The Kindness Project

If you ask me after Greenpeace the next best initiative to support a good cause that actually matters to the people of the world, I will immediately tell you that it has got to be The Kindness Project. If I have to describe what it has been doing since its inception about a week ago, I will say it’s been doing magic.

Yes, magic that brings happiness to all people. These wonderful people, Elizabeth Davis, Christa Desir ,Sarah Fine, Liza Kane ,Amie Kaufman, Sara Larson ,Matthew MacNish, Sara McClung, Gretchen McNeil ,Tracey Neithercott ,Lola Sharp ,Michele Shaw, Meagan Spooner,  Carolina Valdez Miller,  have so beautifully taken it upon themselves to be the change they want to see. We all find ourselves making faces at snobs, debating about decreasing respect for another human being and the like. But it is truly commendable that these people took that extra step that matters. Now they have set the bead in motion and its rolling steady I must say.

Now solid proof of that can be found on all their blogs and the many blogs that will lead you to. And better still is my own story. My terrific friend D.B. Smyth decided to send her love for me one fine Monday, and stunned me and others alike with her gesture. It takes a golden heart to do something so truly kind and random. I know I can never say much with words when it comes to people whom I love, respect and admire. So bear with me. D.B. Smyth, you are the sweetest and I love you. May God bless you with all possible happiness! And I ask you all to please stop by her fantastic blog which is just as amazing as she is and give her your love.

And if you hadn’t heard about this project till now and feel inspired by it please join in and do your bit. As they say every teensy bit makes a difference.

Now after having felt the goodness and read so much about The Kindness Project I feel so inspired to do something. To do my bit. But I am at sea, let me tell you and I need suggestions.

So tell me, what do you think would be the best way to carry forward this initiative? Have you done anything that you would like to share?


The month in books: April

On the personal front April was a tiresome and trying month. I had very little or rather no time at all for myself and it seemed an unsettling period. The little hours of solitude that I snatched for my reading had me read these wonderful books which truly sustained me through those distressing days.

Firstly I owe the revival of my spirits to none other our beloved Rowling. Reading Goblet of fire sort of rekindled those feebly glowing embers of enthusiasm. It was my second time I think. The first time I read it, I remember clearly, was many years back and under a thick blanket, shuddering at the death of poor old Frank. I felt the very same fervour in this reading too. And I am pretty sure that it will never die out. My love for the Harry Potter series will definitely be with me throughout my life.

While there are many critics who argue that Rowling’s writing is too logical than fantastic I can but only detest that argument. Stories can be logical, magical, anything! That’s what stories are- impossible, possible, imaginative, real… The fact that as a child the book awed me and as an adult it remains a true and faithful friend, who sees me through tough times, even provides an unparalleled escape is a testimony to its brilliance. Only very few books have that power and the Potter books have it in them.

And with the alleviation of cloudy moods I even ventured headlong into ‘Pottermore’ and had loads of fun buying my wand and getting sorted. Mine’s a beautiful Sycamore with unicorn core wand and to my surprise I found myself in Hufflepuff house. Ouch! But the hat never goes wrong.

The other book that completely aided in my healing was Mr. Oliver’s Diary by Ruskin Bond. It’s a short and sweet book that will stay with me forever. It tells the endearing tale of a perfect school teacher, the strict and bendable, Mr. Oliver. It’s a children’s book and I loved it. Somehow I am never comfortable calling books as ‘Children’s books’ because I enjoy them wholly as any child would do and I am strictly way past my childhood. I never tire of them and it isn’t surprising that I turned to these very books in a very troubled time. Not intentionally though, but perhaps instinctively.

This also tells a very good principle to keep in life if you ask me. Stay a child at heart. When a book meant for kids can cheer one up so well, keeping your heart and mind like a child’s can certainly go a long way to leading a happy and fulfilling life. Yes and the book also has many a treats on the platter to cater to every imaginable childish craving- from croaky, slimy frogs to hot, savoury snacks to snow, ghosts and a cute love story.

And then I read a painting. Yes, I can only describe that book as a work of pure art painted in words. How else can anybody discuss about a work by the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore? ‘Shesher Kavitha’ a Bengali masterpiece by Tagore was recently translated to English by Dilip Basu. I recently read a little review of the translated version, ‘The Last Poem- A novel’ and instantly ordered it online. It was a long wait of forty eight hours before I held it my hands. This one is a true feast for the romantic sort. It is tragic, in a way, mind you yet it is not. That subtlety in its storyline kept me in a trance for hours later. Once taken up it is next to impossible to put it down. The story pulls you into its mire of poetry, nature and love; the three very elements that I live on. It is a beautiful little novel and in a way renders true beauty to the word beautiful.

Here’s a tiny eloquent poem, one of the many poems that bridge the romance :

Waterfall, in the crystals

of your flow,

The sun and stars

See each other

And here is another favourite of mine:

Let the shadows swing and play

Upon your waters,

Let the shadows mingle

With the music of your laughter,

Give it a voice

The voice of eternity.

The last poem in the book, from which the book derives its name, is a classic. There are several surreal illustrations, by a very talented Dinakar Kowshik, interspersed between the pages and they are great tools that aid in gluing to mind the quintessence of the characters. All in all, one marvellous book that I can just look at and feel happy.



Seasons: Mango Love

[Seasons is a new feature on The Literary Shack showcasing some of my favourite aspects of the season running. I hope you will enjoy this one and extend your support as you have always done 🙂 ]

The summer heat is decidedly on here in my part of the world. Whatever it is doing to people I couldn’t care for I wake up each morning hoping to spot a cart of fresh, ripe, juicy, sensuous mangoes in the market. But alas the showers have been sparse and I’m sure we didn’t even have mango showers this year. So it would be lame to yearn for mangoes before May but there you have it: I am a mango maniac.

An interesting fact is that I am not one of those sophisticated mango lovers. By which I hope to remember you to those clan of people who drool over mango mousses, mango flavoured ice-creams, mango puddings, souffles, mango tarts, mango pizzas (if that’s possible) and all other unimaginable such recipes with mango. So sophisticated I am not. But purist I am. I love the fruit as a whole, as a creation of Nature.

I love their sweet smell. Sometimes it’s not even sweet. It’s that half-ripe-half-unripe wavering aroma that teases the nostrils. The skin and form are an artwork in their own right. It’s a beautiful mishmash of dark green, yellow and even blue sometimes stretched all over in absolutely admirable patterns. We have to give credit the Maker for such safe, artistic packaging that is nonpareil.

Skinning and slicing is a pure pleasure job that has to be done in absolute tranquillity while you take in the various stages of unveiling of its inner beauty. After a certain age, when I was allowed to clutch a knife and peeler, I almost felt like I was vested with great powers and immediately set to its application during summer breaks. I would hurriedly empty my cleverly filled plate (consisting of only those essential food stuff I needed to get through the day as a human being) and run to the mango basket. And I still remember how cross I was with the flies that had outdone my speed in reaching the place.

And yes washing was a ritual I performed with less enthusiasm for it was later on included in my rule book after a thorough beating when mother discovered me hogging loads of unwashed mangoes. So the final mouthing of the pieces is by far the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had. I would eat on and on, not sparing the little scrapes of mango left on the huge seed which is pure fun chewing on. Sometimes I’ve had people losing their mango appetite eating along with me. But I am none the decent eater even now. When it comes to gorging on mangoes, it is messy business. And I completely love it as I am proud of my style.

And I really get friendly with other mango lovers. That includes who people love eating mangoes and most importantly that grow them. I had once wanted to belong to the latter category and later dropped the plan on learning that it would take at least a decade for the mangoes to spring. I was seven or eight then. I haven’t changed much since then too.

There is one other group of people who I worship- writers who write to glorify my favourite fruit. I came upon this poem sometime back penned by one of my favourite contemporary poetess Aditi Rao on the poetry journal, Muse India. Ms. Aditi Rao did such an excellent job of it that after reading it I was actually cross! Cross that it wasn’t time for mangoes yet and the mango seeker in me had been aroused before time. I’m so happy to share it with you here:

The International Mango Festival

is a real festival, an annual two day extravaganza, 

the only ritual my grandfather, a good Marxist,

allowed himself. Each year, he drove his white Contessa

(five/ nine/ eleven year old me chattering in the backseat),

led me through human throngs and sweet mango smells.

The heat did not matter. The crowds did not matter.

There were magic shows, mango slogan writing

competitions, and mango eating contests for women.

But we simply walked from stall to stall, cradling the fruits

in our palms, sniffing for flavor, touching tentatively,

feeling their pulse. Sometimes, I would rub my thumb

in little circles on the mango’s skin, carry its scent home with me.

I never believed the watermelon sized mangoes, and I refused

to take the plum sized ones seriously. Still, there was joy

in watching those first encounters, shy unveilings

of brides to worlds they had been sheltered from. The Sindoori,

with its blush, greeting the Safeda’s pale grandeur. The syrupy Alfonso

in its first meeting with a spicy pickle. The shock on a mango’s face

at this other, this who-is-this-other, this other-I-didn’t-know-existed.

While tourists flocked to the special events, my grandfather and I

pressed our ears to the mangoes and listened. We learned their secrets.

I have two words for you Ms. Aditi: Thank you! And now I hope I have fired up the mango lover in you for it is summer after all!