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Posts Tagged ‘new year’

The last few weeks have been different: I’ve started reading just for the pleasure of it again. After a long time. Let me explain.

In the past few years, since I started writing seriously, I have somewhat lost my way around reading. Writing takes up a lot of my time and energy, which means I have that much less of both to put into reading (serious readers know that even if reading is something we cherish, it doesn’t always happen without conscious time and effort on our part). So, I read less than I did before I began to write.

Books-books-books

The two-fold irony of the situation doesn’t escape me. I’m acutely aware that: a) I became a writer because I’d been an avid and eclectic reader my entire life and b) one of the habits that adds depth and body to my writing is reading regularly and voraciously across all genres.

Be that as it may, reading had eventually become work. Well, sort of. I read—fiction, nonfiction, craft-books—to “learn” (what NOT to do as much as what to do), or “improve” (my craft), or “critique” (in case of my CPs’ work) or “build” (up my writing muscles and keep them flexed). In all this—even though I was aware that it was happening and bemoaned the fact in one of my earlier blog posts—I’d lost my best friend of decades: reading just for the joy of reading.

And then a few weeks back, I woke up to a new day, shiny as a freshly-minted penny. Having just finished a major revision and packed off the WIP to my agent, I was a bundle of nerves and energy. So, idly, I picked up a book my daughter had read and recommended: SHE WOULD BE KING by Wayetu Moore. And I promptly plunged into a rabbit hole of the most pleasant, multi-pronged and diverse kind possible.

The book had all the qualities that I adore: a well-written historical with a touch of magical realism, but its best feature? It introduced me to a time period in the history of a region (West Africa) I hadn’t read much about before. I devoured that book in a couple of days and haven’t looked back since.

(If you’re interested in exploring the history and narratives of the various West African countries through fiction, I also highly recommend HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi and PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, though I must warn you, reader, each of these books will rip your heart into little pieces and then put it back again bit by bloody bit. But be prepared for the grief and heartache—and horror from the depravity of humankind against its own—to pulse just beneath your skin’s surface for a long time.)

Next up on my immediate TBR pile: THINGS FALL APART (a masterpiece set in Nigeria) by the lauded Chinua Achebe, UNTIL THE LIONS (retelling of the MAHABHARATA, one of the most acclaimed epic texts from India, from the viewpoint of its hitherto minor or sidelined female characters and in such stunning verse that the book demands more than one read) by Karthika Nair, REALM OF ASH (the second installment in the fantastical and fantastic BOOKS OF AMBHA series, also set in India) by Tasha Suri, and more.

(Can you see me drooling yet? 😊)

Wish you all, my readers, a very happy and contended (by your own definition) year ahead.

May you all find compelling rabbit holes into which to tumble headfirst—or to paraphrase Jane Austen: find more lanes hereabouts in which you may lose your way again to-day—willingly and willfully.

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I took a trip to the Grand Canyon with family recently—it was one of the best things I’d done for myself in all of 2018.

As I stood at the rim at Guano Point, gaping at the sheer drop into the seemingly bottomless canyon, something locked into place; a small shift that leads to a major adjustment in how you perceive everything.

It was one of those “a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere in the universe, and the ground beneath you reverberates” moments. These don’t come by often, so I hugged mine tight.

The deceptively-unassuming Colorado river flows on serenely, making nary a ripple. Yet, it has patiently and consistently worn down huge mountains over the millennia. There’s definitely a lesson in there somewhere 😊.

 

 

 

 

The Hualapai, who share a long-standing cultural link both with the river and the canyon, call this expanse of a natural wonder The Living Landscape. They regard it a living entity with a conscious spirit deserving of respect. (And, boy, do they know what they’re talking about! The canyon seems to be breathing, watching—I imagine, with an indulgent twinkle in its age-old eye—as another busload of humans takes in its awe-inspiring majesty and falls head over heels.)

The Hualapai talk to the landscape, offer prayers and consider everything in the landscape as part of their family. This takes me back to my own childhood and upbringing in India, where natural and historic monuments are never cordoned off; we’re taught to be gentle and respectful of their living spirits as we assimilate them into our daily lives. As generations before us have done for centuries and generations after us will continue to.

As I took in the imposing gorges and remarkably-shaped boulders in the Grand Canyon, I realized that the placid river and the majestic walls dressed in multi-colored flamenco skirts with their many ruffles and multiple layers will be here long after I’m gone. And that consciousness was curiously liberating.

 

 

 

 

Returning from a trip to the Grand Canyon to the Sin City, aka Las Vegas, with its glitz and glamour was a perfect flip of the coin. It was as though I’d gotten a fresh reminder to hang loose and appreciate all the enchantments out there, both natural and man-made.

Happy New Year, my dear readers! Here’s to hoping this year brings to you plenty of wisdom and serenity.

Photo Credits: Assorted members of my family 😊.

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Ugadi, one of India’s New Year festivals, falls on Saturday, March 21st, this year.

Here’s to novel experiences, shared moments, countless possibilities!

Originally posted on March 22, 2012

“Aren’t all beginnings new?” asks one character of another in a book I read recently.

I guess they are and they aren’t, depending on how you look at it.

What better season than spring to contemplate beginnings, old and new? Tuesday the 20th of March marked the Spring or Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere of the Earth: essentially, the first day of spring season.

All around me I see signs of new life: pale green leaves unfurling, bulbs pushing shoots out of rain-soaked earth, birds shedding downy winter coats, the skies newly scrubbed and polished.

Most cultures around the world celebrate the arrival of spring in different ways. Where I come from—the southeastern part of India, where people follow a lunar calendar for observing religious days—spring means a fresh start. We usher in the season with a New Year’s festival called Ugadi (the word translates to “Beginning of a new age/era”).

Hinduism believes that a human life is full only if it experiences the gamut of emotions in the right proportions. On Ugadi, everyone—child and adult alike—begins his/her day by eating a mixture or chutney made of six ingredients:

  • Jaggery, (similar to brown sugar, made from sugar cane) which is sweet, signifies happiness
  • Bitter neem flower petals stand in for sorrow
  • Thinly sliced hot, green peppers remind us of anger
  • Savory salt takes the place of fear
  • Tamarind paste (which is sour) marks revulsion or hatred
  • Tangy pieces of unripe mango emphasize surprises

This chutney—a delicious explosion of bold flavors and textures—essentially is a reminder that life is a fusion of experiences. This tradition encourages everyone to accept what is doled out to him/her in life with equanimity.

Tomorrow, which is whenUgadi is celebrated this year, I intend to begin my day with a few spoonfuls of this chutney.

Do you celebrate the beginning of spring or the end of winter? If yes, please share the details with us!

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Another year has slid past and here we are in the brand new year of 2015. As each year draws to a close, we see several programs on TV and radio recounting what major events have taken place in the world in the past 12 months.

In keeping with this sentiment, I wondered … how would I like to look back at the last year? I wanted it to be a positive glance back. Then I got it. Through books, of course!My-year-in-books-1

The past year has been a gold mine for me in terms of the books I have read. They ranged from a true story of a war survivor to light-hearted mysteries to gut-twisting historicals to books on writing.

I present here the five books that most influenced my worldview, as a reader and a writer, the past 12 months.

  1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book, which has women’s rights and abolition movements at its heart, is set in the early-nineteenth-century Charleston, NC. It follows the remarkable lives of its two protagonists—a slave named Handful and her owner, Sarah. The following two snippets from different parts of the book sum up the impetus behind the story:

    “You think there’s no detriment in a slave learning to read? There are sad truths in our world, and one is that slaves who read are a threat.”

    “The truth”, she said, “is that every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for own good.”

  1. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Set in the remote farmlands of northern Iceland of the early 1800s, this is one of the most atmospheric novels I’ve ever read. The protagonist, Agnes, is charged with murdering two men and is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. The book explores Agnes’s inner turmoil and how the relationships among the inhabitants of the farm change when they are forced to share the confined quarters of their croft with a convicted murderer. The author conveys much subtext and tension in the little ways the characters interact and the things they choose to share (or not) with each other. The author switches between several POVs (first-person for the protagonist and limited third for everyone else) and present and past tenses. Rather than detract from the story, this experiment seems to add to its stark narrative. What a feat! Here’s one powerful sentence from the book:

    The dream reminded me of what will happen, of how fast the days are passing me by, and now, lying awake in a room full of strangers, gazing at the patterns of sticks and peat in the ceiling, I feel my heart turn over and over and over until I feel twisted in my gut.
  1. Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. This book is a must-read for anyone who’s trying to get published in the current market. Maass, an author and head of a successful literary agency, explains in simple terms the pulse of the current publishing industry and gives writers the tools necessary to write fiction that is bold and grabs the attention of the 21st century reader. Here’s an example:

    Find a quiet emotional moment. Is it artfully written, delicate, subtle, nuanced, and precise? Congrats. Make it enormous: a tidal wave, an attack, a life-altering earthquake.

  1. Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. This detailed odyssey of survival and self-preservation alternately made my heart swell with pride and ache from sadness for its sixteen-year-old protagonist Margo Crane. True, all that attention to guns, rifles and vivid—and at times superfluous—hunting scenes made me flinch in certain portions of the book, but I won’t forget the reticent but tenacious Margo Crane in a hurry.

    As July melted into August, Margo listened to gangs of newly fledged robins picking at the underbrush in such numbers that the woods floor seemed alive. She watched nuthatches spiral down trees headfirst to the ground and back up again. … And Margo still did not see police boats searching the river for her.

  1. Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Nelson Elizabeth. While struggling to decide between a first-person POV and a limited third-person for my current manuscript, I happened upon this book. Although at times too simplistic in its view and explanations, it helped me tremendously in going “deep” into my characters’ perspectives. The author says:

    Deep POV renders “telling” nearly impossible, because that annoying, invisible narrator has been given the boot!

From what angle would you like to look at your year past? Please share with us!

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“Aren’t all beginnings new?” asks one character of another in a book I read recently.

I guess they are and they aren’t, depending on how you look at it. As an absentee blogger for the past few months, this is a beginning of sorts for me. Again. Would this start be considered old, then?

What better season than spring to contemplate beginnings, old and new? Tuesday the 20th of March marked the Spring or Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere of the Earth: essentially, the first day of spring season.

All around me I see signs of new life: pale green leaves unfurling, bulbs pushing shoots out of rain-soaked earth, birds shedding downy winter coats, the skies newly scrubbed and polished.

Most cultures around the world celebrate the arrival of spring in different ways. Where I come from—the southeastern part of India, where people follow a lunar calendar for observing religious days—spring means a fresh start. We usher in the season with a New Year’s festival called Ugadi (the word translates to “Beginning of a new age/era”).

Hinduism believes that a human life is full only if it experiences the gamut of emotions in the right proportions. On Ugadi, everyone—child and adult alike—begins his/her day by eating a mixture or chutney made of six ingredients:

  • Jaggery, (similar to brown sugar, made from sugar cane) which is sweet, signifies happiness
  • Bitter neem flower petals stand in for sorrow
  • Thinly sliced hot, green peppers remind us of anger
  • Savory salt takes the place of fear
  • Tamarind paste (which is sour) marks revulsion or hatred
  • Tangy pieces of unripe mango emphasize surprises

This chutney—a delicious explosion of bold flavors and textures—essentially is a reminder that life is a fusion of experiences. This tradition encourages everyone to accept what is doled out to him/her in life with equanimity.

Tomorrow, which is when Ugadi is celebrated this year, I intend to begin my day with a few spoonfuls of this chutney.

Do you celebrate the beginning of spring or the end of winter? If yes, please share the details with us!

Read Full Post »

2011 – just the name sounds so sci-fi, doesn’t it? Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are raring to go in this new year!

I had a great trip to India – thank you all for wishing me well on this trip. To borrow a phrase from one of my readers (thanks, Sharoon!), I soaked up the glorious medley that is India and came back content in the heart and nourished in the soul.

I couldn’t have wished for more beautiful weather while I was there! India (at least the southern parts of it) has seen an unprecedented amount of rainfall these past few months; the vegetation has probably been blindsided at first by this unseasonal bounty, but then it obviously decided to take advantage. Everywhere I turned, there was lush greenery. Living in the not-so-green section of the U.S, I’d forgotten how vibrant and dazzling the color green could be.

In addition to spending time with family and friends, I also crammed in some sightseeing – both historic and natural — into my already short trip. It made it all pretty hectic, but if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change any of it.

I read this advice somewhere: pack a scented candle or a body lotion that you have never used before, when you’re setting out on a special trip. When you’re back home, all you have to do is whip out the lotion or the candle and voilá, you are transported back to an enchanted time. Of course, as it usually happens, I read these wise words after I came back from my vacation.

So, I’m going to do the next best thing. I have taken quite a few pictures during the trip, but how many times will you look at plain pictures, right? Now, if those photos came with the tales of behind-the-scenes, then that would be something!

I’m going to supply those stories for myself so that all I would have to do to go back in time and place is read those words. Words that would remind me what I heard, how I felt, and what I saw when I was either posing for the picture or snapping them.

I’m going to blog about my trip, on and off, for the next few weeks. My hope is that while chronicling the moments for myself (and my daughter, with whom I happily shared this jaunt, and who helped add new dimensions and perspectives to it), I’d be able to provide some entertainment to you all.

Also, this would be my way of thanking everyone who has had a hand in making this trip such a precious one for me!

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to hoping each one of us finds some semblance of peace, something dear to remember the year by, in 2011!

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