Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Jacob Portman grew up listening to the stories of his grandfather’s childhood which for the most part contained descriptions about peculiar children and monsters. At the age of 16 when Jacob is wise enough not to believe the bizzare stories that his grandpa told him, a mind-numbing incident takes place which leaves Jacob questioning his doubts.

The quest to demystify his grandpa’s last words and also to clarify his own doubts takes Jacob to a remote Welsh island where decades ago a home had given refuge to Abraham Portman. Here unfolds a series of secrets that divides Jacob’s life into a ‘Before’ and ‘After’.

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.” When a book starts with a line like this, it surely grabs the attention of not only your eyeballs but your mind too. Indeed the book is filled with extraordinary. Ransom Riggs has carefully crafted this book which he has based on numerous photographs borrowed from various collectors. He has meticulously placed all the photographs across the book and has weaved a story, filled with mystery and fantasy, around them.

The book starts at a good pace, slowing down a bit towards the end with bit too many twists and turns and an unexpected ending. But unlike most fantasy books this one neither has any wizards, nor vampires. The book, as the title suggests, feature ‘peculiar children’ which bear the element of fantasy in the world of 21st century. The story has its own creepy and scary moments at times even edging along dark fantasy and even horror.

The book is the first part and its sequel “The Hollow” released in 2014 which I am yet too read. A movie based on the book is under process which is said to be directed by Tim Burton with its screenplay being written by Jane Goldman who has also written screenplays for X-Men – First Class, The Woman in Black, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Just like any fantasy fiction this book will garner equal interest from both children and adults and is a good book to read over a weekend. Grab this book and get along with Jacob into an adventurous, dangerous and brave journey into a world of unexpected and extraordinary.

The Incomplete Masterpiece

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That loss that you experience from the moment you are born. You are born a girl, your loss is you don’t know what it means to be a boy. You are born rich, your loss is you don’t know how the poor lives. Your loss is not knowing so much of reality that exists in the world.

The books that you will never be able to read and the places that you will never be able to see. All those wonderful people you are distanced from due to language or miles. All these obscure sorrows plague you and yet you move in life as if you own the world. As if you are going to live forever.

You are withering, every hour, every minute, every second, unaware of what is approaching and careless about it. All you think of death is like the thoughts of a distant cousin sitting in another land whom you haven’t met or spoken to… ever. You don’t think of old age which is creeping in your limbs without giving you any sign.

Time, the most powerful. It grows on you. You grow with it. Past is nothing but a painting which you consider you have finished but the truth is different. It is abandoned. It looks different everytime you see it. Look back into a memory which you thought would kill you, did it? Look back to a moment, a big achievement which you thought were your biggest. Does it seems so now? Has it changed? It is the same past. It is the same painting; the same indelible strokes; and yet it all feels different.

Time is the healer. It subtles your losses, calms your burns, and even smudges your sorrows. Those obscure sorrows, those nameless ones, which you feel, which you know but cannot define. Befriend Time. Befriend your losses. Befriend those obscure sorrows. Life is limited. Live on. It will see all of you but you!

You will never have enough of it to see all of it. You are not an expert, never can be. You are just a passerby. So while you pass, paint it into a good incomplete painting. And may be someday the world will call it a masterpiece.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black
Finally I succeeded in reading a non-fiction book. The inspiration behind reading OITNB was of course the popular tv show, but my caveat there was that I had just heard about the series and nothing more than that. When I started the book I neither knew the subject of the show or had even watched its teaser nor any trailer.

My interest was sparked purely on the premise that a tv show was based on this book and trust me, until I turned the first page I didn’t even have a clue that it was a non-fiction. That is how I picked up the first non-fiction book. And I must say, it was not bad. No, not at all bad.

Orange is the New Black, is a memoir of an American PR lady, Piper Kerman, who had to spend 13 months in Federal Prison at the age of 34, just because during her post-college days she got hooked to a life of reckless decisions. The book is quick and covers a lot of aspects about life in the all-women correctional facility situated at Danbury.

I haven’t read any prison diary till date so I can’t really comment on its similarity to one. The author has given quite a detailed account of the one year she spent at prison, about her lifestyle there, about people with whom she interacted, about the effects of prison on her family, and about her relationships with her co-inmates.

I found the start of the book really interesting but somehow felt my interest slipping towards the middle. I guess it was more my feeling because I am really used to the drama of fiction and OITNB is a pure factual narrative. But somehow I held on and it was because the author has been really good with her narration. My patience really did pay off as the second half of the book is full of the stuff that I really look for in a book.

The book breaks a lot of stereotype views that society hold towards prison and prison treatment. But one may note that this memoir is based majorly on writer’s experience in a minimum security facility.

The fact that the world of prison is a totally different one than the one on the outside is very true. This world has its own rules n corruption, its own education system, employment system, a tiny economic system too. People form families and friends and each have their own way of ‘doing their time’ than to let their time do them.

The second half of the book is filled with revelations and realisations that author experiences and a keen reader will find many of these interesting and quite relatable to real world life too.

All in all, OITNB was a good non-fiction for me to start this genre and I look forward to reading more such books. One thing I do want to point out is that if you are looking for the interesting plot, storyline, drama et al that the tv series is providing you then you might feel disappointed because as I told before, the book is a complete factual narrative. But go ahead and have a read and don’t let my judgment prejudice you.

I took quite a few lessons myself from the book and enjoyed reading this book and therefore I write this with a hope that you experience the same.

The Book Thief

In the short life that I have lived I have read few books. And from those books only countable have been able to make it to the list of my favourites. Today one more got added to the short list – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Here is a book which I am sure I will read it time and again. If ever I become a mother then I will give this book to my children to read and perhaps grandchildren too. Yes, I even pictured a wrinkled, weak and frail me with sparse silver white hair on her skull, sitting in a wooden rocking chair and sifting through the book.

This book is ageless, just like how the narrator describes Werner to be. Werner, brother of Liesel Meminger and the first person to come in contact with the narrator. The Book Thief – here is a story about words, about love, friendship and relationships, about life and Death, about bravery and humanity.

This is the story which comes straight from the heart. It is filled with a warmth that seeps into the reader even as she eyes through those words that describes snow clad Germany. This story will make you happy, it will make you smile. This story will also make you sad and it will make you cry. It made me cry.

One cannot say for sure whether it has a tragic end because even though there is loss the story ends with a sunshine of hope. The characters are timeless. They will stay with you long after you have finished reading the book. But there is an end to each person’s story. And perhaps that is the reason that even though you are left with a hollow in your heart that usually accompanies the end of each book one reads, there is also a peace and a calm that it tags along and which continues to warm your heart.

All I can say is that today I earned a new friend, a new friend which will stay with me for a lifetime. And even though it is too soon, I wish that when I meet the narrator, he finds me lying amidst the words of this book.

23rd July 2015 – 8.30 am

Now that the hunger has subsided, let’s get down into the stream of consciousness. Travelling in train in the month of July is something I don’t think I have ever done before. And now as I sit in the sparsely populated 2-tier compartment, with people still devouring the depths of a slumber which eludes them during their mundane daily lives, I have finally gathered enough mettle to jot things down.

I would have loved to do it with a pen on real paper. But oh the spoilings of technology. That reminds me he had asked me yesterday about keeping a pen along with me. It had happened while I was giving finishing touches to my packing. It was a question that I had let gone unanswered. I guess it is Murphy at work all over again. I felt the need of exactly that what I had not bothered to pack.

Getting back to travelling in train during monsoons. Its certainly bliss. Especially if you have caught on to enough sleep during the dark hours to wake up at day break. The view from the window is serene. It is all green to the last inch of horizon. The air is cool and fresh and the entire nature seems to be on a weekend mode. Spring definitely is the weekend for nature.

There are the freshly ploughed fields with soil which is not caked but looks beautifully dark after being washed by a night pour. Then there are certain fields which are done with sowing and tiny plants have started to emerge from earth’s surface. Some of them probably celebrating the days when they finally witnessed the sky. They remind me of my own back at home. I am the careless mother to them who are being tended to with utmost love by their father. Yes, of the two of us he is the one with the green thumb. All I do is breath in their freshness and greenness that too for my own comfort.

This journey is turning out extremely blissful. With the company of a heart-warming book I have a vast expanse of green carpet laid outside the window. As the trees run past many things crop up in my head and all of them barely make their presence felt. It seems like a melee of thoughts but a happy one if something like that is even there.

I look at the tiny bird which is flapping its windows with all his might trying to soar to better heights. Then there are those stray skeletons of dwellings standing little away from the tracks which often make me wonder about their stories. There are those huge electronic grids the rows of which go till the horizon. And those hidden shrines and ruins of some small temple hidden beyond the dense wilderness.

All this raises just one urge inside of me and that is to know about their stories. Stories of those farmers who have ploughed all those fields, about those who used to dwell in those abandoned, ruined dwellings and about the million others who walk those small muddy roads, who live beyond the small stations beyond which I cannot see. I wish someone could tell me. I wish Ruskin Bond could tell me.

Stack of Houses

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The houses that were built upon me, they feared not of the doom that faced them. Happily unaware, they went on building them, one upon the other.

I am weak. I am no more able myself to carry this burden. Should I take it off? Should I take it off and keep it aside? And yet I wonder not of the weight that is burying me inside. I wonder of the fate of the houses.

I never wanted any more on me other than me. I knew I was not made of those bold stuff to carry them. But yet they thought I could. They stood on me and continued doing so. I carried them somehow.

One day I could no more. I took it off and kept them aside. Some fell and broke, some shivered violently. Some just shook in silence. I picked them up no more. I let them be off me. They yet stand still.

Secret-Keepers

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How they arrived.
Making no sound
like drifting or more like floating.

I was on a train to a land
long forgotten by me.
A land of memories.

I looked past the rushing trees,
the blurring greens.
I looked at the barren fields.

And then they came.
Rushing at me in their
silent clamour .

I was knocked out of breath.
My vision empty
but my insides full, my heart.

I sunk in their eyes,
and saw every fantasy of mine.
They dripped.

Each of them turned into
a giant teardrop containing my thought.
And they dripped and PLOP!

On the ground I saw them falling,
I saw them leaking and breaking
into a million pieces.

And I could do nothing.
The secrets were out
they knew it all.

And no one knew anything.

एक और कहानी

उस कमरे में एक अरसे से रात ठहरी थी

वो कही नहीं जाती

बस वहीं एक कोने में सिमट के पड़ी थी

बिखरी सी सिमटी थी

माँ जैसे करीने से कपड़ो की तह लगाती थी

वैसे ही उसका आँचल पड़ा था

रात का आँचल ओढ़े वो रौशनी की सेंध लगाती थी

एक अरसे से रौशनी को ढूंढते

उसने उस ठहरी रात से दोस्ती कर ली ।

Outrage is the new ‘vogue’

Disclaimer: I am human and I am not perfect. The views expressed herein are just my opinion and I do not mean to impose it on anyone. I respect the fact that everyone has their own point of view and theirs might not necessarily be same as mine.

Last evening, while scrolling through my facebook timeline I came across a video shared by one of my friends. I am pretty sure that by now most of you would have either watched it or heard about it. Yes, I am talking about the Vogue Empower video which features 99 women-of-note from India, featuring a piece written by Kersi Khambatta, recited in the voice of Deepika Padukone and directed by Homi Adajania. If you haven’t watched the video yet, then watch it here.

Since the video went viral, a lot of strong reactions have been stemming from people all over the social media. The reactions are both positive and negative. When I first watched the video I reshared it on my facebook timeline stating “This is powerful”. The video has that effect on women. But looking at the flak that it is getting from people, I feel it has not gone down well with many, women included.

I was not aware of the furor caused by the video until my brother pinged me asking about the video. He said he wanted to watch the video and wanted to know what the hullabaloo is about. He said that the video has created quite a controversy and I replied saying “some people just need some topic to outrage and I don’t find anything controversial in that video.”

When I asked him what he thought about the video, he said that it is bound to offend male ego. He said on one watch it seemed that the video’s sole purpose was to kick men’s ego and boost women’s ego. It was then that I realized that the video will obviously have a different impact on the two sections. It is definitely very strong.

My brother clearly explained me that just because he feels that the video hurts men’s ego, doesn’t mean that he is against women empowerment. As well as I know that guy, I know he is one person, who holds women in high regards and well agrees with the evils that women around the world are being subjected to. We have had long discussions on these issues many times and never once has he come across as someone who is in favor of male dominance.

He went ahead and explained me that, if a person looks at the video as a piece of art, the narration especially, then it will serve the purpose. This got me thinking. I guess the part that hurt the people most was the narration which talks about women being open to sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage etc. which are a taboo in our society. If only people could realize that the piece is more symbolic than literal in nature.

What I understood from the video was that, it is a message to both the men and women in the society. It asks men, not to take the women in their lives for granted. If one listens carefully, it asks men to value the love of the women. It also goes ahead to caution men to not be a fool to think that a woman who comes home early is all virtuous and the one who comes late is not. It also sends a message to women that, no one can really empower them unless they themselves work towards empowering themselves.

But, let us chuck discussing and outraging about this video. Personally I feel it’s frivolous to spend our tempers and time over fancy awareness videos. Yes, Vogue Empower is investing and roping a lot of eminent people for their cause. I am not belying the work that they are doing. But, the main irritant for me is the unnecessary importance that is being given to this video. Why can’t people rather talk about the real actions that are being taken towards the social issue of women empowerment?

Another point that had cropped up through this video factions the society into feminists and menists (fairly a recently coined word). Few people think that being a feminist means bashing men all the time. I don’t know how exactly feminists are supposed to be, but irrationally bashing men is so not feminism. If asked about feminism, I would like to favor the opinion given by Emma Watson as a UN ambassador for #HeForShe campaign. She has aptly put that feminism is not about man-hating but more about achieving gender equality.

I have myself gone through a myriad of changes in opinion while witnessing all the outrage that has been going on out there. At a point of time, I was skeptical to even put up this post as I was not sure whether  what I am trying to say would be taken in the right spirit or not. But then, as I said earlier, everyone has a right to their opinion.

I am now tired of discussing this video. In fact, I never understood the point of outrage in the first place. As I have said earlier, I would rather concentrate on reading, hearing and talking about the real actions that are being taken rather than a publicity campaign. Also, I want to say that, whoever has watched the video are people who are educated and have access to technology. Considering these two facts, I feel I can safely say that all such people are capable of rational thinking. And if the same is true then I guess such enlightened minds can decide what is right for them and what is not.

I don’t think the video is going to alter the cases of adultery or extra-marital affairs in any way. If a person has to get into an extra-marital affair, he or she will get into it irrespective of the fact whether they see the video or not. Moreover, half of the oppressed women for who such campaigns are being run might not even be aware of the video. Do we see the pointlessness of it all now?

There are few questions though, the answers to which I wish I could figure out.

Why the social media junta of our country only pick at the one negative point of any social efforts that are being made for any social cause?

Why the positive always gets shadowed by the negatives?

Why people take so much pleasure in talking about negatives rather than positives of anything for that matter?

I really would like to find out some answers to these.

And just so that I could end my post on a positive note, I will talk about something really heartening that caught my attention more than the vogue empower video. I want to share the story of the village Piplantri in Rajasthan where daughters are celebrated. Here, every time a girl child is born, 111 trees are planted in celebration and taken care of. And that is not all. Read the entire story here, if you want to know more about it. This is what makes me happy. This makes me more hopeful. And mind you, here are people who might not even be aware of the Vogue Empower Video. Let’s take some lesson from them.

This is another story

Anika was late. She got caught in the web of the web and got late. She had not planned to put on the dress she had put on. But while pulling out her choice of dress she chanced upon that soft, cotton heap of peach and out of sheer whim she pulled it out and wore it.
When she looked at the mirror she was delighted with what her reflection showed. She dropped the idea of putting on too much makeup and ended up just applying kajal.
Satisfied with the final look she picked up her phone to click a few selfies. She was loving the way she looked. It’s got to be the perfect date look, she thought to herself, he will be totally floored when he looks at her.

It had been years since she had actually made so much effort on her looks for any meeting. She was hoping that he likes it. She was doing it all in order to impress him. Right then her phone rang. It was him. She picked it with a panic.

“You already landed.”

She was supposed to be at the airport by that time. She quickly wrapped up the phone call, picked up her handbag and looked at the mirror for one last look. Something clicked inside her. She picked up the red tube kept on her dressing table and pulled out the brush. One stroke. Yes, now things were perfect.

The kumkum shimmered on her forehead. This time, she wanted the world to know that the guy who held her hand while they walked was the one to whom she belonged.