Promises of a Firefly

Title- Promises of a Firefly

Author- Anupam Patra

Published- 2017

Pages- 209

Genre- Fiction- Short Stories

While on a Non-fiction reading spree, I received this book for a review. Honestly, I was expecting fiction, after reading the short description that was provided. To my surprise, the book was a collection of short stories.

I had given up on short stories long back. Reason being, I was getting repeated stories, all in the same stale approach. In short, they were all old wine served in an old, tattered bottle. The few, rare stories that I read would be those written by a couple of my blogger-friends.

This book is a collection of 11 short stories. Each deals with some emotion that a human being goes through. It could be the loss of a loved one, bereavement, hope, unrequited love or anything. The stories are all short and crisp.

I would not claim the crux of the stories to be novel or special. Most of them are cliched. But the treatment given to the outline is very good. For any story to be appreciated, it is not enough if the plot is good, the narration, the setting, the approach etc must be equally good.

Seeing that this was the debut work of the author Anupam Patra, I loved the effort and the language in it. I am a sucker for lovely narratives. So yes, this passes the test.

You know sometimes we grow so tired of our lives and would just want a trigger to cry it out? This book helps you do that.

Although, I do not appreciate the order in which the stories are printed. I personally feel the emotions could have been analysed more and then spread out through the book so that the reader actually goes through a roller-coaster ride when reading this one.

In short, I liked it. It felt like a whiff of fresh air, which was not too long or boring.

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20 years and counting

Today, the Harry Potter series completes 20 years of existence. In this 20 years, the series has seen it all. It has been celebrated, shunned, criticised and worshiped. All of it in a span of 20 years.

For a lot of kids of the 90s era, Harry Potter would be an inevitable part of their lives. It is so much like that closed room in our house, that we would have decorated with every care, every little detail attended to with the eye of an artist. It is that room that we would love to cherish and remember with a lot of fondness, with a lot of love in our heart. It is in that room, that we would love to spend the rest of our lives, irrespective of how impossible that might be. All that is possible would be to spend some quality time there, every now and then and to breathe in and out, with all the satisfaction in life. A satisfaction that we have seen it all.

Harry Potter revolves not just around the trio- Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It is a story, a tale about each and every character that is shown to exist in the series. There is a story, a specific trait for every character. There are quirks that would set one apart from the other. There are flaws that would define the character. We loved them, not giving a thought to their flaws. We were okay with those flaws. It made them more believable, more human.

Every HP fan like me would have lived through a phase where we spent hours and hours dreaming about life in Hogwarts. I for one wanted to don those black robes and walk the corridors of Hogwarts. I wanted to be there in that bridge corridor over the black lake when Harry was having that conversation with Lupin. I wanted to be there when Ron and Harry were fighting in book four. I wanted to be the one who forged peace between the best of friends. I wanted to be the one who would spend hours practicing Quidditch, especially with Oliver Wood and Cedric Diggory ( More so when I saw them on screen). I wished I got to take part in the Yule Ball. I wished I could team up with the Weasley twins and laugh a lot. I wished I was one in the group that went to the Ministry in search of Harry. I wished I could save Dobby. I cried, laughed and celebrated along with Harry and his friends.

Yes. I was one among them.

Then one day it all ended. Harry Potter was not going to fuel my thirst for more. Seven it was and that’s it. It.All.Ended.

The most important lesson that I learnt from reading the series was that everybody has some inherent flaw. It was also okay to introspect and accept that flaw. Everybody has a past that one would want to forget. Not because it gave them the chills, but in order to remind themselves that they were better off at present. Some chapters are best when closed for good.

Dumbledore, Luna, Snape, Ron, Ginny, Harry, Lupin, Tonks, Voldemort all had their own dark pasts. Some had to fight their way past it. Some had to forget it and move on to the next phase and some had to live with the stains of it. Did it make any of them weak? Not that I could think of.

I would still consider it the greatest gift if I could experience some part of my universe in some way. I was not blessed enough to experience the thrill of standing in a queue to buy the book or to watch even a single movie in the theatre. I consider those as a long lost thing right now. But, I would be content if I am able to connect to a very significant part of my childhood every now and then.

HP themed merchandise, cafes, a cousin who is a fanatic and loves to pull an all-nighter discussing HP and lists of articles quenching my thirst. All of these. Nothing else.
Twenty years have flown by and I still breathe HP. That is how much it means to me.

 

The Kind Worth Killing- Peter Swanson

 

Title- The Kind Worth Killing

Author- Peter Swanson

Published- 2015

Pages- 322

Genre- Thriller

The title seeks attention and promises suspense. This book is set in the quiet suburbs of Boston and Connecticut and revolves around the lives of four people. How destiny interweaves the lives of these four strange souls (I am leaving out Kimball) is what forms the crux of the story.

What struck me through the narrative is the way the story has been told. It is in perspectives and not in chapters, which is unusual. I quite liked this style, which actually gives a beautiful pendulum-like feeling as we progress through the plot.  It is these overlaps that make the story intriguing and gives a very nice continuation feeling in between events.

The character-building is good and the description of the history behind each character and their relationships is detailed. It also feels like unwanted layers, impeding the flow of the book at times. Safe to skip those pages, I would say.

Destinies have been made to intersect and the manner in which the author has tied the loose ends by the time we come to the conclusion is nice. To me, the masterstroke would be the final few lines about the meadow next door.

This was brilliance and I personally feel, the author has actually built a story just in order to throw this at the reader’s face, leaving things open and left to their vivid imagination. It is very much movie-like.

This book is an engaging read, especially during travels and when one is not looking for anything intense.

Special thanks to Gils who introduced me to the author. Two more titles pending to be read. 

 

How Fitness Works

Fitness is the new in-thing if you know what I mean. Being fit, fitness freak, fitster and a gazillion other terms have been coined for people who are craaaazy about being fit. So much that fitness and its related products and services industry are worth a *insert a huge number with a bunch of zeroes trailing it* billion dollars. Gyms cropping up in every street corner, fitness apparels, new styles of routines and YouTubers yelling and pushing us, we have seen it all.

Yesterday being Yoga day, I thought I might as well address the fit animal inside the studio. I have had my own run-ins with gyms and studios trying to sell plans and offers to me. Apparently, you can only offer an offer and not sell it, because well, it is an ‘offer’ for treadmill’s sake! Oh, I digress.

Days and nights spent on ‘liking’ and ‘subscribing’ to some of the renowned gyms and fitness centers within a rideable distance from our place- Check.

Doing a row-wise and a column-wise analysis with all the plans that they offered and zeroing in on three plans in ascending order- Check.

Calling them up and enquiring when you can drop in to visit or asking if they have a free session for trial- Check. 

Rethinking if we will be punctual and sincere enough to move our lazy ass from the bed and do the entire paisa vasool thingy? – Check.

Appearing for the earlier planned visit or the free session and spending the entire remaining day with a sore body- Check.

Considering the option of using the road tax that we pay to full use by running on the road instead- Check.

Concluding that the above is not an option since roads are not air conditioned and hence aborts the mission- Check.

Finally enrolling for an envious plan in a prominent gym and flaunting it on Instagram- Check.

Realising that we do not have the appropriate clothes to wear to the gym and go shopping with a decent budget- Check.

Finding solace in wearing new clothes to the gym the next day and taking pictures there with scandalising captions- Check

Poses- Check

Inspiring quote wallpapers (courtesy- Nike) – Check

Salad menu insta pic- Check

All these come to a crashing end soon and the cycle resumes from step one after a while.

Trust me, we have all been there and done that. I pride in being a potato who can metamorphose if I wanted to.

 

‘Coz of our meddling!

This word immediately reminds me of Monica Geller and her hair(!), which of course due to the humidity was all springy and frizzy.

meddle

This is what I was talking about

There is a general social rule that one must not meddle in other people’s affairs. Now the word ‘affairs’ has multiple meanings and contexts attached to it. It could mean business, things, life, love life, extramarital relationships, infidelity secrets and so on and so forth.

 

Rarely do we keep up with this unwritten social rule. Any problem in relationships, we run to our friends, who in all probability would be that lone, single soul, who would not have had any first-hand experience being in a relationship. We also seek advice and tips from innumerable people around us in most of our choices. If it ends up well, then we are proud of having asked around for advice, otherwise, God forbid, it is just regret that remains.

In this episode, Phoebe and Mike manage to get back together for eternity, despite having all the mind-blocks, miscommunication and complications that one can only imagine. It was all due to the ‘meddling’ of Mr and Mrs.Bing in the events. Also what would remind the viewers about this episode would be her hair, which had given a super-tough competition to that of Albert Einstein.

I have always loved Monica Geller, though. A well-rounded figure, who isn’t ashamed to seek love and what one would call ‘the conventional’ life. A mother-hen, a control freak, a passionate chef and a loving wife. She seemed complete in a lot more aspects than others in the show.

Spanning over ten seasons with over 150 episodes, the show Friends has managed to carve a niche for itself. I do hear the frequent jibes that Seinfeld was a better show and how Friends was just a mellowed down, crass version of it, but Hey! Gimme some time until I watch Seinfeld and form an opinion of my own. Until then, do not meddle with my choice of TV shows.

 
Meddle

Gender Roles and Body Shaming

Konjam odamba kora. Apo thaan kalyanathuku apram sari a irukum’ (tone down a little only then it would be perfect after marriage)

Let the menfolk eat first. Let’s serve food for them’

These are common sentences we get to hear in a typical Indian household. Be it a family gathering or just a couple of family friends meeting each other, patriarchy and body shaming is being served, unaware to us, on a silver platter. We tend to practice and propagate meaningless rules generation after generation, unconsciously, and then crib about women’s empowerment and gender equality.

We have been a part of the problem that is plaguing our society these days. I have a few observations to drive in my point.

At any social gathering, with our extended family or friends circle, the ladies would be moving in groups in the vicinity of the kitchen while the menfolk would be comfortable in the living room, guffawing out loud. Except those occasional peeps into the kitchen asking if food and drinks are ready to be served, it is a rarity to see men near the kitchen. We also promote the bias by asking the men to eat first and pulling back our girl children to serve food and drinks, in the pretext of ‘training’ her for her future as a hostess.

Similar is the case of body shaming within the family. Every aunty would have a ready-made opinion on your looks and a handy recipe to reduce the weight or drive away those blemishes in your face. They would be more than happy to express an opinion on everything under the sun, irrespective of whether they are asked for it. We have seen our own people shaming us for being too thin or too fat or too dark or too pale. After all, marriage is a market and we must be THE best product to fetch a super awesome bargain, right?

Every society has a huge role to play in shaping up a generation. We have graduated from child marriage and sati to what we call a more liberal scenario. But how true is that? As girls, we are asked to cover ourselves up in the scorching heat, while boys enjoy walking around topless. We are asked to not place our innerwear in the washroom for laundry lest our siblings see them and get aroused. We are asked to serve tea and coffee to the guests while the boys are allowed to socialise and entertain the guests with Bravo stories of their escapades. We are asked to maintain our weight and skin while no such emphasis is put on boys who are also becoming eligible bachelors side by side. Boys are told to focus on bank balance while girls are told to tone it down.

All these might sound trivial and immaterial, but they go a long way in seeding the thought of patriarchy and gender inequality in people. We are sowing seeds which are going to keep sprouting into non-sensical and illogical gender roles in future.

While we might not like naming it, this is what we call patriarchy and body shaming. It is real and it is there in our own house if we watch closely. We are very much a part of the problem.

How to come out of this rut? Offer to slay the patriarchy from your own female folks. Encourage sharing of chores, help them develop a healthy body image, do not promote stereotypes. We have come this far and are stepping into another decade in the 21st century. We sure do not need men with regressive mindset and women who practice and preach gender roles. Let us begin the change from our own selves.