Posted in Life Interuppted

AGE

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I have grown up thinking that I should have achieved so and so by a particular age. Somehow, I personally connected age to my aims and achievements. If I didn’t achieve a particular thing/aim by a certain age, I deemed myself a failure. I was tough on myself.

I would look at other people my age, mostly celebrities and feel bad. They had their own house (or houses), were taking care of themselves and their families, paying their own bills, handling their own accounts, travelling to exotic locales for vacations, wearing exquisite creations and also, working hard at their jobs, whether it was in the Sport or Entertainment industry.

It took me awhile to understand that everyone doesn’t work at the same pace. That all jobs don’t get the same amount of respect or payment, that every job has different demands. And the most important, everyone works on their own clock.

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As rightly said by Satchel Paige,

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

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True, I may not have a house to my name yet, and I haven’t travelled much and I haven’t worn expensive designer dresses. But I have been working successfully as a teacher for the past four years, I am financially independent, can afford good quality essentials and can take care of myself and my family. I actually know the basics of banking and am paying my own bills. I am also saving money for a rainy day.

I think I have achieved quite a lot. If I compare myself with successful celebrities who are born in the same year as me, I am bound to feel sad.

Sure, they are super rich now and are known all over the world, but they will be constantly afraid that they can’t maintain the lifestyle, paparazzi follows them everywhere, and they are not allowed to have a bad hair day, they are role models for their younger fans and cannot afford to slip up and if they are super wealthy at fifteen, what kind of a childhood did they have?

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I am not demeaning anyone here, myself or the celebrities. In fact, the point that I am trying to make here is, in order to gain something, you need to lose something. You just need to be ready to make necessary sacrifices and adjustments. If you are lucky enough to choose and follow your dream (it could be a career, or it could be ‘family’ or it could be travelling all over the world) then you need to work hard to achieve it. Nothing can be achieved without hard work. And the grass always looks greener on the other side.

What about those people who share their birth year with me and are not as fortunate as me? What then?

What will they say? It’s all in your perspective. For some, age may just be a number. For others, age may be a motivating factor to achieve something. For still others, age may bring in maturity, decision making capacity and a handle on their emotions.

Yes, it’s very easy to say, “Look at her, she’s 25! She’s so mature and independent. She’s taking care of her two little girls so well. What are you doing?”

I’ll reply, “Umm…nothing. She’s great, I totally agree. But we are both different individuals, happy in our own respective spaces. So, please don’t compare us with one another.”

Comparison should lead to a healthy competition and better results, not people and feelings getting hurt.

I have finally stopped comparing myself with others, irrespective of their age or mine. It’s merely a very effective way of making myself upset; as if there aren’t other factors doing exactly that.

I am going to end with this beautiful Maya Angelou quote,

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is age.”

 

Posted in Life Interuppted

Happy Birthday Taylor!!

Today is the 27th birthday of global phenomenon and pop star Taylor Swift! I am proud to call myself her fan, or rather a ‘Swiftie’ as that’s how fans of the singing sensation refer to themselves. Last year, this time, I had forgotten her birthday and felt really upset about it. I was writing an article listing her songs from her last album, ‘1989’, according to my own personal order of favourites. I never finished that article. I was so angry with myself.

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So this time, I decided that I had to be prepared. I know that not many readers go through my blog, but this is the place where I express myself. This is the best platform to wish Taylor and write about my love for her. Maybe someday she will chance upon it! And till then, I can connect with other Swifties!

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I first heard of Taylor when a friend introduced me to the ‘Jonas Brothers’ (back when the brothers worked together). She was a huge fan of Joe Jonas, the middle brother. She still is. I started listening to their songs and even noticed a guy in college who looked exactly like Joe! (I went up and told him that too, in the presence of his girlfriend! But that’s for another article.)

One day, I was sitting in my college library, reading the entertainment section of the local newspaper. That’s when I saw Taylor. Her picture was printed along with an article about her relationship with Joe, or rather his sad dumping of her through a text. Now, I had heard a lot about Taylor, from the same friend, though I hadn’t seen how she looked or heard any of her songs. When I read that article, I immediately called up my friend and had a long conversation. Even my friend was upset about Joe’s behavior.

I didn’t forget Taylor after that. Her picture stayed in my mind. She was dressed in a black dress with loads of bracelets on one hand, smiling generously at the camera and striking a pose. I didn’t get the exact picture, but this one is from the same photo shoot.

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Sometime later, I was surfing the music channels and I caught the end of the video of Taylor’s brand new hit ‘Love Story’. I recognized her and saw the video till the end. I liked what I saw. After that, I was always on the lookout for the song to be played again. Its tune was stuck in my mind and I hadn’t even seen or heard the entire song!

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When I finally caught the song, it had already reached number one in the ‘Top Ten’ programme, I saw it from the start to the finish. I absolutely loved it! Who was this Taylor Swift? She was insanely talented. I put her name to the ‘Artist to be remembered’ list in my head. The next song that I heard was ‘Teardrops on my guitar’. (It was not a new song but it was the second Taylor Swift song that I heard.) That sealed the deal. I was officially in love with Taylor Swift. And then I found out that she writes her own songs! I was super impressed! I have always been fascinated with people who have the unique talent of writing, whether they write books, articles, short stories, poems or songs. And this girl wrote such melodious songs and sang them with such aplomb!

By now, I had completely forgotten about Joe Jonas. I began searching for her songs online and loved every single one of them! I started listening to Love Story, Teardrops on my Guitar, Hey Stephen, The Story of US, Fearless, White Horse, You belong with me, Fifteen, Breathe, The way I loved you, Forever and Always, I’d Lie, Crazier, Stay Beautiful, The Best Day, Mean, Ours, Our Song and Mary’s song every day.

I didn’t become a Swiftie immediately. It was her fourth studio album, ‘Red’ that made me her super fan; her transformation in the music videos, the flashing red lipstick, the new haircut, the flowy dresses and the cute shorts! I was in love with everything! Her ability to write her feelings in such catchy songs sucked me in. There were discussions about which song was aimed at which ex-boyfriend of hers. I didn’t join in the discussions but I was definitely intrigued. If I had such lyrical talent, I would be writing about everything! From my fantasies about my high profile crushes, my family life, my friends and my dreams and my opinions on so many things….this girl could write so well, why shouldn’t she write?

By this point, I was reading articles about her online, listening to ‘Red’ every single day and following her on Facebook and Twitter. I thought it was Joe’s loss that he was no longer with Taylor. I was inspired by her quotes and thoughts and read up on her struggle as a new singer-songwriter and how her parents supported her by shifting to Nashville, how she never gave up on her dream…

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The reason that I love her music is that I connect to it. More so, because she writes her own songs, is incredibly good at it and paints such a clear picture in all her songs. She has had her fair share of struggle, dropping demo CD’s outside record producers homes and persuading her parents to shift base to let her try her hand at her dreams. True, she is now mega successful, as today’s definition of success is decided using the parameters of fame and money, but there are tons of stories about her kindness towards fans (1989 Secret Sessions), fellow singers (she invited them for her concerts and sang their songs!) and animals. She is a proud cat owner, or should I say CATS owner as she has two cats- Meredith and Olivia. Yes, I know the names of her cats, that’s how crazy I am.

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I may not have been in a single romantic relationship but I understand it when she sings ‘Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago’ (I Knew you were Trouble) or ‘Can you feel the magic in the air? It must have been the way you kissed me’ (Today was a fairy tale), ‘I can’t breathe without you, but I have to’ (Breathe), ‘and there he goes, so perfectly… the kind of flawless I wish I could be’ (Teardrops on my guitar), ‘My god, if I could only say, “I’m holding every breath for you” (I’d lie), ‘All those other girls- well, they are beautiful…but would they write a song for you?’ (Hey Stephen), ‘Touching him was like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you’ (Red)…..I could go on…. All her songs are not based on romantic relationships, some are for friends, parents, life, new beginnings….she writes so well!

It’s only because of her that I attempted songwriting…and I think that I have written two of my best songs already! Hopefully, some professional singer may even actually croon them!

Unbelievably, I still have to listen to some Taylor Swift songs. Yes, as a Swiftie, I should know ALL her songs word by word, but there is a pleasure in knowing that there is a Taylor Swift song that I haven’t heard. As a fellow Swiftie tweeted recently, ‘Listening to a Taylor Swift song for the first time is a very precious experience’! That’s because after that the song is always on a loop! My list includes Enchanted, Innocent, Speak Now, Dear John, Better than Revenge, Haunted, Long Live.

Somehow I feel like it’s my best friend’s birthday today! She has inspired me, made me feel strong, brought a smile on my face, made me cry (each time I watch the video of New Romantics, I’m crying…and crying..) and turned my bad day completely around! I adore her!

It is her birthday today but she is the one who gave us, her fans; a superb gift. Her new single, ‘I Don’t Want to Live Forever’ in collaboration with Zayn Malik is the newest number one song in over 45 countries (the last time I checked). It has been originally composed for the movie ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ and is co-written by Swift. It is an amazing track that fits the storyline of the movie to the T. The internet saw a frenzy when this surprise collaboration dropped on 8th December. First, Taylor hasn’t released any new song since her last album in October 2014 and fans are impatiently waiting for new music from her. Second, Zayn is hot property on the pop market. He was the first one to break form the hugely successful boy band ‘One Direction’ to go solo. He’s dating Gigi Hadid, a supermodel and one of Taylor’s BFF’s, also his former bandmate, Harry Styles and Taylor used to date. Third, the song is a part of the eagerly awaited soundtrack of the ‘Fifty Shades’ film franchise. It is the first official song to be released.

There was no hint that this was happening. When two of pop music’s biggest names collaborate to create a song for a highly anticipated movie sequel, this is what happens.

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But the best part? The song is insanely addictive. I already have it on loop and am listening to it as I am writing. Taylor functions under such huge pressure. Sure, both their names will sell the single. But to skyrocket to number one in so many countries and to stay there, you need sheer talent. This is the first time I closely heard Zayn’s breathy vocals. Sure, I had heard and loved One Direction, but I am not a Directioner, so I was never able to distinguish one’s voice form another. And I have heard three solo songs of Zayn till now, which impressed me but I am not a fan. But this song is IT. Zayn has killed it in this song! This is going to work the other way too. All of Zayn’s fans will adore Taylor’s vocals in it. They must be super fans of Zayn and admirers of Taylor, after this song, they will be on their way to being a Swiftie.

Taylor is smart and knows how to conduct business. She may not have a college degree but she sure uses her brains well. Apart from killer writing skills, she’s tried her hand at Fashion, Acting and is a brand ambassador for many important products. She earns from advertisements and has even trademarked her fabulous lyrics!

She’s donated millions to charity and is vocal about many issues. She’s a loyal friend, just check out the video of ‘Bad Blood’ which is filled with her girl squad. Count me in too!

I may never be her friend though, as I am too much of a fan. I would love to be part of her Secret Sessions that she had with selected fans, letting them hear her new music first. I would also love to receive her ‘Swiftmas’ packages which are personalized and make fans cry. But what I would really love is to attend her live concert once in my life. Now this will happen if I save diligently and travel to where her concert is taking place. Or it may happen if Taylor decides to include India in her ‘World’ tour. I am hoping that this happens. Soon!

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Till then, I am happy listening to all her songs, reading about her, praying for her, following her life on social networking sites and loving her!

I am a proud Swiftie!

Happy wala birthday Tay! I love you to the moon and back!

Posted in The Short Story

Project Humanity

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Amrita made her way through the crowded platform to the Ladies Compartment. It was the Kurla Local, the train that she caught every day. Weaving through the thick crowd of people, she deftly moved ahead.

She had to reach home on time. It was already very late. The sun had set and the night sky was full of twinkling stars. She had to get dressed for her niece’s fourth birthday party. She had gotten a new dress stitched specially for the occasion. It was a glorious green suit with a bright yellow duppatta. The combination brought out her happy-go-lucky personality very well. She had carefully wrapped her niece’s gift almost a week ago. She knew she would be reaching home late and will not get any time for last minute decisions.

Her job, working at the South Mumbai branch of ‘Get Well Soon N.G.O’ left her exhausted. She didn’t have any strength left to go an extra mile for her family. The truth was, she went too much of extra miles for the people her N.G.O helped. She dropped them to the doctor’s clinics, picked up their luggages, helped change their dressing, uplift their depressed mood, and had impromptu gatherings for the sick. Her work was only limited to handling the accounts but she did so much more.

No one had told her to do all that. She did everything of her own accord. She loved helping fellow human beings. Her behavior did not go down well with her folks. In her quest of being helpful to society, she had almost forgotten her family. Her mother often complained that she was not at all bothered by her daughter’s behavior toward others, but was rather disturbed about her behavior towards herself. “Amrita ought to think more about herself,” were her mother’s exact words.

Now climbing aboard the train, Amrita smiled. She was living for herself. Her mother just didn’t understand as yet. When she saw a smile on a young girl’s face as Amrita bought her a giant soft toy, the joy that filled her heart was something that she couldn’t explain. Not to others. Not even to herself.

She sighed. It was difficult. She did her best to please others. But a person could only do so much. She wished there were others like her out there, who cared about someone’ feelings and were not selfish in their desires, who would, in a heartbeat save someone’s life.

But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Even in this crowded train, no one spared the other a glance. No one got up to offer their seat to a needy person. Everyone had a different definition of “needy”.

Amrita sat on her usual fourth seat; the small space enough for her tired legs to relax.

She checked her phone. Two missed calls. Both were from her sister. She quickly sent a reassuring message to her sister. She wasn’t going to miss the birthday party of her one and only niece. She was on her way.

As she put her phone away, she heard a harsh whisper. The lady right opposite her was furiously whispering on the phone. She seemed to be having a fight.

Amrita couldn’t make out the words but she didn’t miss the tears that the lady was trying hard to blink away. She looked away, a stone set in her heart. Why was it that some people were happy and the others didn’t get an ounce of happiness? Of course, happiness was a very relative term, but looking at the lady made her feel protective towards her. She definitely didn’t look happy.

She stole a glance at the lady. The tears had escaped her eyes and were copiously flowing down both her cheeks. The lady wasn’t making any effort to wipe them away. She still had her right ear pressed to the phone. She wasn’t speaking, only mutely listening. It looked as if whatever the person at the other end was saying was making her cry harder.

As Amrita debated what to do, she noticed that the train had begun moving. Two stations had flown by without her noticing. She quickly looked at her fellow passengers. A middle aged woman with a young daughter, both staring out of the window; an old lady shooting furtive glances at the crying lady; two college girls discussing their upcoming assignment, completely oblivious to the happenings in the train. Amrita’s neighbour, on the other hand was looking at the crying lady, an uncomfortable expression on her face.

Good, Amrita thought. So she could approach someone if they were required to help the lady.

As the next station approached, the middle aged woman alighted with her daughter, freeing up the window seat. The old lady scrambled and sat there, leaving distance between her and the crying lady. Amrita’s neighbour got up and sat on the seat behind Amrita, showing her back to the crying lady. The two young girls had moved on from discussing assignments to cell phones.

Amrita sighed. This was not good. Shifting in her seat to make herself comfortable, she looked at the lady. She was no longer crying. Her tears had dried on her face. Her expression had changed from a sad face to a determined one. She had switched off her cell phone. Not noticing Amrita’s gaze, she got up and approached the door. Amrita craned her neck; the lady threw her cell phone out. Then she calmly came back and resumed her seat.

Amrita’s thoughts were in a scatter. What had just happened? Did the lady just throw her cell phone out? What if someone wanted to contact her? Why would she do something like that?

Amrita looked at the lady again. She knew that only she had seen her throwing her mobile away. The other passengers were not bothered. The lady had shut her eyes. Amrita’s only window to her feelings was gone.

Maybe throwing her mobile had made the lady feel better. Amrita tried to reason with her mind. How could she approach the lady without upsetting or angering her? As she was racking her brain for an idea, the lady opened her eyes. Quietly, she got up and made her way toward the door, leaving her small purse on the seat. She looked around the compartment to see whether anyone was paying her any attention. Amrita pretended not to notice the lady’s movements. She was staring at the purse that the lady had left behind.

What was happening? What was she planning to do? Why was she standing so close to the door?

Amrita already knew all the answers. Quickly, she made up her mind. Grabbing the purse, she walked towards the door. She tried to calm her thudding heart. Approaching the lady, she saw that her feet were halfway outside the train.

Panicking, Amrita said hoarsely, “Excuse me ma’am, you left your purse”.

The lady turned around, her hair whipping her face. She has really beautiful hair, Amrita thought.

She stared at Amrita. There was no expression on her face. Her hand was loosely curled around the door handle. The other hand was hanging limply at her side.

Amrita swallowed. This lady needed help. She hoped that her intervention would prevent her from doing anything drastic.

“Your purse,” Amrita said again, trying a polite tone, holding out the purse towards the lady.

The lady looked at her purse; hanging from Amrita’s outstretched fingers. Then she looked up at Amrita. Seeming in a daze, she stepped forward and accepted her purse.

As she moved away from the door, Amrita exhaled heavily. Trying to keep her voice light, she asked, “Are you alighting at the next station?”

The lady didn’t say anything. Amrita continued enthusiastically, “It’s my niece’s birthday today. She’s turning four today! I’m very excited. My sister is throwing a party and I am going there now.”

The lady flicked a glance at Amrita but otherwise remained mute. “I was in a fix about the present for Kajal, my niece. She already has many dolls and I didn’t want to gift her one more doll,” Amrita babbled. She described the jigsaw puzzle that she finally settled on as the gift in detail to the lady, explaining the endless search and the perfect wrapping paper. She moved on to Kajal’s attire for the evening. She was dressing as a fairy, complete with a tiara and a wand. She continued with portrayal of the menu for the party, giving relishing descriptions of the desserts.

The lady finally turned towards Amrita, her mouth in a scowl, her eyes flashing annoyance. Turning her back on Amrita, she went and sat in the next compartment, which was closer to the door. She sat near the window, blocking Amrita’s view of her.

Amrita debated her next move. She ran to her seat and picked up her satchel and two bags. She made her way to the lady’s seat and plopped down right next to her.

This time, the lady’s eyes were flashing fire. “I never got to tell you about my job,” Amrita said cheerfully, as if they were in the middle of a conversation. The lady turned her head towards the window, resolutely staring at the passing darkness. Amrita started with her job journey, telling her everything from her college graduation till her realization that she wanted to go into social work. She knew that the lady was irritated, maybe even angry. But at least, she wasn’t near the door anymore. And if she had to go that way, she would have to pass Amrita.

“Next Station-Kurla,” blared a woman’s voice from the speakers in the train. Amrita’s breathing became heavy. She couldn’t leave the lady. No, she wouldn’t leave her alone. What if she boarded another train and…. No! Amrita couldn’t even let her thoughts finish.

The train pulled in at the station and everyone alighted. Soon, it was only Amrita and the lady in the train but both of them didn’t move. The same train was scheduled to depart for CST in the next fifteen minutes. New passengers were boarding the train as Amrita and the lady sat silently next to each other.

“You should leave now. You will reach late for your niece’s birthday party,” the lady said softly to Amrita, not looking at her. Amrita sat up, stunned. This lady had heard everything she had spoken.

“What about you?” Amrita asked.

“I’ll be fine,” she replied.

As Amrita started shaking her head, the lady spoke, “I will truly be fine. That moment has come and gone. Thank you for….thank you.” Her voice was subdued.

Amrita opened her mouth but nothing came out. The lady smiled, a dimple appearing in her right cheek.

“Really. Go. Don’t keep Kajal or your sister waiting. And you have a packed day tomorrow,” her voice was kind and she stood up from her seat.

She walked towards the door and stepped on the platform, Amrita scrambling behind her. Suddenly she remembered that the lady didn’t have a phone. “Do you want to call someone?” she asked.

The lady raised her eyebrows and blushed, “No,” she shook her head.

“But,” Amrita protested as the lady waved her away.

“I live close by. I will manage”.

“Okay,” Amrita said in a small voice. She started walking away from the lady but only after a few steps, she turned to check what the lady was doing. She was standing and staring at Amrita.

Amrita walked back to the lady and enveloped her in a fierce hug, “Please take care,” she whispered. Pulling back, embarrassed over her emotions, she pulled a card from her satchel, with her name and details of the N.G.O where she worked. “If you need anything, please call,” she pushed the card in the lady’s hand.

The lady blinked away tears, staring at Amrita. She nodded dumbly.

“Okay. Bye,” Amrita cleared her throat and walked away, wondering when and if would meet the lady again.

The lady, meanwhile, looked at the card, a smile on her lips. Boarding the train again, she stood at the door. Opening her purse, she took out a mobile phone. Dialing a number, she pressed the phone to her ear.

“This is Cadet 637 reporting in. Suitable, if I may say, perfect candidate found for ‘Project Humanity’”, she spoke.

“Details,” the voice on the other end barked.

“Amrita Lokhande, 25, works at a N.G.O”.

“Good. Let’s bring her in,” the voice seemed pleased.

So was the lady. Hanging up, she resumed her position on the seat as the train began moving.

 

Posted in Bookish

Book Review: The Legend Series

• Legend
• Prodigy
• Champion

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It has been very long since I have read a gripping book series and it’s been even longer since I felt a new hope even after I completed reading the entire series. The ‘Legend’ series has inspired me in so many ways. This is my glowing review to the incredibly fantastic Marie Lu.

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On the Champion cover we have the following words by Wyck Godfrey, producer of ‘The Twilight Saga’,
“Blows the socks off Hunger Games”
Though I don’t completely agree with Wyck Godfrey, as for me, ‘The Hunger Games’ will be the best dystopian book series ever, ‘The Legend’ book series comes a close second.
To begin with, all the three books in the trilogy have insanely creative covers, designed by Lori Thorn. All the three are connected to each other, in that they begin where the previous book ends, all three are written in two different perspectives of our leading protagonists, June Iparis and Daniel Altan Wing a.k.a Day. Marie Lu, the author of this amazing series, has even gone ahead and chosen two different fonts for each character, even having a coloured one for Day’s character in the first book, Legend.

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My personal reason for liking Legend was that the central characters really hit you. You are literally sucked into their big bad world of the Republic of America.
It is 2054*. The United States of America, as we know it today, no longer exists. It is divided into the ‘Republic of America’ and ‘The Colonies’. Antarctica has been colonized and is among one of the richest, most powerful and progressive countries of the world.
(If you haven’t read the series, then a fair word of warnings. LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD)

Children are subjected to Trails, a mix of physical and intellectual tests to determine their future course. Only two children receive the highest scores- 1000/1000. The Republic, where our protagonists reside, makes June Iparis retake the test. She attains the perfect score yet again. She is hailed as a Prodigy for the Republic, completing school early and training to join the military.
On the other side, Daniel Altan Wing scores 1000/1000 but he is not hailed as prodigy. My theory is that he belongs to the poorer sections of the society and is hence taken in for experimentation. During this course of experiments, his eye and knee are damaged. Thinking of him as dead, he is left to rot in the laboratory basement, from where our hero makes his escape. He doesn’t return to his family but becomes their fairy godmother, helping them whenever he can and destroying the Republic with his superior intellect.
Daniel adopts the street name ‘Day’ and that is how he is introduced to us.

Legend dives into how June and Day meet, the prodigy and the criminal and what happens there after. It makes for a very interesting read. It throws light on how the poor people live in the streets or in their ramshackling houses. It describes the deepest misdeeds of the Republic.
Action packed with Lu’s distinct style of writing and full of fascinating side characters, Legend is a thrill of a ride.

The ride continues with Prodigy, the next book, we see June and Day being taken in by the Patriots who have always been against the Republic.

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They agree to help Patriots carry out their big plan of assassinating Anden, the new Elector-Primo. (The Elector-Primo is akin to our Prime Minister) It is an elaborate book, detailing the journey of both June and Day as they are forced to acknowledge their feelings towards each other and their role in Anden’s assassination attempt which leads them to two different paths.
The climax of Prodigy is stunning, when we realize that the Patriots were Republicans in disguise who wish Anden dead. We never know who the real Patriots were but it all ends nicely with an incredible twist- revealing Day’s illness- caused by the Republic experimentation and how he has numbered days to live. What is the result? Day ends up pushing June away from him and we are now waiting to get our hands on the final book of the trilogy, Champion.

Champion begins with Day attempting to forget June and the Republic and the Colonies on the brink of a peace treaty.

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But a deadly plague, the one which kick started the events in Legend, is back and is threatening the temporary peace. Here, we get to really see Anden, the new Elector-Primo in action. His dialogues with both June and Day are electric and in between all this, I actually wondered how the fate of a country rests in the hands of three youngsters, two of them being teenagers. It is a very remarkable prospect. Could this really happen in the future? I have no doubt that it will.

Coming back to Champion, the book excels in throwing twists at every turn and Marie Lu excels in tying up everything neatly. I have already given way too many spoilers so I will try to refrain from telling the plot in detail, as I feel Champion really deserves to be read. A fitting finale to the amazing Legend, CHAMPION is a Champion in itself.

Go read this fantastic series!

If you do not mind spoilers or like to read knowing the story before hand, or have already read the series then read ahead for my special observations.

Nicely Done
All of these take place in the final book, Champion.

  • Day’s speech to the people alongside the Chancellor of the Colonies and his subsequent escape was thrillingly explained. I could picture it perfectly.
  • June’s connection to the deadly plague, the Colonies tampering with her system; it all tied up tidily.
  • Antarctica: I was floored! The entire ‘Daily Score’, ‘Cumulative Score’ and ‘Level’ system was brilliant! I also like reading about how countries co-ordinate and bargain during times of war, Anden asking for Antarctica’s help with the war against the Colonies and Antarctica laying down conditions.
  • The Titles and Positions were supremely intellectual. ‘Elector-Primo’ and ‘Princeps-Elects’
  • June and Anden’s relationship. It was a nice touch, having another suitor for June. And Tess pining for Day.
  • Day’s moral dilemma. How to love the girl who got his family killed? The ethical and moral ramifications were portrayed vividly by Lu. Kudos!

Flaws

  • We never know why Daniel was not hailed as a prodigy despite attaining the unachievable perfect score. He was never given a retest like June Iparis. He was lied to, given a fake score card and taken for experimentation. Another mystery is their experimentation. Was day treated differently as he had received the perfect score? And how did the Republic not notice him missing? Did they even achieve anything through the experiments? They left Day to suffer through the bad knee and eye (of course, they had thought that Day had died).
  • I thought there was a whole theory behind June and Day’s score on the Trails and hailing one as a Prodigy and preparing her for the same and leading the other to become a Legend, the best and the smartest criminal. I was under the impression that the Republic must have hatched an elaborate scheme to get these two to face off each other. Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be true.
  • Commander Jameson is a cold, cruel and cunning villain. I liked her as the antagonist but somehow her words to June, “Little Iparis, how much you remind me of myself at your age,” confused me. Again, it misled me. I thought that there would be a back story on Commander Jameson’s childhood or maybe some connection between her and June which would reflect on this statement which is said more than once in varied ways by Commander Jameson.
  • Day’s dad. He was the biggest mystery. How did he die? Why did he suddenly leave? Where did he get that coin of the former U.S.A? Where were all the other treasures stored? Total mystery.
  • Another thing which hit me hard was Day’s retrograde amnesia. He remembered the death of his family but not the people who caused it, namely June, Commander Jameson and Thomas. How? Does the brain protect itself that way? And what about John, Day’s elder brother? He sacrificed himself for Day when June helped Day escape his own execution. Day remembers John’s death but doesn’t recollect June who was his savior. It seems a bit weird to me. But it did add a sweet twist to the story which led to a sweeter end.

Wishful Thinking (Would like to read more about)

  • I wanted more of Anden. I really liked him. Marie Lu painted a striking picture. I wouldn’t have minded a part of the novel from his point of view. Or maybe a novella in the future?
  • Does Tess fall in love? More importantly, does she fall out of love with Day? What about the time when June makes her difficult decision of letting Day go? Did Tess, Eden and Anden support her?
  • What about ten years later, when June encounters Eden and Day, does Eden not recognize her? (I remember about the eyes, still.)
  • I would have liked to read more about the dreaded Plague and how were the Republic both creating and destroying it. What part did Eden actually play in it?
  • The Colonies and their governing systems really intrigued me. I would definitely be interested in knowing more.

In conclusion, I completely back the ‘New York Journal of Books’ when they say-
“Clear your calendar to allow yourself the luxury of reading this book in one or two sittings. You will be shaken.”

 

Posted in Bookish

And here comes the Champion

When I first came across the dystopian book series, ‘The Hunger Games’ three years ago, I read all the three books in a span of four days. Needless to say, I loved all of them! The series sucked me in and I was stuck in that District for many days to come.

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Since then, I have been on the lookout for another smashing dystopian book series, something to take my love for ‘Dystopian’ settings forward. When I discovered that there were literally uncountable books set in the dystopian world, I was overjoyed!
But alas! My joy kept dimming with every book series that I read. Or rather, unread. I began with the hugely recommended ‘Divergent’ series by Veronica Roth.

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It was good, I do admit that. But it did not sustain that ‘good’. Somehow, I have realized that the first book in any dystopian book series is incredible, trapping the reader in its wake and leading them with great expectations towards the sequel. But something goes wrong there and there is a big resounding crash when you force yourself (yes, ‘force’ is the right word here) to read the final book in the trilogy. If that’s not enough, the author brings out novellas- to showcase the same events, or even new events, rather a prequel, from the point of view of other supporting characters. True fans of the series lap them up, excited to read new material.
Unfortunately, that will only happen for me, if Suzanne Collins, the author of the truly impeccable ‘Hunger Games’ series writes something new in Katniss Everdeen’s world.
Coming back to the ‘Divergent’ series, I really liked the first book. I picked up the second in the series, Insurgent, excited to dive back into Tris and Tobias’s world. But I did not like Insurgent, to say the least. However, I did want to find out how it all ends, as I admit here, I was kinda in love with Tobias. And I also had a tiny hope that Veronica Roth will steer the whole thing back to the ‘good’ stuff, bring the story back on the right path in the series finale, ‘Allegiant’.
I borrowed the book from one of my students (like I did the others) and I quote my student now, “Teacher, either you are going to bang your head or bang this book” – pointing at Allegiant – “right in the middle of your reading.”
I smiled. I expected no other outcome. I agreed with her, though instead of banging my head on the book, I let the book rest comfortably in the confines of my cupboard. Or skipped a huge number of pages when I really thought I was going to tear my hair out. Because the book was going nowhere! It was infuriating!
I did, however, reach the end somehow, dragging my eyes in the process and was happy when I finished the book. I was not happy with the book, just that I had finally completed the series. When I found out that there was a novella from Tobias’s point of view, I picked it up with dread. That book was good. But the series had lost its appeal for me.

I then read ‘The Maze Runner’ series by James Dashner.

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It met the same fate. Excellent first book, bad second, I did not even attempt the third book. Instead, I read the summary of the final book online. I did not even feel like picking up the series prequel.

Next for me was ‘The Selection’ series by Kiera Cass.

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Excellent first book! I moved to the second. But in the middle of it, I got bored. Yes, bored. So again, I read the entire summary of all the books online. I may still read the books sometime ahead. After a year-or-two, if I am facing a book drought, I will complete reading this series.

Then I came across the riveting ‘Matched’ by Ally Condie. I loved it so much that I didn’t read the next two books ‘Crossed’ and ‘Reached’, keeping them aside like treasures which were meant for special occasions.

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But when I did read them, I was disappointed. I muddled through Crossed because it was confusing. And don’t even get me started on Reached. I gave up. I hate giving up books once I start reading them but this was torture. None of the central characters were even in one SINGLE place. All of them were doing their own thing. I could only take so much. I stopped reading. And wondered what went horribly wrong. I thought that there was something erroneous with me, giving them up. Right then, I found a review online which confirmed all of my doubts and agreed wholeheartedly with what I felt about the series. There! Relief! I was not alone.
After this, I took a lengthy pause in reading dystopian stuff. I went back to the trusted Romance books. I also turned to Mythology, reading Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ series. However, I couldn’t stomach the third book in this trilogy as well.

Then I chanced upon Marie Lu. Her ‘Legend’ was again an excellent first book. But then, I was expecting it to be excellent. First books, according to my observation, generally are incredible. Very carefully I began ‘Prodigy’, the second book in the series. And I loved it! Were there no flaws? No, there were flaws. But could I ignore them and move towards to the final book? Yes, I absolutely could!

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Delighted, I began reading ‘Champion’, the last book in the gripping series which follows the tale of June Iparis and Daniel Altan Wing a.k.a Day through the Republic of America, a fast forwarded U.S.A. I loved Champion! I loved it so much that I am writing this article now. Finally, I found a really good dystopian book series after the indomitable ‘Hunger Games’.
Why did I love it? Why didn’t I give up or tear my hair out this time? Why did I have a bittersweet smile when I closed Champion? Why am I sure that I will reread Champion again in the future? Why do I want to see a movie series based on this fantastic book series?
All these questions will be answered in my next article where I will review the entire series, what I loved, what I didn’t (there isn’t much) and why I am finally open to reading dystopian novels again.
Marie Lu. Thank you! You are the true Champion here!

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Posted in Life Interuppted

Time – The Magician

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Time always finds a way to heal. I knew this. But it struck me suddenly just a few days ago.
I was returning home from work when I came across the usual garden that I pass everyday on my journey. This garden had earned the label, ‘The Fountain Garden’, because of having a huge fountain (now dysfunctional) in the centre. It is a huge garden, actually more like a park; or rather two.
Two parks joined midway by the fountain. I don’t know. I suck at such descriptions. I hope that you can imagine a park in your head when you read this. (I will try and get a picture for further help.)
Anyway, both the parks had kind of become the football ground for the boys of my colony. Boys of all ages who loved football would play here. Soon, the park started losing its grass. It started resembling a drought land. The constant friction of the ball being kicked to and fro only added to its slow demise as a green garden. This went on for a while, and continued for years.
Batches of boys grew up and left the colony for higher ambitions- a job, education, marriage. The colony Maintenance Panel finally put up a Notice banning the playing of any form of games in and around the garden. Games such as Badminton, Hide and Seek and simple running games like Catching cook were not allowed. A huge board with strict instructions was erected outside the garden, bold white letters on a bright blue background. This happened a little over a year ago.

The current group of Messi’s was allocated a special ground for the express purpose of playing football.
What did I see that I am telling you all this?
I saw the green garden back! Two parks spread in a carpet of glorious green! It was beautiful! I stood wonderstruck, staring at the grass on both the sides of the fountain. When had this happened? How had I not noticed this before?
I was so used to passing by the bald gardens that I hardly ever looked up form my mobile phone. We are all this way. We are wounded creatures. And we wallow in our wounds for a long time.
When we, humans, finally decide to poke our heads out of the wallowing, a miracle awaits us.
It is just the result of the wonderful combination of precaution (once bitten, twice shy, of course, you are going to be careful once you learn a lesson the hard way) effort (just a little bit helps us a long way) nature (seriously, there is so much so learn from this Goddess) and the most important of all – TIME!
Time truly has the healing power. Let’s go back to my garden. With a little bit of precaution (no more football), effort (gardeners must have pitched in) nature (she always does her job well) and time, the glorious was back in the green.
I learned a life lesson that day. Apart from always observing the surroundings and not always be phone stuck, I learned that we should let time do its thing. It works its magic every time.
I visit the garden regularly now; notice it every day in my journey, now I just wish that time will do its magic on the defunct fountain. It will help the green stay green.
After time has worked its magic, it’s up to us to continue the sparks. This time, I am going to pitch in.
As I finish writing, I’ll be on my way to the Colony Maintenance Board’s office to have a word with them. Praise them for their efforts and get the fountain working again.
So, of course, I’ll be back after some time to update you on my progress. Or maybe I will just use that phone of mine and let you know.

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Posted in Listed

Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo: Faults and Fines

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I recently had the opportunity to catch a screening of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo’ on T.V. I had been dying to see it when it released last year during Diwali. But, unfortunately, none of my friends were as eager as me for the comeback of the Barjatya’s.
I, on the other hand, have loved all of Rajshri Production’s movies (with the exception of ‘Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon’. Do I even need to explain that?) Salman Khan as ‘Prem’ in all Rajshri movies has managed to win my heart.
‘Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo’ was no different. Though I did find a few faults.
Fault 1: The character of Neil Nitin Mukesh was wasted. Why was his ‘Ajay’ so insecure of his elder sibling? A little back story would have been nice, because only jealousy or comparison doesn’t kill it. Or it would have if more explanation was provided.

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Fault 2: A little element of suspense would have been cool. We, the audience, and the Prince’s Royal Security Head, both knew who had arranged the attack on the Prince’s life. It’s all-in-the-know. Not much fun.

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Fault 3: How can step-siblings actually miss each other when they haven’t lived together since childhood? When they haven’t spent their adolescence, a critical period of growth, with each other? Only Sooraj Barjatya could claim this kind of brotherhood.

Fault 4: Can you really build such a palace ‘- Sheesh Mahal’ on the strategic location of the tip of the ravine? Is it even geographically possible? I guess I will have to ask my civil engineer and architect friends for this answer.

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Fault 5: It was kind of unbelievable that Vijay Singh, the crown Prince of Pritampur, let his engaged Princess just go. True, he didn’t seem to truly love her. And he did seem to try as per his promise to Prem Dilwale. Even if he let her go, it’s even more far-fetched that a rich and beautiful princess would settle down for an ordinary life with a theatre owner.

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Fault 6: This is not really a fault but I missed the presence of Alok Nath’s ‘Babuji’ in this movie. Where was he? Couldn’t Sooraj Barjatya squeeze him in somewhere?

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Now let’s move towards the ‘Fine’ points.

Fine 1: Sonam Kapoor. She was ethereal in this one. Her clothes ranging from modern dresses to traditional sarees and lehengas were all drop dead gorgeous. Her make-up was perfect. Her jewelry was matched well. But the best part? Her acting as Princess Mailthili was par excellence. True, I may be biased as I am her fan, but any viewer would agree that this role was tailor made for her and that she performed it with aplomb!

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Fine 2: Salman Khan. I finally understood all the hysteria surrounding him. First, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and now, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo! He was flawless as Vijay Singh, wearing the moustache with pride and he was paisa vasool as Prem Dilwale– the warm hearted villager out to save the kingdom of Pritampur and meet Princess Maithili.

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Fine 3: The music fits the movie very well. My personal favourites are the title track, Jalte Diye and Aaj Unse Milna Hai. Himesh Reshammiya shines in this one! Take a bow, HR!

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Fine 4: The sets of the movie were very picturesque. All the Rajmahals looked beautiful. There is a particular scene that comes to mind here. Prem Dilwale and Princess Maithili are standing in a huge balcony waving to the overwhelming crowd amid a shower of flowers. It is shot beautifully. The set where the song ‘Jalte Diye’ is shot is exquisite. Ah! I wish I could spend some quality time with my special someone here.

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Fine 5: Jalte Diye.
I love this song. I love the lyrics. I love the beats. I love the composition. I love the artist who sang this song- *Harshdeep Kaur, Anwesha, Vinit Singh and Shabab Sabri. I love the choreography. I love Sonam’s saree. I love Salman’s shirt. I love Sonam’s playfulness. I love Salman’s inner struggle. I LOVE THIS SONG!!
*I have found this on the internet. If incorrect, please let me know.

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Fine 6: This movie has repeat value. I know, many people will kill me for saying this, but it’s true. Prem Dilwale’s antics are hilarious. And you want to believe that such warm hearted individuals exist in today’s cold world. Also, Salman’s scenes with Anupam Kher are super fun. And I’m not just saying this. I haven’t seen the entire movie again (though I’m sure that I could). But I have seen bits and pieces, amounting to whole, at least four times. It definitely can be watched again, especially if you are a Salman or Sonam fan, or a fan of Rajshri Movies.

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There. I have laid down the ‘Fine’ points of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo’. Do watch it if you haven’t seen the film. And if you have seen the film, drop your comments to let me know whether you agree or disagree with me.