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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Life is like a meatloaf....

You know what often happens to me when I sit down to write....I think to myself, "It's been written before...so many brilliant writers have done it before me...why should I start writing on this story that's driving me crazy unless I let it out on paper?"

And then there is a delightful quote by Elizabeth Berg, who says, "As for the notion that everything has been said, maybe it has, but life is like a meatloaf, there are so many different ways to present it. What's unique about you is what makes your writing interesting and what makes it shine.

Hmmm, I like that quote. 






Your turn: What do you think makes your writing shine?  Or can you share writers whose writing makes you go 'Hmmm, I've got to read this again!"

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Book Review: Farahad Zama's novel The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is delightful to read

There is a delightful quaintness to Farahad Zama's debut novel titled The Marriage Bureau for Rich People and its sequel The Many Conditions of Love. 

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People revolves around Mr. Ali, a retired government clerk, who starts a marriage bureau in Vizag to keep himself busy.

                                                                                    (Image: isahitya)

Mrs. Ali adds intelligent observations and practical solutions to keep it going during its initial phases. She brings in the element of easy going, witty conversations and breathes life into an otherwise dull routine. Subtle references are made about their son, Rehman, who is a social activist, 

He is often taken into police custody for raising slogans against the government to protect the rights of poor farmers. His parents are worried about their only son and find it difficult to understand why he has to take to the streets to protest and get beaten up for the cause of farmers when they don't even have farmers in the family. It doesn't help matters when Rehman falls in love with a Hindu girl whom his parents disapprove of.

This twist also takes you into the practical difficulties of a Hindu-Muslim marriage in India. You get the drift, don't you?

The story gathers momentum when she finds a Brahmin girl called Aruna to work as an assistant to Mr.Ali - how the work flow is divded, the practical aspects of running a bureau are also detailed in a way that you would feel that you are a part of the family.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People delves into the kind of marriages that are arranged by families. Every family comes with its set of unique demands. 

There is a woman from a royal family that is known for good looking men and women with long noses, Her demand is that her son should marry a good looking woman with a long nose and she doesn't mind if the girl is not from a rich family.

That's just one example. 

The book takes you through many more. How Mr. Ali uses his intelligence and sense of humor to keep his marriage bureau flourishing is the icing on the cake.

The book gives you an interesting insight into how Indian marriages are arranged, It goes into the 'behind-the-scenes' talks that happen between families even before a wedding is finalized, But the pace of the narrative seems to slacken at some places and rush at other points where it shouldn't. 

The sequel, The Many Conditions of Love, is more interesting than The Marriage Bureau for Rich People as the narrative is fresh, the dialogues are peppy and the characters are well-crafted. If you had to choose between the two, I would say read the sequel instead. 

There is a scene in the book where Aruna leaves her husband's home because she is insulted by her sister-in-law and her husband makes no attempt to speak for her. Aruna's family try to make her see sense and return to her husband's home but she refuses because she feels insulted by her husband's conduct.

Finally, it is Mrs. Ali who tells her about the malicious gossip in the neighborhood and says, "This is bigger than your hurt feelings, Aruna. Your family's reputation is at stake. Whatever issues you have are not going to be resolved by running away from them. Go and fight for your rights. Solve your problems from within."

Among many such memorable conversations in The Many Conditions of Love, this is my favorite:

"How long does it take for a broken heart to heal?" he asked.

She replied"The sadness will always be there. But your heart will mend and happiness can find a home in it sooner than you realize."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Be Unstoppable: Five Easy Ways to Boost Your Confidence Every Day

Every day we read a lot, but how much do we recall? That's why if something awesome is written and I read it, I share it here. This is the first round up of such posts this year and yes, it's all about how to boost your confidence!

Are you ready? Then, here we go!

Be Confident, Choose to Be Happy & Productive

Each of us have an inborn talent - we just need to discover what it is.

Have you see the picture-perfect moms on TV who can rustle up different yummylicious looking breakfasts for different family members? 

That gets to me, saps my sanity. Because I am no such domestic goddess. In fact, I can look like Shrek's grandmother while tackling kitchen chores, racing against time and much more. 

This guest post on Vishnu's blog urges you to get out of your comfort zone and stay productive, even when you don't want to. It helps you to keep your sanity intact...so, go on and do read it!

Don't join the sleepless generation, it's not good for you!  If you aren't convinced, here's an excellent analysis of the 'sleep disorder' we are facing and why it's IMPORTANT to do something about it. Simply put, sleep more!

Appreciate your environment, learn to love the Natural World

Stop whatever you are doing and look around you. SEE your natural world. Better still,feel it. 

Believe it or not, it's more exhausting to be glued to your desk all day or working on your laptop than taking a walk outdoors in a park that has trees and flowers. Being outdoors, spending some time in your natural environment can bring amazing positive energy. Try it.

Better still, educate children to appreciate Nature. Aeon Magazine has a fantastic write-up on how parents are squandering one of the greatest opportunities we have to cultivate in kids a love for the natural world


Write every day

Writing boosts my energy, like nothing else. You can try it too.

If you are wondering how to get started, you will love these 23 fantastic links for creative writers and check out 101 Writing Resources That’ll Take You from Stuck to Unstoppable. Both are put together by Cynthia Lindeman.

Break the rules, Defy the age myth

Now I have to confess, I get sucked in my the age myth...nearly all the time. If there's a dance, I think to myself, "It's fun but at my age, I better stick to checking out the dishes on the buffet table." When I think of completing my manuscript, the same thoughts occur, "I should just read all those fantastic writers out there. They are so young and I am getting sooo old to start writing.." That goes for salsa dancing too...when friends say they are taking salsa dancing lessons, I cringe and think, "Imagine doing something like that at my age..." 

Chuck those thoughts, good writing has no age limit, says Sunie Levie. The best part is where she cites examples of writers who have been writing past the age of eighty and ninety. I could just hug her for the awesome examples she has cited. 

I hope this has helped you, and inspires you to create loving rituals for yourself. Now, I'd LOVE to hear from you - what makes you feel that you are at your best? What are your confidence-boosting tips? 

Share some here....and simply .....BE UNSTOPPABLE!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guru Nanak Dev In My Life

The first time I visited Amritsar, it was like an electric shock. No, I didn't get electrocuted, or anything. 

I went like a tourist but I came back like a humbled lamb. Of course, I had heard of Guru Nanak Dev, as the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Sikh Gurus. But that is all I knew.

                                    Image courtesy: http://www.4to40.com/

The day I went there, it was Diwali. I saw that Sikhs from across the world, particularly UK and US, had come to offer their prayers there. I sat by the shimmering waters that mirrored the Golden Temple. I saw young Sikhs crying with bliss after taking a dip in the holy water. I saw elderly couples help each other to take a dip and pray for their children who were not with them. I saw young parents, beautifully dressed, help their young ones to take a dip without fear. 

Everywhere I felt love. There was love in the air and it was so electric.

This feeling is one that I have experienced only in Sai Kulwant Hall, Prashanti Nilayam. Sitting there, I experienced an electric current of unbelievable love for humanity. I closed my eyes and felt great light emerging from within me and filling me with absolute, unconditional love for humanity. 

I understood then and there the glorious essence of Guru Nanak Dev ji. He is LOVE.

I bowed, humbled by the experience and prayed, one by one, mentioning the names of those who are dear to me and asked Him to protect them.

Though not a devotee, I sensed that Guru Nanak Dev knew me even before I knew or understood anything about him. There was, simply put, an instant electric communication between us. I began to pray, "I know that my Guru Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has established a connection between me and you for a reason I am not aware of. With my Guru firmly in my heart, I pray to you to bless me and forgive me for any wrong karma that I may have done, out of ignorance. With the permission of my God and Guru, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I seek your love and protection in  my life and to my loved ones."

Following the Amritsar trip, I read all the serious literature around him and before I knew it, he made his way into my home and my heart. It's more like a silent, respectful sort of love. I feel his soothing presence and it brings a ray of light.

And then finally after reading a lot about Guru Nanak Dev ji, I joined the dots and understood the connection. 

Guru Nanak Dev is one of the Masters of the Spirit World, besides Meher Baba. He protects spiritual seekers who are regularly communicating with the Spirit World. 

When Guru Nanak Dev enters their homes, it is to protect them in this specific area where they are moving unguided and into uncharted territory with the purpose of serving humanity.

Among my favorite teachings of Guru Nanak Dev, here is one: "Like the butter goes into the bread, love also gets into things. Love means to love others."

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Guest Post by Raji PV: What I love about Singapore

♥♥ This is the second Guest Post on Petals in 2015. I thank my former colleague Raji PV for sharing her personal writing on my blog. Raji, as I know her, is a lovely person and a dedicated mother with an angelic, soothing presence. Her simplicity and humility inspire me. In a nutshell, I am blessed to be in her company. Thanks for writing, Raji!♥♥ 

The first time I landed in Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised by the lush greenery all around. Gigantic trees lining both sides of the road  met overhead high above the road. The change in scenery was too stark not to notice, as we arrived from Delhi. The sceptic in me did not expect it to last  more than a few miles; but guess what, I was overjoyed to have been proved wrong!

Greenery in Singapore
The beauty of Singapore lies in its ever-spreading green robe, both planned and natural, that stretches across the length and breadth of the island. Best of all, Singapore goes that extra mile in protecting its natural beauty. This is exactly the reason why Singapore has several nature reserves and forested areas. 




The citizens also play a role in ensuring the same. To make matters easier, Singapore also has fool proof rules that ensure compliance.




Public Libraries in Singapore

The second best feature about Singapore is its network of well-equipped public libraries. One of the best in the world, Singapore libraries offer excellent services and boast great infrastructure. This means that if you are looking for a book, you just have to search online at the National Library Board (NLB) website. 

Key in the book title or the author name and you will be provided with a detailed list of the current status of the book. You can also reserve books online at nominal charges. Final, the library charges are very affordable, making it attractive and accessible to all. 

Parks in Singapore
Singapore parks deserve special mention, given their expansiveness, beauty and accessibility to all. 

Conceptualized with excellent landscaping and design, Singapore national parks provide excellent amenities and recreational facilities for the public. To further up their attractiveness quotient, most are located along the beach, making it the perfect family outing spot. 

Anytime you feel sad, angry or bored, you know exactly where to head!














Architecture in Singapore
While Singapore national parks pamper visitors with their expansiveness and greenery, Singapore City beckons with its blend of modern, colonial and regional architectures. 

Many buildings in Singapore boast unique histories and identities of their own, which has been preserved and protected even to this day. Be it the historical shop houses in Chinatown or the skyscrapers in Central Business District, all of them have a story to tell.












To get to the heart of the Singapore Chinese culture, do visit Chinatown during the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Chinese New Year. 

To experience Malay and Indian cultures from close quarters, visit Geylang and Little India respectively. Then, there are fairs galore during festivities, such as Hari Raya and Deepavali. No wonder, they call Singapore a traveler's paradise and a photographer’s delight!


About Raji PV: Raji is an avid food lover and an armchair traveler, her  love, in her own words is 'to lose myself in the leaves of a book." All photos shown on this blog belong to Raji. 




Monday, January 5, 2015

Guest Post by Raghu Krishnan: It was K who made the house a home, whether Chennai or Bengaluru

♥♥ This is the first Guest Post on Petals! in 2015. I thank senior journalist Raghu Krishnan sir with all my heart for allowing me to share his personal writing in memory of his beloved wife - Kalyani. ♥♥ 

I have never been to Chennai since K left. The sadness stays with me, as do the memories, though it is almost three years since she left at 5.20 pm on the evening of Tuesday, January 31, 2012.. 


December was when we took our annual leave and went to Chennai. We stayed in K's parents' home, a traditional house with a front garden and a rear well in the north-eastern Chennai suburb of Ayanavaram..

The other evening in Bengaluru, I heard the Sun TV news-announcer mention Purusuwalkam. And I remember setting off every morning with K in an auto after breakfast to take in the sights and sounds of Chennai.

                                                      [Image: Morguefile.com]

The evening-journeys back were even more relaxing since we were returning home. As the auto trundled over the Chetpat bridge, there was this ever-so-cozy feeling of nearing home.

There were so many ways of returning home, buses, autos, cabs. And so many routes, all of them made so comfortable by the streetlights of Chennai and the fragrance of jasmine.

Home is where I hang my hat, the American country singer Johnny Cash once sang. Home is where the heart is.

It's the people who make a house a home. Every December evening in Chennai, we returned to K's family home, where her sister Lakshmi welcomed us back for dinner with a smile. We returned home to who we were. Those days, I never had a doubt that there would always be a home.

It was K who made the house a home, whether Chennai or Bengaluru. She was so positive in everything she said and did, especially vis-a-vis me. She called me Rji, short for my Delhi cousins' reference to me as Raghuji. I once jokingly asked the maid to join me in shouting "K, K, down, down!". And K responded with an "Rji, up, up!"

I remember a cousin's colleague dropping by at home with his little boy who had this habit of looking up at his father now and then, and saying "You are not my friend." Days later, I jokingly told K, "You are not my friend." and immediately stopped when I noticed the tears in her eyes. Even in a joke she took her commitment to me seriously.

On her last stay in the Bengaluru hospital where she was being treated for multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone-marrow) and just days before the end, while she was still conscious, she rang up home one morning to speak to Mohana, the cook, which was something I heard about much later. 

"Mona," K said on the hospital-phone, "the day I go, you must prepare Rji's favourite dishes." Mona tried to stop her with an "Amma, don't talk like that." K continued, "On the day of the cremation, people will say no food should be cooked at home but you must quietly prepare Rji's favourite dishes without telling anyone." 

To put it simply, she cared for me.

And so I hardly stir out of the Bengaluru apartment and stay at home with the memories of a life together and December holidays in a Chennai house which has been demolished and converted into an apartment-block after Lakshmi's demise.

A German poet once wrote, "The lonely man will seek his loneliness". One can be alone for the rest of one's life without feeling lonely.

If poetry, as Wordsworth once observed, is emotions recollected in tranquillity, her life was a poem, complete in itself, and without an ego.

Some 13 years ago, K and I had gone to Thiruvaiyaru for the Thyagaraja Aradhana where the leading Carnatic musicians assemble together to sing the saint-composer's pancharatna kritis or five great compositions on the day he attained samadhi. In the foyer of the Thanjavur hotel where we were staying, K noticed the Carnatic music saxophonist Kadri Gopinath and went up to him and greeted him. "Do you sing or perform on an instrument?", he asked. "No," she said, "I am just a fan." 

And I remembered K and her friends telling each other how they would have liked to have worked as a maid in the house of the legendary M S Subbulakshmi just so that they could hear her sing.  

While writing this and sipping water from a tumbler where her initials--KRK--are inscribed, I realize that she could have married a much better person. I could not have found anyone better. 

About Raghu Krishnan: Raghu Krishnan is a senior journalist who is settled in Bangalore.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

It’s the funny,heart-to-heart conversations that make us happy

I asked my 8 year old son, “Frame 3 sentences quickly about your mother as a person.”

This was his answer:
1.     Amma is a good cooker.
2.    Amma is beautiful.
3.    Amma works at.....

Look at it from a language perspective and you know that the first sentence is not correctly framed. 

But you also know one thing: it is straight from the heart. He meant 'good cook' and I burst into laughter because 'Amma is a good cooker' reminds me of my 2015 resolution: eat less, exercise more!



Of the three sentences, the first one made me smile. 
                                                   
It’s no different in our interactions with others. It’s not the “perfect comments/conversations” we recall. It’s the flawed, funny, heart-to-heart ones that stick like glue to the heart. 

Like J Krishnamurti says: Happiness is not a remembrance, it is that state which comes into being  ever new, never continuous. Happiness is in transformation, not in acquisition. 

As the year comes to an end, I'd like to know: What made you happy? What made you smile?

Friday, December 26, 2014

You just reached a turning point in your life. So what?


In every individual’s life, there comes a stormy turning point. It leaves a mark on you forever. For me, that turning point came on 27th December 2007. I call it the ‘Year of Shivam.’ Shivam means “That which is indestructible.” Funny, it left an indestructible impact. That's what turning points are all about.

2007 is the year I experienced my first near-death experience at an astral level, followed by a series of out-of-body experiences.

You can laugh. But that was my first spiritual turning point. I was alone and I didn’t understand what had hit me then.

                                                      [Image: Unsplash]

Last year, I read books by writers  such as Khurshed Bhavnagari, Nan Umrigar, Ruzbeh N Bharucha. Then I understood that I wasn’t going crazy, turning stoned or hallucinating. I was actually having an astral experience and being guided to the Spirit World.

Another book I read is called A Journey of the Souls. A doctor documents the inner journeys and experiences of many individuals who had out-of-body experiences and were able to recall the exact details of their past lives as a result of their astral experience. It is the doctor's case diary with key observations about the out-of-body experiences of his patients and how it is directly linked to their  behavior, relationships and the choices that they make in real life.

What shocked me is this: the experiences are so similar to what I had gone through. There’s just one tiny difference. These folks had the courage and conviction to write about it. I didn’t.  So, here are some key takeaways:

1. When you face a turning point, face it with courage. 

2. Follow your heart. Do what you believe is right

3. Be aware that this is an important test from God. Don't run away.


5. Take a clear stand on what you strongly believe in. Stick to it and accept whatever is happening as an experience that will make you stronger.

My spiritual turning point taught me a powerful lesson: You have free will but  ultimately, only divine will manifests. 
 

We all go through seemingly illogical experiences at some point of time in life. The problem begins when we identify and get emotionally caught up with it instead of contemplating on it like a witness.

A turning point, particularly a spiritual one, has implications  in the real world. That’s why the test is so tough to pass. You have to put away your rosy glasses and face the reality with a big smile.


Thank you, Shivam. Losing you became the spiritual turning point in my life. You live forever in my heart. Rest in peace.       

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