Ebook review: Got me for life by Chandni Moudgil

Women. Are they complex creatures or the simplest of beings? The answer is perhaps not as simple.

In a series of 26 short stories, explore the world of EveryDay Women with me. They aren’t the superheroes who claim to save the world. They are the ones who form a part of your world.

They can create magical moments, make or break people, manipulate relationships, slip in and out of roles or refuse to fit into one at all. They are the real women in our lives. But the common thread that binds these fascinating women is , they don’t need anyone to make their world better – they have themselves for life.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you find a bit of someone you know in each of them.

Let the stories begin?

Oh yes, do let the stories begin! Chandni’s got quite a gift for storytelling. She builds up situations and characters and you think the story is going one way, but then off it goes in the most unexpected, thrilling direction.

For instance, Beauty with a purpose is about a venture capitalist tycoon and his trophy wife who seem to have the perfect life, but then, who really wears the crown? Coffee needs company tells the story of a girl who dreamed of opening a coffee shop with her boyfriend, but then he dumped her, and her dreams were shattered, or were they? In Isn’t it ironic, the one who is always second best manages to beat the one who is always best in the arena where it matters most.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is Everlasting Love – a girl waits for a boy at a table by the poolside. While she waits for him, she thinks of the:

Polaroid pictures , hand written letters , love of food–his for cooking , hers as a critic & affinity to water–being of the same zodiac sign. They had so much in common.Definitely destiny more than design was at play here.

Does destiny play out for them as she hoped they would?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

You can download a free copy of the book here.

Book Review: The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer

From the back cover:

Kat Lind, an American expatriate living in London with her entrepreneur husband and their young son, attends an opening at a prestigious Mayfair art gallery and is astonished to find her own face on the walls. The portraits are evidence of a long-ago love affair with the artist, Daniel Blake. Unbeknownst to her, he has continued to paint her ever since. Kat is seduced by her reflection on canvas and when Daniel appears in London, she finds herself drawn back into the sins and solace of a past that suddenly no longer seems so far away.

When the portraits catch the attention of the public, threatening to reveal not only her identity, but all that lies beyond the edges of the canvases, Kat comes face to face with the true price of their beauty and with all that she now could lose.

Moving between the glamour of the London art world and the sensuous days of a love affair in a dusty Paris studio, life and art bleed together as Daniel and Kat’s lives spin out of control, leading to a conclusion that is anything but inevitable.


My thoughts:

This is a finely wrought novel of love and second chances, of choices and sacrifices. 

Daniel and Kat are the main protagonists of the story – everyone else is just in the backdrop propping them up, and it works wonderfully. But even though everyone else feels like supporting characters, they are well-defined and you can understand their impulses and motivations. 

Waters-Sayer tackles the fragility of relationships and the compelling pull of love with a beauty that settles into your heart. The artistry of the painter (Daniel) and of the storytelling come together to create a masterpiece. 

This is a truly beautiful book that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended! 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publishers via NetGalley, but the review and opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita

Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim-majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.

our-moon-has-blood-clotsI was around 9 or 10 years old in the 1990s when I overheard my parents talking about Kashmir, about people leaving their orchards and homes and fleeing from the valley. There was nostalgia in their tones as they spoke about the idyllic beauty of the Kashmiri countryside, mixed with something I now recognize as horror and sorrow over the events unfolding in that beautiful valley. I didn’t quite understand then why anyone would want to get up and leave their beautiful orchards, what was the meaning of curfew, or why the Kashmiris would be asking for azaadi (freedom).

Fast forward to the present day. I now have a slightly better understanding of the Kashmir situation. And I say slightly because it is a complex web of politics and border incursions, with varying points of views and a lot of things that are still left unsaid and unrecorded. Which is why I was keen to read this first person account of an exiled Kashmiri Pandit.

The book, however, disappointed on many levels.

Pandita starts by explaining the history and culture of his people, which is interesting, and then moves to detailing the atrocities that have been committed against the Pandits down the ages. He focuses the bulk of his ire on the Mughal rulers, squeezing the more than hundred years of genocide perpetrated by the Sikh and Hindu-Dogra regimes in the pre-1947 era into a few measly sentences. And that skewed perspective is just a taste of things to come. Because in Pandita’s story, every Muslim in the valley was baying for Pandit blood, including Pandita’s own young, school-going Muslim friends.

One of them looked at me and then all of them ran away suddenly, throwing a bunch of papers onto the floor…I picked one up, and recoiled in disgust – the paper was covered with snot. I threw it away. It was then that my eyes fell on another, particularly crumpled paper. A shiver ran through my body. It was a page torn from the school magazine – it was a portrait of the Goddess Saraswati. It was covered with snot too.

According to Pandita, neighbors turned on one another and Muslims pointed out Pandit families to the mujahideen just to settle petty scores or take over Pandit farms. In the entire saga, not one Muslim came forth to help Pandits – or if they did, it was just to warn them to escape or they would be killed. This I find impossible to believe. When you can find examples of Germans who helped Jews in the midst of the Holocaust it defies logic to believe that not a single Muslim came forward to help the Pandits. More so when I have heard first hand stories of Kashmiri Muslim families who tried to help their Pandit neighbors for as long as they could.

The next part of his rant is against Jammu, where a refugee camp was set up for Kashmiri Pandit families. Everyone knows that it isn’t pleasant to live at a refugee camp – the shelter is inadequate, there is a total lack of comfort, food is often scarce, and when there is a large influx of refugees, employment is almost non-existent. By presenting this as yet another instance of injustice against Pandits in particular, rather than as a problem faced by refugees the world over, Pandita shows just how deluded and misguided he is.

He then goes into a statistician mode – detailing the Pandita families that were killed and chronicling the supposed abject fear in which the few Pandit families in the valley live today. I would take these claims with a pinch of salt considering how biased the book is – perhaps it’s 100% true, perhaps just 50% of it is true, I can’t say with any certainty. But if there is even the slightest truth in these stories of continued fear, Pandita has done grave injustice to his community by creating skepticism in the minds of rational readers.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is the story of his feelings as an exile – the longing for home, for news of friends and family, and his mother’s constant refrain of “Our home in Kashmir had 21 rooms”. If only he could have been less biased and more objective, his book would have been a landmark achievement in explaining the Kashmir situation to youngsters and people who are not too familiar with the happenings in the valley.

Overall, I would give this book a big thumbs down. If you want to read an unbiased book on Kashmir, I would highly recommend Curfewed Nights by Basharat Peer – beautifully written, poignant, and rather unbiased.

Purchase on Amazon

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Random House India, but the review and opinions expressed are my own.
Note: This post has affiliate links.

Book review: The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker

  
What is it that makes us human? Is it blood, bones and skin? What then of a woman made of clay, or a man made of fire?

Is it our thoughts, our actions, our hopes, dreams and sorrows that make us human?

What then of the wizard who only wanted fame, power and life eternal? What of the Djinni who only hoped he hadn’t harmed anyone while he was enslaved? Or of the masterless golem, who had to fight against her nature to make sure she didn’t scare the people around her?

Or is it our actions that make us human?

The wizard, who came back life after life, searching desperately, fearfully, for the secret to immortality.

The Djinni, who worked marvels in metal, explored the city, had a romantic dalliance, thought he was better than the humans and their small miserable lives, and came to befriend Chava.

The golem, who learnt how to control her actions, ignore the thoughts, wishes and desires of all the people around her, worked diligently at the Radzin’s bakery, and was forever changed by Ahmed.

This is the story of their unlikely friendship. That blossomed into love. That changed them subtly, even when they shouldn’t have been changed. For they were not human. They were Chava and Ahmed. The Golem and the Djinni. 

In conversation with Elaine Taylor, author of Karma, Deception, and a Pair of Red Ferraris

In Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris, Elaine Taylor lays bare her relationship issues, childhood trauma, failed marriages, and her quest for love – all in her witty, sassy, down-to-earth voice. She gives it as it is – straight up – with complete honesty and vulnerability. Her insight into personal healing and acceptance as a pathway to love is both illuminating and inspiring. And her message of worthiness is one that needs to be heard – loud and clear. Weather or not you’ve had a traumatic childhood or relationship struggles, her honesty and doggedness will have you firmly rooting for her. By the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I really wanted to hear about her self-realization and the lessons she learnt along the way. So, without further ado, allow me to present to you – Elaine Taylor!

1: It’s been an inspirational move from equating love with control and realizing it’s open, expansive and just is. While therapy did eventually play a role in helping you, how do you think spirituality and Allie B, the psychic, helped you open up to love?

Allie B was the catalyst for my transformation. In our very first session, when I asked if I would ever find the deep and long-lasting love for which I so yearned, she was unequivocal. “Most definitely—all your power planets are in your houses of relationships. You incarnated into this lifetime to experience legendary love.”

Whoa! That was exactly what I wanted to hear! But to my, “when?”, she did that close-your-eyes, take-deep-breaths California woo-woo thing; then answered, “Not until you’re ready.”

That let the helium out of my balloon! It wasn’t possible to be more “ready” than I was.

But something about that niggled in my subconscious. Like, what if I really wasn’t “ready”? What if there was more to it than just desire—like maybe some actual preparation? I had no clue what that might be.

Early in KARMA DECEPTION I write about having always felt “guided”; having felt that “… gentle reassuring hand on my shoulder …” in times of extreme turmoil and fear and pain. Spiritual awareness led me to be more open when Allie B said things like, “Your Spirit Guides want me to tell you …”—fill in the blank. At first, a part of my brain shouted, “Beware: snake oil ahead!” But maybe not. If I was truly “guided,” was it possible Allie B was simply the most direct conduit to What/Whomever was doing the guiding? Over time I began to trust my gut—dilute my skepticism.

After I met Doc Ferrari, I asked Allie B to do our relationship chart—see if we had a future together, because I really, really wanted him to be My Legendary Love. When she said he and I had come together to fulfill a “shit-heavy karmic pact,” I was indignant—certain she got it wrong. I didn’t care about a karmic pact: I wanted true love! (Of course, had she told me he and I were destined to ride off into happily ever after together—I would have been like, “Oh yeah, the Doc and I have this fabulous karmic future—Allie B said so. I can’t lose!”) She turned out to be 100% right about Doc Ferrari, in every one of her predictions. I cannot imagine navigating that part of my history without her.

Bottom line: Allie B was instrumental in my journey to be ready for the contentment, happiness, and love I now have in my life.

2: It took you a very long time to really focus on the scars from your childhood and acknowledge and heal them. Do you have any suggestions for others who may be in your situation – believing they are being strong and brave by holding on to their scars and going on with their lives without acknowledging the need for/seeking help?

Like a gazillion people, I grew up with addictive/abusive parents, in a redneck culture where a girl had less value than a “trained huntin’ dawg” and a “good woman knows her place.” So shutting down my emotions—walling off a tender heart—was a survival instinct.

When I entered the workforce, I set out to prove I was “as good as any man.” Not because I was a militant bra-burner; but because I was a single mom in need of a man-size paycheck. So I emulated the hard edges, sharp elbows and impenetrable boundaries that I thought comprised “real men.” That’s when I really screwed up my perception of what emotional strength is!

My personal life was one long trail of relationship roadkill. The combination of being emotionally shut down plus tough and invincible … well, it ain’t exactly a nurturing environment in which to plant the seeds of romantic love.

“Getting ready for love” meant going back in time and confronting hurtful memories that made me believe, deep at my core, that I was not deserving of love. I had to dismantle the protective armor that kept the pain at bay. I had to rediscover that true emotional strength is the courage to be vulnerable. The willingness to be tender and soft with no guarantee that life/love will turn out as we want it to. Essentially, I had to heal.

And boy, was that hard! And scary! But hanging onto those scars was costing me something dear.

I came to understand that if I didn’t heal those old wounds, I would never have the love for which I yearned—the deeply fulfilling love I have shared for over a decade, with an amazing man.

Three key things that came out of my years of “getting ready”:

  • I believed the dark void at my core would magically vanish and I would feel light and free once the right man came along and filled me up. Wrong. I was/am the only one who could/can fill that void.
  • We never find love until we believe ourselves worthy of it. We will never feel worthy of love until we haul out the emotional trash, heal the emotional wounds.
  • All that difficult and painful work that I resisted for so long because I was terrified to step into my own personal haunted house? It is sooooooo worth it!

Regarding your question about “need for/seeking help”: I believe it is absolutely essential that we not try to do deep healing on our own. First, it’s almost impossible to consider other perspectives about the demons to be vanquished (critical to this kind of work) when we are sitting alone, in our own heads, with our certainties and deeply held thoughts/beliefs that are like the grooves in an old vinyl record: dug deep and virtually impossible to restructure. Secondly, it can be dangerous. Sometimes we have to wade into territory that can undermine us if we don’t have an objective guide/safety valve to pull us back if we get too close to a treacherous edge.

3: Given your childhood trauma, you made sure that your children were brought up differently. What advice can you give to young, harried mothers so they don’t pass on their stress to their children?

Oh wow. Wouldn’t it be an amazing boon to society if humans were not allowed to parent until we had been taught some of the fundamentals of parenting!

It is one of the most important jobs we do in our lifetime; and most of us do it by the seat of our pants. Unfortunately, that often means we repeat with our own children the things that were done to us. It’s easy to replicate what is familiar, extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming to try to figure out better way—if we even have a conscious awareness that there is “a better way.”

My parents undoubtedly started with the idea of  “raising me right”—of doing what they felt necessary to “make me the best woman possible.” But a lot of times Mom acted out of her own anger, frustration and bitterness—certainly in part because she was young and harried and trying to make her way with scant resources. “Resources”—emotional, financial, physical, etc.—unavoidably impact every parent’s best-intentioned parenting patterns.

Just like every parent throughout the history of time, I did some things right; and some things wrong. Things I wish someone had told me before my daughter was born:

  • Kids are good actors, they generally want to please, and they are resilient; so I didn’t realize how my parenting was impacting my daughter until she was a teen and I was paying for her therapy! (Ha! But seriously …)
  • I wish I had understood the importance of being aware of my true and honest intentions in every parenting situation. (Sometimes I was angry/hurt/frustrated/whatever and believed everyone around me should share my burden. I wish I had understood potential unintended consequences of my actions/words. Some of my “best decisions” turned out to be wrong. Life is complicated.
  • Yes, I did my best; but I often fell short of some invisible marker. I wish I had known the magical power of a sincere apology. I would have admitted more often that I might have been wrong; and I would have apologized.
  • I wish I had taught my daughter, by example, forgiveness and compassion for herself, as well as for others.

Two important facts: There are a ton of factors beyond our control: genetics, social/outside influences, etc. Even with all the expert advice available and our unflagging best efforts (for any superhuman who can actually be unflagging), there is no guarantee it will turn out well.

4: Now that you’ve found your true love, what’s your mantra for a successful relationship/marriage?

Good and open communication is absolutely essential. (Ever heard that before?!)

I try always to remember that, when life/relationship heads south, as life and relationships are wont to do, the one thing I have complete control over is how I choose to react to the situation. I am 100% responsible for my role in turning the ship north … or helping it stay on that unpleasant, sometimes disastrous, southerly course.

5: Could you share your new moon manifesting ritual?

Here it is, straight from Allie B! http://www.modernmystical.com

NEW MOON MANIFESTING RITUAL

I was reminded that not everyone knows about rituals, and how to do one.  Rituals are an ancient way to honor the sacredness of High Holy Days, important Moons – Full and New, to clear, invite, release and call in.

This is a simple one – in accordance with the Native way of honoring this sacred time.

Feel free to use your own prayers, words, Name of GOD, etc.

The Planning

New Moon is a time of new beginnings.  The moon is totally dark, a propitious time to plant the seed thoughts of new creativity, new determination and new goals.

Sit and think about what you want to call in, create, begin to manifest, or take to the next level.  Get a pad and pen and start writing it down. What do you want for yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially?  what do you want to help create in the world?  In your relationships?  Through your work?

Be aware of how you are phrasing it!  Words have power (as do thoughts!) At New Moon you are creating Magic. You are calling in the most potent and powerful forces of the Universe. Make sure to put things in positive ways. Make sure to ask that everything you call in or ask for comes in a gentle and benevolent way !  Remember this is a time of new. This is not a time of clearing, or releasing.

Do not tell the Universe what you do not want!

What you will need:

Make sure you know when the exactitude of New moon is.   Go out 1/2 hour before with everything on a tray.

Gather a tea light candle, 2 sticks of incense, a cup of water, 2 pinches of tobacco, some cornmeal, a few candles to make a sacred circle (You can use 4 to the 4 directions, or 5 (to create a pentacle of Power,  8 or 12) and a smudge stick (sage, cedar)  as well as a lighter or matches.  Appropriate color candles for new moon:  white, green, blues, pink (esp for love) lavender for new consciousness.

To do a New Moon Ritual

You first need to do a burning sea salt smudge before you start,  to clear and create a pure, sacred space to do your ritual in, and to have a pure and sanctified place to have the magic work.  So do this first, starting with smudging yourself and then your home, car, and the space you are doing the ritual in.  Smudge your phone, your pocketbook, change purse, wallet, (whatever you hold your money in),  as well as your day-runner, schedule or appointment book.

If possible, do your ritual outside, standing barefoot on the Earth. If this is not possible, do it on your patio, deck or whatever you have. In bad weather, inside .

Light your smudge stick: cedar, sage, sweetgrass or a combination of them.

Starting in the East , with your burning smudge stick do the invocation:

Invocation to the 4 Directions:

“Ho to the Spirit of the (E, S,W, N). To the Direction of the ___ To the Angel of the ___. To the Totem of the —-. Ho to the Lessons and Blessings of the —-. Ho to the Spirit of the —-.!”

Bow to the  East (S/W/N)

Repeat to the South, West and North.  Turn to face the East again.

Smudge to Mother Earth, and make a tobacco offering

Smudge to Father Sky / God / Goddess  . Light a stick of incense and place in the ground, or a planter or a make-shift holder.

Raise your hands , palms out :  Ground yourself, feeling the connection of you and your physical body to the Earth. Visualize running your Grounding cord down into the core of the Earth.  Take a deep breath.

At this Time of New Beginnings, I now create:  (Or choose to manifest) Go thru your list.

When you are finished, Say:” Ho!   SO BE IT !  And it is so!

Take a deep breath.

Make a cornmeal offering to the Earth Spirits and Earth Devas

Make a water offering to the water Spirits and Devas

Light your incense and make it an offering to the Air spirits and Devas

Finally, light your tea light. If it blows out after you light it, just put it down.  It has been accepted by the Fire Beings. If it stays lit, make sure it is in a container that will not tip over or start a fire.

Ground yourself again.  Make sure you have included every area and every thing you are ready, able and willing to Create, Manifest or take to the next Level.

Thank the Angles, Teachers, Guides , Devas, Mother Earth and Divine Self for witnessing.  Ask their help in your calling in the Forces needed to fulfill your prayers.

Bless yourself, Mother Earth and your life. Release the circle.

Turn around, and do not look back.  You can go out tomorrow to pick up the candle holders, etc.

Your magic is now set. It is working!

Blessed Be !