Monthly Archives: December 2015

My 2015 Reading List: The Top 5

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This is such a delightful surprise! When I wrote Desert Flower, I had no intention of writing a romantic tale. I actually meant to describe the heat in Bahrain. Before I knew it this romantic story jumped onto the pages and wouldn’t let me go until it was done. And here it is gaining accolades… some things are meant to be.

D.M. Miller

Now that 2015 is coming to a close, I thought I’d put together a list of the top five most powerful books I’ve read throughout the year. (F.Y.I., this is a list of books I had the good fortune of coming across in 2015, but some were actually published in 2014.)

Though my eyes have scanned the pages of all sorts of genres to broaden my horizons and to support fellow authors, I simply cannot help but return to what intrigues me the most: love, religion and the Middle East. Anything else falls short. I don’t want fluff, dense yet empty, flowery language, or some pretty tale with the sole purpose of escapism. Sure, it has its place, but for me, while I am transported to another world, it’s important to be challenged both mentally and emotionally while also entertained. The following books encompass everything I could hope for in…

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An honourable mention

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Every now and then I wonder if my writing really cuts it. I know I’m not alone. From what I understand, all writers go through these self-doubts. They wonder, doubt, throw in the towel, pace the floor, read another writer’s words and say, “wow I wish I could write like that!”

To try and reassure myself I try and enter writing competitions. For the most part these are an expensive proposition as there are entry fees, waiting times, the nerves… and so I can’t and don’t enter that many.

For a long time now, I’ve been meaning to enter one or more of Morgen Bailey’s writing competitions. Last month I finally did. I didn’t win. The story that did, is one of those that elicit that response, “I wish I could…”

But, I am pleased to say, that the two entries I submitted received an ‘honourable mention’. For the moment that’s encouraging. I shall soon take one of Morgen’s online courses appropriately on Entering Writing Competitions.

Let’s hope I fare better next time.

The theme was ‘Fireworks’

Story 1: Dinnertime

Ma’s hand outstretched, indicating a dish. So busy talking, scolding, she can’t stop the stream of consciousness flowing from her mouth.

Meals at our home were like that. Ma at the ‘boss’ end of the table, Papa at the head. It must have been the head; guests sat next to him, when they visited or dropped in and were asked to ‘stay, there’s plenty,’ while we were told FHB (Family Hold Back).

Pa, eyes twinkling mischief, reaches across, shakes her hand, says, “Pleased to meet you.”

Ma, dumbstruck, silent.

We laugh, we laugh, until the lights are sparklers, gilding memories.

Story 2: Adamantine Anger

A tiny diamond in a silver ring, it caught the light, like a thousand twinkling stars, or snatched rays of sunlight shattering them into a kaleidoscope, the aching carbon screaming in silent agony at the exquisite pain of its creation. Its fury was a thing distilled – a jinn in a jewel prepared to battle humankind.

She entered the store. The diamond slung its lasso of light; caught her eye. “This one,” she whispered, slipping it on her finger. A facet slashed her thumb, and poison shot into her heart.

“One down” the jinn sniggered; laughter exploding into a myriad lights.

This is wonderful

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The rains in Chennai have been devastating. The stories and news of one disaster after another including, among other things, the exorbitant price of milk, lack of drinking water, the litany is long and for the moment looks like it has no end.

However, as often happens at times like this there is good news too. The news of people helping people. In spite of everything, here’s a story that was shared on my email that was truly heartwarming.

Here is the email, reproduced from the original,

From Biju Verghese The Spirit Of Chennai

While the entire nation is debating on the “Non-sense” called “Intolerance”, there is humanity at its best in Chennai. I can tell this for sure because, I stay in Qatar and my family (wife and 2 kids aged 11 and 7) are in Chennai. With all the floods and problems, I am getting the message from them, “We are safe”.

 In the wake of calamity, Chennai is “One”. It  has only one religion, “Humanity”; It has only one enemy, “Water”; there is only one aim “Help”. And they did it in style. When they were offering help, they didn’t ask whether you are “Hindu” or a “Christian” Or a “Muslim”. They didn’t ask whether you are “Rich” or “Poor”. They didn’t ask whether you are a “Tamlian”, “Malayalee”, “Telugu”, “Kannadiga” or “North Indian”. Only one question they asked; “Do you need any help?”

 The rich people; my neighbors who never interacted with anybody in the neighborhood in last 4  years; opened the gates of their huge house. The man stood outside and welcomed people to his house. “We will eat whatever we have. We will share whatever we have. You can stay here until the water recedes”; that all he had said.. He accommodated around 35 people in his house. He is a Hindu Brahmin. He provided mat for the Muslims to do Namaz. He allowed Christians to pray in his Pooja room.

 There were volunteers outside helping people to reach safe places. They used anything and everything as tool; until the army people reached. Once the experts came, they gave the leadership to the more experienced and helped them to help others.

My wife told me that, there were group of people going through the streets with neck deep water and asking “Sir / Madam, do you need any help?” In front of every house. They provided whatever help they can and they distributed food and essentials. There were groups providing cellphone batteries for 5 minutes to anybody who want to talk.

 I have seen people fight for food when there is a calamity. Even the most modern countries, when there is a calamity, people fight for food. They think only about themselves at that time. But, when the food was distributed in Chennai, it was calm. People stood in queues and they have given food for the people who are not able to stand in queues (elderly, mothers and kids). They brought boats. They made temporary rafts and just went on helping people. On top of all these things, this is what my kids are seeing. This is what they are learning. How to help each other at the time of need. It goes straight into their brain. The images gets implanted there. And then, when there is another calamity, they know what to do.. How to survive. How to get help and how to help others… This is what I want my kids to learn.. Humanity, without boundaries….There is no wonder that, Chennai is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has survived everything thrown at it.. It will definitely remain so for ever. They are united. They can beat anything.. They can survive anything… I am a proud Chennaite… I will never forget this in my life! A city which gave me and my family safety in the hour of need.. Thank you Chennai!.. Thank you Indian Army! Thanks you India!!!

I remember more than 40 years ago there was a flood in Mumbai (worse than usual) and we saw the same thing: people in neck deep water helping others with inflatable tire inserts if one couldn’t swim.I was there and this happened to me, this is no third person account! I could swim but the water was filthy like you wouldn’t believe.

It is true, when a major calamity hits I think most people rise to their highest level of humanity. And that is comforting to see and know. My son was in New York during 9/11 and the support and fellowship shown by so-called hardened New Yorkers blew him away. We saw the same in Japan a few years ago. It really is wonderful to be able to post a ‘feel good’ story right now.

God bless everyone in need. And may God help us all.

 

Visions of sugarplums

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dreamstime_s_62745608Once upon a time I had a nephew, he is still my nephew, but no longer the little boy he once was, with wonder in his eyes and a lively curiosity surging through his mind. He’s all grown up now and it’s a rare thing to occasionally see that old spark of amazement at the miracle of life flash through his eyes.

Age is the Scrooge of life that takes away our sense of awe, the ability to see a world in a grain of sand and hold infinity in one’s palm. Back then my nephew believed in witches and wizards, in magic and the truth of Santa Claus.

As often happens a day came when he challenged the existence of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and the vision of sugarplums crashed to the floor. He was rather young for that to happen so soon and I wanted so much to see his sense of wonder again.

“Of course Santa Claus is real!” I declared.

“How can he be everywhere on the same night?” he challenged me, “I know Papa or someone dresses up and pretends to be Santa.”

I was afraid those sugarplums would never dance again. So I put on my best storytelling hat and looked at him in earnest. “I’ll tell you a secret,” I whispered. “It certainly appears to be that Papa, or your grandfather or someone seems to dress up as Santa, but here’s the thing. As they slowly wear those clothes, something happens deep inside their hearts and minds. When the inside vest comes on, they’re smiling, thinking ‘Oh what fun’, but by the time the red warm flannel coat is worn and the big black belt is strapped on, the spirit of Santa Claus enters their minds and then they are no longer Papa or someone else, they become Santa Claus. Just look into Santa’s eyes tonight and tell me if there isn’t a different twinkle in his eyes.” With that I left him to think about it.

Santa arrived to the family’s raucous renditions of Silent Night and Hark the Herald. Of course he couldn’t come down the chimney in India, so with a thumping on the door and a jingling of bells he called out, “Have the children here been naughty or nice?”

I caught my nephew’s eyes; they were shining like stars of wonder. Whether he believed in Santa or not, he was excited about his Christmas gifts. The jolly old man entered and was feted. His voice was loud and booming, his belly shook like a jelly. And then it was time for the magic… presents!

I hugged my nephew, “Look in his eyes,” I reminded him. When his name was announced he rushed up and gave Santa the obligatory kiss on his cheek but he did look in his eyes. He rushed back to show his present to his parents – no it wasn’t his dad that year.

Then he came across to me. “So who was it?” I asked.

“Santa!” he said, a wonderful smile spreading across his face, his eyes sparkling, “It can’t be papa, he’s here!”

“Did his eyes twinkle?”

“They did!”

“Do you think the spirit of Santa was in him, then?”

“Yes!” he declared.

And for another year at least, Santa was real.

It is many years since that Christmas so long ago and he probably doesn’t remember this little story of mine, but the other day he posted a photograph with his baby son in his arms. And I swear I could see sugarplums dancing in his eyes again. dreamstime_xs_34782724