Tag Archives: musings and personal

An afternoon at home

I am sitting on the tiny balcony, an Oscar Wilde book in my hand. The air, until a little while ago, was smelling sweetly of pomelo flowers. Very sweet indeed!

Then there was this smell of dust. It is that time of the year when the roads are sandy, dusty and they soil your feet. I find it hard to breathe. There is some dog smell also.

A cuckoo is cooing sweetly, while the crows caw.

There are tiny kids playing cricket on the dusty playground few feet across. I watch the child, a girl or a boy, I do not know. They are at that age where you do not get to know what the sex is from afar, when there are no curves in the body and the hair is boyishly short. I watch the kid, smartly posing as the ball comes, bending the knees like a professional would. Impressive, I think. Myself, I have always been afraid of being the batsman in a game of cricket, afraid of embarassing myself by not hitting the ball once.

Sunlight vanishes as I write this. Conch shells are being blown by the women. Mosquitoes are nagging at my legs, time to go inside.

For years, I have sat on this balcony. When I was younger, this hour would mean the hour of light snacks and getting back to the heavy books – physics or maths. Today, I really don’t have much to do. Today, I am a grown woman visiting home on a vacation. There are only couple of days till I get back to my real life, my work life. Until then, I wish to soak in the smells, the sights and the sounds of this hour. Like a much cherished pickle, for another desolate afternoon, in a city eons away from here.

The best teacher of my childhood – Teacher’s Day Special

They say,the teacher is like a candle. It consumes itself to light the way for others. Today, let me introduce you all to the person whom my consider the best teacher of my childhood – my uncle**. I wish a Happy Teacher’s Day to all the teachers out there, and that includes all parents and guardians who shape a child’s life. I wouldn’t be writing this if my mother hadn’t taught me the alphabet. As I watch little kids struggling with identifying letters and numbers and multiplication tables, I am reminded of the hard work and patience my parents and teachers had once put for me. Where would I be if not for them?

**This piece was originally written as part of a series of personal essays. For a little bit of my personal history, please read this article.

After we came to Durgapur from our ancestral place, my uncle, Aunt Polly’s husband, took over the duty of teaching me from my mother. My uncle was born in Bangladesh in the early 1940s. He had to leave the country to avoid the wrath of communal riots and came to India with an unfinished college degree. (A fragment of his life there inspired a section of the title story in my ebook, Bound by Life)

When we came to Durgapur, my parents had no clue where to put me in school. Uncle took the responsibility of my admission. I remember him giving me a sheet with a list of words and sentences for me to remember.

“What is your name?”

“What does your father do?”

“Who is the President of the country?”

On and on it went in his small, cursive handwriting.

Since my admission until my fifth grade, Uncle taught me. He was not a teacher by profession. But he liked to teach young kids very well. He had a curious mind and was a life-long learner. He had answers to every question I had!

His most successful trait as a teacher was that he never made me memorize anything. He would dictate answers to the questions in my textbook and I would write them down. While revision, he did not expect me to vomit his answers. He encouraged me to write my own. This habit had stood me in great stead in higher classes. I have seen many of my friends struggling in the exam hall while writing answers to longer questions. If they forgot one sentence, they couldn’t write anything after that. Fortunately, I never faced that sort of problem.

Until my fifth grade, my Uncle lived a kilometre away and visited us every evening to teach me. He usually arrived at 7 p.m. to teach me and continued until 9 p.m. If by any chance he were late to arrive, I prayed, “God, please make Uncle stay at home today! Please let him not come. Please!” I chanted this repeatedly while standing in the balcony, waiting to see if God listened to me (As you can guess from this, like every other child, I was hardly fond of studies at the age). Sadly, that rarely happened, as rare as perhaps once or twice in a year. Punctuality was another of Uncle’s remarkable traits.

Once one of my cousin brothers and I were staying at Uncle’s. Uncle told us a story about an ant and a dove (the one in which the dove initially saves the ant from drowning in a river and later the ant returns the favour by saving the dove from the arrow of a hunter). He wanted both of us to translate the story in English. I started it with enthusiasm.

With the first draft, I thought I was finished. Little did I know how far from it I was! Uncle had many suggestions for improvements in the first draft. I incorporated those in the next draft and then, he had further suggestions. In total, I think he made me write the story at least thrice! Once he even said that he liked the previous draft better (imagine my frustration!). I was thoroughly bored and exhausted with the exercise. But now that I think of it, I realize that Uncle had already given me the training required to become a writer: write, edit, rewrite and never be absolutely satisfied with the final product. There is always room for improvement.

As I have grown up, my relationship with Uncle has changed. He is in his seventies. Now, I am not afraid of him. Now, I don’t pray to the gods to keep him at home. He accompanied me during my admission in college as well. People thought he was my grandfather!

To this day, Uncle would remember some story that he had read out to me during my school days and ask me a question. When I would say I don’t remember what happened, he’d say, “That’s too bad! I remember everything.”

Of course he does. He was always known for possessing a good memory. In our childhood, we called him an elephant for his memory!

On growing up, education, personal finance and nostalgia

Yesterday, I woke up in the afternoon to a clouded sky. It had rained heavily few hours ago. I live in the first floor of a flat building that is part of a continuous row of identical flat buildings. facing our row of buildings there is another identical row and behind ours another and so on. Most of these buildings have been painted a long time ago and are now blackish. During cloudy days, these buildings appear like specters of a dystopian world – sad, isolated hollow accommodations with no hope or smile.

Housed inside this dystopian exterior, however, there is a different story. Each of the flats has two rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and a balcony for those who live on first floors. For a family of grown people, it is rather small. But it feels like only yesterday when the house was so big for my brother and me. Growing up, we never complained of lack of space.

This table where I am typing out on my laptop was only four years ago piled with scores of books. I was in my final year of school, preparing for school-end and college entrance examinations. I had a hectic schedule. If there is hell, it is those two final years of school for me. I was studying physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer, English and Bengali and there were just so many textbooks and reference books that if I were made to stand beside the pile, I would soon be dwarfed. I slept little and complained much. I was continuously irritated and shouted at everyone. I had no time for myself, let alone anyone else.

In college, I moved out of my home. The first two years were miserable. I hated the place I stayed in. One of the walls of my room was plywood and it carried over the noise that my housemates made. I shared the tiny square room with two others and would wake up in sweats in the summer – it felt that the fan was miles away from me. Even in the daytime, we had to keep the light on. The food was gross too, but that I adjusted with, eventually. Not a day passed when I wanted college life to end as soon as possible, so that I could finally earn and live in a better place.

The last two years were comparatively better. I moved to another accommodation which was a lot airy and well-lit. Most of the boarders were working girls, and after a busy period in the mornings, the house would fall strangely silent. Of course no place is without its problems, and I had my share of pathetic experiences there as well, but I lived better there.

Life at college improved too. I met a great teacher who inspired me to do new things. I guess the learning curve was steeper towards the final semesters in college that the first four.

When I left the Kolkata, the city of my college, and returned home on the last day of June 2015, I was worried if I would miss the independence that I enjoy while living alone. But as much as I prized my freedom, I loved to spend time with family because I was soon to realize that the time with my family was going to end soon. Soon, I would be shifting to another part of the country and would probably visit my parents once in six months. There would be no eating together as a family and no endless soul-baring chats with my mother. The worst part is my family would be sadder than me when I leave.

My parents were never that successful with their finances. My grandparents were first generation immigrants from Bangladesh and could not provide well for their eight children. My father and his siblings did not receive proper education or food or clothes. By the time my father started his own family, he inherited nothing except few antiquated copper utensils. My grandparents lived with us until they died. Both of them were bedridden for about one year each before death. It was a huge strain on my father’s finances – my mother tells me now that at that point of time, our shop had literally become empty – they was no money to buy goods to sell. What a difficult time it must have been for my parents – to take care of my ailing grandparents and my brother and me.

The good thing about being educated is that you have more control over your finances. When you are well-educated you make smart investments, take informed financial decisions. My father provided for my living costs while I was in Kolkata, but he couldn’t make enough to cover my tuition fees. Whatever savings he had made went towards my admission. I took a loan which has now surmounted to an obscene amount with interest. Ever since my first year of college, I have felt perpetually weighed down with the burden of student loan – I worried when finally would I be able to pay it back.

As I start my career, I think of the same thing. Thankfully, I am more aware of my finances than my father. I do all my banking work myself – something I was fearful of when I started college.

Every year more and more millennials are moving out, flying to different parts of the country or different countries, altogether. When I look back now, I see the child version of myself hating every moment of childhood and wanting to grow up. Now, I am grown up and no matter how much I wish to squeeze Time in my hand to make the moments with my family longer, the days end. So do months. And soon, it will be October and I will move to another part of the country, to officially start my career.

I wish I never grew up!

Saturday Special: I write

Hello and welcome to Saturday Specials in May! As promised, I am back with a special series having guest blogs on Scribbles@Arpita


Image Source

Today’s guest is Nimi Naren, who blogs regularly at Simple Moments of Life. It is a pleasure to have her as the opening guest blogger of the season. In my brief time at WordPress, I have been lucky to have come across some really wonderful bloggers. Nimi, is undoubtedly, at the top of my list of favorite bloggers. The first thing that attracted me to her writing was the sheer simplicity of it. She writes about simple day-to-day moments, but with her penmanship even the most mundane of things appear so beautiful! The other thing which amazes me is the discipline with which she writes every single day, never failing to update her blog on any day.

Today, Nimi shares with us about her journey as a writer and tells us what shaped her writing abilities. She also speaks about why simplicity is such a crucial factor in her writing. 

Read on, and don’t forget to leave a comment at the bottom. Also, while you’re at it, do visit her blog and read an item or two. I can bet you’d be fascinated!

 I Write

Guest post by Nimi Naren


Image Source

I write. I blog.

A few hundred words carefully picked and chosen from the ‘English Word Pool’, tweaked to convey a particular thought or story; a few ‘Word Spices’ to add a dash of emotion to the piece, a few ‘Building Blocks’ thrown in to give my article form and structure.

I write the last few words of my blog.  I go back and read it, again and again; looking for errors in grammar, flow and other things I may have missed.   I press the publish button.  My blog gets added to a million others on blogosphere, waiting to be read.

I write. I remember.

My earliest memories of writing are from school. We had a lovely English teacher in Grade 6, who played a game called ‘Word Sculpting’, with us.  The game was very simple. She would write 25 words on the blackboard, based on a theme such as nature, beach, holidays etc.  We had to string these words together into a short essay, to convey the theme effectively.  We could add our own ‘Word Spices’ to enhance our writing.

I simply loved this game.  I loved the thought that we were sculpting essays from words, and giving them life.  I still remember an essay I wrote, in one of her classes, about ‘A Rainy Day’, which got me a ‘Very well written and creative!’ comment.  One of the lines I had written in the essay went something like this – “…the rain fell on the thick brown mud, creating chocolate puddles that the children wished they could eat”.

Even now, when I see wet mud, I am reminded of these lines that I wrote in Grade 6. Such is the power of the written word.  Sentences that I love from the books I read float around in my head and give me joy. I always wonder how the author chose those particular words in that particular combination.

My parents loved to write.  My Dad wrote poems and short essays. He drew inspiration from nature. He would read them out to us occasionally.  My Mom, on the other hand, wrote powerful essays about social issues and women’s empowerment.  Both of them loved quotations, and we had many lovely books with quotations and essays, by great writers, in our home.  These had a great impact on me.

The seeds of writing were sown in me at a young age, watered by lovely books, nourished by powerful essays, and given blooming expression by my teachers at school, through their English lessons.

I wrote essays about our bus journeys from home to school; I wrote about holidays and picnics, I wrote for the school magazine.  When I started working, my job involved a lot of business writing…and the journey continued.  I learnt that each type of writing needed a different flavor, and a different word-combination.

I write. I learn.

There was a time when I used complicated words, words that I had encountered in my reading, which I then looked up in the dictionary, and used for effect in my writing. Many new words! Trying them on for size, and slipping them into my writing till they became familiar.

However, one of the most important lessons that I learnt about writing was when I had to show a product-pitch write-up to one of my superiors at work.

After reading my article, he said, “When you write, the reader should understand exactly what you are trying to say.  Keep it simple and effective. Simplicity is the essence of good writing.”

I was fairly new to the job, and what he told me stayed with me.  Whether it is writing for business, or creative writing for myself, my motto is ‘Keep it simple.’

I write. I express

What we write is forever.  Writing enables us to crystallize our thought process. When we write – we think, we dwell, we analyze, we see things from other people’s point of view, we play many roles, we sink into the characters we portray, we laugh with them, and we cry with them, we live through them for the short time that they are in our lives.  We experience the entire gamut of emotions through words. We create entire worlds with these words, we create happiness, humour and music; we trigger memories and bring joy to ourselves and others.  We can slink back into the worlds we’ve created at anytime by merely re-reading our work. 

Each time I write something, I feel a sense of accomplishment; that I could actually shepherd all those floating words and sentences in my head into a cohesive story or an article.

I write because this is the way I best express myself. I write because it gives me the greatest happiness.

I write.

The End

Note: I am Mala has been published in the May 2015 edition of eFiction magazine. Buy your copy on Amazon and the eFiction website.