Category Archives: Pop Culture

Pockets of Courage

Inside my pockets, I keep pieces of courage, to reach for when I need them.

See, life has become an unpredictable horizon strewn with landmines called memories. An accidental sighting and unfortunate coincidences. We’re so connected, we’re entrenched seamless and a chance encounter, becomes an obituary. Memory, that unreliable narrator always takes you down in the worst way possible.
Courage answers to many names.

Now confidence is a good, solid coat to wear. It’s rainproof and tempered over the years. I had to put my baggage down when I pulled on the sleeves of my coat of confidence. It serves well in new battles and it doesn’t snag on bumps. But memory is a rusty blade tipped in acid. It leaves holes where it touches my confidence coat. The horrors past left seeds of themselves inside me and they rise up in response, in goosebumps under my skin. I lost my baggage but I couldn’t cut out all the poisoned parts of me.

So I keep shots of breath within easy reach. Chewing gum, lip balm, an old worn hanky. Remember to chew, remember to moisturize, remember to breathe. Swallow every fear, dam every allergy.

But women’s clothing has so few pockets. So I find other ways to hoard courage.

I paint over the skidmarks that betrayal left behind, in ink and tattoos. A penned star between the webs of my fingers. So when I walk through somewhere that calls out old memory-monsters, the inked star whispers a reminder of everything that came after. Ink stands sentry keeping new demons from allying with the old.

Bravado carries my stage fright up here and fidgets it into paper planes. And when I run short, inside a pocket, a little piece of magic, a lucky pebble kissed with hope.

Sometimes I can make a truce with memory and it lets me take pieces to call my own. A silver chain, a birthday gift, a memory to remember love, kindness and laughter. Nostalgia can also bear courage’s name.

All my nooks and crevices, my clothes, mind and dimples are packed with hoarded pieces of courage, fortifying and protecting me. I manage my pockets of courage carefully.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I’m wearing a cotton newsprint saree in a nivi drape with a red tank top, a denim bolero jacket and red sneakers. Accessories are steel – a chunky band bracelet, steel watch and etched leaves on a chain to add just a touch of shine from under the jacket. The pallu over rather than under the jacket prevents ‘the tail effect’ but needs a little more effort if you want to take off the jacket in public. I wore this to an informal business meeting at a restaurant.

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POCKETS OF COURAGE Inside my pockets, I keep pieces of courage, to reach for when I need them. See, life has become an unpredictable horizon strewn with landmines called memories. An accidental sighting and unfortunate coincidences. We’re so connected, we’re entrenched seamless and a chance encounter, becomes an obituary. Memory, that unreliable narrator always takes you down in the worst way possible. Courage answers to many names. Now confidence is a good, solid coat to wear. It’s rainproof and tempered over the years. I had to put my baggage down when I pulled on the sleeves of my coat of confidence. It serves well in new battles and it doesn’t snag on bumps. But memory is a rusty blade tipped in acid. It leaves holes where it touches my confidence coat. The horrors past left seeds of themselves inside me and they rise up in response, in goosebumps under my skin. I lost my baggage but I couldn’t cut out all the poisoned parts of me. So I keep shots of breath within easy reach. Chewing gum, lip balm, an old worn hanky. Remember to chew, remember to moisturize, remember to breathe. Swallow every fear, dam every allergy. But women’s clothing has so few pockets. So I find other ways to hoard courage. I paint over the skidmarks that betrayal left behind, in ink and tattoos. A penned star between the webs of my fingers. So when I walk through somewhere that calls out old memory-monsters, the inked star whispers a reminder of everything that came after. Ink stands sentry keeping new demons from allying with the old. Bravado carries my stage fright up here and fidgets it into paper planes. And when I run short, inside a pocket, a little piece of magic, a lucky pebble kissed with hope. Sometimes I can make a truce with memory and it lets me take pieces to call my own. A silver chain, a birthday gift, a memory to remember love, kindness and laughter. Nostalgia can also bear courage’s name. All my nooks and crevices, my clothes, mind and dimples are packed with hoarded pieces of courage, fortifying and protecting me. I manage my pockets of courage carefully. 🎶: JULY PEOPLE – @ground.control.toons #theideasmithy #courage #memory #nostalgia #sareestyle

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I Wear: Saree Sisterhood

I reconnected with a woman I knew very slightly years ago. At the time, I assumed she was snooty (and so many unflattering things we’re taught to think about ourselves and other women instead of acknowledging strength). When a wave of stories about men’s atrocities began coming out a couple of years ago, she and I found ourselves shoulder to shoulder and talking. And we also discovered a mutual love of sarees, especially when personalised to our contemporary lifestyles.

This is from the day we decided to meet, a breakfast date and both in sarees, as agreed. I had bought this gorgeous saree online, a combination of two different fabrics and art styles – one with threadwork and the other with block print. I also managed to get a bespoke blouse featuring the cutting edge of saree fashion – gigot sleeves. I teamed these with my tan doc marten boots, light cane earrings from Shanti Niketan (a gift from a blogger galpal), lac bangles (gift from the wonderful Sadaf), a terracotta necklace (gift from mum) and a men’s wood watch. My look turned out to be a celebration of female solidarity which I thought was fitting for the occasion.

What a beautiful picture Ray shot! It was a truly delightful day. 😊

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I Wear: A Bengal Summer

I’ve been waiting all winter for the hot, sunny days to return because that’s what feels most natural to me. It may have something to do with the fact that I can breathe better in warm weather, can swim (which always keeps my mind & body healthy) and don’t have to struggle with fabric allergies along with usual food and respiratory allergies. It’s COTTON SEASON again!

The saree is a Bengal cotton handloom, of the kind of delicate lightness only that state knows how to craft. I thought it deserved the traditional drape as well. Accessorised with wooden earrings & bangles. I hope I can also borrow the badass attitude from my Bong sisters.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: My Tribe Identity

About 10 days ago, I returned to the site of an early trauma. I was doing this because I thought it was the only way to reconstruct my narrative (in simple words, create a new habit of how I responded to attack). It was an unnerving experience, with bullying, ganging up and slut-shaming (for my saree-wearing). But this time I was able to discern how it came from people’s limited ways to express themselves & relate to each other. I was able to walk away rather than internalise the hate piled on me as I used to, when these people last knew me.

That doesn’t mean the burns didn’t sting for awhile. Over a week later, I found myself thinking more than I have in recent times about whether I should wear a saree or not, considering the level of hate it attracted in that week. I finally went ahead with it, albeit very nervously, my delay making me late for the writers’ event I went to, with Ms.Shanta Gokhale.

I’m glad I did, anyway because it was a reminder of where I find my true tribe, my identity and my home. It’s with other people who love words and stories. It’s other women who persist in the face of gendered aggression, but in steady, non-combative ways. And it’s with people whose lives are filled with purpose, rather than self-loathing and misplaced hatred (which is what all bullying is).

This is what I wore. Mom called it ‘a freedom fighter look’ which made me . Later in the evening, a reader commented “Aren’t you one though? You are always ready to fight for our rights as humans.” Another person in an unrelated conversation on the same day, called me one of the most empathetic people on Twitter. Both of them were balm for my emotional bruises and they helped me articulate why I like sarees. It’s because the saree expresses the feminine and the individualistic with strength and without aggression. It feels right so it sits right.

#IWear: South cotton ikat saree with a cotton peasant blouse & obi belt. The necklace is a 25 year old minakari set that wasn’t very expensive even back then.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

A Song Of Silence

What does loneliness sound like? 
A scream that no one seems to hear. Gasps that don’t make it past the throat. Sentences written in invisible ink. The redacted words on a page.

It’s feeling unwanted, unnecessary, irrelevent even. Then you remember. You still exist. The print under the graffiti, the face under the veil, the writing on discarded applications. The breaths you leave behind in desolate corridors hang in there, unobliterated. Loneliness can sound an awful lot like peace then.

Who are you when the screams die down, when the words fade? Maybe we are all lonely.

I found my insides erupt in rapture, during conversations about maths, punctuated with memories of every mood. And through everything a steady beat, because what else is mathematics but the joy of patterns, the collective staccato of beating hearts? Rhythm reminds you of the notes you only pretend don’t exist but you hear them in your head anyway. Always.

Afterwards, I walked in silence by myself, briefly entering conversations of eyes and lips while crossing roads and running an errand. Still on beat. The shrill taps leading the unheard booms.

Later, I read a book sitting in a bookshop. Periodically I’d look up, watching other people like myself, readers moving through bookshelves, each in a dance of their own thought streams. These were the skipped beats, the pauses that make up melody as much as the notes. 
The romance of this, is what drives musicians and writers to wax eloquent. It is the null state of mathematics, the shunyata of meditation.

Loneliness is its own song, when you learn to hear it.

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A SONG OF SILENCE What does loneliness sound like? A scream that no one seems to hear. Gasps that don't make it past the throat. Sentences written in invisible ink. The redacted words on a page. It's feeling unwanted, unnecessary, irrelevent even. Then you remember. You still exist. The print under the graffiti, the face under the veil, the writing on discarded applications. The breaths you leave behind in desolate corridors hang in there, unobliterated. Loneliness can sound an awful lot like peace then. Who are you when the screams die down, when the words fade? Maybe we are all lonely. I found my insides erupt in rapture, during conversations about maths, punctuated with memories of every mood. And through everything a steady beat, because what else is mathematics but the joy of patterns, the collective staccato of beating hearts? Rhythm reminds you of the notes you only pretend don't exist but you hear them in your head anyway. Always. Afterwards, I walked in silence by myself, briefly entering conversations of eyes and lips while crossing roads and running an errand. Still on beat. The shrill taps leading the unheard booms. Later, I read a book sitting in a bookshop. Periodically I'd look up, watching other people like myself, readers moving through bookshelves, each in a dance of their own thought streams. These were the skipped beats, the pauses that make up melody as much as the notes. The romance of this, is what drives musicians and writers to wax eloquent. It is the null state of mathematics, the shunyata of meditation. Loneliness is its own song, when you learn to hear it. 🎶: SOUND OF SILENCE – Simon & Garfunkel #theideasmithy #silence #loneliness #lonely #alone #aloneness #lonelynights #lonesome #peace #peaceful #peaceofmind #maths #mathematics #conversations #meditation #solitude

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Where I Lay My Hands, Is Home

Much gets said about the frenzied pace of a metropolis and its coldness. But every big city is an organism of parallel layers, bubbles even, that jostle along, seemingly oblivious to the others’ presence. My city is Tinsel Town, it’s the financial capital, it’s the safest city, it’s a port, a tropical island, an organised crime base, a place starved for time and space and a mental border between South and North India. I inhabit a few of these bubbles and only occasionally, with great effort, do I cross over to the others. Because they are all Mumbai and anything that is Mumbai is mine to witness, to touch and experience and love.

In 2009, the BMC, Mumbai’s civic body invited citizens to come paint the walls of an arterial road abutting the railway track. I jumped at the opportunity to splash paint and spend a day on the streets. A lot of friendships were made that day that we spent whitewashing, priming and rendering street art on the rough wall of Tulsi Pipe Road.

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WHERE I LAY MY HANDS, IS HOME Much gets said about the frenzied pace of a metropolis and its coldness. But every big city is an organism of parallel layers, bubbles even, that jostle along, seemingly oblivious to the others' presence. My city is Tinsel Town, it's the financial capital, it's the safest city, it's a port, a tropical island, an organised crime base, a place starved for time and space and a mental border between South and North India. I inhabit a few of these bubbles and only occasionally, with great effort, do I cross over to the others. Because they are all Mumbai and anything that is Mumbai is mine to witness, to touch and experience and love. In 2009, the BMC, Mumbai's civic body invited citizens to come paint the walls of an arterial road abutting the railway track. I jumped at the opportunity to splash paint and spend a day on the streets. A lot of friendships were made that day that we spent whitewashing, priming and rendering street art on the rough wall of Tulsi Pipe Road. The paint has since worn away and been covered and recovered with other such wall projects. The pavement dwellers who were displaced for this day of fun for the more affluent, have eked out their homes again too. Bollywood posters come up now and then and in the past year, election campaigns as well. The city grows and breathes with every newcomer here. I just got to lay my handprint on it for a day. Even if it lies buried under layers of others, the city and I communed that day in September. 📷: @wanderblah 🎶: MA REWA – Indian Ocean #theideasmithy

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The paint has since worn away and been covered and recovered with other such wall projects. The pavement dwellers who were displaced for this day of fun for the more affluent, have eked out their homes again too. Bollywood posters come up now and then and in the past year, election campaigns as well.

The city grows and breathes with every newcomer here. I just got to lay my handprint on it for a day. Even if it lies buried under layers of others, the city and I communed that day in September.

Featured image picture credit: Shirley Dcosta

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Angry Girl Of Indie Rock Persuasion

I was fascinated by the saree as a child. Unfettered by stitches, lacking the artifice of buttons, a saree was freedom.

I’ve struggled with gender boxes my whole life. Every damn thing, a fucking war. Short hair. Tattoos. Red clothes. Short clothes. Boots, not sandals. Science projects. Marketing jobs. An analytical mind. Single status. Silver, not gold. Diamonds I paid for. Sci-fi. A love of graphic novels. English poetry. Silent performance. A business. A band. A breakup. A failed engagement. Boundaries. These became my trophies.

Warriors don’t wear shyness, they wear war paint. I RAGE, oh how I rage. I rage with the eloquence of Alanis Morissette. I rage in the shriek of Gwen Stefani. I rage with the mellow harshness of Tracy Chapman. I rage in all the ways of women who refuse to be pretty.

But sarees, these speak of modesty, of tradition, of maternal memories, none of which identify me. I’ve struggled to find my self in a saree. Should a love of this garment mean I trade in my warrior card? Must I pay for the respect accorded to a saree with my right to rage?

How do I not lose the essential me in the drapes? How do I keep a palluv from stifling my scream? How can my inner supernova burn through the folds? How do I keep my steel from drowning in cotton? Always a war. 
I found my saree self in the bitter eloquent long locks of Alanis Morissette, the dark chocolate wrath of Tracy Chapman and Gwen Stefani saying don’t speak in red lipstick.

My colours are clashing screams. My patterns are silent drama. My folds are parodies of shame. This is who I am, in a saree, in a dress, on stage, on screen, on a page, in relationships, in my sleep. It looks like in the next second, I’m going to turn & run sat you so you want to get out of the way real quick. You won’t want to be caught in the fire gaze of those eyes. Someone called this a superhero pose. I’ll name it Angry Girl of the Indie Rock Persuasion. I wear the label, it doesn’t wear me.

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ANGRY GIRL OF THE INDIE ROCK PERSUASION I was fascinated by the saree as a child. Unfettered by stitches, lacking the artifice of buttons, a saree was freedom. I've struggled with gender boxes my whole life. Every damn thing, a fucking war. Short hair. Tattoos. Red clothes. Short clothes. Boots, not sandals. Science projects. Marketing jobs. An analytical mind. Single status. Silver, not gold. Diamonds I paid for. Sci-fi. A love of graphic novels. English poetry. Silent performance. A business. A band. A breakup. A failed engagement. Boundaries. These became my trophies. Warriors don't wear shyness, they wear war paint. I RAGE, oh how I rage. I rage with the eloquence of Alanis Morissette. I rage in the shriek of Gwen Stefani. I rage with the mellow harshness of Tracy Chapman. I rage in all the ways of women who refuse to be pretty. But sarees, these speak of modesty, of tradition, of maternal memories, none of which identify me. I've struggled to find my self in a saree. Should a love of this garment mean I trade in my warrior card? Must I pay for the respect accorded to a saree with my right to rage? How do I not lose the essential me in the drapes? How do I keep a palluv from stifling my scream? How can my inner supernova burn through the folds? How do I keep my steel from drowning in cotton? Always a war. I found my saree self in the bitter eloquent long locks of Alanis Morissette, the dark chocolate wrath of Tracy Chapman and Gwen Stefani saying don't speak in red lipstick. My colours are clashing screams. My patterns are silent drama. My folds are parodies of shame. This is who I am, in a saree, in a dress, on stage, on screen, on a page, in relationships, in my sleep. It looks like in the next second, I'm going to turn & run sat you so you want to get out of the way real quick. You won't want to be caught in the fire gaze of those eyes. Someone called this a superhero pose. I'll name it Angry Girl of the Indie Rock Persuasion. I wear the label, it doesn't wear me. ———————————————————————————– 🎶: BITCH – Meredith Brooks #theideasmithy

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

A Nice Place To Visit

What if we were all places instead of people? Towering construction. Sweeping grasslands. A rabbit hole. A pothole. A wrought iron staircase. A treehouse. The ground floor of a building under redevelopment plans. A library. A cell for illegal aliens. The verandah of a brothel. A nursery. The last window of a factory floor. A town square. The green room of a fading star. A shop.

Aren’t we all places already? We are worlds unto ourselves with gates & doors called identity. Know me and gain entry.

Some of us are plush, luxuriant drawing rooms that invite guests to sink in and never leave. Some are spider webs, some carpets, some thresholds. Someone is a transit point on public transport, bright, always impersonal, always busy. Somebody is a bus-stop in the rain, holding both promise and fear. There’s always a person who is the most comfortable spot under a tree, perfect at a particular time and one season. And there’s the one who is your favourite spot on a threadbare sofa with creaking hinges, whose prods & pokes spell comfortable familiarity. One person is an amusement park and another is a discotheque – one lively in the day, another at night and each full of gloomy foreboding at other times. There are even those who are museums, furniture shops, antique stores.

And what else are those we envy but places we look at in a glossy brochure, wishing we were there? Ah, but they tell us, you wouldn’t want to live here.

What is the place that you are? And is it your favourite spot in the world

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A NICE PLACE TO VISIT What if we were all places instead of people? Towering construction. Sweeping grasslands. A rabbit hole. A pothole. A wrought iron staircase. A treehouse. The ground floor of a building under redevelopment plans. A library. A cell for illegal aliens. The verandah of a brothel. A nursery. The last window of a factory floor. A town square. The green room of a fading star. A shop. Aren't we all places already? We are worlds unto ourselves with gates & doors called identity. Know me and gain entry. Some of us are plush, luxuriant drawing rooms that invite guests to sink in and never leave. Some are spider webs, some carpets, some thresholds. Someone is a transit point on public transport, bright, always impersonal, always busy. Somebody is a bus-stop in the rain, holding both promise and fear. There's always a person who is the most comfortable spot under a tree, perfect at a particular time and one season. And there's the one who is your favourite spot on a threadbare sofa with creaking hinges, whose prods & pokes spell comfortable familiarity. One person is an amusement park and another is a discotheque – one lively in the day, another at night and each full of gloomy foreboding at other times. There are even those who are museums, furniture shops, antique stores. And what else are those we envy but places we look at in a glossy brochure, wishing we were there? Ah, but they tell us, you wouldn't want to live here. What is the place that you are? And is it your favourite spot in the world? Location: Opening set of #GuardsAtTheTaj by @dan.husain, @vrajesh_hirjee & #JoyFernandes #theideasmithy #place #architecture #setdesign #space #location #people  #relationships #stage #favoriteplace #safespace #myplace #myplaces #places_wow #architectural #architects #architect #architecture_greatshots #architecturelovers #beautifulspaces #beautifulplaces #beautifulplace #gate #gates #selfcare #healing

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.


Storytellers On The Streets – Musicians & Me

Gully Boy was rife with triggers for me. For one, it’s about a rapper and everything that starts with rap will always remind me of the person who changed my life when he walked (rapped?) his way into it in 2010. At a less intense but still supporting-the-triggers way, the story is based on the lives of people I have seen in their early days, within the context of the same person.

I knew these would happen which is probably why I steered clear of the massive hooplah around the film before its release. The strength of my defence mechanisms is so powerful, I even fell asleep right in the middle of an afternoon with friends because one of them was singing a song from the film non-stop. But yesterday, Manisha said it was such a good film that she’d want to watch it again and I heard emotion in her voice when she said “So many layers, so many thoughts in that slum kid’s head.” Given she knows just how deep my wounds run, it felt like the movie might still carry an experience over and above those. So today, I watched the film.

I had to step out to breathe and wash my face in the intermission, it felt like so many narrow brushes with darkness. But somehow they didn’t linger. Maybe it’s the place I am in, in my own head or maybe it’s that the movie manages a light touch with things that move me but don’t cut me.

<spoiler alert> About a third into the movie, I felt my breath catch as I began to hate Ranveer’s character with disproportionate rage. The cheating, the lying, the injustice of his greedy ambition overshadowing and nullifying all things that supported him, just because he didn’t have to care anymore. I lived through that story. I saw the face of a monster in the man I loved, when I realised that he really truly, didn’t care what happened to anyone else as long as he got what he wanted. That really was the only real trigger. I had been wondering how I would fare on my assignment to myself this week to work on forgiveness, especially after this. Luckily, the story saved itself and its characters. And it brought me to an insight.<end spoiler alert>

The man I was with, possibly didn’t hate me at first. But he enjoyed the story of his life as he had constructed it (so much pain, woe is me, much much anger, rage and burn and kill the world, tortured artist etc.). And he hated that I did not fit into that. He tried his best to by positing me to his friends as a clingy, manipulative, jealous girlfriend. He even convinced my friends to join him in steadily taunting me about being ‘high maintenance’. But those were shallow narratives as best, as person after person would meet me or discover that they knew me from my blogs or elsewhere and see a mismatch. A well-adjusted relationship didn’t fit his story of Misunderstood Tortured Soul and a feminist would and did call out his constant wokebro homophobia and misogyny which had to be inconvenient at least. How ironic that I know some of these terms because of him but not really considering he also took perverse pleasure in introducing me to the concept of gaslighting with the statement “It’s what I do to  you”.

I’m suddenly realising that this may not have all been planned and constructed as I’d envisioned. He’s not as smart as that. This kind of machiavellian thought requires thinking about other people, their motivations and weaknesses in the kind of depth that he lacks. I think some people build their stories and they are very attached to them. Maybe they deserve the right to hold on to their stories. And anyone attempting to change those must expect very primal (and in the case of the monster, poisonous) attack.

It’s easier for me to see this in the light of everything I’ve been experiencing since mid-December, with someone else. He reminds me of my ex. But he is not my ex and sometimes I have trouble remembering that. I am stuck in my own story as well. But when I’m able to lift my head above that confusion, I can see there’s enough in common and one of the similarities is this. He also believes passionately in the story of his life (and it’s not a dissimilar one). While his reactions to me haven’t been as violent, parasitic or unreasonable, there is the fact that he is about a decade older than the monster was, when I first met him. It’s just possible that he’s not a monster (though my story traps me into seeing that as a ‘maybe’ at best). But the story stands between him and me. And I have no business rattling those bars.

Maybe it is enough to have beautiful albeit aborted episodes of magic. There is one in the film and that was moving too.

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Once I wrote that being a storyteller was my saving grace since it meant I could edit my narrative of life. But there are different kinds of stories and different sorts of storytellers. Some find solace in the rigidity of their stories while some like me, find wings in their fluidity. No one is to say one storyteller is better than another.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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