Work in progress.

Work in Progress

Sitting next to my mother in the car, I looked out of the window and I always tried to find the reason behind the things that I witnessed. If there was no logical explanation, I would make up a story letting my imagination run wild. Once I said to my mother that I spent most of my time making up stories for all the things happening around me, no matter how random they were and she told me I should start penning them down. Back then for a kid of eight years old I wasn’t ready to take so many efforts and between all the classes and school; I barely had free time on my hands. My English teacher in the sixth grade told me once that my essays were imaginative and I had a way with words. It was then I felt that maybe I should write down my thoughts and so I made a diary. At first whatever I wrote it didn’t satisfy me, I always felt something was missing but I didn’t stop.  After school I started reading a lot any summary which caught my eye I read that book. It inspired me and I started wondering about my own ideas about the stories, how I would change them or add some things here and there. It was during my twelfth grade finals when I had an idea for a story, the whole plot replayed in my mind till I wrote it down. I sat down every day without fail and in two months time I had completed my first ever story. It had a few grammatical mistakes, my plot wasn’t flawless but I was proud of the fact that I had completed it.  It was then I had discovered my passion for writing.  I never looked back after that.

I started reading a lot of books from different genres from self-published writers to popular ones and it improved my narration in writing. I realized the do’s and don’ts of writing a novel length story. One story which is very close to my heart is not any classic but “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. The story is just so honest in its portrayal of life. It is heart-warming and about ordinary people like me. The characters are so real and you can easily relate to them, they could be someone around you. Though being a fan of happy endings this story justifies the sad end because life is not fair and oblivion is inevitable. This story inspired me to be honest about life and emotions while writing. The other stories by the author also leave an impact on you. Another such writer whom I am a fan of is Khaled Hosseini. His stories tick all the boxes for me. The descriptions about his country Afghanistan are so well written that you can picturize how everything had been before the war and after, while reading. The characters though brave have flaws and like everyone they have done things they aren’t proud of but they try to the right thing. I spend a lot of time reading self-published author’s works on my tablet and even though not all stories are up to the mark some are remarkable. There are a couple of self published authors I have a lot of respect for; A. Meredith Walters, Jamie McGuire and Kirsty Moseley to name a few. Their stories make you laugh, cry, agitated but in the end they always manage to make me smile. These are some writers which inspire me because I wish to write contemporary romances with ease and precision just like them. If I say so myself, I am a hopeless romantic. Writing about two people falling in love and facing ups and downs together is something which excites me as a writer. I read love stories for inspiration but they are also my escape from the reality. Losing yourself in reading and writing soothes my mind and soul. “As a writer you ask yourself to dream while awake” says Aimee Bender which I find very true. I have always been a dreamer often being scolded for my lack of concentration but writing gives me the freedom to dream, to be as creative as I want to be. I want to create characters which in no way are perfect; they have flaws. They all have their own baggage to carry; I want to show character development as the story progress. I am not fond of the characters that seem unrealistically flawless which makes them unrealistic to many readers. “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee is also one of my favourite novels. The story is told through the eyes of children and their innocence is displayed in a wonderful yet subtle manner. This story is inspiring to me because it also has a social message along with a good plot and characters. The characters like Atticus Finch and Calpurnia are strong minded people who couldn’t be defeated by social norms of the time. It’s the kind of writing that is fearless and something I aspire to do.

As a writer, I want to be fearless. I don’t want to hold back my feelings or restrict my creativity in any way. I want my imagination to run as far and wild as my mind allows. What I write is a part of who I am, it is a big part of my identity. I want to take my characters on a ride they and the readers will never forget. I want my work to appeal to emotionally to the readers like books I read appeal to me. I want them to laugh, cry, and even hate along with my protagonists. “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to split open.” says Natalie Goldberg. This is what I hope to achieve. To write what I want, how I want without holding anything back or worrying about people who may not like it is the way I wish to write.  It is important to be in touch with reality even though it is a work of fiction. The touch of reality that the fiction shows along with imagery created by the writer is what attracts the readers and captivates them. There is no way writing can be perfect right from the first draft. It is a process which requires time, patience and dedication. I feel that I should spend more time writing than I do now because the more I will write the more I will keep improving. Sometimes the mind is completely blank and no matter what I do I can’t think of anything to write. I have to be patient while writing, it needs a calm environment and you can’t force it. When writing is forced it doesn’t feel up to the mark. I have to learn to be patient so that the words can flow easily through me then to try to write something which is not as good or satisfactory. I have to give myself more time to write everyday even if it’s only a couple of sentences or paragraphs. I try to read as many different books from various authors as I can to stimulate me.  Living in a protected society doesn’t give you ideas about other cultures or new experiences. I wish to travel to different countries to meet new people and gain more necessary experience but in a way it is easier to draw inspiration from your own experiences. Those experiences have a completely different power because they are real and ordinary but leave an impact not only your perspective of the present but of the past and the future as well; it shapes you. I write my best when I am calm and not rushed. I want to be capable of creating a whole new world through my writing where readers can find an escape from the harsh realities of the world.

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Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

 

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It’s a book I have been meaning to read for a while now. Finally when I got around to reading it, I finished reading it really quickly and it’s amazing. It is a good book no doubt but it’s not exactly an easy read. The novel is about an American Chinese family. The book begins with the disappearance of Lydia Lee; she is the middle child of James and Marilyn Lee and also their favorite. The book is set in the 1970’s in a small town of Ohio. The lives of everyone in the family are turned upside down once Lydia’s body is found at the bottom of a lake. The narrative then encompasses each of the family members perspective and it shifts from past to present.

The book is written beautifully, every single emotion felt by the characters is described so perfectly, there is never a sense of detachment towards any characters because of this. The oldest son Nath is such a sympathetic character, he is brushed aside by his parents his relationship with his father James is strained because Nath is different than the person James wants him to be. Hannah is the youngest daughter and she is pretty much neglected by everyone in the family. The tone of the book  is lingered in sadness from the start but Hannah’s chapters just hits you hard; she is a quiet little girl who is the most observant one in her family, she blends in the background so often that the characters don’t even know if she is in their presence. In the beginning, I’ll admit Lydia’s character didn’t intrigue me much but as the story unravels I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She is the sole focus of her parents, she is pressurized by her parents knowingly as well as unknowingly. James and Marilyn pin all their life long hopes on her without realizing that it’s crushing her. As the past of James and Marilyn is slowly revealed through flashbacks you understand where they come from; James as someone who couldn’t fit in the “American” society and Marilyn who gives up on her aspirations and lives with regret.

The novel tackles sensitive topics like casual racism, sexism and miscegenation without actually becoming a story about either of these topics. The subtleness weaved throughout the plot makes it much more effective and dramatic. All the characters are relatable and none of their emotions seem fabricated and the flow is very natural. The minor characters too like- Marilyn’s mother and Jack also play an important part in moving the plot ahead and it all adds up to the ending. The dynamic between this family is tangible though I thought it was dysfunctional most of the time. Relationships between the characters at times are normal and at times are not for example Nath and Lydia. They are close but Lydia needs Nath a lot more as a support system than he needs her and the thought of him leaving for college disturbs Lydia. The plot stays focused on Lydia’s death and explores the lives of the family past and present through this incident.

The book was emotionally draining which was the reason I couldn’t read it as fast as I wanted to. It is a beautifully written book, it moves from past to present with perspective from each four characters seamlessly without the plot becoming confusing. The novel keeps you guessing from the beginning and you can’t wait to find out all the answers. I think it’s a must read.

 

Disappeared – Short Story

I sat in my room, a bunch of pictures sprawled all over the bed. I didn’t know why I had this sudden urge to take out all the old photographs. I spent the last hour finding the one I wanted. When I saw Ben today, I couldn’t help but think of her. I use to hang out with them sometimes, just the three of us; me, Ben and her. There are so many unanswered questions. It’s been years.  It’s an unsaid rule in our family; whenever we meet no one asks about her. No one even mentions her. I don’t like it, acting like she didn’t exist because she mattered and she was real. She was a very important part of my life. I think about it from time to time, I want to know what happened. “You have to learn to let things go.” she always told me. But I couldn’t let it go, not without knowing what really happened. I have spent a lot of time revisiting that day hoping each time I might find something, some clue…

“You’re late.” I said the moment I saw her. She rolled her eyes at me. She thought I was the silly one that I expected to be her on time when history said otherwise. “I am on time. You are early.” She said and took my arm. “We should do something different today. Hmm I know, I’ll take you shopping then we will go that lake you like so much. We’ll take some sandwiches along, have a picnic.” I was a bit shocked. She always wanted to do something epic, her suggesting we do something normal made me a bit uneasy. Then she giggled, “I am just kidding. Oh, Jen you are so easy to tease, that’s one of the reasons you are my favourite cousin.“  Yup, back to normal. My cousin, Clara, never gave a second thought about anyone’s opinion.  People thought she didn’t care but I knew her, she cared too much. She did what she wanted; she had big dreams about her life that often was the reason of her conflicts with her parents. Being just one year apart we had always been close. I wish I could have said something that day, anything that might have changed her mind. She became quiet next to me, too quiet. “Something wrong?” I asked.  She was my best friend. I knew she would tell me when she was ready but she never did.  She gave me a serious look and then smiled, “Nothing to worry about little sis. Let’s go. I have an awesome day planned. “She shrugged it off, changing the topic and we spent a crazy day together. Every moment spent with Clara was crazy and her enthusiasm so infectious. Little did I know those were the last moments I would ever spend with her?

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I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. That was the last day anyone ever saw her. I was the last person to her. Her parents called the next evening asking us to send her back home. She told them she was spending the night at our house. Her parents became frantic, they went to the police, filed a missing complaint. They called all her friends to see if she was with anyone, if they had any information. No one knew a thing. She was gone, just vanished. For months we all were disturbed, every time the phone rang, we thought it was her. But she never called. It’s been ten years now. She disappeared from our lives, just like that without a trace. She was a big part of my life, I depended on her. She was gone leaving us all behind, leaving me behind. Ben mentioned her today; he was one of her friends. Seeing him brought a rush of memories and I couldn’t help but ponder over Clara. It bothers him too I guess, not knowing. For me that’s the worst part. If I know the reason I can try to understand, move on; have closure. I don’t know what happened to her, if she is alive or dead. Looking at the picture of us from that day which we took at some carnival, I hope she would have told me. I still hope that she is out there somewhere and she is happy. No one else believes this, they think she’s dead. They think she got involved in something she couldn’t get out of. She did have her fair share of troublemaking but this was too drastic even for her. She would have been thirty years old this year, but here I sit by myself looking at a picture of us on her birthday. My aunt blamed me for a long time. She believed I knew where she had gone and refused to tell them. I explained to her over and over that if I knew I would have stopped her. Its hard thinking about where she must be. There has to be a reason, something happened to her. I’ll never forget her last words to me “ Never change, little sis.” Maybe that was her way of saying goodbye. I should have known she would never say something like this out of the blue but I was nineteen, I dismissed it without a thought. She had always been a bit mysterious and larger than life. She told me everything, I believed but I think she told me only the good things and dealt with the bad stuff on her own. I always thought that no one knew her better than me but now I realise that no one knew her at all.

Historic Places to See – My wishlist.

I dream of travelling the whole world like most people do; it’s on almost everyone’s bucket list. I have a list of destinations solely based on the history of the place which some people think is weird but it’s not. As long as I can remember I have had an unexplained interest with history. I love to reading histories be it of a person or a place. I like to imagine how it was during the olden days; it’s one of my favorite pass times. I have a travel wish list to satisfy the history buff in me.

  • Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city along with Herculaneum was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It is said to have been a bustling town since 1st century AD. After the eruption though Pompeii and other towns were buried and remained undiscovered until a part of the place was unearthed in 1599 but remained forgotten till 1748 when explorers rediscovered the site. The objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved under the ash due lack of air and moisture. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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  • Athens

Athens, Greece is one of the oldest cities of the world. The city has a recorded history of over 3000 years but it is said to be inhabited for the last 7000 years. In ancient Greece, Athens played an important role in art, literature, drama, philosophy and science. There are beautiful structures symbolizing the Greek civilizations like the Parthenon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The city has a rich cultural heritage and is a must see for history lovers.

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  • Machu Picchu

This ruined city is located in Peru which is accessible only through a train or a four day trek as it is situated at the top of a mountain. It was built as an estate for Inca Emperor Pachacuti during 1438-1472. This beautiful ancient city was abandoned after the Spanish Conquest of the region and discovered again after decades. It was named as one of the New Wonders of the World in 2007.

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  • Colosseum

Rome has been the heart of art and culture in Italy since centuries. The most symbolic structure in Rome is the Colosseum which was built in the first century AD. It is also the largest amphitheater in the world. It was used for Gladiator combats, spectacles and even executions during the early Roman Empire. It has crumbled a little over the years and parts of it are restricted but it is still a very captivating part of the western civilization.

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  • Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is situated on the bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a magnificent structure of white marble built by the Mughal King Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz. The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world and famous as a symbol of love all over the world. It is an architectural gem from the period of the Mughal rule in India.

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There are many more fascinating historic places I hope to see someday the list could go on and on but these are the ones which sit at the top of my list. I have imagined visiting them since I read about them in history text books. Cities like Athens and Rome have such an incredible and vast historic significance even in today’s world.

My trip to Thailand.

Looking at the blank pages in my Passport for the last seven years was annoying, to put it mildly. Finally my cousin and I decided to go to Thailand. It seemed like a convenient option since it’s not too far; a four hour flight from Mumbai. It’s a beautiful country and perfect for our first international trip. We only had five nights of stay in total so we spent two nights in Pattaya and three in Bangkok. We tried to see as many sights as we could in the limited time at hand, some places were just a fraction more impressive to me personally than others.

  • Pattaya Tower

The tower is situated close to Jomtien Beach. The view from the observation deck which is on the 55th floor is simply breath-taking. You get a beautiful view of the beach. From the 56th floor you can take the tower jump which has two options – single seating or double seating. If you are unadventurous like me, you can stay on the deck level take in the view with a cup of coffee. There are also three revolving restaurants situated in the tower on the 54rd, 53rd and 52nd floors.

  • Coral Island

It is a picturesque island in Pattaya, which takes around 30 minutes speed boat ride to get there from the city beach. It is beautiful with its white sand beaches and the clear water is so peaceful, makes you want to stay there as long as possible. There are particular areas like zones for water sports and swimming so it doesn’t get too crowded in the water. On the island, there is a shopping area which had some pretty cool touristy and local things to buy.

  • Nong Nooch Village

This is a very beautiful and unique man-made village and it is spread over many acres.  There are so many different pockets to this place. We walked around the big lake, visited the pottery garden where every structure was built using pots, it was amazing; there is a butterfly garden which has so many pretty varieties of flowers. I had a chance to see the Thai Cultural Show and also the Elephant show, which is a famous feature of the place; it was one of the highlights for me in the Nong Nooch Village.

  • Safari World

Safari World was a must see for when I planned this trip because I read a lot about it so going there was really exciting. It lives up to the hype created around it over the years. Firstly, you get to see so many exotic animals in their natural habitats. You can drive around in your car and see them in the open, it’s fascinating. Secondly, the dolphin and sea-lion shows are just incredible, it’s once in a lifetime kind of a moment. The park itself is huge, we just walked around till it was physically possible but we didn’t even cover half of it.

  • Madame Tussauds

 

We went to the Madame Tussauds Museum in Bangkok and I was ecstatic. I always wanted to visit one since I was a little girl so I was a little a star struck when we got there. I definitely felt like one of my childhood dreams was coming true. We got to see these cool wax statues of celebrities and click pictures; it was a lot of fun. We got tickets to see a 15 minutes clip of the movie Ice- Age in 4D. It was one of favorite places to see in Bangkok.

 

There were many other places we visited like the Gems Gallery, Chao Phraya River Cruise and ‘Wat-Pho’ – the temple of the reclining Buddha and ‘Wat Traimit’ – the temple of the Golden Buddha to name a few. All of the places were characteristic and lovely in their own way but these are the ones that stood out for me.

My Thoughts on “Eleanor and Park”

   Eleanor and Park 

                   – Rainbow Rowell

 
*SPOILERS*

 
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I wanted to read this book for months. Last week I finally bought a paperback copy for myself. It took me just two days to finish reading it because it was difficult to keep it down. The book is a refreshing take on a teen love story. The narration of the story is straight forward, it doesn’t digress and it’s both from Eleanor as well as Park’s point of view. Both the characters do not fit the exact mold of stereotypes shown in high school stories maybe that’s why they are so relatable because in reality very few actually fit the clichés we read about teenagers.

Eleanor and Park are two people who are very different from each other, not only their personalities differ but family backgrounds too. You can empathize with both of them but personally I felt really bad for Eleanor. Both of them have their own set of problems and an entirely distinct approach and perspective to them. All teenagers are a mess, some more so than the others; the book captures that turmoil pretty perfectly. Eleanor stands apart from the rest of the girls in school and is picked on for it but they don’t know how difficult her life is and being insensitive they just add to her troubles. There are always such people around you especially in high school. It’s such little nuances that shine through in the book that keep you curious; you can’t wait to find out what going to happen next; it wasn’t what I had guessed. The inner conflicts the characters go through is portrayed so well that you feel all those emotions along with the characters and that is one of the reasons I liked this book so much. There is sub-plot of identity crises in the story which as a Cultural Studies student was very fascinating to me but that might just be me overanalyzing the situation. Park struggles with his feelings for Eleanor because he didn’t think much of her in the beginning and it is a task for him to come out of that mind set. Like any teenager Park is concerned about the thoughts of his peers which prompts him to keep a distance from Eleanor which doesn’t work out. Eleanor on the other hand is guarded around people and I think she is incredibly brave in dealing with crises but she has a lot of baggage. Eleanor’s behavior stems from insecurity and anxiety that she has to live with every day. There is a whole different dynamic to the story solely because of good characterization.  There are many popular culture references which emphasize the fact that the characters are teenagers and adds an element of reality. The serious conflicts in the story aren’t explicitly described in the novel but subtle hints are woven throughout the plot from the very beginning.

The plot of the book wasn’t overly complicated or dramatic in anyway but it leaves an impression on the reader, that’s for sure. The title of the book is the names of the two protagonists and the plot remains dedicated to them instead of going in other directions which has happened in the books I have read before. Overall I really enjoyed reading Eleanor and Park. It is not exactly a light read typical love story, there is a darker theme constantly underlining the plot and the tone of the novel. I am sure I will read this book again and enjoy it just as much as I did reading it the first time.

 

Top Five Favorite YA Books

 

I have read a lot of young adult books lately and while some didn’t interest me at all, others were mostly predictable. By the first couple of pages I was bored and finishing them started to feel like a task. Finally I was able to find the kind of books I love reading. I must admit I ended up reading some of these books more than once. This is a list of the books which left a long-lasting impression on me because I found them relatable. I know at the end of the day these books are fiction but still they seem to be grounded; realistic which is why I loved them.

*SPOILER ALERT*

1. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher.

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There are no words to describe the roller coaster ride of emotions this book takes you on. The plot is engaging and fast paced, the characters are so real that nothing feels forced or a plot convenience. The first couple of pages are enough to suck you in. Just a suggestion; keep a box of tissues handy while reading this one.

2. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven.

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I had a hard time recovering emotionally after reading this one. The story deals with a heavy subject like mental health to an extent also about death but the book can’t be simple classified as sad. Violet and Theodore pull you into their story; make you happy and sad and everything in between. Watch out for the ending.

3. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart.

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I started reading this book with one thing in mind but it turned out to be something entirely different. It markets itself as the story of four super privileged kids and the summer of their lives but it is so much more thrilling and heartbreaking than you expect it to be. This book will make you turn right back to the beginning of the story after you have finished reading the end.

4. Looking For Alaska – John Green.

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John Green loves to make us sad; this book is another example of it. Reading this book will put you through so many emotions, you will be overwhelmed. The first half is a fun-filled ride but that is just a devious ploy to make us think this book might not be a cry fest like The Fault in Our Stars. It stays in your mind long after you have finished it.

5. Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover.

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I realized that this is the only book on my list which is actually a light read. It is full of emotions and turmoil but at the heart it is a love story. The characters fall in love in such an organic way and you can’t help but feel all giddy inside yourself. I read ninety percent of this book in one sitting till I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open, I had to know what happens next. It is engaging from start to finish.