Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zainab Looks Back

In my life, never has a time been simultaneously full of joy and frustration, hope and helplessness, action and inaction.

As an A-Z newbie, I found the whole event amazing. How thrilling, I thought, to be churning out post after post in an alphabetical order and how come I haven't heard of it before?  Almost every waking moment was spent thinking up topics to post about, people were actually reading and commenting, and it was fun.

Well, not all of it were sunshine and smiles. There were times I wanted to smash the keyboard and give up on the challenge. There were days I wanted to sit and cry because nothing seemed to inspire me. Towards the end of the month, I couldn't concentrate at all because my teeth were extracted and everything hurt. (Read about it here.)

But leaving the challenge incomplete felt as sinful as starting a collection of all books in a series and then abandoning it halfway through. I soldiered on, aided by the virtual presences of some fabulous bloggers. Here's a shout out to:

Julia Chiang (A Dose of Jules), poet and photographer extraordinaire, who bravely combined two challenges - A-Z and NaPoWriMo - and completed them gracefully. No dose of her poetry will ever be too much.

Sania Heba's lovely blog, Embracing Dawn, brims with some of the most insightful and beautiful poems. Embracing a blog so wholeheartedly has never been easier than this.

I would have never journeyed through Iraq and savoured its sights, sounds and smells, if it wasn't for Ghadeer at Spill beans. I loved drawing parallels between Iraqi and Indian cultures. Also, the blog has the best background ever. No arguments.

A hug to Kristen Dyrr who, despite me forgetting to comment on several of her witty musings, always found time to brighten my day with a few words.

Fida Islaih, whose wonderful poetic asides I wish I'd read earlier on in the challenge. I promise I'll dig through your works extensively and comment on them. Very soon.

And to everyone else who visited/read/commented, thank you. I could never have done it without you.

April 2013 will go down in my memory as a month of discovery... I just hope I'll be around to make it to the next edition of Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Signing off with a mixture of sadness and relief,
Zainab.

P.S. Which post of mine did you like the most? Just curious...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yes, I Do

Words are hurled, accusations rained, splattering each other with insinuations and staining prides. Our volumes increase with the quarrel’s intensity.

The merciless torrent floods our eyes with tears, fills our heart with a heaviness that chokes. We know where this is going; maybe we have known it for some time. We’d seen the clouds gathering, felt the first drops stinging us. We had foolishly believed we could weather out the storm.

“It’s over!” she thunders finally.

Despite being drenched in defeat, the words spill out. “You don’t really mean that, do you?”

Her eyes are steady, firm.

“Yes, I do.”

 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X

I am the unknown
wanting to be unravelled

beguiling, bemusing, befuddling

I am a riddle
waiting to be resolved

teasing, taunting, tantalizing

by the deserving
I shall be deciphered

I am x.
Find me.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Wallflower

Flitting
between alternate universes
of my creation

Weaving
threads of fantasy
into my reality

Living
on my own planet
where words are magic

Do not save me from

Facing
the sneered nicknames
of their own creation

Wincing
as I get expelled
from their reality

Learning
that I live in a planet
where words can wound

And I wonder
why they forget

Walls have ears
and so do wallflowers.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Value

The emptiness in the hollow of her throat was unsettling.

A delicate owl, wrought of metal, nested there until a day ago. Its cold touch had been as reassuring as the warmth of her father's fingers wrapping around her hands, guiding her as they crossed a busy road together.

Until her brother had broken the locket.

"I'm sorry, Zuni, I really am! Anyway, it was just a cheap, flimsy piece of metal. I'll get you a better one, okay? I'll get you the most beautiful locket in the world!" he'd pleaded.

She'd stared at him, tears streaming down her face, aghast that he'd called it cheap, that he'd forgotten who had gifted it to her and that she wore the locket not for its price but for its value.

The locket might not have been the Resurrection Stone, but wearing it felt like her father was standing beside her again.




Intended this to be a drabble, but I overshot the 100-word-limit by 50 words and didn't feel like rewriting. I hope you liked this Not-A-Drabble.

#AtoZChallenge2013 #CatchingUp

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unnamed (Re-post)

You left the
Fairy-tales untold
Lullabies unsung
Photos untouched

I left my
Questions unasked
Beliefs unchallenged
Poems unread

We left
Garden paths untrodden
Ripe mangoes uneaten
Paper boats unmade

Now all you have left is
An eternity beneath the earth
And all I have left is a wish 
To undo all that we left undone.




Oh letter U, what have I done to earn your wrath? Sorry for not putting up anything new.
This poem is taken from the post In Memoriam: Two Poems for My Grandfather.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time

Time
Spares none:
A black hole
Vacuum-pulling all into
Oblivion





Elfje is a form of poetry which has its origins in The Netherlands, consisting of eleven words spread over five lines in the form 1-2-3-4-1. The above one on 'Time' is a part of this poem, and one of my personal favourites. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stories Behind My Short Stories

The fact that I haven't written a proper short story since November depresses me.

There are no less than fourteen ideas that could be developed into short stories in a document stowed away in my 'Writing' folder. And I just can't seem to write even an opening line! It's driving me crazy!

Maybe the reason why this genre is my favourite has something to do with my first foray into writing being a short story. This was during the summer vacation after fourth grade, when we'd gone to stay with dad, back when he worked in Dubai. I was in the Enid-Blyton-Worshipping phase then, not introduced to Harry Potter yet.

There was only so much TV-watching and little-sister-entertaining a nine-year-old could do. (Off-topic, but my sister seemed so much cuter and manageable when she was six.) I had re-read, for the hundredth time, the few Famous Five books I'd persuaded my mom to bring along with me. I had read every scrap of newspaper, a book of recipes for fancy dishes mom would never make... and even the microwave oven's instruction manual.

There's nothing like boredom to inspire you. I started working on what I planned to be my very first adventure novel. What came out was a little story spanning a few pages in my 100-page notebook, about an evil witch who kidnaps and kills a girl, every year, for some weird sacrifice to make her more powerful. As she nears her target, however, the kingdom's princess decides she's had enough and sets off to find a way to destroy the witch for once and for all. (Spoiler: She succeeds! :P Sorry, but I don't remember how...)

My dad's best friend - fondly called Unni uncle - was the first to discover I'd written something. I remember wondering why a grown-up would want to read my story and then feeling proud when he said it was great and scolded my dad for not reading it himself.

Then in sixth grade I joined the school-level short story writing contest on an impulse. Later, during Science, my teacher mentioned a "good" story she'd noticed when she was collecting the entries, in which a couple adopts their daughter's best friend after her parents die in an accident and her uncles/aunts wouldn't claim her because they quarreled with her father over an inheritance. The story which, I realized with a jolt, I had written.

These little events were among the biggest factors that encouraged me to take writing seriously in high school. I began dabbling in poetry and essay-writing as well, but my short stories remained closest to my heart. They still do, even during this lean patch I'm going through.

I hope the Muse of Short Stories, if there's one, will look upon me favourably once again and allow me to return to writing what I love most.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reunion

There we were
bonding amidst
smiles, frowns, tears

keeping safe
each others'
hopes, secrets, fears

choosing
separate ways, losing
direction

so far apart
yet tied together with
affection

And now

Here we are
standing beside 
the sun-kissed sea

with hands linked,
after all this time,
back where we're supposed to be

and the waves of time
may wash our imprints from the sand
but never from our hearts...






Malavika. Amritha. Emilda. What would I do without you, my three best friends, by my side? Last year gave me the answer: lost and confused. I'm glad we could get together and chat/gossip/tease properly... but as always, what little time we have is never enough.

#AtoZChallenge2013 #CatchingUp #StupidHeadache,PleaseLetMeConcentrate

Friday, April 19, 2013

Quiet

She missed him.

She missed the way he'd shriek when she pushed the swing higher. His laugh when his father gave him lollipops. The sing-song “Moooom!” when he returned from play-school. His scream when the sky thundered.

The river had drowned not just her son, but all noise in her house as well, leaving behind silence. A quiet that pressed in on her ears, like the fuss he'd kick up when he saw spinach on his plate. A quiet that weighed heavily in her heart, hammering against its floodgates, letting out the all-consuming grief.

The quiet was everywhere, refusing to be erased, like the crayon scribbles on the walls.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paper Boats: A Haiku


Once upon a time,
Rain meant smiles, paper meant boats -
All now drenched in age.



It's been ages since my ridiculous haiku phase! Here's one for childhood memories...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Obituary

Cheating again on the A-Z schedule, because no O word has inspired me so far and we're on the last lap of the challenge. Posting this exactly ten days after the O-day.



I had two of my teeth removed today - the first premolars on the upper and lower jaw of the right half of my mouth. Unlike what many made it out to be, the process wasn't painful. Well, the anaesthetic injections did hurt a wee bit but the Actual Act of Teeth Extraction felt merely like a hard tug. The aftermath was problematic.

It took more than an hour for the anaesthetic to wear off, during which I had a persistent feeling that my lips had swollen up. Several times, I ran to the mirror to make sure this hadn't happened. Then, of course, there was the business of changing blood-soaked cotton wads stuck in the gaping hole. Even worse was the anaesthetized half of my mouth refusing to move the way I wanted it to. The experience put me on a whole new level of understanding grandad's frustration with his inability to move his limbs after he was paralyzed. 

By evening, I was decidedly cranky. To take my mind off things, I rushed to take refuge in the virtual world (where else?) and switched on the computer. That was when lightning struck.

Or the moment when I muttered "You are officially nuts", and went on to open GIMP to create this:


Yes, I made an obituary for the premolars that had to be taken out so that my Hermione-esque front teeth would have space to move inside. I had way too much fun with this. It was unexpectedly therapeutic as well.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Names

Weddings. Most of the time the script goes the same: my mom knows practically everyone, my sister and I hardly know anyone.

This one was no different, except there seemed to be more old ladies than usual, people who used to know my parents when they were kids. They were ecstatic to see mom - apparently they hadn't seen her since her wedding - asking how she was, where she lived now, did she have kids... oh, two girls? Then started the affectionate pinching of cheeks, scrutinizing and commenting on resemblances. Oh, did I forget the Asking and Mispronouncing of Names?

I dislike my name. For one thing, it starts with Z, the last freaking letter of the alphabet, which means I end up last in the class roll-call. Also, my little cousins find it a mouthful as opposed to Hiba. Every time they try to call me, they seem to shoot me a glare that says, "Why can't your name be like your sister's? Hi-ba. Two syllables. Short and sweet!"

No one ever says it right. One of my teachers pronounced it as Za-i-nab, the a and the i separate (It should sound Zay-nab, actually.) Someone else saw me spell my name, thought the second a was a u, and called me Zaynoob. The incident effectively shattered all notions of my handwriting being pretty and legible.

So the Mispronouncing happened at this wedding as well. As usual, I ignored it. Around halfway through the function, when the noises were getting progressively louder and the air felt stuffier and stuffier, an elderly lady occupied the vacant seat beside me.

"Bushra's elder daughter?" she asked me, and I replied in the affirmative. "I can see the similarities," she continued. (I still haven't figured them out yet.)

"Could you tell me your name again, dear?" I did.

Her face suddenly changed. "Zainab? After your father's mother?"

I nodded, taken aback by the reverence in her voice, with undertones of grief, nostalgia and something else I quite couldn't place. I wondered how she knew my grandmother, who'd died in a car accident when my dad was in college. I never found the courage to ask, though.

It's been ages since then and the new faces I met that day have blurred. I am not bothered by this. But I wish I could recall the features of the person who'd reminded me of the one reason why I love my name: that I am a tribute. A living, breathing tribute. It doesn't matter that it's to a person I never knew. My grandmother lives on through my father. She lives in the way my aunt holds the tip of her sari. She lives in the very few photographs I have of her.

She lives on in that voice which reminds me the literal meaning of my name: a fragrant flower. I maybe just a tiny part of the bouquet of life, but I do have a contribution towards the overall scent. I have many lives to touch.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mathematics

Let's just say Maths and I have a very... difficult relationship.

Eleven years of schooling and we still are not on very good terms. It's been a comparatively smooth ride in the past year, but I have a feeling things are going to take a turn for the worse. Maths has been the only steady member of Ruin-Zainab's-Okay-Report-Card; Physics joins it occasionally. 

My relationship with Maths stretches can be classified into two: Before Class 10 and After it.

In the Before universe, the subject was Pure Evil. Designed to pull down my self-confidence. I'd even had a nervous breakdown in 7th standard when my teacher taught negative numbers, something which I find extremely funny now. If I had a time-turner, I'd leave a note for my younger self, telling her to stop being a sissy and brace herself for much bigger problems.

At that time, numbers seemed harmless enough, sometimes they really were, but most of the time they made my head hurt. When I thought I'd done well in a paper, I'd probably made tons of careless mistakes: writing 6 instead of 9, not paying attention to the + and - signs, meaning to answer 6 for 4+2 but writing 8. Gah. And don't get me started on geometry. Set squares were a menace, my compass slipped while trying to draw circles, the protractor was barely manageable. 

So when it was time to begin tenth grade, my mom decided to take matters into her own hands. (For non-Indian readers: Class 10 aka SSLC is a Very Big Deal in my country. These drabbles might give you an idea of how big. Indian readers are also welcome to read them.) 

She's amazing at math, especially the do-it-in-your-head kind. So is my dad. Sadly, the genes skipped me. 

And so she began coaching me. Taught me tips and tricks, cleared my doubts, but most of all, she made me practise. "Practice is the key to perfection!" she'd declare and then set me a lot of problems. Easy for her to say. I was the one racking my brains.

Naturally, on the eve of my math SSLC exam, I wasn't the only nervous wreck in the house. My dad had warned me beforehand to keep a straight face in front of my mom even if the exam went horribly wrong. (I used to have a bad habit of crying when exams were disastrous.) And boy, I thought I was a goner for sure when I finished that paper. I had a feeling that I'd made TONS of careless mistakes. 

Imagine my surprise when I found out I'd got an A+ for it. (If you can't imagine it, read about it here.)

I think that did wonders for my relationship with Maths. Last year, in eleventh grade, I did most of my math-revision without parental (read: maternal) supervision and I think I'll pass the exam with flying colours. The results haven't been published yet.

I've so far been optimistic about the next year's syllabus, but I saw the Class 12 textbook a week back. Matrices, four chapters of Calculus (!!!) and a bunch of other stuff that could have burned my eyes if I hadn't closed the book immediately. I'm scared.

Fingers crossed for a Math-worry-free academic year!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Liebster Blog Award!!!!


When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho.

I would have been crazy to think that this would actually come true. Here I was, thinking up ideas for an 'L' post and not being able to develop them, getting desperate as Saturday loomed nearer. Then I find out that the awesome Sania Heba at Embracing Dawn nominated me for a Liebster award (the first one for this blog!!!) Thank you, not just for choosing me but also for your impeccable timing!

Liebster is German for dearest/nicest, and the award is given for upcoming bloggers - those with less than 200 followers. A nominee has to post 11 random facts about themselves, answer 11 questions the tagger has set for them, then choose a few blogs to pass on the award and set 11 questions for them as well.

Here goes, 11 random facts:

1. I'm currently wondering what's up with all the elevens associated with this award.

2. My collection of books has outgrown my bookshelf.

3. Before I knew that the announcements at the railway stations were pre-recorded, my dream was to be a railway announcer. I still know the format of the announcements and recite them along with the announcer whenever I'm waiting at the railway station. It annoys my mom.

4. I don't like Nutella.

5. I feel sorry for the current generation of toddlers for missing out on Teletubbies. The cartoons these days... *sigh* Doraemon is horrible.

6. I am forever indebted to Tumblr for introducing me to Sherlock, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

7. Although I loathe Twilight, I refuse to dislike Christina Perri's A Thousand Years just because it is associated with the movie franchise. The song is beautiful.

8. The thing I'm most proud of: getting a few of my classmates into reading.

9. Desserts trump the main course. Every single time.

10. A book-to-movie adaptation that I'm looking forward to: Divergent, movie to be out in 2014. If they miss it up, I'm going to be depressed. The soon-to-be-completed trilogy is one of my favourites and it deserves more attention than it's receiving.

11. I'm absolutely hopeless when it comes to my hair. I know how to do ponytails, but I have to depend on my little sister for braiding. It's mortifying, and also gives her great blackmail material.

Answering Sania's questions:

1. What's the first word that comes to your mind when you say 'pen'?
A: Riptide, Percy Jackson's pen-cum-sword.

2. What's your worst fear?
A: That I'll die alone, I guess. Also being attacked by an army of spiders.

3. If you had one wish, what would it be?
A: I'd ask for more wishes :)

4. Think fast. Forest or waterfall?
A: Waterfall. 

5. Can you explain the concept of concepts?
A: Um... all I can say is that without abstract concepts, how would you have concrete plans?

6. How good are you at keeping a secret? (don't worry, I ain't telling you any)
A: Pretty good!

7. Who is your favourite author?
A: I'd rather kill myself than choose one person from my list of favourite authors. I love all of them equally.

8. Black or white?
A: Both. 

9. Do you believe in déjà vu?
A: Yes, definitely.

10. What's your fav letter?
A: Z, because my name starts with it.

11. Are you tired of all these questions?
A: To be honest, yes. But I enjoyed doing this.

Now, my nominees:
Malavika at Words on Wings
Julia Chiang, A Dose of Jules
Nazreen at Penguin Peeks

My questions:
1. What's your greatest pet peeve?
2. If you're told that you have only three more days of sight, what would you do?
3. Chocolate or vanilla ice-cream?
4. Do you have a favourite word? If yes, then what's it?
5. Best animated movie you've ever seen?
6. What's more irritating: not having a book to read or not having access to the internet?
7. A fear that you overcame?
8. Would you rather be a) envied, b) respected, c)trusted or d) feared?
9. A public figure who's inspired you the most?
10. If you could be a fictional character for a day, who would you choose?
11. Which song never fails to cheer you up?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Khaled Hosseini

Where do I even start?!

I read Hosseini's first book, The Kite Runner, when I was in ninth grade. I still remember setting down the book when I finished it, conscious of the numbness that had settled down on me. The numbness that came from the realization that some stories could be so powerful that the words gripped you, transported you to a completely alien country and forced you to care for the people there.

The Kite Runner is a tale of friendship and betrayal, of cowardice and guilt. Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament to earn his father's affection, and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. Yet, Amir betrays his friend in a crucial juncture. After the country is invaded by Russians, Amir and his father are forced to flee to America and rebuild their shattered lives. But ghosts of the past never truly leave and ultimately, the novel is about Amir's quest for redemption.

So blown away was I by the depth of the characters and the beauty of the prose that I had high expectations for A Thousand Splendid Suns. Boy, did Hosseini exceed them all. The story of how Maryam and Laila, two women from completely different backgrounds, form a bond and fight for each other in the face of brutality in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was so epic that it made Amir's story look tame. Maybe I loved Hosseini's second offering more because the protagonists are women and I could understand, relate with, their trials and tribulations better.

If The Kite Runner numbed me with its intensity, A Thousand Splendid Suns was so full of heartbreak and hope that, towards the end, I was sobbing like someone close to me had died. Plus, the glimpses into the social, political and cultural facets of Afghanistan made the stories all the more vivid. They testify to the devastating effects of war on ordinary people, and also to the power of human resilience.

The thing about Hosseini's works is that they don't feel like he's telling a story. It's like he's making you live them.

No wonder I'm looking forward to reading And The Mountains Echoed once it comes out in May. I have faith in Khaled Hosseini's ability to produce more masterpieces. I believe he will not disappoint me, and thousands of other readers.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

June

June is a befuddling month.

June means I have to say goodbye to the sweltering summer heat, a task that should have been easy if it weren't for the fact end of summer equals fewer milkshakes and ice-creams. It is the beginning of monsoon, of grey clouds wresting control of the sky from the sun, of incessant rain. And when I'm not careful, it is also the month of phlegm-choked windpipes and Asthalin inhalers.

End of summer marks the end of gorging on mangoes, its juice dripping down my chin as I try to lay a claim over the I Ate The Most title.

And of course, as a school student, June is the month when all the fun and frolic ends. It's time for a new year in school. Cue groans and sighs and the constant refrains of why does time fly past so quickly? That's from the kids, obviously. Parents are probably sick of kids turning households upside down during the two months of Yay, no school!

June says it's time for me to get my lazy ass out of the couch and allow my PC – which hasn't seen much shutting-down during the summer vacations – to rest. It is the time when I have to reacquaint with a long-forgotten and not-at-all-organized schedule of getting up at 6 in the morning and sleepwalking through the next two hours until the school-bell screams shrilly into my ears. Then I have to try and stay afloat in the flood of equations, theorems, laws, principles and what not.

All this while the sky refuses to remove its grey make-up, despite the colour making it look pallid. It's dismal, and the feeling permeates into everyone beneath, passing on from one person to another like the common cold.


Yet June is the month of rebirth, of freshness, of new beginnings.

After a spell of rain, the leaves look greener, the flowers brighter, as if they were freshly laundered clothes. The smell of wet soil is everywhere. I can hear the frogs croak, the birds chirp, the buzz of all the weird insects that seem to appear only during this particular season.

Puddles are annoying, especially when vehicles speed up over them and splatter me with mud and rainwater. But they serve as reminders of days long gone when I spot six/seven year-olds making paper boats and let them afloat. I see understanding blossom in their eyes as their parents try to explain why paper boats float but their gotti (marbles) sink in the puddles. A snarky voice inside me says, Wait for it, kiddos. Buoyancy and Archimedes' principle will attack you in a few years.

And as much as I complain about yet another year at school, I can't deny that June is a month of starting afresh. New classrooms, new teachers, new books, new avenues of knowledge. New students, new acquaintances. June is the month of promises of turning over a new leaf, promises which seldom last beyond two weeks.

June is dull yet bright. June is dreary yet pretty. June is moodiness, yet it inspires.

Maybe that's why I hate it, but also love it.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Am...

I am scribbled letters, scratched-out words
inked in leisure, linking worlds

I am memories shared, secrets kept;
together we laughed, together we wept

I am faked apathy, pasted smiles
while bitter taunts stay with me for miles

I am fluttering stomach, flaming cheeks;
the heart overrules who the head seeks

I am toothy grins, too-wide eyes
searching for answers in this sea of lies

I am ragged breaths, I am razed dreams
I am defied pulls, I am boundaries pushed

I am a caged bird yearning to fly,
my gaze fixed upon the skies so far, so high.




I thought I'd scheduled this post, until the discovery that I hadn't clicked the Schedule button. Absent-mindedness runs in my blood, I guess.

So this was inspired by Juliet and Regina at City Muse Country Muse. They have striking and poignant 'Where I Am From' poems in their About Me pages. I tried to incorporate parts of me - books/writing, friends, dreams, asthma etc. - into this, but it didn't come out as well as I hoped. Oh well. At least I tried.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hope

Curiosity
killed not the cat,
but damned us all

Setting free
gloom and doom

Letting loose
despair, disaster

Unleashing
hunger and starvation

Yet
Hope bur ns bright
in our hearths and hearts



Sorry for the atrociousness. Long story short: yet another eleventh-hour creation, could have done with a huge makeover, but I have to sleep early if I have to wake up in time to catch the 6.15 train. This was inspired by the story of Pandora.

#AtoZChallenge2013 #Modem,PleaseStopDyingOnMe

Monday, April 8, 2013

Greek Mythology and Etymology

I love Greek mythology.

Okay, I admit it: Rick Riordan got me obsessed with it. The Percy Jackson series is nothing short of ingenious, with the beautiful way in which the myths are woven into the modern world, fast-paced plots and lovable characters who force you to care about them. Before I started the series, I only had a basic idea of Greek myth; after it, my knowledge of the subject grew exponentially.

I also happen to love the English language. I have a little fixation with etymology, thanks to Norman Lewis, which just grew after I read a brief piece on the evolution of English in my last year's textbook. And now, combining both, I love digging out the link between English words and Greek mythology.

The credit for this new hobby also goes to Rick, who piqued my interest with the myth of Tantalus in the second book of PJO, The Sea of Monsters. It goes thus:

Tantalus was a king who invited the gods to a feast. But the dishes actually consisted of the flesh of the king's son Pelops, who was murdered by his father. (I should have warned you: some Greek myths give a whole new meaning to the word gross.) In the afterlife, Tantalus was punished for this gruesome act: he was placed near a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, but he could neither eat nor drink. This myth becomes the source for the English word tantalize.

Here are some links I figured out:
  • In the system of scientific classification of organisms that is followed currently, spiders belong to the Class Arachnida. Arachne was a mortal weaver who boasted that her skill was greater than even the goddess Athena's; she was turned into a spider for her arrogance. 
  • Phobos, the Greek god of fear and also the son of Ares (god of war), gives rise to a very familiar word: phobia
  • Narcissus was a vain hunter who was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection.... and voilà!  we have narcissistic.
  • The drug morphine gets its name from Morpheus, the god of dreams.
  • Gaea, the Earth goddess, is likely to be the source of the root geo- in words like geology and geography
One last piece of trivia: words associated with time, like chronology, are derived from Kronos – the evil Titan who's also the Lord of Time.

I consider this to be just the tip of the iceberg. Greek myths also give rise to countless phrases like Achilles heel and Midas touch, not to mention the common usage 'bearing the weight of the sky upon your shoulders' which is a reference to Atlas, the Titan of the West, who was condemned by Zeus to hold up the sky after the gods' war with the Titans.

Interestingly, the first bone in our backbone is named Atlas, because it has to bear the weight of our head.

Foetus

The big, flat screen flickered into life.

As the cup-shaped thing probed into the depths of her body, she watched the whirls of black and grey solidify on the screen. Her eyes traced the outline of a tiny form, resting in its crib, curled up under blankets of muscle and fluid.

Not a girl, God, don't let it be a girl. Please.

'It's a girl,” the doctor said quietly.

She shifted her gaze to her husband, with one last futile plea for mercy. But his pitch-black eyes said it all: the death sentence for her child had just been signed.




The A-Z Challenge introduced me to a lot of lovely people, including Natasha at Coffee Rings Everywhere. I was inspired by her beautiful drabbles - stories told in exactly 100 words - to write this one.

A note to non-Indian readers: prenatal sex determination is illegal in India in order to prevent sex-selective abortion, which has its roots in the strong influence of patriarchy in our social framework. 

#AtoZChallenge2013 #CatchingUp

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Enthusiasm

Okay, I cheated.

On Friday, a splitting headache ensured that I couldn't stare at my computer for longer than a few minutes without my eyes watering. Obviously, no 'E' post. I got better by the next day, but no, fate conspired against me and I had to attend a wedding - which involved 8-9 hours of travelling - which also meant no post on 'F.'

I was depressed.

I was looking forward to not breaking the flow, to keep writing, to blog-hopping everyday. I hoped I could get through the end without missing out on a single post.

I couldn't.

Anyone who's read my last post on diaries will know that I have issues with losing continuity. I hate getting off-track and then having to get on-track again. It feels... incomplete. And on the way back home, I decided to abandon the A-Z Challenge for the same reason.

Until I opened my inbox and got the shock of my life. It was flooded with comments on the previous post; people sharing their thoughts, their experiences with keeping a diary. I'd never received so much comments on a post before and my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets. I was well and truly overwhelmed.

My writing has been for one sole purpose - process the ideas churning in my head into something - a  poem, a short story and sometimes, an essay. I don't write for an audience. Maybe that's why I get thrilled when there's even one comment, however tiny and cryptic it maybe. It brings a smile to my face that someone found the time to read and appreciate my post.

Reading the many responses, my energy levels were back in an instant. I'm appalled that I even thought of giving up when netizens of the blogosphere were soldiering on, finding topics for each letter, coming up with so many creative ideas. If they could do it, then why couldn't I?

And for this, I'd like to thank everyone who's been to this blog in the past few days and tolerated my insanity. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for spreading the joy of sharing and appreciation through the A-Z Challenge.

And above all, thank you for replenishing my enthusiasm and teaching me to never give up.



Yes, I posted on a Sunday. Sue me.
#AtoZChallenge2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Diaries

I have a weird relationship with diaries.

Every year, towards the end of December, I find signs outside every books/stationery store proclaiming 'insert-next-year diaries available.' And I can't resist taking a peek. There are diaries of all sizes: small enough to just serve as pocketbooks, medium-sized ones that will patiently hear your thoughts out and those humongous executive-style diaries. There are glossy, embossed, hardbound, spiral-bound, even diaries with hand-made paper. And don't forget the colours. And the patterns!

Some diaries I've seen were so beautiful, they deserved to be called works of art.

The sheer variety is mind-boggling. If only notebooks were this pretty! I might have actually completed schoolwork on time. But no, we students have to endure the mass-produced monotonous monstrosities.

However, I understand. Diaries are intended to be our confidants, storehouses of our deepest (and sometimes, darkest) thoughts, our most private emotions. We can vent all our feelings, with the added benefit that no one interrupts or gets offended. Even if you use it just to remind you of meetings or whatever, they are a part of you. Close to you. Which is why, I feel, there's so much diversity in the diaries produced, for it makes people believe they have a unique copy, giving a sense of belonging.

Finally, after hours of looking through the piles of diaries, I end up buying one. (Man, the good ones are expensive.) Every year, I promise to myself that I will document each day of my life, reflect on what I did and think about what can I do to make my life better. Every year, I manage this for the first few weeks, except for the reflecting and evaluating part. Then I miss a few days and the next time I remember I have a diary, I think, “Oh, the continuity is lost. I'm going to stop writing.”

And the lovely, precious, beautiful – did I say pricey? – diary finds itself untouched for the rest of the year. This happens every single year. Every. Single. Year.

Until the last one, when I found a solution. I used my partially-used diary to record ideas for poems and short stories, note down phrases/quotes that could come in handy for essays, write the first draft of my poems, then edit, edit, edit all the way.

Well, I could do the same thing with ordinary notebooks. But then, people could write their thoughts in ordinary notebooks as well; why use diaries?

I guess that's it. I've exhausted all my diary-related thoughts. Oh wait, there's one more: For some odd reason, my dad hasn't given me a diary this year. Guesses, anyone? :D




Sorry, my thoughts are a bit... scattered. I was almost going to give up thinking about a topic with D, but then inspiration struck in the eleventh hour (literally) and then it was a race against time to get my ideas into a cohesive form. Or maybe not-so-cohesive.

#AtoZChallenge2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Charcoal

You are starlight
refusing to fade
even in
the brightest sunshine.
You keep opening wounds,
leaving scars
and yet resisting them.

I? I have no illusions.
I can only birth fires,
nurture them
as I consume myself.
I burn. I destroy.
I meld and create.

You are a diamond
And I, charcoal;
Here we are, brought to life
from the same womb.




Sometimes I marvel that Hiba and I actually are sisters. Poles apart, chalk and cheese... use whatever phrase you wish to, and that's how we are. The same way diamonds and charcoal are so different, but both essentially made of carbon.

#AtoZChallenge2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B for Books (What Else?)

My love affair with books started when I was five.

We lived in Dubai at that time – seems eons ago – and one of my numerous aunts came to visit. And to me, visits were extremely welcome; they meant the arrival of at least a bar of chocolate. My aunt, however, chose to give me an enormous picture dictionary. My memories of it have mostly been obscured by the mist of time, but I do have fleeting impressions of very-glossy pages, large red fonts and some beautiful illustrations. The book is now god-knows-where: either lost in our journey from one house to another or gathering dust in some corner of the store room.

That dictionary told me that there were some things you cannot illustrate, taught me about abstract qualities before I even knew what the word meant. That book led me through little stories and poems, to bigger ones, and finally to Enid Blyton. And that's where my tryst with fiction begins.

I read my first 'Famous Five' book when I was in second/third standard and my fixation with the series and, indeed, other Enid Blyton works like the Secret Seven, lasted right up to sixth grade. That was when I discovered [or rather, re-discovered] Harry Potter.

Suffice to say, once a Potterhead, always a Potterhead.

As my love for reading grew, I discovered more fantastic authors: Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer, Veronica Roth and Angie Sage. Jodi Picoult and John Green tore my heart apart. Khaled Hosseini's books captivated me with their breathtaking prose and made me sob unashamedly. Dan Brown taught me a thing or two about pacing; Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander is still the most complex character I've encountered.

Somewhere down the line, reading blossomed into a full-blown obsession, to the point where my day doesn't feel complete without reading the newspaper the first thing in the morning. Heck, I even read railway timetables when I've got nothing new. [What? It's informative!]

Over the last few years, I've amassed a large collection of books, the joy of which I've learned to share with my friends and classmates. In the past year alone, I encouraged several classmates to read, introduced them to some of my favourite books. Over this process of lending and recommending, of them reading and sharing their thoughts, I've bonded with them. And the pride I feel when I see them enjoying reading as much as I do is nothing short of a mother's pride as she watches her child take her first step.

The books I've read have taught me to think about the world around me, reevaluate my opinions, reflect on myself. They've been my best friends and have catalyzed the formation of most of my real-life friendships. They cemented my identity at my new school and earned me the fond title of 'class librarian'.

The books I've read made me who I am today and I wouldn't want it any other way.





Writing this was unexpectedly... therapeutic. I'm still wondering why I didn't do this earlier, being a professed bibliophile and all. #AtoZBloggingChallenge2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

Alone

Once upon a time
I loved,
and was loved

A petite
ice princess,
adored for who I was

Now,
I'm the odd one out.
The one too small to be noticed.

Once upon a time
I cared,
and was cared for

A truant, barging
into her brother's room
with an impish smile

Now,
I'm the outcast.
The one who went astray.

Once upon a time
I belonged
somewhere

With eight siblings
and a father
who showered warmth

Now,
I'm just Pluto.
The forgotten one.



.... And that brings up my first post for the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. 

I hope co-challenge-takers who stumble across this poem will forgive me if they find it stupid. I kind of like it, since I haven't written ANYTHING creative in a month...

For anyone who didn't get the 'brother' reference in the 5th stanza, I meant the planet Neptune. If I remember correctly, Pluto crossing into Neptune's orbit was one of the reasons why it lost planethood. [Does that word even exist?]