‘Another Chance’ by Ahmed Faiyaz: Review

‘Another Chance’ by Ahmed Faiyaz is an engaging work of fiction about the complications
of modern day relationship. The story revolves around a fresh MBA graduate Aditya, his 
meteoric rise to glory early in his career and the way he struggles to juggle his responsibilities
as a manager and a lover. However, if I attempt to glorify his role in what I would call a
‘romantic-thriller’, I would be doing injustice to another protagonist who is probably more
responsible in keeping readers fixated than anyone else: Ruheen, a (some may choose to 
call her ‘spoilt’) lady who grew up under her affluent Nana’s care and attention.
Ruheen is ravishingly beautiful and a heart-throb in college. Of the several guys she goes out
with, Vishal, the son of a minister, turns out to be a violent stalker. And when our protagonist
Adi gets too “close and personal” with Ruhi by some luck, Vishal interferes, more like a villain
from Bollywood, forcing both to find their own ways out of the relationship. Their lives take
their own course in different cities.
One day, Ruhi finds herself drawn to an NRI brat from London in a Delhi club. They get 
married but once in London, she discovers that life is not what she had least expected. Her
husband, Rohan turns out to be a violent drug-and-playstation addict, tormenting her- mentally
and physically while also getting involved in public brawls. She somehow flees to Amsterdam
secretly with help from Rohan’s sister. There, while Adi is on a business trip, she meets him 
and they fall in love all over again! Too much of a coincidence, eh?
They fly back together to India and start living in Mumbai. However, the happiness in their
live-in relationship is marred by Adi’s nature of job; he has to spend long hours in office and
go out on business trips every now and then. Despite Ruhi’s unceasing complaints and Adi
trying hard to strike a work-life balance, he is unable to keep Ruhi out of her loneliness, 
especially during her pregnancy. To make matters worse, their first child dies before birth. 
This leaves a permanent mark in their relationship, each blaming the other for the disaster.
With Nana down with severe illness in Shimla, Ruhi meets a more responsible Varun than 
what she had known him from high-school; she feels attracted to him. On the other hand, 
Malika, a divorcee who is also on a business trip with Adi, tries to seduce him into falling in
love with her- Adi is largely undeterred, with Ruhi still in his dreams. But Ruhi starts to realize
that Adi is too busy with his own career to meet her even on her birthday! Adi, on the other
hand, gets Rohan to divorce Ruhi without legal complications by paying him a lump sum; 
Ruhi is unaware of this. So, she decides to split up with Adi. Adi is shattered but accepts it
gracefully. The author deftly ends the story by letting the readers know if Adi gets a second 
chance, ahead of Varun, who would certainly be wronged if Ruhi decided to marry Adi.
This story is more about heartbreaks than love. At several instances, you’ll feel sorry for Adi,
Ruhi, Varun or all three of them for the turn of events that so adversely affects their relationship.
This story is about managing the problems that come with responsibilities at a young age; about 
setting the right priorities- of career and family. It is also about being given ‘another chance’
to make amends in life. I don’t know how many are that lucky! But if one is, it is equally
important to go all out to grab that hard earned fortune.

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Around the world with awesome people

(This is an entry under "Around The World With Expedia!" contest held by Expedia and Indiblogger)

Blessed with a bloodline which enjoys traveling, I have been a traveler since birth,
moving from one place to another for reasons most ‘worldly’ people would not find 
convincing. They say-“Habits die hard”. My father was kind enough to administer
the drug of ‘traveling to get rid of the monotony of every day life’ into my blood early
in my life. Today, I travel (at my own expenses) at least twice a year to some tourist 
destination- mostly natural, sometimes historic, rarely religious and almost always 
Indian. Besides, the university I studied in and the organization I currently work for, 
I believe, wrongly chose me to represent them at international destinations; I must
admit that these experiences have also been equally gratifying. From what I saw, I
can affirm that any place in this world can be distinctively characterized by its people.
And certain special people residing there or visiting the place make a trip all the more
interesting. Here I bring forth a collection of chronologically-arranged (because I 
can’t think of any other reason why one should be placed before the other) stories 
from four different countries and three different continents.
[Thanks to Indiblogger (http://www.indiblogger.in) and online travel company 
Expedia (http://www.expedia.co.in/for giving me a reason to write stories which
otherwise would have lost in Oblivion.]

Bhutan, 2002:
                                                        Could’ve lost here that night!

It has been a long time (for someone who has lived less than three decades) but
some people leave an impression that last a lifetime. It was October and I was 
traveling with my parents from Phuentsholing- a town that shares its border 
with India- to the capital city Thimphu. The public bus we boarded was
slowly crawling along the mountainous curves, gifting us a breathtaking view on 
the valley-side. At around 3 PM, the bus broke down. Except the tourists who 
wanted to enjoy the roadside beauty, all wore a depressing look. My parents and
I got down to feast on the changing face of nature while the bus driver and his 
assistant tried in vain to get it repaired. One of them had to travel to a nearby 
town to get a broken part from the engine replaced. We waited in tense anticipation
until he returned. When we finally reached Thimphu, it was 10 PM. We had no hotels
booked in advance. The bus-driver assured my father, “Don’t worry, Sir. We will 
not go home unless we find you a hotel.” Most hotels had shut down by then and 
the ones that were open weren’t suitable for a family to stay overnight. The driver
went with my father to every hotel by the road, literally knocking their closed 
doors begging for a positive response. Finally, one benevolent hotelier, almost woken
up from sleep, allowed us in. A middle-aged man, his wife and their fifteen-year-old
son would have left stranded on the streets of Thimphu that night but for the 
bus-driver who didn’t care about the extra fuel he spent on us or the time he spent
in getting us to safety. I don’t remember his name; in fact, I don’t even remember
if we had asked him his name. It is no wonder that Bhutan is today one of the 
“happiest” nations in the world. Trust me, I have now got ample reasons to believe
in what the economists have to say.

 Belfast (UK), 2008
                                                         There he is, welcoming us!

A group of 20 University students from India were invited to The John Hewitt pub
by the NRI professors. The only thing then on our mind was Guinness. Of course,
we had our share of the world-famous beer and the soulful ‘live’ jazz music that
was being passionately played to a cheerful crowd. Some time later, in the next room,
we were in a discussion with one of the professors: Satish. He had graduated from
a reputed University in Delhi and had gone on to become a teacher at a University 
in Belfast. His stories were amusing. His friends in India were largely influenced
by Marxism: while some were MPs in Lok Sabha, others became militant Naxalites! 
He said with an air of pride, “I am in touch with either faction.” We exchanged glances. 
He continued to amaze us: how he had to literally “ship” his huge collection of “two
tonnes” of books from India; how dearly he valued his Indian Passport and how
desperate he was in Indianizing his Irish fiancee. Certainly, the entire audience
wasn’t drunk! In fact, the next day, during his lecture at the University, we could 
feel that his love for India was oozing out in his words. There he is, Satish- an 
Indian savant in a foreign land- standing tall in my memory, for peculiarly
patriotically sentimental reasons.

Lava-Rishop (India), 2010
                           What do we owe him? Respect? Sympathy? A bit of both, may be?

Sixteen of us, basking in merriment in the final year of college, were to trek from 
Lava to Rishop, both small villages in the lap of the immaculately serene 
Himalayas in the state of West Bengal. It was nearly a 5 km-walk along a rugged 
terrain. For any experienced trekker, this would be a cakewalk but for amateurs
like us, it was indeed expected to be tiring. But the moment we started, our guide
Bhutia kept our spirits high. All through the journey, he entertained us with his
jokes in a mix of Hindi, Nepali and Bengali; we called them “PJs”.  Poor jokes, by 
definition, would not make anyone but the presenter laugh. However, Bhutia’s
PJs were so poor that we always burst out laughing! The very idea that Bhutia 
called his jokes “jokes” made us laugh. In fact, he was so charged with enthusiasm
every time we laughed that he kept telling us jokes every now and then and even
repeating them during our return trek. Sometimes, he told us stories from his 
village, spiced them up with a touch of history and served them to exhausted but
fun-seeking palates. True to his innocent nature and placid temperament, his  
jokes were remarkably simple and goaded us through a tiresome yet joyful walk.
When I look back, I’m not sure why exactly I feel sorry for this poor man. But I, 
despite a self-proclaimed non-believer, silently pray to God: May Bhutia entertain
travelers with his stories and jokes for years to come!

 Plano (USA), 2010
                                           Somewhere in a crowd that defied the music…

It was a chilly December night. Five of us decided to leave the comforts of the hotel
after a tiring day of work. “Let’s go to a club…and party all night. Tomorrow’s off”-
said one of us. At about midnight, we were with a crowd dancing to live music. 
Some people in our group complained that the crowd was ‘racist’; that most Americans
there made them feel so. While we were discussing the nature of the crowd in one 
corner, there approached a man who knew one of us from office. He was from Pakistan
He shook hands with each of us and introduced his friend Khan to us. Another 
tall Pakistani with broad shoulders, Khan did not shake hands with me. Instead he 
came close to my ears and said-“Why are Indians and Pakistanis standing so far 
apart?” I was taken aback. Common sense does strike me sometimes! Now that he was so 
close to my ears, I instantly said- “Really? Are we standing far apart? I don’t think so!” 
The next thing he did was to embrace me hard. For quite some time. I will never forget 
the spark of emotion in his glittering eyes; yes, I could see it in the dark. We, I felt, were
united by a common sympathy. He bought me a drink of my choice and asked me to 
keep in touch. He didn’t share his phone number. He was too drunk by then. What 
still moistens my eyes is the ‘sub-continental’ camaraderie of a stranger. 
People like Khan immensely contribute in bridging the walls created by petty politics.

Around the world in places known and unknown
Lives a drone, suitably adorning the throne
In the heart of a wanderer- some peculiar,
Some poor, others compassionate and pure.
The earth is adorned with Eiffel and bridges,
Rivers and wildlife, museums and caves,
They said that beauty lay in human heart-
What a piece of art! What a piece of art!

My views on “The Elephant, the Tiger & the Cellphone” by Shashi Tharoor

The name of the book would invoke interest in anyone. The author’s fame, although not yet as much as a novelist, is pervasive. A man rooted in Kerala, born in London, who studied in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, earned a Ph.D at the young age of 22 and almost made it to the top of the United Nations as its revered Secretary General had finally decided to join the swampy grounds of Indian politics. This achiever, I felt, wanted to serve India in a way most NRIs would dare not venture into but would be secretly proud of. And thus, I had decided to order the book. (Special thanks to a friend who often sang high praises for this man during our college days, whose words I got reminded of, every time I heard Tharoor in news).
The book turned out to be an engaging read. That he is a very eloquent writer he made it clear from the beginning- words flowed smoothly. If I had to point out two reasons why you should read it, they would be:
1. It is a collection of essays and you can choose to skip one if you don’t find it interesting and move on to the next (no, I didn’t do that) without missing the link.
2. It is about India- something all Indians can relate to. However, Tharoor dedicated it to his wife Christa “in the hope of introducing her to my India” and hence also acts as a guide for all non-Indians who wish to sail through the history of a land of snake-charmers, brilliant mathematicians and the greatest democracy in the world.
In his book, Shashi is able to portray a very true picture of India, thanks to his access to the most ‘untouched’ of the bureaucrats both inside and outside the geographical boundaries of the nation to the ones considered “untouchables” in this country.
Tharoor takes up the subject of the tale of an extraordinary transformation of an equally extraordinary nation that has been able to evoke deference from rest of the world, both secretly and candidly, for a wide spectrum of reasons. He clearly believes in the importance of Indian middle class in this transformation. Tharoor outlines the evils that made India what he calls “a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay”. Of course, there is no denying the fact that India once boasted of the best mathematicians, scientists, philosophers and poets. Besides, this has been the land of religious toleration (He cites the example of the Jews who after facing the wrath of all nations found shelter in Kerala). The author points out how we have let our rich heritage go down the drain over time.
Of the current social evils, he has been vehemently vocal about the politics over Hindutva by a vengeance-seeking group of vandals who have no understanding of arguably the most tolerant religion in the world. Tharoor laments, among several others, the rising challenge of illiteracy, the graph that challenges to beat China in terms of population, the falling trend in wearing saris (taking into account the difficulties it poses), the increasing belief in superstitions amongst the “educated” and the increasing re-naming of cities, roads and railway stations!
Tharoor is also proud of the fact that India has a Bangalore (ah, Bengalooru), that cellphones are selling like hot cakes in India, that it still produces brilliant minds that rule the Silicon Valley half a world away and how we all are minorities in this country (a very interesting conclusion he has repeatedly harped upon) with more differences than similarities and still manage to stay together in harmony.
Besides, Tharoor writes about the ever-increasing craze over a game he is equally mad about- cricket. And of course, he mentions the Bollywood heroes who are worshipped not just in India. He writes about Ajanta caves, the legacy of St. Stephen’s College, Sunil Gavaskar, the attitude of Indians towards NRIs and the mushrooming of call-centers with equal ease.
He turns out to be a great fan of Gandhiji, equally of Nehru, not as much of Indira and somewhat of ‘Congress’. But he also points out the flaws with each of them. He is indebted to the individuals that made India India: from Gandhi to Tagore, from a not-so-known nun Mariam Thresia to the genius Ramanujan, from the savant Amartya Sen to his beloved family.
A polymath himself, Shashi has indeed done a wonderful job, his wide knowledge about the country he considers his despite not having lived here for quite some years, exuding all over the place in his book. Of course, Shashi hasn’t listed the solutions to all the evils marring the face of this nation but has indeed done a brilliant research on the root-cause analysis of several of them. The best thing about him is- you can’t research and write things you don’t care about- so, his concerns are genuine, unlike most other politicians of our age. Cheers to his vision of India!

PS: To find out the reason behind the title of the book, read it.

The Album

Leafing through the album
Out of boredom,
I ran across some photographs-
Clicked at a time
When there were only laughs.

Plain in-house celebrations
To gorgeous neighborhood weddings,
The small town that lent me wings
And the city that let me fly in the breeze.
The soothing touch of mother
That withered not in weather;
Fun and frolic with friends at the sea
When days were carefree;
At the terrace with siblings
Exchanging interpretations of dreams.

The hazy analog family shots
Or the rehearsed digitals,
These are memories frozen on paper or bits
Don’t know if they’re gold or gilts,
But when they said- ‘All that glitters is not gold’
It felt so good to see-
All that matters is still not sold...