Thursday, 25 September 2014

Extra Ordinary By Choice

She is in her late forties. She is beautiful; she is the very image of modernism. How do you picture her, when you read those words? No, wait, let me guess. A tall, slim, middle-aged woman wearing a pair of trousers and a classy button-down shirt, sunglasses perched just above the hairline?
You're not even close.

As appearances go, she is an Indian female corporate-worker. She lost her youth years ago, in the laugh lines that now surround her dark eyes. But even today, you can see a determined young woman peeping through them; the young woman who dreamt of a successful future and worked towards it with all her might. This grown-up lady smiles down at her past self, with a look that says, 'Oh, just you wait, little girl. Life has a lot in store for you.' She has experienced struggle and luxury, failure and success, grief and happiness, and other things in life, of which she seems to regret none.

It should have become obvious by now, but for those who are still wondering: she is my mother. Or at least, that's one of the many roles she plays.

When she goes to work, she dresses in a crisp dark-coloured Indian suit, with her shoulder-length hair let down, a no-nonsense brown tote hanging from the crook of her arm, and a determined look on her face. The friendly domestic help lady carries a laptop bag and an office case, as this woman trots up to a well-worn sedan that's about to complete its decade. Looking at the car, you just know it's going to give in any day now. But she settles in behind the wheel, starts the ignition, and that's how you know she'll make the car survive yet another day. Together, the woman and her ride zoom off into the buzz of morning traffic, inching towards another dull office day packed with hard work and lots of coffee.

Whether on a weekday after work or on a much anticipated weekend, whenever she is at home, she favours a light kurti and a comfortable salwar, her hair pulled back in a tiny bun, and her lips spread in a pleasant smile. She spends her weekend juggling between her various responsibilities - her three kids, the grandparents of the house, and the house itself, meant for a family of ten. She is not perfect, but she is nothing short of being remarkable. She orders around the domestic helpers all day and yells at anyone who interrupts her when she's hurrying about the house. She takes it upon herself to ensure that everybody goes about their day as per schedule, which involves making her youngest child do basic things like taking a bath, and negotiating the day's chores with her older children. Yet, somehow at the end of the day, she manages to gather enough patience to settle down and listen to her kids talk about their lives.

I wonder how an ordinary person can do all that. When you are a daughter, a wife, a mother, can there be enough of you left, for you to be your own person?

This thought induces in me a range of battling emotions. First, I feel sheer pride at the fact that I was born to a woman of such superhuman strength. It almost makes me believe in myself. Then, panic with a pinch of dread. Will I be expected to achieve all that, too? The realisation makes me want to burrow into the ground and hibernate for the rest of my life. As the panic dies down, I feel a dull throb at the back of my mind. Sadness, mixed with a sense of loss. There are so many things I want to do in life. Surely, she must have had dreams of her own? There is so much about her that I do not know. Her childhood hopes, her teenage dreams, and what became of them as she began to shoulder new responsibilities. I promise myself I'll ask her. For once, instead of telling her my stories, I'll ask her to narrate hers.

When this battle comes, at last, to an end, from a tangle of thoughts and emotions, one emerges as the victor: complete and utter respect. Respect for the girl who decided to shed her sensitive skin and don the toughened hide of a woman, and respect for the woman who then decided to become an extra ordinary one.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

How To Make A Book Nerd React

Conventionally, book nerds tend to be quiet, introverted people who’d rather spend the weekend at home in a comfy corner with a cup of coffee and an interesting book, than go out and party. When in public, we prefer not to talk much; we are content to listen to and observe others, because it’s just like reading a book. I mean, I've heard people complaining about never getting a reaction out of me more times than I care to count. However, just underneath the calm and composed exterior, we are bat shit crazy. We just appear dormant on the outside. It’s easy to lure us out if you know where to poke.

So, if you’re looking for the red detonation button, you might find some of this useful.

#10: Want to poke the dragon? Tell me Twilight deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as great titles that form the vast world of vampire literature. Like Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. And then don’t ever show me your face again, unless you want a nose job.

#09: Talk about the ongoing Amazon-Hachette feud.
I prefer on-line shopping to the physical kind any day of the week, and more so when it comes to books. But, I respect my favourite authors more than I care about my own convenience. I've got to admit, Amazon is just behaving like a big dick. Cutting e-book prices so low? As if being a writer didn't already mean tight budgets! People have no idea how difficult it is to earn a living from writing, these days. Not all authors are J. K. Rowling, you know.
I can go on about it, but you get the gist. This is one of those debates on which you can’t hope to convince me otherwise. All book nerds may not be of the same opinion on this, but the point is, once you mention it, you’d be hard-pressed to make us stop talking.

#8: Ask me where I stand in the e-book versus print book debate.
Or don’t. I’ll tell you anyway. See, the thing is, I can’t answer this one single minded-ly. Had you asked me a couple years ago, I’d have made it very clear to you that e-books are worthless, and that they will never compete with print books. Today, though, I feel quite the opposite about the former. E-books are certainly not worthless. Once you give them a shot, you realize they are actually a tad bit more convenient. For instance, I can read an e-book on my mobile phone at night, without having to turn on the lights. I can enumerate a dozen more advantages of e-books over hard-covers or paperbacks, but that’s a list for another time.
The merits of print books are, however, less prosaic in comparison - the smell of books, both old and new, the beauty of a glossy modern book cover or a worn vintage one. The warmth of the rough pages beneath your fingers and the absolute delight of turning a page or dog-earing one that holds a special place in your heart; the memories that resurface when a paperback falls open to a favourite page and the cracked spine of a hardbound that speaks volumes about your reckless reading habits. No matter how pragmatic we become, human beings will always be romantics at heart. So, how can someone possibly believe that the e-book can ever replace the ‘real’ book, when the latter has such beautiful possibilities to offer?

#07: Bring up any book-to-screen adaptation, ever.
Unless you wish to be clobbered with a hard-bound, don’t tell me the screen adaptation was better. Because it wasn't, nor will it ever be. That is an indisputable fact of the Universe. Who are you and I to debate the laws of nature?

#06: Act like you know more about a book than you actually do.
Seen all the eight Harry Potter movies, have you? Haven’t really read the books, though? If you have any self-respect, don’t act like your knowledge of HP is better than, or anywhere near as good as, mine. (Refer to #07).Trust me, you’ll just end up embarrassing yourself. This includes everything from trying to make fun of it, to getting into an argument with me about a piece of trivia. Just don’t.
In fact, this goes for any book that you haven’t read. It’s just that Harry Potter is the first example that came to my mind. (When my friend read this part she expressed her extreme state of what she calls ‘non-surprise’.)

#05: Let me see you reading a book.
Such an act will earn you appreciation, regardless of which book it is. Yes, even if you’re reading Twilight. I don’t have to like the book you’re reading; as long as it isn't a text book, reading is awesome. Just get that in your head, it’s not rocket science.
Of course, you get bonus points if I like the book.

#04: Mention one of my favourite books.
Once you do that, you needn't worry about talking much, I’ll take over the conversation from there, thank you very much. It’s likely to end with me saying something along the lines, ‘You should definitely read it! You’ll like it, I promise!’ and you agreeing to read it, possibly just to shut me up.

#03: Touch the feels.
At your own risk. Any breakage will require to be paid for, in kind.

#02: Criticise one of my favourite books.
And prepare to die.
Actually, no, you won’t get off that easy. When you mess with a nerd, be prepared to be humiliated. Most of us have open minds, so we’re not against a healthy debate, or well thought out, intellectual criticism. In fact, we welcome it. Feel free to criticise, and we’ll feel free to prove you wrong. I must sound very cocky when I say this, but darling, trust me, there’s no flaw you can point out over which we haven’t already had numerous debates amongst ourselves. Just remember that a book nerd is used to analytical reading, no matter how big a romantic she/he is, at heart.

#01: The simplest of all ways to get us charged up and mad, however, will always be to say these words: I don’t like to read. This phrase, or a similar one, induces in me such a strong surge of battling emotions, I CAN’T EVEN.
Kristen Scatton, a fellow blogger, explains the struggle quite thoroughly in this amazing article. (In fact, it was her article which inspired me to write this one.)
She explains how, on hearing these blasphemous words, we go through shock, disbelief, confusion, judgement, pity, and finally arrive at acceptance.

But, I believe that if you don’t like to read, you just haven’t found the right book yet. And if I like you enough, I will help you find the right book if it’s the last thing I do. It’s a promise.