June 15, 2015

The premiere

It was a cold and damp evening. Subulaxmi Ramaswamy was beginning to feel nervous about the screening of her debut movie. She had invited all the prominent celebrities of B-town for the premiere.

The cinema hall started filling in slowly but surely. Subulaxmi crossed her fingers and hoped that her maiden attempt would not fail her. She had tried her hand at the unconventional horror genre.
As she sat with the star cast in the crowded hall, she scanned the audience. They all seemed mesmerized with the chills and thrills on screen. Subulaxmi smiled proudly as she saw the silent spectators yelp, squeal, squeeze their eyes shut, bite their nails nervously...her film was sure to be a box-office hit.

All of a sudden, her eyes fell on a man in one corner of the front row. She could not see his face clearly in the dark, but noticed he was wearing a black overcoat. What caught Subulaxmi's attention was that he did not flinch even once, not even for a single scene. As he continued to sit ramrod straight in his seat, she could not help notice him stifling a yawn or two as the film moved on.
For the next ninety minutes, Subulaxmi could not concentrate on anything other than this impudent man. She had heard of Mr Ramu Sharma who was her competitor and a self-proclaimed expert in this area of expertise. She did recall inviting him but had not expected him to attend the event, especially when his recent movie had crashed so badly. But could it be him trying to jeopardize her screening, she wondered.

The movie ended with a thunderous applause from the dumbstruck audience. Subulaxmi received hordes of compliments and jealous handshakes from her B-town guests. However, her eyes wandered to the corner seat in the front row. He was still seated.

Politely, she excused herself for a minute and went up to him.
"Hi, I have been noticing you for a while...and," she said extending her hand for a friendly handshake.

"Honored, lovely lady," he squeezed her hand firmly interrupting her mid sentence. His grip felt ice cold. Subulaxmi felt his bloodshot eyes bore into her. He flashed her a charming smile as she felt a strong constricting pain in the right side of her chest.

She woke up in the hospital bed after what seemed like several hours.
"You had a massive cardiac arrest, Ma'am," they told her. "Your crew saw you with a black coat in your hand just seconds before you collapsed. You seemed to be muttering something to yourself.."

 (You can read more such stories and other updates on the Facebook page dedicated to my debut novel. Here is the link http://facebook.com/TOFthenovel ) 

June 14, 2015

A modern-day fairy tale

'Here is the other slipper," said Cinderella as she produced the glass slipper the prince had come searching for.

"But...but your hands are covered with soot, your hair is in a mess, you are wearing a tattered dress. The maiden I saw at the ball was wearing a diamond studded gown and arrived in a golden carriage. She was nothing less than a royal princess. And you..." the prince trailed off, refusing to meet her eyes, unable to hide his disappointment. Try as he might he could not deny the semblance between the two. But he refused to acknowledge it.

"That was me. My fairy godmother did all that," Cinderella explained the magic spell by her fairy godmother, how she had changed the field mice into coachmen, how she had provided for the shimmering gown, the tiara, the glass slippers.
"...and the golden carriage was actually this pumpkin," she said pointing to the plump orange vegetable sitting in one corner of the room.

The wise men who had accompanied the prince smirked. The prince's face turned red with embarrassment.

As if on cue, the wicked stepmother rushed out of the kitchen.
"Oh dear," she exclaimed. " The poor girl has forgotten to take her anti-psychotics again."

The prince breathed a sigh of relief.
"Stop the search party immediately," he ordered his minister. "It's not everyday that a wicked stepmother will rush to my rescue."
He then softly asked him to dispose off the glass slipper to a place where it can never be found again.

Back at the palace, the king chuckled on hearing his son's narrow escape.
"I'd told you the slipper was a bad idea," he exclaimed in an all knowing tone, wagging his finger at the prince.
"You should understand that compatibility is much more than silent ball-room dancing."

The Prince sighed. His father was right. It was too risky living in a fairytale.

(You can read more such stories and other updates on the facebook page dedicated to my debut novel. Here is the link http://facebook.com/TOFthenovel )  

June 13, 2015

A closer look

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of us all?"

No matter how much we pretend not to care, every woman, as a rule of thumb, is concerned about her appearance. Every single one of us desire smooth and spotless skin, a glowing complexion, and a radiant face. More importantly, a clean and clear face is not just a compliment-magnet but also an indicator of good health, and that is something we need to keep in mind.

How many times have you looked into the mirror and frowned? The angry pimples that somehow make an appearance every time you have an important board meeting or function to attend, the greasy skin that you need to constantly dab with a tissue all the time, the ugly blackheads that leave equally ugly marks when you try squeezing them out with that painful blackhead remover are issues most of us deal with. Well, all I'd say is stop torturing your face with synthetic products and harmful cosmetics. Concealing the problem isn't going to solve it. A cosmetic facial care regime will cause more harm to the skin than good, and hence the need of something totally natural and holistic in its approach like Ayurveda. 
After all, the perfect skin care should be done at both the intrinsic as well as extrinsic level. 

Here are a few important tips towards attaining a naturally beautiful skin:

 Intrinsic measures:
  • Proper nutrition: This is the key to a healthy and glowing skin. Eating fresh and nutritious food items instead of preserved ones or those containing artificial sweeteners or flavors reduces the production of impurities in the body, enables easier digestion, repairs damaged tissues, regenerates skin cells, fights against skin problems thus leading to a smooth and glowing skin. Eating a lot of vegetables (especially lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and tender asparagus tips) and fresh fruits also provides vitamins and adequate nourishment leading to good health and hence good skin. Foods like coffee, chocolate, fried foods, direct sugars should be limited.
  • Adequate hydration: Consumption of 3-4 liters of water every day is important to maintain a healthy system. Proper hydration is required for detoxification of the body. Accumulation of toxins can lead to skin problems, and consumption of water helps in cleansing the body of these toxins, thus preventing skin eruptions or breakouts. Green tea is rich in anti oxidants and helps in maintaining vitality of the skin.
  • Adequate exercise and sleep: Brisk walking at least five times a week for half an hour every day is important. Sweating during exercise promotes circulation which is important for healthy skin. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are known to help a great deal by improving blood and lymphatic circulation, as well as muscle tone. Also, one must have at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep every day for a younger and improved complexion. The growth hormone that is produced during sleep and exercise is responsible for promotion of fibroblast health which in turn promotes growth of collagen and elastin that is responsible for the skin to become firm. 
  • Essential vitamins and minerals: Taking a multivitamin every day will help the skin look younger and glowing. Calcium and Vit  D (from exposure to sunlight) is also important.
 When it comes to skin care, extrinsic measures are equally important as compared to the intrinsic measures discussed above. I remember my grandmother telling me how they would use various home made methods to  achieve a blemish free complexion in the good old days. I recall her asking me to boil neem leaves in my bath water to ward off pimples. She would ask me to slather a cream and turmeric paste on my skin. Some days it would be lime and honey, other days it would be gram flour and curd.  I would cringe just imagining the messy affair, and luckily manage to give it a skip.

Here are the home remedies as I remember them from Aaji's kitchen:
  • Mix chickpea flour and milk powder in equal parts. Take two teaspoons of this mixture in the palm of your hand and add water to make a thin paste out of it. Scrub lightly over wet skin. Rinse off and pat dry. The chickpea flour acts as a natural exfoliant and the milk powder provides nourishment to the skin. 
  • Take two tbsps of natural raw honey. Add a few drops of lime. Slather on face. Wait until dry and then wash off in upward motion. (Warning: Can be messy. Err...stay away from ant hills.)
  • Rinse face with water. Pat dry. Mash up the flesh of the papaya to a paste like consistency. Leave it on for 15 mins and then rinse off with warm water. This papaya pack is useful for acne prone skin.
As I grew up, I developed my own skin care regime--simpler, less messier and something that wouldn't leave me stinking like a garbage truck.
The cleansing-scrubbing-toning-moisturizing regime: Rinse your face with water. This fattens the dead skin cells by soaking the water. Make a paste by mixing two tablespoons of oat flour and one tablespoon of water. Apply it on your face with the tips of your index, middle and ringer finger so that it sticks. Scrub gently so that it removes the dead cells especially near the problem areas which are more prone for blackheads. This home-made scrub makes sure your skin is not stripped of its natural oils. Once the exfoliation is done, dab your skin with rose water to moisturize your face.

The only issue with this above regime is its time consuming nature, In today's busy world, we are forever searching for that quick fix that will not just save our time but also be equally effective.  But fear not. Where there is a will, there will be a way. Say bye bye to greasy skin, pimples and blackheads, look in the looking glass and say 'Hello beautiful.'
Yes, it's time to come closer to radiant skin with VICCO Turmeric Cream .

We can now be totally tension free. This one-step method of skin care is complete in itself and entirely Ayurvedic. So we can safely put aside all our worries about the harmful effects of cosmetics and chemicals on our skin and reach out to the power of haldi and Ayurveda. A convenient preparation by VICCO, this cream makes use of not only the cosmetic benefits of turmeric to ward off acne, comedones and excess oil with every wash but also of the microbicidal properties that claim to prevent skin infections and stop bleeding from minor cuts and wounds.

Having said all this, I must mention that a proper balance of intrinsic and extrinsic measures is required to maintain a healthy and glowing skin. The hormone cortisol also called the stress hormone (released during stress) is responsible for a lot of health problems including poor skin. Hence it is very important to de-stress every once in a while. Smile, laugh, indulge in your favorite food (if it's unhealthy which it most probably is, then only once in a while please), dance, do what makes you happy. Spend time with people who make you laugh.
Love. Live. Learn to relax.
Life is full of chaos anyway. Learn to find a pattern you love. If you can't find it, create one.
Allow your skin to breathe. Open your pores to happiness. It shows.

So next time you are in self doubt, ask yourself if you are happy. If you are, then yes you are beautiful!

June 12, 2015

Palm fiction--Combo pack

Hi folks,

Here I am presenting to you three short and totally unconnected pieces of fiction to make up for the irregularity in posting over the last one month. I hope to be more regular hereafter. So enjoy this combo pack till then.



"Will it hurt?" she asked him, jittery with nervousness and excitement. This was her first time.
"A little initially," he smiled and petted her trembling hand. Her palms were getting sweaty. She was only seventeen.She thought of her parents back home....what would they think? For a moment, she appeared unsure.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked slightly impatient now.

"Yes, never been surer," she mustered up all her courage and declared, and proceeded to lie on his couch.

It did hurt a little, but nothing she could not bear. She felt like a woman---strong, invincible. The experience was exhilarating...liberating...and at the end of it, she was so pleased that she was even ready to do it all over again.

That morning, she walked out of the tattoo parlor, beaming with joy, ready to flaunt her very first tattoo.

Yes, she'd finally got inked!

He slid a ring into my finger; 24 carat with a french cut solitaire. As years went by, the ring on my finger started shrinking just like our relationship, until a point of utter discomfort.

Not many realized why we split over it. He had wanted me to wear it in a chain in my neck, while I was yearning to string it in a friendship bracelet on my wrist.

We had been searching for different things, and we had understood that a solitaire could not help us.


It was an old habit of mine...one that I enjoyed since childhood. I loved building castles in the air. When I grew up, I studied architecture. My castles grew bigger, grander, more beautiful. They never failed to mystify people. Many would mistake them for strong structures of brick and stone. Some were even fooled into renting a room for a day or two. They enjoyed the view, and when they left, they did so with regret.

I kept building castles in the air..in mid suspension...at increasing heights. .Until one day, I met a girl who was perfect for me in every way...all except one, she had acrophobia..
Now I can no longer enjoy the view from the top. I have exchanged my dreams for a beautiful reality that is far more permanent. 

People say love has made me a wiser man.

June 06, 2015

Woh beete din yaad hain...

Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should really be?

Time...how quick it slips away like a fistful of sand from between your fingers. Days change to weeks, months, years and decades, and it feels as if it all happens in an instance. Behold! We are seen as another generation, the older generation...the generation from yester year...

Today, as I see teenagers moving around in funky branded apparels, carrying the latest versions of iPhones and iPads in hand, bragging to their friends about their latest possession back home-the new PlayStation, the new plasma flat screen TV, and sporting designer haircuts, I cannot help but reminisce about the good old days when life was adorned with simplicity and fun.

Those who grew up in the 80's and 90's will surely connect and enjoy the fragrance of nostalgia of these magical moments in this golden casket of memories. Let's have a quick peep inside, shall we? L
Lets take a long walk down that familiar memory lane...
Do you remember our school days...when life revolved around homework, class work, report cards, and picnics. We didn't have to worry about salaries and pay checks. If we did not fare well one term, we would work harder the next. Our only worry then would be about getting our report cards signed. In today's busy struggle, where have those days of innocence disappeared? Now every waking moment is burdened with the thought of an upcoming deadline. Project reports have to be signed. There are hardly any picnics, and praying. Our prayers keep getting more and more selfish by the day. A better pay check, an increase in allowance, better job prospects...these expectations have caused our priceless memories to be buried under a thicket of stresses.
Yet, the  childhood innocence we once possessed does not fail to bring a smile on our lips.
Do you recall those good old days?
  • The grey and white school uniforms that would often turn a muddy brown after sports class as compared to the plump, lethargic kids in crisp white uniforms and PS2 clutched in hand.
  • The neatly polished canvas shoes we took out time to polish every morning, 

  • The plastic or steel tiffin box with the small triangular bread-jam sandwiches or roti sabji that we would share with our best friend, and the brightly colored 'Hello Kitty' water bottles (with the straw that we'd chew more than we'd sip on) that later progressed to 'Milton' water bottles in sober shades.
  • The Camlin geometry set (the ruler and protractor from which we'd have a tough time safe guarding).
  • the green & white fragrant Chinese pencil erasers we used to take such great pride in, the tiny crayon box that usually had not more than seven crayons, those Apsara and Natraj (and special 'Pinky', 'Rainbow' and 'Turbo' pencils for exams.)
  • Wearing plastic raincoats and gum boots and still reaching school half drenched, secretly hoping the teacher would tell us to go back home.
  • Returning home everyday after school to watch our favorite soaps. (Remember 'Shanti', 'Swabhiman', 'Vikram aur Betaal'). How can we forget Sundays when we would sit glued to the TV set to watch the epic 'Mahabharat', and other favorites like 'Chandrakanta', 'Potli Baba ki', 'The Jungle Book' (Remember the title track? You are humming it right now, arn't you? Haww!). 
  • Sometimes homework would be completed while sneaking a peek at on going commercials. The famous 'Humara Bajaj', 'Vicco Turmeric, 'Gold Spot, 'Titan', and last but not the least, the Parle G' ad ("humko pata hai jee,") had some of the most unforgettable tracks during our time.

  • The untainted enthusiasm to write with an ink pen (the classic golden capped 'Hero' fountain pen). More than the calligraphy, it was the sucking ink in and out of the Camel inkpot with it (that we proudly referred to as 'filling ink') that interested us. We didn't mind our ink covered fingers, the occasional blots of smudged ink on our notebooks, and the fragile nibs that when pressed too hard were susceptible to snapping. We were young, bold and brash. We were ready for adventure, even if it meant getting our spotless white uniforms blue.
  • No birthday party was ever complete without the latest Bollywood tracks being played on the tape recorder. Audio and video cassettes that have now been replaced by dvd's were a rage back then. Birthday gifts would be pretty predictable too-'Barbie' accessories for girls and He-man or a 'GI Joe' set for boys, until they were old or curious enough for a 'Tell me why' encyclopedia.
With a 3kg school bag slumped over our shoulders, we traversed school life without complaining. There was the regular glass of Complan or Boost that provided us instant energy. But the real reason of our enthusiasm back then was we enjoyed everything we did. We did not brag about flashy cars and expensive games. Life was simple. We were happy with having similar accessories---matching book covers, labels, tiffins and water bags. There was no distinction amongst us. Today, as I see school kids sipping on Gatorade and Diet Coke, comparing cars their parents come to pick them up in, I can't help but smile at how things have changed.

It is said, that the taste of childhood is never forgotten. That is the precise reason why a lot of chefs and culinary experts strive to create the exact same magic their taste buds had once experienced.
The world is constantly changing. But how can we forget...
  • Toffees like Melody, Lacto King, Poppins, Kismi Toffee Bar. Tiger mint (the mint without the hole), phantom cigarettes,Mango Bite, Pan Pasand.
  • Drinks like Appy, Frooti, Gold Spot, Citra and Seven-Up (Remember Fido Dido, with the noodle hair?)
  • Those cream filled wafer biscuits (in strawberry, pineapple and chocolate flavors).
  • Another fond memory of childhood is 'Pepsi'. I'm not sure how many of you have had this, but for me this was the case of the forbidden fruit. There would be a guy selling 'pepsicola popsicles'-frozen pepsi in cheap plastic wrappers that we'd suck at until we drained it of the last drop--in different colors and flavors just outside my school. My mum had warned me against eating it, since I being a sickly kid back then was extremely susceptible to throat infections after having any kind of street food. So as the rules goes, if mom didn't want me to eat it, it HAD TO BE eaten. So I'd save up my pocket money and sneak out from school and indulge in every 'pepsicle' possible....until the day Mum caught me red handed. (by that time, I was bored of it anyway.)
  • Rasna---the quintessential drink in every household. The Indianized version of 'Tang'. Of course, we all loved it.
  • Ice creams by Kwality, Yummy and Joy which then got replaced by Vadilals and Dinshaws. I particularly remember loving this 'Push-Up' ice cream that was available in the 80's. Tutti Frutti was another favorite. 
I could go on and on forever. The joys of childhood are so simple and yet so difficult to encapsulate in a single post (I plan to write more in this series). I am sure kids of today will look back at their own childhood some day and have their own sweet memories to cherish. Perhaps they as adults (just like us now) would find their childhood to be far less complicated too. Perhaps somewhere down the line, in another 20 years or so, someone would be writing a blog (hopefully blogging will continue even then) post about how obsolete ipads are, and how much fun their childhood was with them around then. I can imagine a hundred odd kids adults experiencing pangs of nostalgia on reading it. Life will go on...
As for us, we will always miss that wonderful phase of life when we did whatever we wanted without the fear of being judged, when we didn't spend the entire day texting on phone, or updating messages on social networks, when we did not care about how we looked, when the only 'hurt' we knew was when we would graze our knee while playing tag, when friendship meant sharing your favorite chocolate with your buddy, when we believed in fairy tales......

However, these souvenirs---memories of a childhood long gone by will keep springing up from time to time gently reminding us of a life we once led...the simple life!