Today the Daily Post threw a tricky challenge at me, they asked if money was non-existent, would I still work? I am still a student and I have worked part-time previously simply to help my family financially or to include another impressive column in my rather empty resume. Most of them involved writing but unfortunately all of them involved writing about something that I couldn’t care less about. Heck, right now I’m taking a degree so that I can simply write what people what me to write about for the rest of my life. It’s rather depressing. I do not have the same freedom (or joy or praise or popularity) that I am showered upon in blogging. On my blog one day I can write a post Who George R R Martin should kill next and no one would question my psychological state. But I don’t get paid for blogging and that is the only sad twist in the story.
So if money was completely out of the equation, if I didn’t have to worry about earning money for my higher education, saving for buying a decent house or paying insurance for healthcare- I would travel. As simple as that. I would travel to the ends of the earth and come back to my hometown and travel again so much that I would question myself where I actually belong. I want to live in certain cities for one year (namely New York City, Paris, London, Barcelona, Athens, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Marrakech, Sydney, St. Petersburg and many more) and explore their culture and learn their traditions. Some of these might be cliche but I have intimate reasons for selecting these few. I would live in these cities, explore the entire country, interact with the locals, learn their languages, cook their food, believe in their superstitions, pray to their Gods- all for a year. Then I would pack my bags and without saying goodbye (I believe if you say goodbye you will never meet again, after all I have some superstitions of my own) travel to another marvelous city.
I would spend my entire life, following the north star, trying to find my place in the world. I would keep a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk (if I could afford one) ready in a corner of my bedroom, waiting to embark on an adventure. I want to experience everything from the luxury of the casinos in Las Vegas to the horrors in Auchswitz Poland), from the historic art in Florence to seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, from partying in Ibiza to meditating in a Buddhist Monastery- I want to try my hand at everything. Who knows, in doing all this I might finally find the place where I belong. Or the person I belong with. I don’t want to die with a bank full of money for my children (if I have any), I want to die with the belief that I lived my life the way I wanted to live it, did everything that I wanted to do and followed my heart at every step.
Today The Daily Post forced me into a state of chronic frustration and existential dilemma by asking me that if there was ‘one’ object that my friends would immediately identify me with, what would it be? And quite honestly it sounded like ‘If we found your completely burnt dead-body, by noticing which object can your friends identify that it’s really you?’. It is not very polite to pry on other people’s death but at the same time, thank you for getting me thinking about this. There are simply too many, that is my problem- it is either too many or none. So here are 7 objects that I always have with me wherever I’m going.
1) My Rayban Aviators
I live in Mumbai and the temperature here is boiling hot, so I have to wear glasses unless I want to get cancer of the eyeballs. I actually got this pair for my Father on his birthday last year, but he always forgets to wear them. So I use them instead, they are the typical, good old gladiators and I love them because they have this vintage appeal to them.
2) My pink leopard print scarf
Is there any girl in this world who doesn’t feel fierce in a leopard print scarf? Mine is not the usual fiesty scarf though, it has soft pink undertones and uncanny leopard spots. It is also made of chiffon and I use it to cover my hair everyday from the harmful rays of the sun.
3) My purple spectacles
Oh yeah, I am four-eyed! My parents bought me a laptop when I turned 17 and naturally a month later my eye-sight was so terrible I was in dire need of glasses. I hated them when I got the pair, I would forget wearing, cleaning them regularly and taking care of them. But now after almost 2 years they have become a part of my personality. Captain America has his shield, I have my glasses.
4) Red lipstick
I have tried nude, berry, peach, pale pink and coral but red puts me in an instant state of sexy. No it doesn’t physically change any of my features (I look like a scrawny, specky git all the time) but they work wonders on my mentality. I also don’t press the lipstick aggressively on my lips, I simply dab it on few spots and then spread it all over my lips with a cotton bud. But it’s surprising how a bit of colour can elevate my self-confidence.
5) My usual green bottle
Never, never, never step out of the house without a bottle of water! I leave my house in the morning and refill my bottle twice before I get back home. I cannot emphasize enough on this, drink loads and loads of water.
6) Some chocolate
Just in case the dementors attack. Also there are many children begging on the trains, I do not like giving them money because they will probably buy cigarettes or give it to their parents who will only spend it on alcohol. Instead I always keep a few loose chocolates or small bars of candy, it brightens every child’s face.
7) A heavy book
I wish I was one of those people who can distance themselves from objects but sadly I am materialistic. Not in a ‘I want a BMW, that is the motive of my life’ sort of a materialistic but a ‘don’t throw away my old blue jeans because it is my favourite jeans’ materialistic. I have a pink and white top which I splattered some paint on while decorating for the college festival and I never removed the paint because it reminded me of all the amazing memories I created during the fest. I am not generally very emotional or attached to people, but there are some things like my first cell phone or my mockingjay necklace which will remain special.
Today The Daily Post asked me to go through all the black and white adventures I have been on in books and select three which I would like to actually experience in reality. For the sake of this post let us all assume that I am a very brave young woman who jumps into dangerous situations without a thought instead of the whinny, pouty, sulking wuss that I actually am. First they give me such an incredible inspiration for a post and then they tell me to choose only three. So I’m going to cheat a little and instead select five of the fictional adventures and events that I would like to experience.
1)Go to Neverland with Peter Pan
J.M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ was my first childhood bedtime story and will always be my favourite fairy tale. When I was a kid I always believed that I liked this story because of the obvious attractions- flying, mermaids, pirates and never growing up. But as a teenager I learned in psychology that we all have two selves inside us- the one who we are and the one who we want to be. After some self-introspection I realized that Wendy, the ordinary Wendy who is responsible, thoughtful and caring but bored with her life is who I am and Peter, the daring, mischevious and hilarious buffoon who never grows up is who I want to be. That was when I realized how truly deeply these ‘stories’ affect us on a subconscious level. So yes I would love to have a stranger jump into my room (but not stalkers) chasing his shadow and taking me flying through the clouds to Neverland.
2) Be a student of Hogwarts in Marauder’s Era.
My childhood was rather simple- I do not remember going to the park with my friends or going on picnics with my family. I remember being curled up on my bed and crying over Sirius Black’s death. Like most people from my generation, my entire childhood can be described in two words- Harry Potter. So I would love to actually be a student of Hogwarts, be a chaser for the Quidditch team, learn to fight monsters in Defense Against Dark Arts and finally (oh finally) find out what my patronus is. But as much as I love the Harry Potter books I want to live in the time of the Marauders. I honestly believe I do not belong with the Golden Trio saving the world, I belong with Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs causing trouble for poor McGonagall.
3) Be a Queen of Narnia
Wars are bloody and wars are brilliant. When they happen in books they are the most excellent plot twist which changes the course of the whole story but when they happen in real life they only cause death and destruction. I would love to live in Narnia amongst fauns who dance and centaurs who are warriors and trees who direct me to my destination. But most of all, I would be immeasurably honoured to live alongside Aslan *bows*.
4) Save France with The Three Musketeers.
The way I related with Wendy and Peter at a psychological level, this book affected the sort of people I was looking for to make friends with. D’Artagnan is one of my favourite characters in plays along with Hamlet. He is impulsive, rash and mindlessly jumps into situations of trouble. He is also a bloody awesome swordsman and a trustworthy companion. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas in my all time favourite play and I would love to live in 17th century and fight carry out dangerous liaisons for Louis XIV with Athos, Porthos and my favourite Aramis.
5)Go ‘cluing for looks’ with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
My favourite mystery thriller, my favourite TV show, my favourite pair of cheekbones(sorry I’m getting carried away). I don’t want this adventure for the adrenaline of solving crimes but I want this simply to witness the unreal genius of Sherlock Holmes. I would love to have him read me analytically and I would proudly beam at him as he revealed things about me even I wasn’t aware of. I would honestly sell my soul for this to happen.
One of my friends who is majoring in ‘Child Psychology’ told me that I am addicted to books because I am unsatisfied with my life and damn straight she’s right! There is nothing spectacular about waking up everyday with the same family, going to the same college, interacting with the same friends and doing the same things over and over again. How mundane, pointless and forgettable! But books ah, they are like time-machines. They transport you to another time, another place and introduce you to characters who leave a mark on your heart. Stephen King was right, books truly are a uniquely portable magic.
Pardon me for this vain post but Sahita Murali a stranger I never had any connection with was kind enough to nominate me for a Liebster Award!
Since I am not used to such irrational compliments I am going to give a tearful- overdramatic speech about my victory. Actually no, I am not about all this sentimental (insert expletive) but off course this gesture has made me believe in the kindness of strangers.
Here are 11 random facts about myself:
1)I am a voracious reader, I prefer fictional characters over real people any day. Atleast they know when to shut up!
2)I am passionate about rock ‘n’ roll music. My favourite band currently (and for almost a decade now) is Arctic Monkeys.
3)My favourite song is ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay. I plan to get its lyrics tattooed on the nape of my neck if my mother lets me.
4)My favourite movie is David Fincher’s ‘Fightclub’. It is hard to describe the mindblowingness of that movie without swearing.
5)I am currently studying Mass Communications and I aim to be a journalist one day.
6)I am a hard-core, typically overacting, attention-seeking and aggressive and always-getting-into-trouble Gryffindor.
7) ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie was my favourite bedtime story and has an enormous influence on my life.
8) My favourite TV shows are Sherlock, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and many more.
9) My favourite Disney princess is Merida for obvious feminist reasons.
10) The movie character I relate with the most is Kat from ’10 Things I Hate About You’.
11) I love emo poetry, I spend hours browsing for painful,tragic and depressing poetry on tumblr and pinterest.
Now that I have revealed more information about myself than I am comfortable it is time to answer Sahita Murali ‘s questions.
1. What is your favourite kind of food?
Spicy vegetarian without too much gravy which is chewy and crispy at the same time and sets your nose on fire if you sneeze.
2. What is the biggest social injustice in this world according to you and why?
Female oppression, so far it is the only one I have been subjected to and it frustrates me. Especially the misconceptions surrounding it.
3. What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I hate being treated as a kid- by family, by friends, by anyone.
4. What is your biggest fear?
That I will die as just another nobody on a planet of 7 billion others.
5. If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would you change and why?
I would definitely be more hardworking, I am a lazy sloth.
6. Friends or family?
My friends ARE family.
7. Have you ever experienced peer pressure? When?
Not yet, no.
8. Describe the perfect place (real or imaginary).
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
9. What is your biggest aim in life, your biggest dream?
I want to travel the world, DESPERATELY!
10. Describe yourself in three words.
Sarcastic. Sweet. Simple.
11. What are your 5 biggest pet peeves?
- When people crack rape jokes (under any circumstances rape jokes are never funny)
- When people take jokes seriously (come on have some sense of humour)
- When people pay too much attention to astrology.
- When anybody lies to me.
- When people ask too many questions (but not to you Sahitya, you rock!)
Here are my nominees for the Liebster Award (You Go Guys!)
- The Henry Tudor Experience – because I am obssessed with Tudor History thanks to Phillipa Gregory, Suzanna Dunn and Hilary Mantel.
- Confessions of a Readaholic– Because his blog is awesome and he is awesome and what else do you need?
- Interesting Literature – The name is enough to give me butterflies in my tummy
- Classic Critique – My love for this funny, sarcastic, witty and endlessly educational blog is infinite.
- Be Young & Shut Up– Because I like bloggers who are not diplomatic.
Now here’s what you have to do to complete the nomination:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their page(s) in your post.
2. Proudly display the award banner on your page.
3. List eleven facts about yourself.
4. Answer the questions the award-giver asked you and make 11 more for your nominees.
5. List your nominees.
Last but not the least, here are my 11 questions for you:
1)What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would have given you 10 years ago?
2)What is the one lesson you will teach your children no matter what?
3)One story that left an impact on you- book, movie, fanfiction, tumblr post, etc.
4)One particular line from one particular song that makes you sentimental:
5)If you could have tea with any two fictional characters, who would you choose:
6)What superpower would you choose- immortality, invisibility or telepathy?
7)Avengers or X-Men?
8) What is the one thing that you will never know which frustrates you the most? (In my case it is my Patronus)
9) If you could recommend only one book to the young generation, which would it be?
10) Which is you favourite poem, why?
11) If you could ask one question to your favourite author, what would it be?
Now Fire Away!
Last week I got my first paycheck from my internship (Hurrah!) and what better way to spend it than on books. My stipend is not much so I went to this huge book sale at one corner of my city which sells books by weight. This summer you could buy 1 kilogram of books for only Rs. 60 (i.e. only $1)! So naturally I went crazy and bought 8 kilograms of books carried them for 1 hour. Everyone in the train was staring at me as if I was carrying a dead body. So here I 10 best books I found at this sale.
1) Room by Emma Donoghue– I only found out about Donoghue in 2013 when her sensual courtroom thriller ‘The Sealed Letter‘ became a hit. It was a historical courtroom drama based on a true case in Victorian London about the homosexual affair of a married woman- my perfect match! After some research I found out that Donoghue is a revolutionary writer and her works from the LGBT genre are reknowed. So immediately I picked up ‘Room’ when I saw it and now I can’t wait to read it.
2)Guernica by David Boling– When I first saw it, something sparked in my head. I could not remember what ‘Guernica’ was but I knew it was something big and important. That is the only reason why I picked up this book by an author I had never read before.
3)Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence– Countless people have told me to read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and countless times I have told them that I wont waste my time on a Twilight fanfiction. I am not against erotica, I am only against bad erotica. Today’s erotica authors misunderstand the meanings of intercourse and literature. Sex is a part of the story, the story is not a part of the sex. So I picked up this ground-breaking book which was scandalous when it was published and even today remains one of the most sensual books ever written. (I was also looking for Lolita but couldn’t find it)
4)The Scarlett Letter by Nathniel Hawthorne– One of the many things that bothers me about the Indian education system is that we don’t get to read a lot of interesting books. In Britain, children participate in Shakespeare plays when they turn 4, in USA children read 1984 by George Orwell in high School. But in India the only books teenagers read are Twilight and it severely bothers me. I got attracted to this book after watching ‘Easy A’ and I finally found it.
5) The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory– My first book by Gregory was ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and since then I tried to read every book she has ever written. I have seen ‘The White Queen’ show on BBC and I loved it. So when I found this book which is the second book of a 4 book series on which the show is based- I leaped with joy.
6)The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer– I haven’t read any of Meyer’s books before but when I saw this book I picked it up because of the cover art. When I read the back page, I found out that it is based on the life of Marie Antoinette and I quickly bought it. Antoinette is a historical figure I haven’t explored yet, I only know her story superficially. Hopefully with this book, I’ll get a deeper insight.
7) The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood– I wanted to buy ‘The Blind Assasin’ by Atwood which won the Pulitzer price but I looked at its size and turned away (I know, I know I’m a wuss). Instead I picked up this book which is about the life of Penelope, the wife of Odyessus who goes with Achilles to capture the city of Troy.
8) Pompeii: The Living City by Alex Butterworth and Ray Lawrence-I never buy non-fiction books because I fall asleep halfway through them but I bought this one because a) ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ is one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes and b) ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille is an amazing song.
9) Cold Mountain by Jonathan Frazier– I first heard about Jonathan Frazier in one of Oprah’s episodes (stop laughing) and I wanted to read one of his works for a long time. Also this book has Jude Law on the cover.
10) Atonement by Ian McEwan– I have seen this movie and let me tell you this, it is mind-blowing. One of my favourite World War II movies ever made.
I also bought many other books such as – Alexander: The Child of a Dream by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, The Seige by Helen Dunmore, Winter in Madrid by C J Samson, Before I sleep by SJ Watson, Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzanna Dunn,Hamlet, Othello King Lear, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar all by William Shakespeare and finally Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult.
P.S. I FOUND SHAKESPEARE MANGA! I kid you not, I actually found a series of comic books each based on a different Shakespeare play. The text was Shakespeare with no changes, only that it was a proper comic book and it was freaking genius.
Have you gone to any summer sales yet? Which books did you pick up? Which book is in your summer reading list? Let me know!
With sandy toes, salty air and spicy food- Mumbai will make any quirky romantic feel right at home.
I wrote this article a couple of months back for ‘The College Tourist’ but I also wanted to share it here with my readers. So here it is!
Reputed for being a city of melodious chaos and unfulfilled dreams, Mumbai- the financial capital of India, is a spectacular mixture of traditional methods and modern viewpoints. A confusing maze where you will see eunuchs brushing shoulders with corporate officials in the crowded trains and grown men in tailored Armani suits turn into excited children when playing cricket- Mumbai offers a variety of unique memories. If you don’t want to be one of those unfortunate tourists who visit the city hoping to unravel the inner workings of the everyday Indian life but only get to witness the city superficially, here is a list of the 10 things you must do in Mumbai in order to experience the local culture.
Watch a cricket match at Wankhede Stadium
There are a number of sports stadium’s in Mumbai but Wankhede is considered ‘the Holy Land’ because international legends have scored runs and deadly pacers have took wickets in the mystical mud of Wankhede. It is the home stadium of ‘Mumbai Indians’, Mumbai’s team in the Indian Premier League and holds a reverent spot in the heart of any dedicated Mumbaikar. Even if you don’t enjoy the sport or are ignorant about the rules, attend a match for the unprecedented enthusiasm of the crowd.
Attend Christmas Mass at Mount Mary Church
In Mumbai, you will find everyone from a Buddhist Monk silently crossing the road to noisy Hindus loudly chanting the name of a Goddess while obstructing the traffic. There is a church on every street in Western Mumbai as most of the Christian population is concentrated there but Mount Mary’s is considered the holiest. If you are not able to make it on Christmas, visit the church any other time and the quaint beauty will not disappoint. If you go a little before lunch time (1 pm) you can have the whole church to yourself and spend enough time admiring the paintings on the wall and the breath-taking architecture.
Eat the road-side food
Sorry to all the health-conscious people who frowned at me, but you are missing out on the mouth-watering variety of food the streets of Mumbai offer. Not all road-side stalls are unhygenic but all of them have ridiculously yummy food. Trying a hot ‘vada pav’ with chutney (a mixture of potatoes fried golden brown), a ‘cutting- chai’ (a small glass of tea), ’gola’ (an ice-lolly mostly sold near beaches) and ‘butta’ (roasted corn) is mandatory.
Go for a drive on the Sea-Link in the rain
Mumbai has a passionate love affair with monsoons, they are an integral part of the books we lose ourself in, the movies that we remember and the music we listen to on our way to and from work. Rain defines everything, decideds everything. Therefore if you want to experience rain like a local go for a long drive on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, stick your head out of the black and yellow taxi cab and witness the magic unfolding before your eyes. You can see the entire city of Mumbai from this bridge and with your car at 80 kmph, the rapid wind in your hair and the sweet raindrops on your lips- I swear in that moment you will certainly be ‘infinite’.
Read any book based on Indian mythology
It is extremely difficult to read the original Ramayana, Mahabharata or Bhagvat Gita for someone who did not have an Indian upbringing but you can still immerse yourself in the religious culture by reading books by Indian authors based on these legendary Sanskrit epics. Read books by Amish Tripathi, Anand Neelakantan and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni as their writings are a modern re-telling of stories told to Indian children at bedtime but are mesmerizing and bound to intrigue readers of all ages. Ruskin Bond (my personal favorite), Jhumpa Lahiri and Shobha De also write books with an Indian backgrounds and have celebrity status in India.
Eat at Leopold Cafe
Although this is not where the locals hang-out (it is usually crowded by tourists and foreigners living in Mumbai), this is a fantastic place to enjoy the mouth-watering delicacies of the city alongside a can of beer. They provide tasty local food as well as a range of inter-continental dishes. If you get tired of eating the spicy, oily street food- come here to eat something familiar and interact with people from around the world.
Visit a Ganesh Temple during ‘Ganesh Utsav’
The city prepares itself like a bride gets ready for her wedding to welcome Lord Ganesha- the remover of all obstacles into the homes of Mumbaikars. This son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is the city’s favorite deity as a staggering range of mouth-watering sweets are prepared in every house-hold. The idol is made of mud but is treated with great devotion and reverence- like a divine guest and for 10 days the city bathes itself in Ganesha’s admiration. On the last day of ‘Visarjan’ thousands take to the street to bid farewell to their beloved Ganpati and immerse the idols in the sea at Girgaum Chowpatty. This is the one time of the year when people of Mumbai forget their pain and worry and immerse themselves wholeheartedly in worship of the Elephant God.
Take a ferry ride at the Gateway of India
The most local way of celebrating New Year’s Eve is to head to the ‘Gateway of India’- a historic building that marks the place from which the British entered India and take a ferry ride. There are a number of other historic buildings such as the enormous Taj Mahal Hotel, the Prince of Wales Museum and the stunning white British Library in the vicinity. Grab a seat on the deck of the ferry, head into the endless Arabian Sea and welcome the New Year with spectacular fireworks and new dreams.
Participate in the Holi celebrations
The festival of Holi which is usually in the month of March signifies the purification of the atmosphere by burning stacks of wood and grass in a triangular form representing negative energy. There are many mythological stories associated with this tradition but one ritual that is still carried out after thousand of years is covering each other in colour and water the day after. On this day all the school, colleges and offices are closed as people of all ages smeared in sticky colour and drenched in water capture the streets and throw water-balloons at friends and strangers alike.
Visit Marine Drive
There is always that one spot in every city than every local has a fond memory of and in Mumbai’s case it’s the curved coast-line called ‘Marine Drive’. This is the place where eyes meet, poems are written, letters are exchanged, lips are tasted, jealousies are expressed and hearts are broken. People usually come here with their families, closest friends or significant others but even if you go alone (like me) you will always have the melodious waves and mysteries beyond the sea for company. This place will encourage you to question your purpose and seek the truth, it is responsible for pulling out the innermost poets and philosophers hidden deep underneath the stressed locals stuck in a rut.
With endless opportunities to discover something new everyday, whether it’s a finger-licking dish that reminds you of your childhood, a local graffiti artist who hates the government or a side of your personality that you weren’t aware of, Mumbai is the place for anyone who values freedom, knowledge and harmony above all.
Have you ever been to Mumbai? Would you like to visit our magical city? Tweet me your experience or expectations here. If you like this article read my other works at ‘The College Tourist Website’ here.