Picture Perfect

Posted: November 18, 2016 by Arushi in Thoughts
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All of us (anyone who is reading this, for sure) are leading a life on social media as well as ‘living our real life’. There are check-ins, reviews, photographs, quotes, status-updates, snapchats, instagram posts, tweets and many other ways in which we project our ‘real’ life onto our social media.

Our social media platforms are supposedly a mirror of our lives, the parts we want to share with friends and family, without actually sharing and the parts that we want to be public. Our opinions, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, the pictures of that party or feelings about that person, all out there in black and white for the audience selected by us to see. After all, this post is also a mirror of my thoughts at this moment about something. Would you like to know?

This mirroring of our lives is fake. I love social media. But. My friends only know what I choose to share. My family only sees what I choose for them to see. With one click I can restrict anyone and they would simply think me very reticent. Not only am I selecting the audience I am also tailoring the material, editing it.

We all lead such glamorous (comparatively) lives on facebook and instagram. We are always dressed up, always pretty (what else is the Beauty setting in cameras for) and always smiling. There is no inkling of what is behind that smile.

If I trust facebook, all my friends are happy, content, eating out at posh places, travelling, reading books, going out, getting married, having kids, dancing, drinking, loving and living the utopian human lives. But they are not. Not the ones I am actually in touch with. The ones I speak to in real life – have real lives apart from all of this. In fact, this is only a small part of their lives. They never mention how hard it was to smile for a particular picture in the comments, but they do tell me on the phone.

But what I see on facebook (because that is the only one I am really active on) is what I end up projecting onto it. A friend (an amazing friend) recently told me that she had thought I was happy, that everything was great, because of what she saw on facebook. Then we talked and now she knows how wrong everything is. She also knows better than to trust facebook now, especially when it comes to me. So she texts. She calls. She emails. She makes sure she knows what is going on.

How many of us would put in that much effort? I am not sure I would. For a while, yes. But for months she has supported me. Been my rock. Months.

It is not just this distortion. I feel like I must be doing something wrong. After all, I am the only one unhappy. Everyone else looks spectacular, fabulously happy and are having the time of their lives. Right?

Somedays I wonder if they are hiding their own share of problems. They probably are. There is no utopia. But on really bad days, I hope that this is all there is to them. That there are no problems. That at least someone out there is happy, is having the time of his/her life, is partying, travelling, reading, laughing, getting trashed, dancing madly, loving like a fool but not becoming one.

Hope.

 

 

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The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series has been one of my favorite paranormal series’. When I started reading, there were probably 16 books out and I binge read them all. Ever since then, I expectantly waited for each new book. I never had an issue with the twists LKH brought in, the number of men in Anita’s life, the elaborate and really long sex scenes or basically anything that happened – coz most things took the plot or the characters forward.

I know I read the last book, but I do not remember it now. I read Narcissus in Chains almost a decade ago and can narrate the entire story. The last book was forgettable. But I think there was a plot and there was character growth. Because I did not feel the disappointment that I feel now.

I usually do not write bad reviews. I give bad ratings on GoodReads, but if I already feel my time was not well utilized on the book – I am not interested in spending more time cribbing about it. This time, however, I feel I need to do it, hoping that LKH might see this, or at least her editors do.

There are spoilers ahead.

Crimson Death starts off with Damien. He is having trouble and Anita goes to talk to him. Made sense. Cardinale had an issue with everything because she is a paranoid and super jealous girlfriend. Made sense. The utter frustration felt in the situation made sense. This was LKH’s job. She did just fine. But it was the job of her editors to shorten it – make the whole thing crisp. To take the frustration and instead of letting it spill over so many pages, sharpen it to knife’s edge – make it cut, and then move on. I ended up feeling just as frustrated as Damien.

I like the details that LKH puts in. I like how she gives us names of the guards. I like how Anita thinks that she should know the names of the people who might give up their life for her. I don’t get why we still see the dumb guards who are too sexist for their own good. And even if they are, they lack the professionalism to keep it under wraps especially when in front of their boss. And if they are so unprofessional – they should not be doing security at a place like Danse Macabre. What if they are unprofessional to a customer? What then? After 25 books Anita has to deal with people like Ricky. Why? Cut them out. We have seen a thousand versions of the same scene – we do not need another one. If it needs to be mentioned – then he leered and Echo met Anita’s gaze and Anita understood Echo would take care of it. See? Done.

Anita is supposed to be having a serious date. She goes, has her date, comes back and the plan is to sleep with Damien. Just sleep. The situation is awkward. But it does not need to become a therapy session. I am glad everyone is going to therapy. God knows they need it. But these things cannot take so long. This is not real life where everything does take forever and still never gets truly sorted. This is a book and these people only have a limited number of pages to get their story across.

This is just the very beginning of the book.

Every single person has been described in painstaking detail in the book. Their looks, their backstory, their fears, desires, preferences and their relationship with Anita. All of that is needed – but to a much shorter extent. Yes, I do want to know where Dev and Anita stand in their relationship at the moment. But, I do not want to know what he looks like anymore. I know already. If I did not even know what the main characters looked like, I would not pick up the 25th book in the series. It is LKH’s job to put in this information – to make sure she links everything together. It is the job of her editors to tell her that this is verbatim what she has in the previous books and to cut it out. To tell her that we all know Nicky is blonde, tall built and with one eye missing. Reading about his mannerisms was interesting initially, now we know exactly what they are and can picture them better when not weighed down by a 1000 words on the issue.

Nicky, Jean-Claude, Asher, Nathaniel – all are described way too much. The stillness of the vamps – we have been doing that since book 1. Don’t explain. Asher’s scars – no I do not again need to know about the Inquisition. I know. Tell me about him and Kane. Not about the scars. I know Jean Claude has black hair. I know Anita has curls. I know their hair is really long. I did not know Micah needed prescription glasses – that was interesting. But I did not need to be told again that a ‘really bad man’ had made him stay in animal form too long. I know about Chimera. I read Narcissus in Chains. And even if I had not, it has been mentioned more than enough times since then. These people do not need to be introduced, not in any way.

I know otherwise I have no business picking up the 25th Anita Blake book. So why did not her editors know all this and cut it? If they could not cut it, why did they not tell LKH at least?

Then there are the conversations. Almost everyone is going for therapy. I am actually really curious about this therapist (or if it is more than one?) because you have to be AMAZING to deal with people with such issues. Plus there is the problem of how strong most of them are. What if they lost control and hurt the therapist? How does the therapist know he/she is safe? How do you do your job when faced by powerful vamps who might roll you? Or shifters who might break you?

So, that kind of stuff would be cool. The challenges faced by a therapist of the supernatural? Imagine being a therapist for the Harlequin. How do you handle that? And how does the therapist keep all the secrets? Has anyone ever tried to break in and learn abt the personal lives of these famous people?

Instead of anything interesting coming in – we have every conversation being dragged to its death, and then its body being dragged some more. I know these people are all going for therapy and they have worked very hard to be this open and this accepting of themselves and others. But, there are times for such conversations and not all conversations can be like this.

The time in the plane – while traveling to Ireland – best place for these conversations because there is nothing else to do.

While in the van with Nolan present – No. And Nolan sharing with these guys so much – NO. We have just met this guy. He’s a badass – think Edward at the start. He should act like Edward then. Not to mention, Edward should act like Edward. Him being treated like a ‘normal man’ in this book is so disconcerting. He is Edward.

And then there are so many things that never get explained, sorted or solved. What did Edward do in all his time in Ireland? Did he catch He caught no one? He found no vamps? This is Edward. And I never even saw why he needed Anita to come by. It’s a vamp plague – sure. But nothing beyond that. Why would he need her? I never learned how the Irish cops had pissed him off that the Ted mask kept slipping. The Irish are so nice it is annoying – so then how did he get so angry at them? Them calling for Anita I can understand. Him being desperate to include her? No way.

Every place has fools but why is every fool Anita meets a misogynist? Her reputation precedes her. Then do they simply ignore the kill count and focus on her wedding? How do the Irish even know the rumors? The Americans do, but then they are all part of the same law enforcement. Are the rumors about her sex life on the internet? I thought that would not happen considering she is marrying only Jean-Claude and that is all that the press would know.

Then come the later bits. The fey could have been so much more – but they become a footnote. And then we have Nathaniel – finally growing into a man – who has to sightsee and take bodyguards away from Anita. He’s smarter than that. Yet, it was good to see a facet of him that suited his age.

Of course, Jean Claude was too weak to be left alone with Asher. This is Jean Claude. He has fought and clawed his way to where he is. He is not weak. Anything but weak. Why the sudden twist in personality?

Then we have the ending. It is chapter 73 by the time the real plot starts. Sure, the stuff before was the precursor – but then they do not actually try to solve anything. Looking at crime scene photos and then saying what you see is fine. But nothing else happens. No actual crime solving. Are the entirety of Irish police so incompetent or so against violence that they cannot do their jobs? They may not kill vamps – but they have not used any info Edward gave them to do anything else?

Anita is kidnapped. Again. Cannot contact anyone Metaphysically, again. Rolls someone who gets her out. Again. What is the new bit?

The vamp whose very name other vamps do not say, dies without a whimper. Where was the fight for survival? Sure Anita is weak – but hunger has left her just as weak throughout half the book. Where was the crime solving, the hunting bad guys part? Where did we get any actual info on Nolan’s team except their names? SWAT has always been given more respect. These guys were amateurs – especially Brennan – who was not even pulled off duty and sent back to guard Anita and her lot. Socrates stayed at the compound – so she wasted one of her best guards for no reason but to train people? Training could have happened later – how was guarding his queen taking a backseat?

And then there is an ending. One large vamp shows up, Damien says he has always been more of a beast, and voila one major issue solved. It was never shifters but this vamp who was killing off people that brutally. Okay. But if he was also making new vamps, then how was it? Coz we are told Moroven had trouble with it too. So how did a minion do it so well? Why was magic dying in Dublin? That is never explained and without that, the vamps rising would have been impossible. So, a major plot point is completely ignored, not just left unresolved.

The ‘fixing’ of the marrying a tiger situation is solved so easily. I was not even sure the tiger in question was dead until much later. What happened to explaining what was going on? The position of everyone on the bed, their hands, their clothes, their preferences and even their positions are always described in excruciating detail (every time, mind you) – and yet something that important is just treated as an after thought.

The end is too blah, for lack of a better word. It’s liek someone describing a movie they watched with amazing graphics, that are just not translating into words. Except I know LKH can do it. She has done it before, many many times.

I think the end of it is, I am severely disappointed. Will I read the next book in the series? Probably. Will I expect better? Yes.

I know LKH is an amazing storyteller. I have read a lot of books which are proof of this. But the bare bones of a plot filled out into a flat summation type description along with wordy conversations and other descriptions do not a novel make.

The Indian Constitution guarantees six fundamental rights to Indian citizens as follows:
(i) right to equality,
(ii) right to freedom,
(iii) right against exploitation,
(iv) right to freedom of religion,
(v) cultural and educational rights, and
(vi) right to constitutional remedies

Please note that these rights are for ALL Indian citizens. Gender, race, religion and even age, do not make a difference when it comes to these rights. They are the FUNDAMENTAL rights of all Indian Citizens.

The reason I am repeating it over and over again is because some people seemed to have forgotten this recently and might need to reacquaint themselves with the basic core of the Indian Constitution.

When broken down to the basics, the Constitutions treats all citizens as the same. Every aspect of it that in any way makes a distinction among these citizens is not because the Constitution sees them as different, but because they are the ones who are different from each other and the Constitution is trying to give them fair and equal treatment under the law.

Please note, that these fundamental rights include the right to an education. Everyone and anyone who prevents that, by word or deed, is unconstitutional. It can be the people banning girls from studying, the people who employ children and prevent them from going to school – I am sure everyone can think of at least one example of this. Did you know that a few centuries ago it was thought that the more a woman read, the less her husband’s age would be? And this was a belief held by many Hindus. It’s a surprise men aren’t dying out like flies after a HIT spray these days, considering how many have highly educated wives.

I digress. Back to the point in hand, sort of, we are all equal as per Indian law. In fact, there is a whole section devoted to ensuring basic human rights to ‘aliens’ as in foreigners while they are on Indian soil. So, the Constitution even ensures that ‘aliens’ are treated as humans. If actual aliens ever show up, we are prepared. And I am not kidding when I say this.

We are lucky to have a Constitution, no matter how lengthy, which tries to cover everything under the sun. It is a living document – with the use of the judgments of the courts, especially the Supreme Court and the Amendments made by the Parliament – it has done its best to stay up to date with the times. We are lucky, and if do not use it well, then that is on us, not the Constitution or even the Judiciary.

All of this leads to my main point. Since we all equal under the law, and since there is a surprising amount of homogeneity that we have come to expect from the law when it comes to our dealings with it – why should we think it should not extend to personal law?

If there is a property dispute and the people belong to different faiths, they expect to be treated equally. Same if there is a breach of contract. Then why should women (or men) who want a divorce be treated differently just because of their religion? Everyone has heard of how easy it is for Muslim men to divorce their wives, but do you have any idea just how difficult it is for the wife to get rid of a bad husband? And, if she wants to re-marry her husband, she has to first marry another man, sleep with him (consummate the marriage in nicer terms – but why to sugarcoat reality) and then divorce him. Only then can she remarry her husband.

Then, of course, there is the Hindu Act. A marriage is a ‘sacred bond’ as per Hinduism which lasts for seven generations. So the laws governing divorce are really stringent – no matter the reasons for said divorce. But, did anyone give the memo of ‘sacred bond’ to the husband and his family? The Supreme Court recently had to pass a judgment that a daughter-in-law could not be treated like a maid by her in-laws. They had to pass a judgment about this because that is how sad the condition of this ‘sacred bond’ is in our country.

How about equality – if a wife has to live with her in-laws because that is a ‘pious bond between son and parents’ – yet leave her own family for her husband – let’s make marriage illegal? After all, a daughter is the same as a son right? And what of people who only have a daughter(s)? Their daughters leaving them for a husband should definitely be illegal. After all, al offspring should be held liable towards taking care of their family – not just the one gender. And what if that daughter, who is an only child, does not earn? Should it not be mandatory then for her husband to financially take care of her parents? In fact, it should be mandatory for him to treat them as he does (would) his own parents.

Or you know maybe we could have communal housing with the families of the bride and the groom living together. No? If he cannot live with her parents, he has no right to ask her to live with his, especially when they treat her like ‘in laws’ and not a member of the family.

You remember all those movies where the heroine says ‘Is ghar me meri doli aayi thi aur yahan se meri arthi hi jaayegi.’ But frankly, why should one die rather than leave? Life is the most precious thing on this planet. Is a husband mightier than life? In that case, why are there no stories of a husband granting life to his wife? All the stories are about the wife saving the husband – just look at our mythology – every fast possible – a woman keeps for the long life of her husband. Let me know if there is even one time that a husband has to stay hungry for the long life of his wife.

I digress, again. I think the point is that we finally have things going in the right direction. We have people raising questions and not getting killed for it (for the most part). We have people trying to bring about a change. We have a judiciary that is standing up for the people. We even have a government that is cooperating. Let us make full use of it, just in case we lose this chance. Let’s speak up, let us make people hurry, let us help them open the road – one that will eventually lead to us all to possess our fundamental rights in actuality.

Getting There

Posted: September 27, 2016 by Arushi in Thoughts
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I have talked about me multiple times on this blog. There is also a separate category for this – Thoughts. But I wonder if I have ever been bluntly honest. Usually I hide behind third person pronouns and rambling tags. It is so much harder to own up to my own mind than it is to pen my thoughts down.

I am halfway through Getting There by Manjula Padmanabhan. I think I got my courage and my inspiration to be so brutally honest from there.

I am not happy. I would say I am clinically depressed except I am not certain of the definition of clinically in this context. It just sounds more impersonal and more impressive than plain old depressed. I am having issues with my body image, with my sense of self. I am in a relationship – in a marriage – that has been rocky from before its inception. It is not that either of us is a bad person – but we are too different. In fact, somedays I feel we are as wrong for each other as it is possible to be. Somedays I love him more than life itself.

Our expectations, our ideologies, our attitudes towards gender roles – all of that is different. There is some deep level, where we have barely connected – except we did connect enough to still be together. I read a letter on a ‘psy-help’ website from a wife asking her husband – when will she be his first? As in, when, if ever, he will prioritize her – the way she has been prioritizing him from the moment they were engaged. She’s not sure he ever will. I am not sure he ever will, either. But then, I am not one of those who can keep on giving – asking for nothing in return. I am not that person. I do not think I could ever be.

To me, each relationship is a two-way street. So I gave up. That inner core of me which was happy – which loved him and just wanted his love, nothing else – has vanished somewhere.

Maybe I should try harder – maybe it is the ‘lot of women’ and someday my actions will make him understand what my words could never explain – but that is not who I am. So many people have tried to make me understand this. I do not. If you cannot put me first, I see no reason why I should do it – unless I still choose to. If you cannot love me how I love you, then you cannot complain when I change. What you cannot do for me or mine – you have no right to expect me to do for you or yours. If I do it – count your blessings – if I do not, then you better be fine with it.

I used to want the ‘whole package’ – husband, two kids – heck, I even wanted a white picket fence. Trying for that ‘perfect’ vision got me to understand that no matter how ‘perfect’ I try to be – I will never be good enough because I am just not wired that way and neither will anyone be able to meet my expectations from that pedestal. And being the person I am – I quit. It might have led to more rockiness in my relationships – but it did bring me closer to me. I studied closely what I wanted and what I had thought I wanted. That is one of the best things – for me – to come out of this whole thing. I no longer want kids. I do not even want a white picket fence – a house is so much harder to maintain – give me a spacious flat any day with a minimalistic decor. I now know I am happiest when I work – and I value my work over most other things in my life.

I have accepted that I am struggling with depression (and migraines – both existing in a symbiotic relationship) and no matter how much I want to blame others for it  – I too should have known not give anyone that kind of power over me. I know I will never make the same mistake again. There is no conclusion to this – because I am still here – still human in all my failings – with someone just as human who perhaps loves me too – otherwise why would he still be around?

In its unedited avatar – this post was too raw – one of the most honest things I have ever even thought of putting ‘out there’. Now it’s edited and still hitting that post button will be extremely hard for me. I am saying this here because where else would I say it?

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‘Death is certain for all who are born…or is it?’

Professor Bharadvaj is more than just another whisky-loving, gun-toting historian-for-hire. Behind the assumed identity of the cynical academic is a man who has walked the earth for scores of years. He is Asvatthama – the cursed immortal, the man who cannot die.
When Professor Bharadvaj is approached by the enigmatic Maya Jervois to search for a historical artefact unlike any other, he is reluctant to pursue it. The object in question, the Vajra, is rumoured to possess incredible alchemical powers, but the Professor does not believe it exists. After all, he has spent many lifetimes – and identities – searching for it, in a bid to unearth the secret to his unending life.

Yet, as the evidence of its existence becomes increasingly compelling, the Professor is plunged into an adrenaline-fuelled adventure that takes him from the labyrinthine passages beneath the Somnath temple to the legendary home of the siddhas in the Nilgiris, and finally into the deserts of Pakistan to solve a confounding puzzle left behind by the ancients.

But who is behind the dangerous mercenaries trying to thwart his discoveries at every step? And is the Professor – a legendary warrior in a long-ago life – cursed to walk the path of death and bloodshed forever?

I am not really a reader of Indian urban fantasy. Or even Indian fantasy, in general. Call me a snob, I don’t mind. It is definitely true when it comes to picking what books to read. This book has converted me if the rest in the genre are just as good.

Immortal by Krishna Udaysankar is the story of Asvatthama. Yes, that Asvatthama – the one who was a part of the Mahabharata. The son of Dronacharya. Duryodhana’s friend. Disgraced at the end of the Great War and cursed with eternal life.

Of course, I am sure I will learn a lot more about him when I get to The Aryavarta Chronicles – Govinda, KauravaKurukshetra – by the same author.

That being said, let’s talk about this book. Asvatthama is alive and well and has now been ‘roped’ into a search for the Vajra. Something we think is a mythical weapon. Or is it? It is definitely mythical, even to Asvatthama – who is extremely skeptical. After all, if he could not find it in centuries – it must not exist, right?

We move with this man, this undying man, as he follows the trail from the temples in Dwaraka to the deserts of Balochistan. What he is doing is truly interesting, but who he is now, that is even more interesting. Here is the man who was there with Genghis Khan, with Subhas Chandra Bose – who fought in battles all over the world – who, in his own words, is now that rare breed – ‘a soldier by profession’. It is him as a person who truly intrigued me – his fear of his body rotting – of losing his mind due to this horror – but not being able to die, his terror at the thought of forever drowning – and the fact that he overcomes all this to do what needs to be done. I liked the other characters too. There are no caricatures – but real people. All with their own machinations, desires and failings.

An extremely interesting read, the book is filled with well-researched references, characters that feel real in spite of their ‘magical’ realities, and a story that keeps you hooked and guessing till the end. I personally really enjoyed all the name dropping Asvatthama does.

Definitely, a read I’d recommend.

 

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You can even see an itty bitty me in the corner…

To be very honest, I do not really have words to describe this place. It was so exquisitely beautiful, that I do not think I can do it justice.

As part of our tour (these guys – LetsGoKerala.in – planned everything ), we spent almost 20 hours on a houseboat in the backwaters. First there was the cruise, then lunch, then cruise, then mooring at this gorgeous spot somewhere in the backwaters, dinner, then the night on a boat amid all the comforts, then a morning with a view, breakfast and then a ride back. Then we went to Alleppey beach and from then, drove on to Munnar.

Except for the bare facts (stated staccato like above), I really do not have words. But then, I do have pictures. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

Travel Diaries: Bengaluru

Posted: September 12, 2016 by Arushi in travel
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The first thing that struck me about Bengaluru was the air. The cool, fresh air, with literally no hint of pollution, especially compared to Delhi. I loved it. I cannot remember the last time I was in a car with the window down, but that is what I did here – much to my own surprise.

The city is a sprawling metropolis and it took me over an hour to reach my destination. Throughout, I kept the window open, relishing the wind.

To be honest, I didn’t really see much of the city. Of course, the fact that I went from the airport to Marathalli to Yeshwantpur Railway Station and finally to Malleswaram means that I did see the whole city. The roads anyway.

Everywhere, there is a certain beauty, a touch of green amidst all the concrete. Maybe it’s me. From Rajasthan, I have grown up to really love greenery whenever I have found it around me. I adore the bright plants that crop up after rains, even though I know they’ll die soon enough. But in Karnataka, they don’t die. There’s water. It rains very often, without being muggy – a miracle to Jaipur born and Gurgaon living me.

There were trees that had grass – at least I think it was grass – growing on their trunks, their branches – like the straggly beard Captain Jack Sparrow sports.  There was moisture in the air, there was humidity – but it was lacking that sweltering quality which I had learned to associate with dark clouds. I could not have been happier.

Of course, while the weather may have been spectacularly different – or maybe I was lucky to visit at an extremely opportune moment – from NCR, the traffic matched the National capital on its best/worst days. Remember the huge Gurgaon jam due to the rains? I spent 5 hours traversing around 4 km. Well, Bengaluru had its own version which was just as bad. Bengaluru is just HUGE. Perhaps I still haven’t let go of those notions of Jaipur and Saskatoon where you can go from one end of the city to the other in an hour.

Also, the road to the airport was amazingly green. Beautifully landscaped with so many flowers in bloom – I kept trying to click pictures – knowing that the speed of the cab was not exactly allowing for it. I think maybe this road had a lot to do with my great first impression of the city.

And then there is the airport itself. Planes land and planes take-off. What is there to rave about, right? Mostly that is true but I liked the bright colours in the stores and I loved the fact that there was free WiFi even though I did not avail the service.

But you know what the best thing was about Bengaluru? My friends. I LOVED spending time with them. Seeing them, getting hugs, enjoying conversations that could be had over the phone but were so much better in person. Every moment I spent in that city is precious because of the people I spent it with. From the midnight conversations to the skipped lunches, from the travelling to the shopping, every moment was breathtaking because they joined me. Because I had them with me and know I will always have them in my life, no matter how far in between these trips where we actually see each other.

I need to visit again. Soon.