Occupying a corner of my heart

Delhi is the first city that gave me a feeling of responsibility that comes along with freedom. I had spent three years at the Presidency College Girls hostel in Kolkata during my graduation. But, in 2002, when I moved out to Delhi for my first post-graduation, it was also for the first time that I realized the state of being very far away from home. During my two-years stay there, I made some wonderful friends and was exposed to multiple cultures, languages, cuisines, and festivals.

My friend Alexa
Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

After moving out to Bangalore in 2004, I never had a chance to return back here. Two months back, my husband had an opportunity to visit the city for his official work. Knowing my attachment to Delhi, he booked tickets for both the toddler and me. When we checked into the Taj hotel property, little did I expect the room to become a personal favorite! It wasn’t just the huge glass window pane that provided a gorgeous view of the Delhi sky but also the corner of the room dedicated as a working space that stole my heart. In the game of peek-a-boo between light and darkness, I sat down to write my second detective thriller.

(199 words)

This is the ninth post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the seventh flash fiction around this picture prompt here and the eighth one here. For the first six posts, you can click here.

This post is part of the Tuesday Photo Challenge on the theme ‘Light and Dark’ this week.

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday created by Esha and Natasha.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

When support comes from unexpected quarters

Suchi fell in love with the hotel room instantly. The glazed window overlooking a lush garden and the skyline filled with high-rise apartments gave her a sense of liberty.

My friend Alexa
Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

Taking out her mobile, she saw that there was no message from her husband Subhash.

She brought out the most cherished possession of her life – a pair of ghungroos from the bag.

‘Girls of respected families don’t become dancers.’ Her father had thrown away her ghungroos after she turned fifteen. She was married into an equally conservative family who didn’t consider dance to befit their families daughter-in-law.

It was her teenager son Trihan who had discovered Suchi’s passion. Last month, he had sent across a video of Suchi’s dance to a national level dancing competition.  Suchi made it to the list of twenty-five shortlisted candidates.

Both the families refused to support her decision. But it was Trihan who stood by her like a rock. He didn’t want his mother to give up another dream for her family. She smiled at the message that he had sent her,

“I believe in you. Win the competition and make me proud.”

Her upbringing had managed to bring a crack in the walls of patriarchy.

(200 words)

This is the 8th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the other piece of fiction based on the same photo prompt here and the first six posts here.

For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my second picture prompt. 

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

The hope that came with the rainbow in the sky

Tanu checked into the thirteenth floor of the hotel in the city of her birth. She had found love here. They been best friends in school and moved on to different streams in college. Eventually, they had accepted and acknowledged their feelings for each other.

My friend Alexa
Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

But like most of the love stories, she had been left heartbroken. Her lover had married someone else under pressure from the family. Tanu remembered the nights of tears and pain. She had left the city thinking it would help her move on. But with time, Tanu had realized that loving someone else was never going to be an option in her life.

Last week she had received a mail. It read,

“Tanu,

Section 377 has been scrapped. I know it’s been eighteen years since we last spoke but do you think we have a chance now?

Sudha”

She didn’t know if there was a future but what she understood was that Sudha also still loved her. Tanu had decided to give it a chance.

Looking at the skyline from the glazed window of her room, her heart thumped loudly as she waited for the bell to ring. Sudha was due to arrive anytime now.

(199 words)

This is the 7th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the first six here.

For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my third picture prompt. Stay tuned to read the second flash fiction that I will write around the same picture in my next post. You could also consider subscribing to my blog if you like reading my stories.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

Running back into the safe space of your arms

wowbadge
WOW Post badge

The incident dates back to July 2011. I was heading a Bank branch in Mysore at that time. It was the first month after marriage and my husband had just relocated from Kolkata. I had a strange obsession with finding an accommodation near my office. Thus with every transfer or job switch, my address kept changing. The house where we resided as tenants were barely two kms from my Bank. Mysore was a town that thrived on human interactions, so almost everyone in the neighborhood knew about my doctor husband and his banker wife.

As per our daily schedule, my husband had to leave quite early in the morning while 8:45am was when I usually took an auto to the Bank. This made locking the house my responsibility. We occupied the first floor of the house and it had two open balconies. The front one led to the main entrance and the one at the back faced an area designated for a park. It had a large number of trees. My house owner had warned me about rechecking the locked status of both the balcony doors before leaving the house. It was for our own safety, he had wisely said. Unfortunately, I neither had a chance nor considered this piece of advice important enough to pass on to my husband.

i-ran-to-him-her-anyway
I ran to him anyway – Blogadda.com WOW prompt

It so happened that on a particular morning in July, I had to leave the house much before my usual time to attend a meeting. I had wrongly assumed that he would check and lock both the doors before moving out. The meeting had been a full day event and I returned home directly from the venue quite early in the evening. My house owner, who was generally a pleasant man had a very disapproving look on his face. Without thinking much, I walked up the stairs to open the door.

The word ‘shock’ would be a very mild term to express my reaction next. For every nook and corner of my apartment was occupied by a bunch of monkeys. They seemed to have had a satisfying meal of fruits, chips, biscuits and whatever they could lay their hands on. The flat resembled a house struck by a tornado. I let out a scream while wondering how to get rid of the monkeys. In a while, there were neighbors from the surrounding areas near my apartment churning out ideas about how to chase the monkeys away. Some of these ideas were so bizarre that they could put the word ‘innovation’ to shame. To anyone willing to lend an ear, my owner kept talking about how he had cautioned me about the danger of keeping balcony doors open. I honestly had no clue that when he spoke of how unsafe it was, he had monkeys instead of humans in mind.

Half an hour had passed and the monkeys couldn’t care less. They had comfortably settled in. I was getting worried about the uncertainty of being a resident here anymore. Suddenly I spotted my husband getting out of an auto downstairs. I started rushing down the stairs. Mysore was still considered as a conservative city with a good percentage of my neighbors falling in the category of senior citizens. I knew that at that moment they were looking, but I didn’t care. I ran to him anyway just like Kajol in the climax of the Bollywood movie DDLJI  couldn’t resist myself from hugging him tight though I knew we were in the streets and all pairs of eyes were on us. My husband was still not sure why there was a crowd in front of our house and my sudden public display of affection but the actions of newly marrieds are rarely justified. He had attributed it to my overflowing love for him while in reality, I was breathing a sigh of relief that I finally had someone who would probably be a little less scared than me.

Finally one of my office boys arrived with a group of people who managed to drive away the monkeys out of the house. They grudgingly left but not before eating away all possibly edible items, throwing away quite a few things including one of my oldest mobile phone sets and creating havoc in the house to such an extent that the effort required in fixing it led to a slipped disc injury in less than two weeks. But that’s a story for another day.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

P.S. – I love all animals as long as they are not in my vicinity.

Mesmerized by the beauty of nature

My son has been traveling since he was 1.5 months old. We have taken him to various beach destinations. But I have always loved mountains a little more than the sea. Last October, after he turned two, my husband and I came up with the idea of a vacation to Shillong and Cherrapunji. Our memorable stay at Ri Kynjai resort, opposite Umiam Lake was followed up by the experience of walking among the clouds in Cherrapunji. The boy loved everything about the trip.

Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

This picture was taken on the way during our road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji. The windswept Kansh grass caught my attention. I stopped the car and walked outside to get soaked in the beauty of nature. A small house surrounded by hills and slopes was a soothing sight. I stood transfixed for a while before capturing this moment through my lens. This picture is no less than frozen memories of witnessing nature’s beauty at its best for me.

(161 words)

This is the sixth post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the fourth flash fiction around this picture prompt here and the fifth one here. For the first three posts, you can click here.

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday created by Esha and Natasha.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

The fragrance of memories in his life

Amay inhaled the fresh air with a feeling of nostalgia. Looking at the hills through the window, his eyes brimmed with tears. He was back home. He remembered his childhood spent amidst luxuries in a plush Government bungalow. But his father had died of lung cancer when Amay was barely five.

Shades of perception
Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

His mother had been employed by the same organization on sympathetic grounds but they had to vacate the bungalow. With the meager salary, they could only afford this small house on rent. Amay had grown to love the slopes, hills, and fields in the surrounding. He kept excelling in academics and his school supported him through scholarship.

Seven years back, he had made it to one of the top medical colleges. Despite some earnings through private tuitions, financial constraints would have shattered his dreams hadn’t his mother taken up odd jobs to support him.

Dr. Amay Mhatre had returned as a doctor in this town hospital. He recollected the stunned looks of the interviewing panel when he had asked for a posting here instead of a metro city. But Amay knew that his mother felt a sense of belonging here and for him, her happiness was the biggest priority.

(200 words)

This is the 5th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the other piece of fiction based on the same photo prompt here and the first three posts here.

For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my second picture prompt. 

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

In the first year of becoming a solopreneur


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

On 13th Sep last year, when I took the plunge to switch my career choice from being a corporate employee to a solopreneur with this blog, I honestly hadn’t expected this journey to be one of the best experiences in my life. After moving back to Kolkata in 2016, I had decided to take a sabbatical. The purpose was to step back from the jazz of being a high-profile Banker and analyze what made me the happiest. Between being a hands-on mother to an infant and reading every single book that I could lay my hands on, I realized that I looked forward to the quiet time every night when I gave a structure to my thoughts by writing them down in my diary. This had become my coping mechanism to deal with my mother’s sudden demise and then a routine that I enjoyed the most.

The logo of soniasmusings.com
The logo of soniasmusings.com

I also have an honest confession to make here. I doubt if I could have broken the mold and ventured into this new territory hadn’t I taken some time off to get used to the phase of salary credit messages not arriving every month end and rewards and recognition parties not happening every quarter. Also becoming a mother had suddenly brought about a spectrum of change in my priorities.

I really didn’t have a plan when I started out. I wrote on topics that I was fond of like food, travel, movies, and books. Either the narrative was based on my personal experiences or it was of the nature of a review. It felt great when celebrities, authors and restaurant management appreciated the efforts through a message or a re-tweet. The personal journey category came next and it is still one of my favorite corners of the blog. Just before my toddler started his preschool, I decided to write about parenting based on the current stage in my life. It took me a while to write about topics closest to my heart like normalizing breastfeeding, the taboo associated with menstruation and gender stereotyping as part of my social issues column. They were all based on my perspective and experience. My confidence got a boost when multiple articles were featured and trended on portals like Women’s web, Youth Ki Awaaz, Momspresso among others.

Journey of a published author
Deal of Death

Until this period, I rarely read or interacted with other bloggers. I realized my approach was incorrect at different levels I participated in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge in April. It involved a lot of dialogues and suddenly I was exposed to a wonderful community of bloggers and their fabulous work. My blog had started receiving a good number of visitors as well. This was also the period when I heard of other blogging communities like Indiblogger and BlogAdda.

The next best thing happened in May when I turned an author with my debut Detective novella ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter Ebook carnival. From a blogger, I had transitioned into a published author. June brought along the Write Tribe festival of words followed by Bar-A-Thon in July. I had finally discovered my love for writing fiction and flash fiction posts. It was thrilling to weave a story around a prompt in a restricted number of words. Quite a number of posts made it to the featured section and the top posts in Indiblogger. August brought in a pack of surprises. All the posts written on WOW prompts won the WOW badge by BlogAdda. But the best was when one of my stories made it to the nine winning stories in the Lights, camera, Chatter contest by Blogchatter and I went on to narrate it live on FB. I wrapped up the month winning the Muse of the Month contest by Women’s Web.

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Awards and recognition

September began with a positive note as I won the first prize in a blogging contest. But what I really look forward to is the new journey that I am about to begin as I take on the role of an invited speaker guest at the Women’s web Breaking Barriers event in Kolkata this weekend.

Overall, the experience has been extremely satisfying and humbling. Summarizing my learnings in just six points, I would say –

1. Read, reciprocate and engage – I would call this my biggest takeaway for the first year. When I started out, I would publish my post and wait to be discovered. I rarely visited or read others. It is essential to understand that without engaging in a meaningful conversation with others, there’s very little that we can achieve in the blog-o-sphere. Do note the word ‘meaningful’ here. It goes beyond the great post, well written, nice story kind of comments.

2. Optimum utilization of social media for promotions – As much as it is necessary to write, it is also important to promote it on social media for wider reach. However, I would suggest not to overdo it. I have received good response using FB and Twitter as a medium. It is only recently that I have started focusing on Instagram and Pinterest still seems like a far-fetched dream. Having said that, I would emphasize the fact that great content definitely gets rewarded eventually.

3. Do not hesitate to seek help  – During the initial months of blogging, I had been snubbed by a senior blogger for asking some ‘frivolous’ questions. We have definitely moved beyond that incident today but this bitter experience conditioned my mindset in a way that I stopped seeking out help. It was only after I met Maya, my closest friend in the virtual world that I realized the technicalities of blogging isn’t so difficult. I will also be eternally grateful to another close friend of mine Ashvini for being a great support and introducing me to the wonder-woman of the blogging world Shailaja. It is really difficult to meet a person as helpful and knowledgeable as her. I have met so many amazing bloggers and writers of late that I realized how vibrant the blogging community is.

4. Take your time to find your niche – Despite the fact that I got a lot of appreciation for my movie reviews and recognition for my articles on other portals, it was only after ‘Deal of Death’ released that I figured out where my heart lay. I started putting my heart and soul into my stories as I transitioned into a fiction writer. In the near future, I have plans of starting a YouTube channel dedicated to the art of storytelling and narration camera.

Speaker at Breaking Barriers
Breaking Barriers by Women’s Web

5. Explore other possibilities in the same domain – I always prefer to call myself a writer because that covers both aspects of being a blogger and a published author. Now I also add the term storyteller to describe my profession and I am looking forward to donning the cap of a speaker next. I have grabbed every relevant opportunity to explore something new and it has turned out to be beneficial.

6. The long-term vision of sustainability – When I started out, my tagline read ‘Embarking on a new journey’ because that described my state. With time, I realized that my blog was basically very high on emotions. Recently, I redefined the tagline as ‘Words, photos & emotions’ summarizing what this blog is all about. Whether blogging is a hobby or a full-time profession, there needs to be a purpose of its existence. As a matter of principle, I don’t do promotions irrelevant to my blog. I have lost out on the financial gains but it makes me happy.

It has been a great year with the booming stats, awards, and recognition. I hope to work harder and bring in stories of wider variety in the future. Thank you for the continued support and love. I’m planning a surprise as part of the birthday celebration very soon, so stay tuned for further details.