Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Evil That Men Do...



I find it difficult to breathe today... I have been trying to stem the anguish within my heart over the past twenty-four hours ever since I heard of the Chennai horror story of a tiny little girl having been brutalized and gang-raped by twenty-two monsters. To call them animals would be doing animals an injustice, for they could never stoop to these levels of degradation.

My heart aches because, till November 19th, 2017, I lived in the same apartment in Chennai, a space which I considered a haven of peace, where children of all age groups played and lived in perfect harmony. We would smile in pride when we watched children playing basketball and cycling in the evenings. Mothers would hold their toddlers by the hand and walk around the building, often sitting in the children’s park when out of breath.
It was assumed that the building had all the facilities required for a life of ease – well-maintained lifts, electricians and plumbers on call, an office that looked into every requirement of the dwellers, and above all, an efficient security agency that had a plethora of security men who were there in case of every contingency.

Nothing could go wrong, it seemed, in such enviable surroundings.

The horror unfolded two days ago on national television, a ghastly litany of gang rape, drug abuse and sexual violence, at the centre of which was a tender life that had been brutalized by twenty-two monsters, from the ages of 66 to 23. Each of them was an employee working in the apartment, all wolves in sheep’s clothing.

My heart sank further when I saw their photographs. I knew many of these men.

The genial lift guy who would sing out ‘Good Morning’ with a cheery smile
The prompt electricians who would walk in to repair tube lights and fans, whenever a complaint was lodged
The polite water suppliers who carried cans of water and came in to place them in the kitchen
The extra friendly security chief who sat at the gate and waved his hand every time he saw me

I stared at all their faces in the photograph on television, in which the word ‘ACCUSED” was written in letters of blood red.

These were the men all of us living in the apartment had trusted implicitly. After all, weren’t they the ones who were posted there to keep us safe?
Men in their sixties, fifties, forties, thirties and twenties... predators, vampires, beasts... RAPISTS!
Thank God there were no juveniles who would have got away, scot-free.
It was almost as if a common voice had whispered in their tainted minds, “Be the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.”

What is it we want for these rapists? Castration? Hanging until death? Or a living death that condemns them to a life of pain and agony? How can we sit back and let little children suffer such heinous attacks, again and again? Isn’t it time our country had laws that were strong enough to act as deterrents? The gang rape in Delhi sent shock waves throughout the country, enough to amend the law. But has anything changed at all? Rapes are still happening with impunity, and rapists continue to terrorize children and women, confident that they have enough time on their side to be able to live a full and fruitful life, before the law takes them in hand, if at all. Babies, adolescents, teenagers, young and old women – no one is safe from these predators. After all, India has been labelled the most unsafe country for women in the world. And no one cares a fig!

What has happened in this apartment building is something that all of us need to think about. Despite CCTV cameras all around, this gang of men still managed to pull off a crime this terrible, this unforgivable. Not one of them stopped to think of how they would have reacted if this had happened to their own children. It is these kinds of incidents that bring home the fact that danger lurks not only outside, but within the safe confines of one’s own home environment. It has become mandatory for parents and teachers to insist that their little charges know, not only about safe and unsafe touches, but about the possibility of predators all around them. We all need to hammer this idea into the heads of our little ones, and look out for every tiny sign of discomfort that could give us hints and clues of abuse, sexual or otherwise. 

Today, the ladies in the apartment have come out of their homes and are manning the main gates, barring the entry of visitors. They are badly shaken, being mothers of young ones themselves, but are determined to stay on at their posts and fight this out to its inevitable conclusion. In their hearts, every child needs to be protected; they weep for the little one who was violated. It is for them, and for every single one of us, to explain to our children, in no uncertain terms, that the world is no longer a safe place.

For in the words of ex-President Barack Obama, “This is our first task – caring for our children. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we’ll be judged.”









Sunday, July 15, 2018

Spotlight: Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral


Dear Friends,

Kiran Manral is a well-known Indian author who has written a number of books that have captured the pulse of readers everywhere. Her latest book, Missing, Presumed Dead, is a psychological thriller. The cover and the title speak for themselves.





                                                                   PRESS RELEASE

                                                                         Amaryllis
                                               an imprint of 
                                          Manjul Printing House

                                                                        presents
                                a must read psychological thriller
                                                                                 by
Kiran Manral

“A gripping and sinister tale. Kiran Manral holds you with every page.”
- Ashwin Sanghi

Missing, Presumed Dead is a disturbing look into a broken marriage that has been torn apart by emotional distance and mental illness. The book takes us down scary pathways where we are forced to reckon with ugly truths about love and death, and the loss of everything we hold dear—including ourselves. The novel is a mystery cum drama, packed with all the elements that make a thriller.

The reader is left to keep guessing till the very last page!

Blurb:

In a dysfunctional marriage, it may seem convenient when the wife commits suicide, but things aren’t always what they seem...
Battling both a fractured marriage and the monsters in her cranium, Aisha leads a sequestered life on the outskirts of a bustling tourist town in the hills of North India. She struggles to stay functional, and tries to wean herself off the pills that keep her from tipping over the edge. Prithvi, the husband she loved once, seems as eager to be rid of her, as she is to flee from him. Only her children keep her tethered to her hearth.
One rainy afternoon, the last thing Aisha expects to see is a younger version of herself at the door. It is Aisha’s half-sister, Heer, her father’s illegitimate daughter from another woman. Despite her misgivings, Aisha lets her into the house, and she stays over. Two days later, Aisha goes into town and never returns. Seemingly unperturbed, Heer slips into her missing sister’s shoes effortlessly, taking charge of the house, the kids, and even Prithvi, who responds to her overtures willingly.
 A note found in Aisha’s wallet states that she has taken her own life, though strange happenings leave plenty of room for doubt. But, if she is not dead, where is Aisha? Is she really dead? Did she commit suicide as the note found in her wallet states? Has she been abducted, run away or in hiding? Why does Prithvi not grieve for his deceased wife? And why does Heer walk out of the house one fine day, leaving no forwarding address?
As it examines the destruction a dystopian marriage and mental illness leave in their wake, Missing, Presumed Dead brings us face to face with the fragility of relationships, the ugly truths about love and death, and the horrifying loss of everything we hold dear, including ourselves.
About the author:

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective, in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Saving Maya; horror with The Face at the Window and nonfiction with Karmic Kids, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and True Love Stories. Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey and Boo. 
She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and was a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) supported by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella, Saving Maya, was longlisted for the 2018 Saboteur Awards, UK, supported by the Arts Council England.

For interviews, reviews and excerpts please call or email:
Megha Parmar, 9711404608, meghaparmar@manjulindia.com


PB | Fiction | 268 pp | Rs 350






Excerpt 2

Missing, Presumed Dead

She remembered that she hadn't taken her medication that morning. Had she taken it the previous day? She couldn't remember. If she skipped it for too many days, the red curtain of rage dropped over her eyes, making her lash out at whatever came before her. She had tried to do without it earlier. Sometimes it worked well, and at others, it didn't. She found herself falling swiftly into the trapeze of mood swings, without warning. Sometimes the children bore the brunt of her unannounced rage. She could see herself reflected in their eyes, a feral creature, when they began backing away from her, fear flooding their hearts. If she could find the strength, she would hold herself back, walk towards the kitchen and start cleaning up. It soothed her. She would clean and scrub and scour till her fingers bled. It kept her calm. Sometimes she wasn't quick enough and the rage would take over, and she would fling and break things. The kids would flee to their rooms and lock themselves in, trembling at the monster unleashed from within their normally placid mother. It happened rarely, now that she had the medication to keep her brain chemicals on a leash. Prithvi was the only person who could manage her when this happened. Managing her sometimes meant that she woke up to a bruise on her face and no idea how it had come about. They circled each other like gladiators in a ring, terrified to give an inch or lose their lives. Their weapons were words that slashed, stabbed and eviscerated the soul.

Prithvi was careworn now, like Aisha was. She kept away from him and he from her. The mattress of their bed sagged at the sides. They slept, backs turned towards each other, at the edge. That succinctly defined their life together, a careful negotiation of treacherously demarcated territory that neither dared cross. A no man's permafrost of land in their bed, between their bodies, the bone-numbing chill taking up the space, where love had disappeared.





Do read the book and post your reviews at Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you. 




When Padma Bani Paula by Anupama Jain



The quaint cover of ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ gives a whiff of the story that unfolds within the book, with a pack of interesting characters that lead the story on to its not-so-inevitable conclusion.

Padma Luxmi, the unabashed heroine, moves on from her South Indian roots replete with conservative ‘pavdas’ and jasmine strands to an exciting life that she considers her due. Having always hated her name, she is elated when her boss, Saugata Bose, gives her the trendy moniker of ‘Paula’. The book traces the growth of Padma to Paula, as she traverses along a path, at times thorny, at others pleasurable.

Padma grows up in an atmosphere where Nanna and Amma, her parents, enjoy a “comforting silence after a shared laugh over the silliness of their children.” She has a bitter-sweet relationship with them and her mother sums her up rather aptly when she calls her “a rebel without a cause” always hankering after what she cannot have. Her younger brother, Krishna, is, as most of his species, mostly indifferent, but surprisingly mature when he senses a crisis in her life.

Padma’s parents urge her to work towards a career, and a thriving one at that, a desire that strikes a chord within her. It is in college that she falls headlong in love with the flamboyant Rohit Malhotra, and ends up “metamorphosing from a rough, unpolished diamond to a sparkling one.” Varun RaiChand also enters the fringes of her life, albeit unnoticed by Padma, only to emerge later in her life.

When heartbreak follows, she rises like the proverbial phoenix, picking up the pieces of her life to emerge stronger than ever. A dichotomy now takes over, as she makes a success of her career, and yet, is torn between two suitors who woo her ardently. It is to author Ms. Jain’s credit that she does not divulge the identity of the lucky man till the last page.

Anupama Jain is most known for her sparkling sense of humour, and there are instances in the book when this flair comes through, whether it is in the myriad nicknames that describe the lesser characters, like Heartthrob Hunk, Roving Eye or the formidable Mrs. Meddlesome, who “seemed to have discovered the colour fuchsia, with a veritable vengeance” and “overflowed the tiny lift cubicle.” One particular turn of phrase that evokes a smile is the description of Padma’s music-loving roomie who thought 6 am was late morning and sang “as if a pack of hyenas were stretching their vocal cords, turned on by the cool bracing morning air, audience preferences be damned.”

A colloquial writing style coupled with words and phrases that are used by the modern generation make this book uniquely different from most others. It is also a tale of second chances, where, in Paula’s words, “She tried, she made mistakes, she fell down, she got up, she dusted herself, and she walked again. Wasn’t that the way the brave or fortune hunters lived?” A philosophy that gets repeated over and over again in many a book!




Buying Link:
https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07C7RJCWQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1



Monday, June 25, 2018

Lolita by Rubina Ramesh





In the words of the talented Rubina Ramesh herself, "This story has been with me for a long time. I think from my school days itself. The life of an actress who comes from a very conservative family. What will be her thought process? How will she adjust to the Bollywood lifestyle? Is she really what she is portrayed to be?  Slowly Lolita has become someone I myself want to meet one day. She is a diva. Larger than life. Yet, she is searching for only one thing - true love."




Print Length: 246 pages
Publisher: Indie published
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
Available on Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Romance

Love or Stardom? Was there even a doubt what Lolita wanted?
Though what Lolita wanted and what she got were two different things. When notoriety, that came along with fame, was too much for her to bear, she seeks refuge in the luscious greens of Panchgani.
But a chance accident changes her life forever…
Advait Rana was a workaholic and a single dad. And balancing the two roles was not easy. The guilt of neglecting his 10-year-old, motherless child made him decide to become a better father than he was. Taking a leave of absence from his work, he heads towards Panchgani little knowing that fate had some other plans for him.
A chance accident that changes his life forever…
Born in simplicity, shunned for her ambition by her family, shamed for her choice in men, Lolita is exactly the kind of woman Advait doesn’t want his daughter to be acquainted with. Little does he know that it is this attitude of his which makes him a target for the darling of the silver screen.
For she was born to win over hearts!!!

Editorial Review #1
From Sundari Venkatraman, Bestselling Author of Tied In Knots and many more:
“With an unapologetically badass heroine and a super-hot dude who loves his little daughter more than anything else in the world, Lolita makes for an unputdownable romance; not to miss some truly hot scenes."

Note from the Author:
This is a standalone novel and is not carried over to the next part.
It would be great if you can add this book to your TBR



Rubina Ramesh is an avid reader, writer, blogger, book reviewer and marketer. She is the founder of The Book Club, an online book publicity group. Her first literary work was published in her school magazine. It gave her immense pride to see her own name at the bottom of the article. She was about 8 years old at that time. She then went to complete her MBA and after her marriage to her childhood friend, her travel saga started. From The Netherlands to the British Isles she lived her life like an adventure. After a short stint in Malaysia, she finally settled down in the desert state of USA, Arizona. Living with her DH and two human kids and one doggie kid, Rubina has finally started living the life she had always dreamed about – that of a writer.
You can stalk her @
   
Grab Your Copy From

This Tour is Hosted by
We Promote So That You Can Write

Sunday, May 27, 2018

KADAM CHHOTA, CHANGE BADA

THE MIRACLE AROUND THE CORNER!




God and I have this wonderful relationship.  I imagined that just before I was born, He said, “Let there be light!” When I appeared, my parents named me Deepti, which means ‘light’ in Sanskrit.

My grandparents were religious to the core and they had this huge pooja room filled with idols of all shapes and sizes. My personal favourite was the pot-bellied Elephant God who was an ally in arms, and a tall blue Krishna who stood in a glass case, with a friendly smile on His face.

My parents were never temple-goers, but they made sure that they never harmed a fly, a philosophy which implied that God resided in every creature. Maybe Mom was not too fond of lizards, but she only kept well away from them.




My husband being an Army officer, we found ourselves celebrating every festival with equal fervour.  We would immerse Ganeshas, light lamps, eat delicious langar at gurudwaras, and meditate in silence within the cool interiors of beautiful churches, finding joy in every moment of the festival. The festival of colour, Holi, would find us cavorting in tubs brimming with coloured water, and Id would consist of mutton biryani that melted in the mouth. Christmas was the time for gifts and Santa’s visits, when we would regale our neighbours with carols and stuff ourselves with cake and mouth-watering snacks.

Thus, what happened one day did not surprise me or my husband. We were going for a stroll in the Cantonment with our five-year-old daughter. Shady trees lined both sides of the road, and it was a pleasant, balmy walk. There was a temple ahead and as we crossed it, the little one slowed down. We turned around, only to see her standing in front of the temple, and smiled as she prayed with her eyes closed tight, her little lips muttering something. As we looked on, she opened her eyes, made the sign of the cross and then walked towards us.




For a moment, we were both stunned. Here was a little girl who, with one tiny gesture, had established that God is one, whether He dwells in a temple, a church, a mosque or a gurudwara. With one small step, she had broken through the centuries of orthodoxy that dictated which deity belonged to which religion, and proved to us that it only takes one little step to create a mighty ripple of change.

If an innocent child could understand this mighty truth, I wonder why so many educated and sensible people fail to do so.

Every change begins with a small step, whether it is a change within your own family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. 



For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.


#PadmanOnZee5

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

HAPPY IS AS HAPPY DOES!

MOTHER'S DAY CONTEST - #HappyStartsWithMe





How good a Mom am I? 

Never once, over the decades, have I asked myself this question for there are no clear-cut guidelines on the path a perfect mom is expected to traverse. Are there flowers on the sides of the path? Is one expected to smell the roses, even as one juggles a baby on one’s hip? Is there a signpost that proclaims, ‘This way to Happiness?’ Or is it just a question of venturing along the road not taken to make a choice that makes all the difference?

I was twenty-four when I had my one and only offspring – a daughter who brought sunshine into our lives and mischief into our hours. My husband and I were thrilled and decided to be hands-on parents, refusing to take Dr. Spock’s advice overmuch. Luckily, Daddy dear was as enthusiastic as I was, and we took turns at night to tend the baby, a process which left both of us droopy-eyed in the morning, yet strangely satisfied that we were doing things together. It was a period of completeness, and it was heartwarming to see how the babe managed to twist her father around her little finger.



Of course, there were moments of extreme alarm, like the time we were having lunch and our boisterous Labrador came tearing into the dining room, barking for all he was worth. “Bozo, pipe down! What’s wrong?” had no effect on him as he kept tearing in and out of the room. When we rushed in to investigate, we were horrified to find the little one on the floor, having fallen off the bed.

That did dampen our enthusiasm a trifle, but God was in His heaven and luckily, she was not hurt. Later in life, she broke a number of bones, including her collarbone and a couple of ribs, had a knee that slid in and out with ease, and many other trysts with pain, but she proved to be a tough little cookie through it all.

As she grew, I experimented with her diet, tasting various mixtures, some of which were tasteless, others which I was tempted to gobble down myself. Today, looking back at the number of moms who incessantly complained that their babies were picky eaters, I think we were just lucky. Our little one was quite the foodie.

I still remember how I would sing to her and talk to her the entire time I was bathing her. Maybe, that was the reason why she began to talk early enough, and there was none of the baby prattle and mushy language that was enough to turn our stomachs. As Peggy O’ Mara once said, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”



Another beautiful quote that resonated in my heart was by Craig D. Lounsbrough. "Whether you've ever considered it or not, you're an author. And the stories that you write are penned across the hearts of your children. Therefore, be careful with the pen because you're writing on some very precious paper."

My husband being an Army officer, we had wheels under our feet. Two years in one house, and there we would start feeling the urge to move. The little one loved to meet new people, see new places and enjoy all the wonderful phases that the Army led us through.

School was a whole new kettle of fish. Our little Missy gave her first speech at the tender age of four when she was in the Nursery and had to say five lines about Chacha Nehru on Children’s Day. From then on, till the time she was in the twelfth standard, she enjoyed participating in elocution and declamation contests where she held her own with ease.

Another trait of hers that warmed the cockles of our hearts was that she got along with just everyone – child and adult – and won accolades for being a well behaved young child. 
However, we were relieved to see that she did have her moments of mischief which reassured us, for we had no intention of bringing up a prim and proper little lady who did not have a backbone of her own. That backbone of hers is legendary, thank God...




Life has had its moments, its ups and downs, times when money was scarce and pockets were empty. However, we took those times in our stride as a family, and smiled and cried through them, surviving the worst, and laughing at the rainbows that appeared after every storm.




 That is when I realized that we had never judged ourselves on how good we were as parents. There was no index against which we marked our degrees of excellence as nurturers. Were we good parents? I had no idea. Were we happy parents? We certainly were.




 These are rhetorical questions at the moment. It would be presumptuous of us to preen and pat ourselves on the back. Which reminds me of a quote that always makes me smile.



However, when we look at our daughter, who is herself a mom today to an exuberant two-year-old, we both smile with immense pride, as we see her walking in our footsteps. She and her husband are hands-on parents too, choc-a bloc-with good common sense. The only difference is that while we depended on Mother Nature and our instincts to bring up our daughter, she is a well-read mom who seems to know everything about everything as far as her little one goes.

“The old order changeth giving place to new...,” as Tennyson so poignantly put it.  Today, when we look at the little world that encompasses us, populated by the people we love, and the changes that have come our way, all we can do is lift up our hearts in gratitude and say, “We may be good or not, but yes, we are happy.”





Monday, April 30, 2018

Zeal - Virtue or Folly?





One of the first quotes I knew by heart was the one by Emerson which went, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Was it for an essay or an article, I do not remember. This post almost wrote itself, as I substituted the word 'enthusiasm' for the world 'zeal', this being the last post in the A to Z Challenge.


It is as I grew up further that I heard the phrase "where angels fear to tread", which meant that while it was wonderful to be enthusiastic, it was folly to take that one step further and turn into an over-eager beaver, akin to a busybody.






"Never let your zeal outrun your charity. The former is but human, the latter is divine."
Hosea Ballou

Thus, while being zealous is a virtue, there are occasions when one needs to keep it in check, lest it turn into fanaticism.



Youth Has No Age





The above quote resonates in my heart. "Youth has no age." The words ring so true, echoing the other axiom that you are as old as you feel.

"Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who sees the ability to see beauty never grows old."
Franz Kafka





Youth is also the time when one can take chances, run risks and do everything that one ever desired to do.

"Youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other to try the manners of other nations; to hear the chimes at midnight; to see the sunrise in town and country; to be converted at a revival; to circumnavigate the metaphysics, write halting verses, run a mile to see a fire, and wait all day in the theatre to applaud Hernani."
Robert Louis Stevenson



"Youth is not a question of years: one is young or old from birth."
Natalie Clifford Barney

There is no need to fear the phenomenon of growing old, according to the American poet, Walt Whitman.

"Youth, large, lusty, loving - Youth full of force, fascination. Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?"
Walt Whitman




The concept of youth is often amusingly put across by famous writers.



So, keep smiling, and stay young!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Xenophobia




What exactly is Xenophobia?



As the world gets to be a smaller place, connected as we all are through the Internet and social media, there seems to be a rise in the phenomenon of xenophobia, a fear or hatred of foreigners, or people who are different from us, culturally and otherwise. This has led to feelings of mistrust, hatred and discrimination leading to violence and warfare in many parts of the world.



It takes only a weapon and a heart filled with hatred for a man to exhibit symptoms of xenophobia.



In fact, xenophobia is most rampant against the weak, because they cannot stand up against it, maybe due to lack of strength or economic resources.




Racism and xenophobia spawned slavery, a practice which tacitly approved of human beings being subservient to races that considered themselves superior and more powerful.


The venerable Desmond Tutu offered a solution when he spoke of every person doing his bit of good for it is all those pieces of good put together that overwhelm the world. Nelson Mandela built up on that when he suggested that if people can learn to hate, they can also be taught to love.



If only the whole world could come together in love and happiness, it would be a much better place to live in. It is for our politicians, our statesmen, our educationists and for each one of us to turn into citizens of the world and bring down all the barriers of racism and xenophobia that divide us.




The Evil That Men Do...

I find it difficult to breathe today... I have been trying to stem the anguish within my heart over the past twenty-four hours ever si...