The Best of Quest: Book Review

Self, writing

When you are reading a book and you are aware that you are reading a book then the book has failed you. That’s my logic of deciding whether or not those printed pages receive special heart space or not. Boring preface aside, excited doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I laid my hands on this book. It’s no secret that I am a geek but a peek into history turns me into a super geek. To say the least, I LOVED it.

Now onto serious matters. The Best of Quest is an anthology of essays, fiction and poetry published in the quarterly magazine Quest which was in circulation in India during the 60s and 70s. Quest was an offspring of the Cultural Congress movement that took birth in Europe and the rest of the world post the cold war with many siblings in US, Africa and Europe. A Jewish Bombayite Nissim Ezekiel being at the helm with editorial responsibilities, the magazine gave the first opportunity to many well known Indian authors of today. With the emergency being declared, Mrs. Gandhi wanted control over what was being printed in the magazine and the stalwarts who wrote for it preferred going out of publication rather than accepting to lose their freedom to write. This tidbit about Quest’s history sets the tone of the book.

The book is an ice-cream sundae experience. It is the optimistic philosophy of a teenager along with the acerbic wittiness of a 30 year old just realizing the realities of life. And no wonder. The Indian democracy was barely in her twenties during the 60s. The entire world was going through a change (That particular decade holds endless fascination for me. From the ideologies to the movies and music and even fashion. If I have a time machine that’s the time I would choose to visit) and the future of a new country lay ahead.

And not every essay may be something you would be interested in. But considered as an entity its a treasure trove. Some of the memorable essays for me were those which dealt with contemporary issues of the time but are as relevant today as then. The dichotomy of Hindu life talks about how Hindus through their ancient history have developed antithetic personality traits like megalomania and insecurity at the same time. Throughout I found myself nodding at the accurately made observations. Use of personality assessment of some of the great political leaders to determine their impact on policies and politics is an immensely interesting read even though the name sounds boring. Comparing popular leaders like Nehru and FDR with the likes of Shastri and Nixon and describing their personalities against the political environment they created was unexpected. And yet educational. Not everything is heavy duty though. Dilip Chitre’s ‘D’ is a tongue-in-cheek brat who has lots to say on Bollywood movies. He discusses the charisma of one Rajesh Khanna and mass hysteria when it comes to good looking movie stars. D makes you laugh by saying things like ‘Dilip Kumar’s screen deaths brought no shock to the audience since he moved and spoke, from the start, as if he were his own pall bearer’. And he is equally nonchalant in discussing sex, equating it to ‘samadhi’. I can only imagine how my grand parents’ faces would have been had they read this at the time. That is the appeal of the writing. Even though written some 40 odd years ago, it’s still relevant and yet not. Plus the English is impeccable. And if you are a sucker for the language you will appreciate the perfect grammar, punctuation and use of words.

Apart from the essays, there is a poetry as well as fiction section. There are some gems there as well. And finally a very unique addition is that of retro looking product adverts of the time to give you the magazine feel.

All in all a five star read and highly recommended as long as you are open for some serious thinking.


I walk alone…

365photos 2011, photography, writing

Give it up for David for writing a beautiful piece of poetry and being kind enough to let me post it here..
I don’t think the photo does much justice to the words.. But this time we went the other way round to find an image in my archives which would resonate with the emotions expressed in his words..

Water flows over
sand escapes beneath
vertigo at the beach as
waves play with my toes
I turn to softly share a chuckle but
I walk alone…

My gaze turns away to the sea
dancing diamonds on the water call to me
watching their rise only to
suddenly hide behind a wave
to peek shyly above while preparing
to fling themselves high on the next
I turn to softly share a chuckle but
I walk alone…

A steady rhythm frees rigidity
as pressure ceases it’s tension chains
waves to draw them out and
hide their tacks in the sand as they are
washed out in cool waters caress with
soft and tender whispers of serenity
I turn to softly share a chuckle but
I walk alone…

Her footsteps whisper in the sand
her fingers furtively entwine
with eyes glistening reflections of full moons
embrace of stars fairy dance
vertigo tugs us gently to pause while
skins goose bumps tingle hello
I turn to softly share a chuckle but
her lips catch it’s airy release

I walk but not alone…

-David Craft

The anticipation of something new..

365photos 2011, musings, writing

And as promised, while I slog away in the corporate world, you get to read the hope filled words of Ayushi who writes breathtaking poetry

When she emailed saying she wanted to write a poem on one of my photos, I was very pleased, not only because she is a great writer but also because she is my very first blog reader (apart from my dear sister) from the days when my stats used to say 0,0,0,1,0,5 in any given week. And I’m glad she has not stopped visiting even after 2 years 🙂
Give it up for her..

There’s this feeling you get
Fleeting, momentary,
But always there
Just before you turn a corner
Just before you cross your doorstep
Just before jump off a cliff
Just before you take that leap of faith
Just before you step into the light
And out of that dark indecisiveness
That was holding you back.

Remember that feeling?
You hold in your breath,
You’re totally still
With a million thoughts running furiously around your head
The anticipation builds,
You slowly summon up the courage
You let out a whoosh of breath
You close your eyes
And then you leap.
Leaving the rest up to fate.

The adrenaline kicks in,
You feel exhilaration
Novelty, curiosity, lightness.
There’s the smell of freedom
All around you.
The sense of having stepped into
Something new.
A new you?
A new life?
A new road?
A new day?
A new home?
A new love?
It is that one feeling
That helps you cross the threshold
And takes you into something new.
It is powerful
And beautiful
And courageous,
This feeling.
It is quite unlike any other.
It is what makes you take that blind leap of faith –
The anticipation of something new.

-Aayushi Mehta

A Different Light..

365photos 2011, writing

Remember a few days ago Charlotte from This path of Lilly’s had written a super awesome guest post out here? Well she is so wonderful that she wrote another post on one more photo of mine.
Check out the beautiful poem 🙂

A different light
cascading through the blinds
filters you
and all in kind

A different light
from the one I once used
giving me
a brand new view

A different light
illuminates the past
the blinded
part of me, at last

A different light
like a new perspective
opens up
and then reflects it

-Charlotte Parr

PS: and again, if anyone of you would like to use my photos as prompts for writing, I would totally love it.
PPS: stay tuned for another super awesome poem from another super awesome blogger friend of mine 😉

Sun Ripples

musings, photography, writing

Remember the other day I had asked if anyone was willing to free write using my photos as prompt? Well Charlotte over at This path of Lilly’s volunteered to write and I’m so happy she did. Because she took this photo, that I took last week on the way home, and changed it into a whole new story with her fantastic perspective! Thank you SO much Charlotte!

Read on..


What are you doing?

Oh, just looking at some pictures my friend in India sent me. I said I’d do a guest post on her blog and she sent three of her photos for me to use as writing prompts. She’s a photographer, by the way.

Ooh…exciting. I had no idea your fame had grown to the level of making guest appearances on others’ blogs.

(Laughing) I’m not famous! She’s one of four people who read my blog. Actually, I’m a little nervous and having a hard time coming up with something to write about. Pressure, ya know?

Oh come on. Since when have you been at a loss for words? (He pokes me in the side, teasingly.)

I laugh and click through the pictures again, waiting for a brilliant idea to hit me.

He watches as I contort my face into each one of my six different versions of ‘thinking face.’

Still nothing.

He rolls onto his side and rests his head on his fist.

Oh wow! From this angle, that picture looks really cool! Overexposed or something.

I tilt my laptop to see what he’s seeing. The contrast has drastically increased, making the trees look as if they’ve been x-rayed and the sun, a defined circle of brightness with several outer rings, each growing darker the farther away from the sun they are.

Oh yeah, I like that. You know what it makes me think of? Ripples in a pond. Like someone tossed a stone into the sky.

See? Now you’re coming up with ideas. That’s my girl.

Yeah but I can’t write about that. Maybe a poem. I wrote a poem once that had to do with dreams and water and ripples…Lady of the Night, that was the title.

He gave me a funny, questioning look.

Lady of the night??

Not like that. A lady of the night is usually used in reference to a street walker, a prostitute. But she does her thing in the darkness of night because it’s a sin, forbidden- looked down on by society. The woman in the poem was similar because what she did at night was to think of someone other than the man she was lying beside.

Oh. So what does that have to do with ripples?

“intrusions upon tranquility
like a stone tossed in a lagoon
breed waking ripples of nostalgia
lapping at my mind”
The dreams she has at night ripple into the day, where they don’t belong. Where they should not be. But because when she chooses to throw the stone into the water at night, she must endure the consequences throughout the day.

I see. That’s why they say to be careful about your thoughts.

I suppose so. It’s like that quote I loved from the movie, Inception. Remember? I had you pause the movie so I could write it down for my collection.
“What’s the most resilient parasite? A bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?
An idea. Resilient…highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed- fully understood- that sticks, right in there somewhere.”

So if the sun was the place the stone, or idea, was tossed and the “rings” radiating outward, lighting up the entire sky are the result of that idea, what the hell was the thought that created the sun and who would have had such an enormous idea?

I think it’s the same cumulative thought or idea by millions of people.

And what would that be, Dear?

Easy. What was my poem really about? What did she dare to dream of at night when it was safe to dream? What was her deepest desire?


Charlotte Parr

PS: If you would like to write similar guest posts, do email me 🙂

Of images and words..

photography, writing

You know IndieInk? The fab set of people who write for composition, not competition? Well they have a writing challenge going on..
And one of the writers Jason, was challenged to use an art submission on the site as inspiration to write. He used the photo (below) of mine to write this:

Please go read..NOW.. simply beautiful word imagery!

I love artists’ brains.