The Story of My Heart

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“I have a story going in my head which I think will make a nice book.” I threw the remark casually over the breakfast table this morning. The soulmate looked up from behind the newspaper, his eyes screwed with confusion. I knew he was weighing what his next line of action should be. Which, for that instance, were:

1. Give me a green signal to carry on, which will be followed by a half an hour of lecture on my part with animated descriptions of characters and events, with occasional demands of suitable and encouraging comments from him, in the absence of which, he will be found guilty and convicted of the crime of being an “insensitive husband”.


2. Ignore me which will result into a big fight and he will be found guilty and convicted of the crime of being an “insensitive husband”.

Proving again that I was smart in my decision, for I chose him as my life partner, he opted for the former.

I took the thread and happily carried on. The next few minutes went something like this:

Me: “There were these two sisters… no... cousins.”
SM: “You and Tia?”
Me: “Aah! No... not us. Ok...ummm... so one of them were very pretty.”
SM: “Tia?”
I gave him an indignant look, and continued, “The other cousin was average looking, just a Plain Jane.”
SM: “That’s you?”
I was visibly irritated at that point, and definitely did not enjoy the frequent interjections. Unflustered, I concentrated on my story again. “So the cousins have an aunt, umm… a spinster, preferably a widow, who lives with them in the same house.”
The soulmate adjusted his seat, and asked innocently, “And who is this Aunt, your pishi or jethima? ”
I retorted, uncertainly, “None of them. The cousins live in a big and old mansion in a posh corner of a small city.”
He scrutinized my face for a moment, and quizzed, “What was the last book you read again?” and seeing my stony face he gladly retrieves back to the world of current affairs.

That was where the conversation ended.

I keep telling myself that how am I ever going to write a book if everything that I ever thought, dreamt, or wanted to do had already been written by an author before me? So, as he guessed rightly, this time, I was thinking of “Sisters of my Heart” by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni and developed a similar plot line for my story.

This book had been lying on my bookshelf for quite a time, after I picked it up in Bangalore airport on a journey home. I let it gather dust cause I knew it in my mind that this one story has already stolen my idea of what would have been my first book, the story of two sisters, until I could not resist any longer.

But glad I am that I read it at last. It sent me into a roller coaster of emotions, for all good and not so good reasons. This is a story of two cousins born on the same day into an upper caste all-female Bengali household in Kolkata. The story tells about their love for each other and the bond threatened by family secrecies and jealousy, their lives as they grow together… and apart… and only to be brought together again by destiny.

The story is told from each sister’s perspective, and each chapter moves back and forth between the two protagonists. Coming from a similar background (as u might have already guessed, since I was ready to write another book on the same), I could identify myself with both the protagonist, Anju and Sudha. (Yes, Anju is me, Sudha is Tia, hahha). This is my first CBD book, and I immediately fell in love with her writing. Her writing is like flowing poetry, and the language is very artistic. I wonder if any non-Bengali reader thought that the young girls, Anju and Sudha, speaks in a flowery way, cause that’s how Bengali girls spoke in late 80’s and early 90’s, until commercialism changed the attitude of young Bengali girl’s in modern India.

The characters are very real. The way Aunt Nalini wails at every small lapse and declares how it would not have been accepted in her own father’s well-maintained household wonders me. Did CBD ever meet my she-who-should-not be named- here aunt (wink! wink!) or how else did she draw her character so vividly?

I was less happy with Anju and Sudha, though. Anju being the more ambitious among two, never ventures into anything other than reading literature, and the vivacious one that she is, never fights enough when her college education is stopped. Sudha, should have been allowed to have little more vanity just for the reason that she is so pretty (aren’t all pretty girls snooty?) and not so mimic and docile. Or was it that the burdens of secret made her forget about her own prettiness? But at the end, it made a beautiful story of sisterly bond. The complexities of the characters, their intertwined past, the drama and secrecies kept me glued to the book, till the end of the book.

I am happy that I read this book. It saved me a lot of hard work to try to write a second (or third) class cheap quality book on sibling relationships. I was little furious though as the author left it to me to extrapolate how it would go at the end. But just saw that those two characters are reunited in Divakaruni’s another novel "The Vine of Desire". So, I will have to grab that book soon.

Now that I realized that writing book on sibling relationship is not such a novel idea, I kept stumbling on more books on similar plotlines. The current one I am reading is Brick Lane, by Monica Ali which though tells the story of an uneducated woman who relocates to London after marriage, but it also has an important supporting character in the role of a sister (who happens to be very beautiful. again), whom we never see in the story, but get to know her through her poorly written letters. Since Brick Lane does not only tell about two sisters but also deals with Immigrant’s issues, religious and political, racial and women's issues, and also I have not finished the book yet, I will talk about it later.

The Career Graph So Far...

This post is a winner at the Blogadda "My Dream Job" Contest. July 30, 2010.

I have had my dream job since I was eight. I am one of those lucky persons who did not have torun after a job they might like..Rather my dream job landed into my lap by kismet. So, the other day I saw this email from Blogadda and it mentioned “share your dream job and you never know you might get it after you let us know.” A lot of us will be excited to hear this, and I thought since I already have my dream job, who knows, sharing it might give me a chance to excel in it. So here is a reminiscent of my time on my job.

Image courtesy: http://www.hanselman.com/

I was five (or six), playing teacher-teacher in Thakuma’s bedroom, all alone. One of the walls which served as the blackboard was adorned with illegible scribblings, and my pupils (the stools and the chairs) listened to me in silence. I asked a question to one of the wooden chair, who failed to answer. That resulted in his ears being pulled out firmly, and hit by a cane brutishly.

My dad who was sitting at the desk, looked up from his work when he could no longer bear to see the sufferings of the poor chair at my hand. He pulled me up, sat me on his lap, and on enquiry received an animated explanation from me about the aforementioned chair’s consistent failings in the classroom and subsequent justified caning. Dad nodded, “Beta if you want to be good at your job, you might consider sparing the cane and explaining the subject in a simpler way. Now you do want to be a god teacher, don’t you?” I nodded vehemently, and he added, more intently this time, “Remember, no matter what you want to be in life, teacher or doctor, the first thing you would want to be is a good human being, ”I looked up at him, blankly, not realizing the actual meaning of his words.

“Which school do I have to go, Dad, to be… er… that?” I asked. Dad smiled, more humorously this time, “You don’t have to, Beta, you will learn it yourself.”

“So, would you help me to be one?”

“I can guide you, but it is you who have to do the job.” He went back to his work.

And I started working on the job to be a ‘good human being’.

I was ten, I received the paper for an algebra class test, and it read 00/20 in red. I showed the paper to mom, and she wailed for the next half an hour (longer than I regretted for the poor marks), cursed all the 33 crore God, who conspiratorially handed her down a stupid girl who would not turn up to do anything good in life. I sobbed, and cried, and said sorry that I failed them. Dad was calm. Later when the noise level came down to tolerable level (so that each one can hear the other in the room) he said, “Beta, its Ok if you get bad score in one of the tests. You can always try harder next time. What matters most is that you be a good human being, and that will make us very proud.” Those words again. He told the same the other day when I was dressing up for a friend’s birthday party, discarding one dress after another, unsatisfied with the reflection in the mirror. He consoled, “Wear anything, and and as long you have a good heart, you will feel the prettiest.”

So, by the age of nine or ten, I realized that the way to success is to be a good human being. “And what a easy job that is”, contended I thought. It was definitely easier to be a good human being than getting 20/20 in Algebra.

I was 15, playing lock-n-key in the school playground. My friend tripped on a stone and fell on the ground on her face. While others laughed, I ran to her, helped her to stand on her feet, and asked if she is OK. The appreciation in her eyes that day taught me the reward you get for being a good human being. I did not feel bad that I was not the most popular girl in the school, not the prettiest or the cleverest. I rather felt pride when I was called the most kind of all. I felt happiest and imagined a pair of colorful wings coming out of the back of my body (just like my favourite character Captain Haddock thinks each time he manages to do a kind job).

Life in school was simple, living with parents at home was even simpler. Being the daughter of a preeminent person and coming from a well-known family allowed me to enjoy certain advantages in life, and I could afford to be nice and kind to others without putting myself into much inconvenience. Then the time came when I had to move to another part of the country, to start my University education. Living in college dorms with other girls, leading a life where nobody knows anything about me other than my name was difficult. My primary job started to suffer. Though I managed to achieve some brownie points occasionally, there were other incidents when I realized that a hint of a new pair of horns was stemming out of the temple of my head.

So the day I discovered that the girl who I thought was my best friend was talking behind my back, I did not react kindly. Or the days when a girl refused to return the money she borrowed from me, or I suspected my drawer was searched and my note book had gone missing for more than two days, I was less than angelic in my behaviour. By the end of my 1st year in college the horns were in full view for everybody to see. And then there was this time when I wrote a full answer on my question paper and passed it to a friend during the university exam, as I was scared he might fail the exam otherwise. Though a shiver runs down my spine each time I think of that juvenile reckless behavior, the horns and the wings enjoyed connubial bliss on that day. (This best friend later turned against me, teaching me an important lesson in life: nobody in life is worth brandishing your horns for, but that is another story). There were other times when the wings fought with the horns, each trying to outdo the others, claiming authority. But I would spare the details here.

I finished my studies, and started teaching in a University. I studied to help people with hearing disabilities, but over the years decided that I could do something better than just be a direct care-giver. So I opted to teach and help students who will in the future go out in the world and help to make a few lives better. Though at times I might have lost my patience with my students, but mostly, I would like to believe, I performed well in my primary job and my students and colleagues would possibly remember me as a good human being.

A lot of incidents came crowded in my mind when I was writing this post, some still very fresh in mind, and others half forgotten. On those times, when the horns prevailed over the wings, I avoided my Dad’s gaze, as things were often more complicated than explaining the fault of a simple wooden chair. In retrospect, I feel that I might not have done brilliantly well in my job, but I trust I have done fairly well.

Today I am on the right side of 30, and with maturity, I realized that things are not always black and white. The horns are still there (and they serve pretty well to keep the halo in place). The colors of the wings are little faded here and there, but they still flutter as beautifully as they did that afternoon on the school playground.

This post is in response to the blogadda contest (powered by Pringoo).


On the road to finding myself… and taking wrong turns

Last year someone predicted that I will not write a blog post in next one year. Even though I sneered at him that time, and thought, "Who does he think he is… Paulo Octopus?" (Well I actually did not think of Octopus then, but something to that effect), but I (ashamedly) agree that his words have come true.

Well, I never said I was a serious writer, not even a true blogger. I don’t even write a daily diary, even though Bridget Jones is my all-time favourite heroine. Guess what, I have not even stood on a weight scale for more than three months. But I did eat lots of chocolates (not B&J), drank wine (not chardonnay), and more often than once saw myself embroiled knee-deep in a mess brought down by my own stupidity (not all of them involved men), and I guess… I hope I am guessing right… that my best friend is a gay. And that alone qualifies me as the biggest fan of Ms. Jones. I still occasionally jot down ideas and things I feel need to be spoken which I am sure nobody otherwise will give an attention to had I been speaking in person. So my blog exists…

While I was absconding from my blog (which is more like a sabbatical, I would like to believe) this is what I did. I read lots of chick (read trash)- lit, saw more movies in one year than I did in cumulative 30 years, gained ten lbs, and in between all these managed to do some work too.

After being reclused in my haven for more than a year, this morning, however, I was shaken awake from my reverie. It was one of my friends who came to say Hi to me at my work place, and after some “idhar udhar ki baatein, bageira bageira,” I bade him good-bye and said “good morning” with a curt of my head and a bow. Damn! That BBC drama last night. Who I was thinking I was? Elizabeth Bennett of P&P? I mean who says “good morning” in these days? I am sure my friend has never read a Jane Austen, but I can’t vouch he has not seen Casablanca. He might have recognized the pattern. Well, well… do not panic. Even if he suspects, I will say that was my alter personality. Oh No! Again Bitten By Evil and Anniyan.

So readers (if there are any*)! You might have guessed my problem now. Of late, my life has started resembling like a film, and I the heroine straight out of the page of a book which was accumulating dust in a library. But no more! I am going to pack all Austen novels today. I am just afraid of one fact. If I try to avoid acting like Emma today, I might go out and overdraft on my credit card a la Becky Bloomwood tomorrow, or worse, leave the car at home and take the broom to work. Now I am wondering Jessica Darling might like to include this post to her Do Better Storyteller Project? NO! STOP!

Hence, as a last resort to keep my sanity, I decided to vent out all my pent-up emotions in this blog. I hope, and I pray and hope it works, this will keep me from acting like a book character and help me move on with my life. But not now… that is for some time else. Till then, let me say a few more “Pray, tell me” and “upon my words” and “Oh! My dear, dear Mary Anne” (My friend’s name is Maria. Do you think she will realize that I changed her name?).

* Even if there is no reader, I can still depend on the Soulmate (who will arduously go through this post thrice, just to avoid to be put up with Meena Kumari – esque tears), and my vast in-laws clan (who more out of loyality and less of virtue will vouch this is the cleverest written post they have read in recent one-year past), and few friends and other family (who will click the button just to be shown on the cluster- map and in this way avoid getting nagged for the next 3-4 weeks). To them, whom I love most, I dedicate this post.

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