Neha



Some stories make you cry, while others make you smile. Some leave you amazed, while others leave you wondering. This story makes you experience it all. There are tears, there are failures, there is love, there is maternal affection and at the end, the story leaves you with a smile.

A Knotty Affair is the story of Viraj and his struggles. His struggles start early on due to his weight and stammer. He tries to fit in and adapt with other classmates, but is ridiculed and laughed at all the time. Left with no friends, his only solace is his mother and her unflinching love and confidence in him. He joins college where his father teaches, strikes friendship with the beautiful and understanding Ruhi and falls in love. However, this little euphoria in his otherwise mundane life is short-lived when he realizes that it's a one sided relation which will not be reciprocated. 

A conspiracy shatters the small and cozy family. As they struggle to wade through it, a tragedy seems like the end of everything. Yet, they survive and thereafter starts Viraj's journey of countering his weaknesses and turning a new leaf in his life. He begins his life afresh but a strange turn of events make him stand face-to-face with Ruhi, and thus restarts the chapter of his life he thought was left far behind and forgotten. 

A Knotty Affair manifests human emotions beautifully. On one hand, there is a mother who stands by her son, no matter what, and there is a father who loves and wants the best for his child, but is unable to express it in words. Then, there is friendship and then love and commitment and the joy of seeing happiness in the eyes of those you love. This is what makes this story a true winner. 

The characters are well-sketched and the background makes them feel like they are people who live next door, those we see in and around every day, but are oblivious to their daily struggles. There is a sense of realism that pervades all through the story and that is precisely this novel's strength. Despite displaying and manifesting so many human emotions, the story is light and breezy. And that's its beauty.

A beautiful tale narrated equally well, this can well be in your next read in your list of something light yet very meaningful. 


Neha

With all the news in and around social as well as mainstream media, what happened in Kashmir in 1990 is no longer just a story. Its pain and agony is felt across generations. One can do justice to a story on the subject only if they've gone through it or seen it closely. This novel, named after the subject, reveals more about what happened before and after the tragic year of 1990 and how it affected scores of families for whom Kashmir was their home.

The story is that of a Kashmiri Pandit, Shiv, whose life turns upside down and everything looks bleak after his family is forced to leave Kashmir.  The family not only loses their home but also a family member and the pain and trauma they go through is immense. Slowly and steadily,   our protagonist regains his foothold after losing out briefly to wrong elements and bad habits. While he works towards his studies and attaining his degree, he also tries to find the lost elements of his life that got left behind in Kashmir, most importantly the girl he loved and longed to be with. The story even covers a bit of the Mumbai riots of 1993.

The two backdrops of this story are intense and the writer manages to reveal the pain and trauma through his pen.  The characters are sketched well and grow as the story advances. Though the story does not delve much into what exactly happened in 1990 and the massacre that happened then, it focuses more on how lives were affected and how families lost everything they called their home for generations.

Well written and fast paced, the story will go well with youngsters. If you're looking for a fresh story with real incidents, pick this one and you'll not be disappointed.

Neha

What happens when you mix two stories -  one an eternal mythology and another with a modern backdrop? Chances are that either will get lost in the merger and eventually the entire plot will collapse.  However, there are novels that have been able to weave together two stories parallel to each other and maintain the rhythm successfully.

To say that When Arya Fell Through The Fault meets the milestones laid down by its precedents in the past wouldn't be an exaggeration. The plot brings the mythological epic Ramayana in context with the story of a teenager living in the modern suburbs of California. While trying to make himself acceptable to the bullies in his school amid racial discrimination and utterly rude behaviour, Arya harms himself and his family in more ways than one. Gradually, he loses his reasoning and logic and makes a mistake that costs him and his family rather heavily. Thus begins a journey of self realisation and penance where he sets out to fight the demons, within him and outside.

While the story may seem simple, the plot is complex and interwoven intricately. It's not easy to bring together two stories from entirely differently eras, but the author does a lovely job here. So while you go back a bit to the history lessons,  you are able to put your present in it and analyse the situation thereon. To say that the great mythological epics hold the answers to life itself is what this novel sets out to say as well.

The characters are those you meet in your day-to-day life. You might like them or loathe them but they impact you and your actions. Whether you respond to them favourably or react to them in haste and anger is what eventually determines your personality and character. And the book is able to put across this little message in a simple way. A few descriptions might seem lengthy here and there and it does get a little preachy somewhere midway,  but the flow isn't lost.

The story remains with you, long after you've read it. As a reader, you begin to analyse your actions and reactions to life events and that's what makes the story successful. The words and tone are reader friendly, making it a light read, yet the message is deep and profound. It's a rare combination to find these two qualities in a book. So yes, this is worth reading :)

Neha
What happens when a character from a book grows on you gradually and you begin to feel its pain. You somehow know intuitively how the next turn of events will affect the character you are now almost breathing with. That's exactly how this story wraps around you and fogs your thoughts completely.

Her Resurrection is the story of Maya and the battles she fought trying to fend for herself. The battles were imposed and none of them chosen by her. Yet, she had to live through them while she dies a little every moment. What she clings on to is a rare kind of hope and her zest to keep fighting out every battle thrown at her.

The story engulfs you word by word. The characters slide in smoothly and good or bad, you can feel their presence around. There is no wordplay when introducing new characters and it's their thoughts, deeds and dialog that provide the reader an insight to their personality. As the scenes and the story unfold, you can feel the agony and anger of the protagonist, who fights nail and tooth and survives. The characters seem very real while the background gels in too. The flow of the story is smooth with the turn of events keeping you on the edge. 

 This story isn't merely about Maya's survival.  It's about her never ending battle with the demons present in our society and how she manages to save her soul from them. This is a story that haunts and inspires you at the same time. This one is a must read,  if it's a story with an edginess that you're looking for!
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Neha
A teenage romance (if you may call it so), this book is an ideal read for youngsters in high school or early college years.

Ashwin, our young school-going hero is smitten with love at first sight. Thereafter begins his pursuit to gain the attention and consequently the friendship of his love interest. While working towards that, he also gets over several of his own inhibitions. The love story, however, ends even before it begins due to a misunderstanding. To get over all the pain and trauma, he decides to go to another town for a while where he falls in love, all over again. This time, the love story does take off but again ends sordidly, much to the pain of our hero. Amid all this, he has a friend who steadfastly stands by him, assuring and helping him all along. And as he tries to pick the pieces of his broken relationships, he discovers a big secret, revealing how all along his life had been played with and smeared with jealousy and one-sided love.

A typical teenage crush story we all would have either gone through or read and heard about numerable times. The writers have built a story around what one would call a regular teenager's life. While the characters have been briefed well, a few descriptions do seem inspired from a typical Bollywood movie script. The settings are etched out well, though rather lengthy at several places. However,  few characters seem out of place due to lack of proper introduction while others have been dealt with a little better. 

All in all,  this would appeal to young readers and those who like quick reads with no heavy baggage to keep after reading. I'd not say that the story lingers for long in your mind after reading, but it is a good effort nevertheless. 
Neha

The Ribbon Trap is a story of a young and promising girl who becomes a victim of a political conspiracy. As her entire life, as well as her mental wellbeing, is trapped in this intricately woven political ribbon, her fiance stands by her throughout her ordeal and refuses to give up, either on her or life.

The novel begins on a rather slow note,  but builds up word by word. The female protagonist, Smita, becomes a victim to a huge political controversy and loses not only her job, but even her reputation as well as af good years of her life. When she regains her strength,  both mentally and physically,  she ventures to find the culprit and that's how layers of conspiracies are peeled, leaving her astounded and stunned. Amid all this is her fiance who covers and protects her and never leaves her side.

The author has etched each character with authenticity. While the turns are quick and keep you engrossed, there is a good number of surprises thrown in that come in time to time. If one knows Indian bureaucracy and politics well, the story and the setting will be more relatable. With a rather engaging plot, the story moves with adequate pace. While the descriptions are not as good and do not really evoke the required atmosphere, the balance is maintained by ensuring there's no laxity in the twists and turns as every chapter reveals something. On the other hand, there are a few characters that could have been highlighted a bit more and a couple others that needn't have as much space.

The female protagonist in the novel is strong. The twists may be predictable at times, but the climax is dramatic and not what a reader might predict. While the reader may feel for the characters,  there is a little void that doesn't allow you to empathise completely with the protagonist. An out and out commercial thriller,   what stands out in this story is how our protagonist makes her way in the political arena and confronts those who messed up her life. Breaking the stereotype to an extent, this novel is a good read.

Neha
We, Prabir and I, were at a store looking at backpacks. While I was busy looking at the designs being shown by a salesman, Prabir was exploring the suitcases and bags kept nearby.

Suddenly, I heard Prabir say 'NO' pretty loudly. I turned towards him and he told me that the uncle was touching his cheeks and so he said 'No'. I immediately asked the salesman not to do it and picked Prabir and made him sit near me. Meanwhile, I also told him that he did a good job saying 'No' to that uncle.

If you ask me, I am a very proud mother since this incident. And I am happy that my son knows that he can say 'No' and that it's alright and that we have his back always.

This incident has also reaffirmed my belief that it is never too soon or early to teach a child about good touch and bad touch. I have always taught him the real names of all his body parts and keep telling him what is good touch and what is not and what he needs to do if anyone touches him where he doesn't like or any other place. We also have a little quiz session time to time where he asks me as to who all can touch or kiss him and I tell him a yes or a no plainly.

Call me paranoid, but I know that I cannot be with my son 24*7 always. I know that he will have to go out and meet new people and not everyone will be good, so to say. And I know that if my son knows how to deal with such situations, I will have to worry a little less probably.

On the other hand, I also do not like complete strangers pulling his cheeks and neither does he. Saying no to them probably sounds rude, but I'd rather be rude than polite at the cost of the comfort of my little one. Better still, I carry him. So, the closer he is to me, lesser chances of strangers walking up to harass him (Yes, I call this harassment! Would an adult like getting their cheeks pulled by a stranger? No. Then why a little child who can barely express their likes and dislikes?)

So, yes, when my son stood up for himself and said "No", all at 2.5 years of age, I was a happy mother. And I know that all those conversations between us, mostly one-sided, have been of use.

So, all parents reading this, teach your little ones about their bodies with the real names. Tell them about good and bad touch and teach them how to say No. Most importantly, respect them for saying it and listen to them.

It is one of the biggest life lessons we need to teach and learn too :)

Neha

When what would seem like regular mundane details of life are interwoven with fine words, stories come alive. Rukhsat is one such collection of stories. Whether it is the characters portrayed so intricately in each story or the plots, there awaits a surprise in each.

Moreover, many stories are linked together in a beautiful way. It's like reading another perspective of the same story. The tales revolve around life and death, love and loss, and friendship and jealousy.  One story would take you to a point in time in the life of the respective character and then another will tell the same tale, albeit from the perspective of another character from the previous story.

Every story is told in a mystical and yet evocative manner, which would leave the readers looking for more. Whether it is Varun, Lotika, Manu, Siraj or Zayan, every character grows on you. They don't seem to be from another world, but someone living next door, people we see and may be acknowledge every day, and yet wouldn't expect that they'd have a story to tell.

Rukhsat leaves you looking for answers as you dwell deeper in the messages it conveys in an ever so subtle manner. It makes you think and introspect. In one word, it's unputdownable!

Neha

Why do we compare? Who do we compare with? What are the standards? Who set those standards?

No, there's so definite definition to being a mother. If there is any, that's being the best mother. Because all mothers are the best. None can be any less. We all fight for our children and love them to bits.

Can love be measured? No. 
Can our struggles be less than someone else's? No.

Each one loves. Each one fights.

Then why put yourself up against standards that don't exist? Why think that what you've done may not be enough? You're doing the best you can. And only you know the best for your child.

So, sit back. Take a break from judging yourself. Look at the awesome marvels you've created. Aren't they just perfect? Yes. Because you created them. Because you're the best. The best mother for your children.

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Neha
When I quit my full time job, over four year ago, everyone had some advice for me. No, no baby was on the cards then and I had done it simply because I felt it was time to test new waters and tread forbidden paths. Of course, none of that was possible without the support of my husband, who stood by my decision.

Meanwhile, I completed another Post Graduation course and started a little venture in writing. At any given day, I was working at least 10-12 hours. Work flourished and time flew. Almost 2 years later, we were blessed with Prabir. However, I continued working. I have changed gears since and started another retail venture too. Yet, my primary responsibility is my son, with whom I stay 24x7.

While, I have the luxury to stay at home, look after my son and work as well, many others do not. After a stipulated maternity break, most have to join back work. You are ridden with fear, guilt and may be remorse. Yet, quitting your job may not be an option for various reasons.

To say that working mothers are not involved with their children completely would be unfair. I have seen mothers, and fathers, keeping a check on their children while at work. They ensure their children eat and sleep on time and even take leaves to be with them during exams etc.

With nuclear families on the rise, the most worrisome issue that remains is who to leave the child with, when you have to join back. A friend had asked me to venture on this topic a couple of months back. And after a lot of reading and discussions with friends in different situations, here is what I could come up with.

The options are immense:


  • With either grandparent(s)
  • At home, with a full time maid/nanny
  • Enrol in a creche or daycare
Each one comes with their pros and cons.

  • With grandparents
PROS:
  1. Your child is in loving and caring hands.
  2. You can be rest assured they are fed well and a routine is followed.
  3. This also ensures a lot of quality time as children learn from their grandparents.
  4. It is financially beneficial too.
CONS
  1. Generation gap 
  2. Difference in parenting styles may lead to stress and conflict.
  3. Over-caring attitude may lead to discipline issues later.
  4. The child may be plonked in front of the TV, longer that you'd like.
  5. They may not have the energy and stamina to take care of a growing toddler.
What you can do:
  1. Have an open discussion before you embark on this arrangement on what is okay. Sleep schedule, food menu etc can be given in written so that there's no confusion.
  2. Grandparents love pampering and feeding little ones. However, occasional treats is different from giving candies or a piece of cake during lunch time.
  3. Most importantly, respect each other. Instead of telling them what not to do, you can always tell them how to do it differently. 
  4. Let the grandparent take care of the child while you're home so that they get a fair idea about the routine of the baby.
  5. Call often to check how things are. That gives you an idea how much the baby and the grandparent are able to cope with. You can even then think of hiring a part timer to help, without really offending the grandparents. Taking care of a baby is an exhausting job!
  6. Be flexible and take it easy. You might feel bad when the grandparent knows exactly what to do to soothe your little one when they throw a tantrum at dinner time or bed time. But then, that's because they are spending more waking hours with the baby.
  7. Have a consistent set of rules that everyone follows. This way, the child will not get confused either.
  • At home, with a full time maid or nanny
PROS:
  1. Your child stays in the comfort of home.
  2. You are able to monitor their meals.
  3. There's more sense of control
CONS:
  1. You may be left in the lurch if and when the nanny calls in sick or takes leave.
  2. They are usually not educated. They could know the basics of child care, but may be adamant on following practices that may be harmful for the baby.
  3. Supervision may be difficult, despite installing nanny cameras.
What you can do:
  1. Hire a nanny with very strong reference credentials.
  2. Try and work out some arrangement where a family member is home with the child and nanny.
  3. Do a very strong background check.
  4. Train the nanny for at least a month under your supervision.
  • A creche or daycare
PROS:
  1. These are regulated and a bit more accountable.
  2. You can monitor activities through CCTV cameras now.
  3. The caregivers are usually educated and trained.
  4. Children get to socialize with other kids.
CONS:
  1. Divided attention as there are more children to take care of.
  2. It is difficult to find day cares that would take infants as little as 6 months old.
  3. Children tend to get sick often in a daycare.
  4. The pick and drop timings can be pretty rigid.
What you can do:
  1. Look for a facility closer to your home or workplace, whichever is more feasible.
  2. Check the safety standards before finalizing. The place should be child friendly. You must also want to have a detailed discussion about meals, milk, naps, toilet training, screen time, play time, medical emergency etc.
  3. Again, look for a reputed place, based on feedback from friends/peers/colleagues who are or have taken their services.
Caring for a child is an exhaustive job. I know as I have been at it for a little over 2.5 years with not a single day leave as yet. Yet, I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to spend all my time with my little one.

Leaving your little one in another person's care is a difficult decision to take, and unavoidable to. But, if we consider our situation with the pros and cons, we will be better equipped to take the most suitable decision that will work for both the baby and the parents.

Hope, I have been able to help a bit here :)
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Neha
Dear Dadda,

That's how we address each other now, isn't it, as Mumma and Dadda?

If we had to go back to when we met, it would have been a little over two decades. And if we had to go back to how it all started, it'd be almost a decade, All that seems ancient history now though. But coming to our present, life has changed and how!

When we agreed to be together for life, I knew you were just the one who'd compliment and complete me in every way. And that you'd make the best husband ever. I wasn't disappointed either. You have always made that extra effort to keep things happy and smooth.

However, little did I think then about the kind of father you'd make. And here you just haven't surprised me, but simply bowled me over... yet again. The night of December 8, 2013, the day Prabir was born, you held him almost the entire night. You rocked and pacified him, as I struggled to get a hold on myself. And since then, it's just been a beautiful journey of growing together as his parents.

For him, his dadda is "Pustat Anand" and no matter how much we'd teach him to use the prefix 'Dr', he wouldn't. For, in you, he only sees his best playmate, his go-to person when mumma is strict, his caddy, his best friend! His eyes well up every morning as you leave for work and the sparkle in them is for all to see when you enter the room after a long day.

And again, you never disappoint him ever either. No matter how tired you may be, you are forever at his command, from the minute you are home. From bathing him to playing silly games to reading books together, you two are pretty sorted and just meant to be together. One hands-on father, you've never refused to change his diapers or even clean the mess that he creates. And it is these little things that make you his favourite (of course, that's after mumma!).

As he grows little by little every day, I see a lot of you in him. A Dadda's boy, he knows where his priorities lie already. He loves cars like you do and books and stationary too. And most of all, he loves his dadda.

So, while I may crib every day endlessly, be rest assured that I wouldn't have it any other way. As Prabir grows, he'll learn to be humble, to be kind and will have the zeal and determination to work hard, and all this and a lot more he'd inherit from his father- You! 

So, thank you, for every little thing you do, for all that you do, is for 'us'. Thank you for loving us so and for being the best and the most doting father I've ever seen or known.

Love you more,
Mumma
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Scene 1

Day - This Monday
Time - around noon

Prabir, now almost 2.5 years old, broke the remote back cover and started throwing everything off the bed, which included my novel and his toys.

I reacted pretty harshly and demanded that he pick the book from the floor right away. To which, I was met with an utter stubborn behaviour coupled with screaming and wailing at the top of his lungs. I stood my ground and refused to budge. He, being my blood and soul, stood his ground and refused to budge too. And this ensued over half an hour of screaming, wailing, coaxing etc etc. I did try to negotiate and make the situation a little more favourable to him as my temper cooled. However, he did not relent. Finally,  after about 45 minutes that seemed like forever, I had to pick him off the floor as well as the book. Phew!

*******************************

Scene 2

Day- Today (Wednesday)
Time- around 11 am

A househelp needed a medicine for which I took out the medicine box. In no time, all the medicines were all over the bed, some being torn apart or in the process of being rigged out of their seal. The moment I reacted asking Prabir what he was up to, he threw the box off the bed.

I asked him to pick it up and yes, he refused again. So, I closed my eyes and pleaded a little birdie to come and help Prabir pick up the box so that we could play a new 'aim' game. The box was on the bed within seconds and then we both aimed all the medicines (tablets only) inside the box and kept it away.

*******************************

Would seem just another day to anyone. However, to a full time, stay-at-home mother, any such incident is good enough to trigger an outburst (which was what happened on Monday). It might seem trivial, but not when you're required to keep your calm every second of the day.

With your patience and perseverance levels tested every minute, it's hard to just smile and go through your day. In fact, at such times, I really need to remind myself why I am following gentle parenting and why not resort to a little spanking to set things straight. Thankfully, the better part of my brain and heart knows, even in those bleak moments, that spanking will not help and only make it all even more traumatizing for both of us.

The fact is that I know the workaround. I even know, well most of the times, what will help and what won't. Yet, I let my temper take over. Who benefits? Neither mumma nor the baby. It all boils down to endless tears and cursing myself.

So, yes, we mothers aren't perfect. While you may see us handling our little ones pretty well and think we have it all sorted, the fact is we don't. We too have those moments when we want to hide somewhere, away from the constant wailing and endless tantrums. We too have serious meltdowns and we can cry for hours for seemingly no reason. When we go down the guilt trip after behaving a little strictly with our little ones, we'd love someone to tell us that it's okay and that it's absolutely normal.

I write this after almost 20 minutes of dancing and rocking my son for his afternoon nap.... preceded by 20 minutes of running after him all over the house... preceded by 30 minutes of lunch in which he only wanted to eat watermelon seeds.....

I'm tired and we're not even half past the day. And that's me, almost every day. Whoever said motherhood is easy! But again, we always have a choice as to how to react to a situation and handle it.

I think a cup of coffee might help now :)

Neha

I have a small group of mothers around me and we regularly discuss things about our respective children and seek advice from each other. Topics range from breastfeeding to food, vaccinations, outings, medicines, illness, home remedies. Basically, anything and everything.

While there's so much to learn yet, there's one thing other mothers always ask me - How do I remain so patient with my son all the time? Do I never get the urge to pick the rod?

If I have to confess, then to say that I have the composure of a saint would be the biggest lie. I snap often, I get angry quickly and I don't forgive easily.

But when it comes to my son, I hold back that impulsive emotion. I tell myself that I need to work out the situation some other way that's amicable to both of us.

He's a toddler and he'll have his tantrums. To give in to them or not is my prerogative as the parent. However, when the head banging, hitting and biting starts, all the saner thoughts fly to a distant land.

Handling the terrible twos is definitely a bigger and lengthier test I've ever taken. And the downside is that there's no textbook to go by. Just one thumb rule - Be gentle and loving, no matter how big the tantrum or bad the situation.

The first thing I do, at such times, is to stand back for a while. Away from him, and observe him. Then, as he begins his rolling-on-the-floor phase, I go and cuddle him and then starts the mammoth task of distracting him or talking it out. Most of the times, this works.

At other times, when I'm clearly not in a very safe mood myself, I keep away for longer and let someone else, usually my husband, take the front seat.

So, these days, we're always running late for everything. The reasons are pretty simple. My son may not like the clothes I pick for him and would prefer to put on something absolutely weird. Or he'd want to try all the shoes and slippers and sandals before deciding that he'll wear one each from two different pairs. Or he'd simply refuse for a diaper change as we run out of time.

The reasons are endless. And trust me, there's a lot of cajoling, negotiating and bargaining that goes on here, day in and out. The objective, however, is the same - a happy toddler.

So, yes. I usually run out of my reservoir of patience, more than a few times every day. I get firm and even upset and angry. But I don't let these emotions get the better of me. For my son is just being the baby that he is. He's entitled to his tantrums and the dramas. My only goal in those moments is to make him feel loved and understood, and reassure him every time that mumma has his back, always and all the time :)