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Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Beautiful Life

The year 2014, when it first began to unfold, promised me nothing and gave me no reason to hope. Fortunately, 2014 isn't anything like I expected it to be. 

In 2013, I felt a hundred years old, really. I expected to feel worse at the beginning of the new year. But funny thing is, I didn't. 

At a professional level, this has been my best year. At a personal level, I have begun to protect my fence of happiness and growth. I am not letting in people who make me feel negative about myself. The need to be surrounded by those who care and love me has outweighed everything else this year and yes, it has paid off in a big way. 

I feel as though I can take on the world and conquer it with just a smile.  I would also like to believe that my best years have just begun as amazing, beautiful things are happening in my life.

My new home is slowly getting ready and should be ready early next year. You know, it's a really small space in terms of square feet but the view is amazing. One rainy morning, I went to that site, conquered my fears of slipping way down into a cavern below and found the courage to climb through some very rough terrain to experience the view of my new home.

What I saw filled me with such joy and pleasure - I have no words. Thank you, God - but can you please speed up the process a bit? I am SO excited and eager to move into a new beginning in my life.

Yet in my heart, that's my dream home and it means everything to me. 

Then, in my personal life - I don't want to talk about the changes there because, well, it's too personal. But all I can say is this: the angels are protectively guiding me, the spirit guides are nudging me to do what brings me happiness and  I have begun to write with a natural tempo after many, many years of block.

I sat down and began to look over my previously published writings without any sense of attachment to the words. Instantly, I knew what I could have done better. Yet I felt better and not worse. Becoming older is helping me to find my voice and place as a writer. I do not deny my age. 

But what I feel differently now is that as I grow older, I feel more beautiful and divine from within - my soul is radiant and shining forth with an illumination that is helping me to see a bigger picture of where I want to be.

Here's a quote from Brene Brown that inspires me:

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me will be there regardless of the outcome within arm's reach. This realization changed everything.


More than anything else, I have begun to dream and to hope with an abandon that is poetic. And yes, my life is an ebbing sea ahead of me. 

But at sunset, the sea  is full of grandeur, splendor and looks most enchanting as it dies with the sun and for me, I know that is truly my moment of glory, fleeting though it may be.

Life's beautiful. I am grateful for it to God, my dearest family and closest friends every day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anupama Prakash's Book Review: Bird Song – A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

♥♥ This is the first Guest Post on Petals!. I thank Anupama Prakash with all my heart for writing this book review for Petals!  ♥♥

So, honestly I picked this book for the lame reason that it has been made into a mini-series and was featured on Masterpiece Theatre, a program close to my heart. Masterpiece Theatre, didn’t let me down and Sebastian Faulks’ s page turner outdid expectations.

Starting off pre World War 1 in France, we are quickly entwined in the life of Stephen Wraysford, the protagonist as he settles down as a guest in the Azaire household. Stephen, an orphan, is sent by his benefactor to learn the textile business from Monsieur Azaire. 



Stephen’s character unravels beautifully through the book, subtle personality nuances mingled with straight forward biographical detail, bringing this strong in convictions yet vulnerable in emotions, young man(he is barely 20 when the book begins) to life in our imaginations.

It’s easy to identify and sympathize with Stephen and I cheered him on as he flirts with and then has an affair with the enchanting yet unhappy lady of the house, Isabelle Azaire. 

Madame Azaire, is portrayed as an intrinsically free spirited, independent woman with very little opportunity to explore this side of her personality under first, her overbearing father and then her insecure husband.

Even though Stephen and Isabelle’s love story ends prematurely in the first part of the book, the ferocious intensity of having loved and lost , shapes the rest of Stephen’s experiences so much so that even the horrendous experiences of War are mere events superimposed on this love story. 

I have watched many War movies in the past and have been greatly affected by them but none come close to the emotions of horror Sebastian Faulks dredged up in me. People with weak sensibilities be warned this is not one for the faint hearted. The fears and foibles of ordinary folk, thrust into the extraordinary situation of a war have been dealt with, with brazenness. 

Man’s baser instincts aroused by the need to survive, co- habitating with the immense compassion and love that we are capable of feeling toward our fellow beings have been explored through parallel stories.

The author adds another dimension to this tale of Love and War, by taking the story to the 1970’s where we are introduced to Elizabeth, Stephen’s granddaughter. Elizabeth, is a successful career woman, who is looking for more meaning to her life and decided to delve into the past to begin to find it.

Personally, I was unhappy with this digression by the author. Elizabeth’s character seems like it was hastily thrown together by the author and adds, not sure what, to a book that is already filled to the brim with feelings and emotions.

The book ends with a simplicity that is welcomed after the upheavels of love and loss, death and destruction. Stephen goes on to lead a simple happy life after the War and Elizabeth finds stability and meaning to her life. 

About Anupama Prakash: 'Heard somewhere that in order to be a good writer , the most important quality required is that you be an avid reader, and I'm going with that!'  You can also follow Anupama Prakash on Twitter.

 ♥♥ REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people.I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Book Review: Ratna Vira's Debut Novel, Daughter by Court Order

It happened to be one of those interesting days when I had tea with a well-known journalist. One thing she told me stayed in my mind, “I am a single mother by choice. But what I didn’t realize is that it’s so hard to get your child’s respect when you are a single mother. No matter how sincerely you try, you seem to fall short somewhere.

This story is about a single mother's fight for justice.

Daughter by Court Order: Story & Characterization
Ratna Vira’s debut novel, Daughter By Court Order, is a shocking, heart touching story of a girl called Arnie (Aranya is her full name) who grows up emotionally and physically abused by her celebrity mother. This is about her fight for justice.


This story has some very ‘desi’ inspired characters such as Arnie’s great dadaji who had been a powerful CM and her phua  Baby Singh. Throughout her life, it is dadaji and phua who protect her. Their traits and characterization are so well-structured that you feel as though you can see them right in front of you.

Daughter by Court Order: The BIG Legal Tangle
At the beginning of the story, Arnie is a single, working mother to two children. She gets to know from her phua  about an ongoing property dispute for the house she had grown up in. The case revolves around her dadaji's will. What seems like a straight forward case is a highly volatile one that requires a great legal strategy to navigate through.

Daughter by Court Order: What I Liked about Ratna Vira's Debut Novel
It is the first time I am reading an Indian novel that takes you into the heart of a protagonist whose mother hates the sight of her, leaves her out of the family tree and eventually goes to the extent of threatening her! 

Then, when the battle turns ugly, it is the protagonist’s friends, lawyers and ex-husband who help her to fight her influential, powerful mother. There is a clear departure from the usual ‘family’ formula in this novel. Instead, it mirrors the changing Indian society and relationships. It’s no longer ‘family’ that protects the daughter, it’s her closely cultivated networks that protect her today.

Another positive spin pertains to a husband and wife, who divorced under very bitter circumstances, but help to fight each other’s battles without feeling attracted to one another. These are signs of mature adults in a fast maturing Indian society – we don’t see such responsible couples around us. This aspect, so well depicted in this novel, mirrors a noteworthy aspect about marital relationships in India.

In most Indian novels that delve into legal disputes, the lawyers are shown as lazy, careless and manipulative people. This novel showed a balanced perspective – it showed lawyers who exploit, lawyers who avoid, lawyers who work according to the fee they get and lawyers who are confident enough of turning the odds by trying to separate the truth from the stacks of lies they have to wade through. It also appreciate the role of impartial, honest judges right from the lower court to the higher court. These tiny details make a big difference to the telling of a story. 

That sense of Arnie’s story ‘being real’ is what made me finish reading this book at one go. 

However, the author could have done a lot more to enhance the literary crafting of the book. It’s a plain, well-told, direct story.  Repeated references to lyrics of favorite songs could have been avoided. There, you can sense, a rawness and a blurring to the art of telling a tale and writing a story.

But we all love a good fight story against injustice and evil, don’t we? That’s exactly why you have to read Ratna Vira’s Daughter by Court Order!

If you liked this book review, do read these too: 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Five Awesome Ways to Improve Whatever You Do

Here's an eclectic selection of posts that I read and enjoyed from around the web. I just knew that I had to share it with you!

We all look forward to improvement in everything we do. 

From keeping the kitchen clean, finding more storage space to keep our kid’s toys to writing a winning entry for a writer’s contest, this month’s collection has a bit of everything for you. You can also boost your mood with this blog post: Five Exceptional Posts That Will Motivate You Today.
  
So, grab a seat, get your morning cup of tea/coffee and imagine this is your Sunday brunch. Ready to read?

                                                [Image Courtesy: http://unsplash.com/]
Calm the Mind
A calm mind holds the key to a happy, productive day. Maybe this post will help you to work towards it. Read the full post here.  If you enjoy meditation and like to experiment with different techniques, Raja Yoga may interest you as it focuses on how observation, intuition, discrimination and experience. This means that everything you learn in Raja yoga is based on direct experience.

Find Space and Get More Organized
Are you struggling to find storage space? Here are some funky storage ideas to watch out for in Andrea's Notebook! To get more out of your bathroom space, read this post. 

Cleanliness First
‘Cleaning the Fridge’ is one of their most ‘postponed, not looking-forward-to-it tasks.’ So, make time to clean your fridge methodically. To get your kitchen more organized, spic and span, you may want to read this.

Pitch in, Help Others in Little Ways
This blog post by A Vishwanathan has a powerful takeaway: “We don’t lack the intent to be useful or to serve, but we simply don’t have the time. Our acts can be random and small – helping an elderly person, making way for a lady to sit on the bus, etc . We don’t even need to make a special effort. Just look around, in our own circles of immediate influence, we will find people who need help but are not asking for it…they are just there, fellow voyagers, like you and me, who are struggling with their own daily challenges through Life.” 

Keep Learning New Techniques
Love to write? Read Rob Cubbon's Best Writing Tip and Sara Backer's ‘inside scoop on how to get the best consideration in a big writing contest.’ You may want to jot down most of these useful points. 

Try these tips, feel free to give feedback and share the links of any interesting posts that you have read recently. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Celebrations, Pretensions and Disengagement in Relationships

Raksha Bandhan celebrations are over. But pretensions have not. Thankfully, not everyone pretends. But this isn't just about Raksha Bandhan at all - it's happening across all occasions and festivals.

The young domestic help who comes and cleans my home every morning had a bright smile today. She said, proudly, “My brother took me to a shop and asked me to choose three salwar suit materials. This happens only once a year. So, I bought three materials and each cost a thousand rupees. And he also bought me two sarees and gave me some money. This happens only once a year but I feel so happy.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a one-incident rant. I have spoken to several people before putting out this post. Everyone had a list of material gifts they mentioned with delight, nothing to say about sweet, childhood memories with their brother. I find that very odd.

I am not being judgmental about anyone. But increasingly, I get the feeling that we are becoming a ‘what-can-I-get-from-the-other-person-because-it-is-my-right’ community. That doesn’t feel right to me, especially not in family relationships.

That reminds me of a peculiar work place culture I was struggling to understand ten years ago. I am still struggling to understand it. The women – highly educated, financially independent and liberal in their outlook – constantly ‘negotiated’ what they wanted from their partner for their ‘date anniversary’ and ‘wedding anniversary’ and if it didn’t cost their partner at least 50K, that would be the end of the relationship or so the threats implied. When women put such numeric values on their sense of worth, I feel we, as women, demean ourselves, beyond words.

What appalls me now and then is that this yardstick is fast becoming the norm across all relationships. What you give or rather how much you can give becomes the barometer of a relationship’s progression thereon. 

I am all for celebrating beliefs, traditions and festive occasions that bring people closer and together. But I am definitely opposed to the increasing pretensions that are flooding our lives through mediums that include Facebook, WhatsApp and so on.

How do I know people are pretending? Lets put it this way – we define our relationships with people based on their actions and interactions with us.

Suppose my interactions with you are consistently nasty, mean, judgmental and sarcastic in real life but I send you the sweetest greetings on Facebook or WhatsApp, which one would appear more real to you? Which one do you choose to trust?

Whom would you trust - the ‘online’ me or the ‘offline’ me? What is the actual purpose of sending out such ‘social’ messages – a kind of social marketing of how good/expert one is? But the question is also this: for how long, does one person 'fool' the other on networks? 

Increasingly, I see people whom I know very well in real life pretend to be what they are not to those in their social networks. When pretense becomes a way of life, what follows is disengagement. This is because those who know each other in person would recognize what is happening. 

It’s not too different in family relationships, workplace relationships or in friendships between friends. Two people who live together or work with each other or are related to each don't even say 'Hello' or "How do you feel?" in real life but they send out the sweetest messages on Facebook, WhatsApp - what's the false exhibition for? I haven't been able to figure it out - why do people act like fakes?

But the fact remains that this bout of pretension is long-lasting and far more damaging than natural disasters like the tsunami. Sadly, it is spreading, fast.

All of this takes me back to a golden era when a ten rupee note or a handful of freshly minted coins from a grandparent was treasured like gold – not because of the number it stood for, but because of the sanctity of the relationship with the giver.

Where have those days gone? Wish I had the answers. Do you? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Breast Cancer Treatment: How to Choose Your Doctor and Get Your Body & Confidence Back

What’s the big deal about breast cancer – lets dig into some facts. 

Also, do read: If Yuvi can, You can! 

Breast Cancer Facts You Should Know
Take a look at these breast cancer facts:

1.  In 1 out of 10 women, doctors say the cause of breast cancer is genetic. This means if your grandmother, mother or any family member has it, you are at a higher risk than other women.
2.  Regular breast self-examination will help to detect lumps or any symptoms early. The earlier you find out, the better for you. If detected early, you may not have to remove a breast and may require only a minor surgery.
3.   Don’t EVER ignore the early signs. Your body is TRYING to tell you something. Pay attention and take action.
4.     Do not ignore any signs of lumps, pain around or under the armpits – these are not signs to easily dismiss.
5. Breast cancer treatment is highly personalized. So, go to the best breast oncologist-surgeon.

Don’t completely TRUST Mammograms, Go with your GUT FEEL
The routine mammogram isn’t fool proof. So, consider the following:

1. If  you feel you have symptoms of breast cancer but the mammogram indicates otherwise, go with your gut feel. 

2.  Take a second medical opinion. 

3. Ask your doctors whether you can opt for 3-dimensional breast MRI. It is expensive and may have side effects but it gives your doctor an accurate imaging of how your condition is positioned. Knowing the exact details helps your doctor to plan the next point of action.

Breast Cancer Treatment: How to Choose a Doctor You feel You can Trust
Just visiting any reputed hospital will NOT do. Note this when you meet your doctor:

1. Understand his/her approach to you and analyze how comfortable you are. Understand how you feel when your doctor examines/touches you. If you are uncomfortable, it's a clear 'NO' and if you are comfortable, go with your intuition.

2. Ask questions. If you are afraid, say it to your doctor. If you are ashamed of this condition, tell your doctor how you feel. Ask more questions. Watch how your your doctor reacts – is he defensive, impatient, reassuring, confident, compassionate? 



3. Of all the qualities that wins a patient’s trust, especially in cancer cases, it is compassion. Your doctor can be the best in the world but if he has no compassion, would you really trust him/her?

4. Make sure you cross-check your doctor's references. Ask patients, para nursing staff, doctors in your network. Do all your homework about your doctor. File it, if necessary, in case you have areas of doubts. Be 100% sure before you finalize your doctor. This is your body, your battle and your life - so don't take chances.

Breast Cancer: Explore ALL treatment options
Breast cancer treatment may vary. If recommended by more than one doctor, it should be PRIORITY in your ACTION CHECKLIST.

Also, find out:

1.     Has your doc studied your genetic history and current physical condition?
2.  Has he/she discussed the implications and more than one treatment option with others in his team?
3.    Has he presented his findings and that of the others in his team before you?
4.  Has he sought your opinion on how you feel through every stage or has he DECIDED and simply informed you?

Once you decide a particular course of action, pursue it with passion and confidence. Read self-help books or inspiring books to keep yourself motivated. Don't let people overload you with advice that shakes your confidence. Surround yourself with those who love and stand by you. Go through every phase with a smile. 

Thank everyone who is there with you. Simple acts of love can make you experience 'sunshine.' Thank the doctors and the nursing staff who see you through painful tests - this reinforces your confidence in them and boosts the positive bonding you develop with them.

Most importantly, be determined to LOVE and RESPECT your BODY and tell the Higher Self/God how grateful you are every day for this beautiful life.


♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with  gratitude to all cancer care givers across the world including doctors, nurses, para medical staff and others who help in healing and making the lives of cancer patients bearable and happier through very painful phases. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people.I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quiet: The Power of Introverts, By Susan Cain

Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’ is a MUST READ book. 

Introverts versus Extroverts is a fascinating topic. It's a much talked about issue particularly when relating it to campuses and work places where 'personality' speaks volumes and has the power to make and break careers. And way too often, we are not sure where we fit in. 

That's why I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts' by Susan Cain - it is  a well-researched book with interesting, specific insights that you can easily relate to.

If you have ever felt that you work BEST alone, then Susan Cain explains why you feel the way you do and that it's perfectly fine to work the way you feel most comfortable with. [Do read: What My First Job Taught Me & Why I Didn't Learn Anything From It and Why are women mean to women?]

Figuring it out: Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? 
Here are some more interesting facts about introverts:

1. Studies show that introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.

2. Introverts and extroverts react to rewards differently. Extroverts are characterized by their tendency to seek rewards than introverts. By contrast, introverts have a "smaller response" to rewards system and so go less out of their way to follow up [reward] cues

3. When a couple comprises of an introvert and extrovert, there are several challenges to work on. It can be hard for extroverts to appreciate how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day and it is also hard for introverts to understand how hurtful their silence can be to their partners.

Susan Cain on Free Trait Theory 
Susan Cain cites the Free Trait Theory: Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love or anything they value highly.

Introverts EXCEL when they are passionate about something 
As Susan Cain’s book QUIET reveals, when introverts are passionate about a cause, there’s just no stopping their incredible power to bring change and become pioneers of that change!

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet, shares her brilliant insights once again:

First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up?

The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not. If you wanted to be a fireman, what did  a fireman mean to you? A good man who rescued people?...Gist is this: You may have known more about who you were then than what you do now.

Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to.

Third, pay attention to what you envy. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.


Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What’s your experience been like while interacting with those who are behaviorally opposite to you?

Do share your thoughts. I would LOVE to hear from you.

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all those who are finding their own path to enjoy what they do. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vikramadityan Review: Disappointing movie from Lal Jose, Dulquar pales before Unni Mukundan in performance

Directed by Lal Jose, "Vikramadithyan" is a movie that has all the “right ingredients” for a ‘crowd puller.’ The star cast has Dulquar Salmaan, Unni Mukundan, Namitha Pramod, Anoop Menon, and Lena, among others.  To me, it felt as though the real lead actors of this movie are Anoop Menon, Lena and Unni Mukundan – their performances, timing and dialogue delivery are excellent and memorable. Their characterization is well-fleshed out and has both depth and consistency from start to finish.

                                                                  (Source: ibitimes.co.in)
Vikramadityan Review: Weak story
I liked the starting point of "Vikramadithyan" as it unfolds a realistic love story that fails between Vasudev Shenoy (starring Anoop Menon) and Lakshmi Nair (starring Lena), who are police officers but don’t end up marrying each other as they wished to.  Lakshmi gets married to another man who woos her by pretending to be a spunky police officer and Vasudev Shenoy marries another lady from his community.
Both the couples have sons who are born at the same time and are named Vikraman (Unni Mukundan) and Adithyan (Dulquar Salman). The story of conflict and competition between the two boys begins here and it intensifies as they grow up and fall in love with the pretty Deepika Pai (starring Namitha Pramod).
Vikraman and Adithyan are ‘rivals’ with opposite backgrounds. Vikraman has a more protected and pampered upbringing than Adithyan. He has the confidence of a boy who comes from a good family and is well brought up, disciplined and ambitious. Due to a difficult childhood, Adithyan grows up without a clear sense of direction and parental guidance. He has anger and it turns destructive. 
                                                                  (Source:cinecafenow.com)
Vikraman aims to be a police officer like his father, so Adithyan wants to beat him to it. It doesn’t help that the love of his life – Deepika – keeps egging him on by relentlessly praising and comparing him to Vikraman. All the odds are in favour of Vikraman but there’s an element of surprise in the film which you should watch to find out what it brings. It’s a good twist and not one you would easily predict.
Vikramadityan Review: Weak characterization of heroine
Deepika’s characterization is a serious flaw in this movie. It is grainy, inconsistent and irritating. She is portrayed as a girl who is shown to be from a conservative Shenoy family in Mattancherry but with a modern outlook. For a very independent thinking girl, her actions are not convincing. She constantly compares the two guys to each other in her actions – which seems like petty behaviour to me – but she calls it a sign of friendship (it’s more like confusion). When her best friend asks her to marry him knowing well she is in love with another guy, she sends a mail first informing the guy she loves that the other guy has beaten him to it and then by asking him to make the decision for her. 
Again, at a critical juncture, instead of telling Vikraman that she doesn’t want to marry him, she simply plays the ‘silent, helpless damsel in distress’ and finally Vikraman takes the most important decision in her life for her without even asking her!  
On top of all this, she is constantly wedging into the relationship between the two guys – for what? Namitha’s dialogue delivery seems forced instead of natural, her body movements are graceful but there is a clear lack of chemistry with both heroes.
Vikramadityan Review: The Few Things I liked
The depiction of growing up in Mattancherry – with its narrow alleys, schools, the TD temple and the cultural landscaping of several communities living there such as the Shenoys, the Pais, the Nairs, the few Gujaratis – the cultural atmosphere is deftly captured. 
All the sequences showing Anoop Menon and Lena are commendable. You know you are watching two veterans with a  great sense of timing. I particularly liked the actor who acted as Lena’s husband. His role is small but has tremendous impact. His personality comes through and stays with you throughout the film.
Unni Mukundan is not the hero of this movie but on screen, he steals Dulquar’s thunder and lightning. Dulquar struggles and pales in all scenes where Unni Mukundan is present. 
                                                                  (Source: ibnlive)
I liked the way Dulquer is constantly experimenting with his attire and his body language is always in sync with the nature of the character he presents. Dulquar reinvents his appearance in every movie. 

"Vikramadithyan" follows the ‘film masala’ formula perfectly but I feel it’s a “let down” movie with over rated publicity. The first half of the film seemed to be dragging pointlessly. The second half brings in the best part of the movie, thanks to several badly timed surprises mixed with bittersweet moments.
It is disappointing to see a director like Lal Jose come up with a movie like this. Go watch it if you want to waste time  – I won’t recommend it though.

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