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Sun, Sand, Stars and Dreams

The chronicles of a misfit Indian teen

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Writing

Conversations with the veteran auto driver.

Disclaimer: None of the views or opinions in this post are mine.

The day before yesterday, my second eldest cousin sister on my maternal side of the family gave birth to a baby boy. As Indian social norms go, we, that is my mother and I went to see the mother and baby yesterday.

But, because our driver had gone incognito and I do not have my license yet, we asked an auto driver to take us to their place. The said auto driver was someone known to my mother’s family since a long time. Maybe even 30 years or more.

A Chennai auto driver is almost what a New York taxi driver is.

So, the conversation my mother had with him went like this,

Mum (M): It has been ages now. How is your family?

Auto driver (AD): They are all good. My children are well settled, and they look after me very well. I rarely go on trips now. Just a few regular customers.

M: Settled? What are they doing now?

AD: My eldest son is working at a small bank, he’s earning well. My second son, ah, he’s really done well in life. He has a job in an IT firm, he earns a lot. Both of my sons are married. The eldest has a son and a daughter and the second son’s wife is pregnant.

M: How about your daughter?

AD: Ah! She’s good too. She has a son now. She quit working after her son was born. I support her decision and I think it is great. I’m telling my daughter-in-law to do the same thing. My son is earning well, why does she need to work now?

Me: Maybe because she likes working? Or that she likes having a great career?

AD: No. See, she can start working once her kid starts going to school. It will be very difficult to take care of the kid and work as well. A woman’s priority has to be her kids. It will be difficult for the kids too, not having enough of their mother’s attention.

M: So, we have moved back here and honestly, I find it very difficult to adjust. It has been more than 20 years since I left this country.

AD: Indeed! You were living in Dubai, right?

M: Yes, for a little time. Then, in Riyadh, somewhere close by.

AD: Oh? This Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and all are near to Riyadh?

M: Yes. Somewhat near. But, they are different countries.

AD: I know why you find it hard to adjust here, then. My second son was working in Dubai for some time. He took my wife and me for a tour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Very nice places they are. Even though it is hot, there are air-conditioners everywhere, very clean surroundings, friendly people, and everything available nearby.

M: Yes, yes. My niece, the one who gave birth to the baby boy yesterday, she lives in Singapore with her husband. That is a nice place too.

AD: Her husband has a job there? That is nice. He is from another religion, right?

M: Yes, he’s a Muslim.

AD: A Hindu girl married a Muslim boy? That’s scandalous! At least if it was a Christian, that’s way better than a Muslim. Now, what will they name this baby? Will he be a Muslim or a Hindu? It is a good thing that this girl’s sister got married before her. Because she wasn’t, no one would have wanted to marry her sister either.

I’m glad that my children don’t believe in all this love-pove nonsense.

Me: So, now that your children are well settled, how long will you work?

AD: As long as I can. I spent a lot on my children’s education and marriages. I don’t really have much for my wife and myself.

Me: Do you regret that?

AD: Spending on my children? No. Absolutely not! I’m happy that at least they are able to lead a better life than me. Driving auto and all.

Me: Do you enjoy your work?

AD: No. Not really. But, this is all I know to do. I am a loner in the auto-driver circle, I don’t really like them, especially these young men who are so rude, vulgar and uncultured. I am really glad that my sons work in offices and drive cars instead of autos.

Me: Really?

AD: Yes. Both my sons bought their own cars in the past year. My daughter’s husband has a car too. They drive to their offices.

Mum: Can you drive a car?

AD: No. I don’t know to. Never got around to it. I am scared of driving a car. I don’t know why, but after all these years of driving an auto, a car scares me. *laughs*

P.S. This is a first attempt at some kind of an interview. Do excuse if any mistakes are found. I’m an amateur. I’ll definitely love suggestions or comments on how to make it better! 🙂

Validity of dreams.

On noticing a sudden flurry of articles about women in the newspapers and programs about them on TV, I wondered what the fuss was about. Then, I realised that today was Women’s Day.
On one hand, there is a lot of things about how women have progressed over the ages and how they reached positions of power.
Than again, there is the BBC documentary India’s Daughter, which infamously got banned in India. It had a man accused of rape and murder, in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case of December 2012, expressing his views about women and that Jyoti (the girl) shouldn’t have fought back and that they did it to teach her a lesson to not roam around with a boy at night, because ‘good’ girls don’t do that.
What was even more shocking was the views of the defense lawyers. They made extremely outrageous remarks as well.

The main problem with India is the mentality of the people. The idea that a girl should do this and shouldn’t do that. What gives an unknown man the right to ‘teach a lesson’ to a girl? Isn’t she human too? Doesn’t she have the right to express her views, dress how she wishes, do what she wishes to? Because, news flash! It is her life!
And no one has the authority to tell her how to live it.

When I read stories of powerful women, I am inspired by them. To break all the odds and emerge as the winner when no one expects you to.
That is what true courage is all about.
I respect female CEOs, heads of organisations, entrepreneurs, defence personnel, police and law enforcement officers, doctors, teachers and lawyers. But, not just them, even the female auto and taxi driver, the fruit seller, the ironing lady, the maid, the grocery shop owner, the construction worker, and every one of them.
Because it is not easy to be a woman. Women are put down in way too many things, from the board room to Bollywood. In fact, when few movies (Queen in Hindi, How Old Are You? in Malayalam, English Vinglish in Hindi/Tamil, for example) and a few directors (Gautham Menon in Tamil, for one) show women in a positive light, it is highlighted extremely, because of the state of the other movies.
She is not a diamond or a flower, she is a fellow human being. Every one of them deserves respect.

Not only today should be women’s day. Every day should be women’s day.
This is an ode to all the wonderful women in my life.

I am a seventeen year old Indian girl, and I’m a dreamer. I have big dreams for my future, like any other girl. I ought to have the right to be able to fulfil those dreams and not let rapists, acid attackers and various other monsters stop me from it.

I dream of the day when I can walk on the streets, without the fear of wondering whether I can reach home in one piece.
I dream of the day that I can travel to places all by myself, maybe even make a world tour.
I dream of the day when I am not judged by outer appearances or the society’s perception of beauty, but rather by who I am and what I can do.
I dream of a brighter future, of not having to give up my ambition and career when I get married.
I dream of wanting equal opportunities, in the house and in the office. And most of all, I hope to have those dreams become reality.

Who gets to decide the expiry date of a woman’s dream?
My answer is her. She herself.

2015. A new journal to be filled.

Happy New Year, my lovelies! 🙂

It is 2015, already.
My New Year’s Eve celebration did not involve anything other than lighting up a cinnamon candle, and reading The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri (pretty good, so far) and going to sleep by 11. Although, I did wake up at 12, when the fireworks went off.
Yep. I’m a early sleeper. (Is there even a word like that?) And a late riser too. I know, kind of lazy.

Anyway, a year has gone by, faster than lightning. It wasn’t a very pleasant year for me. It was full of depressing moments and bad memories. Although, few and far between, there were some good memories too.
As it does not do to dwell on the past, I’m planning to focus on the year ahead.

I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions, mainly because I always end up breaking them.
But, I have decided to make a bucket list (guidelines) for 2015, which can also be accomplished in 2016, if I don’t do it this year 😉
So, here goes.

1. Be Happier – What has to happen will happen, and always for a reason. Be contented with what you have. And if you can’t change the problem, change your outlook on it. (Yes, the end result of constant drilling in Indian philosophy.)

2. DO. NOT. PROCRASTINATE – Okay. At least try not to. (But, that doesn’t seem to work, seeing that I am procrastinating already. I am supposed to be working on a project for college, not blog)

Borrowed from Sabrina of Books And Bark, who by the way, is pretty awesome and you'll need to check her blog out asap.
Borrowed from Sabrina of Books And Bark, who by the way, is pretty awesome and you’ll need to check her blog out asap.

3. Read more books than I did in 2014 – Goodreads informs me that I read 45 books in 2014. In this year, I would like to read more. Not just light-reads, but strong classics too.

4. Stay focused.

5. Lastly, blog more. – Blogging gives me this amazing feeling, and all of you there are awesome! But, unfortunately, I did not blog as much as I wanted to in 2014, due to some major life-changing events that happened. (As I had mentioned in my earlier posts.) This year, I hope to write more regularly than I did last year.

So, no more pointless blabber for now, folks!

See you all soon!
~SunSandStarsAndDreams

How did you all celebrate New Year’s Eve/Day in your place? Did you make any resolutions/bucket lists? I would love to hear about them, please share 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.

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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.

On why my father’s house is a magnet.

My father’s house is a magnet. A magnet for certain types of individuals. Oh, I’m not talking about my father’s ancestral house in the village. That’s a magnet for another group of individuals, not very pleasant.
But, I’m talking about the house my father has built in our adopted hometown city, in India.
It is a magnet for thieves.
Thieves? You may ask.
Yes, that’s right. Burglars, robbers, thieves or whatever you might call them.

So, this is what happened last Friday. We had just come back home from a vacation to Dubai, when we received a phone call from a relative in India, saying my father’s house was broken into and the current tenant’s (also a relative) scooter, TV and other things were stolen.

Okay, so a robbery. It isn’t anything new. Right?
No. This wasn’t the first the house was robbed. It wasn’t the second time either.
It was the third time in the past two years.

And the funny part is that although the house looks spacious and big, it is practically empty, because all our stuff is with us and the only occupant is an old, unmarried relative of my dad’s.
Well, there was an old, antique camera of ours’, which was stolen by the first thief, and then a collection of old and expensive bottles of French wine, which the second thief emptied. (And promptly left the empty glass bottles for us.)

But, each time, those poor burglars break open three main doors (of which one is a large iron gate) and then the bedroom doors and hoping for something more worthwhile.

And each time, it is the same drama. The police come and investigate and end up with absolutely no clues.

Okay, it give it some kind of soft spot, the house is about 5 km from the main city and it isn’t so very crowded.
But, the question remains, will it ever be safe there?
And also now that we are about to go back to India in three days, I’m worried if I could ever live peacefully in that house. Probably not. That’s why I’ll probably end up staying at mother’s house in the middle of the bustling city.

Have you had any experiences with burglars? If so, do share your stories in the comments box below.

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 story of a girl with a different (weird) name.

What is in a name, you may ask. My answer to that is, “Everything”.
My name is Gayatri, and it is pronounced as, Gaaa-ya-three. That in itself, condemned me to a life where nearly no one could pronounce my name right.

When I was born, my father held a consultation with my mother and his family on what to name me.
His family was of the opinion that I was to be named Karthiyayini after his mother (my paternal grandmother) since I was the eldest girl child in their family.
But, my father wanted to name me either Shalini (a name with the same first letter as my mum’s name) or Gayatri (a name with the same first letter as my dad’s name).
So, at the end, I was named Karthiyayini in the naming ceremony held in the temple, but, my name was given as Gayatri in all the official documents, including my passport.

And I’ve hated it since then.
From the time my maternal uncle made fun of it, saying it sounded like three cows. (Gaay = Cow in Hindi)
And the time in primary school, when my teacher couldn’t pronounce so Indian a name and called me Gay-tree. (#NRIProblems)
To the time in Year Seven, when my friends made fun of the shortened version of my name, Gayu, saying it sounded like ” Gay you.”

If there was anything I was insecure about, it was my name.
It always ended in someone teasing me about it and me crying at home, although I was too proud to cry in front of them and give them that satisfaction. (I still never cry in front of anyone, how much ever they hurt me. It’s always at night, in the darkness.)
Although my parents tried consoling me, by telling me that my name is beautiful, because it was the name of an Indian princess and also that of a mother goddess who protects the Universe. Also, the word in Sanskrit meant a ‘hymn’ or ‘prayer’ and one of the most powerful chants (prayers) in Hinduism is called the Gayatri Mantra.
Yet, none of this had any effect on me, scarred as I was, from all that intentional and unintentional teasing I’d garnered over my name.
But, now, I’ve learnt to live with it, even if I don’t like it excessively, I tolerate it.
Although, even now, if someone mispronounces it, I cut them off with a firm, “It is pronounced as GAAA- YA- THREE.”

P. S. Yes! I’m back! For now. Four of my five major exams are done, with the last one on April 11th. Once that’s done too, I’ll be done with school! Like totally.

2013

And so 2013 comes to a close as well.
This year hasn’t been one of the best for me, as those who’ve read my past posts would have known. I hope it wasn’t bad for you guys though.
The new year has the potential to be either the best or the worst year of my life. It all comes down to that one thing, fate or destiny.
Well, what has to happen, will happen, and instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, it is best to live in the present.
That’s what I plan to do from now on.
I guess I can call it a New Year Resolution. Although I don’t really take resolutions in a new year. Because if you want to change something about yourself, you’ve got to do it NOW and not wait till the year ends.

So, instead of thinking about unhappy things, it is better to count my blessings.

Some of the best things that happened to me in 2013:
1. My best friends: Gosh! You guys are amazing! I don’t know what I’d do without you all. You taught me what it means to live, to laugh, to enjoy and also to be serious at times. I swear I’ll miss you terribly when we part in April/May (after graduation), but I hope we keep in touch till we are ninety. 😛

2. My class and the teachers: I feel really blessed to have studied in such a wonderful class. The students and the teachers were absolutely brilliant.
Especially, that one teacher. Yes, I know that you hated me and that the feeling was mutual. Then, I don’t know what changed after the second term. I think you stopped hating me and that’s when I saw you for what you really are. That’s this amazing, bold, smart and brave woman, who is not afraid to stand up for anything. I admire you, a lot, and I think I’ll actually miss you, ma’am. It’s just that I’m still a bit too scared to tell you that.

3. Two trips which changed my perception of the whole world;
a. The field trip sponsored by the school.
b. An inter-school quiz held in another city and the subsequent road trip to and from the location with my teammates.
The quiz was held by the rival school who took out their on us, just because we had defeated them in a previous quiz. They asked obvious questions to their team and obscure ones to us, just so that we could be eliminated from the competition.
But, even if the quiz was bad, that trip taught me a lot. How we could overcome obstacles, and how a team supports each other.

4. The RCS essay competition:
For giving me a silver award and boosting my confidence.

5. This blog:
Even though I haven’t been very active, I have to say that I love you all (in the most innocent, platonic way ever). Because it gave me the confidence to be myself and believe in myself.

Things 2013 taught me
1. If you think you are good at something, there is always someone better than you.
2. Even if you are the best, someone else might end up winning, just because they had influence or support.
3. Be yourself. No matter what anyone else says, there is no one better than yourself.

On another note, this blog hit a 100 followers and 200 likes! And I’m very happy about it! 😀

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Anyway, I’d like to wish you all a hearty Season’s Greetings and hope that the new year blooms bright, fresh, happy and prosperous.
And with that, you can all go back to whatever you were doing or get ready to celebrate New Years’ Eve, while I go back to my books. (Not to start a pity party, but I just realised that I’ve never been to a party, a proper kind, not the functions where you tag along with your parents. But, I haven’t been to a wedding or a funeral either. So I’m not one to talk.)

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