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CHOSEN Dhivya Arasappan

Anjali glanced at the calendar hanging on the kitchen door. Today's date was circled in red- April 20th. Just then, her phone rang. "Happy Chosen Day, Anju! Happy Chosen day!" both her brothers screamed on the phone. "Thank you. Hey, I'm getting ready for work. I'll see you this evening, ok?" Anjali asked. "Ok. Amma is making all your favorites, so come early. We'll see you tonight. " Anjali hung up and smiled to herself. She remembered what her mother used to say to her when she was little "Maybe you weren't born into this family, Anju. But you were chosen... because you complete this family!" That had always made her feel special and celebrating her chosen day still did.


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Meet Manasa ... The writer of the very popular Draupadi series, Manasa has been with TheBanyanTrees since day one. It is clear that she can spin tales that have readers hanging to her every word, but who is Manasa and what is Draupadi all about?

Manasa, in her own words, is ...

I am somebody who thinks all of us have multiple personalities, Manasa is one of mine. I don't know much about Manasa - she is the one who is artistic and intellectual and all of that, and when she wants me to write, I humor her. My other alter-egos dabble in other things - one of them has a day job as a researcher where she seeks to understand how the brain works. One of the things she is working on at the moment is how the brain can look at series of alphabets in specific orders, process them visually and make sense of their meaning. It is pretty exciting because it involves attempting to teach animals to do something like rudimentary reading. There's the 'I-think-I-am-a-dancer' alter ego (about whom the lesser said the better) and then there is the Revolver Rita alter-ego who robs from the rich and gives to the poor and homeless. OK, kidding about the last part :)

And her series, Draupadi is ...

Draupadi was always known as the victim, as a powerless woman. This is an attempt to show how powerful she really was and some really powerful choices she makes.

How about a little sneak peak on what to expect with Draupadi next...

It pretty much follows the storyline of the mahabharata with a few critical twists and turns, which of course, I can't reveal right now. I can say that in a couple of months we will get to know who Draupadi is waiting for when she is dying. Apart from 'Draupadi', any other theme she would love to write on ? My favourite theme so far (for which I had loads of ideas) was the one called '7'. It was stark, but there was so much you could do with it. Humor would also be challenging and fun to write. And what's on Manasa's bookshelf these days... P G Wodehouse's 'The Mating Season' (highly recommended) R K Narayan 'The Mahabharata' (re-read, worth it) Kandel, 'Principles of Neural Science' (brilliant book, if you are interested in neuroscience or if you don't have a good pillow)


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Meet Priya Giribalan ...

Priya Giribalan, sometimes writing as Priya Venkat, always brings new and innovative pieces to the magazine. Her stories have ranged from the conversations of a bunch of suitcases to most recently one told in reverse chronological order. We know we can always expect something different from Priya. Let's meet this creative writer:

Priya, in her own words, is ... I am someone who loves expressing myself through my words. Dealing with media and communications is my interest. Professionally, I have worked with different kinds of writing- jounalistic, copy and corporate writing. Basically, my life has always revolved around penning something or the other. Right now, I live in Austin and am interning at The University of Texas, Austin in Public Relations. In my spare time, I love listening to music and watching talk shows. Check out my blogs for more : http://priyagiribalan.blogspot.com/

Why does Priya write about what she does ... I mostly write about things I am convinced about or something that impacted me personally. I basically draw from experiences. Honestly, my recent story about rats....is an expression of my phobia...of pests, insects etc. I just gave it a screen play treatment. That's all.I definitely have to be believe in what i write. But I don't believe in moral policing or advicing through my stories or words. My words.... just an expression of my opinons.

Now, it seems to us like whatever crazy theme we throw at Priya, she can handle! But, does she have any favorites? Empty Box - It was most challenging!


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Shobha Nihalani : On The Lighter Side Of Things...

SPA HEAVEN Spa treatments are as coveted as brandname hand bags, shoes and designer wear. Miki, my spa-fanatic friend, informed me of yet another new experience. I said to her that all her experiences at spas were the same, they all reeked of exotic fruits, vegetables, milk and marine products. This one is different, she exclaimed over the phone. Previously, Miki had mentioned about the bitter melon rub, the chilli lemon peel massage and her favourite: caviar facial. Tell me about it, I said tapping away on the keyboard, and chatting with her at the same time. Miki has tried and tested many potions and her experience is worth its value in eye gel. She does the spas, I write about them. We have our compatible moments. And we catch up for drinks, usually after one of her treatments, Miki breezes in looking like a fresh summer day, orders a mojito, and offers princess-like smiles at the admiring glances. "This is the most exciting treatment yet. Are you sitting down?" "Yes, Miki. I’m sitting.’‘Chocolate!" She says. "The spa provides a chocolate while you have a massage?" "Yes, and no. It’s a double chocolate pedicure, where guests get a hot chocolate soak, a sugar scrub for the feet and chocolate mask for the hands. Isn’t that great? I’m going to try it out today."


"Why can’t they call a spa – a spa. Why do they have to call it La Maison de Thermes de Monte-Carlo de whatever?" "Ha, ha that’s a good one! The spa ran out of fruits and vegetables and looked in the fridge and thought, 'hey, let’s use chocolate!' Next thing you know, insects will follow you like bees to honey. See, that’s why spas are not really my kind of thing. You pay a bomb for melted cadbury’s on your feet. And what’s with the fancy French names, anyway? Why can’t they call a spa – a spa. Why do they have to call it La Maison de Thermes de Monte-Carlo de whatever?" "You’re such a cynic. You wait and see, by the end of next Wednesday, I’ll make a believer out of you, if that’s the last thing I do." And she hung up with a determined humph. I recalled that I had agreed to go for a spa treatment with her. I didn’t care to admit to Miki, that she had a point to all this spa stuff. After a certain age, and despite adequate doses of calcium and various vitamins that spell the alphabet, combined with a cocktail of herbal roots and the kind, time is a race that soon catches up. Spa treatments have become a lifestyle choice. Spas promise a dose of eternity. It’s a temple for the body. When Miki returns from a treatment, I swear, I’ve seen this halo of white glowing around her body. And then she tells me about the intense electrocellulolipolysis, a treatment that is difficult enough to spell, let alone pronounce, and how it removes all the toxins from her body. Of course she would look magnificent. Wednesday arrived and I reluctantly made my contribution to the spa industry. Miki was excited about us doing this together. We arrived at the Amore Bellagio De Beaute Spa, located on the top floors of one of the office buildings. As soon as we stepped off the lifts, onto plush carpet, there was a cocooned effect and the sounds of citylife had disappeared. Miki gave me knowing glances and looked comfortable, whereas I felt awkward and gawky in my sneakers. The consultant, Miss Flawless Skin with a snooty attitude, offered us a menu and recommended the red carpet facial. I caught a hint of aversion when she glanced at me. Yet she gave me a perfect Christian Dior smile. Miki patted my arm as a warning, aware that I had a tendency to respond sarcastically. "What about the green carpet facial? Don’t you have something like that, you know support the cause, global warming?" I asked her. Miki smacked my wrist. The consultant flicked her attention back to Miki.


"Madam, there is another very special treatment, developed in Russia by Galino’s grandmother," the woman stopped for effect, and I saw Miki’s eyes open wide. "What? Who is Galino? And what did her grandmother do?" I demanded l loudly. "Shush,’ Miki said and nodded at the consultant, who gave me a triumphant look. ‘It’s one of the most sought-after treatments, the Grand Luxe Facial, takes three hours to complete and includes a silver dust salve and diamond peel microdermabrasion." "Sounds like something you’d do to decorate an apartment," I remarked. They both glared at me. So, I sat quietly and waited for them to decide on my simpleton massage and for Miki’s red carpet star treatment. "Please follow me. I have arranged a special suite for the two of you," the lady offered, smiling at Miki only. She led us through a maze of corridors- the walls were lined with minichandeliers and suede European wallpaper and lots of ornately framed mirrors. She opened a door with a flourish, and presented the area with pride, as if she had personally created the ambience. And what a beautiful room it was! Fit for a princess. We were wrapped in green silk tea robes, enjoyed a tea ceremony, a green tea back scrub, a heated basalt stones and green tea massage oil and clay mask treatments. After that there was no looking back. I was hooked. Six hours later, I met Miki in the lobby. "You look gorgeous" she said. Miki looked like a goddess herself. ‘So how was it?’ She asked breathlessly. "I feel like a whole different person.You are my spa guru." I said with sincerity. She gave me a heavenly smile and a warm hug. Shobha Nihalani is a Hong Kong-based writer, author of The Silent Monument (published by Tara Press Delhi). She is also a housewife, mother, book-keeper, aunt and grand-aunt, necessarily in that order. She sounds busy, and she is. But above all, she absolutely has to write, or else pre-menopausal hormones would get the better of her and she would scare people! Check out her musings on the lighter side of life...


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The Anniversary -- Nivethitha Kumar

"Gift wrap ma'am?" "Yes, of course. Can you use this blue sheet instead of the pink one you are holding? Thank you." Shilpa said to the man behind the counter. Her manicured fingers were busy picking out the perfect little gift card to go on top of her nicely wrapped gift. As she watched the man behind the counter wrapping her gift, she thought about Saket and wondered if he would like her gift. "But of course he will, he has been eyeing this rayban for a long time now, he will love this" - she told herself. It had been a whole year since Saket and Shilpa started going out. This was their one year anniversary and like all first time things, she was hoping this one would be very special, for saket had quickly become the most important thing in her life in the past one year. Just like that. She chose to walk the short distance back home though there were a dozen auto rickshaws spawning in front of her, requesting her to let them drop her home. Walking in the nearly brutal heat of madras in april,

Shilpa could not help but wonder about Saket and their conversation a week before. Shilpa had brought up marriage and talking to parents. Saket had seemed a little apprehensive mostly because he had been worried about his family accepting Shilpa. 'They are too traditional Shilpa.' He had said. 'They might not like the idea of me finding my own bride. So I have to approach this carefully. Give me some time to figure it out.' He said while looking lustfully in to her eyes. Shilpa was going to bring up the topic again tonight at dinner. Not because she was in a hurry to get settled down, but she wanted to know if Saket felt the same way about her, if he wanted to take the next big step like she did. She just need to know that - a sense of reassurance, thats how she thought about it. It was too hard to let someone have the kind of power that Saket had over her. She had let her whole world slowly slip away and revolve around Saket. Shilpa reached Saket's apartment and removed the key from under the door mat. She entered the house and entered his room to


Dear Saket, You should know that as of today, on our first anniversary, you go from being a player to being the played. Yes, you currently hold neither Shilpa nor Sherene as your pawns.

to place her gift on his table near his laptop. If there was one place he would never miss, it was his work table. She carefully placed the gift card, making sure her little card was visible. As she turned to leave, she saw a small wrapped gift on his bedside table. Shilpa was torn between waiting for the actual surprise and peeking a little to find out what her gift was. Curiosity won her over and she hopped over to look at the gift. Beneath the beautifully wrapped gift was a small peice of paper. She opened and read it. She then realized she should have waited for the surprise. Saket walked over to their dinner table in the restaurant Shilpa had chosen for their one year anniversary. He wondered what took Shilpa so long. He sat down and pored over the menu when the waiter brought and placed a small gift wrapped box. Saket, smiling to himself, opened the box to find a pair of Rayban sunglasses and a gift card.

It is a pity your traditional parents won't accept a Shilpa, but will welcome a Sherene with open arms. It is a pity that in the one year you were with me, you fell in love with Sherene. I made sure she got the ring you had so beautifully picked out and wrapped. Oh, along with a nice note of course about you and I. You will find another note inside your gift from her as well. Dont bother reading that one, mine is way nicer, I tell you. Either ways, today marks an important day for you. It is your one year anniversary of being a schmuck. And much more for me, I will celebrate this day next year as good riddance day. Happy Anniversary. Shmuck. -Shilpa Saket searched for the other note from Sherene. He banged his head on the dinner table a couple of times before heading out of the restaurant. Meanwhile Shilpa had settled in front of her TV with a big bowl of mango ice cream. She had to get her world back to revolving around her.


What Our Readers Say ... What would a magazine be without readers? Absolutely nothing! So we are definitely very thankful to our wonderful readers, all 3000 of them. For our anniversary issue, we wanted to hear from you, our readers, so we sent out some fun questions... and here are some of the things you had to say.

We've racked our brains to come up with a new and different theme every issue. So, we wondered which your favorites were. And you told us that: 1. The Dial M for Murder issue kept you guessing 2. You had to read The Colors of a Women issue in its entirety 3. You enjoyed abstract themes like Seven and The Empty Box

"I really liked the issue where writers were given the prompt that their story has to be about an empty box. This kind of excercise really produces awesome results as you never know what people will come up with. " -- Sowmya Arasappan In a big cry of unison, the column /author that you all seem turn to first every issue is .... Manasa's Draupadi "The first thing I do when you send me the link is to read Manasa's Draupadi article. I understand the piece well maybe because it is a women's (Draupadi's) perspective of handling husbands. Here I complain about one but, she had to deal with five." -- Bharath Ananthanarayanan "I read Draupadi, to constantly see how I can counter it." -- Srihari Sridharan

We asked you to tell us what you want next and you were loud and clear! Music! and Humor! "Always make sure you have something or the other that is witty in your script Humor always brings out a smile in most!" -- Aishwarya Ramachandran "Music, of course!" -- Prathap Chandran


So we wanted to know, what else tickles your fancy, apart from this magazine, of course? Everything from watching TED, trying different cuisines, painting, and traveling to exotic places like Puerto Rico. Boy, are we jealous! One of our loyal regulars (Archana Kannan) even said, that when she's not reading the magazine, she spends time 'making TheBanyanTrees discoverable by its readers.  ' And we so appreciate that!

And of course we always love to get a few pats on our back, and you guys were in a generous mood. Some of you just made our day! "TheBanyanTrees is in the business of adding color to people's lives" -- Somasundaram G "I like the fact that by creating this magazine, you are encouraging people to discover their hidden talent. The Banyan Trees is a perfect landing place for novice writers to gain a footing while you guys promote their writing." -- Shirish Kandekar Awww, aren't our readers the best? We really couldn't have made it one year without all of you who read through the magazine every month and help spread the word! So, here's a big shout out to TheBanyanTrees readers!! Keep reading and keep telling us what you think! And of course, a great big TBT thanks to everyone who replied to our many questions. We really appreciate it!


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The Other Son of Ganges Chapter 5: "THE BIRTH" -- -- Matangi Mawley Sinha looked at him- smiling to himself as he said, “For a few months from now on, you will not be Shravan. Your name would be Bhanupratap. And you will remain here, in the lock-up…" Ganges was flowing all over his mind and body. There can be no place where he would stay forever. He would go on. On. Not knowing where it would lead him to. The flow was not a path he chose. It was there. He would only flow along. The choice was not his. There was no choice. The destination was not his. The Ganges- would lead his way… Sinha continued, “No one would question you. You can remain anywhere within this prison. But you would not go out of this place. Understood?” His mother would lead him. “Yes saab,” replied Shravan. Sinha looked satisfied. He said, “Good. I’ll get you `1000 by the end of four months." “Yes saab.” And that was their contract. The Gangotri sees her in a form so different. The child about to enter into a new world- a world that would worship her. A world that would depend on her to wash away its blackness. No more the soft infant touch- but the rough wrath over the ever mounting human sins! That was how she was- washing away the sins of sinners. Only- the prison was no holy Kashi! He was in his mother’s lap- but there were other prisoners- foster children of his mother. It took him a while to get used to his new identity. Bhanupratap. He was now, officially, a criminal. But what crime? He wouldn’t know, would he? Sinha checked on – every day. Was he friendly? May be. But the new Bhanupratap understood that “food never comes free.” Sometimes, there were small packets of white powder to be given to a certain Motilal. Brown covers, heavy at times, to be given to Sinha. Powder- Motilal’s food. And food- never comes free. Bhanupratap was learning…


Soon, the sinners within the walls became people with names. And everyone knew him as Bhanupratap. There were thieves, rapists, fraudulent geniuses, may be a few murderers even. But they were the ones who could not afford a `1000 every four months! And slowly, the people with names were people with stories. Husbands who murdered wives who had made a cuckold out of them. Or young boys- who had been offensive about rich girls. There was a certain 496 that was most common. These numbers became more familiar to him than their names. He made friends with 446s, 489Cs, 463-464s. He was often asked what his number was? He might have mentioned it to Sinha once. He had replied “Bhanupratapji, tell them that you are the King of all that. Tell them- you are Government!” And shooed him away- laughing to himself… Four months- and he was almost Bhanupratap. A man with just a name. No birth. No life. No death. Somewhere amidst everywhere. Sinha called him that night. He held a `1000 in hand. Smiling as he spoke, “Would you like to earn more, Bhanupratapji?"

(..To be continued., Part 6: “He and I…”)


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TheBanyanTreesNov2010