The Sahnis in Lockdown: A Short Story

the sahnis in lockdown_ a short story

Brigadier Baljit Singh Sahni paced the length of his living room as part of his daily exercise routine. At 70, this retired army officer was fitter than most young men, owing to his military training.

As he walked, he ruminated on the latest border scuffles between the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh. With his expertise of warfare and knowledge of diplomacy, he was worried about the recent turn of events where twenty Indian jawans had lost their lives. The situation seemed to be spiralling out of control, and the institutional mishandling of it upset him.

“Don’t stress yourself so much, please. Everything will be fine”, his wife Rosie, who was playing solitaire nearby, cut into his reverie. Having been married for 45 years, the Sahnis had developed the ability to sense each other’s moods, and she could tell her husband was worried about what he had read in the paper this morning.

The Brigadier opened his mouth to respond, when he was disrupted by his daughter’s yelling, “Mummy! There’s no water again!!”.

Without batting an eyelid, Rosie replied, “Kimmy, if you bathed at a normal hour as opposed to the middle of the day, you wouldn’t face this problem.”

“That’s so unfair, mum! You know I have to stay up late for meetings on Vancouver time. How can you expect me to be up early, so the tank doesn’t run out of water?!”, Kimmy retaliated, referring to the water management system installed in her parents’ army-commissioned Defence Colony home.

Shaking her head, Rosie gestured to her husband to turn the pump on in the basement, so their daughter could bathe.

Once the domestic crisis was sorted, she resumed her game of cards, and reflected on the strange situation her family had been living through the last three months.

As the deadly coronavirus pandemic spread swiftly through the world, the Sahni children settled in Canada, had begun worrying about their parents alone in Delhi. Without consulting them, it was concluded that one of the children needed to be close at hand, in case something went wrong.

Their youngest and as yet unmarried daughter Kimmy, still the baby of the family at 34, had volunteered to return to Delhi and move in with her parents in early March of 2020.

At first, this decision was met with resistance by her proud patriarch of a husband, who didn’t believe he needed any help taking care of himself and his wife. However, it didn’t take much to convince him, as sweet little Kim had always been his weakness.

Rosie recalled the numerous scrapes he had gotten his daughter out of, the copious sums of money generously gifted to her from time-to-time, and the fact that she was the only one who never suffered his quick temper. Kimmy was definitely the most spoilt of the three children. Ostensibly she was in Delhi to take care of them, but in reality, she was the one being pampered and waited on hand and foot, all thanks to the Brigadier.

“How’s the game coming along, Rosie? Any luck beating your last score?”, her husband asked as he returned to the living room and settled into his favourite lounge chair. The household chore seemed to have distracted him from his bleak thoughts.

“Yes, the game is on track. You better watch out- I’ll beat your score next!”, she joked lovingly. They had nurtured a friendly card game rivalry throughout their marriage, and were particularly enjoying it during the three-month government enforced lockdown. After all, there’s only so much Netflix they could watch as a family. Their evening game of cards had become a much-enjoyed ritual and their daughter had gladly joined in.

When Kimmy first arrived, Delhi was a safe zone with only one confirmed case of the virus. She had breezed through customs with a basic temperature check and signature on a medical form. Now, with nearly 45,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, Delhi was officially a hotbed of the disease.

Kimmy had been the last of the Sahni siblings to move to the promised land, reluctant to begin a new life in a new place without the safe haven of her parents’ protection. Finally, a horrid heartbreak at age 24 had convinced her that Delhi’s suffocating society was not conducive to her creative and wild spirit. It was her father who encouraged her to forget the pain she had experienced and move on to greener pastures abroad.

Writing had provided solace from a young age, when she would fill her ‘lock-and-key’ journals with stories of fairies and elves. By 2020, she had three self-published novels to her name and was a runaway success in the indie fantasy-fiction genre. Yet, there was a long way to go before her novels could sustain her lifestyle. Freelance content writing was an easy side-hustle that paid the bills and allowed her enough time to pursue her creative passion.

As a freelancer, she could work from anywhere in the world. So, she had given up the lease to her beautiful sea-front apartment in Vancouver, unsure when she would return.

Fresh from the shower, with her hair still wet, Kimmy wedged herself on the sofa next to her mother.

“So, what’s happening in the world today, Daddy?”, she asked. Though she loved reading, she had never enjoyed reading the news. Her father often chided her for a lack of general knowledge and awareness of current events.

“It gets more depressing every day, Kim”, he replied in a monotone. Coming from her personal hero, this response surprised Kimmy.

“What’s happened now? Is everyone still going on about that poor actor who killed himself?”, she asked.

“No beta, I’m worried about the skirmishes on the LAC that our jawans have had with China. 20 of our men have lost their lives, including a Colonel! It’s shocking that it was allowed to get to this point. Such terrible timing too- the pandemic is wreaking havoc in our country, our economy is in shambles, and I worry that we’re not prepared for combat at this stage.”

The Brigadier was just warming up to his favourite subject, when his wife cut in, “arre, why you scaring her? Let’s be as positive as we can! Diplomatic intervention may improve the situation before it escalates further.”

“I hope you’re right, my dear. Our Prime Minister is under pressure to respond strictly but the Chinese have better weaponry than us. All we have is a strong sense of patriotism. Let’s hope he keeps his head on his shoulders, though his recent policy decisions have been rather questionable”, he responded.

“All governments are maha-villains according to me!” his daughter chimed in with her accented English, making the Brigadier smile.

“Just like your dragon-riding villains, yes?!”, the Brigadier teased her about her fantasy-fiction novels often, but he had been her most unflinching supporter from the beginning. He lent her the money to self-publish when three prestigious publishers rejected her first novel, and he was her first willing reader and editor, despite no interest in the genre.

“No Dad, they’re much worse! My villains are fictional, but most governments harm millions of innocent people with their wayward and often egotistical decisions! Just look at the protests happening in America against systemic racism, the unreasonable lockdowns in China and India, which affected the poor migrants so badly… I can go on and on”, she harrumphed.

“Well, not all leaders are bad… Trudeau’s pretty ok”, her mum added with a wink, alluding to the Canadian Prime Minister’s boyish good looks. “Enough with the heavy talk, who’s ready for lunch?”, Rosie posed the question proceeding towards the kitchen.

“I’m ravenous! What’s on the menu today mum?!”, Kimmy asked, standing up to help her.

The Brigadier couldn’t help smiling, as he followed his women. This year had been tough on many accounts, but they were fortunate to be healthy and able to spend time with each other and their lovely daughter. She had never allowed them to reflect on their old–age which made them easy targets for the virus, nor the lack of productivity. As their friends and neighbours succumbed to the disease, her chirpy presence had kept their spirits up. When the entire world seemed to be burning one way or another, she had made him realise the only thing that mattered was family.

The Brigadier was not one to display outward affection, but he couldn’t help planting a quick kiss on his daughter’s forehead. Kimmy gave him a look of utter surprise and asked, “are you ok, dad?!”. He responded with a big smile, “I’ve never been better.”

_______________________________________________________________

This short story is dedicated to my father, Hardeep Singh Anand, for Father’s Day 2020. Just like the Brigadier, my dad has always been the first reader and editor of every important piece I have written, and will always be my personal hero. Love you dad.

_______________________________________________________________

The Sahni family appears in numerous short stories on my blog. You can read the earlier stories here- “Seven Decades of Greatness” and “The Turmoil Within”.

The Sahnis in Lockdown

The theme for this blog train is ‘The Pandemic that Changed our Life’. I had intended to share a glimpse of everyday happenings during the coronavirus lockdown imposed in India, but the story was influenced by the prevalent political and social atmosphere of the day. You may not agree with my political sensibilities, but please respect my views as I respect yours. If you enjoyed this story, please share it ahead with others that may enjoy it too.

________________________________________________________________________________

I’d like to thank to Ghazala Naseem from http://www.indianbeautyblooms.com/ for introducing me in this blog train. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to talented blogger Paresh Godhwani from http://pareshg.com/. Please visit their blogs to read their wonderful posts.

The Blog train ‘THE PANDEMIC THAT CHANGED OUR LIFE UPSIDE DOWN’ has been initiated by blogger Ila Varma to bring bloggers together to share numerous experiences of #pandemiclockdown2020.

banner

________________________________________________________________________________

*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action. 

Advertisements

The Range of Romantic Relationships in Lockdown #AtoZChallenge

nooranandchawla.com

I recently received a Whatsapp forward highlighting the difference between everyone’s experiences during this forced lockdown:

“I heard that we are all in the same boat,

but it’s not like that.

We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.”

There is tremendous variety in the reactions of people to this lockdown, which ties in with a recurring thought I’ve had over the last few weeks. I feel the varied circumstances that people are in, define their personal experience of this period.

One way to examine this hypothesis is through the numerous types of romantic relationships, which I’ll summarise here:

  1. NEW LOVERS:

My brother met his girlfriend seven months ago and they fell hard and fast in love. This forced lockdown came at the worst time for them and other couples in their position, who are still in the midst of the first flush. A forced separation during the best time of a relationship has the potential to wreak havoc, but they’re holding on because of their strong intent to do so. They speak to each other every day, play online games together, watch movies at the same time, and are planning to take an online course together; hence, being together in spirit, if not form.

My cousin, who currently lives in Ireland, has been dating her boyfriend for 9-10 months. Their story is different, because lockdown in the western countries is not like the one in India. We shudder to leave our homes even for groceries for fear of the virus and the authorities, but most other countries treat lockdown as a simple advisory to stay home. Public spaces, services and offices are closed but people are allowed to move out of their homes while exercising caution. Away from her family in Delhi, my cousin’s Irish boyfriend has become her family there. She sends us pictures of teaching him to cook chappatis, which make me happy to know she’s not alone at this time.

  1. REDISCOVERED LOVERS:

This category refers to couples that have been married for at least a few or many years. They have been settled in a regular life rhythm for years, but seem to have rediscovered/rekindled their initial passion during this forced containment.

For example, my husband and I are spending quality time with each other for the first time in months. And since it’s on a daily basis, it feels like a honeymoon of sorts! Don’t get me wrong, the love has always been there, but over the years our favoured habits as a couple got overlooked because of work, parenting and the general drudgery of life.

These days we exercise together, talk for hours on end, watch TV/movies together, sleep and wake up around the same time, eat every meal together, among other things…! There are days when we argue and bicker too, but we resolve these arguments quickly and easily, as we’re generally feeling happier and more romantic.

This is not just the case with me, other friends have told me they have begun to appreciate their husbands, as they’re chipping in with house work during this tough time, or connecting through more open and unhurried conversations.

  1. NEWLY-MARRIED LOVERS:

This category falls somewhere in the middle of the other two. I have a couple of friends who recently married their partners, after dating them for years. Their relationships don’t classify as new ones, but they’ve certainly entered a new phase of life. I think this scenario may play out in two different ways.

The lockdown could be an extended honeymoon with the couple discovering each other and learning to share their space and their lives, or they could be fighting a lot because they’re not used to sharing that space! The verdict’s out on this one for now.

  1. SEASONED LOVERS:

This category is for people of my parent’s generation, or older. They have lived together for years and years, which means their rhythms are already in sync, but now they must find a new mutual rhythm altered to their circumstances. They cook, clean, discover new TV shows, read and play cards together- perhaps a glimpse of retired life?

  1. SOMEWHERE-IN-THE-MIDDLE LOVERS:

This category consists of those that have been in relationships for years, but are not married yet. At first, having settled into a comfortable rhythm, they don’t feel the separation so dearly. However, a few weeks into lockdown, the urge to meet becomes earnest and strong. I recently learnt of a friend’s girlfriend who was brave enough to break lockdown to meet him one evening. I didn’t follow up on how that worked out, but I hope for their sake it went well!

  1. FRAUGHT-WITH-TENSION LOVERS:

As indicated by the million memes and funny videos doing social media rounds, all is definitely not well with married couples forced to spend time with each other in confined spaces! Most couples function on the basis of certain unsaid rules and allotments of space in their homes. When suddenly none of these rules apply, the forced confinement with one’s spouse may add to the tension!

  1. COVIDIAN LOVERS:

I would never have believed this category existed, but a dear friend of mine recently initiated a new relationship during lockdown! She began officially dating a guy she had been flirting with, in the last 10 days. Since they live in different cities, perhaps the adjustment was quite easy?! I’m sure there are others in a similar position, because the anxiety and loneliness brought on by lockdown can make people seek companionship, wherever possible.

It will certainly be interesting to see the fate of these covidian relationships once lockdown is over!

These categories are rough summations of things I’ve observed around me. Forgive me for the gross generalisations, but it’s meant to be a reflective and humorous post! I’d love to know if you identify with any of these 7 categories? If I’ve missed out on yours, do tell me.

Here’s my tip to beat lockdown blues today:

Hug someone. If you’re lucky enough to be living with someone during lockdown, give them a tight hug. If you’re alone, hug yourself or a pillow imagining a person you want to hug- after all, ‘jaadu ki jhappis’ bring instant smiles 🙂 

My TV Show Recommendation is:

“Russian Doll” on Netflix is a dark comedy that explores existentialism, through a protagonist that keeps dying only to come alive and relive that moment again and again. Beautifully written and highly-addictive!

A book that I recommend is:

“The Room on the Roof” by Ruskin Bond. This was Bond’s first published novel and it captures his teenage years in Dehradun so well. It made me a lifelong fan of his writing, when I read it as a teen myself.

A blog you should check out today is:

www.rightpurchasing.com written by Sundeep Ananth D. Through this A to Z Challenge, he’s writing a simple yet effective series on the basics of monetising a blog, and in yesterday’s Q post he invited questions related to this important subject.

That’s all for today folks!

Please check out my daily update videos on Instagram Stories for #LockdownWithTheLadyLawyer and follow me there to stay better connected. Also tell me your favourite TV Shows/ movies/ books/ bloggers with the letter R?

Rab rakha till tomorrow! (‘May god protect you’, a term for farewell in Punjabi)

_________________________________________________________________________________

This post has been written for the #AtoZChallenge 2020. My theme this year is #LockdownWithTheLadyLawyer, where I’m journaling my thoughts during the coronavirus lockdown, and sharing numerous recommendations that will help keep your spirits up. Read my other posts here:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q

__________________________________________________________________________________

*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action. 

5 Reasons Why Fiction Writers Should Blog #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Paper vs. Digital

It’s been a month since I wrote my first post for the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, on the need for educating oneself to be a good writer. Since then I’ve published one short story on my blog and a few lifestyle articles, but haven’t written as much as I would have liked to.

I’ve been wondering how I can contribute meaningfully to this blog hop, where participants share varied forms of writing advice. Unfortunately, I’m not as far along on my writing journey as others in the hop, which makes it difficult to write on new and relevant subjects every month. However, I’ll do the best I can for as long as possible.

Today I’ll highlight the benefits of writing a recurring fictional series on my blog, centred around the Sahni’s, a family based in New Delhi. So far, I’ve written three pieces with each focusing on a separate family member. The stories are set in current times, and address a turbulent event seen through the eyes of different characters.

A retired army officer, Brigadier Baljit Singh Sahni, is ideally placed to comment on the divisive and highly controversial citizenship bill that the Indian Government tried to enforce in January 2020. His homely yet independent-minded wife, Rosie Sahni, proves her mettle by providing shelter to her chauffeur’s family, when he faces religious persecution and violence during the Delhi riots of February 2020. Their free-spirited yet pampered daughter, Kimmy Sahni, shows the new normal we have had to accept after the coronavirus and ensuing lockdowns entered our lives.

I had never intended for the Sahni’s to become recurring characters, especially in a blog-exclusive series. However, these protagonists have been easy for me to sketch out and use as mouthpieces for spreading my personal beliefs, hence, they have found a permanent place. Perhaps someday they will be the protagonists of my books.

If, like me, you’re just dabbling in creative writing at this point, a recurring fictional series in your blog is a good place to begin. Here’s why:

  1. It allows you to flesh out the characters through multiple story lines
  2. Your blog offers an existing readership that appreciates your work and helps you improve through constructive feedback
  3. When your work strikes a chord with a reader, they come back for more, and buy your books when you’re ready to write them
  4. There are no deadlines to run after, which cuts the anxiety and stress of traditional publication methods
  5. You can play around by writing multiple perspectives of the same story, and pick the one that works best if you choose to write a book later

Do you write recurring fictional series on your blogs? Do you think there’s merit in doing that? Or is it a waste of time? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re interested, do check out the three stories on my blog:

Seven Decades of Greatness

The Turmoil Within

The Sahnis in Lockdown

______________________________________________________________________________________

Visit the other #AuthorToolboxBlogHop participants here

______________________________________________________________________________________

www.nooranandchawla.com

________________________________________________________________________________________

*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action. 

The Art NGO Shining a Light on India’s Underprivileged Children: Artreach India

IMG_0179

The lockdown has been difficult on everyone, but most of all on the underprivileged population of India. Scores of people living hand-to-mouth in normal times, found themselves without work or sustenance during this prolonged period. A few good citizens stepped up to do their bit during these trying times, by providing food and monetary help. However, not many concentrated on their fragile mental health. Art has therapeutic power, and NGO Artreach India is shining a light on the talented underprivileged children of Delhi, by providing them a means to express themselves through art. Their Teaching Fellowship was a year-long intensive course, which continued online once lockdown was imposed.

shahwan big cutwork
Paper cut-out composition

ARTREACH INDIA

Artreach India works to improve the lives of underprivileged children by teaching them various mediums of art through annual Teaching Fellowships, periodic workshops, internships with mentors in the field of art, as well as job placements. Having been closely associated with this art NGO since its inception, I have seen the results of their work up close. Most participants are teenagers, and take well to an education that teaches them creative expression. The display and sale of their art work helps to improve their financial condition, while boosting their self-esteem and confidence.

 

noorjahan charcoal
Charcoal Drawing at Humayun’s Tomb
noorie charcoal
Charcoal Drawing at Humayun’s Tomb

TEACHING FELLOWSHIP 2020

Artreach India instituted a Teaching Fellowship in 2015 as part of which a chosen artist works intensively with young people throughout the year, teaching them different techniques of art, craft and design. The Teaching Fellowship encourages participants to use art as a tool to explore the world, while cultivating their imaginative, creative and reflective skills. Most importantly, it encourages them to find an individual expressive voice.

This year the Fellowship was curated by artist Tahsin Akhtar, who taught 18 talented children from TARA Homes in Delhi. Over 10 months, these 12-18-year-old boys and girls, attended weekend workshops and learnt drawing, painting, making flip-books, creating 3D characters and animation films, some of which were taught online during lockdown. They also went on various field trips to art colleges and art fairs.

Tahsin Akhtar, an MFA in Painting from the College of Art, Delhi, is known for his work in new media and technology through photography, VFX and 2D animation. He is also well-versed in traditional mediums like painting and sculpture.

The teaching fellowship is funded by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, India’s first private museum, which seeks to support art education at a grassroots level.

IMG_0178
Creating Storyboards

THE ART WORK

The works produced during the Teaching Fellowship of 2019-20 included drawings based on observation and creative composition, animating and building imaginative worlds using varied materials, moulding and modelling clay and characters, charcoal drawings and paper cut-outs, flip-books and pencil shadings of foliage. Visit this page to view the works of art.

f10
Creating Flip-books

HOW TO SUPPORT THE WORK OF ARTREACH INDIA

If you are interested in buying an artwork from the children or would like to know more about Artreach’s work and how to get involved please contact Shivangi at  programmes.artreach@gmail.com.

To make a donation you can do so online here:

 http://www.artreachindia.org/donate.html

Through the pandemic, Artreach is passing 50% of donations on to their partners working on the frontline of Covid relief.

Visit this page to view the works of art: https://www.teachingfellowship.net/

Artreach India

_________________________________________________________________________________

*This is not a sponsored post.

** All pictures courtesy Artreach India

***Copyright in content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action. 

Book Review: “To My Grandchild, With Love” by Roma Gupta Sinha

Roma-Gupta-Sinha-Cover-min

It’s that time of year when budding writers, having worked hard through the A to Z Challenge, finally reap their rewards with the publication of their ebooks in the Blogchatter EBook Carnival.

Though I haven’t published an ebook this year, my story “The Turmoil Within” has been published as part of an anthology called “The Woman That I Am”. You can download this ode to womanhood here. I will be sharing a few ebook reviews on my blog in the coming days as well.

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on veteran author Roma Gupta Sinha’s ebook “To My Grandchild, With Love: 26 Soulful Letters on Covid-19 Times”. Read on to know why you should read this book:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Roma Gupta Sinha is an acclaimed writer on women empowerment, who focusses on equality of women and fighting for their rights and liberation. She writes on her blog www.trulyyoursroma.com and has many awards to her name, including the prestigious “Woman of the Year” in 2015 and “Planet’s Pride Award” in 2018. RCA (Roma’s Communication Academy) is her entrepreneurial venture where she teaches and helps in overall personality development of six to sixty year olds. She is the author of four published books and “To My Grandchild, With Love” is her fifth offering.

THE PLOT:

Around mid-March, Roma drove over 14 hours with her husband and 11-year-old son to Vadodara in Gujarat from Delhi, as her husband needed to attend to important business interests there. It was meant to be a short trip, and they prepared solely for that. However, as the Prime Minister imposed a nationwide lockdown, Roma and her family found themselves stuck in a new place for an indefinite duration.

Indomitable as ever, she decided to chronicle her struggles in this strange situation for posterity, in the form of touching letters to her future grandchildren.

THE COMMENTARY:

Extraordinary situations such as the coronavirus crisis, test a person’s mettle to the core. Roma found herself in an unprecedented situation, for which she was quite unprepared. Her tenacity to beat the odds shines through in every letter she has penned, while imparting a valuable life lesson to her future kin.

The premature and ill-planned lockdown imposed by our government was hard on everyone, especially unhappy migrants who trudged back to their villages in thousands. However, the reader will find it easy to connect with Roma on the everyday and seemingly commonplace struggles, that were nevertheless taxing on her family.

She speaks candidly of her peculiar problems, the struggles emerging from her lack of cooking skills, the difficulty of finding eggs and other basic items in a strictly vegetarian town, the challenges faced by her son adapting to home-schooling, among others.

What makes the biggest impression on the reader, however, is her outspoken positivity despite what she may have been feeling inside. She beautifully touches on her strengthened connection with nature, her gratitude for the frontline workers, as well as bonding with her husband and son who would help her with the household chores.

Each letter focuses on a particular aspect of life in lockdown, but also imparts a moral lesson aimed at the younger generation. After all, the point of recording history is to teach its lessons so they are not repeated.

Her conversational style is easy to read and engaging, and apart from the occasional typo, I can’t fault her writing skills.

It was a pleasure to see the few photos she included, and I wished she had included more!

THE VERDICT:

Roma Gupta Sinha’s “To My Grandchild, With Love: 26 Soulful Letters on Covid-19 Times” is a sentimental book, recording a personal story of hope and survival in difficult times. I feel that it will appeal to people just emerging from the lockdown. You will identify with her experiences, and may feel compelled to share it with your children and grandchildren, so they can enjoy the benefit of her wisdom.

Download Roma Gupta Sinha’s “To My Grandchild, With Love: 26 Soulful Letters From Covid-19 Times” here.

____________________________________________________________________________

*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.