Monday, September 12, 2011

The Elements of Style (Book Review)

I love good English and aspire to attain the high standards that the language demands. This book is just another step in that direction.

In just 80 small pages, the authors have captured all that one needs to know to write well in the English Language. I bought the book after Stephen King endorsed for it in his book 'On Writing'.

I would strongly recommend this book for teachers, students, writers, businessmen and anyone else who needs to write in English.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Birth of A Brother

I remember, I think this must be my earliest memory, walking down the lane of my rental house holding a pillow in one hand and clutching my father’s hand with the other. My father had some rolled up bedding in his other arm. He walked jauntily announcing to the entire world that his wife has just delivered a son and that we were off to the hospital to be along with the mother and baby.

I don‘t remember the stay there or the fact that I named my brother ‘Aravind’, but I do remember having at least 4 Aravinds in my Junior KG class. So, it must be true. I must have named him. Not just that, he owes his birth to me. Let me tell you the story.

We were on the first floor of an old rental apartment and there were another half-dozen houses there apart from the landlord who resided on the ground floor. I was a lonely four-year old.

So, secretly, I used to pray to God everyday to give me either an elder sister like Ammu or a younger brother. I never wanted an elder brother who might bash me up or a younger sister who would snatch my lovely beads and dresses. Since God couldn’t turn back time, he satisfied my latter wish.

So, my brother owes me two things – his birth and his name!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Pen (Poetry)

Hour upon hour, I perspire
to write something to inspire.
My world sure does conspire
to get my pen to retire.
See the household's mire!

No Nanny is on hire.
Fresh diapers the twins require.
I have to start the cooking fire,
fix the toy car's tire
and volunteer to create a society flier.
I take my daughter to practice for choir,
send off charity in the wire
and bake desserts for hubby's desire.

My pen calls out in dire.
It asks for writing to admire.
It may be the time of vampire
but I pick up the pen from the pyre.
Finally, I respire.

- Archana Sarat
Copyright Archana Sarat 2011

My First and Last Experiment with Snuff

My parents lived in the first floor of an old small rental apartment in Chennai during my early childhood. There were around 10 other families around us apart from the landlord who lived in the ground floor.

One of the families were a bunch of Anglo-Indians. I loved to go there and play with the ‘Akka’(means ‘elder sister’ in Tamil) there. Her family seemed huge with a Granny, a dozen brothers (or so it seemed to me!), a half-dozen sisters, a harassed mother and not-so-easily-noticeable father. Akka was the person who introduced me to Chess. She taught me the game and I loved it! I haunted her house often to enjoy a game of chess with her. Whenever I play this game, till now, her memory flits across my mind. She was the kindest person I had come across. Secretly, I used to pray to God to make her my very own elder sister.

Once, when I had gone to her house to pester her for another game of chess, she had gone out and only Granny was in the house. Granny had this small cylindrical box in her skirt pocket that she used to bring out often. She used to open the box and take a pinch of something out of it and sniff her pinched finger. Then she used to open her mouth wide and exclaim “Aaarrghhh..” as if she was in the ecstasies of pleasure.

Since no one was around that day, I went up to granny and asked her, “what is in this box?”

“Snuff,” she said.

“Can I see it?” I asked.

“Ok but don’t drop it.”

I opened the box as delicately as possible and peeped inside. I was disappointed. It was just some dark-coloured powder inside.

“Want to try it?” Granny asked. Her eyes sparked mischief. I nodded my head. She took a small pinch of the powder and placed it in my palms.

“Sniff it in now,” she said.

I did just what she asked and then it started.

“Atchooo… Atchooo… ATCHOOO… Atch.. Atch… ATCHOOO….” The sneezes were beyond the control of my 7 year old self and the laughter was beyond the control of the 70 year old. Sometimes, I still hear that loud raucous laughter in my dreams.

Akka entered just then with her mother.

“Granny, what have you done?” Akka seemed really angry.

“I don’t know. She only wanted to try it,” Granny said.

Akka looked at me and I could only sneeze twice more in reply. Conversation was beyond my capacity.

I was given a glass of water and packed off home. I didn’t breathe a word of this incident to anyone. (In fact, this blog entry is going to be a shocking revelation to my parents!)

Years later, we moved into our own house in the tallest high rise building in Chennai at that time. Akka and Granny became distant memories.

Recently, I met Akka again at the Gynecologist. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child and Akka was so happy for me. Sadly, she was married but childless. God is unfair at times! He does test people’s faith. I remembered the love Akka used to shower on all of us kids and prayed to God to bless her with a child soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab: A Walk Through The Day Of A Writer

Light, sleek, small ab
With a design so fab,
The Samsung Galaxy Tab
Is a gadget to nab!

Your world turns an experimental lab.
Your life is a canvas to dab.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab
Is a gadget to nab!

Friends a click away to gab.
It adds a zing to your zab!
The Samsung Galaxy Tab
Is a gadget to nab!

Swifter than a speeding cab,
With a price that does not jab,
The Samsung Galaxy Tab
Is a gadget to nab!

(*zab – meaning: to be really, really cool)(

As the sun slowly rises in the east and the beautiful morning rays touch me, I am typing away on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. The story would just not let me sleep. I am a writer. I continue writing… My beautiful little Tab has an ambient light sensor that automatically modifies the brightness of the screen to protect my eyes from the glare of the bright screen. My eyes bear no strain even after hours of typing in the dark.

My Samsung Galaxy Tab not only cares about my eyes, it also cares about how much I type everyday. That’s why I could get a pretty keyboard case to match it. It does take the strain out of typing thousands of words everyday!

I hear the pitter – patter of little feet and guess that my 10 month old son is up for the day. Expecting him to come crawling up to me, I look behind and I am shocked. OMG! The little sweetheart is walking. I quickly pick up my Tab and film an entire video of him walking towards me. The 3MP rear facing camera helps you click great photos and shoot HD videos. I complete the shoot with a photo of his sweet morning smile and instantly share the photo on Picassa.

I get on the Social Hub to share the news with all. “Aaru has started walking!” My Twitter, Facebook and all email accounts are in this one stop place and the news starts the rounds!

Instantly my husband wants to see the little one. Sadly, he is in Australia on a business trip. I tell him not to worry and switch on to video chat on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. The 2 MP front camera satisfies his curiosity and he signs off.

After all these morning adventures, Aaru wants to nurse but I want to continue to type my story when the flow is good. Thanks to the fact that my Samsung Galaxy Tab is just 565 gms, I am able to do both.

The morning is up and bright now. And I fix myself a strong cup of coffee and switch on to the day’s newspaper. I am a voracious reader. Thanks to the Readers Hub of Samsung Galaxy Tab, I am no longer swarmed by paper wherever I go. I buy books here and subscribe to my favorite newspapers and magazines too. Thereby, I am doing my bit to save all those trees that are used in making paper. The Wifi and Bluetooth in my Samsung Galaxy Tab ensure that I am connected to all my reading material wherever I may be.

I place my son on his high chair and sit beside him. We both are going to have breakfast. And this fellow would silently complete his meal only if he watches the popular ‘Gummi Bear’ videos. I switch it on in my Samsung Galaxy Tab and the meal proceeds in harmony. The 1280x800 WXGA display, 149 ppi, HD and the dual speakers surround effect bring the music video to life. Suddenly, he puts out his hand and swats at it. The Tab turns and along with it the picture turns too. The gyroscope sensor & accelerometer sensor sense movements and the display is ready.

After breakfast, my son goes to play with his toys. I get the idea for a new poem. I create a fresh document and start typing it out. The Polaris Office gives you the facility of creating and editing documents. The memory provides me adequate room to store all my music, videos and documents. It is so easy to multi-task in the Samsung Galaxy tab. I can listen to music, type and reference material – all at the same time.

Aaru is getting cranky and I understand he wants his morning nap. I put on some soothing music on the Samsung Galaxy Tab and take him and the tab to the nursery. I lay him on a mat and give him a relaxing massage. He simply loves it. After his bath, he goes to sleep deeply.

The babysitter walks in at just that second. I need to run a few errands. I pick up my handbag and drop my Samsung Galaxy Tab into it. It is so slim, just 8.6 mm, and fits snugly into my bag. The GPS, Compass and Google Maps in it are invaluable when I drive around the town.The 3G Connectivity keeps me connected always, wherever I go.

After all my shopping is done, I get back home. Aaru is still sleeping. I pay off the babysitter and go to fix a meal for me and Aaru. Once I am back to my desk, I switch on to my email and it does not need any updating. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a live panel homescreen that keeps updating my mail and social network updates.

My friends are raving about this new game and I use the Android Tech to download it. Unlike the IPad, my Samsung Galaxy Tab supports Adobe Flash Player and therefore, I can access those websites that use flash too. But, before I can check out the game, Aaru is up. After lunch and all, I decide I am going to make a new dessert for hubby when he gets back. I check out the recipe for Apple Pie. Within seconds its on the screen of my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Wow, that’s speed!

As I type away all evening, it feels a pleasure to be able to so easily look up the dictionary, reference websites, tell a hi on Facebook, pay the phone bill and still continue typing. When I put Aaru to sleep, I remember to check up on the battery. It is still pretty strong. It is 2 days since I charged it. The charge does last long on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. I kiss my Samsung Galaxy Tab goodnight and get into my bed. It is one good friend that every mummy writer needs to have!

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Pen (Poetry)

Hour upon hour, I perspire
to write something to inspire.
My world sure does conspire
to get my pen to retire.
See the household's mire!

No Nanny is on hire.
Fresh diapers the twins require.
I have to start the cooking fire,
fix the toy car's tire
and volunteer to create a society flier.
I take my daughter to practice for choir,
send off charity in the wire
and bake desserts for hubby's desire.

My pen calls out in dire.
It asks for writing to admire.
It may be the time of vampire
but I pick up the pen from the pyre.
Finally, I respire.

- Archana Sarat
Copyright Archana Sarat 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lost Pigeons (Poetry)

Bombs. Blasts. Blood.
Limbs torn.
Tears shed.
Eyes sore.
Aches felt-
not only in body
but in heart as well...

Bombs. Blasts. Blood.
Silence shattered.
Lives tattered.
Surroundings withered.
Pigeons faltered-
before they flew away...
Will they be seen again?

- Archana Sarat

Copyright Archana Sarat 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Another of Those Serial Blasts... (Poem)

Delhi says, "Do not panic,"
Pakistan offers condolences,
America says, "we are with you,"
but we don't need any of you!
We have at least two special days every year-
7/11, 26/11, 26/7 and now this 13/7.
And what do we do after the 'festivities'?
We get up,
dust off the dust and watch some more news
before rushing off to catch the local!
After all, we are Mumbaikars, aren't we?
Does our resilience validate your negligence?

Archana Sarat

Copyright Archana Sarat 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011


A few days back I received this email and it came as a pretty rude shock. I am wasting time.

Some terrific truth about time:

First: Nobody can manage time. But you can manage those things that take up your time.

Second: Time is expensive. As a matter of fact, 80 percent of our day is spent on those things or those people that only bring us two percent of our results.

Third: Time is perishable. It cannot be saved for later use.

Fourth: Time is measurable. Everybody has the same amount of time...pauper or king. It is not how much time you have; it is how much you use.

Fifth: Time is irreplaceable. We never make back time once it is gone.

Sixth: Time is a priority. You have enough time for anything in the world, so long as it ranks high enough among your priorities.

I do get some little time during the day but it comes in such small pieces of 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc that it seems easier to flop down before the television at those intervals rather than sit and write on the desk.

Another thing I have noticed is that I hog down fried stuff only when I watch TV. This is definitely not going to make my fitness trainer any happy. So, I decided to start work again on my Writing Course and Poetry Course. This is something I enjoy doing, it makes me happy, it is a good use of valuable time and it helps me avoid unnecessary calories! Let's see how this plan goes!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Stay-at-home Mother's Lament

Dear Folks who think SAHMs have it all,

I need to write this today…now…this moment… before I finally lose the last strand of sanity left in me. I am a Stay-at-home Mom (SAHM) for the last six years. I have two sons – one is 5 years and the other is 7 months.

I had a life before these six years in which I was a Chartered Accountant, who passed out in first attempt with flying colours. Not only was I a school topper, I was also a rank holder in the Madras University. Apart from all those academics, I had scores of cups and medals won in elocution competitions, debates, etc. conducted all over the Chennai city. I have taken part in innumerable dance shows in my school. I was the anchor for nearly every programme conducted in my school during my last three years there. I am the pet of all my school, college & CA teachers. I was the school captain. I played the veena as a hobby. I did yoga and aerobics for years before marriage. I am a self-taught artist who always had a project running and who has stopped work on canvas only these last few years because I wasn’t sure how safe oil paints are for my infant and toddler. And the best part is I did all this before I turned 22.

Still I dropped everything and got married at 22. Nope, I didn’t regret it! I thought it was another new adventure and sailed along happily getting accustomed to a new place, new family, new language, new rules (or maybe, I should say ‘no rules!’), new guy and even, new food! Before it could all even sink in, I found myself pregnant! And how… the morning sickness hit me real bad and I was throwing up all the time. And along with the vomit, my hopes and dreams for a career went down into the sink.

And then the baby came. However, much before that, I decided that this little darling was just too precious to leave in the hands of an ayah or a crèche, even if a grand parent is going to babysit along with help. Well, folks, remember something. A grandparent is just that…a grandparent and they can never ever replace a parent or what a parent can do! No, I do not blame them. They have done their duty and it is over. Expecting them to parent again is neither fair to them nor helpful to your child. I personally know three people who were brought up by their grandparents during childhood and all with disastrous consequences now. Sorry, I was not going to do that.

So, I stayed home.

People called me LAZY. Can you believe that? Here I am running behind a toddler 24x7 along with feeding an infant who loves to nurse from 12 to 7 continuously every night and they have the guts to call me ‘lazy’.

They tell me I am getting fat, have a tummy and should EXERCISE. Thanks, folks, for the insight. I do have a mirror at home. If you can babysit for an hour or at least sponsor a maid who will babysit for an hour (by the way, she charges Rs 600 for an hour which my poor hubby cannot afford!), I am ready to turn even cartwheels for you. But I will do it right in front of your eyes only. My kids are too precious to leave in anyone’s care.

Also, when you have your stomach cut open twice, it does leave its mark in the form a misshapen lump of flesh. Ask any gynaec if you don’t believe me. Then, how do film stars flaunt bikinis even after c-sections? They have money, time, babysitters, personal trainers and car drivers to take them to VLCC and back. I don’t have any of this. I can barely make ends meet. Forget all this crap.

Now, all of you people know that I am married. Why not ask my hubby to look after the kids for an hour every morning while I go for a walk? Nope, his time is too precious. In case he does wake up on some particular morning, then he would head for the gym. “I am working… busy all day… no time… you are at home only… you can exercise any time you like! Maybe when the elder one is off to school and the lil one is asleep…” ha..ha.. that one hour is all I have to have breakfast, a bath, dust and clean, pick up toys, prepare infant food, make calls, prepare for my son’s evening study session, get any favorite foods demanded by him ready and work on my writing project (by the way, did I mention that for the last five years, I am a freelance writer who works from home?)? Till 10, I am too busy to have breakfast and if I miss lunch at 12, then I cannot eat till 3. So, I never get a chance to eat when I am hungry with the result that slowly my gastronomic juices have started playing havoc on my digestion. That’s a totally different story! Lets get back to what we were handling here! I remember my yesteryears when dawn meant aerobics and dusk meant yoga. I loved it, pals. So, believe me… it is not out of choice that I don’t exercise.

Some others ask me, with disgust in their voice, WHAT DO YOU DO AT HOME THE ENTIRE DAY? HOW DOES YOUR TIME PASS? ‘Where is the time to pass?’ I wonder. My typical day is just so busy that before I realize the next day is here. Okay, let me tell you…

6.45 am - I realize I am still feeding Aaru. My back aches from the last 8 hours of being continually hunched up in sleeping cum feeding position. I slowly and painfully get up and out of bed and pop in the Eltroxin. (those rare days when I forget to pop in my hypothyroid tablets, I am in deep trouble - tired, dull & teary)The lil one gives me a huge grin. ‘Finally, mommy’s up and into her arms I go.’

I put him down in his crib with his toys and get the milk ready for my elder one. He’s got to leave by 8.30 for school. The maid rings the bell and I send a silent prayer up to God for bringing this woman into the world. Actually, for me, she is God-send. Though she costs a bomb on our little salary, I would rather die of starvation than ask her to leave. She starts getting breakfast and lunch ready. My hubby carries home-cooked food.

My elder one, Sanju, has this whiny morning tantrums for milk, brushing teeth, having bath, breakfast and all. I have the principle of not allowing him to cry before leaving for school. (Mostly, it is the younger one who cries his head off this entire hour pleading for attention which none of us have time to give.) So, the morning routine stretches and Sanju needs a total one hour for the entire process – milk, brush teeth, bath, moisturizer, sunscreen, uniform, breakfast, potty, hair combing, kissing mom and off with dad. Dad has this bus to catch and many times, he has no time to leave Sanju. “Go with the maid,” he tells him and runs off without hearing his son’s protests.

Sometimes, Sanju just bursts into tears and wants only mummy to go with him. So, I run inside, change into tracks and kurti and rush to drop him at school taking Aaru on the hips with me.

9.00 am – I am back home and Aaru is ravenous. Thankfully, I had got his food ready as I was preparing Sanju’s milk early in the morning. I feed him and put him down to explore the world. I suddenly remember I have neither brushed my teeth nor had anything to drink since morning. I set that right and Aaru cries for sleep. I give him a massage, bathe him and feed him to sleep.

10.00 am – I go for a bath feverishly wishing that Aaru doesn’t wake up while I am in the loo. Is the other bathroom door closed? Did I leave the eltroxin bottle on the bed? What if he wakes up and starts exploring? These thoughts are enough to get me out of the bathroom in three minutes. If there is a Guinness record for the fastest bath, I need to be awarded that.

He is still sleeping and this is a good day. I switch on my antique laptop to complete the writing deadline for the day. It is awfully slow and before it starts up, I complete all the tasks I had mentioned above. (….dust and clean, pick up toys, prepare infant food, make calls, prepare for my son’s evening study session, get any favorite foods demanded by him ready…) maybe I write around 100 words before my son is up! (Remember, this is a good day!)

11.30 am Lunch for Aaru followed by lunch for me.

12.45 pm Sanju is back home and I take him into the bathroom for a wash. That is followed by Sanju’s lunch followed by half hour of television for him.

1.30 to 2.00 I put Aaru to sleep and might slip away myself into 15 minutes of coma.

2.00 to 3.00 (Good day, again!) I work on the comp, Sanju plays in his room and Aaru is deeply asleep.

3.00 to 4.00 Sanju’s homework cum study time.

4.00 to 5.30 We read books, play, talk about the world, discuss about friends, have some snacks (healthy, hopefully!) and get ready to go down to the park below the apartment.

5.30 to 7.00 The boys are having a blast while I am running around trying to make sure Sanju is safe, doesn’t run into vehicles or fall down from the swing. I sort out quarrels atop the sliding board and act like a policeman for the entire time. I am so drained out by the end of this.

7.00 to 8.00 Dinnertime. I really have a hard time in the evening convincing the boys to eat.

8.30 p.m onwards Sanju is off to sleep and sometimes, Aaru dozes off too. However, Sanju won’t be up till 7.30 the next morning unless he is sick but Aaru just won’t be down for more than half-hour without his mummy. I feed him – he sleeps – up again – feed again – sleep again - up again and it goes on till I go to bed myself. Meanwhile, hubby comes, has dinner, and watches TV. We chat for sometime till he realizes that I have gone to sleep with eyes open once again. We are off to bed and Aaru is happy to have his pacifier beside him for the entire night. I have a chill sleeping the entire night with the buttons open.

Trust me, folks, this is a good day. Put in a doctor visit for immunizations, baby with fever, Sanju in vomiting fit or Aaru in teething woes and the schedule gets crazy.

I know there are some super women who manage this entire mothering job along with another full-time career in place. Hats off to those super women! However, I am not one and cannot be one physically and emotionally. I don’t trust anyone (little skeptical of hubby too!) when it comes to looking after my kids. My life might seem to be stuck in a rut to you but I am enjoying these years. I might be able to get back on a career but would a working mother ever get back her kid’s childhood?

Today, I am super cranky because someone gave me a few suggestions yesterday. Let me quote the exact words, “I think you should have worked at least for sometime after marriage,” “you should decide these things (i.e. whether I should work or not) only after consulting with hubby,” etc. So, if my hubby wants me to work, I should whether I and my kids want it or not. Is that what you mean? And what is this about sometime after marriage – I got pregnant within a month of being married… do you suggest I should have been on a job for 20 days to add value to my resume! Women’s independence is still lacking in this country if she does not have the freedom to decide whether she wants to work or not.

A SAHM is a lonely person whose conversations revolve around imaginary dinosaurs and nursery rhymes. She doesn’t study balance sheets but analyzes diapers checking out for indigestion symptoms. She has drool and spit-up all over her clothes. She has traded her salon haircut for a ponytail and her designer handbag for a heavy diaper bag. Her self-esteem shakes like a jelly when she sees people wearing ironed cotton clothes and high heels. Her confidence is pretty low as she is still not so sure how God trusted her with two little kids. She is not perfect. She is only a mother!

When you are on a job, you are thanked for your help, cheered for your achievements and appreciated for your efforts. A SAHM never hears the words ‘Sorry,’ ‘Thank you,’ or ‘Please’. The baby never says, “Thanks for changing my diaper” nor does the toddler say, “Thanks for that trip to the park where I threw sand on your hair.” Still we persevere.

Again, the rewards are invisible. The baby still trips and hurts himself. The toddler still throws tantrums and the house is still far from clean. They say that some day in future the kids would turn up right because I am there for them now. In that hope, we wait for the day to pass.

I have spoken too much. It is time to end it with one last statement.

We, Stay-at-home Mothers, are so fragile. Please don’t shatter us!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Should I start work again?

I was interested in jumping once again into the world of paid writing and I did apply to umpteen companies too.

However, my hubby seems very skeptical of the entire idea. He feels I just wouldn't be able to manage with a mischeivous toddler (can he be considered still a toddler just becoz he behaves like one?) and an infant who feels sleep and meals are over-rated!

The little one is screaming his head off right now and that makes me think hubby does have a valid point. But, at other times, I wonder if hubby is a wee bit scared of facing a woman who hasn't had a decent night's sleep but is trying to persevere doing something she loves. I can get grumpy at such times.

So, should I start work or not? Still wondering?!!!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Promises made just to be broken

Promises! Promises! Promises! I told myself I would write everyday, come what may... But then it has just not happened. I have been off for more than 2 months and strangely, I am not even angry with myself.

I had my reasons. Entire december was spent n cleaning the house for guests and in entertaining them. And January has flown away... Apart from nursing the colds and coughs of every member of the family and starting a very reluctant six month old on solids, I don't have anything much to report for the entire first month of a brand new year. Strangely, I am not frustrated, irritated, upset, angry or feeling useless. I feel like a million bucks and January has been a month when I have finally grown up and come to terms with myself.

I have not even been online a single day the entire month and I don't care. Though I did read some great books, I haven't written a single word the entire month and I don't care. Now, I realise that it is not all this that defines who I really am... It is not my writing or my doing something 'useful' in life that would boost my self-worth. It is being who I am and enjoying who I am that matters.

If I want to write today, I will irrespective of whether it is from a cramped E5 keyboard from my mobile or whether it is past 12 in the night (like now!) The reason why I did not write this month was not because I did not have time, as I popularly tell everybody. You can always find time if you want to! I did not write because I am so much enjoying this second chance at mothering that God has thrown my way. I am drinking in every second of it carefully because deep in my heart I know I can and I will always write but I might never again get to see another toothless grin coz those tiny teeth are waiting to sprout out any minute now.

But, don't write me off...


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