My Aai’s friends..

I can’t believe it’s April already. Nope.. not going to rant about the pandemic today. The words used for this post are mine.. but the idea behind it is my mother’s. My Aai loves birds. Aai is Marathi for mother by the way. So yes..she loves birds and she wants me to share a small message about them on all social media platforms possible. I’ve deactivated Facebook again (in the wake of Whatsapp’s new privacy policy and also because, let’s face it, it is stupid!), so that leaves me with WordPress. I wrote a similar blog post a few years ago but not many people have read it since it is pretty old and back then I only had some 8 followers. Not that I have a lot now but they are relatively decent. You can read it here – Birds ๐Ÿ™‚

So coming to the point.. Summer has just begun in India (and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere) and the temperatures are already soaring. If you live in South Asia.. you know what I am talking about. Temperatures will soon cross 45ยฐC and things will as usual get really difficult for all of us. So here’s a small request.. please keep some earthen pots filled with water for birds outside. In your balcony, on a windowsill, terrace, veranda.. anywhere. Just make sure you have some bird-food and water for our little friends. I don’t see the point of writing how it is our responsibility to do this for the birds or how we’ve very nicely deteriorated the state of the planet for them because honestly, nobody cares for homilies like that anymore. Just do it if you want to. The world is already going through a difficult time so if you can help somebody or something.. do it. HELP.

We had a lot of birds visit us at our previous place (mentioned in the blog above) but after we moved to a new city, that stopped. We really missed our winged friends for almost two years. Thankfully now we are all back to a new city and the birds have started to visit again. All thanks to Aai who does not give up on her friends. She’s the best.

Here’s a video of a Red-whiskered bulbul that has been visiting us for a few days now.

โค

Note : Bird-feeders are easily available everywhere. You can also buy them online. Bird-food is generally some variety of millet, again easily available locally.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a nice day, today and always. ๐ŸŒผ

Best,

Ashwini

My College is Wordsworth’s Poetry.

I recently went for an impromptu walk in my college. My younger sister and I were passing by my college and I asked her whether she’d seen the campus. She said she had not and so, I took her in for a walk.

I passed out in 2013 and yet every time I step into my college.. I feel like I am that 18 year old under-confident Ashwini on her first day in college. The small town girl who could not believe she had secured admission in one of the best colleges in India. She lacked confidence… but dreams? She had them in abundance. If I ever write the story of my life.. I’ll name my autobiography as ‘The girl who had big dreams and.. some more big dreams’. HaHa. Not to digress but I really do a haha at my jokes.

Never mind!

So as I was walking.. I realized how beautiful my college looked. Almost like living, breathing poetry. Wordsworth’s poetry.

This is where I learnt about Wordsworth. And William Blake. And Langston Hughes. About Linguistics and Literary Criticism.

This is where I learnt about Gandhiji and Pt. Nehru and Lokmanya Tilak. About Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule. About History and Political Science and Economics. Art and Culture.

This is the place that taught me to value Freedom and Equality and Justice.

This is where I learnt to step out of my comfort zone. Look up from the book I was reading and talk to people.

This is where I found my tribe, my people.

This is where I was taught to believe in myself and my dreams.

This is where I learnt to be comfortable in my own skin. My own shoes. My unplucked eyebrows.

This is the place that has made me. This is my place. My Home.

And as I realize all of this.. I feel empowered enough to deal with every obstacle life throws at me. Suddenly I am a girl who is confident and hopeful. Confident enough to take on the world and hopeful enough to see my big dreams come to life.

As I pass through every building.. I live and relive my college memories.

I make a mental note to come for a walk in my college every time I am having a bad day, thanks to the pandemic, bad days are not so rare anymore.

And as I say goodbye to my college, I think to myself.. My college is poetry. Wordsworth’s poetry.

Here are a few pictures I clicked.. the walk made my day. Hope the pictures make yours too.

Main Circle, Fergusson College, Pune.

Nothing more beautiful than pink bougainvillea on a spring evening.

Poetry! ๐Ÿ™‚

Note : Featured image with students on the campus is from 2013.

Where Rainbows End.

I recently had a chance to reread parts of ‘Where Rainbows End’, one of my favourite epistolary novels of all time. Written by Irish author Cecelia Ahern, it tells the story of two best friends Alex and Rosie through letters, emails, instant messages and even chits exchanged during their school days. It is part hilarious, part sad, part ‘Are you two kidding me?’ and part ‘Oh but this can happen to anyone’ kind of book. I don’t intend to review the book (since that is not where I shine.. ๐Ÿคญ) but I would really like to write about the reason why I love the book so much.

So, Alex and Rosie are childhood best friends. And everyone except these two can see that they are meant for each other, very typical. I know. But it’s not their love that I want to talk about here. It is their friendship.

Their friendship is what the millennial kids these days would call.. ‘A constant’.

I like that kind of friendship. I like the comfort it has to offer.

The kind of friendship that happens by chance.. without you ever planning it to.. one moment you two are strangers.. and the next thing you know you’ve made a friend for life.

The kind of friendship where you’ve been with someone for so longโ€ฆ you even know what they are doing at what time of the day.

The kind where the other person knows you so well, they can read your eyes and know what is going on in your mind.

The kind where you are always rooting for each other to reach new heights.. no envy, no competition.

The kind where one’s faith in you makes you feel like you can touch the moon.

The kind where you are panicking and all the other person has to say is.. “Don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be alright. I am here for you.” And they can be four thousand damn miles away and still calm you down with that simple text message.

The kind where even if one person disappears for some time.. you know they’ll come around again.

The kind that makes you laugh.. but on some days.. also makes you cry.

That kind, you see!

The kind that you can bank on.

I know what you are thinking.. Oh but does this not sound like love??

Well, do friends not love each other? They do, right? And why does love always have to be just one kind of love, anyway? I feel like there are as many types of loves as there are people around us.. did someone really say that or did I just make up that sentence myself?!!

I am sure love is important (and a bit overrated if you ask me). But Friendship.. it’s even more important. It’s love minus the drama I feel. Drama is good.. but you don’t need it everyday. You get what I mean?

Alex and Rosie spent more than fifty years being best friends before they realized their friendship was destined for more. Teenage Ashwini thought what a huge waste of time that was.. the Ashwini writing this post feels like whatever they shared being friends during those fifty years of living thousands of miles apart was more than what some people share with each other when they know they are in love and live under the same roof. Does that make sense? I hope it does.

Have a nice day, dear reader. ๐ŸŒผ

Oh Yoga and Meditation are so Hindu!

I recently read an article in the Washington post that talked about the American state of Alabama overturning its 28-year old ban on Yoga in schools. Oh, but you still can’t say Namaste.. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here..https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/03/13/alabama-yoga-ban/

This is ironic (amusing actually!) because in my four years of yoga practice we never said Namaste in our class, we had our prayers of course.. but no, we did not greet each other with a Namaste. BUT you go on insight timer and listen to a meditation session or two. At least one American/ European teacher will end a class with a Namaste.

I dug deeper and found a few more instances of opposition to yoga and meditation practices elsewhere as well. Also found that.. in 1989 the Vatican issued a 23-page document, approved by Pope John Paul II, to its monasteries and convents warning them against the lure of “Eastern Meditation Practices”.

Here.. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1989/12/16/vatican-warns-against-practicing-eastern-meditation/e974fb62-c018-4cbb-a002-39fd03ec1075/

Again ironic because I, a practicing Hindu and my fellow classmates, irrespective of their faiths, were made to recite ‘Our Lord’s prayer’ every day in our convent school, for all my school life, here in India. And neither we nor our parents felt threatened by it. By the way, you will find many non-convent schools in India celebrating every festival of every faith. No discrimination there!

I agree that we are entitled to our own faiths and our beliefs.. but instances of institutionalized othering like the ones mentioned at the start of this post can have negative consequences.. hate crimes against minorities being just one of them.

Also for the record, neither India nor Indic cultures have ever imposed Yoga on the West (or even the East for that matter). Imposition is not part of our civilizational ethos. History is testimony to that. One can go and read to one’s heart’s content.

Does Yoga have Hindu roots?
It does.

But as mentioned in the article above.. it is like a gift of India to the world. You are free to not accept. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am gonna go and meditate for some time before I sleep.

Namaste.

(Featured image is from Guruji B. K. S. Iyengar’s book, ‘Light on Yoga’)

Look how far we’ve come!

Last night I went through my gratitude journal.. especially through the parts written during the peak of the pandemic. It wasn’t really easy to write the journal back thenโ€ฆ not because there wasn’t anything to be grateful for.. but because everything good was somehow clouded by some really strong and paralyzing feelings of helplessness and fear within. There was all this pain and chaos everywhere and all one could do was sit in the house and see things go from bad to worse while constantly worrying and losing sleep over the safety of one’s near and dear ones. So even though I did not feel like writing the journal, I made sure to write just one tiny thing I was grateful for every day. If not in the diary then just one line on the presently app on my phone. Just one small thing that brought some joy to my dull lockdown life. May be because I was trying to convince myself that things were not as bad as they seemed.. that even though the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t visible, there were all these tiny lamps here and there in the tunnel to get me through..

There were all types of entries in the journal. From ‘I am grateful that I have a roof over my head’ to ‘I am grateful for all the good music that is helping me get through this difficult time’.

From ‘Grateful for food on my plate’ to ‘grateful for Chai’, which I truly believe has been a constant silver lining through and through.

From ‘Grateful for random “how are you doing?” messages from friends’ to ‘Grateful that Dad’s covid test came negative’.

From ‘Grateful for my meditation practice’ to ‘Grateful to be alive’.

All types of gratitude entries.. mostly about things that I’d taken for granted until the lockdown happened.

There was one particular entry that I’d like to mention here verbatim.. ‘Made it to June-2020 , yehhhh!!! Grateful to have made it so far through the pandemic when every day seems a struggle’. What struck me about this particular entry was that here was a girl going “yehhh” just for making it through three months into the lockdown. And now here am I and here are we all.. having made it through one whole year of this damned pandemic.

One whole year.

Can you do something for me? Just give yourself a pat on the back for having made it so far. I know how difficult it has been.. and I know things are not completely normal.. and they won’t be for some time more. But I can sense the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s closer than it seems.

So till we reach the end of this tunnel.. let’s be grateful. Let’s be grateful for all the little blessings in our life. Most importantly, let’s be grateful for our resilient spirit. The spirit that still dreams of good things. The spirit that keeps on going in spite of the pain and the loss. The spirit that still shines.. a little dimmer sometimes.. but it shines anyway.

To our effervescent spirit, cheers.

I am a teetotaler.. so that was hot chocolate in my glass. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Just be..

This blog is in part inspired by a very beautiful and empowering quote by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (heart), in part by all the wonderful and heart-warming conversations I’ve had with my meditation buddies (Polly and Shri) and in part by a few of my own realizations over the past couple of months. Writing this for a friend (Sneh).. but I sincerely hope it brings some form of comfort to everyone stopping by.

I have realized that when one is dealing with difficult emotions like sadness or hopelessness or rejection.. one tends to try and not feel them. One tries to look for an escape. That escape can be anything.. travel, poring over fiction, binge-watching a series.. changing a house, shifting to a new town, a new job may be. Anything for a change of scene. Anything that will help one not feel the pain.

There’s nothing wrong in doing any of this.. when you are sad, you do what makes you happy and brings you peace. There’s no harm in doing that. But sometimes.. every once in a while..when engulfed by difficult emotions.. try sitting with those emotions for some time instead of just resisting them and looking for an escape.

If you are feeling sad.. you are feeling sad. And I am sure you are feeling sad over something important. If it wasn’t important.. you wouldn’t have felt so sad.

If you are feeling hurt.. you are feeling hurt. To paraphrase what John Green said.. It is hurting because it mattered. If it did not matter, why would you be hurt?

If you are feeling lonelyโ€ฆ you are feeling lonely. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

If you miss someone.. you miss them. you are allowed to be an introvert, asocial human being and yet be attached to people.

If you feel angry.. you feel angry. And one does not get angry because one finds joy in doing so.. something must have happened to make you feel this way, nai?

What I am trying to say is that the world will do everything in its power to tell you to get up and shove away all these emotions.. that life is too small to waste it feeling all these emotions.. so get up and go chase the next big thing. Blah Blah Blah.

I am not saying that people are completely wrong. But I don’t think they are completely right either.

What I have learnt over the course of the pandemic is that you can’t just shove away difficult emotions like that. So stop being apologetic about how you feel. Stop feeling apologetic about not feeling happy every single day of your life. You can’t shove away sadness or fear just like that.. can’t happen in a day or two. It takes time.. and till that happens.. try to be with these difficult emotions every once in a while.

Instead of hating them or trying to suppress them.. Just be with them. Become mindful of what you are feeling.. and why you are feeling that way. Trust that when the time comes, they will pass. Trust that things will get better. Don’t rush through.. just because someone said so.

Not easy, I know. Takes courage, I know. But we can surely try.

All of what I’ve written above is a layperson’s understanding of her own experiences. Not meant to be professional advice. You are free to disagree or reject the same.

Also, here is the Mingyur Rinpoche quote I was talking about..

Buddha nature can be summed up in a single word : Courage

Specifically to be, just as we are, right here, right now, with all our doubts and uncertainties.

Yongey mingyur rinpoche

๐Ÿ™‚

Just be, my friend. Just be.

I write.

I was talking to my friends over a video call the other day and I was telling them what a hard time I’ve been having lately. Things almost feel out of control and that I am exhausted. And one of them pointed out that even though there isn’t much that I can do about the circumstances I am in right now, I might handle the chaos with a lot more grace if only I stopped being so hard on myself. The other one said one way to do so would be to find some time every day to do something I enjoy doing.

So here I am. Back on WordPress after ages. And as I write and rewrite this post, somehow I already feel a little bit better. I have always loved writing. And it still amazes me how every time things get hard, one habit that definitely goes for a toss is writing.

Slowly, may be subconsciously even, I kind of stop doing things that I would do otherwise if things were going well in life. Seems very ironic, nai?

Does this happen to you?

I don’t know why this happens. It isn’t something I do purposely. May be it’s just that doing everything else feels so important that the little things, the so called unimportant things take a backseat.

Aren’t these very little, meaningful things of utmost importance in life? Things that sustain our spirit. Things that make us glad to be alive. Nai?

And yet these are the very things that some of us give up the moment we feel intimidated or overwhelmed by circumstances.

I am so glad someone had the heart to remind me to do something I love doing.

Dear Reader, let this be a reminder to you too. If anyone of you is having a hard time or is struggling with some issueโ€ฆ

Breathe in.. breathe out.. and think of that one thing that brings joy to your soul. And do it.

Find the time. And do it.

you’ll be glad you did it.

๐ŸŒป

These days I feel like Calvin in this picture. :’) I can imagine Hobbes saying something wise and philosophical. I’d like to imagine him saying.. don’t worry, everything’s gonna be alright. ๐Ÿ™‚

This too shall pass, sweet soul.

I am in the middle of a meditation course atย Tushita and am not really supposed to use any sort of social media till the course is over. Since I am not physically there at the centre in MacLeod-Ganj and have been attending virtual sessions, I have not been living a completely gadget free life for the duration of the course. And although I haven’t used social media for the last few days, I have been staying up to date with the news around. And it keeps getting worse.

EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Yesterday I read about a public servant who committed suicide because he was afraid he would contract Covid-19 and spread it to his family.

And day before another young actor from Bollywood committed suicide. They say he was depressed and on medication.

Before that it was a small boy of 12 in my city who committed suicide because his mother wouldn’t let him watch TV. That is what the newspaper reported.

The situation has always been grim but things have deteriorated really fast since the lock-down.

You can say, oh but so many people commit suicide every day. Why do you have to write a blog now?

Why?

Because it is important.

Because it gives me heartache to see people do that to themselves.

Because every time someone, especially someone who is a well-known personality, commits suicide, they are, unknowingly, setting a precedent that when things get too overwhelming and difficult, YOU CAN QUIT.

I really hope mental health issues receive the importance that they deserve. I wish our society did not stigmatise anxiety, depression, OCD and other debilitating disorders that make life a personal hell for people who suffer them. People who fight them.

Life is difficult, I know. I know. These days, and I will not lie, every day feels like a struggle. And I know for many of us, our anxieties have skyrocketed like never before. There’s insomnia, loneliness and a feeling of constant despair. Some of us have our loved ones working on the frontline. Some fear spreading the infection to their family members. As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough, there are cyclones and forest fires. There are tensions at the border. People are hungry and jobless. There are protests happening all over and then of course there’s climate change. And we don’t know what fresh hell will get unleashed tomorrow or in the next few months.

why am I mentioning this?

Because I know it is very easy to get over-whelmed by what is happening around. And when we are overwhelmed, our experience of things around us feels even more acute. Uncertainty becomes unbearable, fear starts to take over. And instead of wisely responding to things, we start reacting hastily.

If for a moment.. you paused and looked around you’d see, Life isn’t easy for any of us. We all have our ups and downs. And I know sometimes it feels like you cannot breathe due to all the negativity and pain that surrounds you, trust me when I say this, this too shall pass, sweet soul.

The Budhha said, be a lamp unto yourself. Be that lamp. Stand up to your fears. Stand up to uncertainty. Stand up to bad days.

If you need professional help, ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. There is no shame. You are not weak to ask for help. In fact it takes great courage to let someone know that you feel vulnerable and hence need help. It is okay to ask for help. No person in their right mind is going to judge you. This is your life. YOUR LIFE. And it is precious.

You are precious. Yes, you are. I know you are.

And you are not alone. There are 7 billion plus people on this planet and it has affected each one of them negatively. Okay may be not to sanitizer companies but you get my point, right?

Instead of being hard on yourself, show yourself some compassion. Do things that bring joy to the soul. Listen to that song. Eat your favourite meal. If you feel helpless, help someone in need. Do what brings you peace. There’s no competition. You are not in a race. Be kind to yourself. Indulge yourself in a healthy living. Breathe deeply and be grateful for the little things. If there is one good thing that Covid has made me realize, it is to never take the little things for granted. They are of utmost importance. Cherish your journey as you cherish the people in your life. Tell someone you see struggling that you are proud of them for not giving up.

Be a lamp unto yourself and unto others.

Photo_1592316167089

There’s a quote in Les Miserables that think of every time things get too much.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

Victor Hugo.

Take life one breath at a time and keep reminding yourself, this too shall pass, sweet soul. This too shall pass. I promise.

Also, if you see someone struggling, reach out to them. Help them seek help. These are difficult times, be there for each other.

 

Love,

Ashwini

WordPress just reminded I started my blog four years ago, today. What a coincidence? time flies. ๐Ÿ™‚

Partition, Home, Covid19, Chai and more.

Hello all,

I’ve been deliberately trying to avoid writing about the pandemic for the last 40 days, mostly because a) I’ve been hoping it will end. Like if I procrastinate writing about it for long enough, a day will come when this nightmare called covid19 will be a thing of the past and we shall all be living normal lives again. And b) A lot has been already said and written about the pandemic, do I really have to pile on?

So anyways, two days back my entire city was declared a covid19 containment zone. Not an area, or a lane or a housing society but the entire city is a containment zone now. And with cases yet to peak in India, I know things will get worse before they get any better. Since covid19 is here for another few weeks, I might as well write about it. So here it goes..

In the second week of March when there were some half a dozen cases in India, a few of those in my city, we got calls from family members outside of town, asking us to pack a few important belongings and come live with them because things were about to get worse in major cities across India. I’d been following the coronavirus cases in Wuhan from mid-Jan and my mind brought back visuals of a city in complete lockdown with thousands infected. It sent chills down my spine. Surely nothing like that would happen here, I thought. No. NO. Although we brushed aside the thought of leaving home, for a minute or two I contemplated over the idea of leaving home. It felt scary. Leaving home with a few belongings for no one knows how long, the idea felt frightening and kept me anxious all evening. I know there is no comparison but for a fleeting second I thought of all those people who had to leave their homes with just a handful of belongings during the Partition of India in 1947 never to return back home. Ever.

If we’d decided to leave that week, because things did start deteriorating soon after as the city borders got sealed, we’d still be away from home. Our house is a small 2BHK flat in an apartment complex with no terrace or garden, so it does feel claustrophobic sometimes, but I am still glad that I am home. My heart goes out to the people who are lost, stranded, poor and hungry. Not just in my country but everywhere in the world. I wish you strength.. and I have you in my prayers. As Victor Hugo said, Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

The lockdown was very overwhelming initially. What with all of social media telling you how to make the most of your free time. What to watch, what to read, what to cook, what to learn. I mean why?? So much unnecessary pressure to be productive. Come to think of it, for most of the people the nationwide lockdown came as a shock. People were not thrilled. Nor had they anticipated things to escalate so fast. Instead of actually trying to process all that was happening, there was all the hullabaloo about doing this and doing that and then letting other one million people on social media know how you are passing time and how happy and productive you are in quarantine. Especially the ones who’ve been regularly showcasing their culinary skills after having hoarded food items from the market or still going out to get something to make an exotic dish they need to share with their friends. Defeats the entire purpose of a lockdown, people. We are in a crisis here. Life may be a joke to some but it is precious to most of us.

By March last week we had no milk in the house and no fresh vegetables either. Even wheat flour was just enough to last two weeks. All of these are essentials and I was allowed to go buy them but I chose not to. Instead for one whole week we replaced chai with black/green tea and veggies with sprouts and other food items that were readily available in the house. Rice replaced rotis. A lot of friends suggested I was acting out of fear and that I could go out and come back and that it was no big deal. As much as I appreciate your concern, it is this casual attitude towards the pandemic that has deteriorated the situation in the country, people. I have a father who is a public servant working on the field some 150kms away whom I haven’t met in more than 50 days and I know what a nightmare it is to be working right now. It is for him and for others like him who still have to work every single day, the police officers, the paramedics, the bank employees, the grocery store owners, the sanitation workers, people in the administration, etc that I choose to strictly follow the lockdown.

Two weeks back I saw visuals from London where people were out for evening walks like everyday routine. Even in my area I saw at least 5-10 people go out for evening walks everyday until the entire city was declared a containment zone two days back. It is really frustrating to see this attitude of some smart-alecky citizens endangering other people’s lives. I’ve realized that I cannot control everybody else so I’ve stopped trying. I can only do what is my duty as a citizen of my country. I can only hope that people will recognize the gravity of the situation and not give in to every urge and go out. We are better than that. This one time I was contemplating whether I was being unnecessarily fearful and that whether I should go out to get something (okay, that something was cheese!) I found this quote by Georgia O’Keeffe on Brainpickings.org’s page that said..

Anyone with any degree of mental toughness ought to be able to exist without the things they like most for a few months at least.

-Georgia O’Keeffe

So long story short, I think of this quote every time I feel like I need to go out and get something that isn’t something very essential.

How do I spend my time? Nobody asked but I am gonna write it anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Unlike lots of other students, my exam has not been postponed yet. Initially I did spend some of my time feeling overwhelmed and anxious due to the sudden onset of the pandemic, so right now I am spending all my time studying. My online classes have not yet resumed so it has been just me and my books lately. A few friends suggested I should really control the news I consume everyday so I only check for news twice daily and make a point to not google, ‘Coronavirus in India’ every few hours.

When I am feeling low, I listen to my favourite songs.

And I rewatch snippets from my favourite feel good animated movies : Zootopia and Brave and Moana etc. Oh Btw, I watched Onward, you should too.

I read a light novel or a short story.

I talk to a few friends.

I video call my father.

I look at my bookshelf.

I write my gratitude journal.

I sit in my balcony.

I haven’t meditated or done yoga in a while so may be I’ll get back to it too.

I’d like to imagine that the way we miss the outdoors, the outdoors miss us too. As Khalil Gibran put in ‘The Prophet’..

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”

Wherever you are, I hope you remember that this is not permanent. Summer is almost here and it brings with it the fragrance of hope. And I hope that you find it in your heart to see the silver lining too.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

with love and hope,

Ashwini

P.S. – went out a few days back to get arthritis medicine for my mom and bought milk on my way back. Would never take the humble chai for granted ever again.

P.P.S. – I am truly grateful for all the people who’ve called to check on us. Little acts of kindness is all that matters in the end. Thank You.

20200405_214252
This was in response to our Prime Minister’s call to light lamps to stand in solidarity with everyone who is out working on the field. Wish you all strength and unfailing courage.

Of books and mood..

The other day a friend of mine asked me if I could recommend her a few books she could read in her free time. Oh, don’t you just love it when someone asks you to recommend books? I wish it was a full time job. If only. (; So anyway, when I asked her which genre she’d prefer? She said, and I quote her verbatim, “Anything, bro! Anything.” She is just out of college and a lot younger than me so I chose to forgive her for using the word bro. Sorry, without digressing any further.. Since I didn’t know which genre she’d prefer, I went on to recommend lots of books from different genres and asked her to read any depending on her mood. After I’d typed a long message (messages, actually!) I realized I had a favourite author and a go to book for every mood of mine. I thought I might as well write a blog about it and hope someone somewhere will find a book they just need. After all, books tend to find their readers too, nai?

#1 When you seek adventure : Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ or ‘Journey To The Centre of the Earth’. Writing in the1800s, Verne was a man way, way ahead of his time. I hadn’t really tried sci-fi adventure till I read him. And I was awe-struck. I haven’t finished reading all his books because I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t have any more of Jules Verne’s books left to read. How very dull. Talking of adventures, I cannot move ahead without telling you about ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit promises an adventure of a lifetime. I can write an entire blog about its impact on my life but to keep it short, let’s just say if someone held me at gunpoint and asked me to name my five favourite books, ‘The Hobbit’ will be one of them.

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#2 When you feel heartbroken and want to give up on love : Persuasion by Jane Austen. Everyone keeps talking about how great Pride and Prejudice is but honestly, I love Persuasion more! I read Pride and Prejudice when I was 17 and I loved the story and like everyone else I loved Darcy (a little too much) and Lizzy. Then I grew up and life happened. When I read Persuasion at 24 I realized what a beautiful story it was, more real, more relatable and far more better than Pride and Prejudice. It warmed my heart to the core.

Anne and Wentworth, you two have my heart.

#3 When you need a good laugh : Wodehouse! Wodehouse! Wodehouse! This blog is called ‘Life Is A Wodehouse Story’ for a reason. Because I love how I laugh when I read Wodehouse. Also I love how everything turns out just right in the end of every Wodehouse story. Again I haven’t read every Wodehouse story there is for the same reason I haven’t read all of Jules Verne, but if I had to choose one favourite, I’d pick ‘Adventures of Sally’. Piccadilly Jim comes close but Sally’s story is the best.

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#4 When you feel miserable : ‘A house for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul’. It is a lengthy novel but worth reading anyway. TIME magazine included it in its list of 100 best English language novels of the 20th century. It is the story of Mohun Biswas, a man who has had a not so significant life but hopes to one day own a house and hence find his happiness. It can be interpreted in a lot of different ways but to me, it is about relentlessly striving for your dreams no matter how many times life knocks you down. Part funny, part poignant, read it if you feel you are stuck in a rut. It has a happy ending, I promise. ๐Ÿ™‚

#5 When you feel you’ve taken your life for granted : Happy realization, btw!

‘A thousand splendid suns’ by Khaled Hosseni and ‘The book Thief by Markus Zusak’. A thousand splendid suns is set in Taliban era Afghanistan and is about love, hope, friendship and survival in the war-torn country, also known as the heart of Asia, Afghanistan. I need not say much about ‘The Book Thief’ because assuming you’ve not been living under a rock, you’ve already read and heard a lot about it. Set in Nazi Germany, it will really make you appreciate the life you are living and cherish the people around you a little more. It will make you believe in friendship but will also make you cry. Sorry.

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#6 When you feel the need to calm down, take it slow : I am pretty new to the mindfulness scene. I haven’t read much but I really loved this book called ‘The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down’ by Haemin Sunim. Polly, my friend from Tushita recommended it to me and I must say, it is a lovely book indeed. It really made me slow down and reflect on my journey. Go for it if you feel you need some self-care and love. It will make you smile and leave you feeling happy and content. Oh, You can also read anything by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, especially on topics like happiness and sorrow. They are short reads but are helpful nonetheless.

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#7 When you feel lonely : I know I should be recommending a really happy-happy novel but no, The general in His Labyrinth’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is anything but happy. I don’t remember precisely why I chose to buy this book but I am glad I did. I read it on a particularly bad day, the kind where everything goes wrong and you are sad. Just plain sad. Reading this book was very, very cathartic. It’s comforting to know that pain, suffering and loneliness are real and that you are not alone. Somehow it changed my perspective towards life. Suffering? okay a lot of people go through a lot of bad things in life. You can either spend your life feeling sorry and miserable for yourself or you can do something about it before you run out of time. Choice is yours. I hope you choose wisely.

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#8 When you are a feminist and feel like you are giving in to patriarchy : ‘The liberation of Sita’ by Volga is the book for you.Oh, isn’t Volga a beautiful name? Volga is the pen name of Telugu feminist-poet-writer Popuri Lalita Kumari. If you are well acquainted with Indian mythology and culture you already know why Sita’s story needed to be retold from a feminist perspective. For those who don’t know Sita’s tale, Sita is the female protagonist of the Indian epic Ramayana. And somehow for me, Ramayana is more about the unfair unjust treatment meted out to Sita (like to most women in our epics) than it is about the triumph of good over evil. After everything that happened to Sita in the epic, her story did need a retelling. A closure of some sort. Volga gave me that closure. READ!

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#9 When you wish to time-travel : Can’t believe I’ve almost reached the end of the blog and haven’t talked about Charles Dickens, whose ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was the first novel I ever read. An abridged version to be honest. :p but that book got me reading and I am truly grateful to Dickens for it. I loved all his books till I read Hard Times, which is horribly depressing so I’d say don’t read or rather start with that one. Read David Copperfield instead or rather Oliver Twist. I love them both. Oh and also A Christmas Carol! I have friends who find Dickens boring. Yes, I am still friends with them but they made me realize Dickens is not for everyone. You need to be patient and you need to have a soft spot for resilient characters who go against all odds. Most novels are a commentary on the Victorian society.

Dickens taught me life is hard. But it is also good. So hang in there!

#10 When you love daydreaming and can always find that one silver lining no matter how dark the clouds : ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by L.M. Montgomery. The day I read Anne’s story, I knew I had found a true friend in her. Or as she would say, a kindred spirit! It is a little difficult to keep it short here considering I’ve always wanted to write a blog about her. Everything about the story is just so beautiful. The story, the setting- Avonlea, Prince Edward Island(heart) and all the wonderful characters Montgomery painted.

Anne taught a generation of girls to follow their heart and never stop dreaming.

Thank You Anne.

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If you are a book lover, I am sure you’ve read all or most of the books mentioned above. In case you haven’t and find any of these interesting, Happy Reading my friend!

Namaste ๐Ÿ™‚

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