October 16, 2018

Fiction to reality #TheBlindList


As adults, our favorite travel destination are often those that we as children dreamed of visiting.

When I was a child, I'd often get asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answers would keep changing. Sometimes, a sailor, a pilot, a musician, a singer...depending on the mood and the reasons, my response to that question varied.
Eventually, I ended up being a doctor (since that was what stuck with me for a very long time. However, what went unnoticed back then was that it was the books I read that primarily influenced my decisions and instilled in me the fear of missing out. There was so much to be, and so little time. 
As I grew older, I developed another addiction of sorts that was synonymous with my addiction of books. I had developed 'armchair wanderlust'.
The term is pretty self explanatory. Armchair-wanderlust is just your typical wanderlust, but one you can satisfy, sitting at home in an armchair.  Bibliophiles would agree with me on this.


Being a book dragon (I have always hated being labelled a meek little bookworm) since an early age, and one who suffered from travel sickness during most of her childhood, my only resort to travel was through my books and stories. However, I had no reason to complain since my books allowed me to visit wonderful places that perhaps never even existed in the real world, but which I could travel to and stay at as long as I wanted, inside my head. As I read about the whereabouts of my favorite fictional characters, I found myself day taking a boat ride to the most amazing islands, trekking up snow clad mountains, and strolling down lanes, both real and imaginary.
All this was so much fun that when my motion sickness did eventually improve, I was a tad disappointed. This meant I had no excuse to sit back and enjoy my travails within the confines of my bed room. I was saddened by the thought that I'd be now roped into some real time traveling and be forced to cut down on my armchair wanderlust. But addicted as I was, I could never give up the company of my books and all the places they took me to. Instead, I compounded the effect by taking up writing. While I did manage the occasional mandatory family tour, I often tried my luck at inventing new excuses to miss long distance travel. Irate cousins often called me a 'cooped up chicken', which sounds even worse in Konkani, because it translates as 'ghar kombdi'.
I'd ignore them. I had planes to catch, places to go, in my secret kingdoom queendom of books.

Then growing up happened, and the castles I had built started collapsing brick by crick. Reading was no longer a day dreaming activity.
Life makes robots out of us. Mechanical, unimaginative, boring adults who often forget what it means to dream anymore. However, the dreams that we once saw stay with us forever. Somewhere down the line, the innocence of childhood takes a backseat and a sense of practicality sets in...until something out of the blues springs up and reminds you of those good old days once again.
For me, this someone happened to be Indiblogger and Lufthansa  coming up with this brilliant idea of a blind date with the world. No sooner had I read about it, my mind immediately jumped back to a wish list I had created years ago, during my childhood.
"If the world had to actually take me out on a date now, it would have to satisfy a reader's imagination and a writer's childhood fantasies," I grinned.  "Serves it right for taking so long to ask."

I was hoping my date would be an enriching experience

Thus started #TheBlindList...a first hand account of all that happened on my date with the world. 

Pic source: Google
We started close to home. RK Narayan's fictional town of Malgudi was the perfect first stop.
Somewhere within me, I was still fascinated by this childhood dream of a town. Sitting by the Sarayu river, where Swami, Mani and Rajan played, I let myself drift back to those lovely childhood memories I made with them. How I had loved being the fly on the wall, peeping at Raju, the holy man in 'Guide' as he fasted on the banks of the Sarayu, praying for it to rain. 
I relived every memory, this time for real. I walked down Kabir Street with its Lavely extension. I visited the Malgudi Medical Centre and instinctively submitted a job application there, hoping I'd hear from them. How wonderful it would be to work and live in Malgudi. Later, the world and I sat and had a wonderful lively discussion on the same, as we sipped on hot Chai and gorged on garma-garam snacks at 'Boardless', Malgudi's popular restaurant.  Until it was time to say goodbye and move towards our next date-destination. But not without visiting the Mempi forest. On our return trip, we hopped on a train from Malgudi railway station, a constant fixture of Narayan;'s stories and my childhood imagination. We traveled to reality just for a little while...to Agumbe in Karnataka in order to draw parallels between the fictional town of Malgudi and its onscreen version. (Agumbe in Shimoga district was where the TV series was shot.). 

Pic source: Google
The next stop was 'Emerald city', another childhood favorite I insisted we visit. 
The 'Wizard Of Oz' was one of the earliest books I'd read. I remember being completely besotted by Emerald City and the adventures young Dorothy and her friends had in Munchkin Country.
Even though Dorothy might have figured it was all a dream, I never woke up from it.
Somewhere in some corner of my mind, I was still walking down the yellow brick road, searching for answers to questions that life often threw at me. Agreed this journey of self exploration, had made me more open minded to the world, but there was a still a part of me wanting to leave everything behind and slip away on an unplanned trip, an impromptu experience.
On my date, I did not allow life to come between the world and me. For once, I forget about the questions, and took everything the world had to offer at face value. How else could one enjoy Emerald City otherwise?

Next in tow was the magical Narnia. Although I was hardly a kid when this was released, I was so impressed with the series that it got me crossing my fingers and tapping on the inside of my wardrobe on a couple of occasions. Whaat?! A woman is allowed to believe in a little bit of magic at times, isn't she?
So we traveled to the mystical world of Narnia next, but only after booking an appointment with Aslan...
The world had a lot to discuss with him. I watched them converse and connect. The creator and his creation. I don't know why, but this connection made me feel happy from within. Maybe because I was convinced the world wasn't such bad company after all. Aslan believed in the world. And that made me believe too.

By the time we were done, it was rather late. I was curious about Gotham City, but I'd dare to venture there only if Batman accompanied me. Then there was the Shire, Hogwarts, Wonderland, 21 B Baker Street.....my thoughts were suddenly halted by a realization.
What was I doing reliving my childhood fantasies when I had a chance to know reality up close and personal?

"Next place, your choice," I smiled sheepishly at the world. "I will go anywhere you will take me."
I was shocked at my own words. When did I start trusting the world so much?

Out came a blindfold. As I nervously allowed myself to be led by the world, I felt as if I was floating in thin air.
"Where are we going?" I smiled, quite enjoying the journey already.
"The second star to the right, and straight on til morning," the world whispered.

'Neverland', I almost screamed, exultant at the surprise. What better end to a perfect date than this? How did the world know exactly what I wanted?

Pic source: Google

I had always been fascinated by Neverland. So often I had wished not to grow up that growing up decided to greet me a little quicker than it had met the others.
In life where most things are temporary, I would give anything to embrace that moment of perfection (fleeting though it may be) in a place I have always wanted to live...a land with no boundaries, where dreams are remembered and love is never forgotten.
I met my childhood friends, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell there, and introduced them to my world. In turn they introduced me to theirs. We danced all night. Peter with Tinker. The world with me.

All of a sudden, I had a sinking feeling...our date was coming to an end. I quickly proceeded to have a last Waltz with the world. One dance to remember for eternity. Lea Salonga's 'A whole new world' was playing softly in the backdrop.
As the world twirled me around, the sky above me changed into a giant 360 degrees slideshow of views I had never seen, places I had never visited. Beauty that was far beyond my dreams and imagination.

"Have you seen a reality as special as fiction?" the world asked me.

The screenshots were changing at rapid speed, but I managed to get snatches of a spell binding reality...some of the most magnificent sights in the world. I caught a glimpse of the Palawan Island in Phillipines, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Antelope Canyon in Arizona,
I saw spring with trees covered with cherry blossoms in Japan, the pristine white beauty of Santorini in Greece, the architecture of basilicas in Rome and Paris.
"Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky,"
  the song played on...
By the time the music faded, there was the rich display of the breathtaking Aurora borealis lighting up the sky. In a matter of a few magical minutes, the world made me witness a slideshow of its bewitching beauty, and overwhelming me with its irresistible charm, as if trying to prove to me that reality could be more glorious than fiction, if only I gave it a fair chance.
#SayYesToTheWorld, a voice within me screamed.

And in that moment of complete happiness, I wished my date with the world would go on forever.

My wish could have been granted. We were in Neverland after all, where time stops and nobody ages. But to have another equally mesmerizing date with the world, it was necessary for this one to end.
A date through the realm of fiction had opened my eyes to the miracles of reality. This blind date with the world had proved to be a kind of trust exercise.
I was now ready for adventure...adventure outside books and imagination. I was ready to go wherever the world would take me.

Every end from now on would be a new beginning. 
Every journey would be an adventure. 
For I had said Yes to the world



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This post has been written as an entry for a contest by Indiblogger and Lufthansa, titled '#TheBlindList -A blind date with the world.' If you liked what you read, do vote for me here.


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October 09, 2018

When I hear my name

"What’s in a name," said Shakespeare. "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet."

As a child, I’d often pester my parents asking them the story behind my name. Most children I knew, including my sibling, had splendidly uncommon names...unique, exotic. Tapasya, Mughdha, Narayani...names that would make people stop and ask for their meaning. I’d squirm when my sibling, in all her glory, explained the Sanskrit interpretation of her name to a mesmerized audience.

My name, however, on most occasions, didn’t even get a second’s notice.
And why would it; every third female child in India shared my name. Plain, common, ordinary, that's what it was, or so I thought.

After a point, I started making up imaginary associations to my name. This, I thought, would get me the attention I deserved.
“I’m named after a princess...the finest the world had ever seen,” I’d try convincing my cousins.
I would then let my imagination run wild and paint a rosy picture of this so called princess; the namesake I’d conjured, who possessed all the traits my seven year old mind coveted...intelligence, beauty, royalty, talent, valour and so on.

I’d always pick cousins who were younger than me, that way they would believe my taradiddle. They’d stare at me, open mouthed, as I’d spin stories about the said princess and all her imaginary bravado.

Until one day, my mother noticed what I was doing and called me aside.
“Do you know what your name means?” she asked.

I nodded, hesitant to tell her the bull story I had concocted, knowing fully well she’d call my bluff.

“It means someone who is loved,” she smiled.

I frowned. What was so unique in that?

“But I don’t want to be someone who is loved,” I stamped my feet, all ready to throw a tantrum. “Why did you choose such an ordinary name for me?”

My mother laughed. Then she held me close and whispered to me a truth that got embedded deep within the core of my personality. A truth that has probably stayed there ever since.

“Love is never ordinary,” she said. “Don’t let yourself ever forget that.”

Today, as my mom fondly recalls this little incident from my childhood, I can’t help but ponder on the truth in my name.
In my life, I have loved and been loved. And for that I am ever so thankful.

On a somewhat related note, I watched a movie a while ago, titled 'Call me by your name'---a moving story on loving and letting go.
"Call me by your name, and I'll call you by mine," says Oliver to his love, Ellio.
And that made me think. Our name may be common to the world. But our identity is unique...reserved for only those we consider special.

Yes, there are days when the skeptic in me takes over. But on days like these, my name ‘Priyanka’ reminds me that if there is anything extraordinary in this ordinary life, it is the love we give and receive.


Ending here with a quote from the same movie; 
"We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste!"

October 07, 2018

Reflect

I was reading a bit on clairvoyance the other day, and it made me think on a tangent.
Honestly, I believe every one of us has a little bit of clairvoyance hidden within us.
A sixth sense of sorts, an extra sensory perception, an ability to foretell or see a little of our own future. But we are so stuck up in considering ourselves ordinary, that we pay no heed to this tiny voice struggling to be heard.

“I never saw it coming,” is a phrase commonly used by people from all generations. But so is “I told you so.”

Ever noticed how these two juxtaposed phrases always alternate? The former is more often than not, always used with reference to the self while the latter with regard to someone else. The order seldom changes.
So how is it that we hardly realize the consequences of our behavior when we can easily tell what impact somebody else’s action will bring about?

Well, the reason is pretty much the same as why we always manage to notice the pimple on someone else’s nose and not ours...until of course we stand in front of a mirror.
Some people find this mirror in a friend, a confidante.
Some may find it in meditation. Others in instrospection. While a few may never find it at all, never discovering their self-clairvoyant abilities, believing that they are and will forever remain flawless.


Have you found your mirror yet?


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October 03, 2018

#FlashFiction: Emotional atyachaar

She gazed in his eyes a little too long, her face inches away from his.
The tension in the air was thick. A million thoughts were creating havoc in his mind. There was anxiety writ on her face as well.

It took hardly a minute. But the solace it brought would last a while.

"Fundus normal. No evidence of macular or retinal changes," she smiled, scribbling down his latest report.

The diabetic heaved a sigh of relief. He wouldn't need to visit the Ophthalmology department for the next six months at least.


September 22, 2018

Performance

The stage is ready, I play my part
Exit-stage left, I then depart 
But the show isn’t over 
Not yet; it has only begun 
For that narrow alley, I have to cross
To head home alone, an albatross
In unsafe times like these
Even for a woman with nerves of steel 
It feels no less than an ordeal
To walk the streets alone 
The moon is frightened, the path is dark
The fear in my head and heart is stark
As I clutch my bag and clench my fist
They surround me in a drunken twist
Slurred speech armed with lusty gaze
Shocked to see me still unfazed
Unaware that the beast within them 
Has provoked the Goddess inside me
With pepper spray in my stead 
And fury blazing in my head
I open fire from my veins
The curtain rises yet again
This time though of an apartment window
A little girl sees them blinded
Screaming in pain, running amok
Panic-stricken in a state of shock
By the will of Durga, the wrath of Kali
The girl smiles at me; an inspiration
The desired end to the scary tales
That her grandma would often regale
Of how girls shouldn't clothe, too short too tight
Or walk around late at night
Of how they must hang their head in shame
And when teased or bullied, take the blame
The girl, her eyes shining bright 
Smiles at me for putting up a fight
And from that highrise building, 15th floor 
Through the curtain drawn open window
I receive
My first standing ovation


~ Priyanka Naik


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September 18, 2018

#FlashFiction: 'Always'


It was a cloudy September morning. The street was full of noises; birds twittering, cars honking, hawkers trying to sell their wares.
Inside the house, Anjali had cried herself to sleep once again.
Ten years had passed but she still spent nights stark awake, yearning to hear his voice.

“September ninth will always be lucky for me,” he’d say to her, each time worded a little more lovingly.
“Why? What’s so special about it?” she’d ask in mock innocence, knowing fully well what he’d reply but wanting to hear it anyway.
“Well, the person I love most in the world was born that day.
Anjali would never tire of hearing these words.

That day too, he was on board talking to her when it happened. “Happy birthday, sweetheart. “
“How I wish you were here with me,” she’d said.
“I am always around you even when I cannot be,” he’d replied.
“That doesn’t even make sense,”  she had scowled. He had laughed, making her blush even through the miles between them.

But even before she knew it, the laugh in his voice had changed...to panic.
Then confusion.
Chaos.
And the phone had gone blank!

Anjali’s eyes flew open. Life had been a recurring nightmare since the 9/11 attack ten years ago.
Today, as she mindlessly checked the birthday messages and missed calls on her phone, his voice still resonated in her ears...as if it had all happened just yesterday.

Warm tears trickled down her face as she recalled his last words.
 “I am always around you, even when I cannot be.”
 His words made perfect sense now.

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September 16, 2018

On #WorldOzoneDay

You know how in those horror flicks, the protagonist thinks the monster is killed, the evil is destroyed, and just when he least expects it, it springs up, catching him unaware?

Well, a similar horror has been happening with our planet, the monster being replaced by an equally threatening but insidious hazard waiting to kill you slowly but surely...and then all at once!


Yes, I am talking about the present state of the Ozone layer, the umbrella to the earth. 
Lets dig a little deeper, shall we?

What is the Ozone layer?
The ozone layer is a region of gas, about 15-30 kms above the surface of the Earth, in the stratosphere that acts as a shield to the Earth's surface, thus protecting us from the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

What causes the umbrella to tear? 
Causes of Ozone depletion
There are certain compounds called CFC's (Chloro Fluoro Carbons) that are responsible for the destruction of the Ozone layer. These are cheap, and non-inflammable compounds used mainly in refrigerators, air-conditioners, fast food packaging etc. These CFC's rise, and accumulate in the stratosphere where they are broken down by UV light, releasing free chlorine radicals which in turn destroy the Ozone layer.

In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed by leading industrial countries as an international agreement to ban the use of these CFC's.
However, some countries like China and N Korea increased the use of CFC's, thus exposing the Earth to the hazards of Ozone depletion.

Effects of Ozone depletion

  1. Climate changes: Accumulation of tropospheric ozone and acid aerosols worsens the air pollution and causes acid rain. As a consequence, crops and forests are damaged. Depletion of the ozone layer may also cause temperature alteration and bring about changes in climate.
  2. Depletion of the Ozone layer means that this will cause increased UV-B radiation to reach the Earth's surface. This can result in direct effects on human and other forms of life.
  3. In humans, it can cause suppression of immunity, thus leading to increase in infectious diseases and less effective vaccination.
  4. Direct exposure to UV radiation can cause skin burns in under ten minutes of exposure  and may also increase the incidence of skin cancers.
  5. Eye damage: Higher incidence of cataracts and other types of blindness.
  6. Ozone depletion may also cause damage to biological links in the food chain. There would be reduced crop yield and stunted plant growth, thus affecting the food chain. Also lesser ocean planktons may result in lower fish harvest.
How can we prevent Ozone depletion?
A few measures at the individual level can help in reducing the Ozone depletion and thus saving our planet. These include:
  • Reduction in consumption of electricity - Do not forget to switch off the electrical appliances in your house after use. Avoid unnecessary wastage of electricity during festivals, parties, social gatherings etc
  • Drive less : Car pooling or using public transport whenever possible will also help to reduce the pollution caused due to vehicular exhaust and thus reduce the emission of toxic pollutants in the air.
  • Do not buy aerosol products containing CFC's Check the labels of your hair sprays, and deodorants. Avoid buying products dispensed in pressurized cans to reduce the use of these CFC's.
  • Do not use fire extinguishers that have 'halon' as the active ingredient. This chemical is responsible for ozone depletion. 
  • Choose organic farming over the use of harmful pesticides. 
  • Plant more trees. Tree planting reduces the Ozone layer damage. Trees give out oxygen and sequester carbon, thereby helping to reduce the content of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from the air, thus causing the climate to cool (the 'greenhouse effect').
Last but not the least, spread awareness about this global problem. Promote the 'Reduce, reuse, and recycle' mantra among all those you know. Saving the planet is a combined effort. Lets do this together.

Today, on World Ozone Day, lets work towards patching that hole in our umbrella. 


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September 15, 2018

#MicroFiction: New girl in town


One small gesture was all it took to make her feel like a princess again, even in this strange new place.
Bent on one knee, he flashed her a charming dimpled smile. With a gossamer touch, he slipped the sandal onto her foot, his attention unwavering, making her feel like she was the only one in the room.

She recalled that day when a similar charmer had stirred a similar feeling inside her. But she had left that all behind. The past felt like another life...another world.
Was she falling in love all over again? Hadn’t the journey through the rabbit hole taught her anything at all? She found herself dreaming once again. This time she’d got it right.

The bubble popped only when the sales man in the shoe store scurried off to attend to another customer.
Cinderella sighed. She needed to snap out of her fairy tale hangover.

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