Monday, March 18, 2013

Relationship Advice: Taken for granted at home. Lost my identity

Dear Love Guru,
I married my childhood sweetheart and had a child early. Post that I stopped working. Even though I’ve done an MBA and was working in a bank, I haven’t had a job in years. I feel I’ve lost my identity and my family takes me for granted. Please help.
Sincerely,
Kavita

Dear Kavita,
As mothers, we are accustomed to giving constantly. We’re cooking, cleaning, managing a house and dealing with the help on a daily basis. All this requires patience and understanding. Hence, we must start giving ourselves credit for being great homemakers. Not everyone is capable of being so. We must also realize that sometimes we need to stop giving even if we still can. By saying “no” occasionally, you will become a better giver and people will take you less for granted. We submerge our identities in our families wanting them to approve and appreciate us. But by doing do so, we lose ourselves till we’re frustrated and resent them. It’s not their fault that they’re taking you for granted. You allowed it to be so. Either you give with all your heart, or you refuse and let them deal with the issue at that time. You don’t always have to make the child’s favourite food because they demand it. Let her eat what’s there. You don’t need to give all your time to the family just because you have it. Make room for yourself. Start a hobby. Do something constructive and creative that allows you freedom and happiness. You’ll find yourself in no time!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top 5 Wacky But Useful Ways to Lose Weight:


I've been trying to lose weight to get my navel pierced. Here are some new ways I came up with!

1.      Photos – Seeing someone thin motivates us to try to become like that. That’s why so many fashion magazines sell. Thousands of women want to look like the model, and hope there is some secret pill inside the magazine that will make them as thin. There never is. However, it hardly motivates them to hit the gym and work their big asses off. Therefore, the photos you need to put up on your fridge are not a Cosmo cover but of your close friend/enemy who is thinner than you are. Check out your friends’ facebook profile pics or recent holiday pics. You will find someone thinner than you. Save that photo – print it and put it up. She is real. She has lost it. The Cosmo model is paid to look that way. Logic takes over your brains and you won’t diet. See the friend’s pic. You need to be thinner than her!

2.      Compete – You hit the gym and you’re bored already. Same weights. Same faces. Monotony. So while you’re there you probably faf around with some people showing off your wit, and drink plenty of water. What you need to do is find a person who comes regularly and compete with him. If he’s doing x number of sit-ups, you do more. If he’s using x number of weights, you do the same. It might be stalking but seriously watch how you will train harder. Also, do run fast if he ever catches you staring at him.

3.      Use the kids – Children have tremendous energy and you’re exhausted doing chores around them. Take the kids to a park and tell them to run while you catch them. Race with the children. Play soccer. Do jumping jacks. Skip rope. With younger kids, put them in a stroller and walk around in a park. Just remember, if you don’t have children you should ask permission from other parents if you want to play with their kids. Otherwise just going and asking a child to run is weird!

4.      Mix it Up – Some days you can swim. Other days you can go to the gym. A few days you can do yoga. You don’t need to have the same routine every day to work out. You can be innovative and mix your routines up. A word of advice...stick to doing any exercise. If you think you’ll do yoga in the morning but you’re so lazy that you keep your workout to a jog in the evening and when evening comes you say you’ll go swimming later at night but then end up tired and hungry and just eat dinner and sleep, you’ve missed out on the routine. So if it’s yoga day, move your lazy bum and just do the yoga.

5.      Diet – This is the most important tip. You’ve probably heard it all before though. Don’t eat high calorie food, do not indulge in fats, restrict carbs, and don’t mix proteins. The list goes on. When you ask Google “Ways to Lose Weight,” there are about 39,900,000 results. So you should know by now. But what they won’t tell you is you need to eat everything your body desires in whatever amount your body desires. However, you should only eat 1 bad thing then. So today, you have a bag of potato ships, don’t eat carbs at night, and work out half an hour extra. If you eat that chocolate pastry, don’t have a drink later. Balance your cravings. Controlling portions is out of the question anymore. If you think you deserve it, you are going to eat it. If you think you deserve a better body, you will work for it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: From one author to another

I remember I was just a teenager in Lucknow when I picked up Chitra Banerjee's Mistress of Spices. I was so enamoured by her writing that I devoured all book shops to find everything that she had written. And since then I have been picking up every book of hers. She writes with an incredible flair and depicts her characters and situations with such intricate textures that one is simply mesmerised by the end of the book.

She has won several awards across the world and won many hearts along her journey. She is warm, friendly and very down to earth. When I met her for the first time at the Jaipur Lit Fest, she was sitting with a cup of chai under a tree most willing to give autographs to whoever recognised her and blushing at the praise when many people wanted to take photographs.

Her latest book Oleander Girl will be released in April in India.

I had the pleasure of interviewing my favourite author. This is the first part of the two part series.

The Interview: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
1. You have been in the United States for several decades, yet you write about a deep rooted Indian mentality in your books. Is it easier to write about Indian tales and characters than American ones?
My stories deal with people of various racial backgrounds, but it is true that I am most interested in writing about Indians or Indian Americans. My deepest knowledge is of the Indian psyche. My stories are often set in America, so they often depict Indians in an American landscape.
2. How do you take inspiration from your surroundings while writing?
I actually go into the world of the imagination as I write. I like to write in a quiet space in my study with no outside stimulus.
3. Do you think of a plot first or do character sketches?
Character is always most important to me. In Sister of My Heart, I had to first understand the characters of the two cousins, Sudha and Anju, and the character of the old mansion they live in. In Palace of Illusions, I made copious notes about Draupadi, who is the narrator and heroine of the book.
4. What was the one incident that made you want to write? Did you want to do anything else besides be a writer?
I always wanted to teach, and I do that even now. I teach Creative Writing in the University of Houston. My grandfather’s death made me into a writer because I felt a deep need to preserve my memories of him through writing.
5. Do you prefer writing or teaching? Why?
I love them both. Each one complements the other. Because I write, I can teach writing. Because I teach, I read and analyze important new novels carefully.
6. What are the top 3 things that you would teach your writing class that no one in India knows about?
I teach my students to read widely and read as a writer, taking texts apart, analyzing craft techniques and structure. I tell them to write regularly, show their work to someone knowledgeable, and revise carefully. (Writers in India may already know this!)
7. Between poetry, short stories, novels; fantasy, young adult, magical realism, historical fiction, which one is your favourite? What moves you to write one genre over another?
Novels are my favorite. They are very intricate. You create a whole world when you write a novel. I love that challenge.
8. Do you write one book/ poem/ story at a time or are there many thoughts that you pen down together?
One at a time.
9. Tell us the process of writing a book from an idea to culmination. Do you have a structure, characters in mind or is there what writers call an“organic growth” in the thoughts?
I outline and take notes, but then I allow the organic growth to take over.
10. Do you write everyday? If so, where is your favourite place to write? A desk, a room, café?
I write about 3 days a week (I teach the other days). I write at home in my study where it is quiet.
11. How do you overcome distractions while writing? With family and your involvement with non profit organizations, teaching, etc how do you find time to focus and what tips would you give to others who have a busy life to find time for writing?
One needs to set aside time for writing and organize one’s life so that no other responsibilities need to be handled at that time. This might mean waking up early, or writing till late at night. It also helps if we can simplify our life and cut out unnecessary activities.
12. Did you always write what you wanted and it was published or were you commissioned to write books for a particular market?
I always come up with the ideas for my books on my own.
13. When you started writing The Palace of Illusions which is my favourite book, did you do a lot of research and then take the story forward? Was the history a burden while writing? What was the one thing you wanted to keep in mind while writing the book?
Yes, I did a lot of research. Yes, it was hard to organize the material. I kept in mind that I wanted to show how Draupadi is a very human, very timeless woman.
14. Was it difficult to explain the concepts of India – arranged marriage, Draupadi’s vastraharan, the mysteries of family and relationships in India to a foreign audience or students?
Sometimes when I am reading in the above situations, I have to explain and set up the scene. But overall I find readers are intelligent enough to get the human story under the cultural details.
15. Do you ever have a target audience in mind while writing?
No. It’s important just to write the best book possible.
16. Is marketing an important part of your journey as a writer? Or did you write and the book sales managed themselves? Is it easier to sell copies in USA or India?
Nowadays my publisher requests me to go on book tour to help bring the book to many different audiences. Beyond that, I don’t worry much about book sales since they are not in my hands anyway.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Empowering Women is the Only Route to Progress: International Women's Day Special

Was asked to give an interview for an article a friend was writing for merinews.com
The Interview I gave:
1. Rallies, protests and what not happened after the horrific Delhi rape incident but did it change ground realities or women still adhere to 'do not dress in a certain way' to feel secure in their country? –
I think life continued. Not much has changed. Until we change the mindset within homes, until we stop judging people, until we’re afraid of authorities, nothing is going to change. The system needs to protect the women. It doesn’t matter if there are less police force per population. Those many should raise fear in the rapists and have compassion for women. Only then, can our nation change.

2. Would women always be helpless? Not equipped with the muscle power, how do women feel secure? –
Women should not feel helpless but they should also understand that looking at life through rose tinted glasses is not going to keep you safe. You must carry a pepper spray if possible, learn some martial arts, protect yourself if you’re walking alone at night in alleys by being aware of who is around, keeping friends informed of where you are, spend a little more in taking a cab back home instead of being overtly brave and using public transport sometimes, learn to not trust strangers as much. I’m not saying do it every day. I’m saying be aware of when you need to. Stop being a good girl and be a safe girl!
3. In the recent budget, the government announced a 'Nirbhaya fund.' will this change ground realities or is it just a politically motivated move by the government?
Even if it is a politically motivated tactic, any fund that helps protect women is good. I’m just worried what would happen if the fund runs out. Would the police officers employed stop protecting women then? Will the transport companies that are only for women stop working? It’s really a stop – gap method to solve the problem. While it will help in the short run, it may not solve the problem completely.
4. Many believe that women empowerment leads to fragmented societies, increase in divorce rates and disintegration of society. So you think it holds any water and what causes the above mentioned problems if not empowerment?
Empowerment is the only solution for progress! Empower each and every woman in your country and your nation can take over the world. Fragmented societies are nothing but old mindsets that are sticking to old beliefs while the progressive minds take a leap into the future.
5. Has the Delhi gang rape changed women in India?
Yes. They are shocked and horrified and upset with the lack of safety that this country provides for them. They are united in their stand to help each other rather than look the other way.
6. There is a massive difference between rural and urban women. Has this changed with the Nirbhaya case?
There will always be a divide. One case can’t change an entire system. But the awareness of safety, rights and privileges has started.

Letter from a Hogwarts Teacher to Hermione

My daughter Ariaana is a big Harry Potter fan. For her summer holidays she's gone to spend time with her grandparents. So I thought I...