Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Years ago, my father said ‘What you read is a definition of who you are or want to become.’ Then, when I would not show him my writings, he was amazed. After all, it was an accomplishment. But that was the thing – as a teenager in India writing romance stories online – I could in no way conceive of sharing those with the people who knew me in real life. But sharing my most intimate imagination with strangers was okay because they would only judge the stories, not me for writing them.

It took me years before I even admitted to my parents that I wrote romantic stories and fan-fiction online under a pseudonym. That I even had a semblance of a following.  They were proud of me. They truly did not care that I was writing romance – and romance from a teens point of view is a different matter entirely – they were just that happy that I was creative and had found a way to spread that creativity.

Since those were their reactions, without reserve, it can be said that they had not internalized it into me that writing romance was something I had to hide. In fact, throughout high school, I had regaled my grandmother and aunt with stories I read in Mills n Boons books. They had always listened patiently, never judging me or the women in those stories.

So what went wrong?

In the 1990s romance in Indian media was an obsessive thing. Men would fixate on a woman – usually for her beauty, sometimes for her spunk and many times for revenge – and then follow her until she gave in and ‘loved’ them back. Some women were wrong for loving a man while others were wrong when they refused. It all depended upon the story the filmmaker had chosen – and if the man in question was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The judgement, in truth, depended wholly upon the man despite it seemingly being the woman’s decision and her character that was being judged.

And every single time – parents opposed this love. It could be mild opposition, it could be extreme, or it could be comedic. But oppose they did. Love was taboo. And unless you were lucky, it did you wrong. It is in this world and with these role models that I started writing.

To me, a rape attempt was a perfectly usable plot device. But it could only be an attempt because ‘a heroine never gets raped’ and ‘the raped woman always dies’. This was a me who was still unsure of how sex worked – and thought she knew what she was talking about when men ripped a woman’s shirt. Sure, the shirt needs to be ripped to rape someone – after all, don’t the villains always grab the pallu in the films?

The intrinsic misogyny went deeper than this.  In my stories, when the man cooked, it was because he was taking care of the woman. He was the progressive and perfect man. It never occurred to me that every person should be capable of something as basic as feeding themselves. When a man fell in love with a woman – I found it acceptable to write that he scowled at all other men who even looked in her direction. But he was good because he did not tell her to change her clothes – he just glared at everyone else. I never understood that him having to glare at other men because they were ogling his girlfriend painted a fairly creepy society – one where only the protection of a man kept the woman safe.

In my stories, women have been abused, raped and hurt. There is emotional abuse as well as societal and familial pressures. All of these are things I had never faced or seen in real life. Yet, if I re-read my work, it is scary how accurate I was.  So how did I internalize all of this to the point that my stories rotated around women overcoming all these odds and the men who helped, supported or led them? How could romance mean learning martial arts so that you are never helpless and raped again to a sheltered teenager?

Because that is the world I was raised in. After all, familial attitudes are not the only thing that shape us. We are shaped by everything in our surroundings. From the films we watch, the songs we sing, the conversations we are a part of, or the ones we overhear.

When I grew up – I was influenced by stories and media that said rape was bad. Where the rape victim died and the ‘hero’ took revenge for her ‘izzat’. But rape was never shown, or truly described. It just had a man biting the neck of a woman – if even that. That was then.

Now, we are surrounded by news of rape. We are surrounded by mass media that propagates an internalized misogynist attitude. From lyrics to plotlines, there is objectification of women everywhere. And the children growing in this scenario are the ones who will be holding the reins a decade down the line. Some of them will not even wait that long to show the effects of this environment. For example, there was news on how a kindergartener had been raped using pencils by her classmates. This is now.

We cannot stop reporting on rape and sexual crimes. We cannot remove objectification of women from all media immediately. After all, the media is only a reflection of us. But we can try to change the narrative. It is not sufficient any more to give or even show your values to the people around you. It is important to discuss things. The children need to see and hear discussions about these things and understand that while they might be surrounded by sexualized media – that does not make it correct. That while a popular actor is dancing to extremely sexist lyrics, that does not make the reality of those lyrics okay or even acceptable.

It is easier said than done.

Everything is easier said than done.

But we have to start somewhere.

Let us start with teaching our children, boys and girls, what is okay and what is not. And let us keep telling them again and again until they internalize what we teach them, and not what the world is forcing them to learn.

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I didn’t know what to say, how to react. How do you react to something like this?
I could only feel. My heart was pounding, my breathing was starting to become erratic. This had to stop. I laid a hand on the center of his chest. I could feel his diaphragm expanding as he breathed me in. That was it, and I knew I was lost.

I took a step forward and he smiled. That smile that Nickelback wrote about in Rockstar – ‘They’ll get you anything With that evil smile ’.

And then he slipped away, ephemeral, a dream, an imagination.

But he was there, I could see him still. I moved forward again, the smile became wicked, I was in his arms but he had sucked his lips in. There would be no kisses for me. That was okay. My lips were painted red. We would have ended up looking like clowns. I held him tight, and he held me. I felt so safe and oh so warm inside.

With another smile he let me go, and I walked away.

Smiling at my dream, buoyed by the idea of a man who may not exist, but was terribly real in that one moment.

 

Mr Right

Posted: August 23, 2016 by Arushi in Original Fiction, Thoughts
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This is not written by me, but by a friend, for, and to an extent of, me. Her blog is here, but this post is not.

It is better for the soul to remember the good, to acknowledge it, to believe in it and to relive it. To simply remember the good again and again and leave no place for the negative…

People are probably gonna ask me for the rest of my life “what was it about him?”.

Maybe one day I’ll come up with a better, more interesting answer, but the truth is I don’t know.

My parents wanted me to meet this guy and, out of respect for them – and because it never really crossed my mind that it would amount to anything – I agreed. After all, the worst that could happen was a short, awkward phone conversation.

They gave me his number and told me he was expecting me to call. I rolled my eyes as I dialed, wondering for how long they were going to keep trying.

He picked up after the third ring and for once, I couldn’t think of anything clever to say.

He asked me to give him five minutes of my time, so he could tell me a bit about himself, the kind of life we wanted and the sort of person he could see himself sharing his life with.

It took way more than five minutes, but I didn’t mind it at all. I could tell he was being honest and I found it incredibly disarming. And kinda sexy.

I couldn’t help but to be truthful as well, and ended up telling this stranger things very little people, if anyone at all, knew about me.

It took my phone beeping, to let me know the battery was dying, for us both to realize that five hours had passed since our first hello. I didn’t want to hang up.

The conversation had moved past the both of us and we had discussed our families, literature, politics, movies…

It was so very refreshing and I felt myself blush, thinking I could had forgotten everything and just kept on talking forever. But alas, we both needed to work in the morning and he promised we would talk again soon.

I decided I was going to marry him in the time it took me to say “goodnight”.

I took a deep breath and went to bed, wishing “soon” would come sooner.

Breathe.

Posted: September 22, 2015 by Arushi in Thoughts
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Do not write what you are feeling right now. Do not do it. Write about something else, anything else. Write with so much passion, that you can change how you feel. So that you forget what you were feeling, what you needed to vent, and can only remember what you are writing about.

Let each word give you catharsis. Let it give you freedom. No. Demand freedom. It is your right and you are only bound by the chains that you have allowed. Break them. Shatter them Grind them to dust.

Know that it hurts. Hurts you. Hurts others. Know that it is not easy. Do it anyway. Break something. Build something. Allow the world to collapse around you. No. Burn it down. If it does not make you happy. Make a new world on the ashes. You will miss what you have lost. But you have to move on. It might hurt. It might be lonely. But continuing is not an option. Never an option.

Do not be the phoenix who rises from the ashes, the same as before, if fresh. Be the arsonist. Burn it all and leave unscathed, yet filled with the memory. Learn from the experience, but do not become the experience.

Get hurt. Forgive. Not for them. For you.

Live. No matter what they say. They live their own lives. No one has the right to mess with yours.

Be. Yourself.

Want Me

Posted: August 31, 2014 by Arushi in Original Fiction
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Recently I read some very good short fiction, some of it from a friend who posts her stuff here. So I was feeling a bit inspired (in a sense). Here is the result: 

I called him because that is what I thought I should do. He answered because that is what he thought he should do. Funny word, ‘should’.

It was only later that I realized I was doing it because I wanted to. He because he had to. And that made too much of a difference. That little place under my sternum started to hurt, to ache. Then the pain started to spread.

It ached and ached and the worst of it was, he saw it. He knew he caused it. But he just did not understand.

He didn’t understand that it wasn’t about what could be or what could not. It was about what he wanted. About how much he wanted me. If I mattered to him in the same way in which he had consumed me.  

I went on a drive to think. To clear my head.  

Later they said I nearly died. That there was a semi and the car had wrecked. The piece of glass almost punched through my heart. I told them of course it couldn’t. He’d carved my heart out a long time ago, piece by piece. There was nothing left to cut. 

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There are so many quirks to every personality. I find it infinitely easier to share my stories over the internet compared to even my closest friends. Of course, I have time and again harassed my friends into listening to my stories and they have done it, heck telling them has actually given me insights on how to move forward plenty of times, but still.

Revealing something you have created, no matter what the form, is scary. It is hard to put something you cherished, something into which you poured your heart and soul, out there and hope for the best. I laud those people who have the guts to do this. 

Since 2007 I have been putting up my stories on FanFiction.net (FFN) and yet it was only in 2010 that I finally made an account on FictionPress.com (FP) under my real name. A lot of the stories are the same, because while I tended to borrow character names (and sometimes personalities) I prefer my stories to be original. Still, I can never let go of FFN, not completely, not the least of which is because of the large number of readers I have gained there over the years.

Weirdly, I have never had a problem with criticism. To me, if someone cared enough about my work to actually say something, that is a compliment in and of itself.

The only thing I really wonder about it, what facet of my personality is shining through my words and when. And how much of myself do I actually want to reveal. The same thing applied when I started this blog. Even now, I am writing a story and posting it regularly on FFN, FP and Wattpad but it has yet to be spoken about here even once.

When I write, I have space only for the actual writing but later, it is harder to push all this away. Which is why I am really glad for the fact that I can post each chapter as soon as I write it – so I do not over think it.

I am going to be brave. Because I promised a friend. Because I wanted to make a resolution, and there can be nothing better.

Here is the link to Arranged and the blurb:

Kaira and Lucian come from two families who have had an uneasy truce for as long as anyone could remember. Now for some reason, the parents want them to get together to present a ‘united front’ to a common enemy. Kaira calls bullshit but Lucian is interested. It seems like as good a chance as any to finally start dating someone he has wanted for a long while and been secretly friends with for over a decade. First though he has to convince Kaira, who has a penchant of shooting first and asking questions never. Complicating matters is the tiny problem of a gang war and of course, Kaira’s and Lucian’s siblings who thrive on mayhem.

This is a story I am in the process of writing and upload chapter by chapter. Do let me know what you think 🙂 and yes, I really do want to know.

Damsels in Distress! Not!

Posted: January 21, 2014 by Arushi in Uncategorized
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The other day, I was watching Stuart Little with my nieces. It was the climax and Stuart was in his car, running from cats. One of them asked, “who is going to save him?” My cousin, their mom, answered, “he is going to save himself.” 

It made me think about how much we expect someone else to save the day. If someone is in distress and that someone is a cute white mouse, of course someone else will save him. On a side note, white mice are not half as cute in real life – or maybe that is just me. Its something to do with the tails, just cannot stand them. 

But back to someone else saving the day. For the most part, when I write a story and I do write a lot – even though only a very small fraction of it ever reaches anyone –  my female lead tends to be a damsel in distress of some kind. She can be quite capable of taking care of herself, but be emotionally vulnerable, or at times, while emotionally stable and quite smart, she can be physically vulnerable. But there is always a growth period and growth can never be achieved in isolation.  

The one time, the female lead was eventually physically strong and emotionally stable, it was after suffering from PTSD for the entire story. I think she is the strongest character I ever wrote, and not just because she could handle a gun like a pro, but because of how much she grew and how much she overcame. There are a few exceptions where the character has been strong from the start, like Micara, whose shorts I published here. Yet by the end of each book, my characters tend to grow and learn to overcome their issues, sometimes with help, and sometimes on their own.

Also, while I tend to not  write much urban fantasy and prefer what can technically be called romance, I always make it as violent as any urban fantasy. Sometimes I make myself wonder exactly what I was thinking while writing something, when I read it later. I mean really! But then again, I do not think it is that easy to understand ourselves completely or psychology would not be so darned complicated. 

For the most part though, I do like writing the girl in trouble kind of story. My guys are not perfect, and not very real either to be honest, but I like putting two characters together who might be a little broken and see them fix each other. Its just that the distress part calls out strongly from the female lead which makes me think that traditional gender roles are just too deeply ingrained in me. That reminds me of this: 

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I think we all enjoy the part where one character saves the other in one way or another. We become even more invested in the story when they both offer redemption to each other in some way. I think it is because it signifies hope that no matter how badly screwed up we are, there may be someone who can fix us. Or maybe someone who is just as broken as we are and we can be broken together. I am not sure. Its not something that I can sit and analyze since I do not have more than a basic knowledge of psych. It is also intriguing to see characters grow and overcome their vulnerabilities, whatever they may be. What I do know is that sometimes the most fun story is the one which has the damsel kicking distress out of the window and saving herself.