Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fragile heart

I was standing on the side of the road, waiting for an auto to arrive so that I could go to college. I was in a hurry – if I didn't reach the Bazaar soon, my teacher would leave, and I wouldn't get my attendance. My mind were racing with a million things – the very attendance, the millions of projects I had to submit in the following week, my admissions, the future, etc, etc.

Suddenly, a loud, cracking noise snapped me out of my thoughts. I looked up alarmed, and saw a terrifying collision between two bikes. One of the men struggled his way out from under his bike, and stood up. But the other man, he was lying face down on the ground, unmoving. Panic seized me. Was he dead? My legs turned to lead, and I couldn't move.

Then there was a flurry of movement. People from across the street came this side to help the man up, and drag him to the pavement. An elderly couple who were waiting for an auto ran to them and gave them their water. Finally, I too dragged myself to the spot, and watched in concern. With the care and concern from others, the man soon revived consciousness, and I let out a sigh of relief. Knowing that he was okay, I finally caught an auto and told the driver to take me to college.

The fragility of human life struck me really hard that day. We all go around thinking we have an endless existence, as if we can do everything whenever we want, but all of that is untrue. Our time on earth is limited. We are mere visitors here. We don't own this place, not like we would like to. And that thought scares me. No, not the ownership part. The part where everything is so temporary and delicate. We never know when our life will be snatched away from us. It could be today, tomorrow or maybe a hundred years later. But it will eventually happen. Can we ever be prepared though? I mean, everyone fears death. No matter how hard we try to conquer it, we are going to fail. All we do is elongate the eventual.

Something else that struck me that day was how beautiful and wonderful the human nature is. While we may all be worried about our own lives, the minute we see someone else in danger, we rush to their sides, regardless of who they are. Despite the grave nature of the situation, what I witnessed was deeply touching. We come alone, we go alone. Yes. But that is only in technicality. No matter what the circumstance is, we can always look to someone for help. It's not that far away.

Despite how truly horrifying it was, it gave me hope. It also gave me the push to make the most of my life today, because tomorrow might never come.

My summer vacation bucket list

 College's getting over in a month, and very long summer is awaiting me. My mind is usually a scatterbrain of various ideas that I want to implement, but I very rarely actually carry out any of them. So to make sure that I do stick to the various plans I am making, I am going to jot down an officially 'college's-over-now-what-shall-I-do-for-the-summer' list.

Here we go.

1. The day my exams are over, I am going to take off on a three to four day vacation with two of my best friends. No cell phone, no laptop, no books. No contact with the outside world. Well, we do have to contact our parents twice a day, but that's it. Completely leaving the world behind and taking time after a very strenuous timetable to finally enjoy life. We are all going separate ways after this, and such an opportunity might not present itself again.

2. Write a novel! I have been putting this off since I have dreamt of it. I don't know what it is – my constant self doubt that badgers me when I'm writing, or the fact that I procrastinate way too much. I have so many ideas – ideas that I'm super proud of – but I just keep putting it off. With the long vacation in front of me, I am going flesh out an entire novel and write it. Yes, I am going to do that.

3. Rewatch Pretty Little Liars and Teen Wolf. I love these two shows, I dearly do, but with so much going on, I simply am not able to keep up with their complex plots. I want to watch them again, notice all the simple nuances and finally see through the amazing storylines.

4. Reread Harry Potter. It's been THREE YEARS since I did this the last time. It's quite self explanatory. I need to make time to let the magic into my life again, and relive my wonderful, beautiful childhood.

5. Go to Kerala. Spend about a month there. My last few visits to Kerala have been about three-four days long. My ageing grandpa and grandma are there, and it's about time that I take time off to spend with them. They deserve it, after all they have done for me. Maybe I can revisit my childhood once again – this time in a more personal, familial and different way – before I take off into the rut and gut of adulthood.

6. Take a day out and spend it by myself. I don't know what I do, but it should be by myself. Of course, it includes a movie. I have been wanting to watch a movie alone since forever, and this would be the right chance. Eat out, travel on my own, be with no one but myself, and enjoy the calming effect of blissful solitude.

7. Bake a rainbow cake. Okay. This was something I wanted to do for my best friend's birthday, but I do think I need to practice a lot more. Watching Masterchef Australia (my happy show) had instilled in me, the desire to bake. The rainbow cake baked by Liliana Battle is something that has stuck with ever since, and there is no way I am not going to bake it this summer, and relish every single bite of it.

8. Cook for my best friends and family. I was the Home Science topper in my school, and I still haven't cooked for my friends and family. What is wrong with me? This summer, I am so going to cook an elaborate meal for them, showing them just how much they mean to me.

9. Go on a spa trip with one of my close friends. This plan has been pending since forever as well.

10. Be happy happy happy.  

The healing power of fiction

 Depending on someone else is not something that comes to me naturally. For as long as I can, I make sure that I keep my problems to myself, and not tell it out. I know it's a silly misconception, but I feel like if I let people know how I'm really feeling, it makes me weak or stupid. That's quite hypocritical of me, because I never feel that someone else is weak or stupid when they open up to me. It's just...I hate the idea of being vulnerable.

I also tend to push myself in order to be strong. I hate crying. I hold things in for as long as I can, pushing back any tears that threaten to spill. I leave the room if I feel overwhelmed, and sleep it off or something. Even when I feel extremely low, I do not let myself feel express my feelings. Of course, I am no robot. I need an outlet for the emotions that keep boiling and raging inside me.

So I turn to fiction. Books. Movies. Television shows. Name it, and I look to it for company. Many a times, these modes end up being a crutch for me, something that I lean on heavily for a sense of happiness and well being. But to be honest, it's more than that. It heals me. It's part of a process that I use to rejuvenate and reinvent myself. Fiction calms the storms inside of me, and acts like a soothing balm to all my internal wounds.

When my grandfather passed away in 2012, it was like a safety blanket had been ripped away from my life. He was one of the people I adored more than most, and it was difficult to imagine a life without him. Right around then, I had started watching a television show, Pretty Little Liars. Initially it was just because I love a good mystery, but the reason I continued watching was because of two characters that made a strong impression on me, Spencer Hastings and Toby Cavanaugh. Their interactions, friendship and romantic relationship started meaning a lot to me. I still don't know what exactly it is, that made me like them so much.

But sooner than later, it became something that I turned to whenever I felt upset or sad. Seeing their happiness made me happy. To a normal person, this might sound insane, but I am actually proud of this. My attachment to them made me realize how strongly I can feel about something – I have always believed I am emotionally stunted except when it came to my parents, my sister and my few close friends and family. I use to wait to come home from college whenever a new episode was released, so I could sit in my room and enjoy it. Within a very short time, Spencer and Toby became the one thing (material) that made me the happiest. Their relationship, it gave me hope in a strange way. That sometimes good things can come out of bleak situations. And I don't mean this in the romantic sense AT ALL. They were the light at the end of the tunnel for me, and inadvertently, something that ended up giving me so much hope and faith in the world that I thought was a lost cause.

Spencer and Toby are not the only fictional source of happiness for me though. Harry Potter has been, perhaps one of the most influential things in my life. If I even begin to talk about the impact it has had on me, I could go all night. J.K Rowling's books made my childhood. Plain and simple. I grew up reading these books, and a large part of who I am is thanks to those books. Most of the lessons I have learnt in life came from them, not people in my own life. It has been a positive source of inspiration from me. Out of all darkness comes something good. It taught me the power of friendship...I will never stop being grateful to them for that. In fact, whenever I felt massively let down by my real life friends, Ron, Harry and Hermione would be my best friends, and give me the courage and push to achieve what I can. Even now, it is the same. I have grown up...I am 20 now. But my relationship with them hasn't changed at all. I trust them with my life.

It's not just me, to be honest. One day I was casually surfing a Harry Potter blog, and I saw one section dedicated entirely to people thanking Harry, his friends or Jo for the enormous contribution they have made in his life. One of them stated that she had been feeling extremely suicidal, but had decided to stay alive until the final Harry Potter film came out, because she couldn't imagine dying without having seen it. These stories had actually become a beacon of hope, a silver lining to the darkest cloud, and something that kept people alive. She then went on to say by the time the final movie came out, she had found a reason to live. She wasn't suicidal any more. This story truly touched my heart, and I cried tears of joy. These characters that came out of somebody's imagination became another's reason to live. Truly glorious.

In school, I was one lonely child. Okay, scratch that. I was more of a loner by choice. I felt that no one there would bother to understand me, and they were all to superficial for me anyway, so why bother? I am glad I am not quick to judge any more, but that is not the point of this story. During those times, my constant companions were the books in my hands. I would simply not go to school without a book. I used to read them between classes, during the breaks, during PE class, whenever there was a free period, etc. I was always reading, and hence, I never found the need for human company. I was so content by myself, losing myself in these myriad worlds, that I completely lost track of whatever was going around me. Even though people complain about how lonely they felt in school, I simply smiled to myself, because despite being devoid of human company, I never truly felt alone.

I don't care how much like a lunatic I sound. Fiction makes me happy. Period. I don't think I would like it any other way, even though I've come to appreciate human company off late. My heart still feels light and happy when I watch an episode of Pretty Little Liars, or when I see pictures of Harry Potter or watch a fun movie on screen. I don't mind talking about it obsessively, despite the looks I get. I know that at the end of the day, when I am sad or low or depressed, I have a place to get to, without hurting myself or others in anyway. I know that there is something back there that can heal my most painful wounds, and leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.

Making abuse look romantic IS NOT OKAY

 All is fair in love and war, they said. Wrong, I say. Lying, deceiving, manipulating, blackmailing and tormenting someone isn't fair when in love. All of the above cannot be excused just because the abuser has romantic feelings for the victim, and has at times, supported him or her.

I think I have come a long way in terms of what I find acceptable and what I simply cannot endorse. When I was younger, I believed that true love was what conquered all odds, no matter how traumatic and harrowing they be. It seemed 'romantic' and 'ideal' to me. As a young child, I did not, for even a moment think what kind of emotional impact it would leave on a person, or what kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or trust issues they would inculcate. To me, it was the overcoming of many odds, and how people loved each other through a lot of obstacles.

How wrong I was. It is in moments like this that I really realize how far I have come since then – how much I have matured and grown. And to be honest, I am proud of the person I have become. Anyway, the point isn't about my self growth, but about how I viewed these particular topics and ideas. Three years ago, I had started watching a television show called The Vampire Diaries. Back then, it was an intense and wonderfully woven story about myriad characters. I had taken an immediate liking to Damon Salvatore, one of the three protagonists. He was a messed up, damaged young man, who had the tendency to lash out whenever there was a bump in the road. He was always aware of how terrible a person he could be at times, while actively showing how capable he was of change.

Back then, a lot of the traits he showed seemed acceptable to me. Even now, it is, but only because it is a supernatural show. His character still means a lot to me. While going through an intense period of self doubt and change, it was his self acceptance and reclaiming his own faults and blame that attracted me to him. I became more aware of the person I am, and more conscious of the choices I made. Watching the show over the years has tremendously helped me in my own self discovery and journey of self acceptance, and nothing can ever change that.

But recently, as a sheer mark of poor writing, the writers destroyed his character and development. Over the year, this classic 'bad boy' had begun to change and become one of the most honest, dependable characters on the show. But by bringing in his hidden vendettas, they made him into a man who would go on a killing spree simply because he was rejected by the woman he loves. And that, is simply unacceptable to me. No matter how much I will always love Damon and how much he has helped me in my own personal journey, this is something that I cannot and will not endorse. Hence, I quit the show.

I don't think I would have made the same decision three years ago.

Last year, after the death of my maternal grandfather, I began watching another show, Pretty Little Liars. Having been an ardent fan of mystery novels since I could read, this show seemed ideal to me. Also, it had friendship as the crux of the show. I love friendship stories! They are my favourite kind. So. Anyway. Initially, I had been at awe over Aria and Ezra's forbidden love story, mostly perhaps of the chemistry shared by the lead couple. But over the period of time, I was dumbstruck at what I had once that was cute (also, it didn't help that I had fallen heads over heels for another couple on the show...but that is another story entirely). What in the world was cute about a person of authority pursuing a relationship with a student – one who is minor, that too? Wasn't I feeding into the culture that viewed predatory nature as something romantic and to be vouched for? I couldn't do that.

Owing to my curious nature, I did extensive research on the topic. Abuse of authority, especially by a teacher is extremely frowned upon. How in the world was this acceptable on a show geared at a younger audience? What kind of message was it giving to them? Apparently, they all thought it was okay to have an affair with a teacher, especially if he is not much older than you and looks handsome. See, it is okay for a young girl to be attracted to an older man. What is NOT OKAY, is for an older man to prey on young girls. That is disgusting, vile and should be addressed as predatory, and not be glorified into some romantic story. Yikes!

So anyway, Ezra and Aria's relationship began when they had met in a bar and ended up in a heated rendezvous in the bathroom. He later finds out that she is his student, and like any 'decent' guy tells her that they should end it. But of course 'it should be wrong, but it feels soooo right' wins over, and he pursues a relationship with her. The sad part is, that people who oppose the relationship, like her parents – both teachers themselves – are villainized and shown to be the horrible people here. And the worst thing? Her mother finally accepts the relationship because she doesn't want to 'lose' her daughter? What kind of nonsense is that? Parents shouldn't give in to such disgusting forms of blackmail by their children. (This statement alone proves how far I have come from when I was younger).

What I forgot to mention is that Pretty Little Liars is a mystery show about four girls and their missing friend. The girls – Spencer (my favourite), Hanna, Emily and Aria are taunted by an anonymous source 'A' who harass them, threaten to leak their secrets and harm them. They are physically, and emotionally blackmailed and hurt. People around them – their parents, love interests, friends...everyone ends up hurt. Sometimes I wonder how these girls are going so strong after facing such trauma. I know I wouldn't.

Anyway, in the mid season finale of season four, it was revealed that Ezra could be one of the contenders for being 'A'. Romantic, right? Okay, I can't overtly judge because one of my favourite characters Toby was revealed to be 'A' as well, but he was just a doube agent, who joined the black hoodied team to protect Spencer. So that is still understandble. All he did was glare and look angry anyway.

Coming to Ezra, throughout the episodes that followed, he was shown to manipulate, threaten and demean the girls. He then tried to start up the relationship with Aria, because he loves her so very much. He tells her that 'this could be our secret' and starts another affair with her in a secluded, secret location. Poor thing, she is so lost in love and so manipulated, that she lets that happen. He convinces her that it is okay she is drifting away from her friends, as they are getting closer. NO. WAY. I really fumed at that. No way is it okay for a person to make their significant other choose them over their friends. It is disgusting. If you all think this is the worst, let me tell you the worst part. Pretty little Mr. Fitz has been SPYING on these girls using surveillance camera's, going through their personal belongings in THEIR HOMES, having cameras in their bedrooms, digging up and threatening to leak out their personal secrets, and so on and so forth.

When Aria FINALLY finds out about this, she runs into the woods, and he chases her, yelling at her as if she was his dog, or something. She is terrified, SCARED out of her wits, and tries to escape, but he strands himself with her on top of a ski lift, when she is screaming for her life. Then he goes on to tell her that he is not trying to harm her or her friends, isn't 'A', but is in fact writing a true crime book about Alison – whom he had an affair with when she was 13 or 14. He also admits that Aria and her friends were 'research' and he had taken the teaching position in their school in order to spy on them and had surveillance cameras set up on them even before the official start up of the show.

With all this new information, we know that Ezra Fitz not only manipulated and stalked Aria and her friends, but he also started an affair with YET ANOTHER MINOR, this time a student. He has been spying on them using cameras, and ruining the lives of not one, but MANY young teenagers.

After this reveal, the writers said that they were worried they wouldn't be able to redeem him, but they want to. I found this very, very disgusting. The previous reveals of 'A' were all of young kids, mostly misguided. But this is a GROWN MAN, who made such vile decisions, took part in the most horrendous activities, lied, manipulated and traumatized the girl he supposedly loves, and he simply isn't being held accountable for his actions. They refuse to let him be seen for what he is – a sick predator, who pries on young girls.

Something else that boils my blood is how much the fans of the couple justify it. They go onto say silly, stupid things like 'he fell in love with his research, it makes them all the more romantic' and 'they will overcome all obstacles and become stronger', when they do not know the kind of horrendous, disturbing idea they are happily endorsing. They do not realize HOW serious the whole issue is, how sick it is. I simply cannot understand this.

Of course, when people like me point this out to the fans, they say that it is 'only fiction' and doesn't have any consequences. Of course it does. People are so easily influenced by fiction, by stories of love and friendship. Many people internalize all this, especially young children, and it is simply NOT OKAY for them to grow up believing that it is normal, or acceptable to tolerate and forgive such vile and traumatizing incidents.

Instead of villainizing the writers, sending them death threats, and bullying the fans who don't support the endorsing of such things, these fans need to realize, wake up and move on. They should realize that them supporting such things makes it look okay to others. Love shouldn't be blind. Love shouldn't make you mix your emotional and logical sides. That is such toxic nature, and these people need to finally come out of all of this, feeling better about what they are supporting. Until then, I shall continue pitying them, and speaking against such horrendous atrocities shown on television. I still have a LOT of respect for the Pretty Little Liars writes, and I hope against hope that they will do the write thing, do justice to Aria's character, and not try to please the angry fans. Ultimately, the show is to be known as a really good mystery show, not something that endorsed an abusive relationship, Gossip Girl style.

I am a writer. Hence I write.

Words hold a power like nothing else. To write is to create life. I have always been fascinated by writing and reading. A bibliophile since I was a little kid, writing came almost naturally to me. This is not to say that I am an exceptional writer or something, but to say that the habit, the art, it is like breathing to me. Easy and necessary.

What I love about writing is that it is a way of creating life. There is a quote that goes 'If a writer falls in love with you, you'll never die.' That concept of immortalizing someone with mere words is such a wonderful idea. It is also a really powerful feeling, a warm gush that passes through me as I write out something.

Writing is more than just a hobby for me. It is a lifestyle. Even though I don't do it everyday, it is essential for my survival. There are a few days when the urge to write is so strong that I forget to pay heed to my poor, aching, tired body and write till 5 am in the morning, conveniently forgetting that I have to go out with my parents in a few hours. But at that moment, the moment I am writing, all of that is forgotten. My mind is only focused on the characters and the stories I am trying to tell.

Many a times, I have a set plan in my mind before I start writing. There is always a beginning, a middle and an end. When I feel like it, I even have scene by scene descriptions, so all I have to do is actually pen down the words and write it. Many a times, this doesn't work. As I start writing, my characters, who I have just given birth to, decide that they don't want to go in the direction that I had planned for them. Going in the intial direction comes across as very forced and unrealistic in comparison to the direction the characters want to go in.

I still haven't understood how this works. Even though they are my creations, essentially, they break free from my shackles and truly live. It is one of the most miraculous, wondrous things about writing. Until one experiences it, they will never know how it feels. Even though at times I feel a little annoyed at how little I am sticking to the main plot, I also feel a gush of pride as my characters – my babies – decide to step out onto the world and be brave and overall awesome. I actually feel like a proud mother.

Apart from the sheer magic of writing, what I love so much about is how it lets me express my feelings eloquently. I have never been much of a verbal person – in the sense I am not very convincing verbally – so this medium has been everything to me. Many a times, I use it to communicate and convey messages that would otherwise never have gotten across. Also, it has also helped many people understand me when they read what I have written, because my writing is always from my soul.

With all of that said and done, I hope that one day I have the courage and talent in order to convert this passion of mine into a profession. I don't think I would be happy doing anything else. In fact, I don't think I can do anything else. Writing has always been my endgame, and I hope that with all the hardwork I put in, I finally make something out of it one day.

My favourite fictional characters

Anyone who knows me also knows that I live, breathe and sleep fictional characters. Most of the time, they are much closer to me than real people themselves are. Over the years, I have been drawn to many fictional characters. As time progressed, some of them have become clear favourites of mine. Here are my top 6 fictional characters:

  1. Fred and George Weasley (Harry Potter): The famous Weasley twins. Aah! How I love them. I've always been attracted to those characters that have a sense of humour, and speak sarcasm as a language. Wit and humour are two important parts of my life, and these twins literally embody those personality traits. Harry Potter is set in the middle of a great war – equivalent to that of a world war in our world. In such desperate times, these twins try their best to make people laugh, and refuse to crumble to any kind of pressure. They maintain an admirable kind of strength, as they try to find the silver lining in such bleak circumstances as well. This to me is very admirable, hence there is no way these twins wouldn't have made it onto this list of mine.

  1. Toby Cavanaugh (Pretty Little Liars): Most of the times in fiction, a traumatic childhood is an excuse for a character to transcend into the realms of darkness. These somehow become justifications for the cruel acts that they conduct. What I love so much about Toby Cavanaugh is how he breaks that stereotype, and becomes a good man, even so much that he is the moral compass of the show. After suffering a traumatic adolescence by having to deal with sexual abuse, time in juveline deliquency for a crime he didn't commit, running away, being charged for a murder and extreme bullying, Cavanaugh never stepped onto the dark side. He stood firmly on the ground, being rooted in his morals and goodness. One more thing I love about him is how loyal he is. Without a doubt, he is one of the most loyal characters on the show. The unflinching ability he shows to put his loved one above him is remarkable.

  1. Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy): I have never been able to resist reading books that have a strong female protagonist. Rose Hathaway is perhaps one of the strongest female characters out there. The best thing about Rose is how her life revolves around protecting her best friend, instead of any love interest. It is so refreshing to read a story that is so deeply rooted in friendship. Rose is a very loyal friend, someone who never hesitated to put herself between herself and her friend. Even though she has to esentially give up her choice of life for her best friend, she rarely complains and does her duty very well. To top it off, she probably a quick tongue, and is sarcastic at the drop of a hat.

  1. Finnick Odair (The Hunger Games): Sigh. If there is one character death I will never be over, it is that of Finnick Odair. The very popular, 'sex symbol' of the fictional town of Panem won my heart the minute he made his entrance. But what actually made me love his character so much is how layered he is. While initially he appears to be the comic relief, as one continues reading and unraveling him, you know just how deep Finnick Odair is. Not only was he forced into prostitution in order to protect his family, he also had to go into the arena for the second time. He nearly lost it when he was separated from his one true love Annie Cresta, who was feared to be tortured by the evil President Snow. His character goes through so many transformations, that it is a delight to read. And watch.

  1. Stiles Stilinski (Teen Wolf): Way before I started watching Teen Wolf, I had heard a lot about it from my friends. Most of what I heard was about this so called sarcastic little character, Stiles Stilinski. Out of curiosity, I finally gave it a try and let me tell you, it changed my life. Okay, not literally, but it did. Because in all my years of reading or watching television, I have never found a character I have related to as much as I do Stiles. He is, in every single way, a male version of me. Everything ranging from his social awkwardness to his sarcasm and loyalty, it is all me.

  1. Spencer Hastings (Pretty Little Liars): There is no character that I love more than Spencer Hastings. In fact, I admire her so much that I hope that one day I would be able to be as amazing and wonderful as her. I love that they have broken all kinds of stereotypes with her character. She is hands down the most intelligent character of the show, and constantly displays her nerdy side. Yet, this doesn't stop her from being feminine or dressy or girly. Fiercely independent, Spencer Hastings refuses to ask for help or make herself vulnerable. Yet, she is shown to be in a deeply committed relationship. All these polarizing factors is what makes me love her so much. She isn't an extreme of any particular trope, but a mix of everything.

A moment of clarity

A few months ago I had read an article that said the earth and the universe were to cease to exist in many millions of years. The time for the End was far way, and would probably never affect me at all, but that got me thinking. What is the point of this all? Of this life and everything we do? Of the books we write and the movies/documentaries we make? Of history? When history itself will become a history that will just disappear due to intergalatic activities, what is the true point of it?

It was a bit discouraging, that thought. I have always been a highly motivated person who wanted to write books that would keep generations happy and engaged. I have always wanted to make a long lasting impact, one that would remain even after I die. But this discovery made me falter in my steps. If everything were to just end, so would my stories. So will everything I have done, even if people continue carrying it, because those people themselves would be gone.

I began to question everything at that point. The rut and gut of life. The fierce competition to be the first. Running from one's house to get the early morning bus. Standing in line at 6 am to get the newest installation in a beloved series of books. Everything. Is there a meaning to it all? Will it finally amount to anything? Even if it does, isn't it going to end anyway? Permanently this time? Then what is the point?

I was in the middle of applying for my post graduate studies, and they required for me to write many stories and creative samples. As I wrote those and completed them, they filled me with an inexplicable warmth and satisfaction, that it is difficult to pin it down by words. They filled me with fire, raging, passionate fire, that motivated me to move forward, to push forward. I felt so happy, so proud of myself, that it was like as I was unstoppable.

Every friday, my family and I sit in the living room and have fun. We talk, we eat, we play games. I live for those moments, because I cannot explain the feeling I get then. It is surreal, something out of the world. At those times, we forget all the trials and tribulations in the world, our difficulties and personal issues and just laugh. My family probably doesn't even know how much those fridays mean to me, but they are my life. Nothing can compare to that.

One friday, after writing a sample I was particularly proud of, I sat down with my family at 5 in the evening simply to discuss something college related. This escalated to a lot more, as my sister started reading zodiac traits and all of us pondered over it, often breaking into uncontrollable laughter at reading about the various quirks all of us have. I had been planning on holing up in my room and reading, but that friday, I simply couldn't get up from the sofa in my living room. We laughed and we enjoyed. It was the time our lives.

That was when it struck me, the meaning of life. Even though it has a beginning and an end, it is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Life is made up of so many various moments that make it worthwhile. These moments might be so drastically different like feeling a surge of self worth for accomplishing something and spending time with those that you love. Regardless, they are moments worth living for. It doesn't matter if it ends, because ultimately, everything ends. Nothing lasts forever, and it is good to embrace this fact. It doesn't matter if the human race gets extinguished, or that no one will remember. But you know what? That doesn't change the truth.

That the human race thrived in their time on earth. They lived and they died and they cried. They accomplished so many different things, some, miraculous even. Ups and downs, happiness and sadness. Ultimately that is the beauty of the truth. Despite having an end, this race lived a wholesome, amazing, fantastic life. A journey of a lifetime. And maybe they did become stories in the end, but as said in Doctor Who, “We are all stories in the end. Just make sure it is a good one.”

It is HER story (The JK Rowling debacle)

 am probably going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but I believe J.K. Rowling has every right to say whatever she wants about her books. To many, this might seem like a blind fan supporting everything she does, but to be honest, it is not. I consider myself a writer, and there are many times I read my old stories and feel like I could have gone a different way. Even though it is done and dusted, it is still my story. Without me, these stories wouldn't have gotten to anyone else.

Similarly, Harry Potter is JKR's story. The entire wizarding world is something she came up with. Harry, Ron and Hermione are probably like her own children. Even though she told it a particular way once, doesn't mean she can't regret it or feel like it could have gone another way. She has the right to feel that way, and in my humble opinion, she has every right to talk about it too.

One of the major debates by people is that by saying that Hermione should have ended up with Ron, it is a statement that puts down the character of Ron. I have seen many internet forums where people talk about Ron's severe self esteem issues and how he has always felt second best in his life. Then they go onto say how 'getting' Hermione had made him feel very good and as if he was finally worth something. A supporting argument was how a Harry-Hermione ending would be too bad because Harry couldn't 'have everything'.

What I find problematic about both the above statements is that they are reducing the role of Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age to a mere prop that a male character 'gets'. Her choice is completely taken away from her. While making such statements, people are forgetting Hermione's role in the books is not a prize, not to improve Ron's self esteem or 'complete' Harry.

In doing so, they are stripping away what her character stood for, and making it about her romantic choices. While Harry Potter did deal with the concept of love, it has always been beyond that. I have reread the books a multiple times, and yet I haven't felt intrigued or enticed by any of the love stories – except perhaps the tragic love story between Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, but that is a story for another day. The books majorly dealt with bravery, FRIENDSHP, loyalty, courage and the strength to fight for what you believe in.

Hermione has been an emobodiement of all of the above. She erased her parent's memories, sent them to Australia, made them forget her, all so that they could be safe. She didn't think twice of doing that in order to save her family and help Harry, her best friend. She is also extremely intelligent, someone without whom Harry or Ron wouldn't have lasted. Like almost EVERYONE in the books has stated, she is the brightest witch of her age, and instead of focusing on that, people are focusing on her love life. I simply do not understand it.

Hermione had a huge role in saving the wizarding world. She fought bravely and strongly. Even after Ron left Harry, she did not. She stood by him through thick and thin, and always did what was right, even though some of those choices fell into the 'tough love' category. Through every bit of hardship she faced, she was loyal, unflinchingly so. So why can't people start talking about this?

I have never been a fan of the Ron/Hermione pairing. Despite reading the books so many times, that is one thing I could never get into (along with the Harry/Ginny pairing). To me, the two were simply incompatible and wouldn't have lasted in the long run. A lot of their relationship seemed forced to me. Especially how insensitive they have been to each others needs over the years. I just didn't see it working out. So naturally, I was happy to hear that Rowling had acknowledged that. She had said that she had them end up together for very personal reasons, and not because of any literary value. I completely understand this, because I have been there.

While writing something a while ago, I had a plan in my mind. Character A and B had to end up together, while A, B and C were to be friends. As I wrote the story, I felt a tug between B and C, a natural chemistry which I conveniently ignored to follow the idea that was set in my mind. A and B. After I finished writing, I realized that I wasn't very happy with the outcome. Though the story had come out well, I had refused to listen to what the characters wanted to do, and stuck to my original outcome. I ignored the very natural chemistry between B and C, and made sure there was nothing romantic between them. I didn't go back and change it, but the thought always stayed with me.

Now this doesn't mean that I necessarily agree with Rowling's thought that Harry and Hermione was suited for each other. I find their relationship way too platonic for anything romantic to happen. In fact, I love the Hermione/Independence pairing or if she had to be with a man, it would be a much reformed, equally intelligent Draco Malfoy. Yes, I am sucker for the bad boy turns good because the good girl inspires him kind of stories. Anyway, that is not the point. The point is, as a writer, when one is stuck with a few predetermined plots in mind, it is difficult to deter it. Sometimes the characters take life of their own and decide to go their own way, and it's a little difficult to stop them. But sometimes there are a few arcs we so desperately want to write, that it might not come out the way it should.

And it is okay to feel regret over it. It totally is.

So what I am ultimately saying is, that at the end of the day, Rowling is the creator of Harry Potter. Those are her books, her stories. She is allowed to feel regret for any arc she created. She is allowed to express it. Those are her books, and instead of complaining and whining about it, one should learn to be thankful and grateful for the woman who gave us all of it.

Also, people need to focus on other aspects of Hermione Granger's life, as she is the best character on Harry Potter, and should not be defined by her romantic choices.

And yes. Stop with the mockery and jibes at Queen Rowling. As Hagrid told the Dursleys, do not insult J.K. Rowling in front of me. Unless you want to grow a pig tail, that is. Then, you may do so. By all means.  

The Reading Life

Somebody once asked me why I read as much as I do. At first, I was appalled at having being asked that question, because to me, reading was an absolute necessity in life. What is life without books that keep you up all night? I never understood why certain people dismiss reading as a 'boring activity' or said that they didn't want to be 'nerdy'. What is 'nerdy' about getting going on adventures and journeys without moving an inch? What is so boring about characters that eventually become your friends? In my opinion, nothing.

As I was reading a book the other day, one of the characters had said a quote that stuck with me, and resonated deeply within me. He said 'I read to know that I am not alone'. And then it made all the sense in the world to me. While reading was one of my favourite pleasurable activities, there had always been something more to it. It wasn't just a hobby or something that I did. All my life, I have felt like I don't belong anywhere. I was the odd one out. Always. And after reading that quote, it just made complete sense.

Reading gave me the wholeness, the sense of identity and belonging that I have always craved for. In so many ways, it taught me to be okay with myself and gave me the confidence and self assurance that I have today. When I read a book, the characters become my friends. I bask in their glory, I laugh when they are happy and cry when they are unhappy. They aren't just fictional characters. They are my friends, the best ones that I have ever had.

The deaths of my favourite fictional characters affect me as much as a real person's does. In fact, after I read about Finnick Odair's death, I simply went numb and into shock, so much that I didn't even eat. That was a year ago, but even recently, I had woken up at three am and cried because I remembered it.

To most, I would be sounding like someone who needs a reality check, but I think I am doing completely fine like this. As much as the angst and pain in books hurt me, the happiness and good things make my heart beat faster. I have found myself feeling inexplicably happy, laughing until by ribs ache after reading something deliciously wonderful or bone tickling funny. These books represent life to me. They have the good times and the bad times, but ultimately, it is a journey. A journey that I would love to live to the fullest.

When I am talking about books, I cannot ignore J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. That book has shaped my life in the truest sense. It has been so influential in my life and the decisions that I make that I simply cannot hear anything against it. Her books shaped my childhood. They taught me the true meaning of friendship, bravery, loyalty, courage, love and family. It was the right guide for me at such a tender age, and I am so grateful for it. Even now, I feel so happy to learn more information about the Potter world, anything that Queen Rowling graciously provides for us. It is larger than life for me, and I will always hold it up in high regards.

Okay. Enough with the heavy duty stuff. In simple words, reading is fun. You get to fight evil wizards, take down a totalitarian government, be related to Greek and Roman Gods, protect your vampire best friend, all by simply turning a few pages. Isn't that fascinating? Once you read a good book, you aren't the same. The experiences that the characters go through never leave you. They become a part of you, as if it is something you have experienced. And in many ways, you have. Not getting to do all of that, having to live a...err...mundane life – now that seems awfully boring to me.

So next time you go around insulting people who read, or call them insane things like 'boring' (if there's one thing I am not, it is boring), remember that you are the one at a loss here. By refusing to open your mind and absorb various experiences, you are the one stuck with a boring life. I would rather be off saving the world from Lord Voldemort than shopping anyday.


 What is happiness? It's an emotion. It's a feeling. It's a state of bliss.

It's an endless pursuit which everyone goes through. It is the ultimate end, and everything else is just a means to get to it. Happiness is motivation, a reason to do something. A reason to do everything, in fact. What is life without happiness? Nothing. Happiness is life.

Happiness gives meaning to everything in this world. What would this world and this existence mean without happiness? It would be dark, and morbid. Terrifying and cruel. It would be death. Happiness is life. Happiness is also death. Because from all creation comes destruction, and from all destruction comes creation. It's a cycle. So happiness is even death.

Happiness is spending a Friday evening with your family, laughing away to glory while you play Truth or Dare. It is the friendly competition with the mother and father on one side and the sisters on the other. It is the heart to heart talks you have around the dinner table. It is the surreal joy in your heart when you realize you have people you would die for. It is a cycle. It is happiness.

Happiness is seeing your best friend in college and realizing that you have a sister in spirit on whom you can completely rely on, and be fully vulnerable in front of. Happiness is the lazy afternoons spent in Pizza Hut, binging away to glory, and the comfortable silences at home that needed no defining. The television shows you marathon from two different homes and obsess over later on.

Happiness is staying up all night reading a book despite droopy eyes and a tired body. It is the thrill you get when the heroine breaks free of the shackles holding her back, and saves herself. It is the stolen moments between classes when you sneak in your favourite book, shutting yourself from the rest of the world. It is something you cannot explain. It is happiness.

Happiness is seeing the photos of your baby niece who lives so far away. Happiness is the dull ache you get in your heart for being able to love someone so much without even having seen them in person. It is the way your heart opens when you hear her voice over the phone. Happiness. Happiness. Happiness.

Happiness is getting a good grade, and realizing your hard work paid off. It is the self worth that comes along with it, and the celebrations that follow. People might call you a nerd, but they just haven't experienced that happiness yet. Beautiful, brightly glowing happiness.

Happiness is seeing your favourite fictional character be happy for a change. It is seeing her with the love of her life, just being ordinary people without the weight of world on them. It is a feeling that most might not understand. It is love in it's own way, because it is h a p p i n e s s.

Happiness is the hug your mother gives you despite hating hugs, just because she knows how much it means to you. It's all the afternoons spent on gossipping about evil relatives and stupid customs. It is about the scandalous jokes made that no other mother and daughter would make. Knowing that she considers you to be someone who understands her, and someone she can talk to? Happiness. Happiness is knowing your mother would love you no matter what, and that feeling means more to you that you can comprehend. IT IS HAPPINESS.

Happiness is the unflinching loyalty and belief your father has in you. You know you can go and slaughter an entire nation and he'd love you all the same. Happiness is the comfort you get in knowing that you had an amazing, humble and wonderful father to grow up with, and see him treat your mother will all the love in the world. Happiness is knowing that this makes you know exactly what you are worth and you don't have to settle for any less.

Happiness is the games you have played with your sister. Even Flappy Bird. Especially Flappy Bird. It is feeling proud of her and rooting for her to win the game, even when you failed long ago. It is knowing that she is going to grow up to become an amazing woman, and change the world, and she doesn't even know it yet. Happiness is knowing you have a friend in her, and always will. True happiness.

Happiness is talking to your favourite cousin sister after ages, and still feel the same. It is remembering the one true companion you had since your birth. Happiness is all the times the family reunions became bearable because of her presence. It is all the cute actors you ogled over together, and the pranks you played on each other. Good memories. All of it, is happiness.

Happiness is writing something that fills you with warmth, a fuzzy feeling you can't even pen down. Happiness is the pride you feel on finishing it, and realizing it is actually good. It is your mother reading it and saying she loves it, and that she had a lump in her throat. It is her saying your late grandfather would have felt the same. It is self worth. It is happiness.

Happiness is all those wonderful mornings, evenings, afternoons and nights spent by yourself in your room, doing whatever you want, feeling peaceful and content. Happiness is going to Landmark by yourself deciding not to spend a money, and walking out with so many books that your old bag might tear. Happiness is typing away on your laptop, not knowing where exactly you're going. It is knowing how comfortable you are in your own skin, in your own company. Happiness is the blissful feeling of solitude.

And most of all, happiness is finishing this and realizing you have so much to live for. It is the happy tears that roll down your cheeks because you have people who love you so much, and people you love so much. Happiness is the calm that has now spread over you because you aren't as alone or lost as you thought. You have hope, you have people. You have happiness.