Heal This Broken World Please

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I thought I understand this world, but, it turns out I genuinely don’t. After a series of life-changing experiences, I secretly prided myself that I get it. I know what this life is all about. That the meaning of life depends on what it means to you. That the question of life is unique to each individual. That your life is how you project yourself into your reality. That everything takes place in your brain. That each decision in choosing the path you take is the result of how you process your life experiences in your mind. That you have a choice of how your future will shape up.

I have been living in a bubble of bliss ever since I met the love of my life. Our life together remained harmonious and happy for more than six years. Life is beautiful. Full of sunshine and laughter, inside our home. But the longer I live in this kind of misty existence, the longer I cannot ignore the chaos outside; the violence and hatred that filled the streets; greed and selfishness that lurk in every corner. Unhappiness exists. Evil exists. And they weigh heavily upon whatever it is that is beautiful in this world. Continue reading

The Golden Notebook, Not My Cup Of Tea On A Rainy Afternoon

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The heavens suffered from diuresis after a full day of intense heat and humidity. The asphalt road sizzled as the unceasing rain poured into it. I was brewing tea when all of a sudden all the water from the sky came down with a vengeance. Babar, my dog, and I rushed towards the front door. The amount of downpour washing away the dust in the air of this arid city is a beautiful sight. Babar wagged his tail excitedly and I was smiling ear to ear. We both love the rain. My plants on the front yard lifted their heads and arms to welcome the long awaited shower. I can almost see them smiling too. I looked gratefully at the sky and sent my thanks to the heavens for this blessing. The terrible heatwave that cursed the land for more than a month is now over. Relief for all has come. Of course, I am trying not to think of the flooding that will inevitably follow this. I wanted to enjoy the cool, wet weather for now.

So with a warm cup of darjeeling tea and my dog dozing cozily near my feet I settled on my cushiony sofa and I opened the book, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, with anticipation. The one I picked from my bookshelf to snuggle with in this special occasion. Finding this book was quite a tale in itself. Continue reading

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Love Affair With Literature

When you think of yourself as character in a film or in a book how do you cast yourself in the story of your life? Are you the hero? The side kick or the villain? As long as I could remember I have always carried on an aura of a tragic anti hero bent on sabotaging herself until she drinks herself to death or something. Liam provided a climax for my story. Her mother putting the tip of a knife in her throat became the final straw to my then disintegrating life. Spiraling me down to that bottomless abyss where I plunged endlessly into the darkness.

Is the tendency to lean towards a melancholic existence part of my genetic inheritance or is it the kind of books I read which influenced my maudlin moods and disposition? My mother was a reticent woman but not pessimistic. She was a pragmatic woman who cared more about how to survive this life with dignity than indulge in romantic musings about life. I didn’t know my father so I have no way of knowing what the other half of my DNA might be like.

So I blame books. The tales of suffering and tragedies found in those wonderful novels filled my young mind with a skewed perception of life too early. My mother was an English literature teacher and it was her book of poems and short stories which lured me into the seductive and bittersweet world of literature. It started on that fateful day when I had grown tall enough able to reach the high shelf where those precious books were kept.

I opened a page and my life was never the same again. Neglected were my picture books. My Hardy Boys paper backs, even my Nancy Drews. As soon I had read these following verses there was no turning back.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach,

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height and my soul can reach! My God. I thought. To be so passionately in love! This was how I wanted to feel and nothing less. And I didn’t stop there. Being deeply in love was not enough it had to unrequited too. Nothing less than what Cathy and Heathcliff suffered in Wuthering Heights. I also fantasized of being magnanimous on my time of death and this would be the poem I would have send my lover as a farewell:

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

So you see early on I was set to screw my life.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

Poem 1 by Elizabeth Browning
How Do I Love Thee

Poem 2 by Christina Georgina Rossetti
When I am Dead, My Dearest

A novel is to be read for enjoyment

If it doesn’t give that, it is, so far as the reader is concerned , valueless. In this respect every reader is his own best critic, for he alone knows what he enjoys and what he doesn’t. I think, however, that the novelist may claim that you do not do him justice unless you admit that he has the right to demand something of his readers. He has the right to demand that they should possess the small amount of application that is needed to read a book of three or four hundred pages. He has the right to demand that they should have sufficient imagination to be able to interest themselves in the lives, joys and sorrows, tribulations, dangers and adventures of the characters of his invention. Unless a reader is able to give something of himself, he cannot get from a novel the best it has to give. And if he isn’t able to do that, he had better not read at all. There is no obligation to read a work of fiction.

-Somerset Maugham, Ten Novels And Their Authors

Apple And Abigail: Books And Romantic Relationships

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Apple had very few relationships compared to Abigail. Most of the lessons she learned about relationship were from Abigail’s many failed ones. Since the day they met, Abigail has been claiming of finally finding the one”. Apple attributed this to Abigail fondness of reading romance novels during her teen age years, books she stumbled upon on her mother’s shelf. Those Mills and Booms and Harlequin Romances have filled Abigail’s head with skewed ideas about love. While she on the other hand had been fond of reading English classic novels and had grown a little bit cynical about love especially after reading Wuthering Heights where she decided Cathy, the heroine of the book was a little too neurotic for her liking. Abigail absolutely loved Cathy’s character when she told her about the book. After reading it she went on for days as if she was Cathy’s reincarnation.

“I am a Cathy. I am so her. Oh my God, Apple. Thanks for lending me this book.”

Apple had always preferred Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet among the heroines in classic English novels when it comes to love. Jane Eyre and Elizabeth were subdued and dignified unlike the overtly passionate Cathy, although she still slightly disapproved of their weakness for charming aristocrats.

Apple and Abigail were sitting in a cafe late that night. Apple was consoling her distraught friend who recently found out through Facebook that her boyfriend Oliver was cheating on her. She saw him kissing another woman in bar on one of her friend’s photo in Facebook. A snapshot caught the moment while a group of Abigail’s female friends were posing for the photo. Although his face was not recognizable, Abigail could tell it was him.

“Maybe he was just drunk.” Apple said earlier when Abigail lamented what happened.

“So what! That’s not an excuse besides I am sure he did plan on cheating on me. He lied to me where he was going that night. He said he’s having dinner with his dad. “

“Why did Anna post that photo before telling you Oliver was in it?” Apple asked, frowning.

“I guess Anna did not notice that it was him making out with someone or she wouldn’t have posted it. Anna did not remember seeing him that night. But I recognize the t-shirt he was wearing instantly. I gave it to him”. Abigail wailed.

“Did he admit it was him? “

“Yes! He said he wants to start seeing other women.” Abigail wiped her tears.

“You’ll get over him soon, I am sure.” Apple said, patting Abigail’s hand.

“I won’t! I really, really loved him. He is my soul mate. “

“You said the same thing about Bryan. Yet, you started going out with Oliver only after a few days of breaking up with him.” Bryan was Abigail’s last boyfriend before Oliver.

“ I know. But I totally misread Bryan. He keeps giving me mixed signals. I thought Oliver was not a player.”

“Of course everyone’s a player. Consciously or subconsciously. You know that.”

“ I know but sometimes, I still believe there is someone out there who just loves. Like Heatcliff . Someone who will love me absolutely, maddeningly.”

Apple rolled her eyes. “ Heathcliff is a fictional man. Written by a woman. A woman’s wishful thinking. I’ve always told you that men are more like Tomaz from that book Unbearable Lightness of being. In the novel, Tomaz made love to everyone women he met. ”

“Oh how dreadful. Why do you keep reading books like those.”

“Unlike you, I don’t look at the world in rose tinted glasses.” Apple retorted, losing patience with Abigail who seemed to have learned less from her own failed relationships.

“What’s wrong with rose tinted glasses? That makes the world bearable to look at. “

“Well don’t complain when you get disillusioned.”

Abigail sighed. Feeling defeated. “I suppose you are tired of hearing about my heartaches. “

Feeling guilty for being harsh, Apple took Abigail’s hand. “ Not at all. I am here aren’t I?”

“ Thank you for meeting me at such a short notice. I really appreciate it. You are the only one among my friends who have the patience to listen to me. Most of my other friends are so self obsessed. They have no time for listen to my problems. Their problems are always more important. Ugh.” Abigail paused.” I’m sorry I’m doing the same thing. Tell me what’s happening with you. What have you been up to? “

Apple blushed unexpectedly. “ Well, I met someone.”

A Queen Without A Castle

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Illustration by Harry Clarke

The old do envy the young indeed! These budding blossoms primed for the adventures of life. Their first kisses, first heartbreak and first love thrills. Awakening to truth and clarity is not far behind. Some will embark on a futile search for the meaning of life. Then in frustrations will hurl infinite questions that have no answers. Oh the passions and the disillusionments that will oscillate their body and souls. Those were my thoughts as I gazed upon an elderly lady from across the flat who was watching wistfully the young girls playing in the park. Three generations of women, the past, present and future, we were like the circle of life representations.

Quite frequently in the afternoons I see her sitting elegantly in her balcony. Her dignified head titled slightly. I could see she must have been very beautiful once. Her features are regal. An arrogant nose softened by doe like eyes.

I often made up stories in my head about her past. Of how this aristocratic personage had fallen in deep destitution. Their flat was the shabbiest among the colony. Paint chipping off the wall. Undusted windows and lopsided walls.The abode is decorated with lonely ornaments of neglect. A stark contrast to her constant well heeled appearance. My imagination led me to a possibility that she maybe born into nobility. A princess who was dethroned in a bitter twist of fate. She eloped with a poor man, perhaps? I am always amused seeing her with royal bearing alighting from her beat up Maruti Suzuki as if she’s stepping out from a golden carriage. Lifting her shimmering floor length Shalwar Kameez gracefully, she would ascend the stairs as if on the top a throne was waiting for her.

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A Remorseful Succubi

Illustration by Harry Clarke

Beauty and youth. What a dazzling combination. To bewilder and to sparkle. Days filled with sunshines. And men worshipping at her feet. Love was a game she played with wanton and mischief. Never lacking in affections and adorations. Long curvy limbs draped in elegance gliding across the room. Luxuriant tresses falling on her shoulder, parting in the middle concealing a corner of her dark smoldering eyes. Her red pouty lips in a half smile. Who can resist her? A waft of her perfume caressed the cheeks of those she passed by. And she is never forgotten.

She preyed on men for their vanity. Narcissism drives these fools to pursue her relentlessly. Remorse for these men she had none. Most often the ego was shattered more than the heart. But once or twice in her wild abandon innocents were trampled upon. Usually unsuspecting girlfriends. Occasionally she is left to wonder what are these fine women doing with this kind of men. And there was one in particular she could not forget. Christina was her name.

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