My Wishing stick

I have always enjoyed reading fantasy novels, and fairy tales when I was young(er). If you read enough, it starts creeping into your mind much after shut the book and sleep over. This happened to me soon after I had read Cinderella and had begun watching Aladdin. I was fascinated with the fairy Godmother, because of her ability to swish her wand and make things happen.

One day while walking back to home from the bus stop, I found a beautiful looking piece of stick that had fallen off a tree. For some reason I had picked up and was twiddling with it all the way back home. I had just started watching Swat Kats on Cartoon Network, and was wishing that I would be in time to catch the day’s episode. Wonder of wonders, I did make it in time to watch the day’s episode.

The first thing that I did after the episode got over, was to run down and find the stick which I threw before entering home (cause people at home would throw a fit). I managed to sneak it in, and hide it in my school bag. Every other day, I would take it out and make a wish and most of these wishes did come true. If I think back, I did make simple wishes like wishing for Pizza, getting decent marks for the test (that I would have studied for) and being in time for a tv show.

I did tell one friend about it, who was my best friend. He asked me to wish for some thing, I don’t remember what, but it happened. Both of us collectively freaked out. It wasn’t the first time for me to have a wish come true via the wishing stick (which is what I had come to call it), but it was magic and YEAY!

A few days later it came to me that I wouldn’t be able to hold on to the stick for long. Eventually my friend would tell someone, or someone would tell that I had a stick in my bag. So I did something that came logically to me at that time, I wished from the stick to get its powers and not need it again. Then I threw the stick as far as I could.

Sadly, my wishes stopped coming true. I think this also has to do with what I started to wish for, like ice cream when I was down with fever, or good marks for a test that I had not prepared for, or for pizza in school. Oh well, one learns.

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge

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Valerie’s Letter

V for Vendetta is one of my favourite graphic novels and movies. Written by the legendary Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, it is the story of alternate reality England. Following a nuclear war, a fascist party comes to reign. Violent and authoritian, it rules the state by means of fear. It detains its opponents and those it chooses to discriminate (e.g. homosexuals) in concentration camps, where they are experimented upon.

One such person is known by the code name V, who wants to bring this party down, and bring back freedom to the people. He plans to groom Evey Hammond as his successor. He was at one point just another detainee in cell no. 5 (or V), whose blood reacts to a biological weapon to cause him to develop enhanced strength, senses and reflexes.

An important character in this story is Valerie Paige. Valerie is a fellow detainee of V, and is kept in an adjacent cell. Valerie had been imprisoned for being a Lesbian. While they don’t have any face to face interaction, he manages to read a letter Valerie wrote before dying. This is also the letter that is later found by Evey when she is detained. It is the contents of this letter that transform V (and later Evey) into revolutionaries.

While the letter is adapted for the current times in the movie adaptation, it holds the essence of the letter in the novel. A character who gets to spend a very short time in the story, she acts like a catalyst that leads to large impact on account of the changes she brings into V and Evey. Here is the scene from the movie when Evey reads her letter.

 

 

“I know there’s no way I can convince you this is not one of their tricks. But I don’t care. I am me.

My name is Valerie. I don’t think i’ll live much longer, and I wanted to tell someone about my life. This is the only autobiography that i’ll ever write, and – God – i’m writing it on toilet paper. I was born in Nottingham in 1985. I don’t remember much of those early years. But I do remember the rain.

My grandmother owned a farm in Tottlebrook, and she used to tell me that God was in the rain.I passed my eleven plus, and went to a girl’s grammar. It was at school that I met my first girlfriend. Her name was Sarah. It was her wrists – they were beautiful. I thought we would love each other forever. I remember our teacher telling us that it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew. Sarah did. I didn’t.

In 2002 I fell in love with a girl named Christina. That year I came out to my parents. I couldn’t have done it without Chris holding my hand. My father wouldn’t look at me. He told me to go and never come back. My mother said nothing.I’d only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. And within that inch, we are free.

I’d always known what i’d wanted to do with my life, and in 2015 I started my first film: The Salt Flats. It was the most important role of my life. Not because of my career, but because that was how I met Ruth. The first time we kissed, I knew I never wanted to kiss any other lips but hers again. We moved to a small flat in London together. She grew scarlet carsons for me in our window box. And our place always smelt of roses. Those were the best years of my life.

But America’s war grew worse and worse, and eventually came to London. After that there were no roses anymore. Not for anyone. I remember how the meaning of words began to change. How unfamiliar words like “collateral” and “rendition” became frightening. When things like norsefire and the articles of allegiance became powerful. I remember how different became dangerous. I still don’t understand it: why they hate us so much.

They took Ruth while she was out buying food. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. It wasn’t long until they came for me. It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place. But for three years I had roses – and apologised to no-one.

I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch. But one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that – whoever you are – you escape this place. I hope that the world turns, and that things get better.

But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you. With all my heart. I love you.

-Valerie.”

 

It  is one of the most moving scenes from a movie that I have watched.

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge

 

The uncle at the ATM

Back in 1998, ATM was still a new thing. Few people knew what it was; leave alone how it is used. I was in 7th or 8th standard, and was aware of how basic bank transactions work. Owing to my innate curiosity, I was more than eager to know how an ATM works. I would listen to friends of Uncle talk about it in awe, as to how one could withdraw cash from an apparatus in the wall, instead of the lengthy procedure we follow. Unfortunately, neither my uncle nor his friends knew the details or wanted to find out.

Having heard that it works on a card, I even tried to use it myself. Instead of an ATM card, the younger me grabbed a visiting card of the bank’s manager we had. Clearly, it didn’t work. I couldn’t even get pass the scanner which opens the door to the ATM cabin. I took the next logical step that I could think of, and walked inside the bank to ask one of their employees. Instead of my curiosity being satisfied, I was patronized and sent back out. They laughed off my curiosity and asked me to go to mommy-daddy. They wouldn’t listen that they (Uncle & Aunt in my case) also didn’t know.

My curiosity however would be addressed few weeks later. I was coming back from a game of cricket with friends, when I saw a man get down from his car and walk towards the bank. Since it was almost 8 in the night and way past the bank working hours, he went to the atm. I approached this uncle (it is common to address older men as uncle in India), and politely asked him if he could tell me how it all works. Instead of laughing or ridiculing me, he simply smiled and began to explain it in a matter of fact manner.

Once he was done with his explanations and answering more of my questions, he simply asked as to which school I went to and what my name was. Not only did he accept my curiosity and entertained it, but was happy that I was actually curious enough about such things to ask others about it. I walked into school the next day, proud of my knowledge of how ATMs work and eager to share the same with my friends.

I was called up by a teacher to the staff room. It turned out that this man was the husband of the teacher who had just joined my school. Imagine that. To this day, this is one of the encounters that I have had with a stranger that will stay memorable.

 

Post written as a Guest Author for the team of Project 365. The prompt was “Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?”

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Written for Day 21 of the A to Z Challenge.

Teeth

Teeth are important calcium based parts of the body. Primarily their function is to bite, chew and break down food so that it can be consumed and digested. Secondarily they serve as an offensive or defensive mechanism. Carnivores use teeth in hunting to capture and kill their prey. Teeth can also be used in self defence, in the act of biting the attacker.  Generally teeth are present in the mouth; however there is a movie that tells the story of a girl who has teeth in her vagina.

Titled ‘Teeth’, the movie is about a teenage girl Dawn, who has ‘Vagina Dentata’ or teeth in her vagina. The idea of this is not new. It is found in numerous cultures, and is used as a folk story to discourage rape, the idea being that rapist’s penis will be bitten off by the teeth in the vagina.

Dawn is part of a teenage abstinence group, and is ridiculed by some of her class mates for it. Two of her abstinence group friends introduce her to Tobey, whom she grows close to. After swimming together in a lake, they spend time in a cave nearby. They give in to their attraction towards each other and start kissing. Dawn doesn’t want to progress beyond that, while Tobey wants to have sex. In an iconic first occurrence, Dawn’s teeth bite off his penis.

Dawn later befriends another boy, Ryan from her class. Ryan doesn’t ridicule her like most of her class mates do, and is an emotional support for her when her mom is going through health woes. While initially apprehensive, the two successfully manage to have sex. Later, in yet another iconic scene Dawn finds out that Ryan did all this as part of a bet which involved him ‘scoring her’. He boasts of this in a telephone conversation with a friend while the two are having sex; which leads to (as some of you may guess it) her vaginal teeth biting his penis off.

The movie however is about more than just her teeth. There is a scene of a biology class where the text books have a detailed diagram of a penis, but that of a vagina is censored by a sticker. On being asked, the teacher merely says that it is inappropriate to show female genitals. This leads to further doubts and confusion in the mind of Dawn, who is left to resort to internet searches on her own.

Actress Jess Weixler, who plays Dawn, has done a wonderful performance. She is able to pull of the scenes which show her as a frightened and confused teenager, with as much as ease the scenes which show her as confident and in control person. The movie was premiered at the 2007 Sundance festival, and is a blend of drama, horror and comedy.

 

Written for day 20 of the A to Z Challenge

Chaos is a ladder

Lord Petyr Baelish (also called as Little Finger) is one of the key characters of the Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin, which is televised by HBO as the series ‘Game of Thrones’. He is a man of relatively low birth, with his father having been the lowest of hedge knights. Since his father had the smallest of lands at the Fingers, he was nicknamed Little Finger.

When he was being fostered at Riverrun, at the house of the Tullys, he fell madly in love with the Tully daughter Catelyn. Catelyn loved him only as a brother, and was betrothed to Brandon Stark, a peer in terms of status. Petyr challenged him to a duel and lost miserably, his life spared only at the request of Catelyn. It is at this moment that he realized that he couldn’t match the lords in manners of battle, sword skill or strength; he must instead rely on his innate cunning.

Gifted in the matter of commerce, he is so skilled that people believe that he can make gold appear out of thin air. When given controls of customs, he increased the income ten folds. Such was his prodigious skill, that he was made the Master of Coin (Minister of Commerce) at the king’s court.

Ever hungry, his brilliance is matched by his ambition to rise above in status. Many lords have made the fault of looking down upon him, and all of them have met death when Petyr climbed up. Another character in the saga, Lord Varys who serves as his spoil, says of him,

He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.

There is a simple but brilliant line he says in the TV series (Portrayed by Aidan Gillen).

Ros: “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Petyr Baelish: “A stupid saying. What we don’t know is usually what gets us killed.”

While there are many more quotes that he has said, one of the finest of the series is from a conversation he has with Varys. It is the famous ‘Chaos is a ladder’ quote.

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

It is one thing to read it, and another to watch Gillen deliver it. Here is the video of his brilliant performance.

You can find a better quality of the same video here (Embedding disabled)

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge 2014

Jalaram Nasta House’s Sev Usal

Sev Usal is a spicy Maharashtrian dish. Sev is actually fried noodle like strands made of chickpea flour and fried, while Usal is a gravy made with white peas and chutneys along with spices and condiments like ginger, garlic, tamarind and so on. The dish is an incorporation of the two elements. While it can be had by itself, it is more enjoyable to be had with a bread bun locally called as Paav in India.

While Sev Usal is not a dish that is native to Baroda, people of this city have brought it as close to perfection as possible. In turn, the residents of Baroda have showered love by making it a staple part of their diet. A Sev Usal stall is common sight. In fact, in terms of food dishes it is considered by many to be the pride of Baroda.

Locally, Mahakali (named after the Hindu Goddess) is one of the most popular places to have this at. Such is the popularity that many more small time stalls bearing the same name or a variation of it have come up. However, my personal favourite place to have it is the Jalaram Nasta house which is also called Lalabhai’s Sev Usal centre.

Located inside a lane that opens to a road, it is not very easy to locate unless you’re specifically looking for it. I remember getting lost, the first time I went there alone without my friends who would normally take me there. It is marked by a banner in red with the name written in white in Gujurati.

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You will first be given a premixed dish to get you started with. If you ask for extra (and I always do), you’re first served the sev and onions, while the gravy comes few moments later.

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You can mix and match the sev with the Usal to get the combination you feel right. This is how I start.

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An important aspect over here is what is locally called the ‘Tari’. It is basically a chilly preparation made from oil, green and red chillies. It is very spicy, and is added on top at the last before mixing the whole thing.

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To be honest, this is one of the reasons that gives Sev Usal its signature feel and adds an extra dose of yum. And there, you finally have your Sev Usal ready..

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Feel free to dig in.. Part of their team was happy to be part of a picture that I took before leaving.

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The dish and the place are so wonderful that I take my guests and friends over to have a taste of this iconic dish. This is a picture of Shail di and me, when she had come to visit quite some time ago. Repeated comments as to how much younger she looks, may result in bricks flying in your direction 😛

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I am attaching its location on Google Maps for you to locate it.

 

Written for day 10 of the A to Z challenge.

 

Institutionalized

The first time I heard this song was when I was watching the movie Iron Man. The music to this song is played when Tony Stark is working on his Hot Rod (the car), and Pepper walks in to talk to him.

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I couldn’t get the song at that point of time, and a Google search after the movie lead me to Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies.

The song follows ‘Mike’ who is portrayed by the band member Mike, and the conflicts he faces with his friends and family. The song is different from other songs. The song doesn’t use lyrical verses, but is instead sung in a running sentence style. The lyrics are complemented by a guitar riff, which gets more prominent as Mike’s emotional bursts come forth.

I will leave you with the song and its lyrics.

Sometimes I try to do things
And it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to
And I get real frustrated, and like I try hard to do it,
And I take my time, but it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to
It’s like I concentrate on it real hard
But it just doesn’t work out
And everything I do and everything I try
It never turns out, it’s like, I need time to figure these things out
But there’s always someone there going, “Hey Mike, you know, we’ve been noticing you’ve been having a lot of problems lately, you know? You should maybe get away, and like, maybe you should talk about it you’ll feel a lot better”
And I go, “No it’s okay, you know, I’ll figure it out, just leave me alone, I’ll figure it out, you know? I’m just working on myself”
They go, “Well you know, if you want to talk about it, I’ll be here, you know, and you’ll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it. So why don’t you talk about it?”
And I go, “NO I don’t want to, I’m okay! I’ll figure it out myself!”
But they just keep bugging me, they just keep bugging me and it builds up inside…

So you’re gonna be institutionalized
You’ll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes
You won’t have any say
They’ll brainwash you until you see their way

I’m not crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re the one that’s crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re driving me crazy!-Institutionalized

They stuck me in an institution
Said it was the only solution
To give me the needed professional help
To protect from the enemy myself

I was in my room, and I was just like, staring at the walls thinking about everything but then again I was thinking about nothing, and then my mom came in, and I didn’t even know she was there
She called my name and I didn’t hear her, then she started screaming, “Mike! Mike!”
And I go, “What? What’s the matter?”
She goes, “What’s the matter with you?”
I go, “There’s nothing wrong mom”
She goes, “Don’t tell me that, you’re on drugs!”
I go, “No mom, I’m not on drugs, I’m okay, I’m just thinking, you know? Why don’t you get me a pepsi?”
She goes, “NO! You’re on drugs!”
I go, “Mom, I’m okay, I’m just thinking”
And she goes, “NO! You’re not thinking you’re on drugs! Normal people don’t act that way!”
I go, “Mom, just get me a Pepsi, please? All I want’s a Pepsi”
And she wouldn’t give it to me, all I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me, just a Pepsi!

They give you a white shirt with long sleeves
Tied around your back, you’re treated like thieves
Drug you up because they’re lazy
It’s too much work to help a crazy

I’m not crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re the one that’s crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re driving me crazy!-Institutionalized

I’m sitting in my room, and my mom and my dad came in, they pulled up a chair and they sat down
They go, “Mike, we need to talk to you”
And I go, “Okay, what’s the matter?”
They go, “Me and your mom, we’ve been noticing lately you’ve been having a lot of problems, and you’ve been going off for no reason, and we’re afraid you’re gonna hurt somebody, and we’re afraid you’re gonna hurt yourself, so we decided that it would be in your best interest, if we put you in a place where you could get the help that you need”
And I go, “Wait! What are you talking about? WE decided?! MY best interest?! How do YOU know what MY best interest is? How can YOU say what MY best interest is? What are you trying to say, I’M crazy?! When I went to YOUR schools, I went to YOUR churches, I went to YOUR institutional learning facilities! So how can you say I’m crazy?!

They say they’re gonna fix my brain
Alleviate my suffering and my pain
But by the time they fix my head
Mentally I’ll be dead

I’m not crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re the one that’s crazy!-Institutionalized
You’re driving me crazy!-Institutionalized

It doesn’t matter I’ll probably get hit by a car anyway

 

Written for day 9 of A to Z Challenge

Hola for some yummy Mexican food

This is another place that I stumbled upon by accident. I was looking for a place that accepted online orders and payment for home delivery orders, when I came across HOLA Mexicana. I enjoyed their food so much, that I ended up ordering at least once every week for some time. Soon it dawned upon me that while I have had their yummy food many times, I haven’t actually been there even once. I made up my mind to go there over the weekend.

HOLA Mexicana is quaint little place nestled in a building complex Fatehganj, Baroda. Their banner is well lit, so that you don’t miss it. The only catch is that you can easily park a two wheeler, but a car will need some efforts.

holaent

They have a warm looking interior, which can easily manage 20 or so patrons. One of the plus points is that they have A/C and wifi, so it makes spending the hot noons or evenings easy.

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One of my regular orders over here is their mexican rice. While they offer both veg and non veg options, I like to go with the chicken version. It is a fabulous combination of rice, sauces, spices, tanginess, vegetables, beans, shredded chicken (since I go for the non veg version) and cheese. I have had it almost everytime I have ordered from them, and I still enjoy it each and every time.

This is what the bowl of mexican rice looks like when you receive it.

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I like to give it a nice mix, before diving in.

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Not one to get satisfied with just one bowl of rice, I order something else to go with it. This time I ended up with one of their omelettes.

holaome1They make a nice fluffy omelette that has stuffing inside the fold. Mine had chicken, vegges, spices and cheese. Needless to say it was absolutely delicious.

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What is even better about the place is that in spite of serving such delicious food, and giving you a warm and comfortable ambience, they are easy on the wallet. Here’s a snapshot of their menu

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This is hands down, one of my favorite places in Baroda to have mexican food. I will leave you with a picture of the HOLA Mexicana team who were happy to pose for a pic for me.

holateam

 

 

Written for day 8 of the A to Z challenge

Gokul Ras thad, a delicious discovery

I love those happy accidents when I find a place I have never been to before, and end up having brilliant food at it. One night, my old room mate and a friend came over and asked me to join them for a drive. Since none of us had dinner, the idea was to have something on the way. We had taken the old NH8 highway out of Baroda towards Ahmedabad. Around 9 kilometers on the highway, we stopped outside this place which we hadn’t seen before. Since the place had opened only two months ago, few people knew of it then.

Gokul board

I absolutely loved this idea of having small tents over each table. This way you can enjoy the cool breeze that is blowing, and yet maintain your small personal space. There are lights and pedestal fans inside the tent, for when the wind is not enough.

gokul tents Gokul tentThese are how the tents looks up close. There is enough space inside for a group of 6 to sit and eat comfortably.

Three of us were in the mood for Kathiawadi (belonging to Saurashtra region of Gujarat) food, so this is what we ended up ordering:

Wagharela Rotla (Broken flat bread that has been stir fried with spices and sauce)

Gokul rotla

There was Lasanya Bateka (Potatoes made in a gravy with loads of garlic)
Gokul bateka

The friends love Brinjal so we ordered Ringan/Baingan Bhartha (Squashed Brinjal)

Gokul bhartha

And some Ringad ane papdi nu saak (Brinjal Sabjee with beans)

Gokul brinjal

Of course we had piping hot rotis with fresh white makhan (butter) on them

Gokul rotibutterSince I felt adventurous, we had fried sated chillies (which I didn’t eat , and my friends had to finish)
Gokul chillies

And this is how my plate looked when we were eating.

Gokul plate

 

So, if you ever end up with a craving for Kathiawadi food, with some lovely ambience, I will accompany you here.

 

Written for day 7 of the A to Z challenge, 2014

 

Fun and Love

I have been to two high schools for my studies. While I spent lesser time in it, St. Gregorios has been responsible for some of my most memorable experiences, and wonderful learnings. I imagine that this is the speech that I have been invited to speak over there.

 

This is a very interesting feeling, to be on this side of the stage and speaking on the microphone. I have been nudged more than once by a friend when I had dozed off in one such speeches, and called out when a friend saw me eating chocolates or chewing gum. What are friends for, if not to occasionally get you into trouble?

I was asked before being invited back here, to speak on the path of life. Of course non one needed to have gone through the trouble of inviting me. One can never be invited back home, we just walk back in its comforting presence. What better manner to talk about the path of life than to speak through the memories that I cherish of this place, some similar to what you will end up with as well.

One of my most memorable craft classes was the one involving masks and puppets. As the class assignment all of us had to prepare a mask or puppet each. There were no compulsions as to what we had to interpret or portray, or which craft skill we had to use. One would think that in itself the act of mask making would be fun enough, we were told that the kindergarten classes would be grading us. The final class would involve us putting up a team effort to enact stories with our masks and puppets for the KG kids.

The whole idea behind our work changed, and it was as fun for us as the KG kids when the acts were being performed. I don’t remember who was more excited on the final day, the KG kids who were having enjoying the show, or us who were having a wonderful time putting on the act for them. What I am trying to tell here is that if you have to do something, you put in more effort if it is fun, and you enjoy it.

Of all the classes we had, I think the one that I ended up loving the most was Library. I know, library doesn’t have a set curriculum, or something specific to learn like we have in other subjects. But library gave me something that many classes cannot compare to. It gave me the love of reading. While it was never forced that we had to issue a book more than the once per week Library class, a bunch of us ended up issuing books much often. Reading was always encouraged for us. We were taught how to write reviews, and there was pride in one’s review being displayed on the library notice board for others to read.

I remember the discussions we had, students and teachers together. Discussions about the book we had last read, what we thought of it, and the recommendations to the next book. At the height of it, we were issuing books every second day, using the lunch time to change our books from the library. The books would get devoured in the bus on the way back home. Home was no different. Once home work and studies were done with, and dinner eaten; I would be in the bedroom propped with the latest book that I had had issued. Hours could go away on such nights and on holidays to the extent that a person like me would have to be called twice to the lunch table.

I remember when we had been to Bangalore for an inter-school competition, and were on the way back to our accommodation from the event site. We were playing a Harry Potter quiz, and Principal ma’am commented that had we put in half as much effort in our course studies, we would have all been scoring more than 90%.

The idea over here is to find something that you love. The moment you start loving something, you forget the amount of effort you put into things. All that will matter is doing it. Fun and love. These are the two things that I believe you must have, in your path of life.

 

 

Post written as a guest author for the team of Project 365. The prompt was to “You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.”

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Written for day 6 of the A-Z challenge 2014.