Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Girls of Riyadh- Reviewed

For the uninitiated, it’s the book by Rajaa Alsanea that I am talking about. If there’s anything else you were thinking then emm.... Poof! I sense your disappointment. Hehe. Well rest assured reading any further is not going to be worth your while :P

In my opinion, what Girls of Riyadh did to Saudi Arabia is the exact same as what Slumdog Millionaire did to India.....Brought in a whole lot of limelight but sadly, for all the wrong reasons as they both addressed a class of people that the majority thought as inconvenient truths, at best ignored if not effectively concealed. *Course India’s case not possible yaara...I mean where will you hide’s all right there bang on for your swaagat in plain view from the Raashtreeya hawaai addaa!*

Yes yes focus. Haa so let me tell you I have never been more excited about reading a book as I was about this one. Firstly, because it’s about a set of people who live just four hours away from the place I was brought up *Love thy neighbour and all.... you know na how it is!*
And secondly, the controversy surrounding it and a whole 3 year ban it faced in Saudi Arabia. So naturally you start to think ki yaar ye hai kya cheez!

Right so the book borrowed *duh!* and me all set to read, the first three quarter of the book, let me tell you was beyond awesome. A perfect narrative, an instant connect, little cute honest love stories and most importantly the sense of elation I felt at knowing stuff others might take a while to grasp *believe me it rarely everrrrr happens with me, so kindly put up as I gloattt*. All was in order, until a terrible thing happened.*sad eyes*
I fell asleep.

And even in my sleep, I kept imagining what may happen further in the book to the main characters as the story progresses.

Next dayyyyyyyyyyy unfortunately, nothing thereon ever took off. The smooth ride so far went all glub glub glub underwater.

The book is about four girls who are all starry eyed at the thought of louuuuve. The story revolves around their love lives set in the backdrop of Arabian customs and practices that are stringent to say the least.

The positive of the book is the format of writing; as in a narrator who sends weekly emails to random people telling the real stories of four of her friends. I thought the idea was pretty unique. Also, the characters of all girls are very likeable and not particularly *oh I think I broke my nail* kinda vain and stoopid.

The downside however is the fact that there are just wayyyy too many make ups and break ups so by the end you get confused as to who was with whom as suddenly people from the past start to pop up in the plot.

Also, a lot of parts in the story seemed like more than being bold about the truth of society, it was trying to be loud and sensationalise for the sake of striking as different, by blaring the pitfalls and extremist views.
For instance if one girl liked to wear the abaaya/ burkha, it was covered in a sentence; but if another thought it ugly, 2 pages were expressly devoted to that. Know what I mean?

Another thing was the end, which I thought was extremely abrupt, without giving a logical conclusion as to what happened about the girls, given the idea itself was to talk of their love life. It almost gave the impression like the author got really bored and wanted to end it at the earliest.

One thing I couldn’t follow though was the character traits of all the men in the story. They seemed designed without a backbone, extremely fickle, hugely dependent on family ties and too afraid to stand up for their love without adequate reason. All of them! Strange no?

On the whole, a good read, a unique story....the culture part though needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as it seemed a little biased for hype.

P.S. - If you happen to be a girl nursing a fresh break up, this one isn’t for you my dear, cos it may make you dislike men in general for long, and particularly men in Riyadh for life. :-)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Humsafar- Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

As he held her in his arms, she felt herself disregard everything; the pain, the wait or even the anxiety of whether she had exceeded her tenets by a whisker. If only that one moment would last for eternity.

Her intestines cringed with anticipation of the likely outcome as seconds ticked past and nothing happened. They just stood looking at each other in a peaceful frigid land.

One hundred steps it was.

And now for the first time Nysa realised that she had been so absorbed in attaining the goal, so focused in getting to him, that the thought of what she may say when she met him never occurred to her at all. Somehow the feat itself had seemed so incredibly challenging that her imagination never chanced upon her course of action once it had been accomplished.

But the moment had arrived and she didn’t know what to say. What puzzled her though was the look on his face. Marquiz didn’t quite bear a questioning expression. It was rather a knowing gaze. How come?

He had seen her from the time she was a chirpy little girl with wide eyes that wondered at every little mystery of life, to the time she had grown into a demure young woman who lowered her gaze every time a piece of history about him was related. From the time she had looked at him; looked and looked with starry eyes, unaware that he had looked back.
He had known it all along. And he had yearned for her, just as she had for him.

It wasn’t meant to be, he had often thought;He was just another soul lost in space, he had often thought; His love was feeble and handicapped, he had often thought....but he hadn’t accounted for what her love could do for him.

If he was her prize, she was his pride.

As she stuttered to how she may open a sentence and what best to say, he placed his hand on her lips. He fretted what silence had spoken for so many years; words may under cast living up, to the same eloquence.

The feat having been completed, the spell broke and they found themselves in the same old cave. She had brought him back with her. The person she wanted to introduce to her father, the person she loved, the only person she had ever dreamt of a ‘happily ever after’ with.....

Marquiz couldn’t help but endear her restrained vulnerability; and held out her tiny slippers for her...... The ones she couldn’t have done without in the past, the ones she had forgotten all about now. To her soft smile, he melted feeling like the luckiest man ever to have lived.

And yet again, the same thought crossed his mind,

“Main to mar jaaoo agar sochne lag jaaoo usey
Aur woh kitni sahoolat se mujhe sochti hai

Kitni khush-fahem hai wo shakhs ke har mausam main
Ek naye rukh, nayi soorat se mujhe sochti hai

Main to mehdood se lamho main mila tha us-se
Phir bhi wo kitni wazahat se mujhe sochti hai!”*

*sahoolat- convenience, khush-fahem- optimistic, rukh- face, soorat- form, mehdood- constrained, lamho- moments, wazahat- in a detailed/ meticulous way.

*************THE END************

Rinaya Jena for tagging me at ‘time travel’

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Humsafar- Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Nysa steadily placed her palm on the surface of the mirror, and whispered his name, ‘Marquiz’. She had said it a hundred times in her head, but as she said it aloud, it sounded outright different to her ears; as if she was hearing it for the first time ever.

But there was little time to ponder over these trivialities, as no sooner had she uttered his name, she was swept away by a strong wind all into a haze of white. As she adjusted to the sudden whirl and subsequent inertia, her eyes took in the blaring whiteness everywhere. It was a land of clouds and mist, where she could see not what lay inches ahead of her, and the floor was a sheet of bland crushed ice. As her feet touched the floor, a tremble reached all through her like raw current.....She tottered and shuffled her feet by this sudden change in temperature.
1, 2, 3, 4 steps. All in the exact same spot.

The gravity of the situation suddenly occurred to her followed by the loss she had incurred in these few moments of abrupt daze. The next few steps Nysa took straight ahead were more calculated, longer strides with a determination in her eyes.
She was going to do it; and she was going to do it right!

10, 11, 12..........38, 39, 40.
As she walked on, her bare feet froze to a point where its nails turned blue followed by a numbness and she couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore.

All she cared now was numbers that jarred and whirled in her head with a steady pace.

54, 55, 56
Her senses were jammed. The cold had overpowered her so much that the perception of numbers was being shut out by the frost bites that gnawed into her little feet like splinters.

71, 72, 73
The pain surpassed anything she had ever felt before. She profusely rubbed her hands and hugged herself to get some respite from the chilly ambience. Fresh tears stung from her eyes with each step she took.
The only thing that kept her going was the thought of his picture.

85, 86, 87
She couldn’t do it any longer. Her legs gave away under her as she fell to the ground and felt all the life and stamina seep out.
Exhausted and cold, yet her eyes searched for his face in the mist.
And she saw the hazy contour of a person.

It was as though a sudden gust of vigour had been infused into her sagging poise. Like a flash of the finish line had been shoved in her face.
She got up with a fresh heartiness and treaded once again towards the now more pronounced figure of a person.

92, 93, 94
She could see his fine-looking face plainly in sight. The chill didn’t bite her any more. The thrill of looking straight at him superseded the numbness and eased the pain.

97, 98
The heart felt the warmth, but the mind didn’t.
It was aware of its depleted immunity....and it gave away as she crumbled, tripped on her dress and fell.

Marquiz bent over to scoop her and she hobbled on the ground as he helped her up.

99? 100? 101?

To be continued.......*the concluding part :o*

Part 5

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Humsafar- Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

The Magi took Nysa to a little cave in the outskirts of the city. In the cave, they descended a little stairway that led to a small stuffy room which was cluttered with lines of ancient curios. And in one dusty corner, there stood a rusted mirror that had been cracked on the edges but held firmly by a solid silver frame.

He touched the edge of the mirror and explained to her what it really was. It didn’t just show a person’s reflection but was the entrance to a parallel world that was years away from their time. In this, lay the residence of Nysa’s knight in shining armour.

Sparkling with excitement, she asked the Magi how she must enter or find Marquiz from among the teeming millions of yesteryear souls. In her mind, the mirror would take her back in time to when they had existed. The Magi though, cut into her thoughts and explained the details of what was needed to be done.

Though a parallel universe, what lay on the other side of the mirror, wasn’t anything like the life she had seen thus far. To get to the person she wanted, it was mandatory to first lay her palm on the surface of the mirror and then call out his name. The mirror would then take her to a land of ice and mist, with no people around. After this, she must take one step for each year she wanted to transverse.....a 100 steps that meant.

There however were two conditions she must fulfil to complete this ploy.
The first one being, she must walk barefoot throughout the journey.
The second and dicier condition though, was in the event she took even one step more than the stipulated 100, she would be returned to the dungeon in the cave without the ability ever to be able to walk again.
At the distance of a hundred feet stood the man she had wished for. If she must complete getting to him without faltering at any of the covenants, he would return with her to her world. THAT was a promise.

Would she stand the test of love risking her own life? Love for a person she had never even met; and knew not whether he felt anything for her at all?

It was only the power of love that could instil or deter her. And the course she took would decide the face of her destiny.

As those conflicting thoughts entered her mind, she took off her little shiny slippers and felt the scorching heat of the floor in the stifling room. This, Nysa realised, was the first time she had ever kept her foot on the bare ground.

Well this was just the beginning.......the beginning of a lot of un-princessy things that lay ahead.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, a once upon a time prince, with the name Marquiz thought to himself,
Main toh mehdood se lamhon mein mila tha us-se
 Phir bhi woh kitni wazahat se mujhe sochti hai!”*

*mehdood- constrained, lamhon- moments, wazahat- in a detailed/meticulous way
To be continued....

Part 4

Monday, February 7, 2011

Humsafar- Part 2

Here’s the first part in case you missed it :)

What could the dream possibly have meant? Day in and day out, the thought of it dwelled on her mind. She obsessed over it until the possibilities led on to drive her crazy. She imagined his face peering at her from everywhere, she imagined herself talking to him. She blacked out when others spoke to her, only to be lost in his thoughts and smile all day without a reason. She daydreamed of them holding hands and walking through lush fields, laughing together at small silly things; until nothing made sense anymore.
She was incurably falling in a pit of euphoria.....but despite that, she couldn’t confide in anyone.

The king, looking at her restless state, summoned for the kingdom’s Magi to come visit her, in the hope that he may be able to make some sense of his daughter’s now fanatical mood swings.

A man of a portly built; the Magi's persona radiated an aura of mystery. Legend had it that he was recognised for his magical powers and could tell the state of a person’s psyche by taking merely one look at them. A private meeting was arranged for him to be with Nysa.

As she entered the room and sat down, he took one cursory look at her, and bluntly asked, ‘You love him?’
Surprised and unable to contain the bolt from the blue, she almost instantly said a ‘No’.
He raised his hand, looked into her eyes and slowly repeated the same question again.
This time however, she took longer to answer. She pondered over the question. Did she?

The mind had given a firm grounding in the negative of her insane idea of love. However there was another voice that probed her to think it over; to consider her decision just once more. It made her ponder over why then she thought about him all the time, why it gave her so much happiness, why nobody else held any importance when put at par with him. Well, it’s difficult to tell these things with rigidity.

She looked back at the Magi with irresolute eyes, but his calm composure and earnest look led her on to say what she had, in some moments always known, in others unsure, and yet those where she didn't know, didn't believe or was plain confused.
Yes, she loved him. And she said it with conviction.

The Magi looked satisfied with her answer but no sooner had she said that, she poured out all the reasons for it being a nonsensical ‘idea’, her vague dream and the impossibility of it ever coming true. To this he only nodded his head and quoted the relegious text,
Love never fails'

She would have to travel long and labour hard to find him. He could only show her the way. The challenge of pursuing it was hers. Travel back a hundred years, strive to earn his love and bring him back. If she managed that, Marquiz was her prize....for keeps.

Thus began Nysa’s journey..... for and into...

To be continued......
Part 3

Friday, February 4, 2011


Every time Nysa’s father introduced her to a striking gentleman from a royal family, in the hope that she may approve one of the many eligible bachelors presented, her mind raced back to one familiar familiar name, Marquiz.

Each of the many men she met, were full of graces, achievement and chivalry. They opened doors and pulled chairs for her. Each of them was a cut above the other. But none of them held her gaze. Either an ease of familiarity or a mystique in personality was what lacked. But then she wasn’t quite sure of what she wanted in any case.
Must the heart always wrench for the unattainable?

The only daughter of the king as she was, her father was anxious to find a fitting groom who had the capacity to hold the reins of an empire into whose crafting had taken up his entire life. As each father, poor or rich, he too wanted his daughter to have the best of everything. She was free to choose from any kingdom, any man, irrespective of his class or standing. A princess, she was after all!

She had seen him exactly three years ago, when she accidentally chanced upon a less frequented passage in the castle. He was oddly different. Something that spoke of power in his eyes. Something regal in his posture. Something she was unused to seeing.....Enigma?
As it often happens with an infatuation, his was a face she couldn’t forget for some time. The fact that this ‘some time’ extended for a couple of years was alarming. Even worse was the idea, that she unwittingly took each opportunity she could get, at learning every little detail about him.
His name, his family, his gallantry, his story.

As days passed by and Nysa rejected each alliance that was brought forward, the king started to get more apprehensive. He demanded an explanation but she chose to remain silent. What would she say?

That she had fallen in love with the picture of a man who had died a hundred years ago?

It was so ridiculous to even say it; believing was quite out of question. There had to be a way of forgetting that face.

And then one day she had a dream. She dreamt of him walking towards her. His demeanour was a lot different from the picture. But it was the same person alright. All she could make out was his face in the fog and as he approached closer, she caught the spry in his step, the warmth in his eyes and the most disarming smile she had ever seen.
She held his gaze and walked at an unstrained pace towards him. Suddenly she tripped over her dress....One smooth scoop and he helped her up, holding her hand for a second. The next thing she knew, she woke up with a start.

Now the thing about her dreams was.....They came true.
All of them.

To be continued.........
Part 2

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Customer is the dhobi

You know this is what I have noticed lately. Despite all the hungama of after sales services, six sigma, TQM and other fancy terms used by just about every company on the planet, the scenario in our mummy land at least, is ‘p’ for ‘pathetic’! The minute you give your autograph on the credit card bill and the purchase is made, the company wala’s stage a Ghajini act and remove any trace of remembrance they may have ever had of you.

Now though the tag line of the product may say Life’s Good or guaranteed suraksha or lifetime sukh, the company wala’s do just about everything to ensure they make reaching out to them as difficult if not more, than finding a super stud millionaire boy for a crippled Dalit girl.

Here is what the process looks like.

First you need to contact the company, which means finding the manual that needless to say has done the disappearing act right from the day you bought the gadget.

After an hour of searching, you finally find the required papers, with the customer care contact numbers on it and you punch them on your now less trafficked landline. *there’s no telling how long they will ask you to hold the line, you know*. You are almostttt in the mood to celebrate your success at passing one hurdle when you realise the number is busy.

So you try the other number and that’s unavailable, yet another and that obviously has the operator saying something in Tamil which makes you worried if she is unwell.....the translation two minutes later though, makes you realise that the number doesn't even exist! *Panic alert*

Kya kare, kya karee, kya kareeeeeeeeee

One word- helpline.
After telling your name, address and email id for the one hundredth time, answering ridiculous questions like,
'Do you want it for the branch in your city?' *Nahi ji...I was hoping to get one somewhere around Andromeda*.....followed by turning down seductive offers of real estate in Salem, Hosur, Vaniyambadi and a few other unpronounceable God forsaken places, you hang up waiting for the SMS to show up on your phone.
10 minutes later.

Phew! Now you feel like you’re getting somewhere.
With the frisk of a tired winner you punch this fresh set of numbers, hold your breath for a few seconds in anticipation and Voila!
A pre recorded message plays itself for the millionth time to your burning ears.
After the whole- press one, press two, press star, press hash, press my head ordeal, you reach the music stage.

If you are lucky, you get some soothing Beethoven; if however your shani ka prabhaav is bhaari, then God save you! Cos that would pretty much mean you’re stuck listening to some loud obscene Tamil song for the next 20 minutes.

And thennnnn some gentleman or gentlewoman will take your call and even their coarse voice sounds to you like honey. You go wailing about your problems and what do you get? ‘Sorry madam’, coupled with a transfer to another department. The same raag is played a few times until you get hold of the right person who asks for your product number.
If you have it- good!
If you don’t- Buhahaha!

After quoting something that looks like- DSI#37*74#FH49*0FJS#84U, and a promise of 24 hours main service guy haazir, you feel content.

Now wait for the next 10 days anticipating the shubh kadam of this savior to step your ghar ki dehleez.

When he finally decides that it’s time for muh dikhaai, we the product holders are only too happy to have his august presence amidst us. Situation probably demands breaking a few coconuts, asking for chaai thanda, and all that done, when the real work needs to be sorted, this is what you get-

Damn you!

Here are a few real time answers I have received-

*the lousiest service EVER*
Them- Sorry spare parts not available.
Me-HUH!!!!! Now where am I supposed to get them if your company itself doesn't have it?
Them-Try waiting for a few months.
Not even DAYS.....MONTHS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I went to replace the RAM and the guy quoted a price, after which he said if I contacted him outside he would do it for a thousand bucks less.
....and that too such talk in the service centre premises!

Them- Customer care cannot be reached...Try again later.
For An entire week!
They even stole 13 rupees from me!
Will never ever everrrr forget that! Paap lagega, paap!!! :(

Eureka Forbes
Them-Spare parts cannot be replaced under AMC.
Me- But the contract says it DOES include spare parts!
Them- Sorry that is a mistake.
Oh yeah?? Mistake?
Finally wrote an email to the company and they set it right that very day!

Reliance Communications
Me-I broke the teeny meenie antenna. Can you fix it? *sad eyes*
Them- Nope you need to buy a new one.
For 2500 rupees .
Buhooo! Mumme! :(((((

All of the above have definitely become black listed products for me!! Except Vodafone that is.
Waat to still has internet at 98 bucks a month.
Hee some injustices I guess I can adjust with. *sheepish smile* :)