you could see through these stories was downright astounding.

The highlight of the book however was that every story had some character, main or otherwise, linked to some other story in the book. This was not a surprise element, and is mentioned on the blurb itself. But I think that the subtlety with which these linkages were handled is commendable. The stories also panned across different times, and you would see the same character in a different story at a much later, or sometimes earlier phase of their life. And through this, the author ensured that he brought about some amount of closure to each character and their life, an aspect that I am immensely thankful about. Also, while I know it is not realistic expectation, but the only minor grudge I had was when there were characters I wanted to know more about, and expected them to come up in other stories, but they didn’t.

Not all the stories were your typical happy endings, but then reality never is, is it? And while some stories made me cry, some made me smile, and some actually made me cringe at the rawness, the graphic detail – the warm undertones remained through out. Yes, I do of course have my favorites in the lot, but that is more an individual opinion about the actual events that happen, rather than the story itself.

All said and done, I think it was extremely engrossing read, and I would recommend it to anyone. In terms of rating it, I might go as far as calling it Chhimi’s best work so far, more because of this unique format that offers you variety, but brings you back to the all encompassing common theme of life.

Once again, thank you Panmacmillan, and Chhimi for sending this across – I am sure everyone reading it will love it!

Horrible people

I have concluded that there are a lot of nasty people in this world. If you are wondering why it took me 34 long years to figure this out, umm, I don’t know. But better late that never they say and I say okay.

Anyway, when I am saying nasty, I mean real nasty – the kind who seem to get pleasure out of saying hurtful things to others. Now don’t get me wrong – I do not mind, in fact believe in, being hurtful to horrible people – but it is always in reciprocation. Like if you are sitting in a café, sipping on your Latte, and someone walks up to you and goes ‘Hey!’ and you are like ‘Hey’ and then they are like ‘Long time’ and you are like ‘yeah, very long!’ and then they are like ‘Let me join you’ and you are like ‘Sure’, and then they sit down and say ‘by the way why are you so stupid?’

Now here it is perfectly normal to say, ‘Oh no, looks like you are confusing me with someone, maybe you yourself. OR YOUR WHOLE FREAKING FAMILY.’  Hurtful right?  You might even call it on overkill, bringing in the family and all but I still believe that this is acceptable. Bottom line, meanness in reciprocation is not meanness but justice.

So in the context of the above, I am talking of the person who came up to the person drinking his latte, and not the latte drinker himself. I think you get my point. Yeah, so I think that the world is full of such people. They are there everywhere, like flies, buzzing around and annoying you like that’s the sole purpose of their life. Only, the flies are actually looking for food, and I am sure the buzzing has some relevance too, but these nasty people are like that for no particular reason.

You can identify a nasty person by the way he reacts to a happy update or piece of information about anyone except for himself. Like if you tell a person in this category, that ‘Do you know X got promoted?’ his response will be dismissal, or shock, or sarcasm, basically anything but genuine happiness. In fact, if you think showing genuine happiness on another person’s success is tough, let me clarify that this category will also not respond with a neutral stance which as per my personal belief is what one maintains if they don’t feel that the person deserves it. They will react in the manner best suited to their kind, i.e. nastily.

Some other examples* of nastiness can be –

  • When you tell someone about the new home you bought and they react with “Why would you want to buy a house there? It’s so crowded!”
  • When you tell someone that you read with your child everyday and they react with “I would rather have my child be in sports than become a geek.”
  • When you tell someone about your child’s daycare and they say “I could never leave my child at a daycare, so unhygienic!”
  • When you tell someone that your child loves the pancakes you make for breakfast and they say “I don’t like giving sweet breakfasts to my child, it’s unhealthy’
  • When you say your daughter has a strong resemblance to her father and they say “Poor kid, she will end up looking like a guy!”

*Inspired by true events

Basically, I am talking of folks who think it is absolutely normal to voice their opinions, however hurtful, however mean, just because they can. They have no control over themselves, and no understanding of when they should stop. This kind also finds it hard to take hints, I have noticed, but that might be because all this nastiness has crept up their almost non-existent brains and replaced whatever little bit of IQ that existed (hopefully) in them.

Which is why, I strongly advocate avoiding people who tend to make unprovoked, unwarranted and definitely unacceptable statements, which technically they should shove up their even nastier behinds. But instead they vomit it out like it’s their birth right.

And all we can do is sit and hope they choke on it someday.

Rules

The community we live in has a lot of speed breakers inside. Must be the case with all residential places I assume. We have close to 9 bumps in the circle from the entry to the parking to the exit. It makes sense too, I said to The Dude, because at all points of time there are walkers, and children cycling or skateboarding around on the same pathways. But he mentioned that a lot of people had been questioning the relevance of these bumps, because they were quite annoying, and also that those who were missing the sensibility to drive slowly inside the community, would drive rash with or without the bumps.

I am not convinced but it made me wonder if that was the case, why do we have rules at all? If the rule-breakers would break rules anyway, and the rule-keepers would do the right thing, with or without the rules; who are the rules for? The only thing I can think of is that the rules are for the ones on the edge. The ones who are maybe doing the right thing not because it is the right thing to do, but because, they would be in trouble if they did not. And, additionally, they actually do not want to be in trouble.

Let’s take the example of kids. We have so many rules for kids. Like TV time is limited to an hour. Now the reason TV time is limited to an hour is because it is not good for their eyes, and also it makes the kid lazy and lethargic. Technically, if we were to tell the children that they were not supposed to watch TV for more than hour, because that would be bad for them, they should understand it. But they don’t. Because the joy of watching TV is much higher in their minds than the weak eyes and laziness that we scare them with. Heck, they couldn’t give a damn to these things. But then they are kids, and the assumption is they are not ‘mature’ enough to grasp these things. So we make rules. We switch off the TV in an hour, and we threaten them with punishments if they refuse or fail to do so. But then again, they are kids, and they aren’t expected to make sane decisions. They need rules.

But what explains the same thing for grownups? So you know you are not supposed to eat at your desk at work because the crumbs will attract pests. There is a written rule around it. Now there are three kinds of people here. Category 1, that believes that this makes sense, and so will never eat at their desk, because they know that it will attract pests. Category 2, that doesn’t believe this nonsense, and even if they do, they don’t care enough to abide by such rules, and they are ready to a take a chance and get caught. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

Then there is Category 3. Category 3 finds this rule an inconvenience, and category 3 would readily eat at their desk if not for this rule. But because there is a rule, this category decides to not eat at its desk. Category 3 does not want any unnecessary trouble. For these guys, the pain of being caught breaking a rule is bigger than the pain of actually abiding by it, and so, they do. This is the category for which rules are made.

And assuming that there is an even distribution of people in all 3 categories – we end up having 66% of the people eventually abiding by the norm, whether or not they agree to it; as against the 33% it could have been otherwise. So the rules ensure that at least theoretically, we have the majority behave in what we call, the right way. Which honestly, is not too much of a price to pay. Which is also why those 9 speed bumps do not feature on my ‘list of things that annoy me’ as yet.

And we should all be thankful for that.

Fine

It just struck me, as I booked a meeting room for a catch-up to discuss how I was going to survive a two-day workshop which I am supposed to be facilitating (God save me. And the poor souls attending the workshop), that today is my Blog’s birthday. I clearly remember one of my oldest blog-buddies, also one of my friends from K, making a mockery out of my over enthused announcement of the blog’s 2nd or 3rd birthday saying that he can pretty much guess what I would be writing 10 years down the line – basically the exact same thing with the year updated by a decade, if I was still blogging, that is.

I cannot find that now, but guess what, I actually am here, on the blog, writing today, 13 years to the day I created my livejournal blog, and copy pasted my post from the K blog to get started. Yes, I know my frequency has been close to pathetic, but hey, I don’t think any of the folks who I started this whole journey with, have written in years now. It’s amazing, and amusing, how this habit stuck. And it’s also interesting that I have never thought of closing the place down.

So my blog is a teenager, and that would be the most important thing about today. Other than the fact that life is has been moving along at the regular pace with the regular speed breakers and other basic breakdowns once in a while. In terms of headspace, I’m happy to report that I am way sorted and settled than I was when I last blogging frequently, towards the end of last year. Not that things changed, they don’t that easily, but instead of trying to change everyone and everything around me, I focused on changing the one person I have control over; me. The end result has been quite miraculous.

If you ask me, I am living the textbook life of a working mom. I say so because the two things that keep me on my toes are my professional and parenting status. Everything else is peripheral, adjacent, being force-fitted into the blank spaces scattered around. Ofcourse, there are days when I feel that I am failing at both the central and the side responsibilities, and then there are others where I feel like a champion, but these days are too few and far. But like I said, I’m handling it.

So yes, blogging is just another of these peripheral items which seems to fall off the radar more often than the other things, because it needs me to switch on the computer. Fortunately, yet another item, reading, has managed to stay afloat thanks to my resistance to making the Kindle my primary source of books, which means there is always a book with a bookmark on my bedside table. Plus, the television seems much less attractive when it is placed in 40 degree Celsius + atmosphere, and I am a total television snob who refuses to watch anything on a screen smaller than 42 inches. So the only entertainment I can imagine in my air conditioned room with pathetic wifi, is a book, which will let me turn the pages without having to struggle the way I do with my Moto G’s screen. I’m not complaining, at all.

I do read blogs though; there is some sort of comfort I find in reading about the lives of folks I hardly know, or rather hardly knew some time back. A lot of the older bloggers have quit, but I still have them on the reader, because you never know, they might just return. Back to that sense of comfort, maybe it’s that whole ‘you’re not the only clueless one’ vibe that reading about others’ gives. I also spend a fair bit of time on Instagram which makes me happy, sappy, and warm. And it’s probably my main connect to social media now, since Facebook is fast receding in the background. I mean, who knew checking out selfies of school/college friends and staying updated on what they had for dinner and reading their declarations how much they love their families would get boring yes?

Other than all this, I have been spending hours and hours in the last few months; on designing what I am assuming is our dream house. It’s been awesome and exhausting, picking colors and themes and textures and laminates. Making space for the books, and the bar and the photo walls and the balcony gardens. It’s been very tiring, but very gratifying to see all those thoughts and talks take form on paper, I can only wonder how it would be to see it all in reality.

Ofcourse there is a lot coming up too – like being mommy to a primary school kid (yes, Zo is in Class 1 now!), like the actual movement to the new house, the holiday we are working on fitting in between all of this chaos, and the actual work at work, which seems to be relentless. But I am alright, I always ultimately am. In fact, if there’s anything the last 16 years of adulthood has taught me, it is that everything, ultimately, does work out.

And I am not questioning that.

Lazy picture post – Episode 1

I am not sure if I am ever going to garner the motivation to blog to the extent I was doing this time, last year. Heck, I had started my second blogathon. But this year, thanks to my ‘Let it be’ plan, I have pretty much ensured that I have let everything be and I am back to my lazy ways.

Except, that I have sort of been around on Instagram. So I thought of combining the two things, and keeping this page alive, by starting a Lazy picture post series that would just be whatever I update on Instagram. Which is usually mommyhood situations, Friday/Saturday night updates, the good food, and the pretty places.

Hence, here we are. Starting right away.

Fables from India – Book Review

I have hardly been reviewing books on the blog for a while now. And I have definitely never reviewed short stories, heck I don’t even read short stories. But when I came across Fables from India, by Uday Mane, it immediately caught my attention. Mainly because I am no longer the only reader in the house, and my reading time is now dominated by what I read to Zo.

The book is slim, and has 22 stories, which means none of them would be too long. The blurb spoke of a variety of stories, ranging from kings and princes, to farmers, to trees to dogs and pet lambs. The stories span over 5-6 pages each, which is just slightly higher than what would hold the attention of a 5 year old.

I started reading the book, and was not disappointed. It was fun, the stories were interesting, they all ended with a moral, some more obvious than others. All of them are set in traditional, ancient India, and will definitely remind the readers of the stories they have been told by their grandparents during summer vacations. This also seems to be the setting visualized by the author himself, going by the cover of the book, which has a story telling session on with a bunch of kids.capture

The language is very easy and clean, and made it possible for me to glide through the pages with absolutely no difficulty. The sentences are simple, again, I assume keeping in mind the target audience. At first, I tried reading out loud to Zo, but as expected, the stories were a tad too long to be read out aloud. I then switched to reading on my own and then narrated the simpler versions to Zo. All were well received!

Overall, this is a very good book for children. While each story eventually reiterates upon the learning we have all been brought up with – like the victory of good over evil – it never gets preachy, making it all the more palatable to a younger audience. The variety of stories keeps the reader interested.

I for one will keep this copy handy for when Zo moves to her next phase of reading. And that should be enough said about it.

Tooth tales

I almost lost a tooth yesterday.

It actually started a week ago. Last week, around Tuesday, I was sitting, enjoying one of the most cherished parts of my day, and also poking my tooth with a tooth pick, because I sort of believe in multitasking. This was basically around 9:45 PM, when I am usually sitting on the couch. I have finished dinner, and also the nighttime ritual with Zo, which would include reading to her, and then singing to her till she falls asleep. The books I read vary as per the flavor of the moment, but on that day, I think it was one of the Crayon books by Oliver Jeffers because that’s all I have been reading since they arrived. Or, maybe it was both. It has to be both.

The song is a classic – Hanuman Chalisa, the MS version. The reason being that I have successfully convinced Zo, just like my mother convinced me, that there is no greater mantra than it for problems in the world – which roughly translate to ‘bad dreams’ at this age. In any case, it works like a charm, to settle her down and then get her to fall asleep, because it’s got FORTY couplets after all. On a side-note, I have to accept that I did chant it while driving to and from work, every day, for a whole month, both ways. So yeah, it works like a charm.

Yeah, so I was sitting there, peacefully, watching pre-recorded episodes of the Mindy Project and poking my tooth with a tooth pick. This show has become one of my favorite pastimes in the recent times. After we gave up Netflix (and I had written a whole post about this but never posted it), we are back to limited options. Which do not seem as limited on weekdays, because I have like a half hour of TV viewing time maybe. So The Mindy Project is what I resort to. The dude finds it too girly, but I think it’s nice. Plus I really like the character of Danny Castellano, maybe a TV character crush after a long time.

So, I was watching a particularly fun episode where Mindy is trying to juggle between life and pregnancy and job and basically messing everything up which is mostly the whole theme of this show, and poking my tooth with a tooth pick. I might have gotten over-excited at a point and suddenly I feel something loose in my mouth. I was scandalized, to think that I actually was able to break a whole tooth in itself, using a puny wooden tooth pick, not the best thought and definitely says something about my dental habits (not that the other teeth would have anything better to say). But yeah, I nudged it around with my tongue, and Lo! There was a tooth in my hand.

Now this tooth has a history involved. This tooth has seen so much that it has lost itself in the tides of time (and a root canal, remember?), and is only a small part of what it was, literally. Ofcourse, there is a crown, which you would know if you have ever had a root canal. This crown is fixed with some sort of glue and works just fine, and looks just fine, except that I guess it was a tad smaller than it was required to be, meaning there was a tiny gap between the fake tooth and the real one. Not that I ever felt or noticed it, but food somehow tended to find its way through, after which I very much felt it and noticed it.

Hence, the toothpick. So what had fallen off was that fake crown. First, I breathed a sigh of relief because, hello! Then I wondered what I should do, I needed to go to a dentist, but when? Tomorrow is too short a notice and in the evening, I was off to Mom’s, and then I would return only on Thursday, which was Republic day; and that left me with just the weekend to fix and appointment and get the tooth fixed.

Only, I didn’t. And I have reasons. One, I had a birthday party to take Zo to, but that was in the evening. So I could have gotten it done in the morning. But then there was this crucial life or death decision I had to take – which basically was a choice between

  • looking like Kroor Singh for dinner, or
  • having an innocent crown hang around loose for a few more days, not that it was causing trouble anymore.

Superficiality won, and I did not get it done.

Over the next couple of days, I actually got used to it. The crown wouldn’t come off as easily, but a little nudge and it did move. I read up about how it was better to get it fixed because have swallowed crowns (!) and we all know how expensive they are. But I had that much confidence in me, so I let it be.

Until last night that is. Last night, I was returning after a very tiring day, that had started at 4 in the morning(because of an early flight), and was followed by a long drive to the office in Mumbai (because all drives are long in Mumbai), a whole day of meetings, and then a drive back to the airport. I had been eagerly waiting to board, and we did, on time, only to be told that we couldn’t take off due to congestion for the next 5-7 minutes. These became 45 minutes and then an hour. I usually wouldn’t care but after I was done thinking about whether I’d go for the Cup noodles or the Chicken Junglee sandwich, I got bored. You see, I had no book. And the 3G on my phone had decided to suck. So I was left with no entertainment.

Except, um, poking my tooth, with my tongue this time. And for some reason, it came out quite easily. And then the horror happened. One minute I was happily trying to fix it back, and the other, it was gone! No tooth. I was horrified thinking I might have swallowed it since I was quite hungry. And then I decided that was not possible, and that I had dropped it. And what can be more disgusting than dropping a tooth on the floor of the disgusting airplane floor, and then picking it up, knowing it needs to be put back? Only I couldn’t see it anywhere, and now disgust turned into worry because now I was thinking of the 3000 rupees lost if I didn’t manage to find it.

I did, finally after a terrible 3 minutes. Actually, it was where it belonged, and had slipped back on the baby tooth underneath, and was sitting snugly. So snugly, that I did not feel its existence. But I did feel exactly how I would feel if I lost it again.So I have decided to go get it fixed first thing on Saturday. I actually have some time after this thing we have at Zo’s school maybe.  Or I can just go for a movie instead.

It’s not like I actually lost a tooth yesterday.