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Review: Lockdown longings brings raw honesty alive


Book Review: Lockdown Longings

Genre: Short stories

Review: Four stars

Publisher: Roli Books

 

Check the book blurb.

Introduction:

10 Short stories, 10 writers coming together spinning tales that can be rightly called soul stirring in a new world. The various stories in Lockdown Longings, where some allude to the national lockdown in India and making peace with past scars, rail tale about silence healing wounds and live-in partners showing love can be distant yet an oxymoron, a forgotten city amidst bombs, and a compelling tale about a petite girl in hospital dealing with dichotomy of pain isolation intertwined and ensconced in the past or present.

 

 

Narration:

 

An aura of pain and poignant echoes the words of Sucharita Dutta-Asana narrating about Martine D’Mello, an old, lonely man plagued by anxiety and facing the desolate streets. Interlude is a story about coming to terms and the individual is brought back to a painful memory as he veers between past and present. The character is drawn to the cemetery trip. A story about coming to peace is lent credence and strong imagery painted brings raw emotions alive.

Lovin’ Lockdown is an intense story penned by Gargi Mehra on the what ifs of love from a distance and merging beautifully about snooping on a couple making out. There is a slow but real intensity and hinging on unrequited love from the narrator’s lens sitting in an office and eyes following the couple. The COVID-19 pandemic context slides effortlessly and the author doesn’t lose her grip in this uniquely woven voice with a dash of reality. The story is innovative where love or lust, and jealousy whichever name you call it merges with a sudden rush of misplaced optimism coupled with an out of the ordinary denouement. Love is strange and even stranger is attraction.

The various tales stir the heart and a unique story comes in the form of Malini Gupta’s Benedict which is set in the hills and imaginative Kanakbari Railway station. As the narration moves, one gets the sense of déjà vu but the skills of the writer come through about human understanding and beyond our traditional comprehension about love sharing the same destiny. Calling it, ‘estranged’ would be the biggest aberration and the climax makes for a powerfully evocative image where no words need be exchanged.

The anthology has its fair share of romance and a uniquely woven tale is about live-in partners in Mitica. Kanishq Banka depicts what goes in the life of a live-in couple in the premise and hinging on how self-isolation has altered the equation or chemistry of relations minus the intimacy. The end is simply sensational. Go read and figure out.

Have you ever heard about something called rape bomb? Amit Singh’s Gumsum-Nag takes readers to Kashmir, a place where paradise percolates but the dichotomy lies painfully on bombs wreaking havoc. An image of the parachute soldier landing, bombs flying in uprooting lives coupled with poverty and conditions of woman as intrinsically linked. The narration pierces the heart as the author depicts rape-bombs pushing us to ask about no land for commoners, the lesser Gods. Hunger is the biggest culprit. So little we know about lives alien to us and Singh’s story provokes utter sadness.

One of the favorite stories, Tiny Sparkle, of the Girl, with Tiny Feet and Petite Shoes written by Purva Grover starts with a woman in a hospital and the wobbling emotions about coping with loneliness, grief and pain are put to fore. The writing is effortlessly striking, knotted strings in our soul, heart, and nerves. Pathos is touching subtly on the condition of a woman and conversation hinges on the father-daughter equation, “Daughter and Dads, they will never stop astonishing me.” Simple and evocative making it heart wrenching.

The writer taps into emotions that we hold inside and probably because of the social construct, “Men: if only we would let them express without labeling (them).” Every aspect in Purva’s narration brings alive a certain emotion and the description be it colors, dress, white suits, or a mother longing for her daughter.

The stories are baked in a colorful manner from Ajay Patri’s Rose on e-love and how strangers can be trusted with a heart, making one hell of a tale where humans share moments and apprehensions to Lawrence Houldworth Air 3.0 served on an interesting human premise but with complex layers at some point making the read worth in the end, and Rajni Mishra’s Prognosis making for an important conversation about mental health, the chemistry between the character and Dr. Kala, where loyal love takes a toll. How often we ignore our mental state and brush out everything? In the end, the author makes an important pitch for space. Pragya Bhagat’s “Your Love Affair with Grief” makes for effortless narration on how expectation and reality come as metaphor together with social media ruling or ruining lives.

 

Concluding Remarks

Lockdown Longings weaves uniquely, distinct tales and what work is unpeeling human emotions reminding us about frailties and vulnerabilities, celebrating the commoners in us. This trait is what makes this book a winner, the raw honesty is a sheer delight.  It is the book to read during the lockdown.

 

Click on Amazon to buy.

 

Love

V

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Fear not the unexpressed!


Beauty lies somewhere,

in our scars and nerves,

tears that flow,

unquenched thirst of love,

solace needn’t be painful,

a lonely road trudged,

in search of ourselves,

romance waltzing in the mind,

flow is just an expression,

coming to terms with nuances,

past and present,

hurt is what it takes,

shaking the inner soul,

demystifying our inner emotions,

the unexpressed,

needn’t be sadness,

joy held inside,

clayed humans,

defined by vagaries,

the trees shall speak,

nurtured are roots and leaves,

unspoken words,

only our inner can hear,

fear it not!

 

Love

V

 

 

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Doctor’s appointment in pandemic times


Ever thought about building blocks and brick walls around us! Quite a wacky question, I know. As a kid, domino game bored me to death and ended up imagining to be a brickman with the concrete blocks to construct a personal space. As children, we don’t think much about adulthood and imagining a futuristic world. Now, who would have thought about something called COVID-19, a global pandemic confined in a term called lockdown inside our respective houses?!

I forgot what it means traveling by public transport called buses or sitting next to people in a transitioned or new world for the past four months. Moved by psychological fear and restlessness, the mind was bogged in the lockdown by tiny dots of brown moles and white patch sprouting on the skin that got me freaked out. Google doctor is always the wrong doctor. Luckily, an acquaintance and colleague asked me to send her the picture that she showed to her doctor Dad who told its dry eczema and nothing to worry. Things were settling a bit and my worry subsided.

An obsession to keep looking and overanalyzing the skin pushed me to seek an appointment this week with the dermatologist to see what with this tiny weird thing. Overthinker, you bet! What it means to travel by bus and sitting next to people wearing masks to meet the doctor in today’s wacko times. Weird! Weird! Weird! Quite a bet, I thought! Kindle saved the day as I sat comfortably by the window seat in the bus and finished book number one to distract the anxious mind. After all, the virus percolates dangerously in the air. The familiar surrounding and people wading comfortably not with an iota of nervousness. It got me thinking, is this the new normal where people behave as if nothing happened!

I walked consciously and surreptitiously in the bid to avoid the crowd but how much can I, isn’t it? A lil bit of shopping never harmed for deep inside, the crowded places must be avoided and reached the clinic in advance by 30 minutes.  Filling a form at the reception and walked back to zero on a place and found an empty line of chairs at the lobby for handful of people must be avoided. There is never a dull moment and took out the Ipad to read book number two on the kindle app. I wasn’t tense like normally would before meeting the doctor which is quite surprising and departing from the unique trait in me.

My turn arrives and walks inside to greet the doctor who is Indian, not losing a minute to show the marks on the skin, hands, legs, and neck. It’s nothing, the dermatologist assures me. I thought it’s something else, letting off. She asked. I sheepishly but stupidly tells about the risk of skin cancer. She brushed my apprehension, the risk for skin cancer is very low among us Indians. We spoke briefly about the virus and when I entered the room, she remarked, you are still wearing the gloves. I am still scared about the spread. The risk for a second wave is present, she agreed.

We are all surviving the virus spread and in the post-pandemic times, it never harms meeting a doctor to address the issues ailing us which at times is more in the head than anything. How much we worry about minor things albeit to a ridiculous level. Our comfortable lives are suddenly thrown off the perch where we gotta survive and thrive in the times of a deadly virus, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment venturing outside wearing a mask. As we wake up to transition, let’s take fear in our stride.

 

Love

V

 

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Perceptual Positioning, three step approach to imrove relationships and looking inward


Perceptual Positioning represents a massive shift in fundamentals on the way we relate to people encountered in our routine. We meet different people in all walks of life and conversation or tone shit can irritate us in triggering anxiety issues. The main tenets lie in the better understanding of others forming part of creative or lateral thinking, arming us to view things objectively; offering a better view about what constitutes verbal vs non-verbal behavior on others and vice versa, and the end results make for the review of our interaction or preparing the self for productive conversations.

An interesting aspect about dialogues is that they make us feel good or valued and validated but on the flip side, it can breed negativity often hinging on the unwanted when someone tells us something that can upset for the entire day, often ailing for not just a day or week but months, years or decades. Let’s address the issue through this NLP Technique, Perceptual Position. First of all, adopting Perception vs Focus, think about someone forming part of our relationship triggering conflict. Right now, enter the mind of the person but by taking 20 steps back away from yourself. Enter the mind of the person and watch yourself. The question you ask as you watch the anxious version of yourself, is why is he behaving like that? Why so much overacting, for instance, or he or she should chill out. Tried the experience. I bet the anxiety has dropped down as a result of focus.

Now adopt the Second position. What is the participant’s learning? Personal experience can be overbearing and consume us not just emotionally, physically but also physiologically making it distinct stepping into ‘someone’s else shoes. The bottom line about Perceptual Positioning is to step out of the subjective positioning about being upset and conducting self in an altogether given process. As you may have guessed, the bottom line is Emotionally detached. As the participant is fully immersed in this experience and stepping back from the interaction in hearing the self-interacting with the different individual makes for the third position. Before transitioning from the second position to third position, just take 20 steps back and beyond, to ring in this comfort level.

Many experts advocated this technique to improve the quality of relations be it at home with our loved ones or friends and externally during social or professional interactions. Right now, I am doing a Pre-recording NLP course on Udemy coming as a boon and helping in discovering myself as a person.  The coach advocates a shift in our perceptual filters through the three separate sensory perspectives and the need in stepping back from a myopic view that can consume us to a great deal. As he advocated the technique with a participant, I was attuned myself, following the lead verging from the ‘upset’ person I was in interpersonal reaction to adopting an objective perspective, offering a sense of innate calm.

The negative experiences are decoded through internally generated images and sounds, intrinsically linked to our inner happiness and feeling. Try doing it. What are you listening to now? Voice on TV, sense of tiredness, angry outburst, tears and what you want to experience? Happy moments, laughter, soothing or calm. Ask questions. That’s alright if they disturb for it’s not the real you. Deep inside, you are a gentle soul and will not harm any human being. Reflect.

 

With Love

V

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Sweet June, sweetening taste bud!


June was the month drenched in winter and sprayed with rain. A lethal combo, flapping the blanket wrapping the head in battling and snuggling warmth with eyes wide open making me the lazy bum foreboding books splayed on the bed.  An interesting month, attending a Zoom webinar on the Art of Making Money with an experienced speaker discussing digital media already emerging as the new currency to cut costs or living to the adage, Time is Money. Now, it makes for quite an interesting thought on the new opportunities to set the moolah ringing.

The birthday month came and went. Few people remembered. The journalism mentor wished me two days in advance and my closest budday never miss the big day. M buzzed at midnight exactly and was having a whisky when saw this cheerful message, Buddha ho gaya kaun sota hai bada baaje, which dawned about the missed call for phone was on silent mode. She called back. We got talking everything lyf, things shaping for us, work, pandemic and of course, Mumbai. I have removed FB birthday notification coz it can be overbearing and in the evening, couple of messages rolled. I told a friend about the birthday who forced people to wish me, coming one after the other. Three people remembered the birthday without telling. Ha! Honestly, I am not someone who believes in celebration or gift. Mom baked a cake. I ordered boxes of Mithai from Rajasthani Indian sweets, treated myself to the mouth-watering Gulab Jamun, was craving to since pandemic and shared with neighbors. The sweet gesture when neighbor surprised me with a gift this week is one of the rare times I received a gift for the simple reason that few people know about it.

There was no online workshop hosting this month. I am dying to discover so many things about the self and a busy month covering ground doing the NLP course on Udemy. The latter been an enriching learning experience on so many things such as Cognitive, Perceptual Position and Successful Anchoring. Perceptual Position offers interesting insights on overcoming our innate fears, take steps back in moving away from our body and watching the self from an outsider’s perspective at a distance.  Granted it’s not an interactive course but the course is playing an immense role in life and a reminder in making every moment spent in the course worth it.  Altering behavior and perceptual change, I am already witnessing the change within.

Few interesting films I watched right from Axom to Bulbbul and Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, something I really wanted to watch and Hazaron Khwaisein Aisi on my birthday. I also watched Swara Bhaskar’s Rasbhari which is an absolutely beautiful series on sexuality but also Chaman Bahar, made by a good friend Apurva with whom I was in college. We interpret the movies differently but love all the tales watched on Netflix and Prime. The only film that came as a disappointment for me was Gulabo Sitabo, despite superlative performances from Bachchan and Khuranna coupled the magnificent views shot aesthetically but what failed me was the script and execution, probably because I am a huge fan of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi who gave better films in the past.

The art of reading books has been lost on me for the past 2 months and wasn’t able to despite the good intentions, taking forever to finish A History of India by Romila Thappar. I am lagging behind but ultimately found pace discovering Novoneel Chakraborthy’s A Twisted Love Story bought on the birthday and wrapped in 2 days. Woah! Quite an achievement breaking the lull or reading block. The first time reading the author and quite an engaging, pacy story unique romance thriller and recommended. Two books lurching and set upon to finishing them all after embarking on new ones. I have quite a few on the self, right from Jojo Moyes’s “the last letter from your lover”, and string of books bought in July start on Amazon. Believe it or not, the first time I actually bought books on Amazon for Kindle read and have an app for the past few years for downloads,  shared by authors approaching me for reviews or gift cards shared by gentle souls.

The reticent and conservative online shopper residing in me is slowly embracing digital media and the pandemic has pushed me into exploring online buying for groceries, courses and now books. High time to change the way we perceive things for digital media is the future and thinking to do a diploma that probably would prefer to do online, depending on the cost of course. I am still on a self-imposed lockdown, despite things settling down in the part of the world am in. We need to be responsible and the new sense of normalcy is accompanying uncertain times calling for altering lifestyle, not taking for granted the new normal. I still take precautions, keeping shoes out, wiping the mobile phone, credit cards, belt and wallet with detergents but slowly will try to live with the pandemic. A sense of transition calls for change where life will no longer be usual and about time we accept the changes we are subjected to. I am not complaining about sitting at home and not going out, except for grocery while waiting for another two weeks to slowly get back to routine such as jogging with restrain.

On the health front, eczema on the skin is preoccupying me, together with white spots and moles together with tiny ‘mouth ulcers’ sprouting inside the mouth that gotta get fixed this week with dermatologist and dentist trips. No cause of worry, I am pretty sure but sometimes it triggers the anxiety within and better get checked to pacify the mind and heart. To think, medical trips means traveling by bus, something I’ve been avoiding for months because of the virus percolating in the air but, then, we gotta live with the fear while at the same time, be wary of human contact.  Travel if you must but by remember to maintain social distancing.

 

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Goddess of lust


Blurred eyes,

my pendulum swing,

intoxication is madness,

a sensuous voice,

tossing by my side,

you are my vodka shots,

scent of fragrance,

lighting flame in our bodies,

flick n chill,

snipper’s intensity,

gotta kill me with your eyes,

sword piercing the heart,

a bullet never kills,

waning in dust,

waking up inebriated,

high on invisible enigma,

nymph of imagination,

sexless love,

goddess of lust,

are you an imagination?

maketh the mind losing sanity,

i ain’t cheap booze,

passing out in a sip.

 

Love

V

 

 

 

 

 

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Myriad emotions of silence


Silence is darkness,

silence is pause,

syllable in prayer,

silence is chakra,

silence is heartbeat,

hymn and composition,

silence is music unsung,

lyrics composed,

silence is the blank mind,

silence is pain,

silence is oxymoron,

healing the broken me,

nursing wounds,

balm to the soul,

silence is the unsung emotions,

unexpressed emotions,

silence is transported in the unknown,

silence is love,

transported in my land,

silence is me,

silence is you,

silence is the clean air,

silence is the beauty of living and non-living,

silence is my soul,

barred open,

silence is worshipping your Goddess aura,

silence is mythical and myriad.

 

Love

V

 

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New reality of (Im) perfect relations


Relationships are (im) perfect and no longer made in heaven. Isn’t it time waking up to the new reality of romance or serious kinda relationships that comes with huge expectations? Not just millennial culture but any relationship where we invest the whole of us, not restricted to the personal space lost and irrationally cutting chords from close friends or just put it that way, the ones that matter.

We live in troubled times and a routine running behind deadlines to make the moolah. A relation happens, falls apart and opens to a new one. You would argue it’s a circle of sort, right, and owing to past failed relationships, we end up becoming so attached breeding insecurity. I don’t blame anything or anyone but the circumstance pushes us to become clingy triggering flushing out of people that once meant the world to us. We end up doing more harm than good. The partner becomes everything and the worst part is there are a new whole and circle drawn upon our sense of creative liberty, freedom of thought and independence. I have seen people losing their beliefs and subscribing to the political ideologies of the partner. This is a wrong approach and doesn’t occur to us on losing ourself, the forced compromise made where growth is not going to happen. What happens post break up and how we go back to our old friends.

Being in a healthy relationship in my view is about growth, not only respecting but encouraging contrarian viewpoints and questioning choices made or the way both partners are approaching the equation makes for an enriching journey. It can be small things on how a partner reacted in the morning to not listening about something and cutting a conversation short. It creates an open space. One thing observed about many couples is the way times are spent in togetherness and not leaving an inch, whether coffee shop, movies to just being friends with each other. It becomes more an obsession than anything else and one day will come when suffocation will creep in. Conversely, there are couples who are always surrounded by family and friends, doing trips in a group of forever people. Again, it breeds an unhealthy equation. Where is the ME time or Couple time and why do they always need people that suffocates at some point? The concept of couples’ privacy is important, whether it’s romantic dinners and walks, being into each other’s company.

A balance in relationship, in the form of internal and external environment, is important while at the same time mixing a set of friends or co-workers wadding in and out of home or lives is not always desirable, often hinging on privacy. Once in a while, it is good for a couple to mix with each other’s people but not always since it tends to clip freedom where one partner will find it awkward not to hang out with people who have always been with him or her.  At a glance, it’s healthy hanging out with your people during night outs and the time both sets of friends can mix is during birthday parties or say wedding or some reunion. On a personal level, I’d prefer to hang out with my college friends or simply friends regularly rather than bringing my partner with me every time or vice versa. Of course, she would know my friends but at the same time, the freedom to do personal things matters lot and I will never pop in the company of her friends.

 

 

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Infinity’s child, so I am!


I am light,

i am feather,

walking deserted land and streets,

i am silence,

flying in the realm,

past clouds and mountains,

i am kindred souls,

i do not wield swords,

fighting evils,

but with love,

i am compassion,

i know no hate,

for sweetness in words,

annihilate human poison,

i am the tapestry dusting off prejudices,

i am shorn of harm,

a prayer where living and non living cohabit,

i am forests, rivers and lakes,

i am revered,

i am the tall towers,

i am divinity,

i am the trunks, animals, roots and nature,

infinity’s child.

 

 

Love

V

 

 

 

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Pune Memoirs: Angry Goddess ironed out college bullies


Pune Memoirs,

Final Year: 2005-06

Fergusson College (FC):

Have you ever wondered how a girl can step forward in defending a guy pushed by bullies in a college line getting madder and crowd not moving at all? We were filing our forms for the final year admission when this cute, Punjabi chick appeared out of nowhere. There is no luv shuv angle in my wildest dream but what unfolded would have made the perfect rom-com book or romance flick on screen. I think the G standing for something sweet asked me for something in college and ended helping her filing the form. As strange as it gets, we clicked as friends for the first time.

What happened in the next hour completely blew me when fuse lit at the other end! We were standing impatiently outside the Princi’s office and legs becoming numb with pain for the signature when a couple of unruly guys walked past us trying to storm inside. We protested. I told them to wait in the queue when they pushed me and the girl who was standing behind me just leaped right ahead and stood shoulders to shoulders facing them. One woman against four men with fierce looks and one moment thought Jhansi ki Rani or Goddess entered her body. “Don’t you dare touch my friend,” G threatened those normally fearful men in my defense. She was the typical Punjabi woman, sweet at one moment and the next turning into a tigress. She shouted as loud or twice on the face of those guys who tried to bully her but they ended up getting bullied. I touched her arms. She toned down and told me, “Let me handle this.”

I was confused, looking at those guys who must snigger at me and looking at my new found friend, feeling like a cartoon character. It was getting uglier when I told her to be cautious because they are hoodlum and probably connected to some political party. It made her angrier and shouted, “Let them! I am a bigger goonda and also have contacts.” Those guys must have developed a complex looking at her aggressivity and backed out. Somehow and to my credit, I convinced her to temper down. Finally, she relented. I could breathe. An entire crowd was looking at us and her in awe for taking on the big daddies on campus, just outside the Principal’s Office. You know the feeling about being protected and imagining biceps pumping out of the tee but the only difference the force belonged to someone else with a daring voice, standing for what is right.

Everything calmed down. We were still standing in the queue when the bestie A and his friend walked past the office when he spotted me and joked, “What are you doing here and cheating the queue.” G and A were studying German together and she again leaped in my defense but this time in jest, cackled, “Haha! He is my friend standing for me and I am letting him.” I was amazed at this girl who can suddenly be upset and the next moment getting all cool. I mean, I can’t do it and would become hyper, panting and entire body shaking.

We did chat occasionally via SMS and came to know she was working somewhere during a chance meeting at Koregaon Park. What a way to meet someone. Now, German Bakery is one hip and happening place where the Osho crowd swarms. It’s been ages that I haven’t been there that kept itching me to visit. A very cozy place to be where you can spend an entire day, whiling time visiting the small shops inside the premise at German Bakery. I remember skipping lecture and dying to have breakfast there and the first thing did in the morning, sat in the rickshaw from FC Road to Koregaon Park. I ordered coffee and muffin making for the perfect breakfast, carried on a tray to spot a comfortable place to sit. The tables and benches are arranged on several lines at German Bakery and separated by an inch when I saw G saying Hi. She seemed to be in a hurry and asked about what’s happening to college and assuming I am hanging out with some hi-fi people that I hardly interacted with. I plainly nodded.

I came in the loop that G was working somewhere and the reason, why she could hardly be spotted, attending lectures at Fergusson College. We never saw each other after that and we did connect on Orkut before it went into oblivion. The rest of the year was spent attending lectures and sitting at the hangout, Savera with friends for an entire day. New bonds were made and sitting with a foe of the sort that pushed me to console him. One lazy evening between sipping tea and the guy was sitting on the same table when he suddenly received a call from his Dad and suddenly started crying. I was getting irritated by his sermonizing kinda conversation and the next saw him bursting into tears right in front of me. Why am I supposed to do? I asked him what happened? He said nothing. I find myself raising the decibel and told that someone will never cry for no fucking reason. It worked. N started speaking about his Dad not keeping well.

As strange as it gets, I calmed him down and in a soft voice ask him to share what the issue is.  He told that after studies there is no choice but to head back home to take over the family business. I didn’t know what to say and a part of me was aware of how right he was. The harmless fun and the best moments in Pune was going to end. What we have now is memories of a lifetime. It took me quite a long time to move out of college life which feels like an entire life spent. Will I want to start all over again? The answer is yes for I lived the most perfect and best days in the city.

Love

V