May 21, 2018

Looking Back

Usually, when I accidentally stumble upon an old piece of my old writing, the naivety and the absolute abandon with which I used to write pained me. It stood as a reminder of how trusting I once used to be – of people, experiences and the world itself. I used to give second, third, fourth and infinite chances to people, and every bruise they left in their wake got recorded in these pages as poetry or a piece of writing.

So much water has flown down the bridge!


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

And I say this with a lot of gratefulness and joy. Today, as I gathered my writing to sow them as seeds in various publications, I revisited my blog to see if they appear on these pages or are still unseen by the public eye. In that process, I went down the rabbit hole, reading of love lost, love longed for and love that was never mine. The writing is full of “rancid pain”, as my dear friend, The Moody Kettle calls it. But, for the first time, I smiled. It is a privilege to be able to view it all from today, where I hold abundant love in my arms. 

Many a time, I have considered deleting those giddy old posts (not just of love but also: slipper tales, my loo which is a zoo, etc.) preferring to showcase a curated list of decent writing that won’t make me cringe. And over and again, something stopped me from erasing the past. It should serve as a reminder, I told myself. And it did today. 

It reminded me that despite all the heartbreak, I found love in the strangest place. It also told me of how little I knew the world and — although a tad more enlightened — how much more there is still to know. It took me on a roller coaster ride, showing me how I grew from strength to strength to reach today. 

I may not have much. I am still writing but have not finished even one of the 20 different plot ideas I have begun. I am looking out for a stable career while moonlighting as a writer. I still have miles to go before I sleep. 

But that ride showed me how far I have travelled from where I began in 2004 — yes that makes 14 years of writing here. I was merely 17 years of age, high on life, passionate about everything and madly looking for love everywhere. Today, I am no more the extrovert, choosing a more ambivert style of life. I spend my days all alone, working in the peace and silence of my home, not for a second seeking any distraction, escape or company (I never used to be able to do that!) I have been focusing my energy on a career in writing and storytelling. I have a bit more clarity on what I want from life and I am seeking it with the man of my dreams next to me. I couldn’t have asked for more! 

This throwback also brought forth a few things that haven’t changed one bit — I still love writing, dreaming, exploring the world and telling stories of all kinds. I still trust the universe to always take care of me, but I know that sometimes the cosmos may be busy attending to others :) I guess it was good not to have deleted the past. It’ll always tell me my own story when I forget fragments of it. I’ve been going through a slightly challenging period in terms of work and this blast from the past made me feel grounded and happy again.

To the readers –if we still have that breed of excellent humans amongst us– thank you for all your kindness and time! I promise to write more and often.


May 02, 2018


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Miss Subways by David Duchovny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advanced reading copy of David Duchovny's 'Miss Subways', thanks to publishers Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley.

The book does not fall into the category of my preferred genre. However, owing to my love for X-Files and curiosity on what Mulder/Duchovny can produce, I picked it up. Unlike the cliche associated with celebrities wielding the pen, Duchovny's writing is actually good.

The story is quirky in style and substance and makes an interesting read. What is unique about Duchovny's style is the humour he employs. He spares nothing and smartly paints a satire of society, its beliefs, practices, self-importance and whatnot! I was also quite impressed with the vast pop and ancient culture knowledge that Duchovny possesses and weaves in this fantasy tale with ease.

Miss. Subways is the tale of Emer, a schoolteacher whose seemingly mundane life takes a twist when she encounters a mythical creature, Bean Sidhe. What follows is a tale that is part sci-fi, part fantasy with a generous helping of romance and its share of happily-ever-after concepts. While this sounds like a crazy combination and it is, Duchovny makes the ride memorable and filled with surprises. Most of the times, I had to remind myself that it was a male author portraying a female protagonist. Duchovny is that convincing while voicing Emer!

While I found the beginning a bit patchy in narration, I persevered and did not regret giving it a chance. The meaty middle is where all the goodness of the book lies. The resolution towards the end was a bit of a let down for me since I felt Duchovny became a bit restless and quickly tied up all loose threads. The irreverence and boldness he portrays through the rest of the book somehow feel absent here and it seems as if he succumbed to some sort of audience-pleasing pressure.

Overall, it's quite an interesting read. Turns out, Fox Mulder has more up his sleeve than I'd imagined!

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April 19, 2018

Book Review: Hush A Bye Baby

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Deepanjana Pal's recently launched 'Hush A Bye Baby' is a fast-paced book with an interesting plot to boot. This work of fiction investigates the allegations of sex-selective abortions laid upon Mumbai's top gynecologist Nandita Rai. Over its course, the book explores many contemporary issues like corruption, female foeticide in India, state of women in society, power politics, etc.

The plot is probably the strongest suit of the book. Nandita Rai is a famous gynecologist, revered by patients and lauded by society as the crusader of women. When one of her patients accuses her of performing sex-selective abortion, her world comes tumbling down. The police are at her heels, the gossip mongers are spreading rumours and her nursing home gets shut. The cunning Manohar Hadpude leads the case and is ably assisted by the smooth-talking Lad and geeky techie Reshma Gabuji. Battling foul senior officers, dark secrets, mysterious cults and tight-lipped patients, the three persevere to find evidence that can nail Rai down. An engrossing read, the reader is engaged with the investigation throughout.

While I barely encountered a boring moment in the book, the writing style left a lot to be desired. The dialogues are more suitable for a movie script rather than a tome since it indulges the syntax of spoken instead of written language. A lot of Hindi words are scattered across the book; probably intended to validate the setting. However, this proved jarring and did not appeal to me. Much of the book had a very cinematic quality, owing to the dramatic situations and the writing style it employs. I am pretty sure Bollywood will lap this book up real soon for an adaptation.

When the investigation drew to a close, it left me a bit puzzled and jaded. I wish Pal had elaborated a bit on how exactly the verdict was arrived upon –  Did the CBI use Reshma's evidence at all? What happened to the Kalisthenics angle in the investigation? Were the other crimes they'd perpetrated to be investigated? Who were caught and why were the others pardoned/not in trouble? What happened to the assistant, Dr. Suman Sengupta? Was Esther found or murdered? I was left with more questions than answers.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the way the book ended - with Reshma joining Kalisthenics. It left me wondering if she was moving over to the dark side or simply using this as a way to get back at them with more evidence. I am sure there is a sequel lurking somewhere!


Verdict: ★★★☆☆
Not literary writing but a gripping and light travel read. 

DISCLAIMER: The book was given to me as part of the Juggernaut Reader's Program. However, all opinions expressed above are my own.

April 18, 2018

Book Review: China Bus by André Dalrington

36441249China Bus by André Darlington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A 3.5!

Andre Darlington's lets us board the 'China Bus' and slowly get acquainted with the broken chairs, the hookers and his own thoughts in this book.

While the premise sounds fascinating, only a few parts of this book are truly about the bus and what it evokes. I did not enjoy the musings on Beckett and Bartleby and Nachtrager. It seemed a bit out of context since I was thoroughly enjoying the various facets of the China Bus and what it represents to its riders. So, the distraction to literary talk did not bode well for me.

Andre creates a great visual of the China Bus and one actually wishes he'd shared more vignettes from his journeys on the bus. The book ends too quickly and leaves one wanting for more!

A very interesting and experimental book, I definitely recommend it for the striking language and unique concept.

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March 27, 2018

Book Review: Little White Fish and His Daddy Little White Fish and His Daddy by Guido Genechten


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Little White Fish and His Daddy by Guido Genechten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book has a great concept - of loving our family (fathers, in this case) and appreciating their skills. The book exudes positivity and instills the ability to look at the bright side of everyone.

The only thing I wished it had was a better narration. The story starts and ends abruptly. It would be great if the author could have engage the curious reader. Had the book been written as a poem, I believe it would have had a greater impact.

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January 24, 2018

Book Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur


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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many of the poems hit you hard in the gut and/or are relatable. I love the raw art that accompanies the poetry.

However, I'd rate this between 3 and 3.5 because the other half of the poems didn't have an impact on me at all.

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January 18, 2018

Book Review: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being an avid movie viewer, I cursed myself for having watched Brokeback Mountain many many years after its release - Heath Ledger had passed, Jake Gyllenhaal had become a more prominent name and LGBTQ themes were not uncommon in mainstream cinema. But despite my unforgivable delay, the movie stood out as a simple, poignant ode to love. When prompted by the Book Riots Read Harder Challenge 2018 task of reading a "Western", my friends had chosen this. Excited to compare the two works of art, I followed suit.
What a beautiful book! All of thirty pages, but narrating a lifetime of love, loss, longing and tenderness in a way that cuts you open. Mind you, it's not dramatic prose. The descriptions are evocative (some of which prompted me to read twice just so I could transport myself the first time around but admire the language the second time) but the action is restrained and almost spare. And yet, it hits all the right spots and makes you root for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist.
Once again, I am wondering why I took so long to pick this up. But then, there's just never going to be enough time to relish all the wonderful pieces of art. Maybe, I am just glad that I finally read it!

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January 03, 2018

One

Every week, a little piece



A writer falters, questioning if only sadness could evoke the pretty words. Happiness, it seemed, filled her cup. She couldn’t draw from it for some reason. When the cup was empty, dried-up: corners cracking, bits of old coffee stuck at the rim and dregs of long-ago teas lying at the bottom, she saw webs in dried froth — of intrigue, mystery, forgotten things and unsaid words; and like a soothsayer, she prodded bits of the dregs, found fortunes and futures in them.

But what could one see in a full cup? A ripple now and then, maybe. But the calm sea stirred no story. It reflected back to her with content, her own joyous face. 

And so, to lament of the past and present, to wonder and ponder over the complete draught of words, she picked her pen to write. 

“A writer falters…,” she began.

April 04, 2017

On Writing

Nobody reads what I write anymore!
Apparently, they are into vlogs.
“Are you a youtube sensation?” they ask.
Words, they don’t matter anymore.
“What are the numbers you’ve got?”-
They want to know.
It’s just not about what I make them feel
But about how many likes to my tweet.


I wooed all my loves with words.
Measured moments
Writing reams
On scraps of tissue and
'One-sided papers' that my uncle gave
With punched holes running on the sides
Diligently, I filed them away
And rewrote them
On pretty diaries that no one wanted
And a blog that I still don’t know
How or why to 'monetize'!

Thirteen years on,
They still want to know
How popular my posts are.
“Maybe you could put your poems on Insta?”
“How about you make short films out of stories?”
“You have so much potential!”
I am glad to hear that, but
I wooed all my loves with words!

When did writing stop to rouse?

February 02, 2017

The Greatest is gone

My grandfather made all three of us granddaughters read 'The Hindu' newspaper from top to bottom. We may not have followed his advice entirely, but we did end up finding interest in specific columns and sections of the newspaper. In a way, everything I read and write today could be traced back to my newspaper habit.

One of the columns that made me begging for more was the 'Comment' section in the Sports Edition. The man who authored it was Nirmal Shekar - a writer beyond compare whose stronghold on the English language left me speechless. The truth was, I only watched cricket and had a working knowledge of tennis, and yet found myself always drawn to his column in The Hindu's sports section. He would bring in a poetry into his prose and make sports feel like a visceral, enchanting, memorable dance. He elevated every game and player he wrote about into conduits that tapped on some universal energy and made magic unfold in front of us. And he, performed that very magic through his words and we were left entranced.

I corresponded with a few journalists I admired, thanks to the kindness they showed to the giddy teenager I was. I had been reading him for a few years when, in this very blog, I had gushed about his writing amongst many others in The Hindu. He had encountered that post, browsed through some more of my writing and left this comment on my blog. 


Thrilled to bits (as I often used to get back in the day) I wrote back to him. He replied, patiently, to each and every question that I asked him. I had written, "I find it philosophically, intellectually and spiritually satisfying to read your writing." and he responded "My passion has always been to scratch the surface, dig deep and see sport (and people who play sport) for what it is. Sometimes I myself find my relentless pursuit of truth in all areas scary. It is better to keep dreaming like Sandhya!" "There is enough on the net though in my name to last several life times" he said, when I had asked him if he had a blog where I could read more of his words.

He was extremely down to earth, accessible and ever ready with a word of encouragement for a young aspiring writer like me. During that time, I was freelancing with The Viewspaper and took the opportunity to interview him. I still vividly remember his office - he was heading Sportstar then - and sitting in front of him, wide eyed and grasping on to every word he uttered. This was the greatest playing ground, the star was at his game and I was the enraptured audience. The conversation has always remained special to me and I revisit it every now and then to thrill over the fact that I actually pulled it off - meeting one of my favourite writers and interviewing him.

Moving to another city for my post graduation, I had somehow lost touch with him. My reading habit took a back seat, with films - watching, reading, making or writing about them - occupying the majority of my time. But once in a while, I'd google and catch up with his words, more often than not revisiting the ones I had cherished and cut out for safekeeping. They are still there in a bag at home - a precious memory of days I regaled his writing and of the first steps I took in building my love for words.

On 29th Jan 2017, as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal matched wits on the court and my sports crazy husband was sitting at the edge of his seat, rooting for Federer, we spoke about Nirmal Shekar. I asked if I had made him read that piece of writing on Sampras that I keep going back to and he answered in the affirmative; I had read it out to him sometime during our initial days of courting. This is an excerpt:

Pete Sampras ascends the Everest of tennis By Nirmal Shekar LONDON, JULY 10. At three minutes to nine on Sunday evening, as night was licking its lips in anticipation before eating up what was left of the day for a sumptuous supper, in silver-grey rather than golden twilight, one of the truly extraordinary sportsmen of this or any era raised his arms skyward in a familiar gesture on the centre court at Wimbledon. Mark that moment - 8.57 p.m. to be exact, three minutes before 1.30 a.m. on Monday morning in India - for you'd find few like it in the entire history of organised sport. And, those of us privileged enough to have been a part of it on tennis' greatest stage, will perhaps find nothing to match it in the rest of our lives. It was a historic moment when all arguments ceased, a moment that answered one big question and many small questions, a moment that put an end to all comparisons. Step forward Mr. Pete Sampras, wet eyes notwithstanding...the greatest of 'em all! Argue if it pleases you, but the moment Pat Rafter failed to direct a Sampras serve back into the court in the men's singles final of the millennium championship in gathering gloom, arguments and comparisons became meaningless.

I then made a mental check to google what he had written about the Australian Open. Unfortunately, that article never came by. Four days later, my friend messages me saying Nirmal Shekar is no more.

Nirmal Shekar should have written a book, I thought with a pang after frantically googling to see if this horrible news was true. I was angry that he had died, that he had never written a book and that he had remained the undisputed king of sports writing to me.

When Muhammad Ali passed away, Nirmal Shekar had written,

"With all the revolutionary advances in medicine, they tell us that death may become optional in a few decades.
But that belief seems like a desperate attempt to turn daydreaming (to stop thinking about the terrifying certainty of eternal demise) into a form of science — gerontology.
But a few lesser mortals like some of us — who harbour no illusions and know that death is the end of everything for the individual — who have no access to multi-million dollar laboratories, and even less access to the latest findings that are being tested out do believe that we are all in queue, that one day we might have to vacate the tiny space that we occupy in a planet that the late, debonair scientist Carl Sagan called “The Pale Blue Dot.”
Then again, life would be much less invigorating, much less interesting, much less worth living if we were to rid ourselves of the notion that there are a few exceptions to the rule."

And just like Ali would always be immortal, your words will live on Nirmal, for you were the exception to the rule yourself, making us look at sports writing like no one else could. Wherever you are, we know you must be digging deeper to uncover the truth. I just wish, that somehow we could still continue to read about all the things you find in those realms. To think there will no more be your 'Comment' on things is deflating.

I hope somebody compiles and publishes his writing so that generations in the future will understand what made us all open the newspaper last page first.

Thank you, Nirmal, for your restless pursuit and inspiration! You will be missed.

(The title is a copy of his ode to Muhammad Ali. To me, Nirmal Shekar was the greatest in his field, and this little imitation is my way of paying my respects to the man and his irreplaceable incomparable writing)

© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall