An Excerpt: Lean In To Relationships
Zehen was experiencing sweet joy in his heart. Memories bustled in the head.
When did he first see her? Zehen searched his head madly. Orientation session? Corridor to the classroom? However, he tried, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. A whirr of images, of moments, yet-to-be collaged. And a heart that already had a narrative, waiting to be inset.
We imagine that all romantic stories will have a sigh-worthy romantic beginning. But beginnings are when the heart awakens, when the soul remembers. A presence stills and emerges from the shadows of time.
His first memory was when she introduced herself in the class. They had gathered at Presidium University for a one-year course on Social Impact Leadership. Outside, the white fringe tree was laden with its grape-like fruits. The pine, oak and spruce waited for winter to tell the world how unchangeable they were. And the old Redwood stood proud like the institution itself. Inside, in the warm classroom, students from various cultures across the world had gathered. Icebreaker session was on and the usual round of introductions.
Introduction is a ritual. A cumbersome ritual. How does one reduce the tapestry of one’s entire existence, the colors, and the many weaves into a single palatable thread?
About the Book:
Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through the rise of paranoia as a trope in twentieth century writings. While paranoia naturally suggests the vulnerability of individual mind to social rhetoric, it is also the space for deep interrogation of the individual that renders him/her to paranoia. This novel presents that doubt has the potential to be a space of liberation.
Madeeha works in Jordan to rehabilitate Syrian refugees. Zehen, a political analyst from India, meets her in the US during their social impact program. He is intrigued and charmed by her, and falls deeply in love. But the world political climate, with its accompanying cultural narratives about terror and pain, infects Zehen’s mind. Zehen begins to suspect Madeeha as a possible mujahid. Will he find his truth?
Fear doesn’t devastate; it stirs the inner pot. It is a tender love story that triumphs heartbreaks and sets the foundation of deep lasting future relationships - a delightful emancipation from social intrigues and cultural constraints.
I published my first book in 2015 and my second book in early 2016. I was single at the time and using dating apps to meet other single people. I met a girl in mid-2016 who took fancy to my dating profile, especially that I am an author. After a couple of meetings, She demanded that I write about her. I jokingly told her that I am a Phoenix writer, i.e., I fall in love, get dumped, and write about my failed relationship. She broke-up with me, and still invariably pings whether I am including ‘her and our relationship’ in my upcoming book(s).
The genesis of this book came about while I was on a cross-country train ride in the US. I met Mark who had been a successful marketing professional with considerable international marketing experience. He had travelled to all of Asia and understood the regional peculiarities.
He was later diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time, it was detected, it was stage 3. He was put under radiation and intensive chemotherapy. He went in for three other opinions. All of them agreed that the cancer was aggressive and spreading fast. He searched for the latest treatments and sought to enter clinical trials. The process lasted for two years.
In the meantime, the cancer advanced. The doctors said the cancer was incurable and he didn’t have long to live. It took him weeks of denial to come around to the truth – he didn’t have long to live.
He returned home from a long walk one evening and asked himself a crucial question: “If I am going to die, then I might as well die straight away. What is point of waiting for death to show up?”
That evening he ate well, watched a movie with his girlfriend, poured himself a rare scotch and sat at his study. It was time. He wrote out his letter – love and wishes to his family, loved ones and friends, his last wishes about funeral, information on his will, and a general note thanking all. He placed it in an envelope. He planned to kill himself early morning. He finished his scotch, brushed and went to bed.
In the middle of night, he woke up to a noise. The light was on in the study and he could hear sniffles. He walked cautiously up and there in the study, his girlfriend was holding his suicide letter and crying. He watched her as her body crumpled and sink into chair. Her face contorted in agony. In her face, he saw what was the consequence of his action. The penny dropped.
I paled and listened in horror. Mark continued, “I realized that our life is never ours. We are nothing but a bundle of emotions for the people who love us and the people we love. The meaning of life is to optimize for the happiness of such people. There’s nothing more to living.
That day on, I have been living for maximizing the happiness of my loved ones”
That’s how I stumbled on lean in to relationships; it has become my life philosophy.
About the Author
I was born into poverty. At the time of my birth, my parents shared a one -room hut with six other family members in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Delhi.
It was a hot day in the month of March 1995. I was in standard 4th and had an examination the following day. As was regular in that locality, we didn't have electricity that day. I couldn't study or sleep properly. One of the watershed moments happened when I came back from school the next day. We had an inverter installed at home. I knew we couldn't afford an inverter. But my dad was always convinced that the way out of poverty for our family is through education.
Despite an interest in creative writing, I chose to study a subject that society values more – Finance. Later, I got into one of the top colleges for finance in the country. My first salary out of college (in 2007, when I was 20 years old) was higher than that of my dad's salary at the time.
When I was 24 years old, I had everything that makes one happy – loving parents, great partner, close-knit group of friends, and career path that exceeded every goal. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either; but it never felt like my life. I had carefully and meticulously built that life though. Contextually, it was the safe thing to do.
Following year though, I had to deal with the loss of my 7 year old relationship and of my 5 year old job. My identity was crushed. My biggest lesson was that you can fail at what you don't want, and what you consider safe; you might as well take a chance at what you truly want.
Next year, I got my ‘ideal’ job but walked away from it. Failure had taught me to be more ambitious and audacious. I had reached a point in my life where I wanted my work to have more meaning; and to stand for something more important than myself.
I started a political consulting company to maneuver social ascendance of marginalized communities by equalizing access to political capital. I primarily did topical research for MPs for their debates in the parliament and on TV shows. Partial project list includes:
1. Providing 108 rape survivors with medical, legal, financial, and social support over six months through one of my client's NGO
2. Getting amendments passed in the communal violence bill that tackle systemic bias towards Muslims
3. Helping three social entrepreneurs raise a combined total of INR 43 lakhs from their MP for community initiatives
Along with running my own company, I focused on my passion for writing and traveling as well. I solo travelled to all seven wonders of the world, and did two-cross country trips by train in India and in the US. I have also written and published three fiction novels.
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