Goa Arts And Literature Festival – 2015

I’d dreaded this moment ever since I was invited to be a speaker at
the Goa Arts and Literature Festival a month ago and the fact that I
was a few seconds away from what I was sure was going to be my death
on stage was NOT making me feel any better.
Walking up to address a crowd of students is always bit of a tense
couple of moments for me. Children. They’re hard to please and even
harder to entertain, ESPECIALLY if you’re one yourself.

Here I was at the GALF, 2015, bracing myself for the jeers that I was
sure would follow once the students I was going to address realised
that I was barely fourteen, as old as or even younger than most of
them.

I knew I would’ve done the same if I was sitting in the audience and a
scrawny teen mounted the stage, only to launch into a detailed
description of –wait for it- herself.
“Who does she think she is??” I would’ve mumbled to my friends, who
would have eagerly agreed.

Fortunately, though, the kids I ended up having to talk to were WAY
more mature than my peers and myself. They respected me [or at least
pretended to], attentively listened to what I had to say and even
clapped [rather loudly, I might add] once I was done with my egoistic
ramblings.

Feeling thoroughly relieved, I waded through the audience till I
reached my mother and my little sister sitting right at the back.
Grabbing myself a chair, I settled down and let my mind wander back to
earlier this morning, when I was interviewed by a bunch of
media-aspirants and their college professor, which had been one of the
most professional experiences of my entire life.

Enthusiastic twenty-something’s bustled about with make-up kits and
microphones in hand as Genevieve, a bubbly student who was assigned
with the task of interviewing me, sat me down on an oversized couch in
the centre of the room, powdered my face, snapped a mic onto my collar
and proceeded to ask me hundreds of questions about my “life as a
writer,” covering everything from my blogs to my manuscripts to my
meeting with Ruskin Bond and Chetan Bhagat.

It was all over and done in thirty minutes, but it had been a great
half hour indeed.
I was pulled out of my reverie as the Lows, an interesting couple from
Singapore, began an inspiring presentation on their successful book
series “Sherlock Sam” and what it takes to make it onto the “writing
scene.” An hour and several pointers later, everyone filed out of the
hall with rumbling stomachs and several informative pointers.

My mom, sister and I headed straight to the lunch half and spent the
duration of our meal discussing and planning my next session which was
scheduled for the next afternoon.
With a stuffed stomach and a taste of what to expect, we decided to
call it a day and head back homeward.

The sun’s first rays of the day had barely pierced through the
rippling sky as we drove back to the majestic International Centre,
Panaji, for the third and final day of the Goa Arts and Literature
Festival, 2015.

Our car pulled up in front of the now-familiar reception and I hopped
off, my parents and little sister quickly following suit. I sprinted
past Goan literati and book enthusiasts, all the while keeping an eye
out for the Zuari Hall, which is where I was informed my session was
to take place.

Finally finding it, I burst in and hurriedly introduced myself to my
co-panellists; Pooja Nanisi, an Indo-Singaporean poet and Manasi
Sapre, a Mumbai-based murder-mystery author.

If the two of them were surprised that a measly 14-year-old was going
to be moderating their session on “Finding Your Voice,” they
definitely didn’t let it show. Instead, they let me lead them onto the
stage where we each grabbed a microphone and made ourselves
comfortable on the plush sofa.

The next hour passed pleasantly enough; I stammered not once and got
to learn so much about contemporary poetry, writing from within and
what a literary “voice” really is from Manasi and Pooja as they
expertly answered all of my queries.

Feeling triumphant for some strange reason, I shuffled off the stage
and back into a trance as I recalled the dozens of amazing things that
happened that weekend; I witnessed several phenomenal presentations
[like Pantaleo Fernandes and Subodh Kekar’s] met numerous, inspiring
artists from such different walks of life, moderated an entire
sessions all by myself, interacted with hordes of schoolchildren,
became the youngest speaker at the GALF for the second year in a row,
reunited with so many buddies from last year and just had a complete
BLAST.

Honestly, I CANNOT wait to go back next year.

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Kaleidoscopic Kerala: A Trip To God’s Own Country – Last Day

DAY 5- KOCHI TO GOA: LAST RITES

I remember feeling absolutely DEVASTATED when I woke up that last morning, the thought of boarding a chugging train that would drop us off at the Margao Station [THAT VERY AFTERNOON] haunting me.

After wolfing down a nutritious breakfast and draining several glasses of fresh fruit juice, we lugged our suitcases from our cosy rooms to the bus one last time.

We still had a bit of sight-seeing left to do, though, and that cheered us up a wee bit. First up, the Paradesi Synagogue which displayed the most vibrant tile work; a true sight for sore eyes. [Fun Fact: It also just so happens to be the OLDEST ACTIVE SYNAGOGUE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS. I mean, WOW!!] Next, we toured the Police Museum, taking in as many awe-inspiring relics as we could. We then diligently explored the chaotic Kochi bazaar, bargaining like professionals and bidding “Adieu!!” to the last few bits of our personal cash.

Loaded with antique trinkets and refreshments to snack on, we began our short drive back to the Ernakulam Junction Railway Station, our grins quickly drooping when it finally hit us; we were going home.

To be honest, as we desperately glanced out our cabin windows as the train huffed out of the station, trying to imprint on our minds these last few glances of our beloved Kerala, I was kind of looking forward to seeing my family again. Seeing my dogs again. Seeing my school again. [Believe it or not]

“And, you know, it’s not like we’re NEVER coming back here again,” I comforted myself, sinking into the plush train seats. “There’s always next year. Sorry, Kerala, you can’t get rid of us THAT easily!!”

Kaleidoscopic Kerala: A Trip To God’s Own Country – DAY 4

DAY 4- MUNNAR TO KOCHI: REST AND RELAXATION

After a quick, refreshing breakfast at the grand dining room of the majestic , we set out back to Kochi, anticipating another stomach-churning drive. Thankfully, our guide worked in a mid-way sojourn at a water-sports facility to lessen the impact of the roads and it sure did help!!

A rejuvenating speed-boat ride was EXACTLY what we needed to ward off our impending queasiness. The frigid water that drenched our tees awakened our senses and made us feel alive.

As we were being dropped off from the boats to the jetty, we gathered in one large circle and chatted excitedly about our favorite parts [“DEFINITELY the last curve. I was so close to the water, it felt like I was SWIMMING!!” “No, mine was the long stretch in between. It seemed like we were gliding on the clouds…”]. Before we realized what as happening, we were zooming back towards Kochi, the wind caressing our faces and drying off the last few drops of water.

As we neared the city, us kids finally started to feel the side-effects of four days on non-stop physical activity; i.e, being tired.

So, while the teachers decided to roam around shopping bazaars and feast on mouth-watering roadside chaat, us kids opted out and settled down for a night-in.

Of course, we spent most of the night hogging on crisps and babbling nineteen to the dozen [eventually only turning off the lights at two in the morning- shh… Don’t tell our teachers!!], but it was a night-in just the same.

Kaleidoscopic Kerala: A Trip To God’s Own Country – DAY 3

DAY 3- KOCHI TO MUNNAR: A BUMPY RIDE…

The drive from Kochi to Munnar was the single part of the trip I would rather not relive. Don’t get me wrong; we had TONS of fun during the first leg of the journey- we played 21 questions, blasted and sang to Bollywood hits, pranked each other to glory… We had a BOMB!!

It was the last hour that killed (and I mean that -ALMOST- literally)

During the last few kilometres was when the nausea unexpectedly kicked in and most of us began succumbing to car sickness. In the blink of an eye, our bus transformed from a party-on-wheels to a mobile hospital.

Luckily, about 15 minutes after we checked into the glamorous , we were whisked away by the teachers for a round of chocolate-tasting and boy, did that flush away the frowns or WHAT?!

From cashew-encrusted to bitter almond to treacle-coated, there were more types of chocolate than we knew what to do with!! Using up a big chunk of our allotted pocket money, we splurged on a bunch of sweet delicacies to take back to Goa. Well, at least that was the PLAN. Somehow, most of the treats got -ahem- eaten up on the way. Don’t ask us how!!

As a little surprise, our tour guide let us tag along to watch a FABULOUS martial arts demonstration after our round of choco-feasting and it just about rocked our socks off!! [Including mine, and I’m a black belt!!]

That night, we went to sleep with our sweet teeth indulged and a sudden urge to star in the next Karate Kid movie. In other words, we went to bed feeling EXTREMELY happy 🙂

My Big Solo

The drummer taps his sticks together

A one, a two and a three

The audience silence themselves

As they start listening to me

 

My voice soars above the crowd

Bold, strong and sweet

Before the chorus has begun

The parents are on their feet

 

My face breaks into a smile

As I hear them sing with me

Baby give me one more chance/

Come on set me free!!

 

I end the song in style

Hitting the high note perfectly

“They like me! The like ME!!”

I think, my eyes shining with glee

 

I can’t believe it’s over already

The show is almost done

The Principal is giving a speech

On how the whole thing has been fun

 

And while I completely agree

One hundred percent [and ten!]

I wish I could rewind the day

And play it all again!!

 

Scare on the Beach

As our car neared the scenic Benaulim beach, my heart leaped. I love the  beach. Even if it means getting mouthfuls of salty water. I mean, who cares, right? I’m not an optimist, or anything, its just that I love the beach, and the natural feeling that comes with it. But you know what I love even more? Going to the seashore with Feni! That’s right, today my mom, dad, sis and I were taking Feni along, since she, like me, just loves splashing in the frothy waves.

I jumped out of dad’s Hyundai Tucson and raced my sister to the coast. ‘Yeah!’ I yelled, running about, felling the sand under my feet. ‘This is so much fun!’ My sister screeched, and the both of us jogged to the sparkling blue ocean. Wow! What else could I say? It was so enchanting, so spellbinding. My father, with Feni’s leash wrapped around his palm, dashed of to the water, with Feni on his side. Boy, didn’t she look excited!!

I tore off to splash my legs in the cool, refreshing water, my sister close on my heels. Since I didn’t bring a change of clothes, after a couple of minutes in the Sea, I slowly retreated to the sand. Slumping down, I inscribed my name on the sand. Trikaya, my sister, came running to me in a few seconds. I had spotted a boat nearby. It wasn’t very high, so it would be easy to climb. Tikku (my sis) got some rocks and formed a kind of step, or something, and got on.

As I hoisted myself onto the “deck,” I noticed something move. Curiosity getting the better of me, I lifted a plank of wood that lay on the wooden surface of the little yacht, the plank that had rustled just then. Nothing. I felt a little tingling sensation on my back. ‘What’s up?’ Trikaya asked me. ‘Something… moved.’ I explained. And the her face turned (I swear I am not exaggerating) white. White. And I am not even kidding.

She forced me to investigate further, which I did, since I really did want to find out what it was that caused that sudden movement. I guess time flew, and before we knew it, the Sun was setting, leaving us in a pitch black craft. ‘Um, sis?’ Trikaya asked me. ‘What??’ I asked, obviously irritated. Where was that intruder who dared to scare me? (Okay, I’ll admit it. I did get a bit… frightened. But what do you expect? I mean, I kind of breathe horror novels)

‘Where is mom and dad?’ She asked, nervously turning a lock of her hair. I stood up, and strained my eyes. I couldn’t see them. ‘They’ll come, soon enough. It’s not like they’re going to leave us here, or anything, right? Even though, I’m sure, it must be quite tempting.’ I responded. Giggling, my sister told me that she wanted to get down. ‘Sissy,’ I whispered under my breath. I jumped off and helped her down.

I sprinted to the lifeguard’s hut thingy and picked up my mom’s slippers (we hid it there). So, she hasn’t left the beach (or has she???????).  Scratching my head, I ran a little further, and was surprised that she wasn’t in sight. ‘Can you see her?’ Trikaya asked. ‘Nah. But I bet she’ll come back to us in about five minutes.’ I assured her.

Five minutes later, no mom, and no sign of her either. My sister has already burst into tears and was clinging on to me. ‘What if we get… kidnapped?’ She asked me. Inside, I was laughing my head off. Why was she acting so melodramatic? It’s not like they had left or anything, right? And she had her blue-belt sister right next to her. What was the problem?  ‘I’m sure nothing will happen.’ I said, going a little back to check whether the car was still there.

Five  more minutes later, and still no mom, dad or Feni, and no sign of them either. I have to admit, I started getting a little panicky at this stage. ‘What has happened to them?’ Trikaya asked, tears streaming down her face like a waterfall. ‘I…I don’t know.’ I stammered. What was taking them so long?? What if a wave had… Shooing negative thoughts out of my head, I tried to talk steadily, without stuttering.

We pulled ourselves back to the little boat and sat on the edge. What if something really happened to them??? What if this afternoon was the last time I ever got to see them???? What if…

And then I saw three figures walking along the beach, and it was, by far, the best feeling I have ever experienced.

Helping hands…

Hey! I’m back, with a new blog. And, before I begin, I’d like to remind you that my competition’s drawing real close! It’s day after tomorrow! Please wish me luck…

About the blog, well, a few days ago, I heard that Our Lady (mother Mary) was going to visit our village. It would not have been such a great thing if not for the time span before the next visit, which is twenty-five years! Plus, she’s never come so close to our village. The whole village will be gathering for, as I call it, “The great white wash!” Picking up our rakes, my neighbor and I cleared the place of dried, withering leaves. (I was the youngest helper, till my sis came, which was about an hour after I arrived) Then, my friend’s dad started cutting the weeds of the sidewalks. My mum then marched out the entrance of my house, with icy cold drinks. We served everyone, and they were really thankful. My mom offered me some, but I politely refused, as I hate coke. We worked for a lot more time, till dawn made it’s way to our sun-kissed village. I stared at the orange sky, lost in my thoughts.

It had been suck a beautiful sight, watching the folks of my village collect together and work in unity and peace. I f only the whole country, no…the whole world would follow this!

It had been a wonderful evening, tiring myself out with such jolly, hard working and humorous people. We cracked a ton of jokes, and they DID have the funny bone!

My dad was waiting at the front porch with Feni. I narrated the day’s adventures, and he listened attentively.

My village’s people turned out to be so peaceful and exciting to spend the evening with. Waht about your’s?