Hello September, the month of hope & joy!

I started the last trimester of the MFA course this month. For the past few months, I haven’t blogged much or written actively on any digital platform. Yet, I was writing a lot, mostly through my assignments. Amidst all this, the pandemic stuck. I have often spoken about how the Covid-19 crisis hit us as a family, with the medical professional husband away on duty for months.  His posting outside the city compelled us to mostly connect over video calls. It is still difficult to explain to the son why he gets to meet his father just once a month, for a couple of days. For three months, I felt stuck, frustrated, and annoyed. Almost everyone around me moved ahead, upgraded their skills, progressed in career, and did a great job of balancing their roles. And, I was struggling to stay afloat amidst this chaos. It was overwhelming.

Burning the midnight oil for MFA assignments
Burning the midnight oil for MFA assignments

Two months back, I decided to log out of social media, uninstall all apps except Twitter, quit 20+ groups on WhatsApp, block people I didn’t wish to stay in touch with any longer, and focus on the optimization of restrained circumstances. I spent two months nurturing the relationships I genuinely care about. I worked steadily for the MFA course and read books in genres I could never appreciate before. I finally made peace with my bushy eyebrows, shoulder-length hair, and supposed ‘laidback’ pace of publishing books.

Rediscovering A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Rediscovering A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

On Aug 22nd, I decided to return on social media, consciously restricting the time I spend on each platform. I wanted to share my journey of handling a difficult phase with a lot of people who were struggling too. But what primarily occupied my thoughts was the book that I am currently reading – ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth. I gave up reading it a couple of times in the past. But when I borrowed the book from the library last month, little did I know that this going to be a delightful reading journey of the literary world. It confirms my belief that there exists a suitable time and space for every book in our lives.

The boy and his superheroes
The boy and his ‘superheroes’ as birthday gifts

September is a very special month for me. Exactly 5 years ago, my son Tuneer was born on the 22nd of this month. Therein began our journey of parenthood. The lockdown introduced him to a bunch of superheroes. From Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Avengers to Justice League, his love for these characters made us rename him as Tuneerman. We had plans to celebrate it with friends and family before Covid-19 brought life to a standstill. The family has come together to make it all about his favorite cartoons and superheroes. The tees are from his paternal grandparents, maternal grandfather, and his father. The ‘Othello’ game is from his best friend. I chose to gift the posters and a surprise puzzle set is on the way. He was so excited about the presents that we couldn’t coax him to wait until the 22nd to open them. That expression on his face after unwrapping the packages made every effort feel special.

I look forward to a kinder, safer, healthier, and fulfilling month. Stay safe and take care.

Happy Janmashtami 2020

Janmashtami is celebrated with elan in my marital home. Ever since we moved back to Kolkata, we ensured to make a trip to Berhampore to attend the festival. Unfortunately, the pandemic made it impossible to travel this year with our soon-to-turn-five-year-old.

The family deity of Lord Krishna
The family deity of Lord Krishna

The celebrations of our family deities, Shyam-Rai, were a low-key affair this year with only family members attending the rituals. Yet, we couldn’t help but feel sad at missing the happiness of the day. To cheer up the kid, I decided to have a small puja at home after dressing him up as little Krishna. The pictures of the deities and rituals from his paternal grandparents in the evening brought a big smile on his face.

Puja room in my marital home
Puja room in my marital home

Puja at our Kolkata home

May Lord Krishna help us overcome this crisis. Stay safe and take care.

Update for the month of June 2020

It’s been more than a month that I have published a post. Usually, I write about planning a break before taking a hiatus. But this time life didn’t give me a chance to organize the clutter that I landed myself in.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our lives to a stand-still. Most of us don’t even know what to expect next. For the last 100 days, it has been one of the most difficult phases of my life. With the ongoing MFA course, where I had the mandatory classes running from Feb until this month, my schedule had turned hectic. Then the 4.9-year-old kid started his session break and schools were closed for an indefinite period. My father, who was away at our native place, was stuck there all alone for 3 months. My in-laws, who had come to come to spend the vacation with their beloved grandchild, had to stay back for more than 90 days. But it was my husband, a doctor by profession, who had it the toughest. While the lockdown was tumultuous for us as a family, he had no option but to continue with his duty to serve the sick.

The man on a mission
The man on a mission

If there’s anything that didn’t let me crumble during this stressful phase of life, it is my writing. I posted on humor in April through the A2Z challenge series. In May, I finished one of my mandatory classes in the MFA course. But June has been unusually difficult to get through. My in-laws left and Baba returned home. My son started online classes and he started missing his father even more. It is heartbreaking to see the kids trying to talk to each other and wave at their friends in the virtual world of connection that has become the new normal of their childhood.

The new phase of online classes
The new phase of online classes

My husband and I have known each other for 21 years now, out of which we have been married for 9. We will be celebrating our 9th anniversary this 20th June followed by Father’s Day on 21st June. It gets tough to keep the emotions in control when I see the child yearn for his Babai. I still don’t know if my husband will manage to get the weekend off from his duty and come down to Kolkata from his place of posting. Yet, I am praying hard that the child gets to wish his father in person and not over yet another video call, that has become a part of our survival strategy now.

At Cherrapunji in happier times
At Cherrapunji in happier times

I don’t have a topic to write about today or even this month because, to be honest, I am still trying to stay afloat. I hope to come up with a guest post before the month ends and plan for a theme for July. Until then, I hope you are taking care of yourselves and staying safe. Don’t forget to nurture your mental health in stressful times like these. See you soon.

Theme reveal post – Blogchatter A2Z-challenge 2020

This is my third year at the A2Z challenge / Blogchatter A2Z challenge. The first year was thrilling. I wrote on the theme ‘A dollop of Bengal’. I followed it up with my debut Detective Thriller ‘Deal of Death’ that is available on Amazon here. The second-year was a little hectic because my son started school in mid-April. I wrote on parenting with a dash of humor.

This year, I was in a dilemma whether to go ahead with the challenge or drop the idea. I am into my fourth month of an MFA creative writing course and currently, I’m juggling three fiction classes there. At one point, I almost thought of giving up this challenge because I was already writing 4000 words on a weekly average.

But the excitement of participation didn’t take long to rub one me. I started hunting for themes. Blogchatter gave me some great advice. All I knew was that I couldn’t write beyond 100 words per day. So, after ransacking my brains, I realized that I am going to go ahead with the theme ‘Laugh in the time of Corona’.

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Considering the anxiety that all of us are going through, I wanted to speak about anything other than the deadly virus that seems to have brought our lives to a standstill. So, I will talk about Indian stand-up comics on the net, shows that promote humor in the form of a stand-up special or through YouTube channel. As we grapple with the pandemic engulfing our existence, this is my way of dealing with stress.

So, hop on as I start preparing this joyride beginning on April 1st, 2020. Subscribe to my blog to stay updated. You can also follow me on FB/Twitter/IG @soniasmusings.

In the meanwhile, stay safe, stay indoors and don’t forget to wash/sanitize your hands.

Double Awards in Literature on International Women’s Day

8th March is celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day. While I am aware of the history that brought this day into existence, it breaks my heart to think of the nature of crimes, violence, and harassment that women face 364 days a year. If only we had been successful in normalizing the belief of equality between both the genders, we wouldn’t have needed a special day to remind everyone that even in 2020, women are forced to fight for their rights to survive with respect.

Beach Vacation Mar 2020
Beach Vacation Mar 2020

This year the day wasn’t meant to be any different because I have stopped celebrating women’s day or rather give in to the discounts and offers that have trivialized the intent behind this day. The only special event on 8th March was that my 4.5-year-old had finished his final exams and we could plan a short beach vacation with our childhood friends and their families. It was a refreshing change to switch off from writing, my MFA course assignments and the daily humdrum of life for three days. We went on a trip down the memory lane as the vehicle took us out of Kolkata towards the Mandarmani sea beach.

But life was waiting around the corner with some special surprises in the store. The first mail in the morning arrived from The Spirit Mania (TSM) Group conferring me with the Influential Women Award 2k20 in Literature. Before I could get over the excitement of this surprise win, the second award arrived from the Literoma group in the form of the Literoma Nari Samman 2020 Award in the field of Literature again. While I couldn’t make it to the TSM award venue in person, the pre-planned trip also made me skip the grand Literoma Award function held at the New Town Library, Kolkata. A friend of mine accepted the trophy, medal, and certificate on my behalf and it is only today that I can hold it in my hand basking in the glory of this success. Women’s Day for me became a day of double celebration this year as I won these two prestigious awards as a female Indian author in the field of Literature.

Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020
Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020

These awards help me stay motivated in my chosen field of creative arts. They give me encouragement on days when the sky outside the window overlooking my workstation feels gray. Thank you TSM group and the Literoma group for appreciating and awarding my work. All the love poured in primarily because of my debut Detective Thriller ‘Deal of Death’ that established me as an author (you can purchase a copy from the link here). Heartfelt gratitude to my readers for choosing to be a part of my writing journey. It is now time for me to go back to reading, working on more assignments and continue creating content with a purpose in mind and stronger determination in the heart.

What it means to be a woman in India!

Today morning, I woke up to multiple messages related to International Women’s Day. 25 percent off on groceries!’ ’10 percent discount on flowers!’ ‘No making charges on diamond jewelry,’ among others.

And at that moment, I realized that the March Madness had begun. Until three years ago, March Madness for me usually began with a gentle reminder from my reporting authority in the banking sector. Or with an aggressive message from the Boss. They would both remind me that after the end of the financial year, there would be an appraisal process to keep my blood pressure and stress levels high.

As a writer, now, the reasons for stress and frustration have shifted reasons but they have not shifted loyalties like my account’s financial statement. Today, a different kind of seething anger gripped my soul. I wanted to question each of these brands and ask them if that is all Women’s Day meant to them.

And yet, all their propositions felt better than any of the headlines, I’ve woken up to in the past few months- violence, moral policing and gender stereotyping. In a bid to highlight the daily struggles we face as women, I decided to take everyone through the stages of being a female in this country.

Stage one- the birth

Since you are a girl, you don’t get to be born. You are aborted in your mother’s womb, itself. In case, you do manage to make your way to the world, you are either dumped in a dustbin or choked to death. Because what are girls, if not unwanted responsibilities?

Click HERE to read about the 11 stages of being a woman in modern India as I pour my heart out in this piece on women’s web. Because we have, for ages and across generations, fought for ourselves and no matter how much fear you instill in us, remember, we will rise. Like the phoenix from the ashes, we will rise.

Making it to the Orange Flower Awards 2020 by Women’s Web

January has been a kind month until now. My book has been getting some great responses and I have also been picking up a couple of awards for it. MFA coursework has started taking up every minute of my day. With the beginning of the mandatory courses this week, it has become extremely difficult to read anything beyond the reference materials and write very little beyond chasing the assignment deadlines.

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Orange Flower Festival 2020 – pic courtsey: Women’s Web

In the first blog post of January, I had mentioned Orange Flower Awards by Women’s Web. Last year, I had made it to their shortlist for humor and travel writing. This year, the award ceremony gets bigger with celebrity film-makers, actors, entrepreneurs, authors and a host of achievers across the industries making their presence felt on the day of the event. Amidst of thousand of entries in various categories of blogging, social media, and video blogs, it is nothing short of a privilege to announce that my writing got me nominated in SEVEN categories (Yes, you read that right!). Parent Blogging, Humor writing, Writing with a social impact, Writing on Women at Work, Travelgram, Photogram and Best use of Twitter for social impact was where I found myself listed.

Nominationed in 7 categories
Nominated in 7 categories

Continue reading “Making it to the Orange Flower Awards 2020 by Women’s Web”