Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dahl mein kuch kala

It amazes me how my perspective on life and things that go on in it has changed tremendously over the years. From something as mundane as deciding to finally apply kohl to my eyes to the notion of love, all were overhauled time and again as I grew up. Yes, this maybe something you went through too (not the issue of kajal and love per say) but a recent self revelation compelled me to pen the current entry and share it with you.

I have, for the longest time, been a sucker for happily ever afters. Like chocolate, I like my stories sweet; anything above 45% darkness leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, something I am not too fond of – the same rule applies to fiction. I grew up reading happy stories, and anything resembling a sad ending, sent me into depression for weeks. Which is not to say that I am a stranger to poignant ending; but the secret romantic in me somehow almost always managed to extrapolate tragic endings into happy tidings that took place after the story on paper drew to a close. You see I am one of those who believed that Scarlett got Rhett back, eventually.

Now I am a great fan of fantasy fiction. If a book talks of magic, I need to read it; doesn’t matter what age it is targeted at. This zeal led me to Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials comprising the titles The Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, back in 2007. The first book was a breeze and quite fun to read. However, the next two novels in the series were darker and dealt with some very adult themes, the starkest being that of the pain of choice and loss. I remember my adverse reaction to the books. “I could never let my kids read this stuff.” - is what I had thought. If these left me this depressed I shuddered to think how kids would perceive the emotions that the books elicited. If you are one who thought Rowling’s Prisoner of Azkaban was disturbing, I would not recommend Pullman’s work.

Recently as I sat trying to roll over writer’s block my friend offered a sound advice but an unusual choice of reading to unclog the unresponsive mind. Witches by Roald Dahl. While I have enjoyed watching Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory and Matilda tremendously, I had never really read any of the ex-RAF pilot’s works. And having watched the two aforementioned films, especially, the adaptation of Charlie and the chocolate factory, I wasn’t sure its dark undertones were something suitable for children to watch. As I read Witches, I was again struck by how it was in contrast to the happy childhood stories I had grown up reading. The parents are bumped off early in the story of Witches and unlike a fairy tale setting, here the bad guys (or in this case women) are flesh and blood entities who are difficult to detect and are eerily real. The dark undertones prompted me to ask myself if this was really what qualifies as appropriate children’s literature.

Then I thought why not. You see I have been working with children and teens living with HIV in the last few months. The resilience they have to face adversity head on is a feat that deserves respect. At an early age they have had to take on responsibility of their health, come face to face with stigma and at times their parents’ mortality. Their lives could well be something many of us might have only read about. But they are anything but martyrs. They are heroes; heroes who took on the challenge and lived to tell the tale. For them the pain is real but so is life and the happiness it can bring. Just what Dahl told us didn’t he?

I would be more than glad if more and more children could read the works of Dahl and authors like him who don’t shy away from talking about real topics, while making sure they offer the right kind of hope needed by all of us to get by life knowing that even though the going is tough, we can be tougher than our circumstances, if we give ourselves the chance. One of the most valuable lessons our kids could learn. Furthermore, nudged by adults in the right direction, youngsters can learn the importance of empathy, not be afraid to be different and to believe in themselves through these stories.

I for one am convinced that if I ever have kids, I would want them (at some point in their growing years) to read these stories for sure and learn some valuable lessons.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

In my shoes

In the last six months, every time I have spied women perched upon towering heels, I have seen scrunched up band-aids peeping out of the borders (scrunched up because despite the global epidemic that is shoe-bite, no company has come up with a band-aid which doesn’t bunch up once inside the heeled footwear). And the numbers of such foolhardy souls is not diminutive. I see one every day, be it the underground or the street level, trudging away bravely, paying no (outward) attention to her bleeding sole (exaggeration alert). So with them masking their agony so well, how do I know? You see I am recovering victim of the “kill all women with torturous footwear” attack and I know a fellow sufferer by plain sight.

To say I have a footwear fetish would constitute an inaccuracy. No, the footwear fiend in this marriage is the husband. So if you spy shoes spilling off the shoe-rack at our ‘ome sweet ‘ome, it is because:

a) Most of them are the hubby’s

b) One or two are borrowed (read on to know why)

c) The rest sit pretty to don (more) beautiful feet, not mine. No I am not babysitting them; I am stuck with them.

At any given time since I could decide on how my feet sould be shod, I have housed a minimum of three pairs of footwear of which I have only ever done justice to one. Not because I was picky I was forced to choose one; the other two would invariably leave my feet battered and bruised. No manner of “trying out” at the shop would EVER betray the painful future the shoes held in store for me.

Today our tiny little apartment houses two incorrigible pair (of humans) and 30 pairs of footwear, 10 are mine and I still can only wear one pair.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Excited at having bid bye bye to Bata and a gusty aloha to Clarks, UK, I went shoe shopping in my first week here. Armed with the conviction that my transit across oceans had finally broken the jinx of having to wear ill-fitting shoes (I was practising the elusive art of positive thinking at this point). That particular trip earned me two lovely looking pairs of heels.

Soon came the day that the first pair of newly bought sandals was to make a debut and that too at a party which promised a good time (this for me includes dancing). Once out of the apartment, a hundred steps later, I had a familiar sensation: shoe bite. I shrugged it off and trudged on bravely.

“They are new, need to be broken into,” I told myself.

Those leathery fiends had the same idea about me. By the beginning of the night I was hopping mad, literally. In the end, all I could do was sit and drown my sorrow in a weak vodka. So much for fun.

Needless to say, the killer heels were relegated to the back of the closet at the earliest. Thankfully, giving in to a sense of nostalgia I was sure I would experience once away from India, I had packed my trusty old open toes sandals, which I worked with for the next one month. Finally, I would walk again, albeit with bandages/band-aids on.

You would think I would have learnt my lesson and picked up a few new pairs when I visited India. Nope. I am one of those idiots who believe that if tried enough number of times, the same mistake can yield a different result. Of course I had good reason to repeat the fallacy- but we won’t dwell on that. On many an occasion I have returned home from an outing with a friend walking miles in her shoes, literally.

Finally thanks to one of them darling beings I call friends, I was introduced to the W(ide) variety of shoes. So basically they are for wide toed misfits like me and fit like a dream. Unfortunately for me they are not widely available (yes yes that was funny, that’s why I said what I did). So we are back at the beginning and I am stuck with many a shoe and only one fits. But at least I am not bleeding.