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Posts by elysdir

Stop looking for inspiration!

We all want to do something that we love. Something we ‘see’ ourselves doing throughout our lives. Something we want to be remembered for. The legacy that we want to leave behind. But most of us aren’t there yet. Yeah, it will definitely take time but I’m talking about people who haven’t even taken the path they, deep down, want to take (I am guilty of it too). Why? Aren’t we good at it? We’ve been doing that ‘something’ for quite a while and yet our dreams remain dreams or even fantasies if you can call them that. What is it that’s stopping us?

While there may be many reasons for that, the most common one is that we are waiting for inspiration. Inspiration. What’s so great about it? Everything we’ve done, everything we do and everything we want to do has some kind of inspiration behind it. Be it some person or something we’ve seen or heard, they all inspire us to do things. Inspiration is powerful. It is powerful enough to stop us from chasing our dreams and work on transforming them into reality. It’s the overwhelming feeling that helps us get away from the mundane and explore the exceptional.

Inspiration, indeed, is magical and we do need it in our lives. But isn’t that just a tiny part of the whole process of becoming legendary? It’s just the beginning and there’s so much more that we have to do in order to get where we want to but no, we are just waiting here for the muse to come and cast his spell on us while we should actually be working on getting better at our craft.

Here’s something to bore you. A few days ago, I was depressed because I hadn’t written anything for 4 days and the reason I stopped writing was that out of the blue, I had this thought that no one would read what I wrote. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but it did happen. Last week, I was talking to a friend of mine who, I’m so glad to say this, is as clueless about life as I am and philosophy is our escape. In the midst of our conversation he said: “Unless you start believing in yourself, the world will not believe you.” Boom! Inspirational as hell! I’m sure it’s not original and he must have come across it somewhere but that did make a difference. I was really inspired by what my friend told me. But it only took a couple of hours for it to fade away.

Inspiration is temporary. We want to get inspired and we sit to read some inspiring stuff. We go through motivational stuff and self-help books and Eureka! We are inspired. Did it actually ever happen? Like most of the things in life, inspiration too will pass. We are going to find inspiration in the least likely of places; so the best thing we can do is keep doing what we are doing and get better at it. Our muse is out there watching us and it will come to us when the time is right. Until then, love, laugh, work and sleep.

P.S: I want to dedicate this post to everyone who’s failed at inspiring me


A short romantic story about a guy new in town who meets a girl in mall

do it do it



In layman’s language a tutor aka private teacher is typically one who teaches a single student or a very small group of students. Private tutors offer their services to school and college students to augment their learning, hone their skills in the subjects of study in order to help them score superior grades. Gone are the days when one going for tuition was labeled a ‘dullard’. Contrarily, today’s students seek extra help and benefit from the support; the significant increase in the number of private tutors, particularly those of Mathematics, Science, Indian and Foreign Languages augments this. Numerous tutors operate from their own homes, at the students’ homes, or at local meeting places such as a learning academy or tuition centre.

By and large, private tutors work with individuals or groups of students not only to enable them to complete their assignments, but also help them enhance their knowledge of a subject. The principal objective, however, is for excellent marks, a prerequisite in today’s context. By identifying individual learning needs, tutors could extend the necessary facilities and learning environment, evaluate students’ progress to reinforce the classroom learning with intermittent testing in an informal atmosphere. At first glance, it appears to be a set of simple tasks – merely tutoring and testing. Unlike in a school environment, where the number of students could be around fifty, a private tutor, by virtue of dealing with a small number would be in a position to give personal care and attention. What then could be the challenges posed?

In this context, I wish to spell out that the private tutors attached to institutes coaching students for the Board examinations and Entrance Examinations are not the subjects being discussed. Firstly, the private tutor has to correct the mistakes made by the student while copying into the notebook. (No offence to teachers! nevertheless, the eye fatigue of the teacher is to be taken into consideration, owing to the number of copies evaluated each day, day after day…) Secondly, under the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system, students are required to complete a number of projects and reports, which involve reference from various sites. As a vast majority of parents happen to be employed, the private tutor is the expedient to offer valuable guidance in the project. And this, often takes away the ‘study time’ allotted for the students.

Further, tuition teachers do not enjoy a status better than the domestic help. Their absence makes things harrowing, the presence is often taken for granted, needless to say, without due recognition for the extra special effort put in, in terms of offering holistic education to children under their care. Often, private tutors end up babysitting young children for more than the stipulated time, just because the parent was tied up with some urgent work, hence, could not pick up the child in time. An attitude issue, more often!

Burgeoning tutor population and the commercialization of private tutoring is an observable fact in recent times; the lucrative business opportunities for tutors, partially because of the tax-free income they enjoy, more so owing to the flexible working hours in comparison with the high-flying jobs, that offer little respite. The work-flexibility has been the major cause for luring stay home mothers (SHMs) into the scenario. Not only does it boosts the self-esteem of the SHM, but also brings in ‘pocket money’ for personal needs – a big step towards woman empowerment.

Having said this, it would be worthwhile and rewarding for every private tutor to keep abreast of the changes in learning techniques in order to extend the ‘comfort zone’ to children under their care. Technology has been beneficial and harmful to children in the way they think and act. A sizeable number of children today experience difficulty in learning owing to multi-fold psychological issues. A private tutor who monitors and closely observes the learning curve of students would be able to identify such problems, counsel students if possible, else, advise parents to seek professional advice. As the adage goes, Prevention is better than cure.

Through meticulous working, the private tutor could carve a niche in the informal environment by emerging confidante, mentor and facilitator – all rolled into one. Quoting the words of Alexander the Great, about his teacher, the legendary Aristotle – “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”

Reflections in Retirement

Jayshree Misra Tripathi

This New Year will be different for me, even special, as it will be my first New Year in retirement. Not my retirement but my husband’s – at the age of sixty, after 35 years of service in government. The age of retirement seems odd, when politicians are voted to work on well into their 80’s.Judges of the High Courts retire at 62 while those on the bench of the Supreme Court remain till they are 65.Many foreign diplomats work into their 70’s.

Anyway, here I am with him, trying to finish unpacking hundreds of dusty cartons, collected over the past decades and stored in the anticipation of this time in our lives.Bubble-packaging takes up most of the space in the cartons. As I unroll each carefully sealed sticky-tape, it evokes images of a childhood game, ‘Pass around the Parcel’, only here, I would need to remember where I had bought the item or the person who had given it to me. Strange that visions of some of the packers flit to and fro through my misty vision, though I cannot quite place them all in context. As I open a hand-painted small tea-set, I think of my packers in Korea almost thirty years ago, who enjoyed the chai and samosas at 11 am and at 4 pm during their three days in our home. They presented me with this gift, saying I was kind and to remember them when I drank chai! I said I was just doing what we all do back home in India!

What hopes we had all those years ago, travelling thousands of miles across the continents, to seven countries, away from our parents, grandparents, friends – into new environments and diverse cultures and making new acquaintances. At the end of each posting, we would talk of future family gatherings in our home -of a lush green lawn that you could sink your feet in and breathe in the familiar air, then chase butterflies through the colourful flowers in bloom. We spoke of finally being near and living amiably with relatives and long-lost cousins and old friends.Alas.The pollution from vehicular traffic in front of our house is a health-hazard.

I place all the clothes and jackets that are wearable, gently-used, to one side – for the winter collection by local youthful volunteers.Its heartening to see them doing their bit so whole-heartedly, going into the streets and slum-tenements, inter-acting with the children.There are many books our adult children have said we may give too, and toys. It is with great love that I pack away these items- as each has memories of glad joy, even some sorrow, etched into its fabric, including every dog-eared page. A bit of my life ebbs away with each parting gift, but as I straighten up, I know a new little person will feel the same joyful emotions and be warm for a while – till he or she outgrows them too! This is the end of the road….just twenty odd boxes of such items, as we had always given away wearable clothes and some household kitchenware before leaving each country of residence.

The Deep-Fat French Fries Fryer that found its way back here is given away for free to the kabaddi-wala (*collector of old items), but I caution him that the plastic handle seems unsteady – I am unprepared for his toothy grin and “Chips”! Each item must be usable, the husband admonishes – Yes, I know. But we need to stop eating French Fries at our age and re-discover the magic of greens and healthy options.Of exercise or walks at a steady pace. Of the need to slow down and de-stress.To sleep early or get-up late, if we wish.

Our books are treated with great respect and we are going to re-read our favourites and those yet unread. Perhaps the spouse will start his carpentry again and his painting…the yacht does actually float – tested in a bathtub 24 years ago! The fire engine with its ladder and hose pipe has not been found yet…the treasure hunt continues!

I wonder at it all, this coming home, to retirement – this is the ultimate ‘coming of age’. It is not easy. It takes longer to get things done. It is tiring. It gets a bit boring, all this unpacking, but its for the last time. There is a sense of apprehensive finality. I have travelled the world since I was 5 years old. I am at some intangible cross-roads, full of indecision, torn between taking – off again or digging roots, at this late stage of my life.

I miss the clean cities I have lived in. I despair at the illiteracy around me and the sudden development – in uneven graphs, that defy the imagination. I am pleased that people are earning more, but saddened by the lack of civic consciousness.I am angered to see people on motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, even in cars – breaking laws by not wearing helmets, disobeying traffic rules, impervious to their surroundings,showing no respect for pavement-walkers, driving on the wrong side of the road.

But I am getting used to side-stepping past the old bulls that come to rest on the pavements,so stoic and at odds with the chaotic traffic, the congested city-dwellings and footfalls. I am becoming an expert at ducking sudden projectiles of paan (*betel-leaf)-liquid on my way to the corner store!

Yes, I have time to stand and stare now. In retirement.

This piece first appeared in print at the Huffington Post India.

Anis Shivani recommends three picks for 2013.

Buzzfeed Announces Its Emerging Writers Fellows

“After having received more than 500 applications, we’re thrilled to announce the four writers who will join BuzzFeed in January for the Emerging Writers Fellowship. With an emphasis on personal essays, profiles, and cultural criticism, each fellow will receive $12,000 over the course of four months, along with mentorship and personal development designed to help them take a transformative leap in their careers.  Their names are Chaya Babu, Niela Orr, Esther Wang, and Tomi Obaro.”

read more here

No Entry Fee :) Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

Good Luck All!

$10,000 prize, no entry fee.

“The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as “the Prize”] will alternate yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions, beginning with fiction in 2015. Fiction submissions can take the form of a novel or a collection of short stories. Nonfiction submissions can take the form of a memoir, a collection of essays, or a book-length work of narrative nonfiction.

Manuscripts must be complete and submitted in English (translations welcome).

Candidates must be first-generation residents of the United States. “First-generation” can refer either to people born in another country who relocated to the U.S., or to American-born residents whose parents were born elsewhere.

Candidates must not have previously published a book in English…”

read more at the Restless Books site

Image credit: © Amanda White, 2009 |

Image credit: © Amanda White, 2009 |

The Stories We Tell; The Stories That Get Published

Anita Felliceli asks where are the stories about desi lives in America ? Why are so many stories still about the immigrant lives of parents in which the characters often go ‘back home’? What about the homes here?

I believe there are many authors writing these stories but that they are probably not getting published (my own experience). Publishers still want a single story, and are not willing to take too many chances.

Felliceli’s essay  is a important read in an ongoing conversation.

“Early Indian American writers were mostly not writing about second-generation children of programmers, engineers and doctors, or about motel owners or taxi cab drivers or small business owners. They were writing about the upper echelon of educated first generation Indians in America. What links their books is nostalgia and love for India, their own wistful version of what India was.

But why are our lives here less interesting than the lives our parents left behind? The value of any story should be more in how it’s told than in its plot, so there isn’t any reason to think that the lives of Indian Americans should be intrinsically less interesting than the lives of Indians in India.”

read rest here 

The cobbler poet of Pakistan Munawar Shakeel.

Munawar Shakeel: the cobbler poet of Punjab Pakistan.

“In the small suburban town of Rodala, located in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, there sits a cobbler in the main bazaar, Munawar Shakeel, who has been repairing the shoes of the villagers for three decades now.

But in recent years, his customers are less interested in getting their shoes repaired and more interested in listening to his verses on the sweet and bitter realities of life.

Munawar is a poet.

He is the author of five Punjabi poetry books, and with the poor and downtrodden as the subject of his poetry, he is considered a major voice of people living in suburban areas.”

read rest here 

This article was written by Rizwan Safdar in Urdu and translated into English by Bilal Karim Mughal.

Note: If you wish to purchase Munawar Shakeel’s books, send an e-mail at

with your name, address, and phone number.

Jabeen Akhtar lists the 17 tropes that immigrant fiction need to stop writing about including an arranged marriage, a dead grandmother, a journey to the homeland to discover ‘oneself’ and fabrics “swirled, bellowed and dangled’ at regular intervals. While her piece is funny (and an excellent way to generate controversy which sometimes seems the only way for authors to get any attention in today’s increasingly difficult market for all books ), most writers write what they need to write instead of what an editor might certainly buy in which case we’d all be writing thrillers, mysteries and sci-fi. Akhtar seems to write about terrorism which in itself is becoming another over-done sub-genre and perhaps a cliche crisis in itself. But then what is one to write about: Use the tropes but give a fresh angle. Such as an article on why you must not use the tropes.

Binywayna got it. He wrote about what the publishing industry expectations rather than chastise authors for the choices they make. An author herself Akhtar surely knows that most writers take at least a year or two before producing a book and so choose a topic that interests them, Often the topic chooses them.


But do authors really use their ‘brown, otherness’ to get published? Is it fair to say an author stuck Shiva and Lakshmi in a novel, because you know, dem publishers sure do like their Hindu Gods.