Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

Disappeared – Short Story

I sat in my room, a bunch of pictures sprawled all over the bed. I didn’t know why I had this sudden urge to take out all the old photographs. I spent the last hour finding the one I wanted. When I saw Ben today, I couldn’t help but think of her. I use to hang out with them sometimes, just the three of us; me, Ben and her. There are so many unanswered questions. It’s been years.  It’s an unsaid rule in our family; whenever we meet no one asks about her. No one even mentions her. I don’t like it, acting like she didn’t exist because she mattered and she was real. She was a very important part of my life. I think about it from time to time, I want to know what happened. “You have to learn to let things go.” she always told me. But I couldn’t let it go, not without knowing what really happened. I have spent a lot of time revisiting that day hoping each time I might find something, some clue…

“You’re late.” I said the moment I saw her. She rolled her eyes at me. She thought I was the silly one that I expected her to be here on time when history said otherwise. “I am on time. You are early.” She said and took my arm. “We should do something different today. Hmm I know, I’ll take you shopping then we will go that lake you like so much. We’ll take some sandwiches along, have a picnic.” I was a bit shocked. She always wanted to do something epic, her suggesting we do something normal made me a bit uneasy. Then she giggled, “I am just kidding. Oh, Jen, you are so easy to tease, that’s one of the reasons you are my favorite cousin.“  Yup, back to normal. My cousin, Clara, never gave a second thought about anyone’s opinion.  People thought she didn’t care but I knew her, she cared too much. She did what she wanted; she had big dreams about her life that often was the reason for her conflicts with her parents. Being just one year apart we had always been close. I wish I could have said something that day, anything that might have changed her mind. She became quiet next to me, too quiet. “Something wrong?” I asked.  She was my best friend. I knew she would tell me when she was ready but she never did.  She gave me a serious look and then smiled, “Nothing to worry about little sis. Let’s go. I have an awesome day planned. “She shrugged it off, changing the topic and we spent a crazy day together. Every moment spent with Clara was crazy and her enthusiasm so infectious. Little did I know those were the last moments I would ever spend with her?

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I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. That was the last day anyone ever saw her. I was the last person to her. Her parents called the next evening asking us to send her back home. She told them she was spending the night at our house. Her parents became frantic, they went to the police, filed a missing complaint. They called all her friends to see if she was with anyone if they had any information. No one knew a thing. She was gone, just vanished. For months we all were disturbed, every time the phone rang, we thought it was her. But she never called. It’s been ten years now. She disappeared from our lives, just like that without a trace. She was a big part of my life, I depended on her. She was gone leaving us all behind, leaving me behind. Ben mentioned her today; he was one of her friends. Seeing him brought a rush of memories and I couldn’t help but ponder over Clara. It bothers him too I guess, not knowing. For me, that’s the worst part. If I know the reason I can try to understand, move on; have closure. I don’t know what happened to her if she is alive or dead. Looking at the picture of us from that day which we took at some carnival, I hope she would have told me. I still hope that she is out there somewhere and she is happy. No one else believes this, they think she’s dead. They think she got involved in something she couldn’t get out of. She did have her fair share of troublemaking but this was too drastic even for her. She would have been thirty years old this year, but here I sit by myself looking at a picture of us on her birthday. My aunt blamed me for a long time. She believed I knew where she had gone and refused to tell them. I explained to her over and over that if I knew I would have stopped her. It’s hard thinking about where she must be. There has to be a reason, something happened to her. I’ll never forget her last words to me “ Never change, little sis.” Maybe that was her way of saying goodbye. I should have known she would never say something like this out of the blue but I was nineteen, I dismissed it without a thought. She had always been a bit mysterious and larger than life. She told me everything, I believed but I think she told me only the good things and dealt with the bad stuff on her own. I always thought that no one knew her better than me but now I realize that no one knew her at all.

Historic Places to See – My wishlist.

I dream of traveling the whole world like most people do; it’s on almost everyone’s bucket list. I have a list of destinations solely based on the history of the place which some people think is weird but it’s not. As long as I can remember I have had an unexplained interest in history. I love to reading histories be it of a person or a place. I like to imagine how it was during the olden days; it’s one of my favorite pass times. I have a travel wish list to satisfy the history buff in me.

  • Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city along with Herculaneum was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It is said to have been a bustling town since 1st century AD. After the eruption though Pompeii and other towns were buried and remained undiscovered until a part of the place was unearthed in 1599 but remained forgotten till 1748 when explorers rediscovered the site. The objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved under the ash due to lack of air and moisture. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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  • Athens

Athens, Greece is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city has a recorded history of over 3000 years but it is said to be inhabited for the last 7000 years. In ancient Greece, Athens played an important role in art, literature, drama, philosophy, and science. There are beautiful structures symbolizing the Greek civilizations like the Parthenon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The city has a rich cultural heritage and is a must-see for history lovers.

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  • Machu Picchu

This ruined city is located in Peru which is accessible only through a train or a four-day trek as it is situated at the top of a mountain. It was built as an estate for Inca Emperor Pachacuti during 1438-1472. This beautiful ancient city was abandoned after the Spanish Conquest of the region and discovered again after decades. It was named as one of the New Wonders of the World in 2007.

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  • Colosseum

Rome has been the heart of art and culture in Italy since centuries. The most symbolic structure in Rome is the Colosseum which was built in the first century AD. It is also the largest amphitheater in the world. It was used for Gladiator combats, spectacles, and even executions during the early Roman Empire. It has crumbled a little over the years and parts of it are restricted but it is still a very captivating part of the western civilization.

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  • Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is situated on the bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a magnificent structure of white marble built by the Mughal King Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz. The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world and famous as a symbol of love all over the world. It is an architectural gem from the period of the Mughal rule in India.

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There are many more fascinating historic places I hope to see someday the list could go on and on but these are the ones which sit at the top of my list. I have imagined visiting them since I read about them in history text books. Cities like Athens and Rome have such an incredible and vast historic significance even in today’s world.

My trip to Thailand.

Looking at the blank pages in my Passport for the last seven years was annoying, to put it mildly. Finally, my cousin and I decided to go to Thailand. It seemed like a convenient option since it’s not too far; a four-hour flight from Mumbai. It’s a beautiful country and perfect for our first international trip. We only had five nights of stay in total so we spent two nights in Pattaya and three in Bangkok. We tried to see as many sights as we could in the limited time at hand, some places were just a fraction more impressive to me personally than others.

  • Pattaya Tower

The tower is situated close to Jomtien Beach. The view from the observation deck which is on the 55th floor is simply breath-taking. You get a beautiful view of the beach. From the 56th floor, you can take the tower jump which has two options – single seating or double seating. If you are unadventurous like me, you can stay on the deck level take in the view with a cup of coffee. There are also three revolving restaurants situated in the tower on the 54th, 53rd and 52nd floors.

  • Coral Island

It is a picturesque island in Pattaya, which takes around 30 minutes speedboat ride to get there from the city beach. It is beautiful with its white sand beaches and the clear water is so peaceful, makes you want to stay there as long as possible. There are particular areas like zones for water sports and swimming so it doesn’t get too crowded in the water. On the island, there is a shopping area which had some pretty cool touristy and local things to buy.

  • Nong Nooch Village

This is a very beautiful and unique man-made village and it is spread over many acres.  There are so many different pockets to this place. We walked around the big lake, visited the pottery garden where every structure was built using pots, it was amazing; there is a butterfly garden which has so many pretty varieties of flowers. I had a chance to see the Thai Cultural Show and also the Elephant show, which is a famous feature of the place; it was one of the highlights for me in the Nong Nooch Village.

  • Safari World

Safari World was a must-see for when I planned this trip because I read a lot about it so going there was really exciting. It lives up to the hype created around it over the years. Firstly, you get to see so many exotic animals in their natural habitats. You can drive around in your car and see them in the open, it’s fascinating. Secondly, the dolphin and sea-lion shows are just incredible, it’s once in a lifetime kind of a moment. The park itself is huge, we just walked around till it was physically possible but we didn’t even cover half of it.

  • Madame Tussauds

 

We went to the Madame Tussauds Museum in Bangkok and I was ecstatic. I always wanted to visit one since I was a little girl so I was a little a star struck when we got there. I definitely felt like one of my childhood dreams was coming true. We got to see these cool wax statues of celebrities and click pictures; it was a lot of fun. We got tickets to see a 15 minutes clip of the movie Ice- Age in 4D. It was one of the favorite places to see in Bangkok.

 

There were many other places we visited like the Gems Gallery, Chao Phraya River Cruise and ‘Wat-Pho’ – the temple of the reclining Buddha and ‘Wat Traimit’ – the temple of the Golden Buddha to name a few. All of the places were characteristic and lovely in their own way but these are the ones that stood out for me.

My Thoughts on “Eleanor and Park”

   Eleanor and Park 

                   – Rainbow Rowell

I wanted to read this book for months. Last week I finally bought a paperback copy for myself. It took me just two days to finish reading it because it was difficult to keep it down. The book is a refreshing take on a teen love story. The narration of the story is straight forward, it doesn’t digress and it’s both from Eleanor as well as Park’s point of view. Both the characters do not fit the exact mold of stereotypes shown in high school stories maybe that’s why they are so relatable because in reality very few actually fit the clichés we read about teenagers.

Eleanor and Park are two people who are very different from each other, not only their personalities differ but family backgrounds too. You can empathize with both of them but personally I felt really bad for Eleanor. Both of them have their own set of problems and an entirely distinct approach and perspective to them. All teenagers are a mess, some more so than the others; the book captures that turmoil pretty perfectly. Eleanor stands apart from the rest of the girls in school and is picked on for it but they don’t know how difficult her life is and being insensitive they just add to her troubles.

There are always such people around you especially in high school. It’s such little nuances that shine through in the book that keep you curious; you can’t wait to find out what going to happen next; it wasn’t what I had guessed. The inner conflicts the characters go through is portrayed so well that you feel all those emotions along with the characters and that is one of the reasons I liked this book so much.

There is sub-plot of identity crises in the story which as a Cultural Studies student was very fascinating to me but that might just be me overanalyzing the situation. Park struggles with his feelings for Eleanor because he didn’t think much of her in the beginning and it is a task for him to come out of that mind set. Like any teenager Park is concerned about the thoughts of his peers which prompts him to keep a distance from Eleanor which doesn’t work out. Eleanor on the other hand is guarded around people and I think she is incredibly brave in dealing with crises but she has a lot of baggage. Eleanor’s behavior stems from insecurity and anxiety that she has to live with every day.

There is a whole different dynamic to the story solely because of good characterization.  There are many popular culture references which emphasize the fact that the characters are teenagers and adds an element of reality. The serious conflicts in the story aren’t explicitly described in the novel but subtle hints are woven throughout the plot from the very beginning.

The plot of the book wasn’t overly complicated or dramatic in anyway but it leaves an impression on the reader, that’s for sure. The title of the book is the names of the two protagonists and the plot remains dedicated to them instead of going in other directions which has happened in the books I have read before. Overall I really enjoyed reading Eleanor and Park. It is not exactly a light read typical love story, there is a darker theme constantly underlining the plot and the tone of the novel. I am sure I will read this book again and enjoy it just as much as I did reading it the first time.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Top Five Favorite YA Books

I have read a lot of young adult books lately and while some didn’t interest me at all, others were mostly predictable. By the first couple of pages I was bored and finishing them started to feel like a task. Finally I was able to find the kind of books I love reading. I must admit I ended up reading some of these books more than once. This is a list of the books which left a long-lasting impression on me because I found them relatable. I know at the end of the day these books are fiction but still they seem to be grounded; realistic which is why I loved them.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher.

There are no words to describe the roller coaster ride of emotions this book takes you on. The plot is engaging and fast paced, the characters are so real that nothing feels forced or a plot convenience. The first couple of pages are enough to suck you in. Just a suggestion; keep a box of tissues handy while reading this one.

2. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven.

I had a hard time recovering emotionally after reading this one. The story deals with a heavy subject like mental health to an extent also about death but the book can’t be simple classified as sad. Violet and Theodore pull you into their story; make you happy and sad and everything in between. Watch out for the ending.

3. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart.

I started reading this book with one thing in mind but it turned out to be something entirely different. It markets itself as the story of four super privileged kids and the summer of their lives but it is so much more thrilling and heartbreaking than you expect it to be. This book will make you turn right back to the beginning of the story after you have finished reading the end.

4. Looking For Alaska – John Green.

John Green loves to make us sad; this book is another example of it. Reading this book will put you through so many emotions, you will be overwhelmed. The first half is a fun-filled ride but that is just a devious ploy to make us think this book might not be a cry fest like The Fault in Our Stars. It stays in your mind long after you have finished it.

5. Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover.

I realized that this is the only book on my list which is actually a light read. It is full of emotions and turmoil but at the heart it is a love story. The characters fall in love in such an organic way and you can’t help but feel all giddy inside yourself. I read ninety percent of this book in one sitting till I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open, I had to know what happens next. It is engaging from start to finish.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book covers above.

Thoughts…

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Sometimes, do you wonder when you open your eyes in the morning that all the bad things happening in your life are just a nightmare? The moment you open your eyes, things will change; they will get better. But life isn’t that simple is it? This feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach refuses to go away. Your hopes, dreams, expectations have only one enemy and that is the reality. Nothing seems to be going your way, you feel lost and defeated. One thought swirling in your mind all the time if this is all life is going to be like for you? The unanswered question is the biggest reason for your frustration. So many doubts overwhelming your mind all at once and there seems to be no end to the negativity in your head. Where is the thrill, the magic you have always wanted? You can’t seem to find the path to your destiny. Is growing up really this complicated? You wish someone would understand you, give advice and not judge. Be there by your side making sure you don’t fall. Why does every aspect of life seem harder when you are stuck? As far as you can see there is only a road and you have no idea where you’re going. It’s scary, intimidating even; not knowing your destination. You keep hoping it will get better; rise above it and then you will be where you want to be. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life but one thing I know is that no matter what, I am not going to lose hope, there is always a way; there has to be one.

Alcoholism

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“There is not a drug on Earth that can make life meaningful,” said Sarah Kane. No human being is perfect, everyone has flaws. Some flaws a person can live with but some destroy you and others around you. Every other person has demons he or she faces every day. There are some things which not only haunt you but also affect everyone around you in a way you can’t fix. ‘Man is a social animal’ he craves for human contact and when it’s not there he turns to other things. Alcoholism is such form of substance abuse which destroys your life before you even realize it. Alcoholism is a medical condition caused by too much regular drinking. It disrupts many aspects of the victim’s life but in most cases, the user is not bothered about anything than their necessary intake of alcohol. Often people are in denial about their drinking problem giving excuses like, “I ‘m a social drinker” but in truth, they need some sort of help.

People don’t consider alcoholism as a form of addiction. It is just as dangerous as other addictions if not more. Alcohol addiction is tricky and it is difficult for one to admit they have an addiction issue. A lot of health issues arise due to regular over-consumption of alcohol like heart problems, in men it can also cause erectile dysfunction, shaky hands, swollen liver and kidneys, low blood pressure or hypoglycemia to name a few. It also leaves an impact on the psychological temperament of a person. Many alcoholics have anger issues and at times are violent which lands them in trouble with the law. Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease. Similar to all addictions alcoholism also takes place in stages and can be most effectively eradicated if found early.

In the beginning, addiction is maintained by pleasure. But the intensity of this pleasure slowly decreases and then addiction is only maintained by the avoidance of pain. Alcoholism is the disease that makes you too self-involved to realize the mayhem they create and they do not even care about the people they hurt. A person who is an alcoholic can’t even hold on to a job, relationships are turbulent and all these factors not necessarily true for all; usually contribute to the downfall of the user. Alcoholism at times is due to loneliness or a sense of failure in career or relationships. Alcohol makes them forget about all the miseries of life and can even provide with a false sense of empowerment. They should realize that everyone in life has problems some bigger than the others but not all of them start drinking away their problems. The one thing these users don’t realize is how much their addiction takes a toll on their families and people closest to them. It is not easy to watch the person they love and care drown in a wide ocean they can’t swim back from alone. Every action has a consequence and it not only the user but it also affects others around them who have absolutely no part in it. It is most difficult for any person to accept that they have an addiction. Denial is a part of human psychology which protects us from fear of our flaws.  The most important thing is to make them understand that the addiction is taking over their life. They need to know their family and friends are ready to help them and won’t abandon them. This is only the first step on the long road ahead to complete recovery. Alcoholism is a condition where one drinks too much and drinking habits have disrupted other aspects of one’s life though they are not exactly alcohol dependent. Even without dependence some may have symptoms of alcoholism. Many institutions now a day provide with facilities and guidance about alcoholism. The cases of domestic violence or criminal activities are often caused by too much drinking and many users face problems with the law. One frequently loses control of his senses when intoxicated and says or does things he would never do when sober. By seeking help all these problems are taken care of. There are ways in which alcoholism is tackled and some techniques have been more useful than others. For example self-help groups, support groups, counseling, rehabilitation program etc are a few treatments most patients opt for. The therapists and the doctors work together and form suitable plans depending on individual cases. The full support of the family and friends helps the user be psychologically sound during the treatment. If the condition is prolonged, the more difficult the process of recovery becomes. So, it is essential for family and friends to help the person who might have an alcohol problem. As anything else in life getting over an addiction is not easy but there is a chance of full recovery.

Many people who are in the early stage of alcohol dependence get agitated when family and friends comment on their habits. They feel their drinking is not harming anyone so it shouldn’t be an issue but this is not the case. The most affected by this apart from the user are their families. It is not easy for anyone to see someone they care about behave in a self-destructive manner. If kids are brought up in such an environment it leaves psychological scars which stay long into adulthood. Alcoholism can also be genetically acquired thus, leaving your off-springs in the danger of alcohol dependence as well. The stress and mental agony this addiction inflicts upon your loved ones may even turn in resentment towards the user. There have been many cases where a person succumbed to alcoholism was divorced by his wife and doesn’t get to see their kids except on a few occasion usually under supervision. Alcoholism doesn’t save you from loneliness it pushes you towards it especially if you don’t stop it first. In some cases the user completely recovers from his addiction living a long and happy life with his loved ones. Sobriety gives them a clear picture of the things they had been missing out when they were in the haze of alcohol and this gives them the strength to fight the temptation of drinking. People who have been sober for sometime do relapse but with the right methods this can be stopped from happening. It may seem unreal but it does happen more frequently than we realize.

Love Untold – Short Story

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She always knew she wasn’t extraordinary. She was never the smartest or the prettiest girl. It never bothered her. She liked being invisible in a sea of people but that always hid her true potential. She walked down the road with her eyes fixed on the ground, she was sure no one ever noticed her but she always noticed everything. She saw everything going around her, studied it, pondered over it and threw a color of her own imagination over it. As any normal girl, she wanted everything she dreamed about. She wanted a career but she also wanted love. She spent most of her time observing Jake. She never approached him but when he was around, her eyes always found him, only him. She knew what she deserved; she knew the ordinary life she would lead. It wasn’t exactly what she dreamed of but it was the life she had. She knew she would never end up with a guy like Jake but she was okay with it. He was smart, polite, funny and his eyes; his eyes kept her awake at night. She saw him from afar but wished to be closer. She dreamed about him a lot. She wanted to be close to him, touch him even if it was just once. In her life, the one person she wanted to notice her was Jake. She was realistic about her expectations. All her life everyone told her what she’s like and what she deserved. Over a period of time, she started to believe it too. And now, it was the truth of her life. “Imagining won’t help you in life, being realistic will.” her mom always told her. It was hard for her to control her fantasies but she tried. It had been hammered into her since she first showed signs of her overactive imagination. Jake though, he was the guy of her dreams. She had never spoken to him but there was something about him that drew her. She didn’t know why she was so fixed on a guy who was in her mind very much out of her league. She didn’t specifically yearn for him. She didn’t know it herself or at least never admitted it but she just wanted someone to accept her wholly for who she was. She never got her family’s unconditional support and that left a scar on her mind.
Jake was everything she thought she wanted but she didn’t really know, did she? And she will never know. As crazy as it sounded even to her, she believed that their paths were meant to cross somehow. Right now, she saw him across the field playing soccer with his friends and she just sat there pretending to read a book. She wondered what it would be like if Jake looked up and their eyes met; would he simply dismiss her. Or would he come and talk to her? She let her imagination run wild. Maybe he will talk to her then ask her out, slowly she’ll fall in love with him even more and this time he would feel the same. He would hold her close, his heart beating just as fast as hers as they stand there staring into each other’s eyes. A thousand different emotions swirling in his eyes that moment she would feel like the most important person in this universe because he was the one who thought she was special. The past wouldn’t matter but her future would change and she’ll be loved for the rest of her life, unconditionally. She realized she was getting way ahead of herself so she made it stop right that moment. She quickly snapped out of her daydream. A special guy like Jake wouldn’t give a single thought; she was nothing special after all just an average girl. Laughing softly at her own thoughts, she decided maybe it was time she left. She got up slowly, glancing at Jake wishing silently for her daydreams to come true and with a heavy heart slipped away.
Jake was tired after playing for a good hour. He ran to stands where he had left his bag. He looked around, trying to be discreet. The girl was here again today. He saw her when she wasn’t looking, her nose buried in the book. She was pretty but that was not what first noticed in her. It was her innocence. She was beautiful no doubt but she always looked so at ease by herself, that it puzzled him. She was a mystery, a one he really wanted to solve. He saw her around all the time by herself reading or studying. He wondered if he should talk to her. He never got the nerve though. One day she was so close to him, he could feel the heat radiating from her body and then she was gone. Jake made a promise to himself that the next time he saw her, he would talk to her and maybe he will know the reasons behind her shy smiles.