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Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi Film Poster

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi: A Movie That Highlights Victim Mentality In the Indian Diaspora

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi (2019), a Hindi-language family drama, was released on Netflix in April 2021. Written and Directed by Seema Pahwa, Produced by Manish Mundra of Jio Studios and Drishyam Film, the film features an ensemble cast of several talented actors including Naseeruddin Shah and Supriya Pathak.

In short, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi embodies the quixotic extended family melodrama. 

The family members of Ramprasad are all alive and kicking but they all have their own ax to grind. His unexpected death forces them to come face to face with the age-old hurt they have been nursing against everyone else. The narrative is presented as a theatrical performance by the director, Pahwa, and is well edited.

Opening scene: Ramprasad dies while giving an informal piano lesson to a neighbor’s kid. His wife calls her kids to inform them of his demise.

Scene Two: Four brothers, their three wives, two daughters, and their husbands, Mamaji and Mamiji,  Tauji, buaji, assorted kids, and neighbors descend on the home. In less than a few minutes, their grief is vaporized by their selfishness. They are not evil, just wonderfully flawed like so many of us who think that someone else is responsible for our failures. 

Following scenes: There is a struggle for control between elder members of the family, namely mamaji, tauji and buaji about after-death religious rituals (reminded me of a similar movie following a death: Pagglait). They haggle over the cost of firewood after they successfully cremate their father. Tears are brushed away and they are back to their normal routine, requesting jaggery sweetened tea and complain about the bland food. Then they blame their parents for all their misfortunes. Finally, they all depart and take with them their own agendas, giving interesting glimpses of their true selves. They all weep when they leave but not for their departed father or their widowed mother.

Song: I loved the song Ek Adhoora Kaama lighthearted moment that plunges the brothers into their childhood, giving us beautiful insight into Ramprasad’s musicality as a father.

Humor: There are a few chatpate “nok-jhok” between the old buaji and tauji, reminding us that childhood rivalry continues to the grave. 

Climax: Ramprasad has a loan of 10 lakhs, which has to be repaid. They all have been borrowing money from him but still, it comes as a surprise to them and they blame each other with a vengeance.

Solution: Instead of shouldering any responsibility, they come with the solution of selling the shop or house without care for the financial security of their mother. “Kya karogi Amma akeli itne bade ghar mein?”  No one wants to think about the mother’s welfare. They all keep talking in circles:  “Kya karen amma ka?”  

Best performance: Vikrant Massey, Konkona Sen Sharma, Parambrata Chatterjee, Vinay Pathak, Manoj Pahwa, and Vineet Kumar have acted very naturally. There are certainly so many characters in our households who are masters of that trait that it may be easy to draw from personal experiences. We have all witnessed a comical Eeyore-persona older brother, a cry-baby middle child, an opportunistic mamaji, a self-righteous sister, an instigating sister-in-law, and an amoral nephew. Veteran actors Naseeruddin Shah (father) and Supriya Pathaak (mother) emote so effortlessly through their expressions without long-winded dialogues. They have a common ally, Ramprasad’s diary.

Subplot: There is marital disharmony between the youngest brother Nishant and his wife Seema. The family interferes with this even though they don’t fully comprehend the problem but jibes and subtle taunts continue uninvited.

Solution the family proposes: Do they complete Ramprasad’s tehrvi at the allotted time on the first of January or do they shorten it to ten days or select a mutually convenient time for the thirteenth-day ritual to bid their father’s soul adieu? For that, and to find out what solution the mother comes up with, I recommend you watch Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. 

Last scene: A voiceover by Naseeruddin Shah’s soul dressed in a pure white kurta, pajama, and shawl delivers the important message. It’s not an obvious one, ie. that we must respect our parents and love our siblings. Rather, it is a more musical one and the piano lesson.  The first scene sets the stage.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Cremation grounds in India (Image unrelated to ongoing currents events in India)

Firewood: Processing COVID in India From Afar

I was fully vaccinated in March 2021.

In the third week of April, I was planning to fly to India to check on my mother and extended family. My sister was in line for her second shot of the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19. We were excited to celebrate April birthdays and Mother’s day after 2 years. My bags were packed.

India, the second most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion Indians seemed to have a decent handle on the pandemic. The world watched the initial twenty-day lockdown in India, followed by the mass exodus of migrant workers. Perhaps innate immunity to tropical diseases was helping Indians against COVID. Was the blistering heat not conducive to viral proliferation? Was the COVID-19 strain in India less infectious?

The Serum Institute of India was gearing up for vaccines for domestic and international use. Before Indian citizens were vaccinated, Indian vaccines were exported out of the country. Indian government and citizens were confident of their innate immunity. Steeped in a false sense of bravado, India reopened for business in early 2021. Unmasked gatherings, cricket matches, political rallies, and weddings continued while the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 was raging in a vulnerable unvaccinated population.

Meanwhile, the weeks-long Hindu Pilgrimage congregation in Haridwar (Kumbh Mela) was not canceled. This year Hanuman Jayanti was on 26-27th of April the night of the pink full moon (Chaitra Purnima). This holy dip in the Ganga (Shahi Snan) was considered to be very auspicious. Many devotees tested positive and spread the disease in crowded trains and buses and to their contacts back home. The infectious curve changed from a plateau to a wall. The health care system was overwhelmed. Hospitals ran out of beds, oxygen, medicines. Meanwhile, there was an acute vaccine shortage, and hurdles in getting the vaccine.

My friends and family members are not fully vaccinated to date. So many innocent lives were lost! Fires burnt nonstop. In the first wave, it took five months for the 98,000 a day caseload to about 10,000 a day. This time, the peak is much higher and the downward trend of the second wave could be prolonged. The only hope is to raise herd immunity by mass vaccinations.

I composed two poems, out of my anguish. My idea is not to criticize. I am trying to process the trauma in my community. My poems document our complex human frailty. 

******

 Firewood

“I will make such a wonderful India…” @Narendra Modi 4/11/18 

Maskless. He addressed them. 

Rows upon rows, their

brains steeped in fervor. 

They cheered and rallied, then

thronged on the shores of a 

weary Ganges, sullying her body

of water. Over and over again.

Inviting Lord Yama to extinguish

their breath. 

 

He came with a vengeance. 

Coronavirus vanquished thousands. 

Breathless, their bodies crumpled on

the streets. 

No oxygen. No vaccine. No potion. 

No healers. No chant. No mantra.

No yantra. No tantra. No soothsayer. 

No friend or family member 

could save them from their own folly.

 

They burnt in communal fires in 

parking lots. The stench of death 

smearing the khadi shawl of 

Mother India. She wept

and rued their misguided deeds.

The pandemic raged on, 

mindless of caste, creed, age, gender 

or status. Even the mighty were 

snuffed out. 

 

But who will be held accountable

for cremating those innocent souls 

who died without rupees for firewood? 

*****

Flying Monkey Moon

The moon maiden was full

and deliciously pink 

A bit pompous, 

A butter macaroon, freshly baked 

Double pink peony daydream. 

Cumulus cloud carpet

Covered the midnight sky.

Sweet salutations were whispered

She smiled and lowered her veil.

 

Millions gathered on the bank of

the Holy Ganges to take a religious

dip with the Moon and floating diyas

The last day of the Kumbh was 

specially ordained to wash away 

their sins. Coronavirus raged in 

homes, hotels, sky scrapers and 

hovels. Hospitals were out of beds, 

doctors, nurses and life support ran dry.

Fires burned day and night in open 

crematoriums. Mortals chanted the 

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra for protection.

Hanuman opened his eyes and flew

across the heavens. He thought,

they only remember me on

my birthday. 

*****

I do not want to criticize the government, their policies, or the people who helped spread this scourge.

I am very worried. I am one of the millions who do not know when they’ll be able to see their dear ones – parents, daughter, son, grandson, brother, sister.

In the interim, I keep watching the news, donate money for COVID relief, pray to Hanuman every day.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

Film poster for 99 Songs.

99 Songs: An Oscar & Grammy-Winner Launches His Latest Bollywood Endeavor

Is it an ode to the global music community or the life story of the Mozart of Madras: Allarakha Rahman?

A.R. Rahman is an Indian film composer, record producer, singer, and songwriter who works predominantly in Tamil and Hindi films. In 2010, he was awarded the  Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award. He has won an Oscar, six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, fifteen Filmfare Awards, and seventeen Filmfare Awards South. His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005.  He is hailed as one of the world’s great living composers in any medium.

I can understand that such a musical genius with a wide global network would like to share his story with his fans and other actors. When I hear his songs: Jai Ho, Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil hai Chhota Sa, Tu Hi Rai, Ae Ajnabi, O Ri Chhori, and more…my heart skips a beat.

Vande Mataram, an album of original compositions released for India’s 50th anniversary of its independence in 1997 brings me back to our motherland. A.R. Rahman’s amazing repertoire of Carnatic Music, Western, Folk, Hindustani Classical Music, and Qawwali is incomparable. He is very cosmic in his outreach, incorporating birdsongs, a gurgling brook, a child’s laughter and fusing them with traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology. Rahman has worked as a pianist in Ilaiyaraaja‘s troupe for hundreds of movies, which may be seen in 99 songs. The soundtrack is awe-inspiring and holds a torch to Rahman’s love of experimentation with orchestra and Indian pop music.

In August 2013, A.R. Rahman announced that he will be producing a one-of-a-kind musical love story. He originally wanted to launch it under EROS  but it became his maiden stint as a scriptwriter, producer apart from composing the original score and songs. This film is Co-Produced by Ideal Entertainment, Directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, who is best known for the Mumbai band Scribe, and distributed by Jio Studios. The movie, 99 Songs, was finally released on April 16, 2021.

I think I perceive it to be the magnum opus of a young prodigy who has a burning desire to be a successful music composer.  The hero (Ehan Bhat) has a wager to make 99 songs before he can marry his beloved debutante played by Edilsy Vargas. Veteran actors Aditya Seal, Lisa Ray, and Manisha Koirala add depth to the narrative. 

 The film features 14 tracks including the musical talents Shaswat Singh and Bela Shende. Each song creates a different mood. Every frame has a different meaning. The film is in three languages – Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

A.R. Rahman said, “If I knew earlier that we’d do three languages, I would have only made five songs and not 14!” But I don’t believe him. He has unstoppable energy beyond human comprehension!

Songs ‘Teri Nazar and The Oracle and “Jwalamukhihave received an incredible amount of love and support. The music is the soul of the film. It is a musical but not in the genre of Broadway which supports the narrative. Here the music overpowers the story! 

One song can change the world! These words are prophetic. The maestro wants us to experience the film with high aspirations.

Rahman on the film: “At a period where we are all unaware of the future, I think this movie will definitely bring hope into your lives. It talks about dreams;  It talks about the internal struggles of a creative person. Music is the last magic left in the world.”

He goes on to talk about his experiences leading up to the film: “I’ve been working since ‘81. I worked with so many different composers doing almost two sessions a day. Though I wasn’t intending to continue as a film composer at that time, love is a magnetic force. The more you get from people, the more you want their love.”

His journey has been magical and let’s just revel in his magic. I have added the soundtrack to my playlist and I can’t wait to watch it. I am completely in awe of his extraordinary musical gift. Wishing 99 songs a grand success!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

My mother's Rajasthani painting (Image provided by Author)

My Mother Shines Through Her Paintings

The most valuable painting in my art collection is one of my mother’s masterpieces.

My mother, Kaushal Kapur, was born in Sikar district of Rajasthan. The city was studded with large airy havelis with white-washed walls decorated with colorful Rajasthani folk murals. My mother loved decorating her parents’ courtyard with colorful rangolis or painting henna tattoos on friends’ and sisters’ palms. Once at the School of Art in Jaipur, she saw an artist engrossed in painting a miniature.

Miniature art was introduced to India in the sixteenth century by the Mughal ruler, Humayun. He brought with him Persian artists who specialized in the fine art of painting. Humayun’s descendent Emperor Akbar built an art gallery and many schools of painting. Akbar era paintings were aristocratic and strong in portraiture. Elaborate court scenes and hunting expeditions were favored.

The word miniature comes from ‘minium’ which is red lead paint used in illuminated manuscripts. These paintings are very intricate and rendered in minute detail. Strong line drawings were rendered on paper, ivory, wood, leather, marble, and cloth. Colored with vegetable and mineral dyes in complementary colors: pale greens, reds, blues, and yellows. Embellished with real silver and gold they sparkle like multifaceted gemstones. Preparing colors and mixing is a complex process. It takes several weeks to get the desired results. The fine brushes were made from the hair of squirrels, and were highly valued. Today many artists replicate the originals in poster colors for affordable merchandising.

My mother was mesmerized by the king in light blue skin as Krishna with his beloved as Radha. She requested the master to teach her how to paint. The art teacher was reluctant, thinking that it was a passing fancy for her. He tried to dissuade her. But the pursuit of creativity takes courage and persistence. My mother visited the art school daily and did not give up. Her resolve was apparent at a tender age. One day, the teacher asked her to draw straight lines on blank paper. Before he could say Radhe Krishna, little Kaushalya had drawn hundred straight lines on the paper. Impressed by her steady hand, the artist enrolled her in his class. 

Mother painted several gouache watercolors under his tutelage. I grew up with her paintings in our home. They are exceptional works of art in delicate harmonious colors. I adored her paintings as a child but over time I have grown to appreciate her style even more. There is unique clarity of form and apparent ease of composition. My eyes linger for hours on fine uninterrupted lines, and exaggerated features in the frames. Long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers, and elegant toes.

My mother’s full-length painting of a maiden in her hut. (Image provided by Author)

My mother’s art is imprinted on my mind. Perhaps that explains elaborate doodles in my workbooks. My classmates would line up at my desk to request their doodles. School chalkboards were also covered in my art in all free periods.  My teachers can vouch for that.  After coming to America, my mother visited me and we both made a Bani Thani style painting together. I can clearly visualize her able hands patiently mixing the watercolors for me. This painting is my anchor. It portrays the universal twin souls Radha and Krishna engrossed in mutual adoration. I have the painting on my mantle. In the grandeur of this rendering, I can visualize my mother’s being in the Bani Thani. I also have her painting of Ahalya, the most beautiful woman petrified in stone kneeling in front of a handsome Lord Rama. Another one of a lovely young maiden on a tuft of lotus leaves with a serene expression which I think is a self-portrait. 

I never feel alone when I paint because my mother’s hand guides me from across the oceans.  But my piece de resistance is her prize-winning painting of a maiden in a hut waiting for her beloved. It is a 9 by 11 monochromatic watercolor painting in shades of green and aqua. She has created a wonderful rustic atmosphere and depth with a limited palette. Color blending is flawless. I can enter the living space, hear the rustle of her skirt. Touch her long fingers, admire her delicate lashes as she engages in small talk with her parrot.

As a child, I often wondered what she was cooking on the earthenware stove. The solitary lamp in the alcove and four flickering flames are so poetic. But more than anything else, I love her beautiful feet strongly planted on terra firma despite the faraway look in her eyes. The painting embodies the body, heart, and soul of my mother. She is an angel and the salt of the Earth. And she is mine. 


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

'Looking For A Lady With Fangs and A Moustache' Film Poster.

Searching For a Dakini on a Motorcycle in the Himalayas 

Looking For a Lady With Fangs and a Moustache, released on April 9, 2021, was directed & written by Khyentse Norbu and produced by Max Dipesh Khatri and Olivia Harrison.  

This is the story of Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang), a forward-thinking Tibetan young man who has a dream of creating Kathmandu’s best coffee shop. It would be lovely to sip a chai and bite into a croissant on the mall road overlooking the Himalayas.

But there’s a proverbial fly in the ointment. Tenzin is afflicted by a recurring prescient nightmare. He has a modern mindset and is not superstitious like some of his townsfolk. However, the recurrent dream of his incumbent death drives him to seek out ancient Buddhist monks for guidance. The monk gives him a black thread with six knots and a cryptic message to seek out a dakini and ask her for a life-saving boon. Now starts an incomprehensible and somewhat shady trek of the protagonist. Armed with a red ladies slipper, he follows many young women down the hills, on busy streets, in long skirts, ankle bells, and kohled eyes. On his own personal quest, Tenzin also tries to help his friend in his romantic aspirations to woo a Tibetan singer. His journey takes the viewer on a motorcycle ride from dawn to dusk, through winding roads, misty mountains, elaborately carved ancient temples, and waterfalls. This part is quite picturesque and effortlessly crafted by the executive cinematographer, Mark Lee Ping-bing.

 The film has English subtitles, and snippets of Hindi prayers, chants, and also lines of a popular Bollywood song…Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein. But most of the conversations are in the local dialect.

The end was a bit jarring considering that the narrative was about mystical feminine spirits – dakinis. We were in search of these mythical tantric beings possessing supernatural powers on the human destiny that are rooted in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition but I failed to experience a climactic moment where the protagonist comes face to face with the mysterious feminine energy. And yet, everyone seems content in the parting celebration.

The initial angst is replaced by warmth and camaraderie. Perhaps pigeons randomly crossing paths or a flock of flying birds in the sky are symbolic of resolution. This film explores the esoteric belief of Tibetans in mystical life forms in a sort of “ show” and not “tell” genre and I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was intrigued and left with more questions. Perhaps that was intended? Regardless, I made a mental note to go and check out the cafes in Kathmandu! 


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Pagglait Approaches the Insular Hindu Family With Humor and Heart

Pagglait is a Hindi dramedy film that released this past March on Netflix. The narrative follows the emotional reaction and circumstance of a young widow, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), after the death of her husband. The film is set in a small town near Delhi and chronicles the aftermath of the death of a breadwinner in a middle-class joint family.

This film, written and directed by Umesh Bist, is a winner! The producers Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment deserve praise.

The film plunges us into the middle of a drama. Astik has passed away. Sandhya is alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives, sifting through “routine” condolence posts on social media about her dead husband, Astik. Sandhya is very natural in her confusion and state of shock.

When asked, “If she wants some tea?” She says she would prefer a cola

Ghanashyam, a relative, suggests she has PTSD and Sandhya’s mother tries to ward off evil spirits by burning chilies. Sandhya’s attitude leaves the others puzzled but the viewer gains more insight into Sandhya’s character after her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives. This vegetarian “chips” craving, Muslim school friend helps Sandhya process her grief. Sandhya admits that she is not feeling sad and sneaks away with Nazia for spicy street food while Astik’s brother is performing rituals for Astik on the river bank.

Ashutosh Rana looks sufficiently tired and hapless as a grieving father of a young son. Raghubir Yadav as the interfering orthodox uncle who orchestrates the funeral arrangements and thirteen-day right of passage of the deceased soul is natural. Another easy feather in Sheeba Chaddha’s professional cap as a traditional middle-aged mother who has no time to grieve. She just carries on cooking bland food for visiting relatives, massaging her mother-in-law’s ankles, giving her enema, offering support to her husband, and seeking guidance from her “guru”.

Sandhya admits that in the few months of marriage like any other arranged married couple, she was not very close to her husband. The loss of her pet cat affected her more than her husband. It takes time to develop feelings for someone…

The other family members are distressed but I think they are more concerned about the repercussions of the loss in their lives rather than genuine grief for the departed soul. Meanwhile, Sandhya discovers a photograph of Astik’s crush in his book. Sandhya is angry at her dead husband and is curious about Aakanksha, played flawlessly by the lovely and well-groomed, Sayani Gupta.  Aakanksha, who worked with Astik, came to offer her condolences with others from Astik’s office. Sandhya confides in Aakanksha and tries to gain more information about Astik from Aakanksha. She meets her a few times and tries to dress, act, and live vicariously through Aakanksha. Sandhya finds it hard to believe that Aakanksha and Astik were not involved after marriage and broods over it. 

The plot presents a twist when the family finds out who is the sole beneficiary of Astik’s life insurance. Questions arise. Will Sandhya remain in the joint family home or return to her parents’ home? Will she accept another proposal of an arranged loveless marriage? She has been craving soda and “gol gappas”, is she expecting? Can she find a job with her Master’s in English literature?

There are so many questions for Sandhya who is caught unawares at a crossroad.

But if you look closely, this ludicrous state is not Sandhya’s alone! This is the state of so many female denizens of a repressive society in which all decisions are made for them. From birth. Whether they have a right to be born to upbringing, education, toys, books, clothes, career choice, marriage, emotional and financial stability. Their ability to choose food, love, happiness is nullified by others. All decisions are made for them.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who supports gender equality. To quote the beautiful Sanya Malhotra, “Pagglait is a person who listens to their heart!”

A round of applause to Bist for hitting a home run with his flashlight on an insular Hindu family, the predictable characters with their hypocrisy (coming late to the funeral and drinking while making others abstain), warmth (treating the old dadi with respect and cuddling up in her comforter), jibes (at the in-laws), stress (of one bathroom), prolonged rituals (despite poor financials), every attempt to draw a line between a high caste Hindu and a Muslim, and the rather odd raunchy doorbell!

Death opens doors for self-realization in unexpected places.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Exclusive Zoom with Bandish Bandits

Bandish Bandits is a romantic drama series between two opposites:  Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik) a musical prodigy from the Rathod Gharana of Jodhpur and Tamanna Sharma (Shreya Chaudhary), a young and beautiful rockstar.

Shreya fits the role to perfection because she is brimming with daredevil energy! Ritwik has a mischievous demeanor with sparkling eyes! Serendipity forces them to form a Rock band with an exciting name “ Bandish Bandits” which has so many connotations!  As they create exhilarating fusion music together, their pretend romance becomes a real thing! How lovely!  But will this love story hold up to family expectations or will destiny throw them a curveball? Set in the backdrop of picturesque Rajasthan steeped in ancient traditions and unique culture, the series is written and directed by the energetic young duo Anand Tiwari and Amrit Pal Singh Bindra and boasts a host of talented actors.

I really enjoyed chatting with Rajesh Tailang and Sheeba Chaddha. They talked about the process of selecting roles, being honest to their work, and letting the audience judge them on their merit. The actors’ commitment to acting and balancing their work on set with their personal life and hobbies is admirable. Both of them were very complimentary of the work ethic of their young costars and very impressed by their charming director, “ He likes to keep everyone happy while working together”. I could see that they all had a blast on set! I was intrigued about the roles they play but they skillfully kept that under the wraps and I think they were right!

The script of this ten-episode series is imbued in the exceptional music score handcrafted by the inimitable Shankar Ehsaan Loy! Be prepared to enter into a transcendental journey of love, adventure, and longing! Garaj Garaj Jugalbandi and Padharo Mhare Des are on my playlist now! I enjoyed hearing the backstory that just the preliminary practice session run of Raga Megh Malhar brought down torrential rain in the desert. That was helpful! I was heartened to hear that the actors were touched by the air, magic, and hospitality of Rajasthan. The desert never fails to cast a spell!

I am encouraged that this series aspires to showcase the cultural, aspirational, and musical diversity of the youth of our vast Indian subcontinent to the world. I have yet to converse with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in person but I kept hearing the same phrase repeated unanimously: “Naseer Sir is my guru and when he is on the set, everything changes for the better”!  I am more than certain that Naseeruddin’s role as a “Sangeet Samrat” will be rendered with the distinctive insight and finesse akin to Picasso. All in all, this is a delightfully curious narrative with a Bandish of stirring melodies! I can’t wait to binge-watch “Bandish Bandits”! I invite you all to tune in to the interviews and watch the show with us! 

The story is all about one exquisite thumri that twinkles in the heart of anyone who has ever experienced love!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

A Mason Jar of Fortunes

The most far-fetched prophecy I have ever received is: maybe you can live on the moon in the next century! Although all Bollywood and Western romantic numbers croon about flying up to the moon, I feel safer on terra firma.

To pull out a fortune from a cookie seems gimmicky to me. Regardless, it’s okay to succumb to a little bit of self-love and to justify this behaviour,  we read our message in a cookie with an enthusiasm that slowly dwindles as we go around the table and read each other’s luck. 

Unfortunately, the United States has the largest number of COVID-19 infections in the world and with it, we have seen a rise in anti-Asian sentiment. I chose to remind you of all of the precious fortune cookies that unite families at a dinner table.

In 2013, our friendly yoga teacher gave us a mason jar with a picture of her place of worship, a fragrant herb, and a colored strip of paper with a blessing. Mine was – “Get up and out, the day is bursting with moments.” by Rabindranath Tagore. We all went home with our jars and I put mine on my kitchen alcove. Over the years I kept putting other blessings in this jar along with strips of fortune. 

Growing up, we ate Indian food at home every day and so to change our taste we went once a week for and Indian Chinese dinner in Mumbai. Hakka noodles, American chop suey, chili chicken/paneer, and big bowls of hot and sour soup were our favorite entrees.  Indian Chinese food is not available in Huntsville but the next best option for my Indian friends is the American style Chinese food at PF CHANGS, doused generously with extra hot chili sauce. After spicing our palettes and clearing the sinuses, it’s time to read our fortunes. Unlike my other friends, I don’t like to eat the sugar cookie. I just hold the twisted fortune crisp in my hand and take a tentative bite of the vanilla and sesame flavored shell. Then I put it down and after everyone else has read their fortunes, I read the vague aphorism silently. Then I put it in my purse and at home transfer it to the mason jar. Every time I open the jar, I think of my yoga teacher and once again I read my fortune. I turn it over in the palm of my hand, look at the random lotto numbers and stash it away in my jar.  

I did not know that these fortune cookies are not Chinese. They were popularized in America by Japanese immigrants in the 19th century. They were first made in the Benkyodo bakery in San Francisco and served with hot tea. Later, Kito the founder of “Little Tokyo” in Los Angeles sold his flour tea cakes with fortune slips to the Chinese. During World War II, when 100,000 Japanese were in internment in America, the Chinese started mass producing these cookies. Ever since that time, they appear as a courtesy dessert along with the check at Chinese restaurants. These cookies are accepted all over the world, including India, where people are fond of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and Palm readers. Strangely enough, they are not popular in China and are considered to be too American. 

I have never visited China but I have lived in America for almost three decades. We live in a sparsely populated region in the South but my American friends, family members, and strangers are all sheltered in place. A few of us go for solitary walks or wave at people from our porches. Friends FaceTime us to update us about their health or share their thoughts on social media. We wash our hands, run fingers through our hair, take naps, and spend days and nights in our pajamas. Time as we know it has slowed down. There’s nothing rushed. We all are running out of projects at home. We clean, purge, organize, sort, grow herb gardens, sew and donate masks, cook, share jokes, indulge in arts and crafts, read the stack of books put aside for a rainy day. 

Today, I decided to open my jar of fortunes to look for a clue to solve the viral pandemic. I pour a cup of coffee and pour out my fortunes on the floor and arrange them in a cyclic semblance of destiny.  

Affirmative:

  • You will be honored with a prestigious prize or award.
  • Your dearest wish will come true.
  • A pleasant surprise is in store for you.
  • You will always be surrounded by true friends.
  • You have a strong desire for home, family comes first.
  • Good news will come to you by mail.
  • You have the ability to sense and know higher truth.
  • You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.

Sarcastic:

  • You are an evening star in someone’s romantic eyes.
  • You are competent, creative, careful. Prove it.
  • Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.
  • Focus on your long-term goals. 
  • Good things will happen sooner or later.
  • Golden hours are coming to you eventually.
  • A cynic is only a frustrated optimist.

These strange words remind me of the hilarious attempts of two Asian women working at the Fortune cookie factory in Amy Tan’s novel “The Joy Luck Club” who are not able to translate these proverbs into Chinese. They give up thinking that they don’t contain any wisdom but just bad instruction.

Cryptic:

  • Your smile is a curve that gets a lot of things straight. Answer the call to help a friend.
  • Now is the time to call loved ones. Share your news.
  • Don’t pursue happiness, create it (Mango?!).
  • Your luck has been completely changed today.
  • Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen?
  • The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days.
  • What you plant now you will harvest later.
  • You will learn about love and a peaceful heart. A smiley face and a Spanish translation. 

Mysterious:

  • Be prepared to receive something special.
  • The best times of your life have not yet been lived.
  • Everything will now come your way.
  • You will discover an unexpected treasure.
  • Now is a lucky time for you to take a chance.
  • You are going to change your present line of work.
  • Soon someone will make you very proud.
  • You were born with a sixth sense. 
  • Confidence is at a high? Whose?

Ominous:

  • If it seems fate is against you today. You are right!
  •  A closed mouth gathers no feet!
  • You will die alone and poorly dressed!

Duds:

  • How about another fortune
    • Blank fortunes are the scariest because you freak out that something bad is going to happen to you. 

I look at all these fortunes and put them back in the Mason jar and sit on my deck under a blue sky. I pray for all the people who are ill with this virus and especially for those who have succumbed to this terrible illness. I take a strip of green paper and tune into higher consciousness. I breathe in and out. I write, “VIRUS BEGONE!” and put it back into my mason jar.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

An Offering

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet there’s a line – “I could be bound in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space.”

Today is March 26, 2020. On the tenth day of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wake up to birdsong of crested red cardinals, whippoorwills, warblers and woodpeckers. Outside in the garden a cluster of yellow and coral poppies are opening their eyes. A blue jay hops and skips from one branch to another talking to his friends about cherry blossoms. A mallard family is quacking their morning assembly by the lake. A baby frog opens his mouth and then stops in mid croak remembering it is dawn and not dusk. I slowly enter body consciousness after a night of dreamless slumber. By now the birds have finished most of their psalms, I rub my eyes and dutifully join in the last hymnal. I have noticed that since most people and their cars are in quarantine, birds and buzzing creatures have become more prolific in their hum in our shared space.

I pass fingers through my uncombed hair and sip my turmeric and cardamom chai. These days I leave a pot of tea simmering on the stove. They say theophylline and theobromine alkaloids in tea don’t allow the stealthy coronavirus to gain a foothold in your throat. I breathe through both nostrils and blow out the stale air. I think of my mother listening to Gauri Aarti on the other side of the planet. Her baby fine hair is oiled and combed and her soft skin wrapped in banana leaves. Mother’s affect is sweet, her body and aura clean. She says: Your thoughts become more neatly organized after you have combed your hair. I don’t argue with her but draw a comb through my curls and braid them.

I think of nurturing times spent in her company. How she kept me clean, healthy, dressed in hand-stitched and beautifully embroidered frocks and pinafores. She waited for me everyday with a flavorful meal and a delectable dessert to soothe my sweet tooth. Then she listened and laughed as I regaled her with my day in school, college, medical school, on the bus, in the train and later at my in-laws’ place. Mother had a rule. Every garment and footwear worn outside the house had to be put for washing as soon as we returned home. We were not allowed to eat street food and because of this golden edict, we escaped several infectious diseases while growing up in India.  

Today when this now airborne virus has spread to 198 countries, infected more than 468, 644 cases and taken 21,191 lives, I am reminded of all the safety precautions mothers instill in their children. This overwhelming disease is causing an insurmountable cost to the world economy! 

We are hunkered down in our abodes and are drawing from familiar resources, old medicines, previous epidemics. Let us take this time to pay homage to the creator of this universe and ask the mother goddess to listen to our plea. After all as I am only a half of my mother’s half, so are you and you and you in Wuhan, in Italy, in Spain, in New York, in Los Angeles,in Seattle…. Together we can overcome this by using our collective intelligence. 

The Sun has rolled higher in the blue sky and I have finished my tea. I look at the light through the slats falling on the French knotted neckline of my mother’s soft blue dress. I imagine her sitting at her dressing table and deftly kohlIng her eyes, pearling her neck, and twisting the tendrils escaping from her chignon. I can never forget the way she looks at my dad as he holds her hand and leads her out for an evening stroll in the park. My fingers rest on the soft fabric of the blue dress and I hold it up to the sun. I want to put it on but I hesitate. Today I will offer it to the Sun as a salutation from my mother because it is not my time to do it. Take this blue dress on your golden chariot to the blue heavens and ask the blue goddess to provide the healthcare workers with an endless supply of blue protective masks because in this solitary hour as they work and care for the sick we can share our stories of life, health, survival, maturity, loyalty, harmony, stability, and peace to heal everyone.

I am relieved that volunteers are making face masks and the federal government is encouraging citizens to wear masks, not N95s but regular surgical ones, home made, bandanas, scarves, any kind really… anything to cover their nose and mouth and to prevent them from touching their face. Let’s hope and pray that all of us can come together virtually to protect the ailing humanity from this fatal affliction.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner. She drew the featured image as a symbol of her love for her father.

Back to Square One

March 27, 2020. Today is the eleventh day since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, the disease appears to be under control, but today the US is the new epicenter of the pandemic with more than 81321 known cases.

There is a massive disruption in daily life. More than a third of Americans are staying home. Offices, factories, schools, churches, bars and restaurants are closed. There is no revelry at the beaches now. In the aftermath of the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, infections have soared in Louisiana. Even the national parks are closing. Italy, Spain and the UK are overwhelmed by the toll the disease is taking. Boris Johnson the UK PM has tested positive today. In India the entire country is under a strict shelter- in-place.

The huddled masses are reinventing how to live in their homes. Everything from head to toe and all surfaces are sanitized. Millions are soaping, scrubbing and rinsing their hands to wash away traces of germs. Every time I wash, I chant the Gayatri mantra but the image of Lady Macbeth’s constant obsession – washing the blood off her hands – flashes in my mind.

My eight year old grandson, Ayush, has been home since the first week of March. He has completely broken free of his school routine. He has immersed himself in cricket and tennis with his playmate Bahadur, and did not come indoors to FaceTime with me. But now he has lost his playmate. Bahadur, like so many other Nepalis, has gone back to his village and the borders have closed. When I ask him about Bahadur, Ayush has a wistful look in his eyes and a hollowness in his voice. We stopped playing monopoly, chess, cards or other board games because the most important element of play for Ayush was his interaction with Bahadur and teaching him the nuances of the game.

Images of Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwallah and Mini float up in my memory and a lump forms in my throat. I hope that Bahadur has reached home safely and his family members are well.

Now, Ayush plays for ten to fifteen minutes with me and those are the brightest moments of my day. It’s usually late night for him and mid-morning for me. He has downloaded games on his iPad and we play Words with Friends, chess, Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders.

He is a patient teacher when it comes to computers because he can download and install almost any application at lightning speed. I move ponderously, watchful about privacy and security issues.

Yesterday we played Saamp-Seedhi. This ancient game originated in India and was originally known as Moksha Patam. Today it is a worldwide classic – Snakes and Ladders. We used to play this game as a family with my parents. Every time I play with Ayush, reminiscent childhood laughter spills through my veins. According to Eckhart Tolle, the world is not here to make you happy but to make you conscious. I think that the only exception to this truth is the joy of playing with children.

In the thirteenth century, a saint called Gyandev invented Moksha Patam with lessons in morality ladders representing virtues – asceticism, generosity, faith, reliability and knowledge. Snakes were vices: anger, lust, pride, and theft. To win the game was to achieve salvation. In his honor it was also called Gyan Chaupad.

In the original game, ladders were fewer than snakes indicating that the path of goodness was more arduous. Snakes were plentiful, showing that our life-path was replete with bad elements.

When the Brits took it to England it became popular as Snakes and Ladders and also acquired Victorian connotations. Generally every player tries their best to roll the die so that they can race quickly from 0-100 on the 8 x 8 square, red and yellow gridded board which originally had 12 snakes and 5 ladders. Children love it because they think of it as a game of luck but still try hard to roll the right number on the die. They are jubilant, shimmying up the ladders and tiptoeing silently by the snakes. But invariably squeals of disappointment erupt when the snakes swallow their tokens. They also learn that the ladders are not straddling the squares so they have to pay close attention to which square the leg of the ladder touches.

This game of probability is not simplistic but embedded in the game is the innate duality of life. The strong ladders sooner or later balance out the surreptitious serpents. I think of the sinuous snakes as unavoidable incumbrances in our spiritual growth. They remind me of irrational behaviors by people who interrupt conversations, spill vitriol on social media, or who blatantly scoff at social distancing even though people are dying of COVID-19.

The worst snakes are strategically positioned on the 99th square. Many human interactions, especially in these gloomy times of the pandemic, remind me of the energy of the 99th square. When I look at all the anger, anguish and frustration of health care workers facing increasing patient loads and vanishing global supply chains, I am alarmed. Our failings have culminated in a humongous COVID -19 serpent poised on the 99th square to swallow frail humanity. I wonder if this is an important life lesson teaching us that if we hold tight to the five ladders of virtue and not take life on this planet for granted, we might survive. Now that we are all stuck on the 99th square, let’s look inward and try to reinvent better habits. This may be our last chance to roll the die.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner. She drew the featured image as a symbol of her love for her father.

Edited by India Currents contributing editor, Meera Kymal

Do It For Others: COVID-19 Pandemic

How is it affecting our lives in the United States?

I am a medical director of a community hospital based clinical pathology laboratory. We have been preparing for the COVID-19 for a few weeks at the hospital. It became urgent and real when someone rushed into the lab through the patient collection area to steal hand sanitizer and masks. Then we started getting calls from the emergency department. The virus was literally within an arm’s reach! The wolf was huffing and puffing at our door! We have currently 6 confirmed cases in Alabama. This prompted me to write an article about all the facts I have gleaned by talking to my medical colleagues. 

What has happened?

In 2019, an animal virus of the Coronavirus family jumped from a small mammal into humans. MERs and SARs are two other examples of viral infections that spread from animals to humans and caused epidemics in the recent past. The epicenter of COVID-19 was in Wuhan, China but now it has infected more than 149596 people and caused more than 5604 deaths in several countries world wide. The reported overall mortality rate varies from 0.6 to 4 percent. Children under ten don’t show symptoms but those over the age of 60 with other comorbid conditions are at risk of developing pneumonia and dying. To put it in perspective the mortality rate may be taken as 1 percent if you are fifty. 2-4 percent of you are sixty. 8-10 percent of you are seventy and 50 percent or more if you are eighty. There are more infected people around us who are shedding virus in droplets because they have not been tested, or the test came back negative because it was improperly collected.

What are the symptoms?

High fever, body ache often described as the worst flu with slight betterment of simpletons followed by difficulty breathing and dry cough. Some people have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

How does it spread?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus particles enter the air around him in the form of droplets and then settle on the surfaces which can be contagious from 1-9 days. The virus survives for 1-2 days on paper but longer on glass, granite and handles. 

Why is it bad?

This is a new virus that we do not have any exposure to and it seems to be more infectious and contagious than influenza to the tune of 1: 40 compared to 1:9. Unlike Ebola or SARS, infected people can shed it in the incubation period while being asymptomatic and also after they have recovered. The most vulnerable people are the elderly in nursing homes who are suffering from congestive heart failure, COPD, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other autoimmune diseases. 

What are the limitations? 

As we have seen in China and now in Italy, and other countries in Europe, COVID 19 infections have exponentially increased overwhelming the health system: isolation resources, health care providers and ICU beds providing life support to the critically ill. 

How is it tested?

Your health care provider will collect a sample from your nasopharynx (high up in the nose) and put the collected sample in a special viral transport medium to send it frozen or refrigerated to the testing laboratory. The results will be released to your provider. The federal and state governments are working overtime to make tests available to everyone in the near future. The vaccine is being tested and may be available to us by the end of this year. 

What we all can do

  • Social isolation by staying about six feet apart, not shaking hands, hugging or touching your own or others face. Indian Namaste is the best greeting! 
  • If you have to travel in a public transport, don’t touch the handrails and handles with bare hands.cruise ships are a complete NO! In the plane, wipe down your seat and hand rests and preferably sit on the window side with the air vent blowing directly on your face. 
  • Cover your cough and sneeze properly. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, cleaning, fingertips, thumbs and backs of hands. I chant the Gayatri Mantra twice while working up the soap suds. 
  • At the gas station use a paper towel to pump gas and knuckles to punch in your zip code. 
  • It is best to keep children at home because although they don’t get sick they can transmit the virus to grandparents and elderly relatives. 
  • Don’t share food, don’t eat snacks in between meals while working. Stock up on essentials, like water, canned vegetables, lentils, rice and medicines. 
  • You do not need to wear a mask right now unless you are sick to protect others from droplets. You do not need a N- 99 mask because the viral particles are bigger and an ordinary medical mask can serve the purpose. If you wear a mask, dispose of it properly.
  • If you are sick stay at home because even if you are not feeling poorly you can prevent spreading the disease to others. If you think you have the symptoms get in touch with your medical provider and they can help you with testing. Apart from state departments of health, private laboratories like LabCorp and Quest are testing for COVID-19.

What I have done 

  • Stopped all congregations: Churches, celebrations, museum events, literary gatherings, medical conferences, nonessential travel. 
  • Stopped cleaning service and nonessential shopping. 
  • I have designated clothes, outerwear and purse etc. for work and wash those items daily. 
  • I don’t wear shoes at home and clean all surfaces by spraying them with disinfectant spray. 
  • I only use a few areas in my home and have made a “hot zone” in the basement to isolate if any of our family members get sick. 
  • I put all sheets, comforters and sweaters in the sunlight when I can. I keep the temperature higher in my bedroom and have a humidifier to prevent the air passages from drying and allowing virus to enter. 

In conclusion

Stay clean, stay safe, stay informed. Do not take this as a joke. Do not hoard toilet paper or masks. Please help in every way you can to flatten the epidemic curve so that we can handle the sick patients without running out of supplies especially ICU beds with respirators. 

Remember, social distancing is not an act of fear it is an act of love and care.

Monita Soni is a pathologist and a free lance journalist in Madison Alabama. 

 

When You Love Someone…

It was a Valentines weekend but it was not jolly! My world was hurtling down a steep cliff, only it was worse than my hormone drenched teenage-ish mind imagined. My gut was in overdrive, signaling danger, and my cerebral cortex was out of orbit. 

I have always been a late bloomer and although my limbs stretched in height, my brain failed to catch up to speed. So when I got married, my baby face and warm, almond milk palette did not know that I was hurdling head first into a sharp, glacial disaster. As I said, it was not jolly.

Having fond memories of the ancient city of pink palaces – Jaipur – as a child was radically different than going as a bride into a family of three strangers and their even stranger acquaintances! 

Their thought processes were radically different from mine. They were very conservative in terms of customs, food habits, and medical treatment. A daughter-in-law should wear a saree, cover her head and touch the feet of every stranger who stepped into the house. Food was extra spicy, difficult for me to digest, and if I fell sick,  I was only allowed two or three antibiotic capsules instead of the entire course.

Most of these issues I could navigate. But there were times the home dynamics were rocked by temper tantrums and hysteria which defied human logic. I was absorbed in the quixotic chaos of my marital home with the eyes of an avid reader of mystery novels but not enough to prepare me for the harrowing hair-pin-bend-like Jumanji moments in my newly wedded life.  Help from home was a few thousand miles away. My parents lived in Bombay. There were no cell phones. The only landline phone was in the living room and was not private. There was not a single soul in the ramparts of my Piya-ka-Ghar who was sympatico. 

On one such dire occasion when my cup of sorrow was spilling, I made a plan to make a phone call from an outside line. I stealthily crept out of the house in a sweltering mid afternoon down the dusty lane when the family folks were on their daily siesta. There were no public phones and neighbors had no connections. I walked into the office of a relative and I told him a white lie. “The phone at home is not working and I have to call my parents in Bombay.” He acquiesced and I dialed home. When dad came on the line I explained to him, “It’s bad!” I wailed and then rattled off the issue in code language. To my dismay, my brilliant dad was having difficulty cracking my code. Regardless, I told him it would be good if he came there urgently, choking over every wor…d…he was having difficulty understanding. My only hope was that he could grasp the gravity of the situation from the emotional current in my voice. Mr. Relative kept staring at me but did not ask questions. I hung up and ran back to my in-laws’ house sobbing silently. I was at my wits end.

Monita Soni and Her Father

Hours passed and my mom called on the landline but her message was not conveyed to me. Then at 3 AM on a very cold and foggy winter night, a very tired, bleak-eyes tall man in a tweed coat and muffler came over the threshold. My mother-in-law called out my name: “Monita… your dad is here”. I ran out in my nightgown, bare feet without bothering to throw a shawl on my shoulders. “Daddy!”, I cried out and clutched at the hand knit grey sweater on his chest and started bawling.

He gently patted me on my back and said, “It’s good to see that you are okay my daughter.” I looked up at his face, he had not shaved and his lips were cracked from the cold. There was a worried look around his eyes.

Later, I found out that he was flying from Bombay to Delhi for an urgent business matter when he took my “call” and then not knowing how to contact me for a better understanding of my duress on the phone, he took a night taxi from Delhi. He traveled all through the dark, bitter, cold night to check on my condition.

He also said: “Daughter when you love someone, you don’t subject them to stress.” I forgot my troubles and felt guilt because I realized how much anguish I had caused my dad and how he must have suffered not knowing what was troubling me. I gave him a comfortable bed and said: “Dear dad, you rest now. We will talk in the morning”.

But my dad’s words “ When you love someone…” are instilled in the staccato of my beating heart. I can never forget his worry-stricken face. I also became acutely aware of how many insurmountable struggles of his own he had kept hidden from me. Those gently spoken tough words from a very tender hearted man caused me to transform from a crying daddy’s girl into a woman of tremendous resolve like a koi fish swimming against the current.

Because when someone loves you… you grow.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner. She drew the featured image as a symbol of her love for her father.

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.