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Showing posts from 2014

One Step Up

Tia
“Tia darling! So nice of you to come to my party, it’s been a long time since we met at that charity event!” exclaimed Mona, handing her a glass of wine as soon as she entered.

“You look fabulous, my dear!” replied Tia, “So I take it you like the new DSK Spring collection?”, indicating Mona’s brand new designer gown.

“Really? Thank you! I remember what you said about me not wearing pink, so I bought this green dress. Anyway,” she said, dragging her farther into the room, “You know most of the people here I expect. I’ll talk to you later, I have to check up on the caterer now.”

Someone hailed Tia and she was soon busy with her regular cronies. She wouldn’t have come here if not for Mona, who was one of the few people she felt comfortable with. She disliked crowds but hated being alone even more so. Ten years of homeschooling could do that to a person. She could still recall the day she was kidnapped from school as a young child of 8. The police eventually caught the criminals and s…

One Step Up

Sana
Sana hung up the phone and hurried onto the set. Thankfully the director hadn’t finished yelling at the technicians, so the rest of the models for the shoot were still lounging at the far end of the room. She sank into a sofa next to Maddy, relieved that her sister had taken the bad news well. She’d really been looking forward to meeting Abhay after such a long time but this shoot couldn’t be postponed. Damn her manager for doing this without consulting her!

Raj had been her first agent when she started her career and she had no complaints about him, until a year ago that is. He’d started behaving oddly, pushing her to do more campaigns than she liked and booking ramp shows without so much as asking her. Yet despite working a hectic schedule, her bank accounts weren’t growing. Whenever she asked anything about her finances, Raj would put her off saying that her investments were doing well and not to worry.

But she did worry. She had thought of asking Nihar for help but she had he…

One Step Up

Nihar
Nihar came home from the spa to find her son Abhay closeted with his grandmother, doing his homework. She sank into a chair and silently thanked her MIL for being at home to keep him occupied until Nihar came home from work everyday. Her husband Sudhir had suggested that his mother should move in when Nihar was pregnant, since her own mother had died more than a decade ago. At first she had been apprehensive - even though they got along with each other - that living together might be a problem but everything had worked out rather well.

Still, she had a nagging feeling that Abhay was more attached to her than Nihar or his father. Sometimes she felt that Abhay treated his parents as nothing more than a way to get nice toys and ice cream. They tried to spend as much time as possible with him in the evenings but there weren't enough hours in the day. By the time she came back home, she and Sudhir were both exhausted.

It wasn't just family time either. She honestly couldn'…

One Step Up

Diya
Diya forced herself to relax while the attendant spread a mud pack on her face. She’d been nervous all week thinking about today. This was totally unlike the little beauty parlour she went to every month for eyebrow threading and the occasional haircut. No, this was a spa and they didn't just cut hair here. They styled it. And that was only the beginning of all the treatments a woman could get done. Normally she would have been too intimidated to even set foot inside, let alone enquire about the prices which she was sure would be too high for her budget.

But this visit was a gift from her dear mother for her 30th birthday. Luckily for her, the gift card was for a particular package which meant she would not be gaping like a fool at the exorbitant rates. Once again, Diya tried to relax telling herself that these women were being paid by her. She employed them and as much as she was sure they were secretly laughing at her naiveté, Diya wasn’t the one working for a living. But de…

One Step Up

Radha
Radha knew that Lakshmi was eyeing her sari, though no expression showed on her face. All the maids thought she was arrogant for not talking to them but Radha had never been one of those people who thought her caste made her a better person. It had just been easier not to talk to anyone when she had first come to the city. Besides, these maids never had anything much to talk about except gossip and no one knew better than her how much damage could be caused when women gossiped!

It was gossip that made her believe in Chandrasekhar. That he was a famous author, pretending to be a wastrel and swindler for his latest novel. He had been so charming, she had fallen for him completely. Her parents had died when she was 13 and she had always wanted someone to take care of her. She had been so happy. Until the day she woke up to find that he had disappeared and her house sold without her knowledge. He had turned out to be a swindler, pretending to be a famous author. She had been left wi…

One Step Up

Lakshmi
Like every other day, Lakshmi woke at 5 am in the morning. As a domestic worker in a sprawling metropolis, she had her share of worries. But today a new trouble stood out from the general sense of anxiety that usually ran in the background: the problem of rent. Lakshmi and her family of 5 - her husband Kumar and the 3 kids - shared rooms with another family in the run down building. They were lucky not to be living in the slums like some of the other maids but with the landlord raising the rent yet again, she wasn't sure how much longer they could live there.

She went about her daily chores mechanically, all the while puzzling over how to raise the extra money. Maybe she could ask a raise from one of the women she cleaned for. She had worked in some houses for more than 3 years and everyone agreed that she was fast and quiet, not like some of the others. She remembered that Mrs. Patel had wanted her for some extra hours on the festival weekend, that little bit would come i…

Where Are My Robots?

Science fiction means different things to different people. Some are enthralled by FTL space travel, others dream of the day humans can travel through time - if only to kill their grandfathers ;) Me? I wanted robots. Not just any robots mind you. I wanted a III laws obeying, Asimovian robot all for myself! I know other writers have written robot stories but I was always intrigued by Asimov's robots, and the Three Laws of course.

For Asimov's robots were special. Unlike other writers who portrayed robots as evil or as creatures who would eventually destroy humans, Asimov conceived of robots as tools of humanity. And just like other tools, their effects depends on how they are used. The Three Laws are used by Asimov to explore the relationships between humans and robots as well between robots themselves. The many ambiguities inherent in the laws also make for a wide variety of stories ranging from alternative histories to murder mysteries from Asimov.

So while others wait for th…

Adventures In The Dark

If you have ever moved to a new city, state or country, you know the feeling of strangeness that pervades your first few days or even weeks sometimes. You miss some aspects of your old home but find and appreciate good things about the new one too. Pretty much the same thing happened to me when I moved from India to the USA 18 months ago.

I missed - and still do - street food, the hustle and bustle on the roads and inside colonies, movie songs blaring from autos and buses, kids going off to school in the winter mornings and so many little things that you never notice while living at home. Basically I miss the sense of being surrounded by life all the time. Life in India is always noisy and colorful. But at the same time, I love many things about the American way of life. There is a sense of calm and order, people respect your privacy even in public spaces and I certainly don't miss the constant ogling and catcalls from strange men on the street. Given the snowy winters of Michigan…

Why Everyone Should Learn To Cook

Two years ago, I was a care-free working (though I'd just quit my job) girl who hated cooking. Back then, if someone had told me that I'd be a fabulous cook someday I'd have laughed in their face. Really, you're talking about a girl who has burnt the rice in a pressure cooker because she was so absorbed in a book that she didn't hear the whistles. My poor mom came home to find the kitchen in a cloud of smoke that day! A girl who couldn't make a cup of tea or coffee to save her life.

And yet, flash forward to today and I'm a girl with an actual recipe blog. I can cook several cuisines and I'm always on the lookout for new dishes to make at home. On the way I've burnt my fingers a few times and chopped or nicked them several times over - inspite of challenging my mom that I would learn cooking without hurting myself :D Other than fantastic new dishes and how to make them though, I've learnt quite a few things about cooking that has changed the way…

How-To: Hide Youtube Comments

If the internet came with a warning label, it would say
"DO NOT READ YOUTUBE COMMENTS" For tech-savvy geeks or those born after 1995, it might seem to be the most obvious thing in the world. But to those people who don't spend the majority of their lives online, reading the comments section of YouTube for the first time can be quite the rude jolt. It is a cesspool of hate, abuse and inflammatory statements spewed by trolls and jerks. Indeed, there are few people who can wade into the comments section and come back out with their faith in humanity intact. If you dare to try and read the comments on a few videos, you are generally guaranteed to lose two things (at the very least):

Brain cellsAny and all hope for humanity
Now Google has tried to clean up the place with some G+ integration - forcing users to use real names or at least pseudonyms - which appears to have made some improvement. Still, there are far more productive ways to spend your time than reading YouTube com…

8 Simple Rules For Indian Movie Heroes

Hero: Male lead who always emerges victorious in the end. Easy to mistake for the villain - they often do the exact same thing - so it is necessary to introduce him to the audience with a traditional song and fight scene. Now, heroes in Indian movies aren't nearly as type-cast into certain roles or cliches as heroines but that doesn't mean heroes don't have rules too!

1. A hero can always fight
It doesn't matter if the guy is a school teacher or doctor (as opposed to a policeman or a soldier), if he has never had any martial arts training or attended self-defense classes. If his mother, sister, wife or girlfriend is threatened by any thug, mafia gang or corrupt cop, the hero will fight anywhere from 1-20 people effortlessly. Well, sometimes he might get hurt but he will always go on to win in the end. After all, nobody can be stronger than our hero. He's the HERO!

2. A hero will refuse to fight with a weapon, to show moral superiority
No hero will even think of armin…

8 Simple Rules For Indian Movie Heroines

Before I get down to the rules, here is a working definition of heroine:
Heroine: Female movie lead who falls in love with the hero. Always. She is a good person, with no shades of gray. Always.1. A heroine should conform to a certain 'type' Sati Savitri (SS): She wears salwars or saris. She is god-fearing, obedient, shy, innocent and often poor. Acceptable vocation: Classical arts teacher, help parents run the family business (provided it's not the mafia or something). Falls in love with the hero by interval.Deadly Diva (DD): She wears mini-skirts or tight jeans. She is arrogant, selfish, rich and usually dislikes Indian culture (until made to see the light by our hero). But she is also god-fearing. Falls in love with the hero by interval. 2. A heroine should be a virgin Not being one automatically disqualifies her. If she has to eventually end up with the hero after all, the director will go to any lengths to show that she is still a virgin, somehow. 
One of my favorite Ta…

The Girl Who Would Not Fail

Part V - The Triumph
Day of the results

The results had just been posted on the notice board and a horde of excited students rushed to check their scores. Some whooped in joy when marks exceeded their expectations while others moped. Some students were furiously debating whether to submit their papers for revaluation. Jazzy stood nearby, watching and trying to work up the courage to take a peek at her scores. She congratulated her friends on their results and assured them that she would catch up with them later at the college canteen. When they asked about her marks, she only replied that she hadn't seen them yet.

One part of Jazzy argued with the other, Don't be such a coward! You've done so much hard work, you have surely passed. Even if you haven't, it is better to know that to bear this torture of not knowing. Do it like ripping off a band-aid, fast and painless. 

Still, she waited until the crowds thinned a bit. Now only a handful of girls were left and no one was …

LGBT (Rights) Are Human (Rights)

I was scrolling through my Google+ feed when I came across an interesting video called 'The Welcome' on LGBT Rights by the UN, posted by +Vamsee Kanakala. Now there are many things to criticize in the video like the clothes the two men wear (my goodness, what were they thinking?!) but it is still heartwarming. Unfortunately, I was checking it out on my phone and inadvertently looked down at the comments. Oh what a mistake that turned out to be! This would never have happened if I was seeing it on my laptop (where comments are hidden by default, you should do that too) but on my phone...it just happened.

The level of anti-gay sentiment displayed there astounds me still. The sad part is that most of the arguments used are not only irrational and downright stupid, they're ones that are quite easily debunked. Honestly, it shouldn't take anymore more than a few minutes to point out why they don't make any sense. So instead of just making sense in my own head (I do that…

The Girl Who Would Not Fail

Part IV - The Marathon The next day

Once again, Jazzy got out of the car in front of a lecturer's home. But this time, the event could not have been more different. The professor, Mr. Mohankrishna, was a recent addition to the college staff and was barely five years older than Jazzy herself. He didn't have much of a reputation - at least not yet - and there were no students huddled around, waiting to clear doubts or ask last minute questions. Murthy had told him about his daughter's predicament and he had accepted the job, viewing it as a challenge to his teaching abilities.

A lady with a kind face had let her in and told her to wait for MK in a rather small room. It wasn't long before he made an appearance himself, carrying a load of Accounts books in his arms. Before Jazzy could utter a word, he started talking.

"Your father has told me everything that happened with The Professor. He also said you were intelligent and determined to pass your exams. I'm willing…

The Girl Who Would Not Fail

Part III - The Verdict
Jazzy got down from the car and walked up to the address shown by the driver. A bunch of students were streaming out in ones and twos, discussing accounts and the forthcoming exams. Most passed by without even looking at her, though a few did glance curiously at this new face. She went inside and knocked on the door. It was opened almost immediately by a little girl of about 7 or 8.

"Thatha said no more doubts," she said uncertainly.

For a moment Jazzy was confused, then realized that tuition had closed for the year. The students had all been sent away to prepare for the finals and here she was, getting ready to start!

"The Professor knows I'm coming. Will you please tell him that Murthy's daughter is here?"

"You wait there," said the girl pointing to a door close by, before running off inside.

Jazzy went into the room and sat down on one of the chairs close to the blackboard. The last few problems of the day were still on t…

The Girl Who Would Not Fail

Part II - The Arrangement
Jazzy paced up and down on the verandah, anxiously waiting for her father. He usually spent some time in the front office after breakfast, attending to business before leaving for the factory. From her vantage point, she would be sure not to miss him. Not that she was looking forward to the next half hour, this would not be comfortable. She was nervous, trying to collect the words she would use to talk to him. She was so absorbed in this that she didn't see her mother come up and nearly screamed when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
"Aaah! Oh it's only you Amma!" exclaimed Jazzy.
"There is no need to be nervous now. Just go and explain to him what you told me yesterday, everything will be all right." So saying, Lakshmi bustled away to the kitchen to supervise the cook.
Easy for you to say, thought Jazzy. I'm the one who has to face him. I'm the one who has to study stupid economics and accounts instead of doing experiments in…

The Girl Who Would Not Fail

Part I - The Confession
Jazzy sat alone on the verandah, hugging herself and rocking back and forth. Practically everyone was asleep on this hot summer day, except Jazzy and her mother, Lakshmi. Why wasn't mummy asleep? thought Jazzy and then remembered she was busy getting the guest room ready for the relatives arriving over the weekend. She returned gloomily to her current problem, which was beginning to scare her the more she thought about it. How could I have been so stupid? What will I do now? I cannot fail, not now...I've never failed! 

Jazzy was lost in her troubles and nearly missed her mother calling her name. She jumped to her feet and walked up the stairs quickly. The maid had just finished sweeping the room when she entered, making her cough a little.

"Where have you been all this time Jazzy? I've been calling you for 5 minutes now!" barked her mom, worried as usual about the impending guests.

Sometimes Jazzy felt like the front door should be replace…

Dumping Windows For Linux? If Only...

How many times have you felt like doing kicking your computer to the curb? I mostly get the feeling when it comes to formatting my laptop (because that's the only way to fix whatever was screwing it up, even if it isn't my fault). I recently re-installed Windows 7 on my laptop. Why? Because Windows Update mucked up once again, that's why. If the official update system from Microsoft (designed to protect your system) causes problems, what can you do?! I was not prepared for yet another long day spent moving data around, installing all the applications I use on a daily basis and the ultimate horror - trying to find all the relevant drivers for my hardware.

With XP, getting up and running would often take me hours since there were hundreds of things I'd have tweaked and changed to suit me exactly. Mind you, I had done this before so I knew what to do and had all the parts (Win DVD, key, HDD for backup etc) on the table. Still, re-installing windows is never fun and I had…

Hope Remains, Always

This is the final part (V) in a series of stories, set in the game world of Banished. Read Part I.
I am dying. Oh, the others make polite sounds and murmur words of encouragement but we all know the truth. Without the advanced medicine and technology available on the other planets, it's a miracle that I have managed to live this long at all. In a month's time, I will be 80 - the oldest any Terran has managed to survive so far. One day we might once again live for centuries but this is the end of the road for me. To be quite honest with myself though, I have done more in these 57 years of banishment than any human with centuries under their belt on Ganymede or Mars. I have felt alive...
Quite a few people were skeptical about the trading post but we managed to finish it just in time before our stock of iron went down to zero. No iron meant no tools and without tools, our little band might well have perished the next winter. I was just as impatient to get news from the planets abo…

Everybody Has A Novel Inside Them

We've heard this so often. It is said by English teachers to their hopeful students. Aspiring writers bandy it about to encourage each other. Editors quote it to crush some dreams, while making others come true. I mean, even The Hitch had something to say about it!

Everybody does have a story inside them, their own secret little world that they carry around in their head. But whether or not it deserves to be told is a whole other question. Another stumbling block is whether people will bother reading it at all. The toughest hurdle of all - will they like it?

Of course I want to write a book someday, preferably a novel. But what should I write about? This question has haunted me for a long time. I have so many stories to tell, so many opinions of my own that it is difficult to pin down just one topic on which I could write. On the other hand, I'm also not sure I have a novel-length story to tell inside me. Then it hit me: my own blog was the answer!

When I started blogging way …

'Queen' Of Hearts

I don't generally review movies that I watch regardless of whether I like them or not. For one thing I'm too lazy and reviewing a bad movie seems like such a waste of time. But I've seen some good Hindi movies lately and one in particular got me excited enough to write this post.

I've always wondered why certain films are under-appreciated by Indian audiences. Most of the really good movies I've seen were usually made on a shoestring budget but well made for all that. On the other hand, most big budget films with 'name brand' heroes leave me feeling cold. The story is uninspired and usually misogynistic, ageist, and practically every other kind of -ist there is. The acting itself is usually average or even if it is good, it's fighting a losing battle with the script. Yet for all that, they do well at the box office. *shrugs*

Movies like the recently released Queen are the exact opposite. The script is realistic and original. People don't spontaneous…