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Sun, Sand, Stars and Dreams

The chronicles of a misfit Indian teen

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Fiction

Is freedom just an illusion?

From the time I entered my junior year of high school, or Year 11, I used to think that college will entail more freedom. I used to dream about all the things I might be able to do, not wear an uniform, get to go for classes of a more relaxed nature, so on and so forth.
However, I joined college in a place that I never dreamed of, and naturally found faults with everything. It is an all-girls college. There were a certain amount of rules, such as a fixed college timing and having to attend all classes. The inability to just leave whenever we felt like. And the rule about clothes: nothing shorter than ankle-length to be worn.

I felt that it was the end of the world and just couldn’t wait for the three years to end so that I could get away from that place to something better.
That was definitely not what I imagined college to be.

However, an issue which has cropped up recently in the city I live in, has got me thinking.
Students of a certain engineering college in Chennai have gone on a protest against the barbaric rules and regulations enforced by the management.

For those who do not know what I am talking about, check this and this out.

Some of those rules are absolute shockers, and will make people wonder, “Is it even a college? Even prison is way better!”

ToDoListCollege

Not only is that list of rules which went viral, extremely sexist, it defeats the entire purpose of college. A few friends in that college told me that not only were there such bizarre rules for girls, there were rules like that for boys as well. For instance, they are not allowed to wear anything other than formals all day, every day, but they are also not allowed to wear branded formals which has the logo displayed on it. Also, the colour black is prohibited on their campus on certain days, because it is a holy colour for them. There have been reports of girl students being verbally and sexually harassed by the so-called guardians of discipline.
Plus, it being an engineering college, with future techies studying there, the ban on all forms of technology seems ridiculous.
The funniest one I have heard till date, a student was fined for “touching the ducks in the pond”.

What is the point of studying in a co-education college if you are not allowed to interact with the opposite sex?

Colleges like these made me believe that my college is way, way better. However, it makes you doubt the entire system. It makes us doubt the point of it all.

Students are protesting, however, the trend will stop only if parents and students collectively shun such colleges. But, the sad fact is that many parents don’t mind sending their children to such colleges, because these colleges guarantee a well-paid job once you graduate. The makes us wonder, when did the rat race for a well-paid job end up in this?
My parents studied in the same country, around 20 to 25 years back. Then, it was different. The rules were not there. Campuses were more liberal and everyone was off exploring their freedom, the feelings of love and heartbreak.
Now, all of those are restricted in a lot of colleges. Students are being denied their basic rights and are treated as something worse than scum.
So, are we actually progressing as the years pass? I think not.
India is a secular, democratic nation, which guarantees respect, freedom and equality for all of its citizens regardless of gender, religion, caste and community.
So, aren’t these students also inclusive of that? Or is freedom just an illusion?

~SunSanStarsAndDreams

So, what do you all think about the issue? What other ridiculous restrictions have you come about in schools/colleges? Do let us know in the comments box below! 🙂

Starry Dreams’ Review: The Butterfly Season by Natasha Ahmed

Indireads.com provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I’d like to thank them for their initiative to promote debut South Asian authors and also for fuelling my reading habit.

On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.
~Goodreads description

The butterfly season is a debut novel by Natasha Ahmed. (It has a super pretty cover, by the way!)
It tells the story of Rumi, a thirty year old woman from a conservative Pakistani family. Rumi (beautiful name, though) did not marry or do anything that traditional Pakistani girls are meant to do. She is a successful architect, but she spent her youth taking care of her ailing mother, which consequently led her relatives to consider her as a foolish woman who whiled away her youth and is now destined to live as a spinster throughout her life.
After her mother died, she takes a long overdue vacation to London, to visit her younger sister. Her sister Juveria is a conservative Muslim, who grew even more conservative after moving to England.
Once there, Rumi meets Ahad, a charming British-Pakistani, who succeeds in wooing her.
But, then, Rumi has to face the challenges of her disapproving family coming to know of her relationship.
As an Indian, if there is one thing that this book taught me, it is that life is nearly the same on either side of the border. The over-emphasis on culture and tradition and a stigma attached to certain things, pre-marital sex for one.
Rumi’s reluctance and hesitation to break the bounds of her societal traditions are wonderfully written and extremely relatable.
The coming-of-age novella describes how Rumi manages to break free from the chains that bind her and fly away as an independent woman.
I love how Rumi’s character develops and how she learns to live and love.

Brilliant light read. A feel-good novella.
4 stars.

Starry Dreams’ Review: Half-girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

Once upon a time, there was a Bihari boy called Madhav. He fell in love with a rich girl from Delhi called Riya. Madhav didnt speak English well. Riya did. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn’t. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn’t. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half-girlfriend.
~ Book Blurb

I’ve this kind of love-hate relationship with Chetan Bhagat. Somehow, I feel compelled to read his novels and then hate it.
So, this wasn’t new either. And no, I did not pre-order the book like half the population in India did. (Although a friend of mine did, and I read it from her.)
This is one formula that CB has been following for a few books now.
(1) Begin with a dramatic prologue: cues, suicidal instincts in 2 States, suicide in The Three Mistakes of my Life, and now death (believed) in this one.
(2) Launch a Bollywood style masala love story. With absolutely no plot.
(3) Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. All ends well.

And this was no exception.
In fact, it was worse than the other novels by him.
2 states was believable and plausible, to say the least.
Revolution 2020 and 3 mistakes of my life had some kind of plot, at the very least. However vague.
But, this was vague to the extreme.

The entire book seemed like a mismatch of a lot of Bollywood movies (Ranjhanaa for one) with a hint of The Walk to Remember thrown in for good measure. I’m sorry Chetan Bhagat, but, I don’t really get the romance (if you can even call it that) between Riya and Madhav. At least your other novels had some kind of a love story. This had plain creepy, stalking.
Coming from a village boy from Bihar, who had just landed in Delhi, thoughts like dating and girlfriends, seem a bit too fake. Although, the chauvinist mentality can be believed. Isn’t it obvious though? Madhav plays basketball better than Riya, although Riya was rich enough to have professional trainers, because,…. Wait for it…. Madhav is a boy.
Madhav has the right to tell Riya, “F*** me or f*** off”, but when Riya leaves him for that, she turns out to be the evil witch.

IMG_1265.GIF
A bit too cheesy (bit? Pfft. Whom am I kidding!?) and clichéd with Madhav being a ‘prince’ of an obscure village in Bihar. And Riya being the ‘un-typical’ rich girl, who hates her family and runs away.
St.Stephen’s is one of the toughest colleges to get into, in India. But, our beloved protagonist, as idiotic as he is, manages to get in. And the wonderful lady quits it in her second year to have an arranged marriage with a man who told her that, after marriage, she could be his travel partner as he travels around the world. (which sane person ever quits St. Stephen’s on as flimsy as an excuse as that!?) The so-called multi-million happy wedding takes place, and a divorce follows soon, because the Prince Charming turns out to be abusive. But, Riya’s mother is more worried about what ‘the society will think about her divorce’ than her daughter’s safety.
There are quite a lot of plot holes as well. Riya divorces her husband because she finds incriminating photos on Whatsapp on her husband’s phone in 2008.
Whatsapp was founded only in 2009. Conclusion: CB doesn’t know to use Wikipedia either.
I’m sorry Chetan Bhagat fans, but this was one book that totally pissed me off. Yes, I know. I know that he’s a writer for the masses and many Indians started reading because of his novels.
But, I’m not convinced.

Redeeming points: Slightly relatable at times, to people from India or for who have an experience with Indian colleges.

Rating: One star itself is a bit too much for this book, maybe.

Bottom line: Definitely not a love story. More like a stalking predator and a lady with Stockholm Syndrome.

Intoxicating desire (Short and spooky, 100 words or less)

She hugged him tightly. Her warmth was intoxicating. She kissed him full on the lips. He closed his eyes in bliss. He opened them to find her sparkling green eyes twinkling mischievously. He tried to break away, but she had wrapped herself around him. He felt himself choking, but realized that she had no intention of letting go. He was deprived of oxygen and finally stopped breathing. He did not know that he was far from being the first of her victims.

The Name of Madras

The 22nd of August every year is commemorated as Madras Day in Chennai (formerly Madras) in India.
The city of Chennai, originated around the British settlement of Fort St. George. The fort and the lands surrounding it were leased by the East India Company on August 22, 1639.

This small settlement in the Southern part of India slowly grew into the impressive Madras Presidency during the colonial-era, and developed into the awesome metropolitan city of today.

No one knows for sure how the city got its name of Madras, though many rumours abound. So, here’s my take on how the city might have got the name.

Today, the city’s most notorious for its autorickshaw drivers, who charge exorbitant rates and drive rashly.
Then, these autorickshaw drivers probably did have their ancestors.

The time when Fort St. George was built and colonialists were slowly starting to trickle in, the British decided that they must surely have transport. Transport in the likes of horse-wagons. So, some horses were bought, and wagons built.
The next problem arose. Who will drive these wagons?
Someone had seen a mass of people transporting goods from one village to another in bullock-carts.
So, a few men, who had been seen driving those carts were enlisted for driving the horse-wagons.
The men agreed.
Soon, it was time for the first drive. (if I may say so)
More people were arriving from Britain and they wanted transport from the port. Consequently, the newly enlisted bullock-cart drivers – turned Coachmen were sent to pick the people from the port.

The chief among the people who just arrived decided to board the more grander wagon, with a beautiful horse. The wagon looked good, but there was only one problem with it.
A problem the chief would come to know only after a while.

After the entire party had settled down into various wagons, the chief yelled, “Let’s go!”
The Coachman agreed and the horses began trotting.
Slowly, they started picking up speed, again and again, till they were galloping in full speed.
Meanwhile, the chief asked the Coachman, while pointing into the distance, “What is the name of the place we are going to?”
The coachman, who did not have a good grasp over the English language answered, “This Mani, this Rasa”, thinking that the foreign gentleman had been asking what the names of the horses were.

The horses sped up even more, now that the coachman had been busy trying to understand what the foreigner chief had said and trying to formulate a suitable response.
That’s when he realised that he’d lost control of the carriage.
The carriage went berserk and the colonialist was thrown back and forth against the walls of the carriage, so, he yelled, “This is not Mannytisras, this is Madness!”
And slowly, Madness evolved into Madras, and that name stuck.

P.S. This is totally fiction and meant to be taken as such. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s sentiments and such.

Fact or fiction: When fiction turns to reality

So, yes, I know I haven’t posted much these days. I apologise. But, senior year seems to be getting more and more hectic as each day passes.
Well, I will not bore you by droning on about school.
Anyway, so it’s like this.
I’d been writing a novel, in secret, I should add.
And no, I did not finish it yet. Though, I have no idea when I might do that. What with my incurable habit of procrastination.
But, it was this quite normal story about a school girl and the day to day issues she faces. I did add some of my own experiences in it, but the main character was rather special.
She was the daughter of high-ranking foreign diplomat. She travelled around with her father each time he got a transfer, and they were filthy rich. She was rather intelligent as well, and she seemed to have everything.
At least that’s what everyone thought.
My story was about her perspective, the problems she faced, the major one being her mother’s death, being bullied relentlessly even before she could get over it.
And that is just the start.
But, this post isn’t about my attempt at novel-writing either.
Well, I’ll better get to the point.
This character of my novel has come to life.
No, not in the Pinocchio-like way.
There was this new girl who got put into my class. And her story is almost the same. Except for a few variations here and there. Her father is a high-ranking diplomat too and she’d travelled around a lot too. And her mother’s ill and had to have a surgery.
They are super-rich and the girl still faces a lot of adjustment problems.
Plus, she’s also faced a few of the situations I’d put my character through, in my novel.
It seems somewhat supernatural and other-worldly for me. Like a type of déjà vu.
And the sad part is that all of the above is true.

The Desert Bloom- A Facebook love story : My entry for the ‘Get Published’ contest

It wasn’t the typical girl-meets-boy, boy-meets-girl and they fall in love.
No, it had a slightly different twist, for they met face-to-face only after falling in love.
How, you might ask?
It began when Shuhaib liked Shruti’s photo on Facebook. He then sent her a friend request. She responded with a “Do I know you?” message. He replied by introducing himself. She responded likewise.
They ended up chatting on Facebook for a while after which they exchanged phone numbers and ended up calling each other and finally they agreed to meet.
They only managed to get a glimpse of each other, yet, they had the same thought, “You are beautiful.”
Now, dear reader, you might be wondering, what is so special about this, right?
But, the problem was that the two of them were poles and miles apart. Shruti was from a Tamil Brahmin family whereas Shuhaib was from an orthodox Urdu Muslim family from Kashmir, and the two of them were juniors at a high school in Saudi Arabia, a very conservative country which frowned upon pre-marital relationships.
Besides, Shruti was a brilliant student who always scored in 90s and never got into trouble, whereas Shuhaib was the happy-go-lucky, athletic guy who was happy to ‘just pass.
This story revolves on their relationship and the problems they face, both among parents and in the society.
To know whether their love might find acceptance and whether their relationship still continued steadily, even after they finished school, do wait for the entire story.

What makes this story ‘real’:
As I am an Indian expat living and studying in Saudi Arabia, this is something I have seen and heard a lot among my friends.
This story explores forbidden love in a land full of strict traditions.
It also is a celebration of youth, of the fantasies and the realities and problems, one faces during adolescence.
This story is an exploration of the joys and sadness in the wonderful process of growing up, as told by a teen age girl.

Extract from the story:
Shuhaib had messaged me again. I was trying to ignore him and his texts and phone calls since he asked me to be his girlfriend. I can’t believe it. Only the ‘plastics’ and those whom I considered as bad, in my class had boyfriends. Then how could I? What would become of my reputation of being the topper and the responsible one of the class?
Besides, what would my parents do? Amma would start sobbing and tell something about how I went bad or something along those lines and Appa would be disappointed and seriously angry. And I don’t think I could deal with it.
Yet, one part of my brain told me that Shuhaib was funny, handsome, witty, and — No! Stop! I told that offending part of my brain. I mustn’t think like that. I must concentrate on my studies and try to get into IIT-M as per Appa’s wish.
I planned to de-activate my Facebook account as soon as possible.

“This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.”

If you do like my idea, please do vote for it here at: http://www.indiblogger.in/getpublished/idea/511/
The more votes I have, the more are my chances of getting published.
Thank you. 🙂

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