Friday, February 13

Book Review: Ramayana - The Game of Life : Shattered Dreams

Hi Friends, 

So, yet again I am honoured to be called upon by BlogAdda to review a book. This time it is "Ramayana - The Game of Life : The Shattered Dreams" by Shubha Vilas.




This book is a sequel to the first book in the series - Rise of the Sun Prince, one which I had not heard about owing to my very busy family life in the past few months. 

(Motherhood is a job that keeps one super busy and oblivious to the whole world!)

The prequel is said to be a huge success and BlogAdda sent me a copy of book 2 in the series to read and comment upon. Commenting upon the Ramayana, which has been read by millions the world over and written by some of the finest authors around the globe, is by no means an easy task. But given that BlogAdda and my blog-following well-wishers have immense faith in me, I shall attempt to give an unbiased and honest opinion. 

Truth be told, I was wondering how much I would really enjoy this book. One, I am not a big fan of the Ramayana, reserving my affection and curiosity instead for the multi-faceted Mahabharata. Two, I believe the Ramayana is a simplistic tale and the lessons preached by Lord Rama are impossible to adopt in real life. Three, I am firmly against the way Sita was treated throughout the story.  

Yet, reviewing a book is always a challenge and a sweet one at that. So, there. Maybe my view of the Ramayana would change with this book... 

While the cover illustration by Kunal Kundu is fascinating, the back cover reveals the plot of the book. Here are some excerpts, those that I couldn't have described any better myself: The book teaches us how to handle reversals positively; through Bharata’s actions, it teaches us to handle temptation; and through Sita’s courage, to explore beyond our comfort zone. This complicated family drama provides deep insights on how human relationships work and how they fail. With Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, Shattered Dreams deftly entwines poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. 

Shattered Dreams talks about the time when Dasharatha wants to crown Rama as king of Ayodhya and the following chain of events up until Rama, Sita and Lakshmana leave Chitrakoot for Dandakaranya forest. Kaikeyi chooses to redeem her two boons and Bharata atones for his mother's sinful behavior in this enchanting story. 

What struck me the most was the beautiful description of characters, events and emotions by the author. Shubha Vilas has done complete justice to the scene where Rama accepts exile and proceeds to inform his decision to the people who matter the most to him. The sorrow of the citizens of Ayodhya is also explained in a manner that keeps the reader rapt with attention. Bharata's anger and agony is worth reading and re-reading, as much for his sincerity and humility as it is for his love for Rama. He comes across as very endearing, and the number of times he has to prove his intent is enough to move any self-respecting individual to tears.  

I particularly loved Rama's introductory description and Ravana's egotistical pursuits. The exciting and fast paced narrative kept me spellbound. Quite a feat, I must say, given that books that the current generation brings to the top of the bestselling charts (read Chetan Bhagat) leave me confused and bored. 

To make an old and oft-heard story feel new and intriguing, now that's the mettle of a great storyteller. I wept when Rama was banished and my tears flowed faster when the plights of Lakshman, Sumantra and citizens of Ayodhya was described.

The story is well researched and filled with lesser known tales and anecdotes. For example, I did not know that Vidura in the Mahabharata is actually Dharmaraj, the God of death, cursed to be born on earth by Ani-Mandavya. Jayanta's shameful act and Manthara's reason for revenge were also unknown to me.   

Another highlight of the book is the trivia. There are footnotes and paragraphs that elaborate facts and lessons about life, destiny, sin and death.

Personally, I learnt a lot of lessons, and hopefully they will stay with me and guide me as I live my complicated life. Like how Kaushalya had learnt to accept her fate as a lesser loved wife and rather than creating family feuds, she focused on serving the community.

I also realized that I identify with Lakshmana who is quick to react and unable to accept situations patiently and calmly. I can totally relate to his experience and transformation from an angry young man to a helpless brother when Rama vowed to follow Kaikeyi's instructions.

A myriad of interwoven tales that connect the present to the past and future, and you begin to see a link in all the stories that you have ever read or heard as children and adults.

 
I thought that towards the middle, the book kind of lost steam. Or maybe that was the intention given the heavy start and resounding climax. The narration, however, could have been more lucid and attractive so as to keep the reader engaged. I also have a few concerns regarding the editing and language of the book viz punctuation and grammar, but that's plain old me you know... forever the perfectionist, grammar geek to the core. 


As usual, very little has been spoken about Shatrughana throughout the Ramayana and this book is no different. I am quite curious on that aspect, and I would have liked to understand his role in the Ramayana a little better had the writer dedicated a few pages to him. 

Overall, the book is a mighty good effort to make the Ramayana a wee bit more accessible and interesting to youngsters. It is not an exhaustive tale, in the sense that you will have to look up a few hints scattered across the pages to connect all the dots (if you're as particular about details as I am).  

How would I rate this book? 

Let me tell you this, parts of the book were so amazing that I went ahead and ordered the prequel for myself. Actions speak louder than words, you see! 

So, grab a copy and enjoy reading The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas - first the Rise of the Sun Prince and then Shattered Dreams. (Unlike me, I will now read the first 12 years of Rama's life before book 2 begins.) 

Jai Shri Ram!

Cheerio!
Anuja

AKA Princess

This review is a part of the biggest http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews" target="_blank"> Book Review Program
for http://www.blogadda.com" target="_blank">Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Friday, February 6

Turn Back Time

There is something extremely desirable about a guy who is possessive about his girl. A little bit of insecurity works wonders when it comes to intimacy in a relationship.

At least Sheena felt that way. 

After all there has to be  some proof that a loves and needs his woman like no one else, she mused. 

Trust is definitely important but sprinkle a little bit of jealousy in a relation and it blooms and blossoms in its excitement quotient...

Now this certainly wasn't a justification for her obsession with him, she was quite proud of the fact that she was crazy about Russell. So crazy that she drove him nuts. So crazy that she sometimes drove him away.

He asked her the other day why she was so upset, so glum and she said she didn't know. After the silence that ensued, he made a very intriguing observation, "I think you are missing a passion in life." 

Her first reaction was annoyance at his arrogant confession but it was soon followed by bewilderment. And then she smiled. Maybe he was right; she was indeed feeling low and demotivated. She thought about it all night and it dawned on her by morn that for the last couple of years all she had been passionate about was him. 

Russell. 

The man of her dreams. The object of her addiction.

Sheena was so mad about him that even someone calling him by his nickname Ross angered her.

The realization that this was a tad extreme was not lost on her. 

Yet, she thought she deserved a special place in his life and nobody could be permitted to trespass.

And that's where the trouble began. Ross, unfortunately, did not think so. 

He was of the opinion that they had their own sweet separate lives and that's how it was meant to be despite the fact that they were engaged to be married.

It pained Sheena, his lack of interest in her life and his stone cold attitude towards her distress. It appeared to her that he cared more for random strangers and colleagues than her. Now which woman would be okay with this? Not too many, she told herself.

All her life, Sheena had wished for great friends and an exciting life. Her few good besties fulfilled this desire amply. But when she met Ross, she felt she had found her soul mate and her contact with them reduced. Big mistake. She devoted all her time and attention to him and he initially reciprocated. As time flew, her life became empty and his got fuller with other people and activities. No surprise then that his priorities and pastimes changed while her need for him only multiplied.

To make matters difficult, Ross was the strong and silent types who did not mind being alone. He enjoyed spending time with people but he did not want anybody to make his life complete. He was calm and content in his solitude and he did not feel the sting of loneliness. He was good to all, and better to strangers and acquaintances than her, or.so.Sheena believed.

It did not bother Ross when Sheena described how someone had asked her out the previous day nor was he worried if she did not call for hours. Maybe he did not need to, as she called him several times a day and often in quick succession while he was busy. He did not always answer her calls and texts, something that she complained about. He believed in freedom and space, like most other men. He had a woman he trusted, unlike most other men.

Sheena had been a lovely lass when he met her but of late she had started to nag. He did not know what he was doing wrong and he had no clue how to fix this cribbing. He liked his work and he got to meet some interesting folks there. Sheena seemed to resent his happiness and bugged him for trivial reasons.

All this while their wedding day was looming near. 

Was it the right decision?

Was it too late to turn back? 

Would it truly be worthwhile to commit his love and life to this person that he adored but occasionally found tough to bear?

And that was the question on his mind as he started his day. 

Time and destiny would show him the right way, he was certain.

He stepped on the sidewalk and checked his pocket to ensure he was carrying his cell phone. Damn, he'd forgotten it again. Sheena's latest gift to him, his favorite mobile handset that had cost her a bomb but she had not said so once. He turned back to the house and picked up his phone.

Ten missed calls. Two texts.

Must be Sheena. How had she stopped at two texts?! She generally sent no less than five.

Text 1: As expected, from Sheena. It read, "Ross, call me now!!!"

Text 2: Again, Sheena. "Jerk!!"

Ross grimaced. Sheena brought too much drama into every mundane thing. Maybe he should call it off with her... 

He dialed her number and waited as the phone rang once, twice, thrice. Why wasn't she answering now?

Click.

Ross: "What the hell...."

An unknown man: "Hi, is this Ross?"

Ross: (a little taken aback) "Yes. Who's this?"

Man: "Your number was the last dialed on this phone. The woman carrying it was hit by a speeding car and she is being rushed to Malcolm hospital in a critical state as we speak...."

Cheerio!
Princess

Tuesday, January 27

Delightful Da(y)ze!


Hear baby crying.

Pat him so that he goes back to sleep.

Baby won't sleep.

Check the time. Two hours since his last feed.

Get up groggily. Feed him.

Get him to burp.

Settle him back in his cozy blanket.

Lie down and snooze.

Baby whimpers. Cuddle him.

Check if he's warm enough.

Put another sheet over him.

Baby keeps waving his legs and arms.

Check if he's cold. Remove the sheet. It's quite warm today.

Whisper softly in his ears so that he calms down and sleeps.

Go back to sleep myself.

Hear baby crying. Check the time. Feed him.

Burp him.

Realise it is time to change his diaper.

Scramble to the cupboard. Trip over slipper. Mutter an obscenity. Get a diaper and change him.

Crawl back into the blanket and pray for uninterrupted sleep.

Wide awake now.

Stare at ceiling.

Check cell phone for Whatsapp messages.

No messages.

Check Whatsapp status and profile pictures of contacts.

Wonder if baby needs to feed.

Keep phone away and try to sleep.

Blanket too heavy. Push foot out for some air. Too cold, pull foot back in.

Consider switching on the fan. Decide against it.

Try to sleep.

Pick up cell phone again. Check Facebook. Nothing interesting. Put phone back.

Look at baby sleeping blissfully. Give him a flying kiss.

Shut eyes.

Lapse into a dream.

Baby bawls.

Spring up and gather him in the arms. Rock him till he sleeps. Faint next to him.

Wake up. Baby has to nurse.

Say good morning and watch his adorable smile.

Thank God for the little bundle of joy. Feed him.

Burp him.

Baby won't burp.

Sit him up and rock him.

Baby burps.

Fall back asleep.

Get up to mum's call and swallow a glass of milk.

Sleep.

Get up again and nurse baby.

Finally decide to wake up since it's almost noon already.

Chat with mom.

See baby playing on the bed.

Shake a rattle.

Have a face making contest with baby and accept defeat.

Forget that you've had a bad night. Hold baby close.

Hear mum cribbing about not having meals on time affecting baby's health.

Rush to the bathroom.

Get ready. Have lunch.

Baby cries midway. Get up to nurse.

Mum says food will go cold. Quickly gobble the last few bites.

Rush to baby. Feed him. Burp him. Kiss him when he does.

Baby passes stinky air. Screw nose and laugh out loud with mom.

Watch baby dozing. Admire his frowns and smiles.

Wonder how many joys and sorrows he will give once he grows up.

Imagine how he grew inside you for 9 months.

Touch his soft, shiny cheek in awe.

Feel motherhood well up inside.

Blink back tears.

Change nappy. 

Talk to mom about random stuff.

Crave for a mug of beer.

Check FB and Whatsapp.

Reply to text messages and return missed calls.

Look at beautiful sleeping baby and feel proud to have him in your life.

Have a cup of tea. Fantasize about a glass of wine.

Think about what your friends and husband must be doing.

Feel a little angry that your life has paused and changed while others are living their routines and dreams.

Curse husband for not calling or caring about you or baby.

Husband calls. Feel a surge of love.

Miss husband.

Listen to baby cooing and gurgling in the other room.

Go to him and play for a while.

See if he is hungry. He is.

Take him to the other room to nurse.

Baby is not hungry anymore. 

Follow his enthralled gaze.

Watch him chatter with the curtain.

Pick up a book lying unread on the shelf for 3 months. Read a page. Forget the context, turn a few pages to recall the story. 

Glance at baby. 

See him looking back at you with big brown eyes.

Keep book away. 

Feed him. Get him to burp.

Realize nappy needs a change.

Debate with self whether baby will need to nurse again.

Consider going for a walk. Need to lose weight and get back in shape.

Get dressed.

Wonder if you should really leave baby and go.

Decide to go at mum's insistence.

Return feeling guilty in 45 minutes.

Hug baby like you haven't seen him all week.

Freshen up. Feed baby. Burp him.

Play with him.

Change wet nappy.

Grab a fruit.

Pacify crying baby.

Finish half eaten apple.

Feed baby. Burp him.

Baby does not burp. Try again.

Baby still does not burp.

Check Facebook and Whatsapp groups to see what other moms are going through.

Baby burps on his own.

Bless him. Give him a peck.

Time for dinner.

Baby starts crying. 

See if nappy needs to be changed again. No, pick him up. Baby quietens. 

Put him on the bes, starts weeping again.

Repeat. Get bugged. Wonder when you will have some free time all to yourself.

Call out to mom to handle baby's drama.

Realise you have barely drunk water all day. Down half a bottle.

Switch on tv.

Find nothing worth watching.

Switch off tv.

Talk gibberish with baby.

Wonder if he naps and feeds as much as he ought to.

Have some dinner.

Start watching favorite show on TV.

Get up midway to feed hungry baby.

Burp him.

Change his nappy and clothes.

Get him ready for bed.

Baby starts crying. Sing him a song.

Baby still cranky. Sing him a rhyme.

Baby refuses to calm down. Sing gayatri mantra, Hanuman Chalisa and Ram Raksha in quick succession.

Baby calms down.

Get angry with husband for not being more involved in our life.

Rock baby till he falls asleep.

Lie down next to him.

Touch his little fingers and fondle his pretty head.

Be happy to have him.

Promise him the world.

Talk to mom till she falls asleep.

Prepare to go to bed.

See a missed call from the husband. Call him back.

Brush teeth and go to bed.

Baby wakes up hungry.

Feed and burp him.

Lie down praying for a peaceful night.

Unable to sleep. Wonder what to do with free time.

Repeat.

*********************

A day in my life.

*********************

Cheerio!
A 2.5 month old mother
Aka Princess
:-) 

Monday, January 5

The First Few

Happy New Year 2015 amigos!!

Writing the date for the initial couple of times will be a task as our mind keeps recalling the year as 2014. However, that shall soon come to pass. Exactly like how a few other things get easier with time and practice.

I've gained enormously due to my pregnancy and the weight remains worrisome post delivery. At least I and my doctors think so; the ladies in the family aren't done stuffing me with fattening foodstuffs that will "miraculously cure my aches and benefit me in the long run". Not only that, they are strictly against my resuming any sort of exercise for the coming months. Thank God I ain't the obedient and superstitious types.

In reality, I need to go for long runs and get back in shape. Round isn't the preferred shape for me. Yet.

As I was dressing up all geared up for my walk, scarcely did I realise how tough it would be starting an exercise regimen. We get used to the easy life surprisingly fast, as I was discussing with my better half the other day; nothing is as simple as eating, sleeping and faffing away.

I have always been the fit and fine types, and I used to walk briskly even during my pregnancy, much to the agony of my colleagues in the final trimester. Yet, the first few days I went for a walk were not what I'd call a piece of cake. My legs were heavy as lead and I had a stitch in my side within the first ten minutes. I could have stopped then and hopped back home without any worry or blame, but I knew that if I did, I would never manage to achieve my goal. I persevered and I'm happy to say that I look and feel fitter in the last few days than I did before.

The first few times are always tough. Then things get easier.

If you give up in the first go, remember it will seem even more daunting.

Life with a baby also falls under the same category. Getting used to not putting yourself first and trying to comprehend the needs and complaints of your newborn is an experience like none other. I've gone absolutely nuts in the first month unsure if I'd be able to cope with motherhood. Now when I look at my 50 day old angel, I know those sleepless nights and frustrated moments were all worth it. And it will get better with time...

Relationships, they aren't an exception either. The first few days, especially of a couple who have married for love, are difficult I'm my opinion. Your entire life and perspective changes. What seemed cute earlier becomes irritating and one wonders why he or she decided to take the plunge at all. But rest assured, life gets better once you understand and accept each other. At least that's how it was for me and my husband. Not that now we're the epitome of a perfect married couple, but we sure aren't doing too poorly either.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Just remember to hang in there. Never mind what you're going through, it will get easier. Keep the faith.
God bless you and me, too.

Cheerio!
Princess

Sunday, December 14

It is NOT your business

Hello readers!

So my darling husband (upon my repeated insistence) very generously read my last post lovingly written for him and his (only) reaction was that I have lost my writing spark and I am out of practice.

He obviously did not pay heed to the fact that I wrote the post more on an emotional and nostalgic plane than as a literary artefact.

But never mind that. He never was the romantic and mushy types anyway. As much as I would love to read something that he has written for me, his reading what I have penned is enough. After all, he does take care of me and pamper me in most ways feasible. He’s not a bad chap... Just different.  

Well, he’s become a dad and I’ve become a mom and while I can’t say it’s perfect yet (we’re still in the phase where we’re dealing with changing nappies and feeding and dealing with the cranky infant 24x7), it sure is a memorable time. Memories good and not so good. The good ones involve the baby obviously. The not so good ones are about nosy people and their gross insensitivity.

I have never really been fond of guests and relatives for the simple reason that most people I am related or acquainted with are selfish, greedy buggers. They couldn’t care less about me or my family and are only to be seen when they need or stand to acquire something. Obviously now that I have had a baby, it is common courtesy that they come to see me. The incentive is what is known as “badhaai” which literally means congratulations, but is synonymous with a gift (cash or any costly object) that the grandparents give as a token of happiness to people who visit.

Anyway, I shall choose to ignore that tiny (nauseating) detail, and focus on the more annoying bit - their stupid, intrusive questions.

First of all, I fail to grasp why people are interested in the mode of delivery. A normal, healthy baby has arrived in this world; rejoice! Why do you want to know how he came? Whether he was delivered normally or through a C section is none of anybody’s business. And even if your inquisitiveness cannot be reined in, at least do not react or comment when you receive the information! You really have nothing to lose or gain either way.

An increasing number of deliveries across the world are cesarean, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. All of us need to understand that it is either the mother’s choice (or the lack thereof) that decides this aspect. Most women I think would opt and try their best for a normal delivery but circumstances may require a change in plans. Like it happened in my case, and with a few of my colleagues and friends. And then there are those that voluntarily go for a c section given the number of complications that accompany a normal delivery: a displaced uterus (or other organs), episiotomy, excessive bleeding, etc.

I repeat, either way, it is none of anybody’s business. Except the mother, her caretaker and the doctor. What is destined will happen, what is best for the mother and baby needs to be done. That’s all that matters – the mother and baby. Nobody else.

So really, behaving like somebody’s died or something very unfortunate has occurred is not warranted. Not in public, and especially not in front of the mother and family. It is highly derogatory and irritating.

Second, people inspect the baby as if they are authorized personnel trained for this task, and then make snide comments about things like their features, body parts, hair and weight. Gawd! Don’t you friggin understand that the baby is the most beautiful creature on earth for the family, and nothing will change their perception irrespective of what anyone says?! Try and be appreciative of the baby and mother, and if that is not possible, forever hold your silence! Again, whether the baby has more hair on his head or less, and whether his nose is crooked or not is NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

Unless you are sponsoring his cosmetic surgeries.

Third, and this is the most irksome bit: people asking questions like “how come your stomach is still showing?” and “are you getting enough milk?”


WHAT???


How can you ask these questions???


No really…. HOW???


What are you going to do with both these answers?

I would really be grateful if people only said “take care” and f*cked off. My tummy (big or small) is my concern, and the adequacy of my milk is my baby’s problem. Both of which I shall capably and successfully solve, thank you very much. We will not blame you, and we will not come asking for your milk, rest assured. Your interference and officiousness is truly NOT necessary.  

All of these issues are highly personal, and can only be shared between people who are intimate. As a visitor, one needs to only meet and congratulate, wish well and leave. A baby is a miracle, and a new mother is fragile and exhausted. Cut both of them some slack and watch what you say or do. Why enquire and hurt someone when it is really not your business?

And trust me, it is NOT your business at all.

As I end this post, I request you to not behave this way if you have in the past. Anytime you feel the itchiness to ask these questions or make random comments, please chant this mantra…


It is NOT my business.


It is NOT my business.


It is NOT my business.


Thrice repeated slowly and honestly should be enough to calm your meddlesome mind.   

Janhit mein jaari.
(=Issued in public interest)


Best,
First-time Mommy aka Princess