Weekend Links

Hello all!

How have you been? I have been good, busy and lost. And resting. I have been 'preserving my energy' like a polar bear does before hibernation.

I got done with my younger sister's wedding a couple of weeks ago (and girl, I had clearly underestimated the work that goes into arranging a wedding!), helped in packing up the house we have lived for almost 10 years and guess what - enrolled in a PhD programme!! Yay for me! Though taking admission is just the beginning, I know. However, it is a dream that I put on hold around 9 years ago and I am very glad I am back on to it. Also, it has been 2 months since I've been away from (pati wala) home and can't wait to get back!!

Anyhow, bringing you back links I'd love you to check out this weekend. Let me know if you enjoyed reading them:

The cutest meet-up story.

Off-beat plant decor tips.

The most important finance lesson.
My heart belongs to this dress!

A brown girl's guide to beauty.

What is your love song

The next time you eat at McDonald's, remember this.

Someone please gift me this book!


Author Interview : Swapnil Pandey

A published author, popular blogger, incredible Army wife and one helluva girl - I am so glad to introduce on the blog today (though she needs no introduction!), Swapnil Pandey, author of the best-selling book ‘Soldier’s Girl : Love Story of a Para-Commando’. Read on to know about her path to become a well-loved writer, what makes fauji wives special and why life in the Army is not for the faint-hearted:

Let us talk about your journey to become a published author.

Blogging turned my world upside down and it all started from there. It was more like a calling and rest all started falling in place after it. Then, having a very interactive and engaged audience base through my already established social media handles helped my cause further. All these lethal combinations of blogging, influencing and writing were destined to push me towards being a published author.

How did you get the idea for the story of this book?

I was blogging since the beginning about the topics that mattered to me. Then Uri attacks happened and it changed everything. The surgical strikes further strengthened my idea and I was able to shape all of it into fiction.

Were there any real life inspiration for the characters of Capt Aakash and Capt Anant?

Well, every author is inspired from his or her surroundings and people around them. So yes, there are always inspirations around but no, these characters are merely fictional.

Let us talk about the support you received from the Defence community towards your book.

The Defense community is a very strong, close-knit community which is very warm too. I got personal messages and congratulations from almost all my fauji friends which I had made over since my blogging days. Then, the fauji wives’ groups are amazing and I have interacted with the admins at personal level. They have all been wonderful. You get instant reactions and so you get to know what is working and what is not. In fact, there have been a few ladies who posted about my books on their Facebook profiles individually, asking people to support me - it touched my heart. So as far as my journey is concerned, I have got a lot of support and love from fauji wives and people from defense communities.

This book has been well-received by the general public as well. How do you feel about that? Do you feel, given the current circumstances, there is a greater curiosity among people about life in the Army?

There has always been curiosity about our lives - the warriors, the lady wives, our lifestyle in our closed cantonments where no civilian can enter. But yes, these days with TV channels like Republic or Times Now or even NDTV the unnecessary debates about Army have acquainted people about armed forces. So it is easier to connect with the masses now. There is no doubt about it.

I feel, a lot of people (including representation in media) only think of being a soldier’s wife as a glamourous affair full of fancy parties and exquisite sarees. However, almost no one sees through the long duration of hardships and loneliness that we go through. What do you have to say about that?

If you ask about my opinion, then, Army wives are just not wives but a league apart. And why not? Who has the courage to raise up kids right in the absence of husbands for years? Who else has the courage to hold those medals which a martyr’s wife receives? Who has the courage to hold their breath and let the love of their lives go away on deadly operations against the militants or even for a blank surgical strike? None except the Army Wives! Yes, not all women are equal, few are born Army wives. And this is not arrogance but reality!

If your book was turned into a movie, which actors/actresses would you like to play the main characters?

Haha! Only you can think of such hilarious questions. Well, I guess the deep, mysterious, romantic, and  tough character of Captain Aakash can be justified only by Shahrukh Khan; Ananya, the lady love of two ferocious warrior who is bubbly, a fashinoista, smart, girl next door can be well played by Alia Bhatt and the grey, yet charming character of Captain Anant can be portrayed perfectly by Akshay Kumar.

You are a popular style & beauty blogger as well. What are your wardrobe staples this season?

Oh, this one is going to be my favorite question. Well, I do have two types of wardrobe - one is for my disciplined fauji wife self and the other is for my fun loving, modern day woman. I actually keep two separated halves for these two sides and it gets really easy to find clothes in a minute. So, there are western clothes when I hang outside the cantonment with no fauji folk around and then there are ethnic wears like sarees, suits or even lehengas for everything fauji.

The staples in western wear this season include:
  • A pair of denim shorts (denims are so in these season)
  • A black LBD (it never goes out of style)
  • A dress flaunting sports luxe (sporty has taken the front seat of fashion this year)
  • A pair of ripped jeans (the coolest thing right now)
  • A cropped top (The 80’s retro are back with a bang and I am loving it)
Then, I do have a lovely pair of white canvas shoes which I wear with everything.
For Ethnic wear staples:

It’s Saree of every variety flaunting different works from different states like Kantha, Kashmiri, Parsi etc. on different fabrics. And then there are vivid salwar suits like A-cut, Anarkali, Churidar and Sharara. In fact, I have a hobby of converting my old sarees into trendy suits. I quite enjoy wearing these. Various stilettos and flat juttis accompany me with these.

And makeup essentials?

The makeup includes Chanel foundation, Clinique moisturizer, Marc Jacobs lipsticks and Revlon nail paints. Apart from these, I use a good quality cleaning milk to wipe out my makeup and dirt and a high performance sunscreen lotion. I don’t leave the house without my perfumes and in summer, I prefer the  Zara summer collection and Bvlgari Omnia Coral.

What would be your advice to girls and real-life fauji girlfriends looking forward to marry into the Army – the good, bad and the ugly?

The Good:
The Prince in shining armor who hardly puts on weight or go bald, chivalry at its best, great support and infrastructure and then you get to play some serious role into shaping the life of your fauji husband and they value you. The cantonments are amazing. You get to travel a lot and experience this life. You also learn to cook and decorate your house really well. The lifestyle and people sometimes feel like coming straight from the Page 3.

The Bad:
Shilpa, Haha! This is a very tricky and highly undiplomatic question and I would like to say that it’s a constant struggle to fit into a setup from one station to other. You may be at rural areas at one time and then you might be at one of the metros adjusting with the fast pace there. It makes you smart but also keeps you under scrutiny and stress all the time.

The Ugly:
The separations, the death rates, sometimes not knowing where the husband is and what is he up to takes its toll. Also, these days, civilians are picking up way too much on armed forces. Any Tom, Dick, Harry would come and say something nasty about the forces, mostly on social media - the kind of people who have no background in the armed forces! They are literally over there to demean the forces. And at the time your husband might be in the field or at some exercise or news of martyred soldiers would float in - you feel really angry. This is really ugly and it should stop.
Also, it is a fact that Army wives have to struggle hard to maintain their full time jobs. You either stay with your husbands or do your multi-national corporate job. Then you are also judged for your choices. It might be tough for a young officer’s wife. You always have to look for alternate options of job which are mostly entrepreneurial in nature.

Any tips for the budding/closet writers within our fraternity?
Blogging is very addictive. In fact, it gets tough choosing between authoring and blogging. I mean creating a world in 1000 words and writing a long story over months has different effects on your creative skill. The social media is the next big thing. You can see all the politicians and movie stars there on social media. It’s a power to reach masses. So be active on social media but please use it constructively to build a community of yours rather than posting your dog or babies or vacation pictures now and then. Haha! In fact, my book could have been possible because of my popular blog. So if you want to get published, it’s very important that you have a blog (doing well) or a great social media presence these days. Many publishers ask for it. Then yes, never compromise with the quality and content of your post. Give your 100% to create a unique post every single time. Thirdly consistency is extremely important.

Thank you so much Swapnil for this interview! 

If you are living on another planet and still haven't bought Swapnil's debut best-selling book 'Soldier's Girl', you can buy it here. To read more of her writing, do follow her blog 'Girl and World'. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Movies That Move You

I watched Spotlight movie today. I have been wanting to see it ever since it was released. And every single frame of it was worth it. 

From a production point of view, it may not be a magnificent movie. But its sole hero was its story - essentially the true story of Boston Globe's investigative piece on child sexual abuse carried out by Roman Catholic priests in Boston over several decades.

It is stories like these that make you realize there is a bigger life out there - beyond your mundane problems, beyond your shopping hauls and sale notifications or traffic jams. 

These stories do not have to be only about serious crimes. Even the Bollywood movies 'Queen' or 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' were good enough in making you re-assess your life.

I remember watching 'Shawshank Redemption' a couple of years ago and being filled with the belief that anything is possible and there is always hope. I remember watching the movie 'Sleepers' as a teenager and not being affected by it for several days, though not in a good way. I remember watching 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' making me feel guilty about stupid problems of my life when people had faced much starker problems in their lives, especially during partition time.

Until last week I had been highly impacted by the tv show '13 Reasons Why' wondering the prevalence of the issues depicted in Indian schools.

Movies, or for that matter TV shows, as a true piece of art have the profound power to change you, or to the least, move you - to think, to question, to act.

Have you watched any such movies that changed your view about life? Inspired you? Scared you? Changed your views on a particular issue 180 degrees?

Share in the comment below.

Weekend Links

Hello ladies! Wha have you been upto lately? I am b.a.c.k in Hyderabad and it is so bloody hot! Dear rain, why you no come soon? In other news, Hyderabad why you so hot? I am sorry, but my mind is just not able to think anything beyond the weather, because honestly - WHY SO HOT?

Anyway, leaving some links here and I hope you enjoy reading! See you next week!

Zee media decides not to cover Indo-Pak cricket match. We need more channels like these!

Laila Tyabji on sarees is the best thing you will read today.

Ancient stepwells of India.

Marriage advice from real couples.

Mystery of the female purse. Hilarious!

On growing up in multi-cultural households.

What a cute storage box!

Image courtesy: Luca Bravo via Unsplash

Modern Marriage : The Biggest Myth About ‘Happily Ever After’

My best friend and my sister are getting married one month apart and it has been a superhectic time for all of us with lots of phone calls, arrangements, analysis and verbal dissections about every small thing related to the event. To summarize what we have been discussing, feeling and thinking, I have started this 5 part series on Modern Marriage, wherein I will upload weekly posts on different aspects of getting married and being married in India in today’s times - from my experiences and observations of the world around me. I do not know everything, but I will write what I know. Hope you enjoy reading this and will answer some of the questions lingering in your mind.

The biggest lie we have forever been fed since our childhood about the concept of ‘Happily Ever After’ was the idea that we were ‘Miserable Ever Before’. I mean look at Cinderella – the poor girl living with her evil step-mother until Prince Charming rescued her. Or closer home, Simran and her similar avatars who had to be pulled out of their miserable existences by a Raj/Rahul/Rohit – you get the hang of it. Every single popular story has a weak, vulnerable, sad woman whose life magically transforms once she meets her Knight in shining armour.

And that is where, most stories of marriage go downhill, right from the word, Go.

The first problem with the whole concept of ‘Happily Ever After’ is the idea that before we met our main man, well, we were poor, sad, little girls in need of a saviour. May be we had had bad relationships, or home front was not great or we had been struggling in our career, whatever it be. And we expect that we would receive the solution for all of our problems in that ‘one guy’ who would, just by his presence in our life, ‘make everything alright’ (too many songs with that phrase, no?). And that is why, when we do indeed meet the one we want to spend the rest of our lives with, we burden him with all of our negative load. We expect him to ‘make us happy’, he has to bring sunshine in our lives and if you are anywhere close to a movies-style romantic (like most of those influenced by popular culture, anyway), you want to ‘see’ his efforts manifest in tangible ways like chocolates, roses, surprises and romantic holidays to exotic locales. And if you do not have social media-worthy experiences, well, the guy isn’t good enough.

Darlings, please understand, marriage is not about finding someone to ‘make you happy’. If you have any kind of problems in your life right now, you are the only hero you need to ‘make it alright’.

I have seen my fair share of failures, sorrows and disappointments in all aspects of life – but when I decided to get married, I was above and beyond all of that. I was in a very peaceful frame of mind when I took the decision to marry and whom to marry. I married when I was sure I wanted to get married, not because I had to or because it was the only way out to paradise. I had faith in myself that whatever problems I had been facing in my life, I did not need a man to solve them, I was good enough on my own. I married my husband because he was an amazing man and I was happy to share my life with him. Hence, when I face challenges in my life now, I do not blame my husband for them or expect him to solve them. Yes, good advice and support is always welcome, but the outcome is not entirely dependent on him. I have to get off my ass and make things going wrong, go right – be it career, home or people.  

So, dear girls, this is what I have to ask you, kindly do humanity the favour:

Do not marry, if you are looking for your man to solve all your problems.
Do not marry him, if you are sad in your life and a man is your only hope.
Do not marry even for the sake of getting married.
Marry because you are happy in your own space and are excited to share a life – the good and bad - with someone you like.
Marry because being married is about being a team. And you want the relationship to be of equals and not of a knight and a damsel in distress.
Marry because you believe in the institution of marriage.

It is ok to not marry, if you don’t.