Book Review : Dream’s Sake

“What keeps your hopes intact?”, you ask. “Dreams” comes the answer. “You should always have one!”, we hear them say, “you should keep your dreams alive. “ And that’s what most of us do. We cling on to our dreams and never let go. They keeps us going, recharging our worn-out systems whenever the stark realities of the big, bad world begin to make their presence felt. But where does one draw the line? To what extent should one go to make one’s dream come true? What if one’s dreams clash with those of others? Come and witness a battle of dreams in Jyoti Arora’s debut novel, Dream’s Sake.

Dream’s Sake unfolds the story of four friends, Aashi, Abhi, Priyam and Sid each of whom steps into the adult life with a baggage from the past. Aashi, who has just moved into a humble locality in Delhi with her widowed mother, has still not recovered from the shock of her father’s sudden death.  However, the memories of the past are not potent enough to deter her  from building castles in the air. She thrives upon the hope that her dreams will one day metamorphose into a shimmering reality, one which will free her from the tyrannical barbs of her middle class life.  Her neighbours, Priyam and Abhi on the other hand have made their peace with their lowly existence. Orphaned in their teenage years this brother sister duo has succumbed to vagaries of life. Sid has grown up to believe that it was his father’s unfaithfulness and negligence that compelled his mother to end her life. He shuns his father’s wealth and finds solace in Abhi and Priyam’s companionship. Romance starts brewing in this little group of their’s which results in happiness for some and broken hearts for the others. In the end a few dreams are realized, a few are shattered and trampled upon leading to disastrous consequences.

This novel had a decent storyline. However, I’ll have to admit that it failed to “wow” me. The story lacks freshness and towards the end of the book I could vividly picturise scenes from a melodramatic Bollywood movie of the nineties being projected on a theatre screen. The story has its fair shares of twists and turns but it tends to become quite predictable in certain places. The characters are anything but eccentric and I could easily relate to them. The book has been written in simple English although I came across several sentences which were unnecessarily cramped with “fancy words”. Simpler words could have easily done the trick and perhaps even conveyed the author’s thoughts a lot more effectively. The aforementioned points notwithstanding the author should be lauded for churning out a reasonably good piece of fiction in her very first try.

In all I would say that this books makes for a light, quick and romantic read.

An extract from the book:

He can be as good as he wants to be and I’ll be as bad as I need to be! We’ll see where it all ends up,” says Aashi.

To know more about the author log onto www.jyotiarora.com

Rating: 2.5/5

Category: General Fiction.

Publisher: V&S Publishers

Pages: 266

Price: 195

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Thank you, Jyoti for sending me an autographed copy of the book. All the best for your future endeavours.

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Please Consult Your Dictionary…

I have spent junior school and most of my middle school years listening to this phrase. It was always lurking in my classroom in obscure places – beneath the duster, inside the bookshelf, behind the blackboard- and once in a while, whenever I had questions like “What is the meaning of this word?” or “How do we pronounce this word?” or “Does this word exist?”, it would manifest out of nowhere right onto my teacher’s lips. This was our English teacher’s answer to most of the questions we had. She kept reminding us of the importance of a dictionary and how one must never miss a single opportunity to consult it so much so that there came a point in my life, sometime during my junior school years, when I was convinced that consulting a dictionary was as important as consulting a physician before swallowing a pill or consulting the family priest before tying the nuptial knot. She made us do it over and over again. Whenever we encountered a new word staring at us from the pages of Onward English* we would grab our dictionaries and run our index fingers vertically over the printed text instead of horizontally for a change.

My junior school English teacher was one of her kind and her deep love for The Oxford English Dictionary was pretty well known. She was a vehement supporter of the do-not-carry-heavy-bags-to-school philosophy but that did not exempt us from carrying this 400 gm mass in our school bags everyday. It had to be with us during the school hours. Punitive actions were taken against defaulters who were subjected to public humiliation. Of course, I am talking about a time when standing outside the classroom with hands behind one’s back and head hung in shame was considered humiliating unlike college days when such incidents created a rage on Facebook and the defaulter was lauded by all and sundry.

We, as students, were expected to be adept at looking up a word in the dictionary. Very often our teacher conducted drills wherein she scribbled a word on the blackboard and challenged us to find its meaning in the minimum possible time. And then, all hell would break loose in our class. Students would dive into their bags, fish out a copy of the dictionary, turn over the pages frantically and start searching the aforementioned word like a treasure hunter looking for gold. The winner was generally awarded a Kismi Bar or one of other such sweet delights.

I have spent many an evening alternating between the Famous Five books and my Oxford English Dictionary. I usually snapped it shut after reading the meaning although my mother always insisted that I read further to learn about the word’s pronunciation, alternate forms, usage etc. Sometimes I took her advice, most of the times I did not.

Somewhere down the line, when the dot com bomb exploded and caught everyone and everything in its flames, a “.com” was placed in front of our beloved dictionary as well. The diving-into-our-bags, flipping-over-the-pages and running-our-fingers-vertically got replaced by enter-the-URL, type-the-word and click. These days I come across very few people of my age who still use the their dictionaries regularly. I know for a fact that I don’t. Almost all the text editors come with an inbuilt digital dictionary and thesaurus thereby obviating the need to seek assistance of their physical counterparts. School going children might use it in school but they rarely use one at home. I encourage my younger brother time and again to use it as much as possible. Even in this age when infants are born tech savvy I feel looking up a word in the dictionary is a skill we must all know. Although considered a bit cumbersome by Gen Z, I think it has its own charm.

A few weeks back, as I was digging through a pile of crap in a cardboard box to find a pair of old spectacles, I stumbled upon an old dictionary of mine, one which had accompanied me to school every single day. It still had a brown laminated cover with a Donald Duck label stuck on it. The curling edges, the about-to-become-yellow pages and the lovely old-book smell which we adore so much transported me to my school days. Somehow, while I was shifting from my old house into the new one it landed up in that cardboard box. Sadly its absence from my bookshelf went unnoticed.

This dictionary now has a space for itself on my bookshelf. I know I won’t be using it much but it’s always nice to have one looking at you all the time.   🙂

So, what about you? When was the last time you consulted your dictionary?

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* My English text book in junior school if I remember correctly   🙂

Note: The word dictionary in this post implies a physical dictionary unless otherwise stated.

A Treat for My Senses…

I get frustrated, almost cynical, when I start talking about the traffic in Bangalore or the heavily chlorinated water which gushes out of the tap every morning. The air pollution makes me nauseated and a million vehicles, all honking in unison, make my ear drums ache. Having spent most of my life in a small city, the hustle bustle of a city as big as Bangalore always leaves me a little lost. I complain incessantly about the buses that always seem to be bursting with office goers and the auto walas who ask you to part with a mini fortune for taking you to place barely two kilometres away. However, comes the month of July, bringing with it cool, crisp winds and cloudy skies, and my soul starts dancing with merriment. No matter how burdened my mind is with house hold chores and office work a blast of the fresh, monsoon air is all it takes to melt my worries away. I love the climate of Bangalore and monsoons make it all the more delightful.

What is it about this season which pleases me so much?

Monsoons are a treat for my senses, natures own sweet way of giving me a cost-free full body massage (who wants to spend thousands of rupees in a commercial spa anyway?).

The touch of the rain on my skin makes me ecstatic. A rain drop gently hits my face as I walk down the road and I look at the sky with anticipation, waiting for the clouds to explode. And after a few minutes, when they do, I become a mischievous seven year old girl once again. A soft whiff of air caresses my face and makes me beam from ear to ear. The feeling I get when my hands are wrapped around a mug of hot coffee cannot be conveyed through words.

The pitter patter of the rainfall creates a music so enchanting that it always leaves my ears wanting for more. Whenever the wind makes a swishing sound I find myself bending over the railing to listen to what they have to say. The leaves that brush against each other and whisper a secret message always leave me wonder struck.

I adore the rainy season for the myriad scents it carries. In the evening as I make my way towards home a waft of air  heavily laden with the aroma of spices enters my nostrils and I know that pakodas are being deep fried in one of the neighbouring apartments. The fragrance of freshly brewed coffee never seems as alluring as it does in this season. I often find myself sauntering towards the nearest coffee shop even when a heavy load of work awaits me in the office. And what can I say about the scent of drenched earth. Every morning I stand in my balcony and take a generous dose of this earthy smell. Saying that it transports me to heaven and leaves me in a trance would be an understatement.

The recently washed flora with glistening leaves and vibrant flowers is a sight to behold. I almost giggle with childlike excitement when I watch tiny buds tossing their heads with all their might each time the wind blows a tad too strong. The trees, which sway from side to side and do a little jig of theirs, are such a pleasure to watch. The green on the plants is so delightfully fresh that I don’t mind staring at it for hours at a stretch. Nature, on the whole, seems bejeweled. The tiny raindrops on the leaves seem like little drops of emeralds; the ones on the crimson flowers, rubies. The entire spectacle is supremely majestic and yet so soothing. It relaxes my eyes immensely and makes them strain free.

At this time of the year my diet plans conveniently take a back seat as I wipe off plates full of oily samosas and pakodas one after the other. No amount of low-calorie salads and sandwiches can satiate my appetite for aloo parathas with dollops of rich butter, gulab jamuns soaked in sugar syrup and kachodis with tangy, green chutney. My taste buds spring to life at the mere thought of a buttery donut oozing steaming hot chocolate sauce or a cup of piping hot Cuppuccino making its way towards my lips. (I can feel a blast of moisture inside my mouth right now!) For the few moments that these culinary delights stay on my tongue I experience an indescribable bliss.

This season renders me nostalgic and rekindles the memories of my childhood days. Sometimes I picture my mother with her hands dipped in the pakoda batter as I sit perched on the kitchen platform yelling “Why do you have to dip your fingers in this thing? It’s so messy. Why can’t you use a spoon instead?” It has been a couple of years since I last spent a rainy evening with my mother and those delicious pakodas have still not been successfully replicated. I guess you just can’t do it with a spoon. Quite often I reminisce about those carefree days when I used to jump from one puddle to the other, splashing water on either sides each time I did so, much to the chagrin of my mother. Those innumerable games played with friends and siblings will always be etched in my mind. The joy of not attending school on account of a “rainy day” can never be forgotten.

Monsoon is the time when Nature dons its finest attire and glows like a shimmering creek. I find myself awestruck by its charm.

The minuscule drops, the lush green trees, the windy skies- all take on the responsibility of serving mankind. My senses never feel as pampered as they do in the rainy season.

I might crib about the heavy traffic and crowded buses in Bangalore but I can never thank it enough for the beautiful gift it gives me at this time of the year.

The Union…

Seasons have flown away,

And he waits with wishful eyes,

Gazing at the ashen skies,

Each moment of each day.

*

She lingers in a misty cage,

Between the heaven and earth,

Trying to free her stifled mirth,

Which roars in steaming rage.

*

Voila! She finds the door ajar,

And out she comes with glee,

Now she can almost see,

Her love, which once seemed so far.

*

The rain drop gently hits the soil,

And caresses his parched face,

Glued by a tight embrace,

Passion begins to boil.

*

Light cracks in heaven above,

The sky in wonder shouts,

The first blade of green grass sprouts,

And consummates their love.

Battling the Cyber Crisis…

For the past few weeks my inbox has become a cyber junkyard where all the spammers in this world discard their digital waste. Or, may be, all of a sudden the netizens have experienced a very strong attraction towards me given the reference to my slender waist, which, mind you, is not that slender, in one of my previous posts. Anyway, whatever it is that is causing them to follow me wherever I go, just like the Vodafone puppy does and as flattering as it might seem, I wish they will stop being my ardent fans as soon as possible. I am deeply grateful to them for having conferred upon me this celebrity status but these guys should understand that even celebrities need some alone time.

Whenever I visit a website to make an online purchase I always forget to uncheck that little square box which says “Do you wish to receive updates”. My order might take a fortnight to be delivered to my address but it does not take more than a few nanoseconds for their so-called “updates” reach my mailbox. They do offer the me luxury of clicking on the “Unsubscribe” tab but my experiences have convinced me that they generally don’t work. In a few cases I don’t even visit their site to make an online transaction but these lurkers, who might give a few detectives from the Scotland Yard a run for their money, are able to hunt me down. And what comes as a greater surprise to me is that they are able to make my inbox their permanent abode. The spam folder sits silently in one corner waiting for new visitors to arrive.

I have received e-mails that have left me in splits of laughter.

Digilog Systems promise that they will protect my vehicle from theft. Ironical, since I don’t even possess a vehicle which might get stolen.

HDFC Bank thinks that I am one of their bona fide customers who deserves to be pre-approved for a platinum credit card. My current debit card is enough to vandalise my plans to save a few bucks for a secure future. Now these people want a credit card, and a platinum one at that, to give it company!

Naukri.com has never failed to give me my weekly job alerts in spite of the fact that I have never requested its assistance. Has it sensed that my current employers are going to kick me out?

Oureducation.in has decided to give me an honorary MBA degree. Well, after Amitabh Bachchan and M.S. Dhoni who have received such honours it will definitely be Chhavi Kapoor who’ll be remembered for her glorious contribution to the field which I have yet to figure out.

And I can’t even count the number of times I have been selected for a million dollar prize but a rough estimate tells me that the money should be enough to fill a swimming pool sized room in which Uncle Scrooge used to dive.

Anyway, my important e-mails often find themselves buried under a pile of these menacing spam mails and locating them is as herculean a task as finding a needle in a haystack. So, in order to sort things out a little bit and also because I was inspired by a few bloggers who have email IDs dedicated to their blogs, I decided to create one for myself. I went to the “Settings” panel and changed the “Administrator e-mail address”. No sooner did I make the change than my WordPress account went absolutely berserk. Half my updates went to my previous mail address, some of them to my new one and the remaining got lost in the labyrinths of the blogosphere, facing threats from nasty viruses and beastly malwares. Sadly, my question “How to divert post alerts to new e-mail address in WordPress?” met with a plethora a technical jargon on Google.com which did not help me at all. I visited the WordPress forums and tried to seek some help. I made a few more changes in my settings but in the end I was forced to unsubscribe from a few blogs and then re-subscribe to them. (Thankfully, I follow most of the sites through my reader.) Many of you might have received an e-mail saying

“Howdy, Chhavi has just subscribed to your blog. This means they will be notified every time you publish a post. Congratulations”

and wondered “ Wasn’t this pest of a blogger already following me?” Now you have the answer. Please don’t think of me as a psychopathic cyber stalker who follows, re-follows and re-re-follows peoples’ blogs. I can assure you I am quite sane.

I am receiving all the updates now and I hope that things are working fine. However, I am still not certain if my new posts are spamming my beloved readers’ inbox or not 😉 I hope that they are. So, if this post reaches you in good health do let me know.   🙂

Blackout…

I have never been a very prudent user of electricity and have invited the wrath of my granny on multiple occasions. She is immensely chagrined by the fact that I never turn off the light before leaving a room and whenever I am caught red-handed she delivers one of her very famous monologues which briefly summarizes our generation’s total disregard for the fast vanishing natural resources. She narrates tales about her childhood days when people used to make the most of daylight by waking up at the crack of dawn and finishing off all the house hold chores before sunset. Her stories, as inspiring as they might be, have had little effect on me and in-spite my repeated attempts to mend my ways I find myself committing the same mistake over and over again.

The people at the Electricity Board, however, have a totally different way of reminding me that electricity is a prized resource and must be used judiciously. Unlike my granny they don’t unnecessarily rant about it all the time. All they do is pull down “one of those tiny little levers” which cuts off the electricity supply in the area of their choice thereby compelling the residents to live the lives of their grand-parents and great grand-parents for a few hours. The privileged few, ones who have inverters and generators installed in their homes, are spared this trouble leaving commoners like me to rot in boredom and sweat. This vicious trick of theirs, called “power cut”, has wrecked my evenings and nights on countless occasions in the past but the series of events which occurred last Saturday deserve a special mention.

It was one of those doomed Saturday nights when all my friends had abandoned me to gulp down a couple of tequila shots. I could have joined them. I wish I had joined them. But on that particular night the Teetotaler in me suddenly manifested out of nowhere and tried to convince me to stay sober. I was quite surprised. He is a very laid back guy and doesn’t generally do that. On most of the occasions it is the Mild Alcoholic that dominates. 😉 I made an exception that night. Taking the Teetotaler’s advice , I decided to stay in my apartment all by myself, think about some wonderful things and find my inner peace. Little did I know that the members of the Electricity Board had already devised a fool-proof plan to ruin my alone time and put an end to my eternal quest of finding inner peace. 😦

After my friends left I decided to watch a movie on the television. I had barely settled down on the couch with a packet of chips in my right hand and the remote control in the left one when my entire room got plunged into darkness. Instantaneously the idiot box stopped blabbering and my laptop, whose battery had died, followed suit. So, these guys had played a prank on me once again and that too on a Saturday night! Fumes of fury began escape my ears and nose as I cursed the stupid Teetotaler in me for the millionth time. I am pretty sure he is dead by now 😉 The fumes subsided after a while and I made my way towards the kitchen to find a few candles. To my horror only two candles were left and not the big ones that stay alive for a couple of hours; those tiny, scented aroma therapy candles which might help you in spicing up your love life but are lesser than useless when used as source of light.

I am one of those delicate darlings who is afraid of darkness. I was beginning to get scared and desperately needed to talk to someone. So, I picked  up my mobile phone, which was thankfully still conscious, and dialed the toll-free number of Electricity Board. Something crazy had gotten inside my head which told me that our friends in the Electricity Board would make me feel better. A certain gentleman received my call and told me that the connection would be restored “very soon”. I tried to cheer my self up despite knowing the fact that both of us differed greatly on the definition of “very soon”.

There was nothing much I could do at that moment. I lighted those two candles and tried to read a book but after a while my eyes refused to co-operate.

The only option left was sleeping which thankfully does not require any source of illumination. I opened the windows to allow fresh air to enter my room and climbed onto the bed, waiting for twinkling fairies to fill my eyes with pleasant and romantic dreams. But sleep doesn’t come easy when a band of raucous mosquitoes are hell-bent on humming a tune, which sounds like a cross between one of Metallica’s hard rock song and Beethoven’s symphony, in your ears. I could have shooed them away but doesn’t that seem rude? They had clearly hand-picked me to show off their musical skills. And anyway, how many virtuoso musicians go through the trouble of whispering their music right into your auditory canal?

Their concert was clearly not going to end in the coming few hours striking “sleep” off my to-do list. So, I did the next best thing i.e. standing in the balcony, gazing at the star-lit sky, admiring the leaves dancing to the whispers of the wind, drinking the beauty of the shimmering reflection of moonlight in tiny puddles on the road. I won’t deny that the dormant poet in me was beginning to drag its lazy bums off the couch and getting ready for some action but perhaps it got intimidated by the magic that had been created by Mother Nature.

The ambiance was perfect for romance and things would have been totally different had the arms of a big and swarthy hunk been wrapped around my slender waist. Sadly, my sweet-heart was otherwise engaged that night and so were Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.  😉

A few hours passed before the Electricity Board took mercy on me and brought “one of those tiny little levers” back to its original position. My idiot box started giggling but I did not.

My granny might overlook my shortcoming on a few occasions but I know the members of the Electricity Board sure as hell won’t. 😦

P.S. The previous post was published by mistake. Kindly ignore it 🙂

Mumbai and Terror Attacks…

Three serial blasts have rocked Mumbai yet again forcing its inhabitants to relive the trauma which they have experienced on multiple occasions in the past.

Centuries ago, when the Portuguese had set their foot on the land of Bombay, they had called it a ilha da boa vida which translates to “the island of good life” *. They did not have the slightest idea that the very same island, which had attracted travelers from far and wide in search of a better life, would one day be trampled over by a depraved and irreparable race that would resort to any action, no matter how inhumane, to prove their might and superiority. Bombay has always been hailed for its cosmopolitanism. As hard as it might be to believe there was a time when Hindu-Muslim camaraderie was an integral part of the city’s social fabric. Now, this fabric has been torn beyond repair and all that remains are its frayed and pointed ends that prick the city time and again.

Yesterday evening as I was sitting in my living-room watching “Breaking News: Mumbai Hit By Three Bomb Blasts” being flashed on various news channels only three words escaped my mouth- “God! Not again”. Panic-stricken, I made numerous phone calls to my friends and relatives and when the news, that all of them were hale and hearty, poured in I became my usual self.

This morning I had a discussion with colleagues about the current state of affairs in our country and all of us unanimously agreed that it was indeed miserable. Each time such an incident occurs our leaders display a remarkable alacrity to“condemn” or “strongly condemn” these actions. However when it comes to strengthening our intelligence and security system they conveniently take a back seat. But who can blame them? After all, filling up one’s coffer with the nation’s hard-earned money and lodging it safely in tax havens is several orders of magnitude more important than the national security. And anyway,” security” is a term applicable to VIPs only. The hoi polloi can walk around with daggers and swords dangling above their heads. No one really cares. The frequency with which these explosion have occurred over the past few years makes me wonder if a time will come when they’ll become just commonplace events that happen once in a while. The very thought of it makes my soul shiver.

The macabre images of the dead and injured evoke nationwide pathos. Whenever I see  the picture of a one-legged man covered with blood crying in pain I feel I can empathise with him. I feel that I can understand his pain and suffering. But honestly, I know I can’t. For me and all the other people sitting safely in their homes the entire scene can be changed in one second. Whenever the picture gets too gruesome we can easily switch over to the entertainment channel or flip over to page 3 and read about the latest escapades of a Bollywood actress. But for those unlucky souls, who witnessed the incident first hand, their entire life takes a U-turn. Their physical injuries might heal in due course of time but indelible scars are left in their minds.  For those who lose their near and dear ones, no amount of monetary compensation can fill up the newly created void.

The only good that comes out of these incidents is that the faith of the masses in their strength and resilience is reaffirmed. In the past whenever Mumbai has witnessed the face of terror it has not taken more than a day to snap out of fear. The rising sun on the next day fills the people with fresh vigour and vitality which encourages them to move ahead undeterred. The local trains have the usual hustle bustle. No Mumbaikar is ever unnerved by such incidents. Perhaps that’s the reason why Mumbai is still called the city of dreams. A terrorist attack can just stop a handful of Mumbaikars from breathing. But it can never stop them from dreaming .

*  Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash