Sunday, August 28, 2016

Short Story: When Sullen met Lonely

He saw her at the corner table, pushing her errant hair away from her face, as she exhibited some frown lines while focusing on her book. After a few minutes she looked up and glanced outside. She saw a young mother wipe baby chino foam off her little toddler's mouth. He stood on his tippy toes and kissed his mother's nose. She looked away like she had witnessed an intimate mother-child moment that she should not be privy too. Her face had a half-smile but her eyes seemed sad. 

He named her Lonely.

She saw him look at her from his Economist while his latte sat on the table getting cold. She did not understand people who did not have the food at the temperature it was meant to be consumed at. It felt like an insult to the food in question. His dark eyes appeared to have forbidden secrets, hidden fears, or she reckoned, a bit of both. 

She named him Sullen.

I am old and grey and my eyes are weak, but see things young people don't. Sullen had recently quit is job to pursue his love of food. He tried a new cafe everyday to understand how he could make his cafe unique. 

I named him Passion.

Lonely was a kindergarten teacher. She loved books and babies in that order. Today was the first day of the summer break and she was already missing her kids who were off for their vacations. Her eyes were misty thinking about how it would be many weeks before she saw them all again. 

I named her Hopeful.

Sullen and Lonely would never give each other a chance. How I wish they could see each other through my eyes. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Six-Word Stories Vol-2

It's said that Hemingway was challenged by his writer friends that no one could write a story in 6 words. He took a napkin from the table at the cafe where they were sitting and penned this. 

Several six-word stories have been complied by Smith magazine with people from all over the world contributing their words which will help you create their story...with only six words.

Here are some from me:

When you left, I lost me.

Unfurled sari, broken bangles, blood-chilling screams.

New yacht. Old Money. Young wife.

Breakup. Lonely. Amazon. Click. Click. Click.

Prison freed me like freedom couldn't.

Advertising lies. Consumer buys. Debt sighs.

His graduation celebration, my empty-nest depression.

High seas sailing, land memories forgotten.

Brown grass, cloudless sky, farmer's death.

Potions spell death outside Harry Potter.

Fairy lights, misty eyes, unused mistletoe.

Do flowers speak better than words?

Jimmy's shoes, Celine's bag, Burglar alarm.

Were we in the same relationship? 

Long flight. Big fight. Whose's right?

Jack, Jill now argue about bills.

Perfect recipe. Sugar, butter, eggs arsenic.

Tears added bitterness to husbands' dinner.

I once loved my wife's lover.

For more,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Legacy we are leaving behind

There has been a lot of coverage this week on First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic national convention. My knowledge of US politics is more "House of Cards" and "Madame secretary", so I cannot comment on the political aspect of her speech. What stood out for me is what she said about us being role models for our children. 

"And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives"

She (or her savvy speech writer) turned the conversation away from politics and back to the one thing everyone is most concerned about i.e. our future, which is our children.

So that begs the question, what legacy are we leaving behind for them? What are they learning from our actions? Every time we show our road rage, or gossip about the neighbor, or speak rudely to someone, or keep quiet when we see something wrong happening, what message are we sending? 

Kids observe. Even when we think they are engrossed in their world, but they take in everything.

We complain about the gadget overuse of our children on whatsapp groups with other parents. The irony of it! We can't ask kids to sleep on time when they know we are out late every other night. They learn by watching us. 

There is a lot we have to teach them. From faith to honesty and hard work to perseverance. But here are four qualities we must make sure they imbibe as these are what the world needs most today.

1) We are all the same

Have you caught yourself (even if it's ever so lightly) making fun of someone's accent? Or an offhand comment on someone's body shape or size? We all have been guilty of such indiscretions at some point. And if it has happened in the presence of a child, rest assured the message they got is that it's ok to look at people differently. 

The message we need to drive home is that we are not that different. No matter our religion, or caste, or skin color, or nationality, or gender or even our gender preference.

The simplest analogy is the Shakespeare stage-actor one. Kids need to understand that each one of us is the same inside. Outwardly we play different roles, in various costumes, but that comes with the script we have been provided. Inwardly we all are the same. We all need love. We all crave affection. We all desire friendships. We all just want to be accepted for who we are. 

2) Being different is not a bad thing

Before we begin accepting each other, we need to accept ourselves and our circumstances. Today children don't lead traditional lives. Divorce, same-sex parents, third culture kids, these are all part of our lives.

Our children need to accept their circumstances and make the best of it. A tragedy cannot be used as a shield. A setback should not be reason for despair. They can only do this if we lead the way.

Do we compare ourselves to others and always see where our life falls short? Or do we accept what we have- the opportunities and the problems- to carve our path forward? Let them learn from us that they have deal with whatever life throws at them. And our individuality comes through our differences. 

3) Privilege has to be put to good use

Our children are privileged. There is no denying that. They have tons more than we had growing up, and lesser people to share it with. It's easy for selfishness to creep in. 

We need to constantly show them that they have to be considerate to the ones who have less than us. Whether it's giving part of birthday money to a charity or volunteering time at the animal shelter, we need to set an example. We have to be conscious of our conspicuous  consumption habits so they learn restraint.

4) There is no substitute for kindness

My first advice to Sanil about friendships was 'You don't have to be friends with everyone, you don't even gave to like everyone, but you ALWAYS have to be kind to everyone'. Don't allow your children to exclude other kids. Children can be cruel. We all have experienced bullying in some way, shape or form. 

Our children need to learn compassion. And it can only happen if we are empathetic towards others. 

So let's leave behind a legacy of oneness, of collaboration, of tolerance. As without these, our children will not have the kind of world we envision for them. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We simply are not that apart

Your white is my red
My white is your black
Your green is my saffron
My duppata is your scarf
Your cross is my Om
My bindi is your kohl
Your eyes weep like mine
My child hugs like yours
Your prayer may be your work
My work is my main prayer
I worship an elephant
You a saint with a dog
I bow, you kneel
You raise hands, I fold them
And with these folded hands I ask
Look beyond these signs,
Look further from the symbols
Peep into the heart and you will realize
We simply are not that apart

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Invisible People of Singapore

We spend our bonuses, they count their daily wages
We see unwanted calories, they see much needed meals
We reside in luxury, they build in the heat
We admire the green landscaping, they nourish the plants

We command an uber, they walk miles
We Instagram every minute, they carry a family picture in torn wallets
We sweat once a week on the treadmill, they sweat every second at work

Herman Miller chairs for us, Harness with minimal safety for them
After work cocktails for us, soup kitchens for them
Walk-in closets for our shoes, closet-sized rooms for them to sleep
Warmth of family for us, pining for their families for them

Once in awhile step out of the privileged existence 
Look up at the shiny skyscraper and have a thought about who built it
Next time you pass them, acknowledge with smile, or nod
People of Singapore, be grateful for those who built your country

Offer gratitude for the invisible faces in our community
Because without them nothing would be as it is now