November 30, 2011

Book Review---"The Best Of Quest"

In 1954, a magazine called 'Quest' appeared out of Bombay with Nissim Ezekiel at its helm---a quarterly of inquiry, criticism and ideas which Sir Nissim based on the following principles that everything about it had to have relevance to India..and that it was to be written by Indians for Indians-as in those days, anything foreign was glamourised including writers.

'Quest' stayed in circulation for a good two decades until Indira Gandhi’s emergency caused it to collapse.
Many renowned names that light up newspapers, magazines, academic journals and even television screens today, first made their mark with a piece in this magazine.
Decades lagter, three beautiful minds decided to compile poignant snippets from this magazine into a collection of varied genre so that our generation could have a glimpse of what once was (and still remains) a priceless piece of nostalgia and indian literature.

Book Title: The Best Of Quest.

Price: Rs 695/-

Publisher: Tranquebar Press

Editors: Laeeq Futehally, Achal Prabhala, Arshia Sattar.

'The Best of Quest' is a collection of some of the most striking essays, poems and stories to have appeared in the pages of the magazine.

The book is clearly classified into seven segments interspersed with ad's from yester years which bring around an air of nostalgia as the pages flip by (I have posted a few such ad pages in this review to render a whiff of that experience).

Now for a bit of individualized attention to each segment:
SEGMENT 1:The foreword by Achal Prabhala and Arshia Sattar
about how the journey started...the inspiration, the motivation and the rearrangement of space to confine memories and thoughts, views and opinions.

SEGMENT 2: In memoriam
which brings to light moments from the life of of Nissim Ezekiel, as fondly remembered and cherished by those who personally knew and interacted with him.
In his article 'someone like Nissim', Laeeq Futehally says "He wanted people to write not for money but because they had something to say that was worth saying."
Ever so often in life, all we need is one simple line to connect with a particular something or someone---one line which pulls at your heart strings...that one line you can relate to...that one line which melts the cold ice of indifference you feel for a stranger you hardly know about.
This was the line which managed to break down the wall between me--a random reader and a great writer as I delved more into the biographical pages of the book.

On reading further, i learnt that this man was not just a poet but a mentor and a source of inspiration to many a great writers.
Snippets of sepia tinted memories from Githa Hariharan, Raj Rao, Jane BHandari, Menka Shivdasani flood your heart with a sense of deep found respect for this man who was brutally honest and yet genuinely motivating in his own way.

His words to Menka Shivadasani "no matter what level you are at, you must always go a little higher" will stay with me forever---like precious pearls of advice from overheard conversation reaching you at a perfectly apt moment.
Here was someone whose poetry i used to read and admire, but never did i once contemplate on the kind of life he must have led.
Reading about him now from those who knew him closely gave me more insight into his life and greatness.
Yes, it was disheartening to read that Nissim was not in the state to read his biography when completed..but his memoirs definitely get a smile on your face..and he continues to live on forever---in his work.

SEGMENT 3: Essays And Opinions
'The Best Of Quest' has compiled some of the finest essays that have appeared in the magazine.
Articles ranging from Impact of religion on indias external affair to marriage morals to cinematography comparisns to pulp literature, it covers them all.

This segment deals with views on diverse topics and makes one ponder on the mental debate they evoke in the reader.
Though coming from a different era altogether, one is still compelled to relate it to current times as we all are aware that some issues are just pushed under the carpet and never resolved.

In the article 'Dichotomy in Hindu life and its Impact on external relations', Nirad. C. Chaudhary has clearly related this to the prevailence of opposing causes due to the pervasive dichotomy in hindu existence in our country which stand namely as;
solidarity ---> <--- br="" disunity="">megalomania ---> <---self abasement="" br="">Xenophobia ---> <---xenolatry br="">He has further explained beautifully and with valid examples how this holds true even in our modern day system.
Also pieces like 'the charisma of rajesh khanna' and 'what has dimple got that satyajit hasnt' take us down memory lane and discuss various changing trends of cinema and stardom.
Khushwant singh's in depth analysis on why delhi remains the eternal capital of India is also a must read. Written in his usual simplicity, this article manages to hold your interest in the mundane day to day details of a common life.

With a total of 45 articles in this segment, it becomes rather difficult to dissect each one based on its salient features and views.But all in all, this segment is abundant of well researched, wonderfully structured (to the minutest details) and carefully selected opinion of some of the best experts we could have in this area.

SEGMENT 4: Poetry---
Being a big fan of poetry, I was in total awe of this section albeit reading the works of such great poets did make me feel a little shallow for my clumsy attempts.But they did show me how much i had to improve.
Most of all, I liked Ezekiel's work...liked would perhaps be an understatement. I loved it to bits.
This book has compiled some of the finest pieces of poetry. It is an orchestra of beautiful minds. It is imaginative writing and reflective musings at their best.
It is an exemplary collection of beautifully crafted patterns from simple words woven together.
In one word---AWESOMENESS!!!

my favorites would have to include--
Nissim Ezekiel's
"poet, lover, birdwatcher",
"in the garden"

'In this the poet finds his moral proved,
who never spoke until his spirit moved'

Simple words which go straight for the heart and make themselves at home there---the magic of Nissim.

There were others which i loved reading too like;
'Cinesmorning' By Dom Moraes
'Love' By Adil Jussawala
Santan Rodrigues's 'City Streets'
'Contacts' By Kamala Das

SEGMENT 5: Fiction
'The Best Of Quest' has short stories which take you into the depths of satire, cynicism, tragedy, loss, irony, poverty, life, death and back.
You guessed it right---not something you would like to read with a heavy head.
These are carefully picked stories--sieved through a critics net and separated from the mediocre chaff with utmost care.
Rustic stories which hit your soul like a hammer and make you think about it at least once more after you have read it---definitely not the 'read and forget' types.
One more feature that I noticed these stories share in common is the way they keep churning up leaving no trace of where or how the end is going to that by the time you reach the end, you just stare at the last line frozen. If that is not enough, just when you are about to conjure up a pattern from stories read and expect the one you are reading to take a familiar course, it again hits you by being surprisingly simple and unexpected.

The segments opens with the story titled 'the departure' which is one of my favorites.
The thought processes which haunt the protagonist are the ones that have often crossed my mind and I am sure everyone reading it will have their lips curled into a smile on noticing how much they can relate to it--be it their professional life or personality.
What takes you by surprise though is the ending---which of course I'm not going to revel.
I also have to mention that it is one of those stories wherein you reach the last line and say "Ahh..I knewwwww this would end like this" when the truth is all along the way, you were too busy engrossed in reading how the story progressed---cause somewhere it felt like 'you'.'

'The moon had to be mended' is a story which left me feeling creepy all along.I reckon it is the satire and the dark side that it should be appreciated for.but frankly, so powerful was its impact that i found it a tad bit revolting to assess. Something you wouldn't want to read again---only for its gory details, which again is an achievement for the writer.

There were others that I liked--which prodded on different emotions in a way slightly different than routine---"Aunt Matilda is 90 years old", "Tangents", "Gherao"...though i must mention here, that a particular story titled 'kalyani' left me a little confused with the end.But nevertheless, this segment was quite an experience.. a form of fiction one rarely gets to see nowadays.

The last two segments (6 and 7) include endnotes and postscripts.

About the editors:
Laeeq Futehally is a writer and garden designer who has worked as the Literary Editor of Quest for over twenty years.
Achal Prabhala is a writer and researcher in Bangalore.
Arshia Sattar teaches at various institutions across India and works with classical indian literatures.

'The Best Of Quest' is indeed a literary gem...a precious gift from an era bygone to this modern day era which can only bow its head in respect and seek inspiration from those great minds who have clearly made a difference, not just to Indian literature but also to the society in which we live.
A book that would be loved and valued by all age groups.
A book that the youth of today definitely needs to spend time with.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

November 24, 2011

Two extra hours...

Two extra hours of much needed time;
To help at home, to bond with kin,
To smile, to hug, to share a laugh,
To apologise for the ass ive been...

To catch up with that angry friend,
To go ahead and speak my part,
To drop in and say hello,
To prove the 'tinman' has a heart...

Two extra hours of much needed time;

To read, to dance, to sing, to write,
To hang on to these little joys,
To fasten my grip and hold on tight...

To help that old man cross the road,
To invite him in for a cup of tea,
To read street kids a fairytale,
To show them a world they'd love to see...

Two extra hours of much needed time;

To say 'i love you' to my dad,
To hug my mom and speak my heart,
To open up like i never had...

To thank the almighty for his grace;
To seek his care and blessings divine,
To pray to him to show the way,
To hope he makes it all go fine...

To pause and play the times gone by,
To introspect and talk to life,
To forgive, forget and make ammends,
To try and resolve every strife...

Two extra hours of much needed time;
though much trouble it might not save,
but help carry it would for sure,
a lot less regrets to my grave...

If you are an Indivine user and you like what you read, you can vote for me here

Writer's note: This started off as a topic for a Indiblogger Surf Excel Matic #GetSmart Contest.
but somewhere along the way, as i scribbled along---I don't know when and how, it turned out to be something a lot more than just that.

I wont say much---but there are delicate times when life goes off balance and we know that it's only with constant attention and persistent behaviour that it can fall back in place.
It's times like these that we realise our helplessness and wish we had a little extra time to try and fix things from falling apart, within and around us.

As for me, I guess I'm just thankful that this topic gave way to a lot of pent up feelings---writing this has been quite an emotional journey.

November 21, 2011

Cryptic thoughts #36

There is a song for every mind frame. So, the next time you feel excessively boastful or (conversely) extremely depressed about something, switch on some music. Stay balanced, because there is nothing unique happening to anybody. Perhaps, someone somewhere has been at that exact same point before.

It's not you, it's just life!

November 14, 2011


A silent sombre symphony...
A piece of shattered dream...
A wish gone unfulfilled...
A whole life to redeem...

A visiting-vanishing hope...
A tactfully repressed story...
A cherished memory so dear...
A past of wounded glory...

A crumbling sand castle...
A melting drop of snow...
A directionless wind...
A colorless rainbow...

An old unfinished conversation...
A listless solemn thought...
A confused speck of truth...
An invincible dirty blot...

A happy impromptu journey...
A relentless haunting pause...
An unstirred undying passion...
An unknown abandoned cause...

These fragments of my soul...
These splinters in my heart...

Piercing me through and through,
tearing me apart...

November 10, 2011

Silent conversations...

They were lying beside each other underneath the cool night sky.

"Do you see the moon?" he asked, a little distracted. "It's so in love with the sky---that is the reason all the stars in the sky fall weak in its glory---because its love for the sky is so indescribable, immeasurable, infinite..."

"Hmmm..." she mumbled as if in deep thought. After a pregnant pause, she continued, "Actually, I think it's the other way around."

He had been waiting for this.
Contradict him she always did.

"I think its the sky who loves the moon more," she said."Don't you see how it gets swept away in gloomy darkness on a moonless night?"

He smiled...
She blushed...

They were lying beside each other underneath the cool night sky.

Talking about love...
Speaking of the moon and the sky...
Understanding the unspoken!!!

November 05, 2011

DOVE your hair and it will LOVE you back...

Rapunzel was not a working woman. Nor was she a exam going student.
She did not have to fight the stress of everyday life. She was safe from the wrath and fury of the big bad world (full of beckoning hair stylists) and also oblivious to all the temptations (like rebonding, straightening, perming et al) there.
Life was so much easier---all she had to do was sit in that four walled tower in that pollution free forest zone and deal with a witch who visited her once in a while to check if everything was okay.
Like how much could she have on her mind except maybe thoughts of some dork prince on a white horse who was bound to get mesmerized by her soulful melody and climb up a tower to rescue her?
No competition----no reason of stress/worry to pull her hair apart (at least till the prince got there)

So, it was not such a big deal that she could manage those lovely long tresses.
Place her in a modern day setting and we shall see...Hah!!!

When people around me would flaunt their lovely tresses, I'd often feel a pang of guilt along with a surge of nostalgia of my days as a carefree teenager.
I would cringe when relatives would ask my mom what I did to my hair to bring it to this situation and my mom would reminisce about old times amidst angry stares at me, explaining how medical school ate up all my time and energy (the 'modified Rapunzel' story worked with her too---err...though she did not take it very well)

Come home and I would have to hear sermons on how I wouldn't listen to what anyone has to say and if I continued being reckless, it wouldn't be long that I would have to count the hair on my head...yada yada yada.
Amidst sleepy yawns and cheeky grins, I would listen to her ramble.
But the truth was that, I was guilty...guilty as charged...for having neglected my hair and taking it for granted.

However, Laziness prevailed and I would never make the time. I always opted the easy way out.

The first time I felt my hair was turning frizzy---I went ahead and got it straightened.
Despite being handed over a number of hair products for maintenance, the live-for-the-day philosophy persisted and I tucked them away in my closet.

End result, my hair stayed flat smooth and silky, albeit for a few months after which the chemicals slowly started taking their toll thereby rendering them equally fragile and prone to fall.
Amidst angry rebukes from all at home, I swore that I would never get my hair straightened again.

The next time I went to the parlor, I made it a point to sigh and complain to the hair stylist there, about my misery.
I sulked a good thirty minutes on how I had never expected that to happen since hair fall had never been a problem with me...until the cretin looked at me calmly and suggested that I try 're-bonding'.

Now, don't blame me, I was naive and vulnerable. She should have been more careful.
Instead, she continued to take full advantage of the situation and inflicted three hours of even more terrible torture to my tresses (which by now had acquired a grass like quality..sniff)
That was it!!! This was my story 3 years back.

After that series of torturous and violent afflictions, my self respecting hair did what any self respecting identity in an abusive relationship would do---it gave up on me!

Initially, I thought it was just a lover's tantrum that my hair was throwing, which would wear out soon enough and that it would return to its lively self again.
But as time went by, I realised that it was much more than that---my hair had started behaving more and more stubborn by the day.

It started revolting in split ends.
Then it begun showing resistant signs of extremely temperamental frizzy behaviour.
Dryness and roughness became a daily routine.
The more rough it would get, the more tough I would behave with it---trying to tame it down with stronger shampoos and gels.

and one day, it dawned on me that it was no use beating a dead horse---no amount of ironing and hair styling products would restore my relationship back to what it had been.
The zing was lost.the love was dead. and all I could do was save what was left of us...sigh!

Now where could i have gone wrong?
Well, after a lot of realisation I figured out that I loved my hair but never expressed it the right way---mistake 1.
I tried changing it into something it wasn't (that is where the straightening, perming, hair styling products came in)---mistake 2
I knew all the things that were required to be done (To start with, I would oil massage it, brush it several times a day and avoid all harmful chemicals).
But as time went by, I had started taking it for granted and wished for easier alternatives (which unfortunately did not exist then)---mistake 3.

and like all unrequited love stories, my hair eventually fell out of love with me.....

I pined for its original quality three long years. I had now started brushing and oiling my hair as and when I got the chance (which was still not enough though, due to time restraints). I tried to make up for the neglect i had shown towards it in the past.
But alas, the damage was done---it was not to be convinced.
The more I stressed, the more hair fall I had---it's a vicious cycle, they told me.

After hours of sleepless nights gazing at the ceiling and wondering how things would have been if different, like every love lorn lover, I made peace with the fact that things would never ever be the same again.

...and just as I was struggling to ignore all the nasty remarks from family and friends (who like we all know, somehow always take great pleasure in digging up stories of past fame and glory and get critical about how you were lazy and foolish enough to have neglected what was bestowed upon you), DOVE launched the new oil care range...TADAAAAA!!!

Now a shattered lover doesn't have much choice but to pick on the last straw that is offered to her.
So hoping against hope and gathering whatever little faith I had left in me, I decided to give it a shot.
Besides, the temptation was looming high...what better option that an oil care range incorporated in shower products---a shampoo, conditioner, hair mask and serum.
In this busy race of life, this was just what I needed---an easy quick fix it solution---now only to check if it worked and I'd be sorted.

And so I braced myself, pushed aside all the strong shampoos and styling products that I was using and try it I did!

Okay, now before reading any further, please knock on wood---I'm superstitious like that.ahem!

Hold your breath ladies and gentlemen (*drum rolls in the background*), it gives me great pleasure to announce before you that after around three weeks of regular use, things have started changing already...gradually..slowly but steadily. *blushes*
I see chances of a reconciliation.
I see the lost shine returning. My hair has almost stopped falling out on me.
I see my soft locks bounce now and then and toss themselves with joy.

The stubbornness and frizziness my hair used to exhibit as retaliation, has slowly started dwindling and I see its original texture and softness returning.
It's not just me.My friends have started noticing it too.
Angry looks from mom have decreased a great deal and relatives have started considering medicine as a career option, once again for their daughters.

Well, I've not exactly won a 'Ms Beautiful Hair' title or an advertisement campaign contract yet. But life is full of WOW moments like these---which I think, is quite a good start! ;)

So all you modern day rapunzel's, this one is for you.

Good people here of every sort,
read on if you can dare...

This isn't a story of love or life,
albeit a lesson of self care...

I grew up a fine young lass,
with tresses thick and strong...
But the last few lazy careless years,
left me wondering what went wrong...

My hair grew lifeless, thin and dry,
it lost its natural bounce...
I blamed it on the stress galore,
and emotional up's and down's...

I fretted and I worried more,
as I reminisced about my past...
The oil care and the head massage,
now no longer did they last...

Life was at its busiest best,
that left me no time to care...
Shampoos I changed now and then,
stripped the moisture from my hair...

Took notice all my peers and pals,
and whispered about my crime...
I wished my hair would normalise,
I just could not find the time...

And then as if by a magic stroke,
'Dove' came up with this 'oil care range'...
It seemed a blessing in disguise,
I knew it was time to change...

So change i did to the shampoo first,
then the serum and conditioner care...
I tried it for a whole two weeks,
and saw the love back in the air...

My hair feels pampered and cared for now,
and as if it's pleased with me,
is getting back to its happy self,
that I knew it was meant to be...

The fiber actives and vita oils,
much needed by my locks so weak,
are contained in the shampoo rich,
to make them feel nourished and sleek

Back is the softness and the shine,
which I'd sulked as an impossible task...
Thanks to the double nourishment repair,
of the conditioner and the mask...

I have begun to adore the serum too,
for it smoothens out frizzy hair...
It's non greasy and smooth to feel,
yet prevents the wear and tear...

My hair feels nourished with every wash,
and it seems so quick and easy...
No greasy lotions, oils or packs
No excuse of being busy or lazy...

And to dove care range, I owe it all
these moments that spell a W-O-W...
A solution quick fix I'd always wished,
I guess my search has ended now!

Last but not the least, I share with you this wonderful eye-opener that I have started practicing and would strongly recommend too.

to 'Rapunzel' hair days and a 'Happy' you,
not just on the outside but from the inside too!

This post has been written for Dove's Love is a Two Way Street - Love your hair and it loves you back Contest.
If you are an IndiVine user, and you like what you read, you can vote for me here

I would also take this opportunity to thank 'IndiBlogger' for sending me the entire 'oil care' range which has led me to consider trying out more of 'Dove' products in the near future...and needless to mention, kudos to 'Dove' (in corporation with 'IndiBlogger') for organizing a fantabulous bloggers meet.

Love is a two way street: Love your hair and it loves you back! Dove IndiBlogger Contest Winner

November 02, 2011

Of space and trust or the lack of it...

What do you do when your present is still holding onto the ghost of your past long after you have let go...when someone who claims to love you turns so possessive that he asks for an account of every single detail of your life, at the cost of it looking like an accusation?
Everyone needs some time on their own..time to reflect..time to contemplate..time to run away from everything--just for a while.
Space is something we gotta respect and let live..for it is the space & distance that kindles the spark in a relationship.
Obviously not too much, but some amount of space is needed for the survival of a lasting love.

Seeing everything with suspicion, asking details, reading between the lines as if to search for loopholes, makes one wonder about the one essential element in a relationship--trust, without which it can never exist.
In one corner of my mind, the familiar song plays yet again...
"We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds"

And I wonder, how easy and guilt-free would it be to break the trust that never existed in the first place...