Saturday, February 14, 2015

Focus on Love

Valentine’s Day is known as the day of love-- a day where you make your loved ones feel special. Some use it to proclaim and propose their loved ones and woo them with flowers, chocolates and jewelry.
It's a day where couples indulge in a little pampering, have candlelight dinners and watch romantic flicks.
There have been many romantic movies over the years that have become cult classics. Some are based on tragic regional stories and Shakespeare's plays (Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet, etc), others are given a romantic twists on real-life events like the Titanic. Most recently, romantic movies focus on physical compatibility more than anything else.
There have always been movies to reflect every woman's fantasy, be it classics or modern fairytales. But the concept has always been the same. Guy and girl falls in love, the guy is aloof but hides a heart of gold, the girl misunderstands him at first then realizes what  wonderful man he is and the film ends with a romantic gesture- usually a kiss against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.
It's only when you look at these stories from a different perspective that you notice the sexism and flaws of the plot.
Why can’t the guy show he's a nice guy from the beginning? Why does he treat the girl shabbily? Most importantly why is obvious manhandling by the guy seen as sexy by women?
Barring these questions, modern love stories end up posing even more questions and the most important one of all: does love exist in the real world?
The classic love stories spoke of great sacrifice and tragic deaths of the couple because they rather die than be torn apart by some of the superficial standards of society such as age-difference, race, etc. that separates them .
It’s only recently that stories have been about the guy being confused about what he wants from life. He ends up not seeing that the love of his life is right in front of him. But it’s never too late to get the girl. She’s ALWAYS waiting for him.
The only realistic romantic movie I have seen recently in the last decade is Love Aaj Kal. The characters are both confused and chasing their dreams, not realizing that they are both deeply in love with each other. Towards the end, yes the girl waits for her hero but that’s because she knows that like her, the guy too hasn’t realized what is missing in his life.
She waits for him and in the end, when the guy comes for her, she cries not because her love has returned, but because her wait is finally over and the guy has finally realized that he loves her.
That story made sense because it was realistic. It wasn’t about physical compatibility and it wasn’t about being stuck together with an unwanted pregnancy- a plot overused in rom-coms nowadays.
I've always loved stories that have focused on the different phases of love- falling in love, being in love, doing whatever it takes to keep that love in your life.
Isn’t that what love should be like?

 Instead of flowers and gifts, shouldn't love be about having the courage to accept love and doing something that makes your loved one feel special?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Roy (movie)-- My Review

Roy was one of those movies I was looking forward to watching this year, mostly because of the rather dark and intriguing poster.
Then when the soundtrack came out, I was thrilled. Roy, without a doubt, has one of the best soundtracks so far this year. My decision was made- I wanted to watch the movie as soon as it came out.
After watching it, all I can say is that Roy would have worked best as a novel because as a movie it fails to keep the audience engaged. The unimportant scenes are too lengthy and the few (very few!) Interesting parts are barely articulated well.
One of the major flaws of the movie is the editing. The story could be told in an hour but the poor editing stretches it to almost three. It's three hours of watching the actors wear drab clothes and sullen expressions.
My biggest gripe with the movie was the way the songs were placed. An excellent soundtrack deserved an excellent choreography. Alas, this isn't so. The peppy numbers are awkwardly placed and there is no dance which makes sense since the male actors are not known to be the best of dancers. A sensual song is wasted by being shown during the end credits and a soulful breakup song isn’t utilized to show the despair of the hero. Instead we get long scenes of the hero moping and a song where he mopes some more.
The story is this: A writer/director suffers from writer's block and has affairs with women to get inspired. Stephen King had mentioned in one of his stories about how writing was sometimes an aphrodisiac act- I suppose Kabir believes that wholeheartedly.
He meets Ayesha, a filmmaker and voila! He's inspired to write again. Ayesha knows of his ladies’ man reputation but still sees him, then has second thoughts, then takes him back then disappears from his life.
All this time, the story is being written and the titular character is introduced. Roy is an art thief who falls in love with Tia during one of his heists. He leaves her after stealing her painting and like Kabir, realizes he has actually fallen in love for the first time.
However when Ayesha leaves Kabir, he loses his inspiration to write and that is where Roy's story comes at a standstill too.
All the actors do a commendable job with the part they’re given. They look the part and definitely act it, but their talents do little to salvage the movie that suffers from shoddy editing -if there was any editing to begin with.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Words Can Hurt!

Not many people realize that words can be hurtful. What is once said can never be taken back and is engraved in a person’s mind forever.
Bullying used to be about using physical force to harass someone, but over the years, this atrocious act has also become about including hurtful and derogatory words. Those who have never been bullied, will never understand the pain the victim feels when they are constantly harried and barraged with insults until they begin to believe them.
The sad truth of bullying is this: many victims develop low self-esteem because they are placed in an environment where people are constantly telling them they are worthless. Some wither away into loneliness while others unfortunately resort to taking drastic steps such as self-harming.
Yes, it is unfortunate that words can hold such power to destroy a person’s self-esteem forever and it doesn’t help that bullying someone has become easier with social media. As there is a lack of moderators on several popular sites, the bully usually gets away while the victim is left with several hurtful messages and comments.
Cyber bullying is unfortunately convenient for the bully as he also gets to hide behind a username to protect his identity. And the convenience with which anyone can start a page or a group on Facebook doesn’t help, as it has given bullies a platform to constantly harass their victims.

My book ‘Aadita’ was actually based on a few incidents of cyber bullying, though I decided not to go into that much detail. This was because, during my research I found horrific instances of bullying where the victims ended up committing suicide.

The worst was the comments under each of these articles, shaming the victim and calling them a loser for giving up so easily or for taking someone’s words that seriously. What they will never understand is what it feels like to feel all alone in a world where everyone is trying to make you believe that you will never accomplish anything.
My heart goes out to those who could not stand the pressures of bullying and I wish there were more people around them who encouraged their growth and gave them courage.
In my book ‘Aadita’, the protagonist Raina does try to stand up to her bully but realizes that she cannot win that easily. Her bully starts a hate-blog after her where lies and disparaging comments and photoshopped pictures are posted of her.
I hated writing the scene where Raina finds out about that site, especially since she actually believed that she had stood up to her bully and won. It breaks her completely along with the other instances that throw her life into turmoil.
But this is a story and fiction, so she did find people who stood with her instead of against her (I can only hope that happens in real life as well). She does stand up to her bully once again and I can only hope that I wrote that part as believable as possible.
In the end, I have to say that my book is essentially about bullying and not all of it comes from Raina’s high school classmate. Sometimes the people closest to you can be a bully and it takes great strength and courage to rise against that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Exclusive Chapter from my new novel AADITA

From Chapter Thirteen

Raina pushed open the car door and got out. So far the day had been the most enjoyable one she had so far. Everything had been perfect and she couldn’t remember the last time she had so much fun. But she should have known her happiness never lasted for long.

She clutched the door to the car and stood staring at Ahan as he sauntered towards his own cabin, pausing suddenly and then racing towards the door.

“Ahan?” she called, but he rushed into the cabin without replying.

She looked on her right at the small lake and closed the door behind her. Ahan’s cabin was the only one  beside the lake and she imagined that months ago, or even weeks before, the cabin must have looked beautiful, sitting beside such an idyllic setting.

But now, the cabin looked as if it had been ravaged by cruel intentions. The windows were either cracked or broken; the entire outside wall had been scrawled on with graffiti and the wooden railings had been smashed. 

Her right hand twitched suddenly then and she looked at it. Her fingers felt hot and trembled as a wave of shame engulfed her. Ahan’s cabin had been vandalised just the way she had vandalised her principal’s house. She could remember how she had felt that day. Her heart ached dully because no one had believed her, not even her own parents.

So that night she had crept out her bedroom window, way past her bed time and gone to the nearest store to purchase a can of black spray paint. She knew where the principal lived and walked towards his block, trying to discourage herself from doing what she intended to. It wasn’t a good idea and chances were that she would be found out and suspended. But she also knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink if she wasn’t avenged.

She had walked up his driveway, staring intently at the walls that were to be her canvas. She hadn’t bothered to look up or around her; her eyes just fixed on his house. She had then removed the spray paint can out of the plastic bag and shook it while wondering how to begin her piece of art.
Raina shuddered as she remembered what she had written. It had been so mean and perverted, and she still couldn’t remember where she had even come up with those words. She found herself unable to stop herself from recalling what had happened next.

As she moved her hand up and down, trying to write in cursive, she had felt her heartache subsiding and a rush of power sweep through her. It had felt so good and when she was done, she had stepped back to admire her work. She looked at the windows and saw that the curtains had been drawn and the house was in complete darkness.

She had thrown the empty can aside and smiled.

“I hope you choke on that!” she had said without even realising she had said those words. She turned around and had walked a few paces when she stopped. The principal’s garden was framed with smooth polished rocks and she had bent down to examine them.
Before she even knew what she was doing, she had flung the rock at the window and grinned as the window shattered.

“Raina?” Ahan asked.

Raina shook herself out from her memory and blinked at him. “What?”

“Are you okay? You look a little pale.”

“I think... I wanted to get caught.” she said, her voice a soft murmur.

Ahan raised an eyebrow at her and frowned.

Raina collected herself and then placed her cool hand on her forehead. “So… what’s happened?”
“My realtor forgot to put up the ‘For Sale’ signs outside,” he said.

Raina frowned at him and looked behind him. The cabin was still shabby and looked out of place, but there had been no signs of vandalism. Her mouth dropped open and she walked towards the cabin.

“I thought... I’m pretty sure I... ”

“Raina? What are you talking about?” Ahan asked.

Raina touched the wooden railings and winced. It wasn’t broken; the windows hadn’t been smashed and there was no graffiti on any walls.

“I want to go home now,” she said, aware her tone sounded cold and robotic.
“Sure, I’ll drop you off...”

“I’ll call my driver,” she interrupted him and took out her cell phone. Ahan put his hand on her arm then.
“I’ll drop you off.”

“That’s very kind, but I already have a ride. You probably have a lot work to do and I don’t want to get in the way.”


Raina heard a click on her cell phone and sighed. “Yeah, come pick me up. I’m near’s Lake,” she said.

“Are you okay?” Ahan asked.

“He’s in the vicinity. He’ll be here in a minute.”

Ahan looked at her for a few minutes but said nothing. She looked away and went to stand beside the lake, trying to ignore the thoughts that entered her mind. Would Ahan want to even be friends with her if he found out what she had done?

“Yes, he would,” she told herself firmly and then realised she had spoken out loud. She looked behind her and saw Ahan on his phone speaking to someone. Of course he would understand, she told herself. When she told him about Mallika and what she had done, he would understand.

She heard a car coming up behind her and saw the driver putting up a hand to her. Raina rushed towards him, avoiding Ahan’s puzzled gaze. Gathering her shopping bags, she got inside the car and asked the driver to take her home.

As they rode off, Raina wondered if Ahan would actually side with her when her own family hadn’t. Before she had even realised, they had reached her grandfather’s house and Raina stared at the exterior of the large manor before finally opening the door. The sky above her was dark and the stars were twinkling in the azure sky. It was a beautiful, serene evening, but she felt nothing close to peace in her mind. As the driver drove off, she wished the day hadn’t ended the way it had. She had been having so much fun and all of a sudden, her guilty subconscious mind had awakened to warn her that she hadn’t deserved to be happy.

Raina slapped her forehead. How could she ever have thought she was going to be happy? There just was no happy ending for her; at least one that wasn’t anywhere in the distant horizon. She looked down at the ground and wondered what Ahan was thinking of her. She had behaved like such a delinquent and no doubt, he would never want to see her again.

And who knew how long he was going to be here anyway? Raina rubbed her forehead. She should have asked him; she should have known whether he wanted to see her again or not.
“Miss Raina,” the butler said as he opened the door.

Raina gave him a brief nod and started to walk upstairs to her room when he called her again.

“Your laptop was delivered a few hours ago. It’s been set up and paid for,” he said.

Raina went down a step and reached for her purse. “How much was it?”
“That’s quite all right,” he replied.

“I don’t mind...”she started to say, but he put up his hand.

“You’re Mr Savera’s granddaughter. He would want to gift this to you.”

Raina smiled then and turned around. Her grandfather did care for her. He must have seen the laptop and asked his butler to pay for it as a gift for her! As she walked up the stairs, she peered at his room and saw there were no lamps lit. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, she would thank him.

“One more thing,” the butler said coming towards the staircase. “Your Uncle Rabindra has left and said that you should expect your Aunt Neeta first thing in the morning.”

“Aunt Neeta is coming to stay?”

The butler nodded and walked away.

“Great!” Raina muttered. She was happy for barely a second when she had been given bad news. She took two stairs at a time and rushed into her room, wanting to slam the door but resisting. She flung her purse on the bed and clenched her fists.

Aunt Neeta hated her! Raina shook her head. Perhaps hate was a strong word for what Aunt Neeta felt for her, but she did know that her aunt was a Conservative who disliked the fact that women were being given too much independence in today’s world.

Aunt Neeta was a housewife who cooked, cleaned and brought up her children with the notion that women didn’t require education as they were destined to end up in the kitchen. And so, she had been more than happy to have two sons and no daughter.

On her tenth birthday, when Aunt Neeta had visited, she had gifted her an apron, reminding her that she should learn to cook and clean. On her fifteenth birthday, Aunt Neeta had reprimanded her for wearing jeans and asked her to behave like a girl.

Raina still remembered how much she had hated her sixteenth birthday. She had been made to work at home and was rewarded by getting permission to bake her own cake. She had no friends and her parents were always away, so she had cried and cried until her heart couldn’t take it anymore and she had fallen asleep, only to be awakened early in the morning to do more chores.

Raina closed her eyes and put her hands together. “If there’s a God, please don’t let Aunt Neeta into this house,” she prayed.

She opened her eyes and looked at the laptop lying on the desk. She walked over to it and sat  on the chair. Her hands traced over the cool surface of her new green laptop and she shivered. It was so perfect—exactly the one she had in mind. She opened it  and saw that it had already been installed with every software she would need.

She clicked on the Internet browser and stared at the search box. This was it! She at last had whatever she needed to find more about her own family. From here on, the Internet was going to be her most reliable friend and relative, who was going to tell her about everything she would need to know.

Her hands flitted over the keyboard and she was about to type the name “Aadita,” when she remembered something. Instead she typed “Mallika Chauran’s Blog.” She held her breath as she found the link and clicked on it.

She half expected to see filth and lies written about her on the homepage itself, but to her surprise, she found that Mallika had set up a whole website dedicated to herself. She looked at the right column and saw that there were perhaps a hundred members and at least twenty of them were online right now. Including Mallika.

Raina scanned the links and then suddenly stopped. She pointed her cursor at the “Stuff I Don’t Like” link and held her breath. This was where it was going to be. Mallika hated her more than anyone in this world. She clicked on it and felt her heart thudding as the page loaded.

She gasped when she saw that it was a Members’ Only page. Raina went to the registration page and saw that to join, she was required to guess what Mallika hated the most in this world.

Raina tapped the table and stared at the empty box. She shouldn’t do it and she shouldn’t make herself care, but she also couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling inside her. She had to know what was being written about her.

She clicked the box and started to type “Raina Savera. Who wouldn’t hate her? She’s such a bitch!”

Raina shook her head. This was preposterous and she pleaded with herself not to do it. This wasn’t a good idea and considering how her day had gone, did she really want all this?
“How bad could it be?” she asked herself and clicked send.

She stared at the message that popped up the screen stating that her registration was complete and she would receive confirmation in the next few days. Raina started to gnaw at her lip. Mallika was online and she would have the time to review her request. As the minutes went by, she realised that Mallika wasn’t going to accept her. Maybe she had seen through her ruse after all. She wasn’t even a good liar.

She started to close the lid of her laptop when a message appeared.

“You Have Been Accepted.”

Raina clicked on the link again and found herself being directed to the content. She gasped when she saw the page was named “I hate Raina Savera.” But what was even more shocking were the hundreds of pictures of her in the most embarrassing situations. There was one of her in the swimsuit she had to wear because Mallika had stolen her clothes. The caption below read: “A hideous warthog inside our school! Someone call and ambulance! 100 reported delirious after catching sight of her. 20 reportedly commit suicide.”

Raina went down the page and saw that her classmates had commented on the post and written more vile things about her. The words “Fat Lard” and “Ugly “Cow” jumped before her eyes.
Raina went to the next post and saw that, although there wasn’t a picture, Mallika had related the incident that had taken place on the last day of her exam.

One of her classmates, Angela, had written: “I guess you were right about her, Mallika. She is on drugs. What a junkie.”

Mallika had replied saying that people like Raina didn’t deserve pity as they had paved their own pathway to hell by taking drugs and contaminating their society.

Raina brushed away her tears and clicked on another post. This time there was a picture of her licking the icing of a cupcake. She had done that purposely to tease Mallika, but Raina realised that her arch rival had not been deterred.

“Raina auditioning for her career after school,” Mallika had written. Raina scrolled down to the comments and covered her mouth to stifle a frustrated scream.
‘Who’d pay for that?’ one of the boys had written.

Aaron, one of her classmates who she had thought must have liked her a little bit, also had wasted no time and had posted that she wouldn’t even be good at what she was supposed to do and should kill herself and spare them all.

Raina started to sob loudly and closed her computer. She removed the plug and flung it to the ground. She knew this was going to happen; she should have listened to herself and not gone there, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

She put her hands in her hair and wished she could pull it all out, then paused as she heard voices coming from downstairs. She looked at her computer and wondered if she had been too noisy and woken up her grandfather. She went towards the stairs and peered down.

It was her grandfather and he appeared to be angry about something.

“Who said you could take those decisions on my behalf?” her grandfather was saying.
“But sir...” It was the butler and apparently he had done something to annoy her grandfather. Raina went down a step and clutched the railing.

“I want you to go to her right this instant and ask her to pay for it!” Her grandfather said angrily.

“She’s your granddaughter and...”

“Now!” her grandfather demanded.

Raina clutched the railing tighter. Her grandfather hadn’t offered to buy the laptop for her after all. How could she have even believed for a second that anyone on this world liked her? Raina sniffed and tried to control the emotions that threatened to implode. She told herself that it wasn’t about the money; her parents had given her enough to pay for ten laptops, but the thought that her grandfather didn’t want to give her anything broke her heart.

Raina wiped her face and decided to go up to her room and hand her grandfather the money. If that’s all he cared about, then so be it! She turned around and gasped.

“Aadita?” she whispered.

Aadita’s ghost stood behind her and glared at her with menacing eyes. Raina could feel the cold waves that seemed to be emitting from her. Aadita stepped down towards her and Raina backed up towards the railing. She could feel the wood pushing her back, but she was unable to move, much less call for help.

Aadita gave her a small smile then and Raina found herself wondering if she was going to help her when Aadita’s arm shot out and pushed her shoulder roughly. Before she could stop herself, Raina lost her balance and tumbled down the stairs.

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