Against The World

photo: Daniel Murtagh

There is more than a finger pointed at me
But there are hundreds pointed back at them
I'm busy with my own wonderful life
While in their idle minds, baseless thoughts stem

The only job that they have
Is to put together invisible bits
I'm too busy in my own real world
I have no time for their meaningless skits

They spend so much time thinking about me
Stalking me everywhere like a ghost
While they spend their time doing that
I'm pouring champagne and raising a toast

They make stories about me everyday
I've already killed their characters in my head
They crib, cry and complain non stop
While I eat, drink and make merry instead

Each one of them are poor lonely souls
With nothing worth living in their life
I've way too many things to care about
Than the rumors that seem to run rife

They pray to God and ask for my destruction
While I just thank God for a wonderful day
The happiness in my life is much greater
To fall to what conspiring voices have to say

They plot, talk and scheme against me
While I read, write, laugh, live and love
With the love of my life on my side
I only feel blessings showered from above

They spend sleepless nights trying to pull me down
Wondering how my life can be so happy and bright
While they do that day after day
I dream and sleep peacefully at night

Savings For A Middle Class Income

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When you come from a middle class family, the only time you would hear the word "Savings" is due to the lack of it. I come from a family where both my parents had to work hard to make ends meet. The focus primarily was on having the basics first and then save. Growing up, I saw the struggle my parents had to go through to raise us in a matter that was considered apt for the society. My sister and I were put in the best of schools and colleges and were given the best education possible. When I turned eighteen, I decided that it was time that I took atleast my expenses on to myself. I started doing promotional jobs during weekends and holidays and thought that to be easy money. Once I finished college and joined a Corporate job, I understood how difficult it is to make money. A regular monthly income guarantees security, but I wanted something more than that. I wanted my money to work for me today and tomorrow. No matter how small the amount is. But unfortunately I had no one to guide me regarding the right use of my income and how I can have some savings. Instead of waiting for someone to come teach me, I decided to figure it out myself.

As soon as the monthly salary was credited to my account, I wrote down my expenses. Instead of planning amount spent per day, I gave myself a miscellaneous budget to get past the month. I created another account within the same bank and started transferring a fixed sum of money every month as emergency money. It was tough initially to run the month on a tight budget, but as month passed I saw the emergency fund growing and I was very happy with it. I started investing small amounts and I was happy with the returns that were yielded. Dedicatedly putting away some savings and later investing them made me finally stronger and smarter. I do not make a huge salary, but I am content with whatever I get and I know how to make it work for me.

There are a few things that have worked for me. Read more about it here.

The Right Thing

PHOTO PROMPT © Ron Pruitt

"Are you sure you want to do this? Eloping is such a bad thing." She tells him.

They were running away to get married. With bags packed, they were waiting at the bus station to go somewhere far away.

"We do not have a choice." He says.

"But we did not even tell them about us. What if they agree?"

"What if they don't?"

"Running away will bring such shame to our parents. They'll die of it."

"I do not want that to happen. Let's head back and talk to them. If they don't agree, let's try to convince them."

This drabble (100 word fiction) is written for Friday Fictioneers, 23rd October 2015.

A Drop Of Love #1000Speak

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The topic for this month's #1000Speak is love. As busy as I am with work, I cannot not write about my favorite topic. Love is probably the second thing that everybody in the world needs. The first thing ofcourse is money. But there is a small sect of people, who need love first. Such people are the ones who know how to live. I for one am a firm believer of the above quote. Everybody is fighting a battle, if you cannot help the least you can do is be kind to them. Show them some love. No, you do not need to go over board and shower them with gifts. Small gestures will do. Maybe a hug or even a smile. Expressing love is something beyond materialistic pleasures. Love is a basic need and a want to all of us. Most of us are fortunate enough to have enough of it. But most of us are not generous enough to share. Let me talk about a few instances here.

Maid Of Honor:

I have seen people who do not allow their maids into the prime areas of the house. Mostly the kitchen and seating area. Incase you want them to eat something, their plates and glass is left outside the house and you go serve them there. How disgusting and discriminating is that? Ever thought about what goes through their mind when you do this? Especially when you allow them into the kitchen only when you want it to be cleaned. Remember, you need the maid to do your basic chores. You cannot function without her. She can do something that you can't. She only needs your money. That clearly puts her on a higher pedestal than you. Treat her right. Show her some love. Love is not giving her your old clothes or unused utensils. Love is treating her like an equal. How many of you do that?

Delivering Love:

It is very easy to place an order online to buy the things that we love. Or to buy things for someone we love. But who delivers that love? The delivery boy. How many of us actually look at their face? Or even thank them? A phone call, a payment and your job is done. What about those men who travel in the hot sun carrying a huge bag along with your precious item. Don't they deserve to be respected? Next time, shake their hands. Ask for their name. Give them a smile. Offer them water. Thank them. Tell them they are doing a wonderful job. It will only take a few seconds from your end. But the delivery boy will feel loved and needed.

Man's Best Friend:

They say that every time a dog looks at his owner the same hormone is triggered as that when a human being falls in love. I have seen so many people pelt stones at strays and kick them. Some are kind enough to spare them some food and water, but refuse to touch them or pet them. I love dogs. They are so friendly and much much loyal when compared to a lot of people. I have a few regulars whom I meet regularly and pet them along with buying them food. They jump all over me and lick my face. I let them as I know that they feel loved and it makes them happy. The people who do this are just one in a thousand maybe. How hard is it to pet an animal? Believe me once you do, you will feel more loved than the dog himself.

He's Watching You:

The security guard on your street, do you know his name? I know you use him to run your petty errands, but do you thank him in return? You might give him ten bucks as a reward, but smile at him once and inquire about his family. Just see how the look on his face changes. He protects you all night so that you can sleep safely. The least you can do is talk to him nicely and make him feel wanted.

The Less Fortunate:

They can be anyone. Your plumber, cleaner, maid or some stranger who clearly is less fortunate than you have been. But that doesn't mean that you look down upon them. They are humans too, wanting to be accepted and loved. But do you understand that or are you just happy to have them do your work while you sit and sip your hot coffee and flip through your phone?

Love is more than what is shared between a man and a woman. Love is more than the relationship of a mother and a child. Love is more than being pampered and showered with gifts. Love is all about acceptance and respecting the person for what they are.  Love is a small element of kindness. Love is a smile to a weary soul. It costs nothing, and yet people are too scared to give it away.

Let go off the pride and the ego. Shower a drop of love on someone today and see how it shall make a difference in your life.

Do you want to make a difference? Here’s how to get involved:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook.

Follow @1000Speak on Twitter.

Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

Our Canvas

No. 8, Black Flowing, Jackson Pollock

Look closer, do you see my happy face
The one where my eyes shine with joy
Or do you see us walk together
Holding hands, a girl and a boy

Can you see that big bright heart
The one that you stole from me
Look at it still beating for you
Concentrate, the fluctuations you can see

Look at the silhouette of that mountain
The memorable place of our first kiss 
What do you think of the orange sun
Or did your mind give that a miss

Can you see the stream gushing by
The place where we always met
What about the bright winged kingfisher
Our companion on this lovely set

What do you think of this painting
The one I painted day and night
With sleep laden eyes I mixed colors
Oblivious of darkness or light

The day I finished our canvas
I heard that you had left me
I refused to believe it at first
You loved me, so how could this be

Turns out all of you was a facade
Mocking me and my love all the way
The pain that you left behind
Kills me slowly everyday

Look closer, what do you see
Do you see my kohl smudged eyes
Laden with tears, screaming out
Coming to terms with all your lies

The painting I created with so much love
Is now no less than an eye sore
The colors have lost their hues
Just like my very core

I witnessed the images melt away
With no way of turning it back
Helpless I stood and watched
As our love faded into black

The Narcissist

George Tooker, self-portrait

I cannot stop looking into the mirror
I drown in my own deep blue eyes
I'm forever lost within myself
Oblivious to others joys and cries

I work hard for my perfect gait
Watch every morsel that I eat
I hit the gym twice a day
Achieving a body like this is quite a feat

Look at the sharpness of my nose
It sits perfectly on my sculpted face
My skin is all smooth and bright
With no blemishes to erase

My voice sounds all bold and husky
More melodious than this conch's chime
Tiredness doesn't get to my core
I look this gorgeous all the time

Oh lady, please don't fall in love with me
I shall tear your heart apart
What you think is Cupid's arrow
Is actually my poisoned dart

You will not mean a thing to me
Beyond me, my eyes can't see
You will never be good enough
Even if you try hard to be

I only shall think of myself
My thoughts I cannot cram
I can only love myself
I'm sorry, but that's who I am

What Goes Around

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"I need your help, please come get me." She said.

He was already driving to get her. She was his ex girlfriend who had dumped him for someone else. But when she had called saying that she was left alone on the road without money or transport, he had to go get her.

"I can't believe he dumped me on the road like that, in the middle of night."

"It's okay, I'll drop you home."

"Do you think maybe we can get back together?"

"I did this for the sake of humanity, nothing else. Remember, what goes around comes around."

Linking this drabble (100 word story) to the B-A-R: Wordy Wednesday #2.

In Your Words - Part 5

Read Part 1 here / Part 2 here / Part 3 here/ Part 4 here.

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Dinner continued to be a quiet affair after this revelation. Alisah finishes her meal and quietly walks back to her room. Her laptop was still on and she knew that Kay was waiting for her response to his poem, but Alisah was not in the right frame of mind to judge another person's work now. She goes to her balcony and sits on her swing, her favorite spot in the house. Her balcony opened out to an empty piece of land that was under dispute since ages. This brought in fresh air into her room and she loved it. Looking back to see if the door to her room was locked, she slowly removes the pack of cigarettes from her pajama pocket and lights one. As the smoke fills her lungs, she replays the dinner conversation in her mind again and again. Thoughts of Arjun floods her mind. Arjun, her Arjun.

He was the favorite of everyone in her college. Students and teachers alike. The first time Alisah saw him, she was infatuated by his looks. At six feet four inches tall, Arjun was one hell of a good looking man. The teachers doted on him and all the students flocked to get his attention. He seemed to have a soft corner for Alisah as well. He smiled at her whenever she passed by the football court. They had begun talking and young Alisah was soon head over heels in love with him. A college trip to Goa had sealed it and soon Arjun was asking her to marry him. The proposal was as magical as Alisah had expected it to be. A campfire on the beach, a pathway of candles leading to a shack, a beautifully decorated table inside the tiny shack and a placard on the table reading "Will you marry me?", along with a dazzling diamond ring. Alisah had said yes on impulse, but wondered what her parents would think. She still had a year to finish in college and the age difference between her and Arjun was quite a concern. He after all was the football coach of her college team!

As expected, her parents were against their relationship. She was just twenty one and Arjun was thirty five. She came from a very well off family, while Arjun was just a coach who hardly made any good income. The diamond ring that he had given Alisah had turned out to be fake too. But Alisah was determined that this was the man that she wanted to spend her life with. She fought her parents until they could do nothing about it. When she packed her bags one day and threatened to leave home, they could do nothing but agree to the wedding. The day Alisah married Arjun had been the happiest day of her life. They had a simple church wedding with only Alisah's parents and a few of Arjun's friends in attendance. His parents were settled abroad and could not make it, Arjun had said. Alisah looked beautiful as she lifted her veil and leaned towards her husband for a kiss. 

They rented a house in the city, not very far away from Alisah's mom's bakery. Alisah spent all her semester vacation decorating the house. She shopped for curtains, paintings, candles and everything else that made her happy. She still had her final semester to finish and was still using her father's money. Arjun did not seem to mind that one bit. He let her indulge in her fantasies and did not once complain. Alisah was so crazy about him that she hardly was prepared for her exams when they did come. Six months had passed and Alisah still felt like a new bride. She came alive every time they made love and Alisah just wanted to finish college and settle in domestic bliss. Her father wanted her to take up a job but she wanted to take a break and live her marriage to the fullest. Once she was done with her college and became a house wife, the problems started in her marriage. 

It was on their first year wedding anniversary that Arjun seemed upset. He wanted money to start a football coaching centre of his own. Alisah had asked her father for it, but he had refused to give the money. He did not mind his daughter using his money, but he wanted Arjun to make a living for himself. Arjun had not taken this well and began to pressurise Alisah to convince her parents. When she had refused to do so, he had slapped her hard. A little more than a year into their marriage Alisah had turned into a victim of domestic abuse. Arjun found new ways to torment her every day. He complained about the food she cooked, about the clothes she wore and about everything that she did. Alisah bore it all quietly as she did not want to go back to her parents and hurt them. But when Arjun started hurting her sexually, she couldn't take it anymore. He asked her to do things that she couldn't think about and forced himself on her every now and then. A year and two months after the marriage, Alisah was back in her parent's house and Arjun had disappeared thanks to a police complaint filed by his wife's father.

The strong smell of smoke brought her back to the present and she sees that the butt of the cigarette was now lit. She stubs it and throws it away and quickly lights another. She looks at the moon lit sky and wondered how could she have gone so wrong about Arjun. It had taken her more than a year to get over the pain caused by him. And it had taken her longer than that to fall in love again. A couple of failed relationships later, she had given up on love. But when Kay had come along, she had felt a sense of belonging. An urge to give love a chance again, even though she had no clue who he was. But now that Arjun was back, she did not know what to do. Was he back to claim her again? They had never been divorced after all. It had been ten years since she had walked out on her marriage, but today all the pain and all the memories felt so fresh.

While she sat on her swing and stared into emptiness, Kay's ping was waiting for her answer on her laptop.

To be continued.

Do Your Bit #FundAhamBhumika

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"Akka, charge maadla?" She asks, pointing to the switch board and holding her phone and charger in her hands.

I nod as she walks up the charging unit and plugs in her changer and attaches it to the phone. She waits for a few seconds to check if the phone is charging. From where I sit, all I can see is fluorescent light on her pale face. I haven't seen those type of phones since ages. Infact I'm not even sure they make them anymore. She leaves the phone on the floor and I ask her to leave it on the side table instead. She sheepishly smiles and does as told. I continue reading the newspaper and have my daily cup of morning tea while she walks to the backyard to wash the dirty laundry that welcomes her every morning. She is way too younger than me, but is already a mother of three. Her phone kept ringing as it charged and I heard the water tap go on and off many times. She answered the call and went back to work. This happened quite a number of times and I go to ask her what's going on.

The conversation happened in Kannada, but I'm translating it here.

Me: Way too many calls today. Any problem.

She: Yes akka, I go to other houses also right so they all are calling to check when I'll come.

Me: How many places do you go to?

She: In a day around six.

Me: That's a lot, is it only washing?

She: Washing clothes, vessels, cleaning the house, toilets, front yards, backyards and sometimes I cook also.

Me: Isn't it too much to do?

She: It is, but what else can I do? My husband doesn't earn much and I have three daughters to be looked after.

Me: What do they do?

She (proudly): At this age, what will they do akka. They go to school and study.

Me: All three of them?

She: Yes akka.

Me: Are you able to manage all the expenses?

She: Mostly yes. But it gets difficult at times. The fees I manage to pay, but books and uniforms we get from a trust.

Me: Trust?

She: Yes akka. They are very good people. They help us when we need something. Only for the girls though. They give them books, old clothes, water bottles and sometimes toys as well.

Me: Wow, isn't that good? 

She: People like us need only the basics akka, we are happy with that only. I don't want my daughters to become like me. I want them to be educated and fend for themselves in a dignified manner. The trust helps us as much as they can. The trust is run with the help of donations. Half of it goes to the blind school behind Ganesha temple. The rest is distributed to the government school where my children study.

Me: That's really good. So, how can I help?

She: You already help akka. That's enough.

Me: How?

She: You gave me all those old clothes last week na? I kept some for the girls and then gave the rest to the trust to give it to others. My daughters have enough already. I get a lot of other things from the other houses I go as well. I only keep how much we need and give away the rest. Others also need help, akka.

Her phone rings again and I walk back to my seat, deep in thought. The next day I visit the trust. Turns out it is an NGO run by a retired army officer and his wife. They accepted donations in terms of cash or kind. I paid them a certain amount and promised to send out some clothes and groceries every month. The next month I sent them a box of books that I had read enough times. Apparently, kids in the school fought for them and some even read them jointly. I felt proud of myself. More than myself, I felt so proud of the army officer and the wonderful work that they were doing. As long as there are people like him in the society, the underprivileged get their basics.

There are many such NGOs run in the country to support senior citizens, children and education. Education is a basic right and some NGOs donate food and other rations to families in return for having their children sent to school. One such NGO is Aham Bhumika. Located in Bhopal, Aham Bhumika is set up by a group of people who are a little better privileged than the others. A huge group of them have come together to help the underprivileged in the rural areas of the country. The reason I'm taking about this one NGO in particular is because today they are in trouble and all it would take is a little effort from you and me to help them.

Aham Bhumika runs a pre-school that faces a threat of being shut down due to lack of funds. They are receiving some good donations from a lot of generous people but still that seems to be insufficient. The amount that the school needs to maintain their expenses is less that Rs. 15000 a month, and yet they struggle to get there. Some of us atleast make twice or thrice this amount per month. No, I'm not asking you to give it all away. You can even contribute Rs 1000 every month and make a difference. There might be several others like you, who will do the same. Together we all can help Aham Bhumika stay afloat without any trouble.

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What we can do to help?

1. Donate in cash. As much or as little as you are capable of. Bank details given below.

2. Donate in kind. Aham Bhumika have their collection centres in few areas of Bhopal. You can give away books, clothes, lunch boxes, toys or anything else that you know will please a child.

3. If you are in Bhopal and have some spare time, please go visit the school and share your knowledge and other skills that you think will benefit them. I once took a laptop to an orphanage here in Bangalore to have them type their name on it. You have no idea how happy those kids were just to touch the laptop. If this is too much to ask, teach them to draw or paint, dance or sing instead.

4. If the above is not your cup of tea and yet you want to help them, you still can do it. How? By buying some of their handmade merchandise. They have embroidered bags and cushions and hand painted shoes that look so bright and colorful.

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Just like those children who are happy to have decent education today. If something is not done, this basic right might be taken away from them. Lets us join hands and do our bit to help them. In any possible way. Talk about this or write about this. Let us create a buzz on social media using #FundAhamBhumika. These kids might turn out to be like you and me tomorrow, let us give them that extra push to get there.

Details of Aham Bhumika:

1. ahambhumika@gmail.com: Write to them for any queries.
2. Facebook, Twitter: You can learn more about what they do here.
3. Blog: Just go check this out to see the wonderful work they do.
4. Bank Details:

A/c name: Aham Bhumika Swayam Sevi Sanstha
Savings Account Number: 2073101015874
IFSC Code: CNRB0002073
Bank: CANARA BANK
Branch: MAHARANA PRATAP NAGAR, BHOPAL

Donate the sum you want to and drop them an email on the id mentioned above with the following information.

Name, address, donation amount, PAN number and Contact number.

All donations will be tax exempted under section 80G of income tax of India.

Come join me in helping these kids continue their education.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

"I do not want to go up there. Look how high it goes, I'm scared." Tina tells her dad.

"Come on my dear. It does go high, but it does come back down too. Just like life." Her dad smiles at her.

"What does that mean?"

"You might have a lot of high points in your life, but one day it can all come down. Similarly, the low points in your life will not last forever as well. They will go up too. Life is all about this."

"I'll go on the ride as long as you are with me."

This drabble (100 word fiction) is written for Friday Fictioneers, 9th October 2015.

Action Replay - September 2015

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Finally my kind of month came by. September has been one hell of a busy month and I was completely immersed in work. These are the kind of months that I love. I love to be busy and always occupied with something. Sitting idle and wondering what to do depresses the hell out of me. Last month was all about being sick and recuperating. This month thankfully has been a very healthy one and I'm back to being the annoying tyrant I always was. September was Cal's birthday month and I wanted it to be the best birthday that he has ever had. Arranging stuff for his birthday while being buried neck deep in work was quite challenging and thrilling at the same time. I got him a gift that he has wanted for ever and seeing his face light up in surprise and delight as he held the gift was something that I would cherish forever. I'm crazy about this man and I am not the one to leave any stone unturned to make sure that his face always has a smile on it.

Early September I got the news that my blog has been shortlisted among the top ten blogs of the country in the creative writing space. I was like "Waaaaaaaaat"? I cannot describe the happiness I felt that instant. I write a lot of things and I know that I have more haters than lovers, so obviously this came in as a huge surprise to me. The top ten blogs would then be shortlisted to top five based on the votes that they would get as well as the jury decision. Initially I so badly wanted to make it to the top five that I was begging for votes on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc. I did this religiously for about three days and after that it felt so silly. This was not me at all. The concept of pleading people to go vote for me felt a bit desperate and weird. I don't even force people to read by blog, let alone go vote for it. So I stopped doing it and left it all to the jury.

As Cal and I were heading for his birthday dinner, I get the news that I have made it to the top five. Top five best creative writing blogs in the country. Now this is not something that happens every day, does it. Needless to say the celebration immediately doubled and Cal was more happy than ever before. He has supported my writing since day one and has always told me to go ahead and write what ever I wanted to. He told me to not think about what people would say and just write whatever I wanted to. He has been a strong support since years and is proud of my writing more than I am. Although I did not win the coveted top spot, making it to the top five in the country was more than enough for me. Even the top ten was enough, to be honest. So dear haters, I dedicate the top five spot award to you. Nothing speaks success more than having a few haters here and there. And I know exactly where they are, so the award means much more to me. I'm waiting for the cool badge now. I obviously shall display it on my blog with pride.

September was excellent in terms of entertainment as well. We went out and tried a lot of new restaurants. Good food always makes me happy and we indulged in quite a fare. I had the best pasta in Bangalore at Mudpipe Cafe and the best ghee roast prawns at Banjara Melting Point. If any of you out there is a foodie like me and want to know about the best places to eat in Bangalore, follow me on Zomato for all the updates. Fitness has taken a backseat and this is a very bad thing. Considering how much I am eating, I am in desperate need of some good exercise. But September kept me so busy that I hardly found time for reading or writing. Just ten posts and no progress in reading what so ever. 'The Palace Of Illusions' is almost getting rusted on my Kindle.

Overall September was a very happy month and I loved every bit of it. Hopefully October shall have more posts and some progress in reading.

So tell me, how did September treat you?