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Is Failure the Ultimate Path to Success? These Outliers Say Yes!

Here’s your chance to defy the ordinary with Against the Grain by Pankaj Mishra, a book that celebrates those who dare to be different. Through engaging conversations with notable outliers like A.R. Rahman, Uday Kotak, and Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the book shares real stories of success, failure, and the pursuit of dreams.

Read this exclusive excerpt to discover how the Chandrayaan-2 mission turned setbacks into breakthroughs, capturing the true essence of resilience and innovation.

 

Against the Grain
Against the Grain || Pankaj Mishra

***

The concept of ‘successful failure’ resonates deeply in the story of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission. It was a bold leap, aiming to explore the uncharted south pole of the moon. Despite the setback in the landing phase, the mission wasn’t a loss. The orbiter continues to gather valuable data, contributing significantly to our understanding of the moon. More importantly, with lessons learned from Chandrayaan-2’s challenges, Chandrayaan-3 could land successfully on the moon.

 

This journey transcends the bounds of space; it’s a metaphor for outliers—to find poetry in problems and to reach for the moon, quite literally, even when the first leap falters. And that’s what I love about these conversations. These outliers talk about their failures with the same pride they have for their wins. Because, let’s face it, owning your failures is a kind of success.

 

When you sit with someone like Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, you can’t help but feel the gravity—no pun intended—of his experiences. Here’s a man who’s been to space, but what’s more fascinating is his down-to-earth wisdom on failure.

 

‘If you can be yourself and not feel that you have to measure up to some image somebody else has of you, that’s liberating; it frees up a lot of energy for you to do
other things.’ —Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in space.

 

Rakesh’s words resonate deeply with me. The freedom to be yourself, to not be confined by others’ expectations, is liberating. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my journey.

 

How has life’s unpredictability played a role in your journey, Rakesh?

 

Rakesh Sharma: ‘I must tell you that I am blessed and extremely lucky, because I got a chance to do everything in life. I was barely twenty-two, and the air force decided to run an experiment. We had just got the MiG-21 supersonic aircraft—they wanted to catch young guys, and I got a chance. I joined the air force young, and before my twenty-third birthday, I had flown twenty-one operational missions in the 1971 war. Then, I got selected for the test pilot course, and despite not being all good in academics, I managed to become a test pilot. A fighter pilot and a test pilot—fit and young—and I then got a chance to go to space. Things have happened to me.’

 

Rakesh, how do you view failures in your life?

 

‘As far as failures are concerned, it depends on how you are looking at them. For example, most people think that when they set the bar for themselves and do not achieve it, that is a failure. But when you have constantly striven to get what you set [out to achieve] for yourself, and even then if you fall short, you will, in the process, improve yourself, right?’

 

Indeed, striving itself is a form of success. This is a perspective I’ve often found comforting.

 

‘So, I made mistakes during combat, and that’s part of the learning—I wouldn’t really put that down as a failure. That is just a learning experience. As a test pilot, I have had the chance to eject from an airplane because the engine backed up, and I would call it learning, not a failure. The important thing you need to ask yourself is: How do you remain invested? Do you have the passion for the job you are doing?’

 

Passion is a recurring theme in our conversations. Rakesh, how did you deal with the daunting tasks in your career?

 

‘In my case, whenever I looked at a daunting, challenging task, my first reaction was, “Hey, I will not be able to do this.” At each stage during my flying career,
when I went from slow to medium to faster to supersonic aircraft, at each stage, I felt, “Oh my god, this is too fast. There is no way I can hack it.” But when you actually get into it, you find that things are not half as difficult as you imagined them to be!’

 

You know, this idea of passion being the driving force, it’s something that has come up time and again in the conversations I’ve had. But hearing it from a guy who has been to space and back just hits differently. It’s like all those talks I’ve had over the years suddenly get this extra layer of, well, gravity. Rakesh, you echo something we all know deep down but sometimes need a nudge to feel. It’s fascinating how we often overestimate challenges.

 

‘So, when opportunities come your way, don’t get intimidated. Of course, be prepared that you might not hack it, but no need to get intimidated. Either it will
happen or it will not happen. After all, when I went for the selection as a kid, there was no pilot aptitude test. Now, there’s a pilot aptitude test, and if you fail it once, you will never become a pilot in the Indian Air Force, so there is tremendous pressure on you. If you have it, you have it; if you don’t have it, you approach it like that—you can’t prepare for something like that!

 

Indeed, some aspects of life and career are beyond meticulous preparation.

 

‘Similarly, when you are doing test flying, the best you can do is your best. You can read up all there is to read. You can de-risk, but you signed up for it. You are honourbound to go and do it. Even if you are scared, you go and do it as best you can. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out—that’s part of the landscape you have chosen to be in.’

 

Choosing our landscape, our path, comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.

 

‘So, this is one life lesson we really need: never back off! Failure is not the end of the world. Pressure is something that we bring upon ourselves. We should give it a bash. Just be yourself!’

 

So there you have it—wisdom from a man who has seen the earth from a point most of us can only dream of reaching. But what strikes me most is how grounded his insights are. ‘Just be yourself,’ he says.

 

Simple, yet profoundly liberating.

***

Get your copy of Against the Grain by Pankaj Mishra on Amazon wherever books are sold.

Essential Mental Health Reads for Every Stage of Life

In today’s world, physical health often takes centre stage, and it’s easy to overlook the significance of our mental well-being. But here’s the truth: mental health is just as crucial as our physical health, if not more. As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s essential to shine a light on the books that can serve as powerful allies in our journey toward mental wellness. From braving through the ups and downs of adolescence to finding peace and fulfillment in later years, these books are here to guide and inspire you.

So, let’s say yes to taking care of ourselves and explore how books can help us feel good!

 

 

Divorce is Normal
Divorce is Normal || Shasvathi Siva

A divorce rate of around 1 per cent is often boasted about with pride in this country, without much critical thought spared for what it actually means. When Shasvathi Siva decided to end her marriage, she realized exactly how difficult getting a divorce was in our society and legal system. Since then, she has been working towards ensuring that others have it easier, and this book is an endeavour to share her learnings with great empathy and sagacity. Divorce Is Normal is an invaluable companion for anyone contemplating separation and divorce, and a necessary reminder for everyone else that divorce is normal. Through her story, Siva brings to readers fresh insights on unhappy marriages and divorce in the Indian context, helping expand perspectives so that people can overcome societal stigma and accept a brighter, happier future. Filled with practical tips, comforting stories and endless compassion shaped by a lived experience, this book acts like a warm hug and a stern friend all at once.

 

Take Your Time & Hurry Up
Take Your Time & Hurry Up || Joey Kidney

Have you ever felt lost or alone in your thoughts, feelings and experiences?

Take Your Time and Hurry Up continues Joey’s experiences as he leaves his early twenties and heads toward adulthood. This book appeals to anyone who is navigating ‘adulting’ without a compass or a map, and who is searching for a sense of belonging.

Joey gently encourages his audience to find comfort, mindfulness, guidance and connection. A clear theme is woven through each passage: a reminder to slow down. After all, what’s the rush.

How to Win an Election
How to Win an Election || Menaka Raman

The middle school elections are coming up and everyone is in a frenzy of making posters, promises and predictions.

When Sachin is disqualified from contesting the elections, he sets out to help his best friend Mini win. But their path to victory is littered with runaway lizards, incriminating bathroom graffiti, hacked videos and dangerous baked goods.

Which candidate fears Mini so much that they will descend to such villainy? Mini and Sachin must find out—or be disgraced forever.

 

Living with Adi
Living with Adi || Zarin Virji

Adi Krishnan is different!
He is a bright student, who loves to read, and remembers everything down to the smallest details—yet he has no friends. His unusual view of things makes his classmates and teachers regard him as a weirdo.
Will the bullying ever end? Will people accept him as he is? Will he gain the respect of others, especially his dad?
Award-winning author Zarin Virji creates the extraordinary journey of an ordinary boy, narrated by him, his family, classmates and a teacher. And how, despite the challenges, living with Adi is, in fact, unexpected, delightful and funny.

 

sad glad
Sad Glad || Sidhartha Mallya

One morning, Sid wakes up feeling different. He can’t quite put his finger on why. The day seems gloomy, and Sid doesn’t feel like getting out of bed.

Luckily, Duke, Sid’s best buddy, senses that Sid needs comforting. He gently encourages Sid to accept all the different emotions he is feeling.

A helpful companion for a dull day, this assuring picture book is filled with many feelings and thoughts that offer a lot of hope!

 

The Myth of Normal
The Myth of Normal || Gabor Maté, Daniel Maté

Over four decades of clinical experience, renowned physician and addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté has seen how health systems neglect the role that trauma exerts on our bodies and our minds. Medicine often fails to treat the whole person, ignoring how today’s culture stresses our bodies, burdens our immune systems and undermines emotional balance.

Now, in his most ambitious and urgent book yet, Dr Maté connects the dots between our personal suffering and the pressures of modern-day living – with disease as a natural reflection of a life spent growing further and further apart from our true selves. But, with deep compassion, he also shows us a pathway to health and healing.

Filled with stories of people in the grip of illness or in the triumphant wake of recovery, this life-affirming book, co-written with his son Daniel, proves true health is possible – if we are willing to reconnect with each other and our authentic selves.

 

What Happened to Grandpa
What Happened to Grandpa || Nandini Nayar

Something strange is happening to Grandpa. Words and names are slipping away, and favourite faces and places are becoming distant memories.

As Grandpa’s family seems to be losing him, it is up to Neha to remind them about the things he stood for. She shares his adventures and spins his stories, but will that help them remember Grandpa and celebrate him?

In this heartwarming picture book about love, loss, and remembering, discover the priceless bond we have with grandparents and how their memories live on.

 

The Body Keeps the Score
The Body Keeps the Score || Bessel van der Kolk

The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here one of the world’s experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

 

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? || Dr Julie Smith

Drawing on years of experience as a clinical psychologist, online sensation Dr Julie Smith shares all the tools you need to get through life’s ups and downs.

Filled with secrets from the therapy room, this is a must-have handbook for optimising your mental health. Dr Julie’s simple but expert advice and powerful coping techniques will help you stay resilient no matter what life throws your way.

Written in short, bite-sized entries, you can turn straight to the section you need depending on the challenge you’re facing – and immediately find the appropriate tools to help. From managing anxiety, dealing with criticism or battling low mood, to building self-confidence, finding motivation or learning to forgive yourself, this book tackles the everyday issues that affect us all and offers easy, practical solutions that might just change your life.

 

When the Body Says No
When the Body Says No || Dr Gabor Maté

Drawing on deep scientific research and Dr Gabor Maté’s acclaimed clinical work, When the Body Says No provides the answers to critical questions about the mind-body link – and the role that stress and our emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases.

When the Body Says No:

– Explores the role of the mind-body link in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
– Shares dozens of enlightening case studies and stories, including those of people such as Lou Gehrig (ALS), Betty Ford (breast cancer), Ronald Reagan (Alzheimer’s), Gilda Radner (ovarian cancer) and Lance Armstrong (testicular cancer)
– Reveals ‘The Seven A’s of Healing’: principles in healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress.

 

 

Mum in a Mess
Mum in a Mess || Sanjana Kapur

When Mum breaks a coffee jar, it does not seem like a big deal. But then, Mum starts acting very strangely. What is Vishi to do?

 

Conversations with the Career Doctor
Conversations with the Career Doctor || Saundarya Rajesh

India ranks among the bottom end of countries when it comes to women’s participation in the workforce, as per research conducted by the International Labour Organization and other reputed institutions. Despite pushing gender inclusion to the forefront and making considerable progress, it is clear that Indian women don’t have it easy today. Conversations with the Career Doctor is a ready-reckoner that women can refer to whenever they are confronted with a challenge. It provides a powerful toolkit for every Indian woman professional to lead a strong, secure and successful career.

 

Buddha in Love
Buddha in Love || Geetanjali Pandit

Geetanjali’s quest for happiness in relationships . . . failed. Time and again. A short-lived abusive marriage and its subsequent emotional, mental and social fallout forced her to question all her assumptions about romance and relationships.
Buddha in Love distils all she learnt. We are not born relationship-ready. A loving partnership takes effort, and, contrary to what you might expect, to achieve it you have to work on yourself. What does it take to be in a successful relationship? Do all relationships look the same? Does a relationship equate to happiness? Why and when should you marry?

Demystifying Needs, Wants, and Desires in ‘The Autobiography of God’

Learn the true meaning of self-discovery in ‘The Autobiography of God’ by Lenaa Kumar, where desires go beyond mere wants and needs.  In this book, Lenaa shares her remarkable story spanning eighteen years—a journey of overcoming anxiety, depression, and the constraints of the rigid psychiatric system. ​

Read this exclusive excerpt to uncover the keys to profound self-discovery and unlock the answers to life’s most pressing questions.

 

The Autobiography of God
The Autobiography of God || Lenaa Kumar

 

A major side effect of Self-Realization is the loss of any need, want or desire due to the experience of One-Self as all-there-is!

 

Many have stopped at that level of mind where logic and reason become unnecessary.

 

This is where I am grateful to my family and friends for putting me in psychiatric care. Due to this, Desire could arise once again, and I am living out my potential rather than wandering as a bliss bunny!

 

As long as one is in a body on earth and identified with the body, the experience is always ‘duality’.

 

That of knowing I am One and whole, Infinite and Eternal and yet experiencing my-Self as separate and individual, finite and mortal. Mastering this balancing act is the Mastery of Life.

 

In the rest of this book, I will share with you all the techniques and tools I used to balance duality and reach a high integration of Conscious and Subconscious, Body and Mind, Energy and Consciousness.

 

Some basics first:
Need signifies the lack of something.

Want signifies the choice to have something.

Desire signifies a deep wanting, hopefulness and wishfulness with the added emotion of longing and imagination of having it.

 

The Paradigm Shift of Desire
Where does desire come from?
Putting aside the commonly believed idea that desire arises from within the mind, let us look at desire as a command to achieve or create or experience something, coming into the mind, in the form of vibrations, from the unknown or rather from the I/Life, and being translated by the intellect as an idea that then becomes a desire, that is then sent as an impulse in the body to Do something.

 

This paradigm takes away all the stress of having chosen a particular decision and instead the mind is able to focus on the task that it has been entrusted with by Consciousness/ I/Life.

 

This leads to a clear alignment of body, mind and I. I/Consciousness/Life gives a command to the mind that appears as a desire, which then prompts action from the body so that the being, moves towards achieving that desire which leads to the experience that I wants the mind to have, so as to break the identification of I with body/mind/intellect.

 

Every true, deep and intrinsic desire one feels is a command from Life itself to this mind so that the body may do what is needed for Life to experience itself, as Consciousness Bliss.

 

Desire vs Need
If you find yourself living in a box of needs, then you are in one of the boxes in Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs.

 

Pyramid of Needs

One must have a clear idea of one’s needs. However, desire is the thing that makes one get out of bed in the morning (especially, to go to work). To beat depression, one must desire something.

The desire for self-esteem is a paradox. We try to impress others with our material possessions and with how worthy they should think we are of their holding us in high esteem when the very need is for self-esteem, which only you can give to yourself.

 

 

Two modern-day issues with this area are:
1. Self-esteem is confused with social standing or status. This has to do with borrowed desires. They are the root of all misery. You can never enjoy their fruit, because the seed wasn’t yours, to begin with. If social media or peer pressure is the source of your desires in life, anxiety, stress and depression come free with it.

 

2. Not knowing what you truly want. Unless you take time with yourself to cut out everyone else’s desires that are filling you, your true desires will not surface. They are buried somewhere deep down along with your childhood memories.

 

While biological and psychological needs demand their fulfilment rather drastically, aesthetic needs are just as painful as all others when unfulfilled. Here, the dilemma is that it doesn’t look as important as a need, but it is an overwhelming personal need.

 

The desire for creativity, freedom and expressing authenticity and knowing the truth is the highest of human needs. Existential angst and the heights of anxiety about the unknown accompanied by the depression of not fitting in, not knowing how to evolve, confusion about truth and searching, without knowing what for, are the hallmarks of this stage. It is at this stage of our desire for deeper meaning that we feel most alone and at times lonely. This stage of anxiety and depression is a luxury. You get here only when the other levels of needs are satisfied and not escaped. Congratulate yourself if you are at this stage because desire takes on a whole new meaning from here.

 

Waking up to the meaning of desire from this stage we see it as a sign or force that rises within us to propel us in the direction of evolution, truth and destiny. Like all pure creativity, desire comes from a source beyond our limited perceptions of self. Then desire is seen as the fuel to unleash one’s true and individual potential. Desires are signs that lead to higher synchronicities, showing us the way to our higher self.

 

***

Get your copy of The Autobiography of God by Lenaa Kumar wherever books are sold.

8 Spiritual Audiobooks to Kickstart 2024

Step into the new year with a fresh perspective by exploring our collection of spiritual audiobooks. From decoding the workings of the mind to finding lasting happiness and practicing meditation, these books provide practical insights and techniques for a more fulfilling and harmonious life in 2024

 

Energize Your Mind
Energize Your Mind || Gaur Gopal Das

In Energize Your Mind, bestselling author and life coach Gaur Gopal Das decodes how the mind works. He combines his anecdotal style with analytical research to teach us how to discipline our mind for our greater well-being. Throughout this book, he provides interactive exercises, meditation techniques and worksheets to help us take charge of our mind.

This book is an essential read for anyone who wants to work towards a better, more fulfilling future for themselves.

 

Life's Amazing Secrets
Life’s Amazing Secrets || Gaur Gopal Das

Stop going through life,
Start growing through life!

While navigating their way through Mumbai’s horrendous traffic, Gaur Gopal Das and his wealthy young friend Harry get talking, delving into concepts ranging from the human condition to finding one’s purpose in life and the key to lasting happiness.

Whether you are looking at strengthening your relationships, discovering your true potential, understanding how to do well at work or even how you can give back to the world, Gaur Gopal Das takes us on an unforgettable journey with his precious insights on these areas of life.

Das is one of the most popular and sought-after monks and life coaches in the world, having shared his wisdom with millions. His debut book, Life’s Amazing Secrets, distils his experiences and lessons about life into a light-hearted, thought-provoking book that will help you align yourself with the life you want to live.

 

On Meditation
On Meditation || Sri M

In today’s challenging and busy world, don’t you wish you knew how to quieten your mind and focus on yourself? In On Meditation, renowned spiritual leader, Sri M, answers all your questions on the practice and benefits of meditation. With his knowledge of all the various schools of practice and the ancient texts, he breaks down the complicated practice into a simple and easy method that any working man or woman, young or old, can practise in their everyday lives.

 

The Power of Thoughts
The Power of Thoughts || Swami Mukundananda

Incredibly, the ingredients of a hugely successful life cost nothing at all. In fact, we mass-produce 60,000 of them every day. These are the thoughts that our mind creates. They are responsible for the happiness and distress we experience. They are the precursors of all we do. We grapple with improving our actions, only to find our attempts undone by impure thinking.
If we focus on transforming our thoughts instead, incredible results will accrue from a fraction of the efforts. Since all aspects of our life are so strongly linked to our thoughts, we have much to gain by deepening our understanding of them.
In this book, Swami Mukundananda, a world-renowned spiritual teacher from India and an internationally acclaimed mind-management authority, will teach you about watching your thoughts, directing them, dismantling harmful thought structures, creative thinking, meditation and much more. When you focus on revolutionizing your thoughts-the most fundamental aspect of inner personality-you will discover yourself evolving to divine heights to fulfil the purpose of your life.

 

The Art of Focus
The Art of Focus || Gauranga Das

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world we live in, more so than all the recent events put together. The pandemic has made humans question certain assumptions, relook at priorities and adjust life according to the new normal in the twenty-first century. As we take stock of life ahead, beyond this cusp of change, focus emerges as the fulcrum to help ease this transformation.
The Art of Focus, the second book in this three-part series, presents forty-five simple stories filled with revelations to enthral readers with learnings from the experiences of the protagonists and the dynamics of the situations that manifested in their lives.
The first book in the series, The Art of Resilience, presented ingredients to the readers to help them develop resilience in challenging situations that manifested at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Art of Focus builds on the first book and inspires the resilient heart to develop a focused mind. This collective presentation will better equip the readers to take charge of their lives and adapt to the new normal effectively.

 

The Art and Science of Happiness
The Art and Science of Happiness || Swami Mukundananda

First 5000 copies will have Swamiji’s digital signature.
Happiness is a beautiful feeling. It floods our heart with gratitude and enriches us with the exuberance of life. Happiness is what makes living worthwhile. That is why we pursue it in all we do. Yet, despite our best efforts, it remains elusive. Why?
This is the puzzle we must solve in life. What is the secret of finding everlasting bliss? What is the art of experiencing joy that is immune to vicissitudes? And what is the science of achieving happiness that is not dependent on externals?
In this book, internationally acclaimed authority on mind management, renowned saint and bestselling author Swami Mukundananda draws on the ancient wisdom of the scriptures and current scientific research to address these questions. He also explains strategies for happiness in relationships, at work and in the face of adversity. By applying these concepts in your daily life, you can be happy everywhere and at all times.

 

Ask the Monk
Ask the Monk || Nityanand Charan Das

Asking questions is an important part of learning as it provides a unique framework for thinking and opens doors to unexpected revelations for us. Digging into how or why things are the way they are, paves the way for enlightenment.
On the contrary, keeping the doubts to ourselves can keep us from truth, thus depriving us from valuable opportunities life has to offer. As human beings, we must enquire and keep doing so. But what kind of enquiries are we supposed to make?
In Ask the Monk, celebrated monk Nityanand Charan Das lucidly answers over seventy frequently asked questions-by young and the old alike-on topics such as karma, religion versus spirituality, mind, God, destiny, purpose of life, suffering, rituals, religion, wars and so on. These answers that are extremely crucial to help you, the reader, embark on the journey of self-discovery and self-realization.

 

The Wisdom Bridge
The Wisdom Bridge || Kamlesh D. Patel

The intentions, thoughts and actions of the elders are caught by the hearts of the children. The children observe, learn and imbibe the teachings quickly and faithfully, and the elders have the responsibility to not only raise the children well, but nurture and guide them in a way that they can lead fulfilling lives.

Daaji in The Wisdom Bridge offers nine principles to guide you, the reader, to live a life that inspires your children and your loved ones. These principles are important references for parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and caregivers to create fulfilling and happy lives. They will not only help you enrich the lives of your children and raise responsible teenagers, but pave the way for an inspired life and resilient bonds in your family.

All the unmoored heart seeks is love

What if you ran away from your life today?

Twenty years later, three people are looking for you.

One is dying to meet you again.

The other wishes you had never met them.

The third wishes they could have met you at least once.

You are one person. Aren’t you? But you are not the same person to each of them.

In You Only Live Once, find the answers about your own life in this story about searching for love and discovering yourself. Join a broken but rising YouTube star Alara, a struggling but hopeful stand-up comedian Aarav, and a zany but zen beach shack owner Ricky as they undertake a journey to find the truth behind the disappearance of Elisha.

Here’s an excerpt from the book that throws light on the quandaries in Alara’s heart and her longing for love.

 

**

 

Irena, my stepmother, is a new-age fashion influencer and helped me set up my YouTube channel. She isn’t really talented, but she married a wealthy guy, and fancy social media accounts are part of the assets you create if you have a lot of money. After all, rich people can afford to buy new clothes for every post they make.

Having said that, she is a nice person at heart. I don’t really hold anything against her.

I’m not close to anyone at home. Not really. I’m close to my guitar. It’s because it always meets my expectations. People? They often fail to do so. Unfulfilled expectations lead to unfulfilled relationships.

‘Hey! Alara,’ says my step-aunt Betty as I enter La Epicurean.

‘You’ve grown up to be a beautiful woman,’ she continues.

‘Thank you,’ I respond. I don’t talk a lot when it comes to Irena’s siblings. They’re five women, full of gossip and unnecessary banter. Also, here in Czech, women outnumber men, so they’re on a constant lookout for a foreigner to settle down with. Betty is the youngest one and I heard her own siblings discuss her relationship with a guy from New York who is half her age. He is the one who gave her the name Betty too. Living the American Dream has fascinated the world since the 1960s.

‘Which song are you performing tonight?’ she asks.

‘Time,’ I say, wondering if she would even understand the depth of the concept. Time it is, the one thing that has never been on my side. Time is what ruined my game early on. Time is what I challenge as I hope to find my mom, or perhaps, an answer.

‘You have not published a new song in months. What keeps you busy these days?’ she inquires. ‘You don’t even have a day job,’ she adds.

front cover of You Only Live Once
You Only Live Once || Stuti Changle

 

Yes, this is where I draw the line. Relatives can get so unbearable at times. I am facing a writer’s block, I write my own songs after all. What would she know of it? She is the kind who would seek Irena’s help to write even an email.

‘Soon,’ I smile wide. Curt. Short. Sweet. She deserves to know that much.

It’s been quite some time since I last published a song on YouTube. I wish to release my first album. But I have run out of ideas, literally. I know deep within my heart that leaving this place would help me ideate and write songs. Here, I am consumed with much more than writing and performing at cafes. I have to attend customary functions like today. My dad is respected in the community, and that’s the thing about rich people. They never get bored of partying and socializing. Me? I told you, right? I struggle with a sense of belonging.

I long to be myself sans all the responsibilities and sensibilities I find myself compelled to fit into. I long to meet you, mom. Let me tell you, your mother would perhaps be the most overlooked person by you, trust me. You might not even appreciate the food that she cooks with all the love. But there are people like me who don’t even know what food cooked with love tastes like.

 

**

 

 

 

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