The Story of a Diamond

In the heart of a woman, lies a story untold
Of her trials by fire, her fight to break the mould
Through all her sorrows, through all her pain
She believed her struggle would not be in vain

From the ashes, she rose, stronger and wiser
The power of the universe, alive, inside her
The strength of the ages, the fire of the sun
The purity of love, the depth of the ocean

Dreamer, Achiever, Giver, Nurturer
Warrior, Protector, Conqueror, Healer
She is, but, one woman
And, yet, she is every woman

Her heart in her hands, the world at her feet
She knew her journey was far from complete
Rising above the world, she took her place in the sky
Yet, bonded to the earth by an unbreakable tie

She reached for a star, shaped it into a stone
Adding dimensions that mirrored her own
She honoured every scar caused by a dark night
With every cut she made, the jewel grew bright

Her power filled the diamond with possibilities untold
Unleashing brilliance, no cage could ever hold
You feel her spirit, there is nothing she can’t do
How do you know? Because she is You.

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An Open Letter

To the people I love,

You know who you are because you’re reading this letter right now. Some of you have known me for a long time, others not as much. But no matter how long we’ve walked together in this journey called life, please know that you are important to me. I don’t know whether it was fate that made our paths cross or coincidence. Either way, I am grateful.

The ties of the heart go deeper than blood. All the ups and downs that we have been through have, only, made that bond stronger. When I was happy, you rejoiced with me. When I was in pain, you shared my suffering. When I had doubts, you believed in me. When I was afraid, you allayed my fears. When I was weak, you were my strength. I could share my thoughts with you knowing you would speak your mind. You could always make me laugh. Even if, at times, you didn’t intend to. I know there were times when I caused you pain. But you never held it against me. Somehow, you were always able to see the good in me. And, I will not forget that.

Life may have taken us away from each other. We may have chosen to embark on different adventures. But, even now, when I hear your voice at the end of the call, it is as if we spoke yesterday. There are no awkward silences. Seconds become minutes and minutes stretch to hours. The conversation flows, and we lose track of time. That, my dear, is a testament to our bond.

Thank you for being there for me. My life is better because you are a part of it. I have lost count of the number of times you have brought me back from the brink of insanity. All the times that I have been hopeless and lost, you have been my guiding light. You have fought for me when no one would. You have seen the best and the worst of me. You have embraced all of me – the good, the bad and the ugly. I am who I am because of you. You mean a lot to me.

You are my family.

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The Blogger’s Curse

I read a post today which made me realise that, in my struggle with blogging, I was not alone. As I wrote a comment on the post, the idea for this article took shape in my head.

When I first started a blog, I knew nothing about blogging. I thought it was all about putting your thoughts out there for people to find and read, like or dislike. The most important thing was to create quality content. But my understanding couldn’t be further from the truth.

I have been actively blogging for a couple of months now. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be complaining after such a short time. I still don’t know much about blogging. But I’ve learnt some lessons.

The hardest thing about blogging isn’t the content. At least, this is true for me.

The first challenge is getting people to your blog. I began by searching for blogs with like-minded content. I invited their authors to look at my blog and share their opinion. I realised, albeit a little late, that tags make a big difference. I have not mastered the art by any means. But, I am making steady progress.

The second is to get people to read it. My blog hardly gets visitors. I used to rejoice when people liked my post. But when a post has fewer views than likes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something’s not quite right. Spotting discrepancies like these are some of the perks of getting pitiful traffic to your site, I guess. When you like a post, it means that it resonates with you. How is that possible if you haven’t read it? For the record, I’d rather not have people liking my post if they’d rather not read it. Unfortunately, the person this is meant for won’t be reading this post either.

The biggest test, however, is getting people to engage in a dialogue. I understand the challenges of modern life. We don’t have time to stop and smell the roses let alone comment on every post we read. I don’t comment on every article I read either. But comments do make a lot of difference. Comments aren’t just words. They are pieces of you that are scattered across the blogging universe. With comments, you know the reader’s thoughts. With likes, it’s hard to say.

I searched online to figure out why I couldn’t draw my readers into the conversation. Fellow bloggers were, also, kind enough to offer their words of advice. These are some suggestions I came across. Ask questions at the end of your post. Check. Ask people to comment on your post. Check. Blog on topics that you would like to read. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t write anything else. Visit other blogs, read their posts and comment on their work. I enjoy doing this for my own reasons. Use social media to promote your blog. No can do. Why? Because I avoid social media like the plague. You won’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a million other sites whose names I don’t care to remember.

Maybe, I don’t create good content. That’s fine. I just wish someone would tell me that. I don’t claim to be Shakespeare. I don’t, even, have a degree in English. I started blogging because writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t pursue it as a career. But that’s water under the bridge. And I don’t have any regrets. I just thought that if I couldn’t write professionally, at least, I’d do it to make myself happy. It would be an outlet for my thoughts. I would know whether I was good at it. Other bloggers would help me understand what I was doing right and where I was going wrong. It would make me a better writer.

Words of support and encouragement from the blogging community kept me going. But a part of me was frustrated by the lack of success. It dawned on me that I was spending more time on finding out how to get people to read my blog rather than writing.

When did writing become so complicated? Creating content isn’t enough. You, also, have to be a marketing professional and an SEO expert.

You may think that I am complaining without taking steps to fix my problem. You wouldn’t be wrong. But, from where I sit, I don’t see a problem. I see a choice. The choice to not market my blog. This is not to say that those who promote their work are wrong. I don’t envy them. The effort they have put in is remarkable. Their success is hard-earned and well-deserved. In the end, no matter how people get to your blog, they stay there only if they feel like it’s worth it. But, I don’t think it’s for me. This may mean that my blog will take years to generate the kind of following that many other bloggers enjoy. Maybe I won’t get there at all. The feedback I wish for may, also, not come. But that’s okay. For now, I’d rather enjoy the process of writing than worry about how many people read what I have to say.

I apologise for subjecting you to this rant for no fault of your own. But if you started out as a simple writer, like me, and not a marketing genius, I am sure you can identify. If you didn’t like this post, please let me know. But if you enjoyed it, please spare the like button. Instead, leave a comment. It doesn’t matter how long or short. What matters most is that it meant something to you.

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Rainy Days

Countless raindrops
eagerly fall
Gathering in puddles
big and small

The sun plays shy
behind a cloud
Hiding its face,
refusing to come out

Making its way
through the streets
The rowdy wind howls
at everyone it meets

Thunder and lightning
put on a show
Eliciting shock and awe
as they come and go

The parched earth awakens
with a new lease of life
Its penance has ended
and so has its strife

The clouds, overwhelmed,
shed tears from their eyes
Do they weep for joy
or fear their own demise?

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For the love of reading

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. The habit was born out of my love for stories. As a child, I remember asking my grandparents to tell bedtime stories. I could never get enough of them. When one ended, I wanted another. There was a day when my grandmother acceded to so many requests that, by the time I was done, it was dawn. One day, I asked my father to recite a story. He was caught by surprise and said, “I don’t know any”. A few days later, he handed me a comic book and said, “Now, you don’t need others to tell you stories”. I was hooked. I started with children’s comics followed by short stories and fables, and then graduated to novels.

Once I take up a good book, it’s difficult for me to put it down. I am always keen to know what happens next. I buy and collect books like a fiend. Every time I browse for books to buy online, my husband raises an eyebrow. I happily lend and borrow books and think they make the best gifts. One summer vacation, I reread all the books I had at home. When I was done, I became so desperate that I read books in local languages despite my lack of fluency.

Reading, for me, has always been a means of escape; a refuge. It is a way to forget about the troubles of my life and immerse myself in the world of another. When I read, my mind blocks out everything else. My mother would say, “When Norah is with a book, it is as if she is not in the house”. There were times when I was curled up with a book in my room and repeated calls from my mother for lunch or dinner went unanswered. It was only when she came all the way to the room that I realized that it was time for a meal.

The beauty of reading is that, unlike television and videos, it allows you to visualize things; the story unfolds in your imagination. Like music, it has the ability to affect your state of mind; to brighten, to sadden, to anger, to placate, to inspire, to uplift, and to enlighten. Good books are works of art and can be collected and treasured, just like masterpieces.

Reading has taught me about people and places, cultures and customs, wars and famines, rationality and religion, myths and facts; all from the confines of my home.

It is through reading that I have learned about the many facets of language and how it has evolved and changed over time. I still remember reading the unabridged version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The usage of language was so different from what I was accustomed to, that I had to read each paragraph twice before I understood it in its entirety.

It has made me appreciate the creativity and imagination of others. Growing up, I always wanted to be an author. I dreamed of writing stories that captured the beauty and complexity of human thought and emotion. Over time, however, I realized that I didn’t have the imagination to pull it off. This made me respect writers even more. Making people connect with a story, and experience the emotion conveyed by a written word is no small feat.

It has also made me realize that as long as you have a book with you, you can never be lonely. You could be in the comfort of your home or in the middle of nowhere. There is no need for a power cable or an internet connection. All you need is a book for company and a source of illumination.

Reading makes you think. It unlocks the mind and fuels the imagination. A good story stays with you long after you finish reading the last page.

So, what made you pick up your first book?

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The Power of One

When the Prime Minister of India started the “Swachh Bharat” or “Clean India” campaign, I was pleasantly surprised. The most prominent individual in the country had chosen to highlight one of the biggest problems plaguing the country. It had been decades since anyone had chosen to regard cleanliness as even an issue worth mentioning. With politicians being more interested in mudslinging or paying lip service to seemingly inconsequential issues, it was highly unusual. But, it was about time. He has, since, used every possible medium in the country to propagate awareness about, what is indeed, the need of the hour.

While this movement has stirred a lot of people into starting local activities along similar lines or contributing in their own small way by not littering or spitting, there are still many of us who have chosen to ignore the message and go on unperturbed. And, the worst part of it all is, that, most are actually educated and intelligent. We spend so much time on social media but have scant respect for the environment. We have all the time in the world to comment on our friends’ posts but can’t be bothered to spare a thought for all the health and safety hazards that our actions are causing. Even if someone tries to educate us, our only retort is, “When others don’t bother, why should I?” or “How can what one person does make a difference?” This kind of herd mentality is the primary reason for all our problems. We often think that our actions, in the face of others’ apathy, have no effect. The problem is – every other such person thinks the same way. And, we are back to where we started. If everyone thinks that what they do, as an individual, has the power to make a difference – the power to effect change, the country and the world as we know it will be very different. That is, indeed, the Power of One.

You would think that it is easier to convince an educated person about the need to be conscientious. But, very often, the answer is otherwise. It is easy to tell people something, but, to convince them is another matter. This is even more true, when they think that they know better. We, as human beings, are not only gifted with the power to think, to rationalize, to analyze and make decisions for ourselves but also with the ability to introspect and reflect on the consequences of our actions. However, it is sad to say that, very often, we refuse to exercise these gifts and instead make our decisions by simply following what others do – either because we deem it to be easy or acceptable or because it seems like a safe option. This attitude benefits no one, least of all, ourselves. It is futile to be pessimistic and say “Things here will never change” when we make no effort to change.

Our outlook, as individuals, is rooted in our upbringing and our values. This is often formed at an impressionable age as a product of our learning, experiences and observations. After several debates on a range of issues with friends and colleagues, what I can surely say is that the only way a person can change is if he or she truly and deeply wishes to. There is no other way. In Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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