Saturday, September 24, 2016

Musings: Day 2: Bookstore (#100DaysofBlogging)


“I love walking into a bookstore. It's like all my friends are sitting on shelves, waving their pages at me.” 

― Tahereh Mafi



Nothing has ever made me feel quite at home as much as a Bookstore has. Whenever people want to meet up with me in my city, I suggest coming down to Oxford Bookstore. Or Story. Or Starmark, South City. The bottom line is: I ask them to meet me at a place where I would be surrounded by books.

My sister was an avid reader and I think I picked up the habit of reading books from her. I don’t know when a hobby turned slightly into an obsession and I ended up with a cupboard full of books. And more books overflowing. I have stopped keeping a count on how many books I own. Because I am pretty sure the number is irrelevant.

When I went to Bangalore this month, I had to meet a lot of my friends. And all of them like me, love reading books. In fact I think our friendship is based on the fact that we love reading books. It was of no surprise then that all of us decided to meet up in Blossoms.
Anyone who has ever lived in Bangalore will tell about this one magical place where an entire house is dedicated to books. And they house books for everyone under the Sun! I’m not very surprised that I bought 5 books from there in my first visit! Three of them are Neil Gaiman books. So I have no regrets.

Some of my best memories have been in bookstores. Be it fighting about why Young Adult novels are awesome, or why I refuse to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or simply gazing at books! I find bookstores amazingly comfortable places for first meetings. Because the books around you serve as such amazing ice breakers!

You can keep the conversation going in a bookstore no matter what happens because you will never run out of things to talk about. So the next time you’re unsure about meeting up with some. Just suggest that they meet you in a bookstore. If they refuse, there’s your red flag right there. And if they do turn up and turn out to be bores – well, at least you will enjoy yourself in the company of books! 

--
Topic selected by: Leo Da 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Musings: Day 1 - Hope (#100DaysofBlogging)

The bee was drawn by Souradeep Ghosh. And I designed the blog title on Canva.

From today, there are exactly 100 days left for 2016 to end. So we decided (a writing/blogging group called Bibliobibulis) that we are going to challenge ourselves to blog everyday, for the next 100 days as we bring in the New Year! 

Further, while everyone chose themes for themselves, Leo da and I decided to do this project in collaboration. So everyday we pick topics for the next. I picked the topic for Day 1 which happens to be Hope. Now, on with the actual blog post: 

The direction defines hope as 'a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.' But according to me our very existences thrive on the fact that we can hope. I was rather tiny when I had my first brush with death and realized that not one of us would get to live forever. So I remember asking my mother, "But if I am going to die anyway, what's the point of trying to hard to survive?" And she told me, "To live a good life. And hope that everything will turn out to be exactly how you wish. Never let go of hope. Because the day you stop hoping, that will be the end.'. 

So I learned to hope. I even learned to hope against hope. I have had the rug taken rudely off my feet. I have fallen flat on my back and seriously debated whether the effort I'd have to put in to get back up again was going to be worth it or not. The tiny voice inside my head whispered, But you shouldn't give up hope. It all ends the minute you. 

Merely hoping has indeed helped me come this far. And it is what keeps me from simply settling for whatever life decides to give me. You have just one life. So you definitely should not settle for anything other than what you really, really want out it. Hope that it all gets better. Hope that all your dreams will come true. But most of all, just know that even holding on to hope will see you through some of the darkest days you might believe will never end. 

I am not saying it's an easy road to take. When you decide to take hope by the hand and walk along with it. But when you realize that life is meant to be lived, not meant for you to wait with baited breath to arrive somewhere - you will realize how important hope really is in our lives. Because once you choose hope, anything is possible. 

(Also the minute you feel like this enough and you want to quit, please tell yourself this: I did not come this far to only get this far. And all should be right in your world again.)




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings: Manhattan from the Sky



"You're My Manhattan from the Sky" 
That song has been on loop for quite some time now. And as I listen 
Rather carefully to the words being sung 
I realize, that the sixteen year old girl would have smiled at me 
And thanked me. 
For finally letting you know that to her, 
You were the Manhattan from the sky. 
She loved you more than you'd ever know. Or I believe I'm capable of ever loving someone ever again. 
She held on to that love, even though it was never returned, and she drew happiness and joy from it, 
And a strength that knew no bounds 
That her future self learned to love again. 
The thing is: you never forget your first love. You can put out the flames but the fire somehow remains. 
So every once in a while, I do think about you. 
And I wonder if I've ever crossed your mind. I guess not. 
It's not your fault either. You didn't know. 
How could you any way? Because she was in love with a boy she'd never said a word to. 
When you're sixteen conversations don't really matter I suppose. 
You're still her Manhattan from the sky. Because you look so neat and tidy when she's soaring up high. 
I wonder now at times if I'll ever meet a boy who'll make me feel that way again. 
That the mere sight of him will set my heart racing, that my cheeks will get all hot and flushed. That they'll be butterflies in my tummy and I'd be a little dazed if he even said "hello" to me. 
That feeling is amazing. When love can knock you off your feet. 
But you're nothing but her Manhattan from the sky. 
And she needs someone who would be okay with wandering the mess of grey skyscrapers with her. 
You can go on looking perfect when she's watching you from way up high. 
Because the closer she gets, that sixteen year old girl, who held a torch for you for so, so long... 
I'll break her heart. Not you. 
She's been through enough. 
So please just be
Her 
Manhattan from the Sky.


This piece was inspired by - 


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Harry Potter and the Girl He Saved



Every year on this day I write a Facebook post in honor of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling and I talk about how this book series saved me during my rather turbulent teenage years. I was introduced to the world of Harry Potter when I was 12 and even though I’m 26 now, I am yet to find a book series which makes me as happy as the Harry Potter world had. A few no doubt have come close. But there was something about being a rather na├»ve twelve-year-old, believing that life couldn’t be going to a rather boring school and coming back home and keeping up with the apparently rest of the brilliant students in my class. I would actually daydream that Harry Potter might come bursting through the doors of our Assembly Hall and whisk me away on an adventure. Tell my school there had been a mistake, and that I rightfully belonged to Hogwarts. The love for the series grew so intense that I owned Harry Potter merchandise (thanks to relatives who live abroad and love me a lot), and I was the cause for envy for a lot of kids. But still, I wasn’t the brightest button when it came to studies. So…how did it matter that I owned Harry Potter merchandise?

One of the other things that I owned was a diary with a lock, and it was a Harry Potter merchandise. The cover was of Harry Potter and Ron Wealsey, on their way to Hogwarts on the train. Of Harry offering Ron some of his food, and trying to be his friend. When I was younger, I didn’t realize who was my friend and who wasn’t. And it took me twenty-six years to cast of people who were quite toxic from my life. Because something that Harry Potter did teach me, a friend never makes you feel bad about yourself.



Well, I moved on and through all the wrong decisions I made through life, I came across amazing people who shared my love for Harry Potter and who helped me understand that everyone goes through bad things. But you cannot let one bad thing define who you are. Sometimes, I think the only reason I pulled through school was my immense love for Harry Potter. The stories and the movies always had me looking forward to something in life. No one understood it then (least of all me) but through most of my teen life I was depressed.

Depression would be a pretty obvious thing of course when you’re reduced to feeling like you’re not good enough and nothing good would ever happen to you. Maybe it’s because of this that all the characters that I write always like keeping to themselves, that they all seem to suffer and sometimes doesn’t know what is it that has hit them. When you’re depressed, there’s always something you need to hold onto so that you don’t sink. So for me Harry Potter was that anchor. I’m sure J.K. Rowling knows that she’s saved countless lives by bringing the boy wizard into our lives.



But from my part, I would have turned out to be quite different had I not had Harry Potter as a ray of hope in my life.

Happy Birthday, J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter, from the girl you saved. 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Musings: 12 Things You Learn When You ‘Adult’



I am twenty six years old and quite often, I forget that. Because a) nearly everyone tells me I don't look my age and b) being the youngest member of the family, I have never actually felt like an adult. Even though I was excited about turning eighteen, it didn't feel any different than being thirteen years old. I also realized a horrifying truth over the last few years: no one can teach you how to adult. You've to figure that out for yourself. And here are twelve things I have learned the hard way about being an adult. 

1.Grocery shopping is important. The fridge won't magically fill itself. Eating out every day isn't healthy either.
No matter how much you might hate going out to shop for food, it’s necessary. Eating out all the time is a rather poor life choice. If you never learned how to cook now is the best time to start. Especially if live alone. Thanks to YouTube it is pretty easy to learn how to make quick and healthy meals. And once you begin cooking, you’ll realise that you need to go grocery shopping. At least twice a month if you are buying all the food group products that you need to consume!

2.Waking up early in the morning is better than pulling all nighters.
It might seem like a lot of fun to pull all nighters to get work done or to finish the book you recently picked up. My advice is: don’t do it. You’ll just feel tired and groggy the next day, and wake up a little too late and hate your life. Instead go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up early. Getting up early actually stretches out the morning and you can get more work done. Because after a good night’s sleep, you will feel equipped to handle just about any amount of work that needs to be completed. And you can even get some reading done.

3.Staying inside on some of the weekends  is far better than going out to party every single time.
It may be tempting to go out and socialize on every single weekend, but the adult in you would tell you not to do it. Sometimes you don’t even realise how much ‘me’ time you have been secretly craving until you unplug the computer, put your phone on silent and just lie down. Partying all weekend would mean going back to work on Monday, drained out and tired. So why not just give yourself a break and take the time out to recharge your batteries?

4.Saving for the future as soon you land your first job is a wise decision.
It could be the very first real job for you or it could be the third thing you’re trying but it is very important to begin saving the minute to begin earning. All the talk of saving when your earning is a little more steady will actually get you nowhere. It doesn’t have to be a large amount either. Just make sure you have enough money saved up in case there suddenly is an emergency. Since we live in a crazy world where anything could happen, why not be prepared for it?

5.Beginning to understand a caring friend is a thousand times better than a careless lover.
The adult in you is tired of playing mind games and interpreting mixed signals from guys. You crave meaningful relationships now. It has become more important to sit back and talk about the day with a few close friends, than to talk to some guy who is busy playing hard to get. The only relationships you’re interested in right now are the ones that are good and healthy for you.

6.Using a planner and making to do lists saves a lot of time.
We all have jobs to keep and a thousand and one household work to do as well. It helps to make to do lists the night before for the next day. There’s an odd sense of satisfaction checking off the items from the list once those are completed. You could even try making to do lists for the week or even a month.

7.Once in awhile, it’s okay to indulge yourself.
You work hard and you deserve a break every once in awhile. So buy that cute dress, or the nice pair of shoes. Go out to dinner to that expensive place that you’ve been avoiding like plague. It really is okay to indulge yourself once in awhile. And don’t feel guilty about it. That wouldn’t be very adult of you.

8.Panicking about which direction life is headed and calming down once you realise you're on your way there.
It’s perfectly normal to have panic attacks when you’re thinking about your journey in life. Try not to get too wrapped up in those thoughts. Because sometimes it’s like going down a rabbit hole. Relax, breathe. Always remind yourself you have come a long way from where you were. As adults, we can actually make ourselves stop worrying because we’ve learned to reason with ourselves.

9.Spending more time with people than on apps and the virtual world.
While social media plays a rather large role in our lives, it would help to keep that part of your life separate from the real one. No matter how many likes you might get on your latest Insta post or how many retweets you might get from total strangers on twitter, make an effort to be in touch with the real people in your lives. Because in a few years when life begins to slow down, you’ll need them just as much as they’ll need you. Don’t cut off people who will be with you forever for the sake of things that offer instant gratification. The adult in us would always tell us that.

10.Taking risks. Because life cannot be a list of regrets.
When we were children we could be anything and we could do anything. What was it that you really, really wanted as a child? Do you still want to do that? Then get on our way of doing it. Part of being an adult is also making sure your dreams don’t die. Life should be a series of adventures not a list of regrets. No matter what it is that you always wanted to do, you should do it. After all, we only live once.

11.Health Checkups are necessary.
Going to the doctor only after you fall sick is something you did in school and college. As adults, schedule health checkups with your doctor. These are necessary, and whilst you’re at it, maybe investing in a health insurance is a really good idea. In fact, the adult in you is probably nodding their head reading this and making a mental note to get a health insurance as soon as possible. Believe me, it is important.

12.No one truly grows up. They just learn to behave in public.
And here’s the deepest secret no one knows. There are times when we panic and look around for an adult. Of course we know we are an adult but we just want someone who has been an adult longer than we have. The truth is, no one us every truly grow up. We just master the art of getting by and behaving in public.


There you go. In my experience of being an adult for the last eight years, these are the twelve things I came to know. Did I miss anything out? What did you learn when you began to navigate through the turbulent waters of being an adult? 


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Musings: A Letter To My Younger Self



"Be who you needed when you were younger." 

I remember seeing these words on a post on social media. 
On a lazy Saturday morning. I remember having to read the words twice.
Then when I realized what it meant, I nodded my head in delight.

Little me needed a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on.
Someone to tell her the facts but not make up her mind for her.
She needed someone to guide her. Not tell her how to live. 

Young adult me was perpetually lost, confused.
Avoided mirrors like the plague. 
Couldn't wait to grow up. Couldn't wait to be done with school.
Just couldn't wait at all.

Then overnight she turned into an adult. 
Everything was overwhelming. Because no one can ever teach you
how to "adult". And despite all the jokes we crack about it,
we're all a little too hopelessly lost. 
Treading waters carefully. When we should have taken life by the horns and 
been dancing like there's no tomorrow. 

"Be who you needed when you were younger."

The words are so much more than merely words. They have a hidden meaning. 
At least for me. 

Because if I could tell one thing to the little me, 
I would take her hand and say, "Be brave, dear one.
Even if you don't feel it. Pretend to be. It's true what they say.
No one can tell the difference." 

If I could have only five minutes with the 
stubborn, young adult me. I'd force her to see her face in the 
mirror. 
Heroes often stay in the shadows. But it is those who are in the light, 
who know fighting back is braver than giving up, are the ones who are 
remembered. And they're remembered by name. 
Don't be afraid of your own reflection. 
You control it. Not the other way around.

And if I could tell my newly adult self just one thing, 
it would be this: laugh. Relax. Breathe.
You're not supposed to know all the answers. 
You're supposed to fall down. But you cannot stay there forever.
No one is going to help you back up. 
You have to pull yourself up. You need to push yourself.
No one will do it for you.
You have to be your own best friend.
You have to be your cheerleader.
And you need to play your own drums. 

"Be who you needed when you were younger."

One last thing I would tell my younger self,
Thank you. 
Thank you for making your mistakes.
Thank you for putting your trust in the wrong hands.
Thank you for falling down and losing faith.
Thank you for getting into fights, for being immature.
Thank you for learning to build up walls, when someone broke 
down your doors. 
Thank you for understanding pain, and realizing Hell cannot be 
much worse than this.
But a much bigger thank you for never giving up.
Thank you for simply having been you,
Because if you had not done those things,
I would have never turned into who I am today.

A good human being. A strong person. 
A crazy cat lady. A writer. An optimist. 
With bittersweet memories and an unbridled happiness, 
that is enough to last me a lifetime. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Musings: 5 YA Books That Talked About Mental Health



For most of my childhood, I was depressed and anxious. I didn’t know why or how. I was depressed due to a variety of personal reasons and though my mother tried to make me tell her what was bothering me, I never could. Not because I didn’t want to tell her but because I had no idea what to tell her. As I was growing up the term ‘depression’ was very casually used. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. People felt sad sometimes and the next day, they were magically better.

Sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.  
That’s like saying, have you tried switching it off and restarting it again?

And it’s horrifying. How can you equate human emotions with that of a stupid mobile phone or TV? How can you simply ‘snap out of it’ if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety and you’re too young to know what these are in the first place!

Previously, Privy Trifles wrote a post about her own battle with depression as a child. Reading her article made me realize that with all the talk that goes around about mental health the children get utterly ignored. It’s always the stories of someone who suffered a heartbreak, who failed in something they’d set their heart on, someone who is on the other side of eighteen who gets even the smallest attention we are offering. That really got me thinking.



And I remembered. I remembered that I read books that had been primarily targeted at a younger audience, and where the authors tried their best to talk about mental health. I had never felt so thankful towards my love for YA books.

Here’s a list of the books that I had read and would personally recommend, that spoke about mental health.

The Princess Diaries Book 9

Right after Michael Moscovitz leaves for Japan, Mia Thermopolis spirals into depression and until her parents force her to go see a therapist she pretty much sinks to an all-time low. Mia already had issues. She had an overbearing best friend in the form of Lilly Moscovitz, who didn’t like it when Mia opposed any of her plans. What I liked about the book was how well Meg Cabot handled the scenes with the therapist. There is nothing wrong in seeking help when you most need it. And Mia needed all the help she could get. She had to be forced to go see the therapist...but in the end, it was all to help her cope with her life.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

An excerpt from this novel will give readers an idea about what David Levithan and John Green were driving at with their novel:

“i think the idea of a "mental health day" is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it's like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying "i don't want to deal with things today" and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.”

The Perks of being a Wallflower

When we talk about YA novels that have dealt with mental health, it would be a gross injustice to not talk about this novel. ‘Charlie’ had been the victim of abuse from someone he loved and because of his conflicting realities, he suffered from depression. We do not understand because reading his letters, he sounds just like any other teenager going through the traumatizing experience of high school. But the novel serves as an eye opener to everyone who does not take mental health of young adults seriously.  
Love Letters to the Dead

The story of Laurel and her sister, May, had most certainly done a number on me. Because the story is narrated via the letters that Laurel writes to people who are dead...you do not realize the underlying issues of mental health until you’re well into the novel. This is a very good reflection of what mental health issues are like in real life. It doesn’t just knock on your door and says, “Surprise!” But slowly creeps in and one thing just leads to another. What particularly loved about this novel was the fact that it was guilt that had disturbed the mental peace of our young protagonist...but she decides to seek help. No one in her life treats her issues as trivial. In order to understand more about mental health awareness, I would suggest that everyone read this book.

All the Bright Places

More recently, I read the book that everyone’s been talking about: All the Bright Places. It was the tagline that will stay with me forever:

This is the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

Initially, Finch seems like nothing short of an asshole and you don’t want to spend a minute with him. But as he opens up about himself, you’re slowly drawn into his world. You’re going crazy trying to figure him out. You’re lining up post it notes against the walls, trying to figure out his cryptic messages. And you’re filled with this irrational desire of wanting to save him. Yes, he’s fictional. So you begin to think about all the Finches that you might know. The Finches you didn’t take the time out of your busy lives to save...and you begin to notice young adults in a whole new light. Mental health is not just about adults who’ve hit rock bottom, but also for young adults who are doing their best trying to find their ground in a world determined to knock them off their feet! This book introduced me to a certain kind of depression and I am so thankful for it. 

YA novels are not just about vampires and werewolves and magic and supernatural. They talk about real issues. They start conversations that young adults should be having with their parents. So we bring our series of Mental Health Awareness to end, but giving you the list of YA novels you could check out if you would like to know more about mental health. Whoever said YA novels are not for adults, never read any of the books on our list!

_____________________________

With this blog post, we come to the end of our series for Mental Health Awareness Month. I would like to thank Namrata, Dhivya and Preethi for being a part of this journey and writing posts for the issue, even when they were busy with their lives. I am truly grateful to you three. To all the readers, thank you for reading and sharing the posts. We hope you consider joining us next year in May as we do a similar project. I sincerely hope our posts have found their way to those who really needed help. If you happen to be struggling with your demons, please remember that you're not alone. And you're loved.