Do you read Banned Books?

Do you read Banned Books?

We have just concluded the international celebration of annual Banned Books Week. It is a week dedicated to reading and acknowledging of banned books and spreading awareness about them.

The whole point of the campaign is to reinstate “freedom to read” and freedom of choice especially when concerned with unorthodox topics and opinions that are or were deemed politically incorrect. It is an attempt to stop “deliberate suppression of viewpoints that has a real consequence”

It is remarkable how we have come to celebrate reading and owning of books that were banned at some point of time. It is a step against sieving of literature through political, legal, religious or moral filters. Who would have thought that something as simple as reading a book could become an act of resistance? Resistance against censorship. Resistance to reclaim intellectual freedom.

This campaign “also notes individuals persecuted because of the writings they produce, read and circulate”. It reminds us why it is important to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

The campaign encourages us to agree to disagree and to recognize what we are lacking as a society. It also invites us to initiate discussions on the kind of literature we want to leave behind for the coming generations.

Into the Aravalis

This wedding season I found myself packing all my colorful traditional clothes and bright jhumkay for my cousin’s wedding in Udaipur. Amidst day-long functions and flocks of relatives I somehow managed to steal time to go around the city.First I visited Saheliyon ki Badi. It is a beautiful, picturesque garden that was built for the 48 maidens of the then queen, who brought them with her after marriage.

My next stop, Fatehsagar lake, is a must visit in Udaipur given that the city itself is “the city of lakes”. The long walk along the lake is lined with food stalls and is perfect for enjoying the cool breeze and night walks.

Next day, I went to the most famous attraction of the city: The City Palace. Built with a blend of Mediaeval, European and Chinese architecture, it is arguably one of the most beautiful and well maintained palaces in the country.

The City Palace with its beautiful jharokhas(bay windows), intricate wall designs(jali work), glass works and regal settings is worth every moment spent here. The palace, spread across many acres, has numerous stories to tell and the best way to know them is by taking an audio tool or a guide.

After this I went to a very interesting car museum which houses around 20 vintage and classic cars. Anyone with the mildest interest in cars must visit this museum ranging from Rolls Royce to Cadillac which can not ordinarily be seen on the roads.

Then I headed to Lake Pichola, the largest of Udaipur. The famous palace and hotel: Jag Mandir is situated in the middle of the lake and is accessible by boats. The James Bond movie Octopussy was also shot in the same palace. Unfortunately, it is currently open only for guests and visitors are not allowed in the hotel.

Other attractions that I missed out due to lack of time were Monsoon Palace and Udaipur Solar Observatory.

My last stop was Shilpgram which is a market known for handicrafts, jewellery and decorative items made by local artists and the best place to buy souvenirs.

Udaipur is one of the major tourist destinations in India and one is not likely to face any problem with respect to connectivity, accommodation and conveyance. The temperature too, is pleasant around the year since this city has 5 lakes and is surrounded by hills on 4 sides.

It is also close to other tourist destinations including Mt. Abu, Chittorgarh and Ranakpur and is a perfect getaway for a long break.

Uncle Victor’s First Voyage

On one of his travels, Uncle Victor was going to Myanmar by ship. Since this was his first voyage, he kept his belongings in his cabin and went to the deck to enjoy the sea breeze. He even drew a picture of the deck which I have replicated above. He found company on the deck and sat chatting till 3 am. When he finally reached his cabin, it was only to find that the cabin had been locked the inside. The cabins were allotted on twin sharing basis and upon realising that uncle wasn’t coming back, his cabin mate had locked the door from inside. For some reason best known to him, this made him very anxious. So, in desperation, he kicked the door. Instead of opening it, he managed break a part of the door thay had resulted in an opening at the bottom. Seeing no other way, he squeezed himself in through the newly formed gap.
Moments later, he sat in the room, enjoying the snacks the cabin mate had kept on the table. At this point, the cabin mate woke up, surprised. He wanted to know how and why had a stranger entered the locked room in the middle of the night. 

Now, my uncle could have simply told him how he came in. Instead, he chose to ask the guy to lock the door again and demonstrated the entire process again.

Uncle Victor’s mountain ride

Uncle Victor started travelling twelve years ago. For all his sense of humour and wit, he had a minor drawback of having a bad memory. On one of his escapades, he had a most interesting adventure. It’s a story I tell whenever I have to tell someone about Uncle Victor.
He once landed himself at a remote spot in the lesser Himalayas. Having heard that the place offered a most spectacular sunrise, he planned to see it. Without telling anyone from his family, he took the early morning bus to the place. His calculations told him he would easily reach home by nightfall. In the bus, he was told by the driver that if he was to return, he would have to take the bus leaving at 5 pm that day. Failing to take that bus, he would be stuck in that place for the next two months. That bus was to be the last bus for the season before snowfall began. The place hardly had any houses so, missing the bus would mean he would die within a day or two in the cold. Absent-minded that he was, he forgot all about the warning upon reaching the place. The sunrise was heavenly and so was the place. It wasn’t until 6 pm that he remembered that he had to take the last bus.

He was now stranded at a remote corner of the Himalayas. Heavy snowfall was sure to follow. He was many kilometres away from civilisation. Had he shouted for help, only wild animals would have heard it; speaking of which, the region was home to wolves, bears and leopards. Starving and hypothermia weren’t the only ways to die here: he could also become dinner for some wild animal. This was the most desperate of all desperate times ever and he was scared to death. Added to this, was the fact that his family didn’t know he was here. A two-month long search would ensue and his family would know the truth only after the snow would melt and his body would be discovered. All this was terrible to think of and this is what pushed him onto the edge: quite literally.

Had he taken the road, it would have taken him all night. He had to rule it out because he did not have all night. There was also a high chance of a rendezvous with wild animals. He had to think of a way to reach the town below that hill. From that town he could easily get a bus to his city. This is when he took the most impractical decision of his life.

Within ten minutes, he had tied his backpack around his privates like an underwear and was sliding down the rugged mountainside with nothing but the backpack to save his bottom. Many bruises and a bus ride later, he reached home just in time for dinner. The backpack is useless now, but he still has it as a remembrance of the day. Looking back now, it feels like a stupid thing to do. But, the spontaneity of the moment is really what has kept him going. What is life without a little risk?

Snail crossing the road

This morning I saw a snail

Crossing the road.

It stood on a side

Looking left and then right

And then left again

Like a proper gentleman-

Gentle-snail, actually.

I was the only person on the road

Far too engrossed in what he had to do

So luckily, no chance of him getting trampled underfoot.

Then he crossed

Taking his time.


An hour later, when I returned,

On the path where I met him before,

I saw him walking on the footpath.

Or was it sliding? I could not see,

But I managed to get a selfie.


This was my first go at poem writing and I chose to write it in free verse almost. So, I desperately need feedback on how it was. 🙂 🙂

Disney Princesses and a much needed analysis

When I was a child, Disney Princesses were a big thing among young girls like me and I confess I found their beauty, grace and perfection extremely awe-inspiring. It was only much later that i realised how truly absurd many of these stories were. A lot of the times these stories have been so stupid, they actually gave out the wrong message. All the time when they gave glamorised docile, weak and submissive women they have actually encouraged girls against getting empowered.

Cinderella: The story of a girl who spends some 20 or so years of her life as a maid to her step-mother and step-sisters doing nothing whatsoever to resist the opression and uplift her position. One day, she meets the Prince and falls in love. In the end, they get married and thanks to the Prince she finally experiences a better life.

Snow White: (what an awful name) Snow White runs away from her house when her step mother tries to kill her and when she finally gets the chance to live a free life as an independent woman, she takes refuge in the house of 7 dwarfs where she happily takes up the duty of doing household chores for them. Later in the story, she conditionally dies after eating and apple offered to her by a stranger! Eventually saved by some Prince.

Aurora: The one thing that strikes you in the movie is how little is the protagonist’s involvement in her own story. The long and short of Aurora’s story is that she goes into a prolonged sleep of several years because of the “curse of an evil fairy” and is saved by a king in the end.

Ariel: After falling in love with a Prince, this mermaid decides to exchange her tail for legs through the use of dark magic (!) in order to get him. The worst part of the story is Ariel getting the Prince. A happy ending, for me, would be Ariel learning that love is not a good enough reason to loose your individuality.

Now there are some who are absolutely unworthy of being role-models for thousands of young girls who look up to them because of the fact that for whatever brilliant reason these movies were made, these ladies only epitomize weak women. However, there are some who have been the silver linings to the dark clouds of Disney’s portrayal of the ideal princess/woman. (In increasing order of inspiration)

Belle: For me, there are exactly 3 reasons why I like Belle: 1. She reads 2. When she falls for the Beast, it’s for reasons beyond looks 3. She saves the hero. Yet, why the movie could not have had a better name than ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is beyond me.

Jasmine: Hands down, this one is my favorite Disney princess. Her love for adventure and freedom is totally relatable for me. To her being a princess is more of a captivity than a privilege and she even runs away from her palace in pursuit of freedom. Cherry on the top is the fact that she has a pet tiger.

Mulan: Now, Milan may not be my favourite but she is the role model every girl deserves. She is Brave, strong, independent, stubborn, daring and also much less feminine than the others. She is the warrior who has broken all the stereotypes of a princess.

There could be factual inaccuracies in my post because I saw these movies years ago. And some of them are not mentioned here because I have not seen them. Do let me know what you think about this post:)

Travel Memoirs

I’ve just been to Mussourie, Dehradun and Rishikesh and it’s been such a wonderful trip that I couldn’t not tell everyone about it.
Now, I live in a place that’s deprived even of a reasonable amount of scenic or natural beauty and that has very little historical importance. A hill-person, a beach-person, a desert-person, a museum-person, a forts-and-palaces-person or even a jungle-person would feel lost in this town of mine and I have to confess I’m a bit of all; only a mall-person or a cafe-person could thrive here. So, a person from a town as commonplace as mine yearns to be in glamorous destinations every once in a while.

It was this yearning that had me drawn towards the queen of hills: Mussourie and I couldn’t help but be jealous of those who live here. There are people who walk these hillsides everyday; who have these beautiful sceneries awaiting them every time they open their windows; and who have fresh, pollution-free mountain air gushing to welcome them every time they step out of their house.

So, when at Mussourie I’d say, you should trek to Lal-tibba, eat Kalsang, visit the Cambridge Book Store at the right time but more importantly relax in this laid-back town and take in the scenic beauty this place has to offer in abundance. I came here to meet Mr. Ruskin Bond, but ended up having the times of my life.

At Dehradun, I spent only very little time but I’d suggest everyone to go to Mindrolling Buddhist Temple, Robber’s Cave and Clement Town.

And in Rishikesh, let your adrenaline take charge. It’s a very good place for trying out all the adventure sports you always wanted to and then maybe spent a quiet hour or two at the Triveni Ghat listening to self-proclaimed conspiracy theorists discussing politics.

One thing that this trip got me thinking was: do we ever completely come back from places we visit and love? I think a part of us always stays back making the memories as vivid as yesterday for years to come.