Sunless Rooms

Will I, one day, with tentative hands, find the resolve To draw aside my heavy black drapes

And let the sunlight in again?
Will guilt molest my heart for the need or the deed?

For not retracting those hands that drew the drapes aside? 
Seeing it as I might, after a month of Sundays,

Will I shield my eyes from it, 

Or teach myself to behold it anew? 
That sunlight, I wonder, if it will swallow up the darkness

Or merely disguise it in golden splendor? 
There are places, strange places, 

Where the sun forgets to shine every once in a while,

Where sunlight can’t hide every blotch of darkness. 

Those places, those sunless rooms, exist inside me.

An Open Letter to the Two Kinds of Teachers

Ask anybody who a teacher is. Either, you will end up hearing the stock definition of the word, or the character profile of a person. 
From the compendium of traits used to describe teachers, I choose two for the purpose of a little taxonomy. 
Subject-oriented and student-oriented.
These traits, while not mutually exclusive, carry their own individual import. 

To the subject-oriented teacher,
You know that your job demands dignity, prestige, respect. You want silence to enter the classroom with you and stay there until you’re gone. You have expectations. You want to prove to your peers that you’re primo. 
Those people who listen to you, you appreciate their respect because you know you need it. Your foursquare refusal for your class to be second to any other is evident in your methodologies. 
You’re particular about not letting a minute unpunctuated by all things academic slip by. Those people you teach need to get it right down to the last comma and period. 
Your knowledge is awed, your instruction is flawless, your evaluations just, your admonishments firm. 
Small talk narks you, tangential discussions nettle you. 
For you, teaching is a revered profession that should not be subverted by feelings of affection and attachment. 
You’re concern for your subordinates is limited to their ability to fill those blanks right, conjugate every last verb flawlessly, and to show them the way to go on the scholarly ladder – up, up and only up. 
You know where to draw the line, you know what is expected of you, you know what can varnish and what can vitiate your repute. 
You are plumed when you are complimented for your professional conduct, your top-drawer classes.
You give your job your all. You’re satisfied with how you do it. You pride yourself in being a good educator. 

To the student-oriented teacher,
You know that teaching has an ambiguous meaning. You have your string of degrees, you have a comprehensive knowledge of your subject, but for you, the former isn’t what you use to get respect and the latter isn’t the only thing you are meant to impart. 
You want your “kids” to listen to you, and so you bring yourself down to their level. You listen to them. You tell them about yourself. You let them know that you’re as human as they are. Mature, astute and seasoned as you are today, it has not slipped your memory that you were once like them.
Your knowledge commensurates with your humility; the former blows your kids’ minds, the latter touches their hearts. You’re someone who dispenses advice like a therapist, who understands the soup of teenage feelings like a mother, who unabashedly high-fives your kids in the corridors like a friend. 
You want to make sure that they know their spellings, articles and prepositions, but what’s more important to you is to you is for them to know they are valued not by the number or the letter on their answer scripts that attests to their performance, but for who they are as people. 
You don’t see your kids as workers in a mark-generating factory. They’re not just names on a roll, faces you see thrice a week.
You know that that being a friend isn’t a requirement for the job and the monthly paycheck, but that’s who you want to be to those children because when they lay themselves down to sleep at night, you know they’re not going to think about the right usage of l’imparfait and le passé composé, but about what made them smile, what disappointed them. 

You’re concerned about the child whose life isn’t rosy, you talk to the one who seems aloof, you boost the one who doesn’t know what she’s worth, you make them all feel special in their own way. 
It means something to you to mean something to someone. You cherish your kids’ love for you and you’re not loth to reciprocate it, well aware that life is shaped by all the love a person received or didn’t. 
You know the unspoken principle of being a teacher which is not to prepare kids for examinations of some import, but to prepare them for the long road of life that lies ahead of them. 
You know that you’ve done your job right not when you see that perfect score, but when your kids let you know they’ve learned something from you to last a lifetime. 
In all the ways you’ve taught by example, in all the times you cared to look beyond the textbook and the answer leaves, in all the memories you made with the kids who weren’t yours but whom you treated like your own, there lies the nobility, the true passion, the real essence of your profession. 
(Dédicace: Prof, c’est pour vous, ma source d’inspiration, mon enseignante préférée. Je t’aime tellement.)

The Typical Stereotypical Story

Let’s begin with “once upon a time”, because it’s mostly the best way to begin for both little and overgrown children.
So, once upon a time, there lived an Uptown Girl and once upon the same time, there lived a Smalltown Guy.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, in the middle of Uptown and Smalltown, Boy and Girl happen to see each other, and in under a minute, Girl has rehearsed the best way to say “I do” and decided how many babies she wants to have.

In under ten minutes, they exchange autobiographies and decide that they are meant to be. And what better way to celebrate the choice of one’s soulmate than to go for a romp in an open field?

But wait! There’s something missing, you say?

3,… 2,… 1,… and voilà! It’s raining!

Hey, but this still doesn’t seem totally right…

Ah! All people who fall in love in less time than it takes to bat an eyelash are such smart cookies that they spontaneously break into rhymed verse, chorus, bridge and chorus x 2!

Also, it is a well-established rule of thumb that every field in which lovers are likely to sing should have at least one tree at the center for them to run around during the song.

When Girl gets home, we meet her Father who spares you a place in his peripheral vision if you earn 10K a month, a jiffy’s glance if you earn 10K a week, a half smile if you earn 10K a day, a half-pint Sauvignon Blanc and a handshake if you’re Bill Gates; and then we meet her Mother who is sugarcoated venom, and whose lipstick (which she retouches every 60 minutes) is worth Boy’s monthly paycheck.

Father and Mother tell Girl that they know about her and boy having romped around a tree, courtesy of a friend of a cousin of an ex who happened to be on business (that was obviously none of his business) at midnight at the field with a HD camera in the hopes of capturing lovebirds and songbirds.

Father, in under two minutes, decides that Girl will be engaged and married off to one Mr. Tycoon who rolls in dollar bills in the same manner that a pig rolls in dirt, and who owns thirty-two diamonds – one embedded in each tooth.

When Girl and Boy meet next under the tree in the field, we see sorrowful profiles from different angles for five minutes or so, and then, it starts raining! They walk in slow motion around the tree and just when you think they’re going to make impactful life decisions, they start singing.

In the song, Girl tells Boy – after spewing biographies, swapping spit, running around a tree and chorusing – that they should separate. Boy sings ninety-nine synonyms of “I love you”, but girl sings an apology like Boy’s burning heart was just a frostbitten, numb toe she stepped on and runs away, leaving Boy heartbroken under the tree in the field in the rain.

(Sad background music.)

One month later (when tissue paper is scarce from all Girl’s crying), there is a wedding. The only things at the wedding that do not look fake are the tiered buttercream red velvet meringue, the meat and the merlot. All things beautiful aside, we have a peacock proud Father, a Mother with so much makeup that her face looks like bad graffiti, a Father-in-Law with a straight face and a crooked smile and a Mother-in-Law with a hat where her face should be – all dressed and decked like she’s boarding the Titanic.

Just when Girl says “I don’t” in response to the Pastor’s question, Boy, in a makeshift motorcycle, crashes the wedding, wearing a shirt that is half in and half out, Elvis pants that are half black and half white and Michael Jackson shoes that are half masculine and half feminine.

The crowd stands with lower jaws threatening to come loose and fall off while Girl and Boy give us some “suitable for children above 12” scenes – hand to hand, forehead to forehead, and then, finally… One Direction shows up in a cruise ship and starts singing “Kiss You”. (Yay, another song!)

Tycoon rips his outfit in anger (and also to give other single ladies a glimpse of his architecture) and goes back to kissing Lincoln, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington and everybody else whose face graces dollar bills.

Girl’s Father looks on like a crooked man while her Mother looks on with a crooked mouth, but they cave in eventually because he has a fetish for Elvis pants and she has a fetish for Elvis.

Nine months later, we see that Boy is a father (now that was some quick work), and is living in a mansion with his wife (courtesy of Bill Gates being the new father’s fairy-godfather). The happy couple has a grassy lawn on their property to run in and lots of trees to run around.

Now that they have arrived at point “Happily Ever After” (which is the best way to end for both little and overgrown children), everything is typically stereotypical. So it is a general consensus that the movie should end (with a song and the promise of a sequel)!

A Singleton’s Relationship Advice

For relationship advice, many have asked and I have given, but there are some lovestruck ladies who have never offered a penny for my thoughts. Regardless, I’ll give them my thoughts sans counting the cost.

To Her:

Remember the reason he fell in love with you. Give him the same reason and more to fall in love with you over and over again, every single day. If there’s something on your mind, let him hear it from you. If there’s something from your heart that you have to say, make sure it reaches his. You’ll know if heaven ordained him for you if he is that proverbial someone who can understand the sorrow behind your smile and the hurt behind your flawless exterior. Let him know how much you love him, and more importantly why. Remember that although the man, by societal stereotypes is the stronger sex, also has his moments of weakness and insecurity. You might be delicate, but be strong enough for him to lean on when he needs you. Call to mind that you should be as emotionally invested in him as he is in you. You should know he is perfect if he understands your sadness more than your happiness and your tears more than your smile. If he’s the one for you, the inferno of jealousy or insecurity will not consume you if he talks to other girls because you’ll know that his heart is yours and yours alone.

To Him:

Know that you should protect her chastity, not only protect and shield her from your arch rivals. Don’t try to prove to her why other men are unworthy of her. Rather, prove to her why you alone are worthy of her. Treat her with the delicacy her physical structure conveys. Let her know the best and the worst of you to evaluate her true feelings towards you. Never soil the trust she has in you or cause her to look elsewhere to be solaced. Don’t doubt her or put forth a query if she talks to or smiles at other men, because you’ll notice that the sparkle in her eye and the radiance in her cheeks comes into play only when she looks at you. Once you know that you are ready to build a life with her and build your life around her, reassure her that you are invested in her for the long term. Be the rock she has that can never be shaken, the one who lifts her off the ground and from her depressions. Never be tentative to show her the softer, stripped down side of yourself, the dark side every human being has.

And in the end, don’t use, don’t abuse and don’t misuse. Ensure that your hearts are connected as tightly as your fingers are intertwined. While on earth, don’t give each other hell, but catch a glimpse of heaven every single time you look into each other’s eyes.

How to Evolve into a Full-Fledged Writer

If you’re at the pen to catch the attention of the masses that are super-saturated with the written word, there are some guidelines as well as thumb rules you should do well to adhere to. Writing is like a flower, it evolves from an inconspicuous, unremarkable bud to a widely admired blossomed delight.

  • The Habit of Reading

The first step to becoming a veteran writer is to be an avid reader. Exposure to ideas, worlds and characters- both real and unreal; living, dead, vampire or werewolf; Heaven, Earth and Mars- will constructively impact your perception of both fiction and fantasy.

  • Kicking it Off

When your confidence has reached its peak, seek your pen or your keyboard. Begin with either poems or short reflections of everyday life. Remember that expression creates an impression. After making the first draft, scout words that could be replaced with more powerful analogues, sentences that could be constructed in a more catching manner and ideas that could use better phrasing and expression.

  • The Power of Words

Just like the atom is the building block of all matter, words are the cornerstones, the foundation and the bricks of every language. They exude power, sentiment and expression. Words should be selected keeping the genre at hand in mind. When penning historical fiction, for instance, the words employed could very well be archaic and as long as your femur, but when composing a young-adult novel, excessive spillage of high vocabulary would be a major turn-off. In order to enhance one’s knowledge of words, the perusal of a thesaurus is recommended.

  • Language Tools

Figures of speech are the monarchs in the Kingdom of Expression. When reading acclaimed bestsellers, keep your eye out for those similes and metaphors interspersed within the text, but only reserve them as templates. Never be tentative to unleash the originality in you. Start looking at everyday things with the eyes of a writer. Make suitable comparisons and your figures of speech are ready to use.

Let us consider a trio of examples when dealing respectively with a simile, a metaphor and personification with a little elucidation.

So basically, a simile is a comparison between two similar things that may or may not be abstract. Instead of saying, “I looked into his blue eyes..” try instead, “I looked into his eyes that were as blue as the ocean on a sunny day.”

A metaphor is a condensed simile that proceeds as though the two things are a single entity. Rather than saying, “She is as meek as a lamb…”, say, “She is a meek lamb.”

Personification involves attributing living traits to inanimate objects or concepts such as love, death and time. Personification breathes life into a story and takes the level of expertise a notch higher. Examples include:

-The icy breath of the wind assaulted my pallid skin.

-The green field held me in its bosom.

-The eyes of the sky wept myriad tears.

-The ghost of Hope vanished without a trace.

-Fate has a savage heart.

  • What kind of a writer do you aspire to be?

Once you have discovered your talent, discover your niche and that can only be achieved when you explore the terrain of various genres. Aspiring novelists must possess adequate knowledge of the various categories and subcategories that are available to choose from and the best way to do this is to read an array of books and analyze which genre resonates with you more. On selecting your cup of tea, proceed onward.

  • Characters

Characters are the centers of gravity and the focal points of any story. The bestselling novels incontestably have characters that are so highly addicting that they don’t just feel like names printed on heavy paper. They ought to be magnetizing and riveting, making people hold their breath, choke back tears and explode with laughter.

When tailoring a character, one needs to adopt a character sketch. Note down the traits, the specialties and the eccentricities appertaining to him/her/it.

For instance, in my novel, Insanity, the protagonist, Juliana Steele was a latte lover with raw umber hair that she liked to do in a ponytail. She was a psychologist specializing in psychiatry with a soft edge. She was fond of solitude, owing to past circumstances of abrupt deprivation of vital people.

These character sketches could also include catchphrases, background stories, habits and mannerisms, likes and dislikes.

  • The Perspective

The most frequently adopted perspectives are those from the author point of view (third person) and the character(s)’ point of view (first person). The first person narrative is generally employed by authors who can metamorphose their minds and hearts into those of the characters concerned and the narrative is typically shared between two main characters. The third person is used when the story is better narrated from the author’s point of view. It sits well with mystery/thriller and historical fiction.

  • The Setting

Miami beaches, a KFC outlet, best friend’s house, Mars… and the possibilities stretch from here to infinity. When choosing a location, it should have some sentimental value to the characters and it should blend well with the series of events that will unravel there. Research on the trivial and non-trivial must-knows about a location is mandatory.

  • Reviewing

Once your material is closing in on the finish line, it must be proofread. This might embarrass you initially, but as your skills with the pen are honed, you might be more than impressed that something that boasts of such supreme quality came forth from you. Rectify any spelling/factual/punctuation errors you may come across. Delete portions that throw the story off balance and add in fresh replacements if it be necessary. Once this rigorous process is over, you can throw your hands in the air and give yourself a pat on the back and take yourself out on a solo date to KFC because you have just achieved a milestone as a budding writer.

So, gear up for an incredible journey that only words can take you on and evolve into a veteran!

Dedication: Faustina, my baby cousin, this one’s for you to glean from.)

Of Marriage and a Man

Down the lane of the future, I contemplate that walk of a lifetime down the aisle, clad in a pristine snow-colored gown with a coronet encircling my mane and my face veiled from the view of him whom my eyes are yet to fall upon and my heart is yet to love.

My friend once asked me if I was interested in marriage because the word never rolled off my tongue. And I told her, “Of course I am- just at the right time with the right man.”

I’m sixteen and the day I wed seems like it’s light years away, but nevertheless, every lass still fantasizes about what her Prince Charming might be. As for me, I have a checklist too, and I just hope he ticks all the boxes.

I’ve never fallen in love before, but when Heaven intersects my path with his, I want to fall in love every single day in every single way. Sometimes people look to the firmament to gaze at the stars, but to catch a glimpse of Heaven, I wish to look no further than his eyes.

He should be someone who enhances the spiritual context of love in my life- falling in love with The Author of Love more and more everyday while falling in love with him.

I don’t want our love to be encapsulated in a professional pre or post-nuptial framed snapshot, but rather, to be exuded when I am clad in the attire of the woman of the house. I want to feel the same tingles and accelerated heartbeats even when time sacks the elasticity of my skin and bleaches my hair.

I just hope he’ll be someone who will love me even when I can’t love myself, whose eyes will light up like a million light bulbs at the thought of me and who will be one with me at heart though we will be two separate bodies.

I want a man not only to wed and to bed, but to have and to hold from that day forward, in good times and in bad times, for better or for worse, in sickness and health, to love me and honor me all the days of my life.

And I will make him the same promise when that magical day dawns.

Heart’s Take on Recrimination, Retaliation and Revenge

It’s not just the fact that I’m a student of Science which made me ponder over this little marvel called The Heart. I know I’ve probably mentioned the little throbbing thing in a gazillion places already, but somehow, I just can’t seem to get enough.

The world follows the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” platitude that blinds them to the truism that their internal apparatus has much they can actually glean from.

Consider the working of the little fist-sized pump:

All it does is supply the entire soma with the river of life in its purest form. Notwithstanding this, the heart is refueled with impure blood.

Now, what would a person’s reaction be when her good deeds were reciprocated with bad ones? To square it up? Highly likely.

Now, back to anatomy class. We see that the little heart does not reciprocate bad for bad. Rather, it purifies the tainted blood and dispenses it in purity again.

Now why would someone want to do that, you ask?

Well, here’s the deal. What if Mr. Heart decided to exact retribution on the rest of the body? What if it dispatched the defiled blood to the body for it to get a taste of its own medicine?

Struggling for the answer? The body will writhe and succumb to the potion of revenge.

In life, we may not be paid back in due measure. We might not even be paid back at all, but in the worst of circumstances, good is repaid with evil and love is reciprocated with detestation. It’s just a matter of choosing between repaying bad for bad or transforming it into something good.

The heart teaches us that we can’t live with negativity in our systems. It might seem like the most reasonable, and in some cases, the only option available. But recrimination, revenge and retaliation are just like salt in a wound or, more appropriately, toxins.

If it can kill another, why not you?

The best life lessons come when you look within yourself and not around yourself.