An Unrelinquished Emotion

Every evening, as far as the eye can see,
It appears that the sky unifies with the sea.
The vast skies relentlessly let the magnificent sun slip into the enormous waters,
Momentarily making you feel that to this inseparable love couple nothing else matters.
Perhaps simply, the sun is the heart, that is unabashedly transferred from one lover to another,
A supremely bold representation of infatuation, the couple flaunted like no other.

The world that sees the both of them, seldom do they comprehend,
That to this love story, every dusk is a practiced but unaccomplished end.
Humongous egos, they both share, as each earnestly waits for the other to care,
One thunders in dark gloom, while the other washes off sand castles built by those who dare.
The sun is but a mute spectator to their delusional love,
A one that will never possibly materialize and is neatly tucked away with a hasty shove.

And yet, every evening it appears, the glorious lovers start the same struggle all over again,
For, love, though self-mutilating from within, fervently always brings hope as a bargain.
As the brightest star makes his rehearsed descent, he wonders which one of the lovers will make the first attempt,
And desperately yearns that when such a passionate foot is put forward by one, the other doesn’t scoff in contempt.
For the blue sky and blue waters, clear reflections of each other’s souls, and where they figuratively meet,
Millions of human hearts have hopelessly hugged, kissed and skipped many a beat.

And if these two were meant to be, just as every soul already assumed them to be, when will their happy ending be?

The Math Problem

I turned 30 last year.

And before I did, I remember making a hue and cry about it. I spoke about having set certain ‘before 30 goals” for myself and my failure to achieve most of them. Of course, most of the said set goals might sound really random, quite crazy but a lot of passionate thinking went into them. Like the ones below.

Finish reading Gone with the Wind and War and Peace. But I hadn’t even started reading these books yet.

Download all the Hindi and Telugu songs sung by Udit Narayan on my iPod. I hadn’t finished collecting Udit’s songs while very depressingly, his son, Aditya, that Potla from Pardes, was already all grown up and composing music himself.

Start a society that worked towards helping Indian couples in love aspiring to get married but could not due to problems at home based on baseless differences such as caste, religion, age etc. Not a society that helps couples elope but the kind that sits both families down and makes them see reason. The kind that would explain to parents that if two people are majors and are in love and want to get married, they have every right to do so. Most of my friends, who were my inspiration to start this society for lovers, had given up on their love and were married to whom their parents chose for them.

Donate my hair to a place that made wigs for kids battling cancer. My hair would not meet the minimum length requirement with any hair donation organization.

Learn to speak and understand the language, Tamil, fluently, and do a Mani Rathnam movie marathon without requiring subtitles. I still could neither understand Tamil completely nor speak fluently.

The craziest one of the lot however is, Meet Mahesh Babu, Prakash Raj, Raghuvaran and Trivikram at some point before I turned 30. Well, I did meet Prakash Raj and he turned out to be an extremely unemotional and arrogant man I sincerely felt like punching straight in the face two seconds into the two minute conversation I had with him. Raghuvaran is dead and I really don’t know if I want to meet Mahesh Babu anymore. Trivikram, my love, my sweetheart, is continents away from where I currently am.

While dealing with all of this, I had to pull a 19 hour work shift on my 30th birthday and I slept for the remaining five hours. I remember not taking any phone calls or replying to texts on my birthday. I mean, the whole thing sucks. Who on earth likes to get all old and wrinkly. Besides, with increasing age, the ability to take risks decreases. You cannot make decisions based on chance. Everything needs to be done calculatedly because you mature enough to understand that one decision of yours may have several different implications. And I love taking risks but felt like I was running out of time or something. It was all way too depressing and painful for me.

Until weeks later. My manager told me, ‘Stop being such a baby about turning 30. It isn’t such a big deal and trust me; it is way better than turning 53. Do yourself a favor. Pick up your business cards and write every little thing that you have accomplished over the past 30 years and then, it wouldn’t seem so bad after all. When you look back at these cards when you are 40, take my word for it, you are going to be pleased’

I didn’t trust her at all. How was that going to make me feel better, I wondered. But I decided to give it a shot anyway.

The first card said, ‘Got a Bachelor’s degree’

‘Followed it with a Master’s degree’, the second card continued.

Have three and a half true friends for life. The kind of friends who will stand by me, no matter what, no judgments whatsoever.

Dropped work and took a trip to a place I always wanted to visit, California. With my mom.

Not having known how to even ride a bicycle for almost 27 years of my life, I finally got my driver’s license.

Fallen truly in love, lost and never learnt from it. Willing to do it all over again.

Made it to two of my best friend’s weddings.

Visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Maintain a not-so-active blog of my own.

And so on.

I really do not know if that made me feel any better. I can only probably tell nine years later, perhaps, when I turn 40.

I turn 31 this year. I finally went to the store and got myself a copy of Gone with the Wind and War and Peace. I plan to read them soon. I still listen to Udit on YouTube, no downloads yet, but I hope to get to it someday. I am pitching my society for Indian lovers idea with a bunch of people with very little luck. I donated 12 inches of my hair to place that makes wigs for kids with hair disorders yesterday. I have been using an app on my phone that teaches me Tamil and I believe I am becoming fluent. The movie marathon is right around the corner. And, I often cross my fingers hoping I bump into Trivikram, sometime, someday and profess my love to him.

Turning 31 doesn’t hurt anymore. I guess I have reached the acceptance stage of my grief. And I have realized that I should live by the minute and brooding over not being able to finish reading a book by a certain time period is not going to get me anywhere. But, I am not going to lie. On certain days, the number reality hits. And hits quite hard and on such days, there are friends and there always is alcohol.

So it is okay to crib about the number. It is a big deal, at least until you learn to come to terms with it.

Cheers!

-A happily, unmarried woman who’s 30, or as one of my friends would say, ‘who’s technically running 31.’

When the Girl Cried Wolf

Several years ago, when Meher Ramesh’s Kantri came out, there were a bunch of people who took to the streets saying that the film portrayed people who belonged to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes cheaply. The film had the hero, Jr. NTR, live in a slum while his profession was a street goon who did anything for money. The ‘offensive part’ came in because his slum had a Dr. B.R. Ambedkar statue in it. So the people who were rallying for taking this scene out said that:

  1. It was an insult to Dr. Amedkar, and
  2. The director was generalizing that people who belonged to ‘lower castes’ (whatever that means) would be uneducated rowdies who did cheap and illegal work for money.

Frankly, I am crazy about cinema and its every tiny detail but if it wasn’t for this retaliation all over the news, I wouldn’t even have noticed the Dr. Ambedkar statue in the slums while I watched the film in the theater. It was that inconspicuous and irrelevant.

*****

Now I see a lot of people writing articles and uploading videos where they mention their disgust over the Rape of Avantika in Rajamouli’s latest venture, Baahubali. When I did watch this particular scene where Shivudu applies black khol and red lipstick on Avantika and disrobes her dull and earth colored clothes to cloth her in bright red ones, I exclaimed to my friend, “Why is he raping the poor woman. He’s probably taken true inspiration from his Guru, Raghavendra Rao, to portray his sense of romance,” and continued to watch the rest of the film.

The point I am trying to make is, yes, no doubt, this scene is offensive to women. And no, I am not going to use ‘Well, most Indian or Telugu films have always been like this, so why crib about it now or you calling it sexist is not going to make a difference to film making.’

What I am trying to say is; you are educated, you have it in your power to make a choice. A choice to have an opinion or a choice to decide what you want to watch or read for entertainment.

If you really found Baahubali, or the Avantika scene in particular very sexist, if you felt that she was being raped, why did you sit through and watch that scene and the rest of the movie? Why didn’t you leave the theater then and there, when you were disgusted? If you did that, then I would see your point and applaud you for your principles, and if you didn’t and continued to watch the rape only to walk out of the theater and make a video or blog about it, I’m going to call you a hypocrite. Because, you see, in my opinion, you are not a feminist; you are just nit-picking. And let me also say, I completely understand your anguish, but it clearly lacks sincerity.

Allow me to nit-pick as well. Why were only the lead men with great bodies in Baahubali shown half naked? Is it because they were sporting the 6-pack? Are men who do not have a sexy and muscular body not worth seeing half naked at all? Is this why we didn’t get to see a shirtless or armor-less Kattappa? Why was Bijjaladeva’s upper body always covered in a silk shawl? Was it because of his handicap? Why are we cheaply discriminating between men who do not have toned bodies or are handicapped? Why are we being six-packists?

You see what I’m trying to say? I’m in no way saying that the way women are portrayed in our movies is justified. Time and again, women have been objectified in every film industry. And that is not right. But things are changing for us and we should acknowledge that. Stop the spite. For an Avantika that was shown, there was a Shivagami too. And to me and most women who watched this film, Shivagami is who we chose to carry out in our head when we walked out after watching the film.  The director’s intent when he made Baahubali was not to educate uncouth, illiterates on how to de-robe a female soldier. Do not expect every movie you watch to have a message that benefits society. That’s not why most people make movies, because if that was their goal, they would be philanthropists instead. If all you want is a message oriented thing, go and sit in a Human Values lecture.

Irrespective of whether women are shown in a certain way or not, crimes against women continue to happen. Such acts are essentially not happening because someone saw a film somewhere and is inspired by it. People always, always, and ALWAYS have a choice in what they do. The kind of films they watch, the kind of books they read. When I was a teenager, I read Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline and this book disturbed me for a few weeks. There is this particular shady character in the book that takes women, and strips them completely naked and ties a red ribbon around their neck, rapes them, videotapes the episode and then kills the women. After I had completed this book, I looked at every male stranger with suspicion and tried to peep into their pocket to see if they had a red ribbon hidden somewhere. Of course, I grew up and realized not all men are serial killers, and that if I come across a book that disgusting, I must stop reading it. I hope people who are writing such spiteful blogs or making such videos while donning fake feminism realize that they have this option. It is in your hands whether you want to encourage a certain film or not, you are not being dragged and tied up to a chair to watch something.

*****

This issue isn’t just about Baahubali for that matter. Telugu film industry, just like any other film industry in the country, is and will continue to be regressive towards women, as long as we allow them to be.

Samantha will continue to tweet about a regressive poster from Nenokkadine, where the heroine is crawling behind the hero like his watchdog while she continues to allow a Naga Chaitanya to kiss her feet in Ye Maaya Chesave. Because, for her the former is male chauvinism while the latter is Gautham Menon’s tasteful romance, but to me, it is about equality of both genders and her’s is plain hypocrisy. So if you are displeased with this kind of misogyny, go watch a Malayalam film with a good storyline. From what I have seen in them, Nazariya playing a bride in Bangalore Days is dressed more elegantly and realistically than the way Samantha is skimpily dressed while she is not only being held captive but is simply the bride, Nithya Menon’s aide in the song ‘Super Machi’ from S/O Sathyamurthy.

I was recently watching this Telugu talk show, Open Heart with RK. Normally, I do not watch such crappy shows, but I was on a ‘Telugu film directors’ high and was watching RK interview Rajamouli. Here’s how it went.

RK: So are you sleeping with anyone other than your wife. Like any heroines?

Rajamouli: (smiles) No, I am very loyal to my wife.

RK couldn’t shut up after that

RK: 100% sure, no affairs?

Rajamouli: (still smiling) Yes, 100%

RK the dork: Haha, really, ok… (gives a disgusting smirk that amounts to, yeah, right, you think I believe you, to which Rajamouli says nothing)

Personally, I found the way RK put forth his question very indecent. One, Rajamouli is not going to tell you on national TV if he’s sleeping around with someone other than his wife, and two, you do not smirk so cheaply while asking such a question. I turned the TV off because I couldn’t watch any further.

When my mom was visiting me last year, I had to buy the Indian channels package so she could watch her daily serials and shows she religiously followed on TV. There was this particular channel; I believe Maa TV, that continuously had scrolls about a new talk show by the Telugu comedian, Ali, called Ali Talkies. Now I like Ali as a comedian and was a little excited to watch this show hoping for some good comedy. This show called actors and actresses promoting their upcoming films and Ali, unabashedly, made vulgar jokes about a lot of things. About his co-anchor’s clothes. About how she looked sexier in western clothes as opposed to when she wore a saree. He made more crass comments about the actress who was on the show to promote her film by asking her if the reason behind her steamy chemistry with JD Chakravarthy in the film was because she had “lap-chik” with him off screen. I turned the TV off and never watched that show again.

Some people do not care to play an Avantika on-screen. Let them be. Another actress, Rambha, said to a Telugu director who is known was throwing fruits and flowers on a woman’s midriff and calling it romance, “Gurugaru, you did not throw any fruits on me in this film.” She said this on national TV, when she came on a show called Soundarya Lahari, with a really sad face and pouty lips. Let these people be. We are the ones who have the choice to watch this kind of shit or boycott it.

While there are these people, there are also actresses like Kangana Ranaut who declined a 2 crore offer to star in a fairness ad commercial because of her principles. Let us look at the brighter side of the story.

When a woman in our country is raped and is lying naked on the street, some people choose not to help her while some people choose come forward and rush her to the nearest hospital. When a bunch of vagabonds are eve teasing a girl walking on the street, they are not doing it solely because they watched Kundan Shankar torment Zoya to accept his love in Raanjhanaa. And if a guy does go forward and help the girl who is being teased, he didn’t do it solely because he watched Balu punch to pulp, a bunch of eve teasers who were troubling Bujji in Tholiprema.

When I recently watched the trailer of the upcoming Telugu movie, Rudramadevi, I decided that I’m not going to watch it. For me, Rudramadevi has been one of the bravest warriors from South India. But if Gunaskehar decides to portray such a bold and fearless woman as someone who wears a diamond studded bra and silk pajamas while she’s dancing to a melody, under a waterfall and romancing her lover by letting him adorn her with jungle flowers, I’m not going to watch it. Because the essence of her commendable biography that deserves respect has been taken away by a lousy director. I’m not going to be one of those people who go to the theater, watch it and crib about how insulting it is to warrior princesses and to women, in general. And keep in mind, if thousands of people did that, a film won’t do well, collect all the money it does, break all box office records, and the director would be forced to look into his crappy screenplay.

*****

Our country is changing. Our mindset is changing. It is going to take decades to bring about the change we would love to see, but it has already begun. But first things first, not all of our men are stupid enough to be influenced by what they see on TV, watch at the theater or read at home. Let us give them that credit. They deserve it. Let us stop hiding under the mask of fake-feminism. Let us learn to take offense rightly. Let us stop taking pretentious offense, irrespective of whether something is important and trivial under the garb of sisterhood.

Let us stop crying Wolf every now and then, ever so often, at fiction or reel life because when the Wolf really comes in real life, nobody would be willing to believe us or hear us out.

Baahubali – The Enigma

“India does not need a 250 crore budget movie at this time.”

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This is how I have felt every time I caught a glimpse of any news related to Baahubali over the last couple of years. I have incessantly argued with people who have told me that I must consider entertainment as entertainment and nothing beyond that. But in my opinion, Baahubali – the biggest movie ever made in the history of our country, is not what our country needs right now. If someone had 250 crores, why would they invest the money in something as frivolous as an epic war film. Think about all the progression that could have taken place had this massive budget been put to good use. Progress! That’s what the country needs right now. We have so many other pressing problems. Besides isn’t more than half of the money invested in the film black money? It is being said that the lead actor, Prabhas, will take home about 20 crores for this film. Will Prabhas ever pay all the right kinds of taxes on his earnings?

Apparently, the movie hired a few thousand people over the past two years. That means, as many as 2000 – 5000 thousand junior artists and technicians earned their daily bread and butter because they were on the Baahubali team. That’s pretty close to having a private job, similar to the MNC kind, without the benefits of course.

It is believed that around 20 acres of land in the Ramoji Film City was employed for the sole purpose of growing corn. And what was this massive corn crop grown for? To shoot a few scenes in a movie. There are hundreds of thousands of farmers with or without their own land, with or without water resources to water their land, with or without the means to work and manage their cultivation activities, and here, is this crazy team using extensive plots of land for aesthetic movie scenes. What happens to the entire crop after the shoot? If there is such fertile land, capable of growing tons of corn, is show casing the crop in a movie its best use?  

The movie is made by a common man who is only 9 films old. A man who started his career by directing mindless daily serials that had oodles of family drama in them and went on to dare and put Indian cinema out there on the world podium. A man passionate about cinema, a man who dared to dream big. A man who had the guts to show to the fanatic Telugu audience that the director is the true hero in any film.

The movie is directed by a man who hasn’t made one thing that is not a revenge story. Big protagonists, bigger and ugly antagonists. His heroines almost always have no role in the movie expect when they wear skimpy clothes and run around ancient forts begging their heroes to do ‘censor board approved’ stuff to them. It is said that the man is stunted when it comes to having an original vision and oftentimes plagiarizes from the West. Be it from Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, Our Hospitality or Cockroach. The man always chooses his cousin to deliver the music for his films and the cousin composes the kind of music that makes your hair stand on its end, well, at least until you realize that the tune was lifted from some German album. Also the hero or the villain is eternally and intentionally better clad when compared to the heroine; even when she is a princess and he is a mere soldier because the true sense of power obviously lies in the men. Which is why the tons of money and time are spent on how the men look, and in designing a new and ghastly weapon for them to hold in order to make them look like demi-gods. 

They said that the movie ticket would cost us $20. That, to me, is ridiculous. Telugu movie tickets are overpriced to begin with, especially when you compare them to tickets for a Hollywood or Bollywood movie. The tickets are priced based on the lead actor so you could pay anywhere between $12 to 16$ to watch a Telugu movie. But $20, huh!?! Well, at least Thank God, that’s what I am going to have to pay. The tickets are $25 in some cities in California and $28 in some places in Virginia. Of course, they are going to charge that much. What would be a better way to recover all those crores they invested into this film?

I went and watched Baahubali – The Beginning on Saturday, last week. I woke up on Sunday morning with a movie hangover and so, I watched another epic war film, 300, to get over this one.

India does not need a 250 crore budget movie right now. If I ever had 250 crores to spend, I wouldn’t invest the money in a movie.

This morning, I went online and spent another $20 and got myself a ticket for the evening show. I guess I haven’t gotten enough of Shivagami and Kattappa.

And S.S. Rajamouli, of course!

The Waist Band or the Waste Band?

We have all been born, raised and live in a fancy world. The one where we love to show off. Everything needs to be done with a lot of hungama and of course, fanfare. Come on, we all know that it is cheaper to send Mangalyaan into Mars’ orbit than it is to produce a Shankar’s Ai or a Rajamouli’s Baahubali. Our priorities man, they are always kick-ass.

Of course, I am generalizing. But that’s what happens in general. And that is why I go back to my most favorite and controversial topic. Our weddings. Whether a father has a house to claim as his own after working for nearly 50 years and as he is nearing his retirement does not matter. He simply has to marry away his children with a lot of wealth. One of my room-mates once told me that most dads in her state go to the bank and take a personal loan to get their daughters married because the in-laws expect the bride to bring in a lot of gold. And that’s what her dad did for her sister’s wedding and that he would take another personal loan for her as well, when the time came.

Well, the fanfare, wealth, food, jewelry and all that is fine, but at least when we are spending lacs and lacs of rupees on all this unnecessary crap, why are we supposed to buy jewelry that looks like absolute shit. Take the waist band or the waist belt, for example. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the ugliest piece of gold I have come across my entire life. I think it’s more of a South Indian tradition, but I could be completely wrong, maybe it is only an Andhra Pradesh thing (yeah! Mr. KCR, that includes the new state too), I don’t know. But basically, a gold waist band is a really thick, ugly looking piece of gold that’s worn on a saree, obviously around the waist. It always reminds me of one of those belt bombs, that’s how big most of them are. Now, I am not completely against them, I like the really, really thin ones and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the thin, sexy ones are not much appreciated in the market. edit 2 You see what I’m talking about? I mean, why, why, on earth do we have to buy a gold belt that looks like it was created only to strangle your self esteem. And to make you feel like a decorated cow at the farmer’s market. Now there are different kinds of people who will tell you different things and try to enlighten you on the absolute necessity of wearing or owning something as ridiculous as this.

The Financial Advisers: This is the group of people who self appoint themselves as your nearest kin and well wishers. It will seem like they have all graduated with an MBA in Finance from the IIMs and are therefore, the best advisers on how and where you invest your money in. ‘You don’t like the waist band? What are you even saying. It is gold, amma, gold always means investment. Whatever happens, gold is like property, it will fetch you loans, and blah ‘ they say. Okay, I get it. We are growing old even if we don’t want to and it is good to have some savings and investments, but why on earth does only buying a waist band amount to investment. First of all, I don’t care for that amount of gold, I would have to live on the streets wearing a gold waist band if I purchased it. And second of all, why can’t I get myself a dozen gold bracelets and really thin gold hoops in different sizes instead of this stupid thing. At least those I will wear without feeling embarrassed in public. Okay so I will get myself one and wear it on my wedding day, where am I going to be able wear it to without looking like a fool afterwards.

Or actually, why can’t I buy myself some really nice platinum bracelets. That’s what I like and I am sure that counts as investment too.

The Pretentious Gold Diggers: There is this one friend of mine who is on the heavier side, she weighed about 70 – 80 kilos at that time and her parents, after an extensive search, finally found a guy for her to get married to. We were quite surprised when the groom’s family approached my friend’s family and told them that they were not expecting dowry of any sorts. I have a bucket load of opinions on dowry and am very against it, but let’s not get into that right now. Anyhow I was very happy for my friend until the groom’s parents came back and said, ‘well, we don’t want any dowry but just get a gold waist band made for your daughter.’ Seriously, what the hell. And they were asking for one of those really thick ugly looking ones and they knew for a fact that, the regular ones available in the stores wouldn’t fit my friend owing to her heavy personality and her parents were forced to spend tons of money in the name of ‘no dowry’. How cheap! I mean, what if someone cannot afford that disgusting piece of gold! To these people, I just want to say, well how about this cute little buffalo for your daughter in-law, hey we promise, she comes with a gold waist band.

edit

The Thunder Stealers: Now this is a very weird category. The kind of relatives and/or friends who want to steal the bride’s thunder. The bride would want to be simple with no additional extravagance and when she is not wearing the waist band on her wedding day, these people will put on theirs and parade in the wedding halls. How self engrossed can you be? It’s the bride’s day, one of the most important days in her life and you are out there just to use this as an excuse to show off your collection of gold. Who do you think seriously cares? I know this one stupid family who got introduced to one of my friends just one week before her wedding, and they pretended to take up a lot of the wedding responsibilities, that is fine, but on the wedding day, the bride had clearly demanded a simple wedding, and they put on their stupid belt flashers that glow like stadium lights and started walking around. The worst part is, one of the aunts asked the bride if she wanted to wear her daughter’s waist band. How ridiculous. It wasn’t that my friend couldn’t get one for herself, she despised the very idea of a gold waist band. Why is that so hard for you to understand. And more importantly, why can’t that be considered normal?

Usually, I wouldn’t even notice whether the bride was or wasn’t wearing one and the people around her have one on or not, but you want to be in all the pictures with the bride you barely know and are constantly on the stage and your stupid band is shining like a million suns and blinding me and over shadowing the bride when I am trying to take decent pictures of her.

The Wedding Jury: Yes, you got it right. This is the group that will sit and judge the bride and her family. The bride for what she’s wearing and what she is not and her family for not being able to provide for her on her wedding day. They are the ones who can write in blood and give you a guarantee that your married life will be a happily ever after if you wear the right amount of gold. After all, that’s the factor that determines how happy and successful someone’s married life is, right? ‘Oh, she looks so dull without the waist band, at least her parents should have gotten her a plain and simple one with no fancy design. And why is she wearing such small earrings, I wonder if they are gold.’ they will say. Can someone please explain to me how all the gold I wear on my wedding day will help me constrain my anger and not yell at my husband when he forgets to wash his plate after dinner.

And that brings me back to, I will never want to own one of those big, fat, bright yellow bands. Not before my wedding, not on or after my wedding.

So eventually when I do give in to all the family blackmail, and sit down in the podium on my wedding day without the waist band, and you are there, please do not judge me. If I personally invited you, you’d fall into the category that doesn’t judge, but there will be a bunch of people who get invited automatically and I will have no say in it (that’s how it works for us). I will personally be distributing a printout of this post, so you can save yourself the trouble of trying to decipher why I’m not wearing the waist band. But if you see me wearing the really sleek and sexy one, again, you will have a copy of this and will understand that I am not completely against the idea of the waist band, I just hate the really thick and expensive ones that shine like the sun because personally, I feel embarrassed to wear it.

And finally, if you do turn up at my wedding and see me with a gold waist band that looks like a belt bomb, please call the cops, because if someone managed to slip that around my waist, they probably are also forcing the groom on me, so please come and save me!

My HP Story

Everybody has a Harry Potter story.

***

Mine started sometime in 2001. One of my friends who sat in the chair behind me during the Language classes in my 11th grade was a die-hard fan of the HP series. She read the first four books that had been released up to that point during every English and Sanskrit class. And then read them again. And again. And again. I once asked her why a magical world of witches and wizards fascinated a 16 year old such as her, because at that time, in my opinion, a book on magic is probably something that a 10 year old must read.

Instead of explaining the whys and whats, she simply handed me the first HP book, the Philosopher’s Stone. Her handing the book to me at that time was a huge, huge deal because there was a long line of girls who had ‘caught’ places to read the books and I luckily got in the middle. It meant business. Like a challenge. ‘Read this one and tell me you don’t want to read the second book.’ That’s what it meant.

Well, the rest is history!

My Most Favorite Book: Whenever someone has asked me which one of the seven books is my favorite, my answer has always been, ‘The second one: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.’ Now, first things first about this book. While I was half way through this one, I was in the dorm one day, drying out my clothes on the strings. Two of my friends were in the dorm too, having a silly fight. It went on for a good ten minutes and one of them was really angry and yelled at the other, ‘Well, so that’s how you are going to piss me off? I’ll tell you this, Ginny Weasley opened the chamber of secrets.’

And there, just like that she ruined the book for me. I was so annoyed, you have no clue. But the chamber of secrets, although I knew who opened it, is by far my most favorite book majorly because of the reading experience this book left me with. We lived in a huge dorm with about 80 girls in it and had seven common bathrooms. The dorm lights were switched off every night at about 10 pm and this meant no chit chatting or studying after this time. If any teacher caught you doing anything but sleeping, the consequences were pretty bad. But I couldn’t stop myself from reading the book, I just couldn’t go to bed. So every night after my class teacher switched off the lights after night prayers, I would tiptoe into the bathrooms. The common bathrooms always had their lights on. So I read a major portion of the chamber of secrets sitting on an overturned plastic bucket in the bathroom. The bathroom was creepy as hell and except for the fact that it wasn’t a first floor girls bathroom, every inch of this bathroom reminded me of Moaning Myrtle. I basically read the entire book with two freakish fears. One, I was afraid Moaning Myrtle would suddenly show up from behind and drag me into the chamber of secrets; two, a teacher may walk into the bathroom and punish me for staying up late. So there, that’s the most enjoyable read I’ve possibly ever had my entire life.

The Drool over Sirius Black: As the other books came out one by one, I found myself drooling over Sirius Black. I was highly attracted to this man for a really long time. Sirius Black, to me, was a really handsome and valorous knight. Like a prince. I don’t know why I felt that way about him.  He was my password to a number of accounts for years. The password to my Gmail, Yahoo, Orkut and Facebook accounts. (Well, don’t try to hack into my account now, I obviously changed the password!) So I had high hopes on the guy who would play Sirius in the HP movies. But Gary Oldman completely disappointed me. I mean, you should have seen the Sirius in my mind.  In my teenage mind, he was the hottest imaginary hero that could possibly exist. And that is why while I was in the middle of reading the Order of the Phoenix and someone told me that Bellatrix kills Sirius in the fifth book, I didn’t get angry with them. Because if I had to figure it out on my own, his death, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It would have been too shattering to mourn his death all by myself. My knowing that he was going to die even before I completed the book gave me time to grieve and accept his death when it actually happened.

The Deathly Hallows Drama: That brings me to the release of the seventh and the final book, The Deathly Hallows, in 2007. This was the last book in the series and this was the only time I had been up to date with all the previous set of books. I was now ready for the release. If you are a HP fan, you should remember all those rumors about Harry may or may not die in the last book. The ones about where J.K. Rowling could be a bitter bitch and kill Harry because for Lord Voldemort to die, Harry had to die too. And this time, I wasn’t prepared learn what happens at the end from someone else. I wanted to read the book and devour the secrets all by myself. So here was my plan for the release of the seventh book. Being a girl from a small town where the book wouldn’t release on the D-day, I decided to go to Hyderabad. I wanted to be there. I wanted to stand outside the book store at midnight and be one of the first ones to rush into the book store when it opened that morning at 6. I wanted to push and pull and put up a fight and get into the store and grab my first ever and last owned HP book.

My mom and dad weren’t really happy with this idea. Mostly because this was an unnecessary expense according to my dad. And of course, he wasn’t entirely wrong. According to my dad, who is a voracious reader himself, HP was a book that was pure magical bullshit that did not contribute to even a pigeon shit size of common sense to growing kids. But when I asked my parents for Rs 2,500 (which was a lot back in 2007) so I could travel to Hyd, stay there for two days and buy a book worth Rs 1,200, they didn’t say no to me. So there I was, happy as a colorful butterfly that just ran into a bottle of honey. But….

My boyfriend at that time was a big tall asshole. Of the highest order. Two weeks before the release of the Deathly Hallows, he acted all jerk’ish and decided to pick a huge fight with me. I was already working real hard on our long distance relationship at that time and to prevent the situation getting worse, I spent my HP earned Rs. 2,500 to travel up to meet him, patch up with him and pacify him with an expensive gift. I never got to live my ‘buy my HP book’ dream. Of course, he sent me an e-copy of the book 3 days after its release and I spent 11 hours reading the book on my stupid P3 desktop. Seriously, if I had known at that time that it wasn’t going to work out with this guy, I would have totally dumped him for the HP experience. I mean, think of it, I would at least have a great story to tell. About how I punched someone in the line, jumped through hoops and broke a glass window at the book store and stole the Deathly Hallows at midnight, got arrested by the police for it, and finally read the stolen book in jail. Sexy, right?

The Popcorn Incident: Thank God for Universal, the HP experience did not end with the books. My first HP movie in the theater was the Order of the Phoenix. I remember watching this at Prasads IMAX. Now this was a time when the HP merchandise wasn’t really popular or out there in India. So when I saw that Prasads was serving popcorn in paper cones that had Harry, Ron and Hermione printed on them, I went crazy with joy. The popcorn was Rs. 20, that in my opinion was very expensive for popcorn. The guy who sold the popcorn to me clearly figured out I had problems because I was jumping up and down after seeing the HP printed popcorn cone. I remember telling myself that I would never throw away the printed paper cone and would keep it with me forever.

But after the movie, in the dark, and in the midst of crying over Sirius Black’s death, I lost the paper cone. I went to the popcorn fellow and begged him ‘Please, anna, can you give me a paper cone, I lost mine. I don’t need any popcorn, just the paper cone. I just purchased popcorn a while back; you do remember me, right?’ The asshole goes, ‘Give me Rs. 20, ma’am.’ I looked at him, flabbergasted. Seriously, come one dude, I just bought your popcorn, and I just watched Sirius get sucked into limbo forever, have some mercy.

But he wouldn’t budge. I finally gave him the 20 rs and took a new paper cone from him. ‘Take your popcorn again, ma’am,’ he said. ‘Fuck you,’ I thought, snatched the paper cone from him and walked away. Little did I know on that day that I would actually get a HP t-shirt for myself five years later and also wear it to the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Yay, me!

The Orlando Universal Studios Saga: I went to visit the twin entertainment parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL in early, early 2009 while I was getting my Master’s degree. The parks were fantastic but they left me highly disappointed with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Revealed in 2010” signs all over in the park. ‘Damn it, if only I had come to the parks next year.’ I had thought.

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Luckily or unluckily for me, I lived in Gainesville for about 3 months after I graduated and was looking for a job. So when a friend of mine who was visiting the United States decided to come and meet me in Orlando, I was super excited. Maybe this was a chance to finally get on to the Harry Potter ride in the Islands of Adventure. But since I was broke and was looking for a job and had zero savings at that time, all I could afford was a ticket to one of the two parks, and I left my visiting friend to pick a park of her choice. My friend wanted to go to the Universal Studios, the one that did not have the HP ride. I went along with her. It tore my heart to go to Universal Studios that day, to have the HP ride in the neighboring park, a few feet away from me and yet not be able to hop onto it. But I told myself, anything for friends. Because if there is anything the Harry Potter books taught me, it’s that you always have to be there for your friends, in the wizarding world and in the muggle world, and respect their choices.

So basically, I had been to Orlando twice, spent $300 on park tickets by this time and still hadn’t experienced the HP ride. Everyone knew my Orlando story. My friends, my co-workers, random HP fans, heck, even my hair stylist. All of them have asked me why I never went back to Orlando again. I have always told them that it just didn’t make sense anymore. To spend about $300 on flight tickets to Orlando, and an additional $200 on the park tickets. I mean, I love Harry Potter and all that, but since I’ve been to all the other rides at the parks, twice, spending $500 only to go see HP felt like real bullshit to me. Not worth it.

I have been cribbing and crying that I probably am the only specimen who has been to Orlando twice and has never been on the HP ride, until someone told me to suck it up. And that’s when I decided to give it a shot. Spend the money. Enjoy the Harry Potter ride. Know how the world of wizardry actually feels. They have a new ride in the Universal Studios too now. Apparently, it has the Diagon Alley too. A whole new experience. And so here I am, finally sucking it up and doing it. As I am sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to catch my connecting flight to Orlando, and eating my really gross hummus flatbread (I hate airport food), I can only begin to imagine what I have in store for me this weekend. I am super, super, super excited!!!

I almost silently, secretly and very desperately hope that when I walk into Diagon Alley this Saturday wearing my Harry Potter t-shirt, I see the dark figure standing tall in his deep black cloak buttoned up to his neck, his long wavy hair parted in the middle and running down to his shoulders, with his expressionless face whispering out to me, ‘After all this time?’

And I can say unabashedly, ‘Always.’

‘Always, Snape, and forever. You are to me, my fictional knight in a dark shining armor. You were, are and will always be my best fictional love, (after Mr. Darcy, of course). Be it when you were mean to Harry in the books, be it when you befriended Lord Voldemort as a death eater, be it when you killed Dumbledore, be it when I realized that you were the half-blood prince and began calling myself the half-blood princess, be it when you simply walked into a dim classroom, made it dimmer by shutting the windows with a ‘Turn to Page 394’ but remained the most brilliant personality in the room, or be it when you were just being Severus Snape. Because for me, Harry Potter wasn’t about Harry, Ron and Hermione or Voldemort, I didn’t care for the sorting hat, the thunder bolt scar, or for the invisibility cloak, or for quidditch or Hagrid and those unicorns, or for the deathly hallows. I really didn’t care for Harry and Ginny together or for the romance between Ron and Hermione . For me, Harry Potter was always about you. I love you, Severus.’

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Everybody has a Harry Potter Story. What is yours?

Have you really broken-up?

‘One Tall Americano, please,’ she said to the guy at the Starbucks counter, and looked around while she waited for her coffee to find a good spot to seat herself for the next two hours until her boarding time . When the Americano was ready, she picked it up, walked over to the sugar and cream counter and added half a spoon of raw sugar and did a weird swish-swoosh with the flat, wooden stir stick for a good 20 times to ensure the raw sugar had completely dissolved in the coffee. She would have continued the stirring if she hadn’t realized that the person waiting behind her was looking close to being angry.

The only empty table was the one near the sugar and cream counter and although she would have preferred a better table, she decided to take it. It was way better than not having a table to sit at all in a busy Starbucks at Terminal B in the Newark Liberty International Airport.

She hated this airport. But her work forced her to travel to Paris once every three months and the company she worked for always flew her through Air France with an inevitable connecting at the Newark Airport. And it always had been from Terminal B. For seven long years now. Today was no better than the first time or the 21 other times she had stopped at EWR. It had never been easier. The Starbucks, the escalator, the little Mexican restaurant that had really bad food, nothing had changed since then. Except, probably her heart. Oh and of course! Now she had also learnt how to drag her cabin bag along with her on the escalator without awkwardly tripping over the bag.

She looked at the table that she had been seated at with him on that fateful windy day in March, seven years ago. She tried to gulp down the painful knot she felt in her throat. It wasn’t easy. It never had been.

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‘Break-ups are never easy, Siriya,’ she heard her friend say. ‘You cannot expect to meet each other in the morning, have lunch at noon, catch a romantic movie, walk together in the park that evening and then, joyfully say goodbye to each other and call it quits.If break ups were going to be that pain free, two people in a relationship would never see a reason to break up in the first place.’

Siriya looked up, both angry and sad. ‘Don’t call me Siriya. It’s such an odd name. Could you not just stick with Siri for once?’

‘Okay, Siri,’ her friend continued, ‘if you have decided to break up and if you are choosing to do it in person because you need closure, whatever that means, then suck it up and go through with it but it’s not going to be painless.’

‘I know,’ Siriya said, biting the nails on her left hand and frantically tapping the finger from her right on the table. She was clearly confused, you could tell. Whether she was doing the right thing, you had no clue.

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She waved to him when she saw him at the airport. She had a five hour layover at EWR while she was flying to Phoenix and had decided it was the perfect duration. Not too long, not too short to go through with it.

He hadn’t changed a bit. He stood tall and had a plain face, like he always did. If you looked at him, you could never tell whether in his head he was singing a romantic song to you, or if he was so angry with you that a volcano was erupting right inside him. So this windy day in March, when he had come to meet her at the airport to break up in person with her, she couldn’t tell if he was upset or angry or both.

‘Let’s go upstairs and sit. There is a little Mexican place there. Maybe we could grab a bite?’ she said. She walked towards the escalator and he followed behind her. He was peculiarly more silent than normal. Of course, he had a reason to be.

She tried to put her cabin suitcase and her foot on the escalator at the same time and nearly tripped over the suitcase. Embarrassed, she turned towards him. Now usually, if she did something this silly he would mockingly laugh at her like she’s an idiot, but today, he just smiled and told her, ‘You need to put you feet on there first and then drag the bag along with you onto the next step, not onto the same step.’

They went up, got lunch and sat down. He stared at her without touching his food. She could feel his stare right through her. She could always tell when he was staring at her and when he was not. When he didn’t move his gaze for a long while, she looked up from her food and said, ‘Eat your food. It’s not that great but…’

“I’m not hungry,’ he interjected, even before she could complete her sentence.

‘See, I’m wearing my Harry Potter shirt. I know it looks too big on me but this was the only size they had,’ she smiled weakly, trying to lighten up the mood.

‘I know what is on your mind, Siriya, just say it. The ordeal is not going to turn into something happy just because you prolong it with small talk.’

This was him being curt. This was him being his usual self. But when he called her out by her full first name, she realized that although he hadn’t said it, he was hurting inside. If she peeped into his head, she would have found him curled up in a corner crying profusely.

‘I don’t think it is working anymore. I really love you but I have come to see that we are very different people now. We probably were different to begin with, but everything is falling into a realistic perspective nowadays. We both have always been emotionally very attached to each other but somehow we seemed to have been travelling the same path at different emotional levels at different points of time. When I was crazy about you, very needy and clingy in the beginning, you were balanced. And now, when I seem to feel emotionally stable, you have turned into me. The long distance, the time zone difference, convincing our parents, these are what we are always fighting about. We are trying to concentrate so much on having one good phone conversation without having a fight, and that makes me wonder, if we are trying too hard to stay in this relationship and failing at it, is it possibly cause we may not be in love with each other anymore? You have mentioned that your friends think we are not right for each other, so have mine, may be they have a point?’

‘If this is what you perceive, then I think you should reconsider. I am willing to cross certain boundaries I have laid down for myself if that means having to be with you. Why are you even doing this to me? Don’t you want to give us a chance?’ He was very composed even as he said that.

He had never spoken that way. It was his way of saying, I love you. I truly do. We both have our egos but we can work this out. I cannot imagine a life without you. I may not be as expressive as you would like me to be but no way on earth does that mean that I love you any lesser. I am impatient, yes. But that is me, just like you are immature. Give us one chance, just one chance is all I ask from you. You know that I haven’t loved and will never be able to love anyone the way I love you. You are the reason I smile from my heart. Without you, I will be miserable and shattered.

But he never did utter those words. She waited to see if he would say them at least today. But he never did. And she tried to understand him for that, but she really could not. She needed a man of many words and in his opinion, certain things were best left when unsaid and rather felt.

Those five hours were going to be longest hours of her life. She felt foolish for thinking that she had timed her break up and assumed that meeting him for one last time would bring her closure. He continued to stare at her, taking his eyes off her face only when he blinked.

‘Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee. I saw a Starbucks downstairs,’ she said, standing up and trying to break the silence.  He nodded. When they walked towards the escalator, the drama repeated again, and very oddly, he smiled weakly again, gave a detailed explanation of how you mount yourself and your bag.

He was being rather nice to her today. Why was she breaking up with him, again, she wondered. She tried not to confuse herself. She had thought about this for weeks now, her friends agreed with her, she was making the right choice.

‘One tall Americano, please, the name is Siri,’ she said, as they reached Starbucks. She turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows asking him what he wanted to drink.

‘I don’t like coffee here. Their beans are over roasted,’ he said.

‘No, try my order. I’ll make it the right way for you’ she smiled meekly hoping he would smile back. They picked up the Americanos and walked to the counter to the side. She picked up half a spoon of raw sugar, put it in his coffee and stirred it for two whole minutes, saying, ‘You need to add raw sugar and stir it until it completes dissolves in the hot coffee. Or else the raw sugar settles down at the bottom and even if you try to blend it in later, it tastes weird.’

He said nothing. He took the coffee, sipped it and she couldn’t tell if he liked it or not. Just like she couldn’t tell if he loved or hated any of the gifts she had bought for him. His face was expressionless.

They walked around the airport for a little longer and he suggested they walk into a gift store. She saw him buy something. For a second, she wondered if it was for her. Immediately, she shrugged her shoulders and laughed at herself. He never buys gifts for people. He isn’t that kind of a person.

Here and there, in their conversation, he indirectly asked her if she was sure about what she wanted from this relationship. It was almost like he was begging her to reconsider. They talked about when they had initially started dating and about how both of them skipped dinner every day just so that they could save some money to call each other on the phone. Cellphone calls were expensive those days. She remembered telling him that here AT&T allowed unlimited talk time and they could talk all night if they wanted to without having to go to bed on an empty stomach. She thought about how technology brought them closer while their hearts distanced themselves from each other.

She stood at the Gate as the boarding started. She looked into his eyes for the first time that day. They looked hollow and sad, very, very sad, like there was no life in them. She immediately hugged him, tight. He did not hug her back. He simply stood there, as if he was electrocuted. After a few seconds, he moved his right hand forward, as if to wrap his arm around her, but instead, put a small bag in her left hand.

 She was angry that he wouldn’t even hug her back. She knew he hated PDAs. But for god-sake, this was probably the last time she was going to see him. She clutched the small bag he put in her hand tightly and walked into the gate before turning back and waving a goodbye to him. He stood there like a rock.

She sat in her seat and hastily opened the bag. It was a magnet. It said, ‘Someone who loves me very much went to New York and got me this magnet.’ She started to sob uncontrollably and kissed the magnet.

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It had been seven years. Over the first three years after the break up, she had dated two guys. Both the guys had been great, but she somehow never felt as passionate about them as she had felt about him. It wasn’t them. It was her. It took her two years of wasteful dating and another additional year to realize that she will never feel the same about anyone else in her life. And that she was still in love with him. She was in love only with him. For her, it wasn’t about moving on, she just didn’t want to be with anybody else. It took her a really long time realize that when she broke up with him, that day, in this very airport, a part of her had broken too. So broken that it rendered her heart impossible to be crazily in love with another person. But when that realization had hit her, it had been too late. She learnt that he had moved on.

She missed him, terribly. It hurt her because she couldn’t go back to him. She missed his expressionless face, his wide palms with really long fingers, the smell of his silky hair and his large, deep eyes that always looked like they wanted to say something to her but never did. She missed the way he….

She shook herself to reality. She washed down the painful knot in her throat with a large gulp of coffee, wiped her moist eyes and looked into her handbag. She didn’t have to look keenly or for a long time to find it, the magnet. She took it out, caressed it fondly and planted a kiss on it. Whether he still lived in New York, she did not know. Whether he still loved her, very much, she had never had the courage to find out.

She then suddenly became aware of her surroundings because she thought she heard her name being called out at Starbucks counter where you collect your drinks. That’s odd, she thought. Nobody has her name. It was such an odd name, Siriya. Like her parents wanted to name her after a country and misspelled her name instead. She liked being called Siri until the stupid iPhones stole that joy too. She now preferred Siriya. So when she heard the lady at the counter scream, Siriya – Hot Chocolate and Pat – One Tall Americano, she was curious to see the co-owner of her name.

She watched in awe as a little girl, clearly at least 5 years old, ran forward and picked up both the glasses and walk towards the sugar counter right next to her table.

‘Daddy, one half spoon of raw sugar, stir until it completely dissolves, while it’s hot, right?’ she screamed loudly.

‘Yes, darling. Now hurry up or else we will miss the flight.’ she heard a familiar deep voice. The one that she frequently heard in her dreams every now and then.

She turned and looked at him. He stood tall and had a plain face. He was busy looking at his tickets. The little girl ran up to him proud of her coffee achievement, he took the coffee from her into his left hand, held her with his right and walked hurriedly towards the escalator.

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