Monday, October 29, 2018

HOW DO I DO? When Marriages are not Made in Heaven - Asha Iyer Kumar

How does the memory of a ‘reverie that had once set his youth on fire?’ come back to an old man? ‘Why did the dream materialise again after years in hibernation?’

When Madhavan Nair’s obsession goes beyond limits, his parents get him married to Rajam, the daughter of a relative. How does he reconcile between the woman of his dreams and the woman in his home in the story titled ‘Calendar Girl’?
‘Chandrika soon became an obsession swathed in mystery.’

Madhavan Nair reminisces over his mundane life with his inelegant wife, Rajam, a woman he has never been in love with. He has learnt to live with his wife and children, but with the recurrence of the dream, he is forced to linger on the thoughts of the woman of his dreams, and the ‘vestiges of an old, gnawing sense of deprivation’ begin to pierce his heart all over again.

Do separation and unfamiliarity lead to apprehension in a marriage? How do long-distance marriages survive? After three years of being apart, does a marriage turn incompatible? Or does the fire get rekindled? These are the questions that worry Nirmal, the protagonist of the second story titled ‘Something In Between’. His wife, Veena and he are a pair of perfect parallel lines, each veering off in a different direction. He is shocked when she throws the following sentence at him with utter casualness.
‘Okay, in that case I guess we will have to live with our differences, though that leaves our living together open to questions.

 Nirmal experiences a sense of serenity away from his wife. His mother is his confidant, the one who gives him marital advice and strives to rekindle his relationship with his wife in various ways, a wise lady with immense capacity ‘to adopt everyone despite their flaws.’
In ‘Let Things Be’, a son watches his father go to prison, a disgraced man, and wonders how his mother could continue to care for him. His grandparents disown their son-in-law, branding him a man who has given them much sadness. The son lives out his entire life wondering whether his Appa would ever come back to him. His mother, however, has this ‘unique sea-like quality’ and carries ‘a facade that weathered all her internal storms.’ She cares for him deeply, and encourages him to be strong, saying, “Sometimes you have to be brave enough to do what your heart says.”

As an adult, he ponders over various questions. Had his mother ever fallen out of love with his father? Why did she take the decisions she did in life? What were his feelings towards his father?

The three stories in this novella are bound together as they examine the complexities of marital ties. No marriage is ever the same, and no two people react in the same manner in the face of adversity. The adage of marriages being made in heaven seems a mere misnomer as it is on the face of the earth that problems are thrashed out and often, couples strive to get along, even if they are incompatible.

Asha Iyer Kumar examines three different cases, and convinces the reader that marriages have to be worked on with diligence and patience. She has an easy style that hooks the reader, as her stories deal with the resolution of conflict, followed by acceptance. What makes these stories believable is the fact that these dilemmas could appear in any marriage in a world where the institution of marriage is also taking a beating. The author shows no inclination to soften the blow.

As the saying goes,
“A relationship is like a house. When a light bulb burns out you do not go and buy a new house, you fix the light bulb.”

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Love.Exe by Manju Nambiar

A Sweet Romantic Comedy Making You Fall in Love

Love.Exe opens with the protagonist, Nitya Balakrishnan, being accepted into the prestigious Stanford University for a fully funded graduate programme. She is elated, and all set to live her dreams in the USA. However, her mother, who is a soap drama addict, offers the most ludicrous reasons to dissuade her from going so far away from home.
“She was a drama queen at home. She cried at the drop of a hat, whimpered, sobbed and used strong theatrical words to express herself.”

There is an undercurrent of good humour that runs through the book, whether it deals with references to Nitya’s older cousin sisters, who had taken “literature and commerce respectively,” “had got married at the age of twenty-one,” and “which to my mother was the shortcut to a blissful life.”

The chapter names read like a synopsis of the book, peppered with interesting details that allow the reader a glimpse into what lies ahead.

Just as Nitya is getting set for her US movie, a tsunami of sorts visits their home in the form of Janaki Aunty who has come to “see” her for her son, Ganapaty. After an interesting meeting where the visitor polishes off all the snacks provided for her, Nitya is determined not to say “Yes” to marriage. However, her first meeting with the aforesaid Ganapaty makes her change her mind, and within a week they get engaged.

A gaggle of well-meaning aunts lands up to give Nitya amusing dollops of advice on marriage and how to manage her in-laws, advice that she ignores with a smile, determined to live her own life the way she thinks fit.

Suddenly, Nitya’s life takes an unexpected turn and she has to make a choice between marriage and Stanford. Luckily for her, her parents support her dreams and she makes her way to San Francisco. Stanford welcomes her in as she slowly gets used to the American way of doing things. She does get a jolt when she realises that her roommate is male, and even more so when he gets himself a beau. As the assignments get tougher, she tried to keep afloat, and on Valentine’s Day, she finds herself stuck with no date, a fraudulent project mate, a stern professor and a touch of flu.

However, soon after, even before she graduated, Nitya soon lands a dream job with Yahoo. She also clears her driving test after six arduous attempts under Andy’s patient tutelage. After a four-week holiday in Kerala, she gets back to the US to take up her new job.
Is it fate that makes Ganapaty come back into her life? When he takes care of her when she is under the weather, she begins looking at him in a different manner. “Was I beginning to accept him into my life or was I just relieved to know that he was doing okay and was back in office?”

However, what was the alluring Cici doing in Ganapaty’s life? What are Nitya’s feelings about their friendship? Has she successfully managed to install the programme of falling in love, truly, madly and deeply? Would she be able to forget how Ganapaty had jilted her years ago? These questions and many other get resolved by the end of this enjoyable romance.

Manju Nambiar has an easy conversational style that makes the reader smile. Nowhere does a feeling of strain come in as her writing flows on, with little hints of suspense and a wonderful comic timing that act as the perfect foil to the sweet little romance that meanders through the narrative.

This is an ideal book for one who wants a light, engaging read.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Loudmouths in Public Spaces

                                                                        Deviant Art

Noise pollution is a word much bandied about in a world that is being suffocated by all kinds of pollution. Our roads are clogged with traffic, where drivers relentlessly blow horns, even as helpless pedestrians look around for an inch of space to walk on. Brakes squeal, auto drivers skid all over the place and irate commuters give in to temper tantrums in the middle of the road, giving rise to more mayhem than ever.

Imagine a scenario when you are travelling along, listening to FM Radio, where a well-modulated voice tells you to sit back and enjoy your drive. “Take deep breaths, and keep your eyes on the road...!” Just as you are being lulled to a drowsy feeling of wellness, a bike swerves right in front, causing you to slam on your brakes with a jerk. “What a jerk!” is the thought that shoots through your shaken brain, pun definitely intended.

The unkindest cut comes when the said bike driver shakes a clenched fist at you, and screams, “Crazy, are you? Can’t you see where you’re going?” It is time to get out of the car, point an accusing finger and scream back in a louder and more impressive tone. “Who are you calling crazy? Weren’t you the idiot who jumped in front of my car?” Noise pollution, indeed! By then, an interested crowd would have formed, eyes alive with curiosity, and heads that swerve from side to side almost akin to watching a tennis match.

                                                                  Mitchell Hadley

Perhaps, we are a loud nation in our own right. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones, it is said. However, people who live in apartments should not throw their voices around either. I had gone to a friend’s house on the third floor and in the midst of an entertaining conversation, I suddenly heard loud chanting from the distance. At my look of askance, my friend grinned, saying, “Oh, that gentleman lives on the ground floor and he and his wife have regular arguments, which are audible to the entire lot of people living here.” 

“Doesn’t it bother you?” I couldn’t help asking.

“Well, it did at the beginning. Now, we have got used to it. When you can’t avoid it, enjoy it!” Her breezy answer made me smile.

Just last week, my husband and I went to a restaurant for lunch. Since we were a trifle early, the place was empty. As I sipped my lime-mint cooler, glancing at the menu, I suddenly heard a loud voice barking orders. When we looked around, a man was striding in, talking in hands-free mode, giving instructions to some unfortunate soul who had awoken his ire, or so it seemed. The voice reverberated through the silent interior, broke into our eardrums and shattered the peace that we had been enjoying. I could hardly hear myself speak, and my husband looked pointedly at the man who had by now sat down. There were two chartered accountants whom he was interviewing for a job in Mumbai and by the end of the conversation, I could myself have applied for the job, so ear-piercing were his questions.
The two applicants were obviously softer, and answered to the point, even as the foghorn kept talking to them, and into his phone. 

There was a pause as they began to eat, and then the voice said, cutting through the silence once again, “You have seen how I address you, right?” I don’t know what came over me, for right in the split silence that followed, I replied, “Very loudly!” Though I was not loud, the retort came out clearer than I had expected it to, and I could imagine shock-waves going through the minds of three men.

The silence that followed was such a relief. Obviously, the man was too shell-shocked to react, and the silence continued till the end of his meal, and ours.


What is the psyche behind using public spaces as one’s personal space? Why do people behave as though they have never used mobile phones in their lives, as they shout into them, almost causing ear drums around to crack in protest? I can only imagine the effect they have on the hapless souls listening to them at the other end. These foghorns barge into spaces, their voices entering the room before them, and the whole world is forced to eavesdrop unwillingly as they wax eloquent about their personal lives, their myriad achievements, the assets they own (apart from a particularly invasive voice) and salacious gossip.


The other irritant is when a rooster crows, loud and clear, in a cinema theatre or a hall where an event is taking place. Despite every MC worth his salt reminding folks to turn off their mobiles well before the start, there will be one or two uncaring souls who do not do so. In the midst of an interesting discussion on stage or a lively scene being enacted, the rooster will keep crowing at intervals, and the owners will have the cheek to pick up their calls and shout, drowning the voices on stage. Talk about having the hide of a rhinoceros!  Hisses and boos follow, as heads swerve and gimlet-stares do little to allay the situation. The rhinoceros continues, little realising that if looks could kill, he would be a heap of cinders on the floor at that moment.


                                                        Life's Journey to Perfection

A few commandments to be followed:

1.      Do not assume that you are the only person in the world.
2.      Do not assume that the whole world is interested in you.
3.      The mobile phone does not keep you alive; your breaths do.
4.      Keep your phones on silent mode in public spaces that demand silence.
5.      Only stage actors need to throw their voices across the room.
6.      Do not behave like a star player, even if Shakespeare did say that all men and women are merely players. He did not mean it in the way it is being taken today.
7.      Respect every person’s personal space. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
8.      Finally, keep your decibel levels under control, whatever the provocation. You may love your voice; others might not.

After all, who was it who said, “There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict? Walk away; the battle they are fighting isn’t with you, it is with themselves.”  


                                                                  Delightful quotes

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Destiny's Girl


 “You are Destiny’s girl, born for fame!” smiled Maya’s mother, looking at her perfect little bundle of joy. As Maya grew up, she excelled at everything – academics, sports and the arts. Her parents were proud of her, and spared no expense on her education. 

When Maya started winning prizes in various singing contests, her parents hired the best music teacher in the country. She had the voice of an angel, and when she sang, it was as if the world itself paused to hear her sing. Her teacher taught her all she knew, her heart swelling with pride when she heard Maya sing. Each note was perfect, the melody unbroken!


It was when Maya was in college that she got a scholarship to one of the most prestigious universities in America to further study music. It was a dream come true for her and her parents.

“Ma, I will miss you and Papa so much!” she sighed. There was just a week left for her to leave and her heart was torn in two directions. She was looking forward to her new life, and all the wonderful music that awaited her there. However, she knew she would miss her family, her friends, and most of all, Krish, who had just come into her life around six months ago. He had been in the first row when she was singing at a contest, and she had been aware of the slim, handsome boy who had not taken his eyes off her from the moment she had begun to sing.

They had become friends right away. Krish would tease her unmercifully about her parents’ pride in her. “Destiny’s girl! Of course, you are! Only child and all that!” Maya’s parents were also fond of him, and he had become a regular visitor at their home.

In his own way, he was also proud of her. It showed in the way he took care of her when they were together, and in his possessiveness when any other man looked at her with admiration. Soon their feelings for each other grew stronger and as the day for her departure came closer, their hearts broke at the thought of being away for months at a time.
Krish walked into the drawing room where Maya’s parents sat watching television. Maya had left a week ago, and he knew how much they missed her.

Two Years Later:

Krish walked into the drawing room where Maya’s parents sat watching television.   He knew how much they missed her. Two years had gone by since Maya had first gone to America. He remembered the day he had walked in and watched television with the older couple, so that they would not miss her too much. He shuddered as the scene came back to him... the shooting at Maya’s university, the lone gunman who had emptied bullets into a defenceless crowd who had gathered to watch a concert.

Maya’s garlanded portrait smiled down at him from the wall.

Monday, October 1, 2018


The beginning is most unexpected... a startled Krish finds “a bag of bones… with acres of long straight hair cascading across” landing on him, followed by a cascading branch that smacks him on the head and renders him unconscious. This is enough to make the reader realise that this is no ordinary love story, but a tale filled with adventure and twists. After all, an attractive girl being referred to as “a bag of bones” and “a flying missile with those large eyes” is certainly no ordinary start for romance. Nor is “Peter Pan in the living room”, as Krish refers to Max who had only responded to a dare issued by his younger sibling, Aditya.

Max goes through a gamut of emotions as she deals with the enraged Krish who apparently hates hospitals. They part on an amicable note, but Krish’s hackles go up all over again when he finds out that she is Maxine Sheridan, a star vintage car restorer, especially as he had plans to get his vintage MG TG restored. The plus point is the amazing home-cooked stew that Mr. Brian Sheridan, her father, had offered him and his younger sister, Pooja.

However, Max is finally given the chance to restore the beloved vintage car that had been the pride and joy of Krish’s father. She is propelled into the family circle of the three men and their young sister, Pooja, who is instinctively drawn towards the newcomer. As little pieces of the jigsaw come together, the enigma that is Krish becomes clearer. However, there are moments of animosity which come on almost without a warning.

“The only thing keeping her from pulling back herself had been the desperate affection of a little girl who seemed for some strange reason to have taken a shine to her and the inexplicable attraction she felt for an aggravating man she barely understood.”

Some poignant moments make their way into the reader’s heart – the value of the car being restored by Max in which Krish’s parents had courted, how the children had always been much-loved and how the loss of their parents had torn the family apart. Krish comes across as the staunch elder brother who wants to put together memories for his siblings, especially for his little sister, Pooja, a man who sacrificed his own ambitions to provide a home to his younger siblings. His siblings are a handful; Pooja is a brat, and Adi a man who still behaves like a boy. Chirag is the sane one who offers Krish support when he comes apart at the seams.

“Steady, decent, reliable and with so much love inside him for the people who mattered to him.” That is Max’s assessment of Krish, who, on his part, has a more romantic image of Max in his mind.

“Rainbows. The wild, vibrant colour in them that streams out of sunlight watered down by rain.”

Max comes across as a feisty woman with a clear head on her shoulders, a fact that Krish realises when she offers him a fresh perspective on how to deal with recalcitrant factory workers.

While romance plays a stellar part in the book, there are instances of real humour that bring a smile to the face. Ms. Suraj has an amusing way with words that brings amusing incidents alive.
“And then the caterwauling started. Wondering if there was a sea of alcohol to drown in, Krish kept his face carefully blank. Fifteen cats slowly being strangled would have been more in tune than the five people in front of him.”

The day comes when Krish finally turns into Max’s ‘relationship person’, a moment that has been long in the coming because of Krish’s overweening protectiveness of his family.

Shilpa Suraj has a writing style that glides along without a break. Not once does the reader feel a jarring note that derails the rhythm and this, perhaps, along with the lighter moments and the heady romance scenes are what makes this book an equally heady read.

Shilpa Suraj

was a year and a half when she was first introduced to the world of books. Her mother would park her with a picture book on the floor of the kitchen while she finished her cooking for the day. While it’s no longer the kitchen floor, you can still find her tucked away in a cosy nook somewhere with her nose buried in a book. While books in all genres interest her, it was romance that captured her heart. While racing through every romantic fiction book she could beg, borrow or buy, her over active imagination started to work overtime and weave its own stories. Years in the corporate world followed by a stint of entrepreneurship crystallised her belief that all she really wanted to do was give life to the stories bubbling inside of her. She briefly managed to tear herself away from the world of fiction to find her own personal happily ever after and now spends her time happily focusing on the two loves of her life – family and writing romances.


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