December 29, 2017

Poem: Crumble

It always begins with a hello,
And not being able to turn down the temptation to reply.
It always begins with conversations,
The sweet nothings when time seems to standstill.
Until reality seeps in.

Every good morning gets replaced with
‘I am running late for work’,
And every goodnight seems like a forced duty.
And in between the stray text messages
The calls that used to last hours
Turning into fleeting nanoseconds,
We realize this is the beginning of the end.

Only we wish this wasn’t happening again.
And again, and again, and again.

Because I’m tired of the pretty little lies,
I’m tried of letting people in.
For people keep leaving, with only the
Trails of dust and destruction
As the stamps to remember them by.

The only marks human beings leave on each other
Are scars. And sometimes, sometimes they run too deep.
You can try your hardest but once you’re hurt,
You really don’t want to let anyone in.

For it always starts the same way.
Every “why can’t you understand?”
“Why do you need to be such a child?”
“Can you stop being so freaking needy?”
“I have five minutes. We can talk now.”
“What do you mean you’re busy? Why can’t
You pause what you’re doing?”
“I have to get up early to get to work!”

I could list all the excuses I’ve ever heard,
And I am afraid I’d run out of space.
But this how the crumble begins.
You just have to sit and wonder if the high
Is really ever worth the pain?

I’m so tired. I’m so tired.
Of history repeating itself.
And yet – I don’t know really know
How to give up hope,
How to give up on people,
Because I still see the best in people
Because that’s what my best friend taught me.

Because when our friendships were in trouble,
They didn’t give up. They didn’t give up on me.
We fight. We scream. We break.
But we come back together again, stronger than ever.

However they taught me one really important thing too.
It’s good to fight for someone who loves you.
It’s futile to fight for someone to love you.
And as I look back and try to make sense of the world,
Removing the rose tinted glasses,
I finally understand the difference.

It always begins the same way.

It always ends the same way too. 

December 20, 2017

Musings: Learn to Love Again

The first thought that crosses my mind as I look at the title of this blog post is – why? Why am I even writing this? But as I calm down and let the words flow through the tips of my fingers, I realize that this has always been how I function. Whenever my world stops making sense I run into the safe embrace of writing. Because this is the only place where I feel sheltered, the only place where I am invincible. No matter how badly this world might break me I am convinced that I can put myself back again, one word at a time.

The second thought that comes into my mind as I gulp down the last bit of tea is that this is my favourite time of the year. It always has been ever since I was a child. My mother always told me to write letters to Santa Claus because he would be there on Christmas, exactly when the clock struck midnight, carrying the presents I had requested. But apparently with every passing year I began to ask for things that Santa Claus couldn’t really bring me. Of course like every other kid in the world, I learned that Santa Claus was just our parents masquerading around, letting us believe in a little bit of magic until we learned how truly bleak this world is.

When we were kids, my siblings and I would decorate the Christmas tree, would eagerly put out the socks and wait for morning to break. When we realized it was just our parents giving us presents – we started giving them presents too all under the guise of Santa Claus. It was fun while it lasted. We are too old for the Santa Claus charade to go on, but we still go on with it.

You know I am beginning to realize that learning to love again is a lot like believing in Santa Claus. You can be sure that sometime you’re going to get your heart broken, and sometimes there will be some ugly fights but that doesn’t mean you’re going to shut your heart away from all of it. When we get hurt our first instinct is to swear that this will never happen again. I am not an exception. Despite the fact I encourage my friends to fall in love, I assure them that I will catch them if they fall and writing them letters about how they need to realize they deserve love, I sometimes forget that I need to hear those words as well.

It’s not like I don’t. I have friends constantly encouraging me to break out of my shell, to try new things. Friends who tell me, over and over that you shouldn’t judge everything in your life based on that one bad incident that has shaken you to the core. While I do find it difficult to learn to love again, I don’t think it’s impossible. Because in spite of all our differences, love is the one thing that will still bring us together.

Love works in mysterious ways. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Maybe initially you’re annoyed by the presence. And you fight your feelings, and you rant and rave, and you yell about how this is not how you thought your life was going to turn out to be. Yet at the same time you cannot ignore the determined little voice that whispers to you, Come on. You can learn to love again…

September 12, 2017

Musings: Of Monologues and Fidget Spinners

I am watching the fidget spinner spin on the tip of my fingers. It is supposed to help me. It’s supposed to calm my mind down. It’s supposed to help me focus. The speed slows down until it comes to a dead stop.

I exhale.

I cannot let my mind wander again. I spin it again. Hoping with the whirring, my mind too can be muted.

Why is it so difficult to make people understand? Why has it been so fucking difficult to make people understand...?

Stop. I move it again. It spins again, merrily. Oblivious to the fact as long as it spins, it keeps my mind from wandering into dark places.

I am not broken. People go through things. People become the sum of their beliefs. People also leave.
That has been the constant in life. People leaving, but sometimes they also stay. And we are blessed. We consider ourselves lucky when they stay.  We –

Damn it. How many times would I need to keep spinning this thing on the tip of my fingers, between my forefinger and thumb, how many times would I have to spin this to keep my life from spinning out of control?

What was I saying? Oh yes. People leave. But sometimes they stay. I crib about people leaving but maybe it’s time I need to take a step back. I need to see the whole picture.

Does it matter that people have left? Yes. Because every time they did, they left this gaping hole of the size of themselves in my heart. But I learned to heal myself with time. I learned to understand that not everything in life is meant to last.

And you can always tell yourself that you’re one heart break closer to finding the love of your life.

It stopped spinning again. Wait, while I set it in motion again, will you?

I have been thinking and over thinking, letting snide comments from snarky people get under my skin. Who do you think you are in anyway? And what gives you the right to talk to me like you do? Did I hit my head hard against the wall? How could I have let someone like you into my life in the first place?

Shit! Shit! My thoughts are spilling out again. I am unable to form coherent sentences. The fidget spinner – watching its rhythm helps me form complete sentences. It helps me gather my thoughts. Because we all know I get tongue tied when the spotlight is on me. I am never able to make sense of what I am saying when I am forced to say it out loud. We all know I think so much better on paper.

There. That’s better. It’s spinning happily again, and I feel brave enough to face every what’s your point? Every well it doesn’t matter. Every I don’t care. Too bad. Because it matters to me. I care. And I do have a point. You’re just too much of an asshole to see it.

What is it with people these days? They don’t even seem to have decent enough excuses to be the kind of asshats we encounter every single day! Heartbreak really has become the national anthem. We have more exes than we have successful relationships. I really didn’t want to add to the count. I just wanted what I dreamt about since I read the first story which said that good always wins in the end. And wicked falls, and the Princess eventually finds the Prince and they do get to live happily... But...

Hang on. I need to spin this again. I cannot remember what I started out to say until I see it spinning in my hands. That’s better. So much better!

I have been called many things in my life. But I don’t think anything has broken me quite as much as the last few months of my life. What I always knew and what I am telling myself now is this – you always have a choice. You can always choose to walk away from someone who isn’t good enough for you. Who makes you feel you’re not good enough for them. You’re fucking perfect. You don’t need another person to make you believe that. Screw them.

Finally, the fidget spinner has come to a halt. I stare at it for a minute. This helps me. It helps me so much. But I remember a time when I didn’t need to use it. When I was happy and confident, and still had the world at my finger tips. It wasn’t the fidget spinner at all.

And I am fighting everyday to get back to the woman I lost trying to love a man who clearly wasn’t the one for me. I let the fidget spinner fall to the ground. Maybe today I will not be able to resist the urge to pick it up and start playing with it again. But I am pretty sure that day isn’t far either when I wouldn’t need it anymore.

August 7, 2017

Musings: Musings On Music

Do you ever listen to a song and remember exactly what life was like when you first heard it?
-          Anonymous
“You don’t have good taste when it comes to music,” he says.

“I don’t have a good taste when it comes to anything,” I reply, looking pointedly at him.

But I wonder now why do we judge each other over the choice of their music. My playlist is weird. I have the trashiest of songs on it, and the most soulful ones. And there are songs that I don’t want to listen to because it hurts a little too much. There are songs I want to listen to – because it takes away the pain for some time. Some songs I keep listening to on loop because it reminds me of the times gone by. Incidents that have now become merely memories, that stays right below the surface of my consciousness.

My childhood is collection of every Beatles song, ABBA songs, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver and whatever other cassettes were lying around the house that was played in our old tape recorder punctuated with nursery rhymes and stray Dutch songs that my father would hum as I drifted off to an uneasy slumber at night. Songs from the 90s that my sister would play in the tape recorder as she sat at the table and went through her Maths homework, and I would look at her in awe. I would wonder how one balanced the music with the complexities of Maths! She must be some kind of a genius. Because I would never be able to listen to music while I did Maths growing up – I would need my full concentration. Maybe even more!

She was gifted a walkman a few years later. So my source of music was cut off. All I had was the radio and the music they would play. I couldn’t discover new music on my own because our television time was limited and I preferred watching cartoons to anything else in any case. My source of music became my school’s Assembly where I swear they taught us songs in almost every language known to man.

It was when I discovered YouTube that I once again started listening to music again. I started off with the songs that I already knew. Then branched off into songs that I found on my own – and I slowly began to understand that the peppier and happier my playlist grew, the sadder I grew inside. I couldn’t listen to really emotional music without dissolving into tears. So the best thing was to just fool myself into believing that I was happier than I thought possible.

There are songs now that I cannot listen to without thinking about something or another. I know I can never listen to Simon and Garfunkel ever again without remembering that one night in an alien city, sitting next a friend and feeling lonelier than I ever had in over a decade. I know I can never listen to Mon Re from Lootera, without the image of a beautiful women in gold and periwinkle blue, sitting atop a high chair, swinging her legs and completely lost in the music. I know I can never hum Annie’s Song without remembering that was the song I had planned on once singing to the guy I’d decide to spend the rest of my life with. But those plans fell short of course.

I know the words of the song my sister made me listen to and promised me that I’d dedicate it to whoever I finally end up with. I know which songs to play loudly when I understand that my mother has been missing my sister, which songs in particular reminder her of the girl who used to live with us and burst into song every now and then. And how she kept trying to make me sing along with her and how stubbornly I refused. I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I write. That is who I am.

Speaking of dancing – every Pujo I am reminded painfully that not only I don’t dance, I cannot dance. Until I am in the company of my friends, then we end up dancing with reckless abandon. It’s hard to avoid the intoxicating energy during Pujos, and especially when it’s your best friends. And I remember all our slumber parties and singing songs that we love. Both seriously and in jest, because even though we will forget a lot of things, we won’t forget the night outs and the night ins. And the songs that we shared with one another, songs that eventually found their way into my playlist. 

I hear Adam Young talk about his dad being his superhero and I get super jealous. Because I cannot connect with this feeling, I want someone to write about their mother being their superhero! I would connect with that better. I can hear Echosmith talk about the Cool Kids and I realize I was the same all through school – wondering why and how others found it so easy to blend in!

I have always loved listening to words more than I have liked listening to beat, the music and everything else. I like the lyrics maybe because I can connect to the words more. But sometimes a stray song here and there gets branded in my memory forever. And I know I can never hear it again without recalling every single detail of that time.

I will find songs that sing of hope, that make you want to believe in something. I don’t exactly know what. I will keep playing those annoying peppy tracks on loop because it helps me realize where I am today. I will find songs that others cannot connect with because honestly? It doesn’t matter. People always leave. The only thing I will be left with is a heart full of love and a playlist that makes no sense to anyone! It breaks my heart a little now, when I remember half the songs that I shared with other people. They’re not special anymore.  Maybe I shared the song with the wrong people?

And suddenly I remember that night when I was unable to sleep and on a wild Google search, I ended up finding a beautiful song by The Band Perry called If I Die Young and I realize’s funny when you’re dead how people start listening...

July 5, 2017

Musings: Thank You Note

It is so easy to forget those who helped you achieve your dreams when the spotlight is shining brightly on you. It is quite possible to get blinded by the bright lights. Because you want to believe that everything that you’re holding so closely to your heart was achieved because of your hard work. Yes, you did work really hard to get where you are now. However, you have to acknowledge the fact you did have a lot of help along the way.

I remember when I was in the eighth standard we were discussing being arrogant in class. Or something about climbing up the ladder I don’t remember which. But I remember feeling irritated with the teacher for choosing me as an example. What she said is still burned into my memory.
“Now, suppose when Aniesha becomes a very famous author and she’s asked how did she realize her dream and who helped her, and she says ‘Oh, I did everything by myself. I didn’t get help from anyone.’ That would be her looking down at everyone who helped her climb up the ladder and what she’d be displaying is arrogance.”

I remember being a little shocked and saying, “Well, I wouldn’t do that.”

She did say it was merely an example, but to me it doubled up as a lesson. I don’t think I’m an ungrateful person and I’ve always been thankful for all the good things that I’ve received in life. My childhood wasn’t one laced with happy and pretty memories and I didn’t have the luxury of being handed the moon every time I cried.

I am in no way a famous author. (Well, not yet anyway. But I’m sure I’ll get there someday.) But I realized that even the words that I wrote would never have been printed had it not been for a number of people in my life. Therefore, on this extremely rainy Tuesday, I want to thank those who stuck by my side starting with my family.

My sister asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I said ‘writer’ and she said ‘okay, do you have a plan?’ My mother encouraged me to follow my dreams. But it wasn’t until Chiquita, my friend in college, forced me to start approaching publishing houses that I even thought of getting seriously published. I always had this ridiculous fantasy that I’d work in some job till I was older and only then would I get published. But thankfully young writers are being read these days, so when General Press expressed their interest in publishing The Secret Proposal, I was over the moon.

My friends were amazing supporters of my work and obviously purchased my book, without me asking them too. They snapped pictures of their purchases and sent it my way. Things went a little downhill once the rush and exhilaration of the first book had died down. I knew little or nothing of social media or promotions back then, and as a result I couldn’t really reach out to the readers. So in 2013, what I did was start blogging. And very soon I realized that blogging was pretty addictive, and it was because I got into blogging that I met a world ofwonderful people.

But the real reason why I wanted to write this particular post is to thank the people who asked me not to give up on my dreams just because I faced a few roadblocks. (For one thing, no one wanted to publish When Our Worlds Collide which ironically is the novel that has been holding a steady place at the Amazon Bestsellers list till date...) I am grateful to General Press for believing me a second time round. But again, none of it would’ve been possible had it not been for those amazing friends rallying around me, telling me not to give up on my dreams.

When the spotlight is shining brightly on you, be sure to remember that this journey that you undertook, it was never yours alone. There were friends who believed in you, the nemesis that tried to bring you down. As an author I can tell you that I am thankful to my beta readers, to the early bird reviewers calling me out on the mistakes I made, telling me I needed to work harder. Chief among them was the editor, who both patiently and exasperatedly pointed out my mistakes. For When Our Worlds Collide, that was Leo Da, for All Signs Lead Back to You  (my fourth book published by my friend and the CEO of BEE Books, Esha) that was Samarpita Di.

I do agree that writing is a rather lonely and tiring business. When the story first comes out of you, when you pen down the first draft, that’s the only time it belongs solely to you. But once you let it go the book the end product becomes the result of the collaboration of many, many people. Don’t forget them. Don’t forget your editors, your proofreaders, your family, your friends, you publishers (both who rejected you and believed in you). Don’t forget your friends, especially the ones who were forced to read the horrible first drafts (thanks, Debi di, Sudeshna, Mohit, and Nivedita for just that), and never forget the people who told you to follow your dreams no matter the price. (Epic thank you to my mother and my sister and to Pippo)

Good things are happening in my life at the moment. It’s pretty scary for me to think that there might come a time when I’d become as arrogant as to claim that everything I have right now, is thanks to myself. Therefore, I am writing this Thank You Note, so that years down the line it serves as a reminder to me this one lesson that was ingrained inside of me from a very young age no matter how high you fly, no matter how many ladders of success you find, no matter how much the spotlight shines on you, don’t get blinded by it. Be starry eyed enough to remember where you came from, remember who you are and always, always remain grateful to those who helped you realize your dreams.

June 30, 2017

The Writing Desk: Writer's Block

Stephen King was once asked how does he write to which he replied, “Oh, usually one word at a time.” It’s a funny answer but if you really think about it then writers for the most part are divided into two categories:

i.                    Those who believe in writer’s block
ii.                 Those who dismiss it.

For my part, I have both believed and not believed in writer’s block for a number of reasons.
There’s a rather funny definition of writer’s block wherein one believes it occurs when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you. Because let’s face it all our ideas and stories seem to come from this mysterious Source. Maybe this Source is the imaginary friends that we joke about. You could be sitting at your work desk and be hit by an idea suddenly. Or you could be in a crowded metro trying your best to keep yourself from falling on the next person when suddenly a brand new idea dawns on you. It is unbearable if you are unable to get to your phone and type out a hasty note. Because the biggest lie we tell ourselves is the fact that we don’t need to write something down, for we will remember it. Believe me – we will not.

I have been a victim of writer’s block quite a number of times. There were days that I haven’t felt inspired to get out of the safe comforts of my bed to sit at the laptop and hammer out a new story. There were days when I couldn’t even bring myself to name the characters who would be appearing in my stories. Because when you fall into a writing slump, it’s rather difficult to get out of it. For a question that nags you at the back of your mind is – but who is going to read my story anyway? Whose life depends on the fiction that I come up with?

The answer to which is: YOU. You chose to write. You chose writing. You owe it to yourself to tell the world the stories that are raging inside of your head. So even when you don’t feel like writing a word, you are going to force yourself to get up and write one word after another until you form a sentence.

When writers start out their careers, when they are writing for pleasure, it becomes all too easy to say ‘oh I can’t write without inspiration’ or ‘Oh, I need such and such circumstances to happen in order to write.’ Let me tell you a secret. The Universe isn’t going to align itself perfectly for you to write the story that will change the lives of thousands of people who read it. You are going to learn how to write under any circumstances. You’re going to teach yourself to adapt. Why, you ask? Because you are a writer, and primarily, writing is your job!

For me, I have had both commissioned and non-commissioned projects and had to work with deadlines. Imagine if I had just woken up one day and said, “I am not inspired enough to write.” And I would have never seen a part of my earning!

It is good to romanticise writing by saying you have to do this and that in order to write. But at the end of the day, for me personally, writing is a job and in order to make sure you get your job done, what you need is discipline. Therefore the first thing you need to do is set aside a time everyday (doesn’t matter whether it’s the weekend or weekdays or a National holiday), you’re going to make sure you sit at your desk and write. Even if it is ten words! Believe me, in seven days, it will become second nature to you.

This is one of the reasons why I love NaNoWriMo so much. If you wrote 1,667 words every day for a month, you’d have 50,000 words at the end of it.  And which is fine because you can actually have a novel that just needs a lot of editing and sprucing. Let’s face it, you can edit this first draft. But you cannot edit a blank word document.

So in the end, I firmly stand by the belief that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s just you not wanting to break out of the safe comforts of not having to write. Or simply not making the time to write, and so if the novel that you were supposed to complete by March hasn’t been written yet – it’s probably your fault. Once you realize that, just make a writing schedule and stick to it. Or list out the things you need to write each day. This has been working out pretty well for me so far. Let’s see how soon you are able to see When Our Worlds Meet Again in the market.

June 21, 2017

Musings: Happiness at the End of the Lane

It was all thanks to the invitation we got to be part of a panel at the Hay Festival 2017, that I got a chance to meet Mr. Neil Gaiman and happened to get my copy of  The Ocean at the End of the Lane signed too. Wait, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Stories like these need to be savoured. Stories like these cannot be completed in hasty sentences. I am sure you want to know the how, the when, the what, the who...and the endless stream of questions that has definitely crossed your mind as soon as you saw the name of this post!

So let me start by telling you how I came across this fantastic storyteller named Neil Gaiman.

Well, it started when I was trying to find the perfect quote for a story I was writing which had (believe it or not) my cat, Pippo, as its protagonist. Now, because I just have to start all my stories with quotes, I looked for one that would be cat appropriate. And I found a perfect quote from his novel, Coraline:

'What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?''Cats don't have names,' it said.'No?' said Coraline.'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.' 
I was intrigued by this part. When I went to Bangalore last year in September, I visited Blossoms with my book blogger friends, Debdatta di, Sachin, Sudeshna and Led da. Sachin took me to the section that was dedicated to Neil Gaiman, and it was there that I bought three of Neil Gaiman's books: Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Graveyard Book. I finished reading Coraline during my flight back home, and I finished The Graveyard Book around Christmas, and finally I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, as the trip to Wales drew nearer. I just knew I would have to carry one of his books with me. This one won the lottery, being the one that I was yet to finish reading.

Reading the book was a lot like find my kindred spirit and my favourite line from the story is this:

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”
Flying off to Wales wasn't as easy or romantic as it sounds. For one thing, trying to apply for UK visa is as good as good as playing twenty questions with someone who has a vested interest to know all of your history - history you might not even be aware of! And making sure the document checklist is met with. The visits to the banks to ask for your statements, asking the accounts department for your pay slips, and finally, asking your landlord for the bills that you've been paying for quite some time now! It was during the time when I was stalking myself on Google, trying to find something I had probably missed, that I came across a PDF file which had listed all the authors appearing at Hay. 

Surprise, surprise! There was my name and there was Neil Gaiman. I have no idea how I didn't scream my lungs out, out of sheer happiness and excitement that afternoon. But from that very minute, I was dead sure that I would get to see him! Not even for a second did I doubt it. 

So when we arrived at Hay, I got a chance to meet Mr. Stephen Fry!!! Unfortunately, I had no books of his to get signed, but he was nice enough to pose with me for a picture. And because I am so much shorter than him, he bent down and placed his head over mine. I almost died of happiness. (Is that possible? Be so happy that you'd explode?)

Although Mr. Neil Gaiman was around the site that first day, we didn't get meet him. The next day, my friend Esha saw a post which said he was around. So we went to the author's lounge and we waited, bidding our time. After ten minutes, she asked if one of us ought to go and see if the Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry session Myth Makers had any tickets left? (Because we'd been trying our luck ever since we'd arrived, and so far, nothing. Every time we were greeted with, Sorry. I am afraid that's sold out.) But you know those feelings you get when something inside of you tells you not to move from where you are, I had that. So I didn't answer her. 

Five minutes later, as I turned to speak to her, Esha said, "Aniesha, Neil Gaiman just passed by." Almost in reflex, I stood up and said, "Come on, let's go talk to him?" However, my friend was utterly starstruck and frozen in her place and could only say, "I think he's busy." 

So I peeked and saw that he was ordering a cup of tea from the refreshment center. I asked Esha again to come with me and speak to him. I didn't know if he would be around long enough, so I left her sitting there and walked up to him. Imagine me! The girl who had been terrified of her own voice, the girl who loved hiding in the shadows and ask people to leave her alone when things got too much for her, walking up to one of her most favourite authors just for a quick chat! 

Me: Hello, I am Aniesha.
Neil Gaiman (shaking my hands): Hello, Aniesha. I am Neil. 
Me: *dies internally but blurts out* I traveled 8,183 km just to meet you! I am from Calcutta, India. 
Neil Gaiman: Oh, really? That's wonderful. 

By this time Esha was slowly approaching us, and I said, "And this is my friend, Esha." (For the briefest of second, I really wanted to say 'my boss' but then I realized getting murdered right under Neil Gaiman's nose is probably not how I would like to take my exit from this world!)

We chatted for a while, asked if he would kindly let us take pictures with him and sign our copies. I love how he personalized each of our books. It's nice that no two people ever get the same message from him. Esha got her copy of  American Gods signed, and no, he didn't ask her if she was watching the TV series based off his novel.

Then bursting with happiness we came back to the house where we would be staying, unable to believe our luck, and trying to make ensure we weren't just dreaming! We went back to the Festival site, got a ticket for the show from the lucky draw (which Esha gave to me), and because the women manning the counter saw how desperate we looked, they had a look into their ticket system and said the show wasn't sold out. We needed to try our luck one last time at the counter. Well, there was exactly one last ticket, and we bought it. Then we attended the session where Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry were in conversation about the myths and legends. It was interesting but honestly, I was expecting a lot more from it! But oh well, I don't know when I'd get to experience such a session again, so I have no regrets. 

I have a lot of memories from my trip to Wales that I would hold close to my heart forever. However, this one, the entire day that was filled with magic and Neil Gaiman is what jumps out at me, every time someone asks me what was the one thing that has been truly memorable. Without a doubt, it was meeting Neil Gaiman. 

June 18, 2017

Poem: Can You Hear My Voice This Time?

“But we are looking for the same thing,
At the end of the day – we are all…”
You cannot finish your sentence, because
You’re too terrified of what you’ll hear now.
You worry about the next words that will greet you
Because it could the soft balm that would heal your aching soul
Or the harshest ones that will rip your heart into pieces again!
You can never be sure about where you stand,
Because this ground that you stand so firmly on –
It could be taken away from you in the blink of an eye!
You’re too scared to reach out your hand, to even touch 
You’re too afraid that to give that hug because you cannot be sure
Of what could happen next.

What could happen next ranges from the fairy tale ending
To the harsh reality where no one ends up together!
But you’re too terrified to speak, you cannot speak.
You open your mouth to let out a whisper, and to your surprise
Comes out this blood churning scream
And the broken girl who could never speak out before asks –
Well, can you hear my voice this time?

Some well-meaning person tries to reach out to her,
Tries to engulf her in a hug – tell her that it’s okay.
It’ll be fine now. Everything will be fine.
Sadly, she doesn’t believe in that anymore.
You see, when she was trying to tell that
Everyone is looking for the same thing,
That at the end of the day – you’d cut her off
Yelling about how you cannot be there,
That everything had been nothing but a mistake
She realized she wasted too much of her time
Trying to fix something that wants to stay broken!
And in the process the part of that she had worked hard to fix
It broke. It shattered.

And now thanks to you, she’s never going to let anyone in.
Why couldn’t you have listened to me when I asked you to leave her alone?
I told you that it was my job to break her heart, not yours!
But you didn’t listen. Because you’ve never been good at listening,
Because you only do what’s best for you.
Never what’s best for someone else!
I wonder if you know what love is. Have you ever really felt it?
I don’t think you have.

Because you can flit from one person to the next, 
leaving a trail of heartbreaks
And hurt on that map that will lead 
to the loneliest of islands
Where you alone reside!

You shouldn’t have scared her. 
You should have let her tell you what she started
To say –
In the end, we all just want the same thing. Arms that will hold us tight,
And people who will keep choosing us, over and over, and over again.
But it’s frightening when both want the shelter from the storms of life,
Yet neither knows how to be that same shelter.

That girl that didn’t speak all those years ago, 
the girl that was terrified of her own voice,
I can her screams now, echoing the same question, 
over and over again,
“Can you hear my voice this time?”

Note: I was at Criccieth Beach. I found my way there after being in a poetry course all day long, and then finally took the long winding walk to find the beautiful beach. There was hardly anyone around, and I sat on one of the huge rocks and stared out at the sea. What I felt at the moment was happiness, sadness, the feeling of being utterly broken and wonderfully whole again. I was feeling completely overwhelmed, and I remember writing a message to someone I thought meant a lot to me.  As I was going through the pictures from the trip to Wales, I remembered the afternoon all too well and the message that has gone unanswered. And here I am, with a new poem called "Can You Hear My Voice This Time?" My friends back in Wales would be so proud of me right now! 

June 7, 2017

Poem: Alone by the Riverside

"Have you written anything yet?"
"I don't feel inspired."
"I think you need to be alone."
So alone I was, 
for an hour and half.
Walking around. 
Everything had closed down. 
For a city girl, this was a shock.
I finally went down to the riverside, 
And stood there listening to the silence.

I remembered a story I heard of the 
maiden who rode her horse down the mountain, 
Who rode quite slowly but no one could catch up to her.
I remembered how a Prince had chased her, 
Until he got her. 
In the story I heard, he had called out to her, "Stop!"
She did. 
When he asked her why she hadn't stopped before,
She replied, "Well, you never asked."

I had laughed when I first heard the story. 
I laughed again,
Remembering it now. 

Can everything life really be that simple?
All you need to do is just ask? 

Or are things just simpler in stories 
Because they always need to make sense?
And life, well life never really does! 

I sat down by the riverside
and watched the sunlight glinting on the water.
And I remembered an early morning 
back home, when we had taken a boat ride.
They say only time can heal a broken heart.
But for me, I believe water stands a fair chance! 

Being able to remember everything 
In the tiniest of details is both a gift and a curse.
And the saddest thing about memory is 
It comes back to you when you least expect it. 

There was a boy who I loved since the time I was sixteen.
The boy loved me back when I was twenty seven.
But it was a whirlwind love story, and it came to an end.
No, end is not the correct word for us.
The correct would be -
the feeling you get when you rip off the bandage
from a wound that's not quite healed yet. 

It's so quiet by the riverside,
So quiet that I am nearly deafened by
the screams echoing in my head.

And over the screams there's one faint little whisper, 
A thought that took root in my head ever since 
I heard the myth that afternoon - 

"Would you have stayed if I too had just asked?" 

May 27, 2017

Musings: 5 Things That Brought Me Story Ideas

People: According to both Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World sitcoms, the secret of life is that people change people which are absolutely true! The world would have been a sad, lonely place to live in if we had to stay here all by ourselves. It is essential to have relationships in order to draw our experiences from there. Most of the characters I have written have been inspired from real life. Sometimes the fictional versions become the paler realities. So people have definitely brought me story ideas.

Places: The other thing that has always intrigued me are places. I started saving up money and travelling in the last few years because I just wanted to write about different places. Because all my novels, novellas, short stories always had Kolkata as a backdrop. Even though I haven’t used any of the locations that I had gone to in the recent past in my stories, I have made sure that I remember every single detail from the trips. Because you never know when a story might hit you!

Incidents: I don’t know about you but sometimes the only way I seem to be able to make sense of life is if I write. Maybe I got my heartbroken. Maybe a friend of mine had an awful spat with me. Maybe I received unbelievably good news. Maybe I am just having an off day. No matter what is going on in my life, I know that I would only start to feel better if I started writing. And that’s exactly how incidents trigger some of my stories and even blog posts. I don’t write to get back at people or to get even with people. The only reason I write is because that’s always been the best therapy for me.

Memories: Story ideas more often than not also come from your memories. As Paulo Coelho once put it, it takes effort free oneself from memory. Some of our memories are not pleasant. There are some that we are completely haunted by. So we write stories to either remember or to forget. But there are good memories too. Memories we do not want to hold onto no matter what happens in our lives, you know. As J.M. Barrie said, God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. How amazing is it then that some of our story ideas are formed from memories?

Wishful Thinking: Until a few months ago, I would write stories in order to correct mistakes in fiction and get my do-overs from real life. So the story ideas would come from wishful thinking and mindless thinking. Hoping and wanting the real life stories had played out the way it had in the originals. 

May 24, 2017

Musings: All Signs Lead to Wales

Well, it started with a story. 

To be precise it was Ashwin and Diya’s story. I was managing the BEE Books stall (Hall 2, Stall 627), like I had been asked to for the International Kolkata Book Fair 2017 and in walked our in-house editor, Sugandha along with the delegates all the way from Wales.

She was coordinator of the Valley, the City and the Village Project. (In office, we started referring to it as the VCV Project.) I remembered meeting the publisher of Parthian Books, Richard Davis, a few months before. And I remembered having met Gary Raymond. I was delighted that they remembered me too. When asked what I had been up to lately, I told Richard that I’d written a new novel and it had been published by BEE Books. It was called AllSigns Lead Back to You. He was delighted, bought a copy promptly and asked me to sign it for him. Needless to say I was delighted too.

What I never anticipated was that he would finish reading the book during the length of his stay in Kolkata and be impressed by the tale I had concocted about first love and second chances. So much so that when I met him (on my way to collect the Queen Bee to go to a wedding function), that he wanted me to come with them to Wales and be a part of the VCV Project as an author! And I remembered being extremely overwhelmed by his offer.

Any fool would have jumped at the opportunity to travel to Wales. Experience a new country and write about how places inspire people. But I am the biggest fool that you could have ever come across. Also, my terror of flights made me dillydally on the offer for quite some time. I missed a wonderful dinner too because I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to travel all the way to Wales or not. I had a wonderful friend convincing me every minute of every day that it was a wonderful opportunity and that my fear of the stage shouldn’t be a problem. Because no matter what happened, no one back home would come to know about it!

Then started filling out the VISA applications. The interviews and running back and forth, making sure that all my documents was in place. It didn’t help that BEE Books chose that very time to undergo renovations and so I was mostly working out of my home. It also didn’t help that I was caught up in quite a problematic personal relationship. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I thought everything would blow over soon. Well, the relationship ended but my belief that there’s someone out there tailor made for me did not go away. And I really don’t think it ever will. But I am deviating. This is the story about how I ended up where I am right now.

We applied for our VISAs, kept India-Wales Project mostly a secret as we feverishly prayed for our VISAs to come through. In the meantime, I discovered my name in a list of panellists for Hay Festival 2017. Imagine my excitement and happiness when I realized Neil Gaiman would be there!!! If I can hold a five second conversation with that man I’d die a happy woman, having checked an important point off my bucket list.

Our VISAs arrived and we started packing for the trip to Wales. Right now, I am in the twelve hour flight from Delhi to London. My fear of flights reduced, and my friend and I had sandwiched an old man who refused to budge from the middle seat! I know by the time I put up this blog post I’d probably be in London or Wales. But wherever I am, please know that I am grateful and happy that a story I wrote (based on my own screwed up experiences), which ultimately led to this wonderful opportunity which I am sure is just the stepping stone to a whole new world that leads to a spectacular life!

P.S. Even though all the things that are happening to me are truly amazing, I still haven’t give up the hope and never will, that my Prince Charming is right around the corner. 😊

May 11, 2017

Writer Wednesday: Writer Fashion

You’re probably wondering what on Earth does one mean by Writer Fashion? As in, what would writers wear to their book launches? Or would they wear if they got invited to Book Award ceremonies? Or is it something else? Well, no.

Writer fashion is what you wear when you’re writing. Usually, I like wearing my lose pajamas and baggy t-shirts. But sometimes because I am so annoyed or just cannot calm down my mind enough to write, I dress up. It’s a good way to make yourself realize you need to start working. And maybe it’s psychological but if you are dressed up enough you tend to want to work more. Your brain snaps out of the lazy mode and begins working.
So I am either dressed to the nines when I am writing my stories or I am not. There’s no in between for me. Because when I am feeling utterly lazy, getting dressed up is a good way to trick my brain into thinking that I am about to go out and I really need to be at the top of my game. So, sometimes I will wear the fanciest of clothes and sit down to write! I know it sounds really strange but it has helped me meet a lot of my deadlines.

Some days I come home from work bursting with inspiration. Other days, I need to go after the inspiration with a club. I have to jumpstart my writing.

Unfortunately what most people don’t understand is this: writing at the end of the day is a job. So matter how we might be feeling, we have to get up and sit down to write. And sometimes, in order to make ourselves feel more inspired, we get into the fanciest of clothes and let our minds take us dancing into the prettiest part of the city.

Do you have a particular writer fashion? What do you wear when you’re hammering away at your laptop? Are you a jeans and t-shirt kind of writer? Or do you like dressing to the nines? Let me know in the comments below!