Of words and the lives they lead…

My Favourite Things

There is a black door in my office that I usually use as a chalk board to keep track of schedules, upcoming projects, etc. at work. But in the last few weeks, it has turned into a board that lists words, terms and phrases I have come across while editing or reading documents as part of work, or have been contributed by colleagues. All these words, terms and phrases are new to me and while I understand some (or at least I think I do !), most have left me baffled. For example, “affordance”, “unlived experience”, “hedonistic sustainability”, “unstickiness of pedagogical structures”, among many others.

Every morning, when I arrive at work, I look at this ever-growing list. I puzzle over the words, brood over them, look them up in the dictionary to make sense of them. Sometimes, I discuss these words with colleagues in an attempt to understand them…

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Good Samaritan

Good morning.
Parimal Gavit runs a small restaurant near Thane station.

Rupali Bhutia is a small child who is nine months old. Her mother, Sonali, sells flowers on the pavement near the restaurant. Parimal noticed that the infant never lay down even when she was sleeping. Her mother propped up the sleeping infant with her bags of flowers. He decided to find out what was wrong…and it was then that he saw that there was a large cyst on her back. Parimal says that he was shocked by the size of it and his heart went out to the child who was obviously in pain, but was always smiling.On approaching and conversing with Sonali, he learnt that although she knew it had to be seen to, she could not afford taking the child for treatment.
Touched by their condition, Gavit took the baby to Wadia hospital on 27th January. Doctors there were stunned at the size of the cyst, that had made the baby lose strength in her legs…it was 150 gms big.The authorities said that if the baby had been brought in, even 48 hours later, the cyst would have burst. Gavit offered to pay for the three-hour operation which entailed removing the cyst which had already got entangled with the spinal nerve roots. But the hospital waived all charges, and conducted the surgery free of cost.
The baby will be discharged on Tuesday, but will require long term physiotherapy. Gavit, the good Samaritan, in the Biblical and every other sense, is discussing ways and means to pay for this convalescence, with hospital authorities.
Three cheers for Parimal Gavit, hip hip hurrah! And if any of you know him, do let him know how much his example has stoked my faith in humanity.
And three cheers for Wadia hospital, and Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO of the hospital: hip hip hurrah! And if any of you go there, or know her, do let them/ her know that this shining example will go a long way to dispel the suspicion that doctors, as a race, have seemed to have incurred over the years.
Have you touched a life today?
Have a blessed day.

Book Review: The Miniaturist

The Sunday Times assigned the book the status of Number One bestseller, in 2014.
The year is 1686, the place, Amsterdam.
18-year old Petronella (Nella) Oortman has travelled all the way from the country, to the richest quarter of Amsterdam, to meet her husband, Johannes Brandt, a reputed, and rich, merchant trader. The marriage is an ‘arranged’ one, to get the Oortman family, genteel, but penurious, out of impending bankruptcy. She knocks at the door. It opens silently. And she enters, clutching the cage of Peebo, her parrot.
She is met by darkness and mysterious shadows. Then one of the shadows detaches itself, then another, and another. Nella is grateful that they are all flesh and blood. They are Marin Brandt, Cornelia, the maid, and dark-skinned Otto, the man servant. None of them, apparently, knows where Johannes, her husband, is. Nella is assigned a room upstairs and Peebo is taken away from her and consigned to the kitchen.
Nella meets her husband the next day and he gifts her a dollhouse made to look like the house she is living in. Nella hires a miniaturist to help her furnish the doll house. When the first batch of ‘furnishings’ is delivered to Nella, the latter realises that not only does the miniaturist seem to know every detail about the house she is living in, but subsequent deliveries prove that be able to foresee things happening before they actually do.
At the same time, there are mysterious inexplicable things happening within, and outside, the house. And Nella is stalked by a strange golden-haired woman whenever she leaves the house.
The book is plot-driven, rather than character-driven.It was inspired by Petronella Oortman’s doll’s house on display at the Rijksmuseum. It paints a grim picture of the conservative mindset of Amsterdam at the time, especially regarding homosexuality and black people.
The book is an engaging one, well-crafted and fast paced. It haunts you, and the prose creates magic and momentum.The author has painted a canvas with dark colours with a hint of light shades. Between the two, scarcely visible, is a darkness that seems to spread, inexorably, threatening to overwhelm both shades and colour. The novel both shocks and awes.
Read the book for the story. Then read it again for the atmosphere. And again, for the prose.
Have a blessed day.

Book Review: Into The Water, Paula Hawkins

Good morning.

Book Review

Into The Water, Paula Hawkins

“Again! Again.”
The men bind her again. Different this time: left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left. The rope around her waist. This time they carry her into the water.’
So begins one of the most powerful books I have ever read, Paula Hawkins’ ‘Into the Water.’
Two police officers arrive at Jules’ doorstep to inform her that there has been a tragic and fatal accident. Jules is apprehensive, thinking that something had happened to her friends, her colleagues, or her ex-husband. But when she knows that it was ‘only’ her sister, she is relieved. And on that one fact—- her sense of relief when she knows that it was only Nel, her sister, who had died—- hinges the entire book.
So there are two sisters. Nel, the elder, and Jules, the younger. Jules, the ‘baby’, is fascinated by her elder sister and her friends, her style and her sass, her easy air of assurance and her boyfriend. Nel tries to push Jules away every time she is anywhere close: and it doesn’t help that Nel is tall, willowy and attractive, and Jules, short and fat. Nel’s boyfriend is amused by Jules’ prickliness and tries to discover how deep the prickliness goes. The trauma this causes results in Jules trying to drown herself, Nel rescuing her…and a gap in their communication caused by misunderstanding that completely destroyed their relationship.
Nel is dead now and Jules has to return to Beckford and Mill House, where she had spent her childhood and teenage years. She meets Nel’s 15-year old daughter, who is convinced that her mother would have been alive, if her aunt had tried to connect to her in some way, or had replied to her mother’s calls or messages over the years. She insists that her mother had repeatedly tried to get in touch with Jules, but that the latter had neither returned calls, nor initiated them.
Lena’s friend, Katie, lived next door. At least, she used to, till they found her dead body in the same ‘drowning pool’, where they had found Nel’s. And Lauren’s. And Libby’s.
…and the bodies of several women who were ‘inconvenient’ to patriarchal mind sets.
Nel had been putting together an account of all the women whose corpses had been found in the Drowning Pool. She was asking questions, creating testimonials, putting together fragmented lives to form a mosaic of events and characters. She had even set up a camera on the hillside to record the movements of anyone who went up the hill that overlooked the drowning pool. But she was not able to complete what she had begun.
The story and plot are related by 11 characters in a collage of first person and third person accounts. Two police personnel: Erin and Sean. Lena and Josh, Katie’s 11-year old brother. Nickie, the local ‘witch’, and her sister Jennie, the erstwhile police woman. Helen, the headmistress, Sean’s wife, and Sean’s father, Patrick. Mark Henderson, a teacher in the school Katie and Lena attended. Katie’s mother, Julia, and her father.
Mystery, mysticism and magic are woven into the narrative. Half-heard voices, half-seen images, half-felt touches; and beneath them, all the time, every moment, and beneath every word, you feel the water in the drowning pool moving, like a living thing, glassily gleaming, slyly smiling.
Every time the reader feels that she has reached the end of the maze, she sees another turn or dead end in it. And so on. And so on. Until the very end.
The book touched a very visceral part of me. It is one of those books that you finish reading, and then stare at the wall, wondering what you will do for the rest of your life. Estranged sisters. Magic and mysticism. Elemental forces at work in ways that are odd and un settling. Silence. A lot of silence; and the sounds that interrupt it, sharp, and blood curdling.
But the sounds that you hear are not always external, or physical. They reflect the sounds that the mind makes, and the heart hears.
What stays in the mind for the longest time, is the way the author lovingly paints every nuance of a woman’s mind. Not what the world thinks she should be, but what she really is…passionate, lustful, terrifying, amusing, irreverent, compassionate.
Sadly, the Wikipedia page detailing the book, is not only replete with grammatical and syntactical errors. The way the plot is related would kill any interest in the book. Which is a pity.
Read ‘Into the Water’, for the truth. Read it for the love. Read it for its re iteration to stay in touch, and keep connected. Read it if you are a woman, and you are not afraid of looking into a mirror. Read it if you are a man who does not try to ‘change’ women.

Have a blessed day.



Flight of the raven

Light of the moon

Sign in to magic

Let it be soon.


Broomsticks are passe

Who needs them now?

Swift as a thought

Might be the death blow


Did you think that you would win

That you had the strength,

Did you find me vulnerable,

Try to get ‘neath my skin?


The ink in my eyes

Will darken your world

No sun has been born

To destroy that night.


Did my quietness deceive you,

My silence, disarm,

Did you take it for granted

That I’ll do you no harm?


I am patient and pleasant

I smile all the time

Did you think I don’t know,

To be oozy, like slime?

Don’t push me too hard,

Don’t step on my toes,

Be always on guard,

I can add to your woes…


Flight of the raven

Light of the moon

Sign in to magic

Let it be soon.


@Suma Narayan.



In the pit of my stomach, just above my navel, a hollow grows and yawns and cries to be fed

But the beauty in it is the sheer depravity of the thoughts that cause it

And the number of times, I have to bop those thoughts on the head to subdue them

And order them back into the hell they came from

For if, as they say, heaven is chaste and pure and full of sublimity:

Stands to reason that these glimpses of forbidden pleasure

These visions of subliminal fires, firmly banked, supressed, contained,

Aren’t they clearly from the incendiary reaches of the profanely passionate

And that is NOT allowed, is it?

So when these moods come upon me.

When my breath comes in orgasmic gasps

When my eyes light up with the flicker of fiery flames

When the hairs rise on my forearms, and my stomach caves in

With imagined pleasure on uncharted seas

I know that the frail vessel I am on, and the waters I sail in

Will be neither shield, nor armour, to protect me from the hell fires that burn

With calm inevitability beneath the surface

That I will drown, first,

In a rite of purification and cleansing

And then, be confined to the flames

And my un repentant, un remorseful soul asks me

“So? What’s the difference?

You were burning then…

You’ll be burning now.”

And this is the thing:

If the choice is between burning and ending, in a flash and a streak of barely perceptible glory,

And leading a blameless life, ringed about by the palisade of society’s certainties

I would much rather choose death by burning than death by boredom.