Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Remember

I walk along the road. I remember a private joke. I smile.

I see them walk hand in hand. I remember walking hand in hand. I see us there.

I sit by the window when it rains. I remember dancing in the rain. I want to dance again but I can't.

I see the skyline of the city from my house. I remember the silent conversations. I smile a sad smile.

I talk to people. I remember our cosy, hushed whispers. I pause to remember more...

I read a book. I remember those excited discussions. I weave a new one behind closed eyes.

I sing a song. I remember the adoring praise. I strain my ears to hear it just once more.

I watch a movie. I remember our awestruck delight. I laugh out loud.

I listen to a song. I remember those poetic sweet nothings. I stop and sigh.

I eat. I remember the eagerness to try a new food. I crave for more.

I wake up. I remember waking up together. I look around to find only a sore emptiness.

I try to sleep. I remember feeling warm and safe in those arms. I shed a lonely tear.

I dream. I remember all the other unfulfilled dreams. I cry.

I hope. I remember hoping for it to come back. I pray.

I breathe. I remember looking into those eyes while we laugh. I wonder when it will happen again.

I love. I remember loving. I still want to love some more.

I feel lost. I remember the time I seemed to have found myself. I search for it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking the Leap

Just how many of us are willing to take that one step that could either backfire and ruin your life for a long-long time or make you the champion of your own heart and mind, and among a smattering of other people? What is it that scares us? Why are we seeking the comfort of predictability and the security of a well-set life?

I know someone who has decided to quit a fantastic project in Philadelphia, the comforts of a pleasant life there and come rushing back to India win back his lady love. My friend feels it is a lost cause already, but he doesn't want to let go of the 1 per cent chance he has. He doesn't want to wonder later on "what if I had taken that risk?" I cheered for him, his spirit and while I had always respected him for his intelligence and his approach towards life, I grew to respect him even more.

Every day I hear some one or the other say, "I wish I could do something different," or, "I wish I could be some one different". So what is it that stops us from being that some one else? That some one different? Is it that we care too much about what others will think of us. That if we fail in what we set out to do, we will be ridiculed for life? That we will be looked at with some times covertly sympathetic glances or sometimes overtly sympathetic stares? Why do we care? Why do we succumb to the pressure of being accepted? What would happen if we are not accepted? Would we be labelled outlaws?

Where is the sense of adventure that ideally should define the human spirit? The right to be who you want to be is a very basic right. Just like the right to breathe, the right to think, the right to feel and the right to fall in love. But apparently the creation of society and the norms that define it have taken over these basic rights too. In the words of a very wise professor whose class I had the privilege of taking, "Choose. Make a choice. And stand by the choice, no matter what the consequences are. Some times you may fail. But the times you win, will be so worthwhile that the times you failed will not matter at all."

I do not mean disrespect to my elders, my peers or my family when I go on and act as per my will. I love all of them tremendously. They may not agree with what I choose to do, but I cannot let that be among the biggest factors that deter me from doing what I want. Call me stubborn. Call me insolent. Call me foolish. That's who I am. I used to be someone else, thinking the world with oust me if I express what I am within; till I met a whole bunch of mavericks who were as eager to burst out of their fenced lives. That made me realise that I am not the only dreamer, not the only "mad" person around. There are many more just like me, "madder" than I am.

I can claim to have taken that metaphorical leap - in my career. It was not easy. I had considerations - big ones. It was all about taking that one step out of the line drawn around me. That one step was the most difficult. It hasn't been very smooth sailing after that. But yes, life's getting easier. I enjoyed the unpredictability, the fact that I was a little aimless for a while. There were moments where I feared I would have to go back across the line. But it worked out fine. It's just about that one leap. And my advice to all would be to take it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sweet Venom

The poison is snaking its way up my veins with every pulsating beat of my heart. I feel the sweet, cold fire slither along the mesh of crimson elixir of life streaming through my sinews, relishing the feel of overpowering a body that is resisting, doing its best to not give in to the titillating sensation.

My Skin erupts in goose flesh, unable to take it any more; willing for the coursing of the venom to stop. I writhe in ecstasy of losing to this agonising pleasure. Cold sweat breaking out all over. I kick. I scream. I wish to calm down. I wish to be lost in this tumultuous frenzy.

I shiver in fright. I cringe in pain. I scream in jubilation. I revel in being enclosed in the arms of sensuous entrapment. I soar in seizures of liberation.

This is how being ruined must feel like. This is what loss must be. This is the way one rejoices being enraptured. This must be euphoria taking control. This is hell's angels ruling the ordinary mortals, leading them to their doom using temptation.

The scorpion has mesmerised me. I long for yet another sting

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Readers,

The following is a link to my blog on the Business Standard website. Please click on the following link to read it. Your valuable comments on the website are welcome as always.


Monday, November 01, 2010

I Seek, But I Cannot Find It

I was once asked, "what would happen if we were to part?"
While I could only imagine the pain it would mean
I had just tried to be a realist and said,
"Life goes on..."

Life does go on
But the pain deepens every night
When keepsakes in my mind flood my moments of solitude
When sleep plays hide and seek with my ravaged, tired, sleepless head

I seek company, I seek crowds; I run away
I seek isolation, confinement; I run away
I seek out my reclusive alter ego; I run away
I seek replays of good times; I run away

Far and away where I find find no one
I seek to lose myself in a hazy maze of adored dreams
Spiteful reality closing in on it, leaving me looking around
Searching for an exit; I feel trapped

Trapped in a spiral of endless wait
Trapped despite the openness in my heart
Trapped in the quagmire of my own expectations and self-respect
Trapped in the whirlwind of a tumultuous, rocky, addled  spirit

I dream, I hope, I reminisce; I cannot seem to find it
Groping about in the grim, dark alleys, the paths of my memory
I seek to find the same love, pleasure, pain
I cannot find it

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Readers,

My first "professional" blog has just been published on the Business Standard website. Please click on the following link to read it. Your valuable comments on the website are welcome as always.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Treasure Trove of Memories

I am blessed with a good memory. So I am told and so I have come to realise. For I tend to remember the most mundane details that seem insignificant to a lot of people but which soothe my invisible hurting wounds on a less than mirthful day.

I may not remember the date, the time or what exactly was spoken in words. But the connections made as I exchanged glances with that special someone, the tingly and pleasurable current spreading through me that made me anxious, curious, daring and shy all the same time all come back to me in a rush that takes over me in a paroxysm of an unnamed bittersweet emotion.

Is this a curse then? Getting over failures is difficult. Getting over heartbreaks is tougher. Every song I listen to has a history. Every literary piece I read has a reference. Every movie is reminiscent of clandestine hand-holding. The direction which the story my life is taking now is invariably connected to the past that has made me.

Is it a boon? For it makes me smile on a tough day to remember the shared "wisdom". For my urge to cry in anger is subdued by the calming reassurances once given to me. For whenever I feel weak, the strength that was seen by others comes springing back to life. For every failure now seems insignificant. For every joy is now more precious. For every moment is now laced with the nothingness of the sweet nothings we shared.

Tenacity is a trait I have always had. I do not know if it's a virtue or a bane. I cling to memories and I am told I need to move on. Move on from what? Where? From these lamentably lost moments that have given me the strength to love more deeply, care more warmly and fight for my expressions more ferociously?

I may have lost a piece of me. I feel incomplete. But if reflections of that past are all I have to give me a vague feel of how it is to be unbroken, why should I let them go? 

If memories are all I have, how can I let them fade away?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freedom in Fool's Paradise

I dare to listen to my heart
I dare to dream
I dare to strive to make those dreams a reality
I dare to fight my way through inane obstacles

I dare to defy
I dare to stand up for my rights
I dare to make my own tules
I dare to voice my opinion

I dare to be honest
I dare to be loud and uninhibited
I dare to maintain a dignified silence 
I dare to laugh in the face of trying times
I dare to be me

I dare to shed tears when I am sad
I dare to share my mirth with those who stand by me
I dare to love myself when no one else does

I dare to fall in love
I dare to give my heart away
I dare to relive memories that warm my heart
I dare to relive memories that singe me

Like a moth to the flame I dare to stare doom in the eyes
With some longing, some lust and that slowly awakening passion
Does this make me stupid, cowardly, unrealistic, emotionally weak, crazy?
Am I anti-social, promiscuous, insolent, obstinate, narcissist, hedonistic?
Would you call me stubborn, arrogant, abnormal, cold, immature?
If you think I am living in a fool's paradise for being who I am, then so be it. 


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mumbai Mojo

It is often said that nothing, not even a series of bomb blasts can break Mumbai city's mojo. Wrong. Rains can. They did. Just last evening.

I was coming back from work, taking the usual route, wanting to catch up with a friend on the way and then going home, when I saw the skies above Dadar station turn purple in fury and lightning make its 'blink and you miss' appearance. That alone was enough to drive the crowds into a frenzy, whereby everyone was trying to get into any train and any compartment possible. I, for one, managed to find a comfortable corner where the likelihood of getting crushed by heavy, screaming and aggressive women and their heavier and bulkier bags was minimal. I promptly called my friend and cancelled our plans for the evening.

Three minutes into chugging along to the next station, all the screaming and shouting each of these women to every other woman in the compartment was drowned by a loud crack of thunder and the loud sound of torrential rain hitting the roof of the train. Windows were shut and the doors were slid shut to avoid the water from coming inside. The inside of the compartment soon started to feel like a pressure cooker. The air got stuffy and smelly from the combination of sweaty odours claiming my nostrils with a vengeance, and I was starting to feel faint. The local train authorities and the signals were at their sadistic best, making the trains move at a speed that could make a bullock cart ride feel like one in the Concorde.

I managed to stand comfortably in my tiny corner till the time the train reached the station before the one I had to alight at. And thankfully I managed to get off at the right station without much trouble. Oh! Did I mention trouble?  How could it leave me alone?Trouble did happen to me. Now.

To get out of the station from the platform at the farthest end took me more than 20 minutes. The crowd looked like a mass of bees swarming around an invisible target. If I thought I had been about to faint from the overwhelming odour of sweat in the train, I had become a zombie now. I cringe to recall all the elbowing, pushing, shoving and name calling that happened around me, while I tried to navigate my way out of the human mess with a phony sense of calm that I just looked, but didn't feel. Amazing as it was, I did pull myself up together long enough to reach the exit and sprint to the auto stand. I didn't care about the rain, the slush, or the mud staining my feet, slippers or clothes.

And now, like in very other city in the rain, the auto walas started acting up; refusing to go anywhere they didn't want to. No matter how much I said I'd pay them. I asked a lady to guide me to the bus that would take me home. She sternly directed me to a queue that was snaking its way into one of the BEST buses of Mumbai I had heard so much about. After having got in, and gone some way ahead, I asked a co-passenger how far my bus stop was. To his amusement and my consternation, it was the wrong bus. It didn't take that route at all!

As soon as the bus stopped due to a traffic jam, I got off and waited for an empty auto rickshaw to grant me respite as I felt the cold rain water drench me. Finally, an old man in a rickety rickshaw decided he could earn brownie points with the Almighty force up there by helping the poor girl in extreme distress (he said that to me). Thankfully I hadn't gotten too far away because I reached home soon enough. If two and a half hours for the whole commute from work can qualify as "soon enough" for a route that generally takes me an hour and forty-five minutes to traverse.

Now that I am writing about this particular "fright night", I am finding it difficult not to smile to myself. It is not like I haven't encountered crowds in public transport systems or rains that mar the mood of the day. It's just that when you expect a city to be on the move all the time, when you have so much about it, it appears invincible. To know that is just an illusion and maybe not the forces of man, but the forces of nature can reduce it to any other ordinary city in India is a humbling thought. As much as I have come to love Mumbai, I have to admit, it needs to manage its rainy days better.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That One Lucky Charm

It was a day where things couldn't possibly have gotten worse. The excitement of getting to work on the first day at a new job was marred by the rains which are dreaded in a city like Mumbai. I am also completely new to the rush of the Mumbai locals, and the maddening traffic jams that take me about 30 minutes to go a distance of roughly 2 kilometres in an auto rickshaw that I share with complete strangers. After being squished to my bones, I got off the train at the station closest to work, and walked in the direction opposite to work for a good 10 minutes before realising that I was going the wrong way.

At work, the website I am working with refused to be functional. Some joker had decided it would be funny to hack the site and introduce a malware into it. So I was left with doing nothing much except lurk around my regular cyber space hangouts - facebook, gtalk and my blog. It kept raining throughout the day. I almost skipped lunch till I started feeling faint. A huge sum of money I was to receive from someone sitting in London had not reached me. I was on the verge of being broke. I stepped out of office early, as there was nothing to work on - the site was still being restored - and discovered that the taxis were having a ball saying "no" to every bystander asking for a ride to hie or her preferred destination. I walked the entire route to the station, getting soaked in the rain, and splashed in slush by inconsiderate cabs that thought nothing of slowing down when nearing a puddle.

Partly in haste, and mostly because of ignorance I got on to a train that was likely to carry more passengers to a destination way father than where I had to get off. I was placed between aunties so cheerfully plump that for maybe the first time in my life I realised I am actually not quite as fat as I believe. Needless to say, I couldn't get off at my station and was forced to stay in the train till I could push my way out of the thronging lady dynamos, three stations later. The train that took me back to my destination took its own time, stopping between stations, and sauntering merrily. Finally, I reached home, changed into fresh clothes, took of my shoes that had montrously bitten into my tired feet and sat down to write this.

As I write about an unusually drab day full of the best examples of situations that usually ruin your mood completely, making you a banshee of sorts, I realised I was still very happy. I was smiling. There was a contentment in my heart that I had not felt in a long time. I was finally at a job I had always wanted. I was finally free, which was letting me breathe and be calm. And there's something else...

I had been mulling on my way to work about how my life has turned out. About what I want, where I want to go, whom I want to be with and who I want to be. It had made me a little pensive to think that often these directions we set for ourselves in our mind don't work out that way. Life has a strange way of playing games with you. It was a thought worth pondering over and I was doing exactly that. Till... a phone call changed my pattern of thought for the rest of the day; from morose and gloomy to bright, beautiful and absolutely like warm liquid fire flowing through my veins the whole day long. That it was unexpected and gave me a pleasant shock made it more welcome. Oh! If only I could put the feeling into words.

I am now poised with all kinds of courage and a "chin-up-in-the-face-of-death" attitude to confront whatever lies ahead. Don't get me wrong. I have managed myself everywhere. This hasn't been scary for me at all. Only that I have a challenge in front of me. To prove to a certain person who told me that I'll be sick of the hectic and severely professional lifestyle in Mumbai and head home within a month. This has been rubbed into my face so snidely that I have forgotten everything, but the will to succeed at this job and in this city at any cost. To know that I have with me people who care makes the whole deal worthwhile.

That one lucky charm worked in my favour, turning what could have been a horrible day into a perfect day I'd label more as adventurous and exciting. Thank you God.... You do show your love in strange ways.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Mad Trip Into The Mad World of My Mad Family - Part VI

So, I had had a dream-worthy two months in one of my favourite places - Pune. And then came the torture - stabbed in the back by someone I considered my best friend, losing another best friend to a Sidney Sheldon-esque series of suspense ridden circumstances, career issues, problems with my parents not having faith in me and understanding me, and being grounded in a city where I barely have friends (save two people). I was constantly under pressure from myself to find a way out of everything at once. It is no secret for the people who know me that I follow my heart, at the cost of losing out on some "wonderful" looking opportunity (as judged by others, who are apparently concerned for me). I agree I may not always have succeeded in ending up with the dream job, the dream paycheck, the dream city or my dream man. But I am glad I took those risks (horribly cliched, but true beyond imagination). No wonder then that I was looking forward to meeting my cousins, my relatives and my grandparents after 3 long years. I could find new reasons to exercise my vocal chords after having restricted my conversations to typing on the keyboard till late at nights... and all of them brimming with despair, hopelessness and cynicism. That'd explain my unusual quietness and my very frequent spurts of moodiness.

To let you all know, I have a huge family. My father has three brothers and three sisters. My mother has seven brothers and two sisters. If I were to count only my first cousins, I have 20 of them on my mother's side and 16 on my father's side. Just memorising who was whose child and what his / her name is, used to be a demanding activity when I was a child. I confused people with their names, called my mama my kaka and so on and so forth. Amazingly, I was still considered a brilliant child. Now, most of these cousins are settled outside of Orissa, with jobs and their own family. The younger ones are still here. A majority of my uncles and aunts live in Bhubaneswar though, where we were headed towards right now, in torrential rains, where it was impossible to drive over 80 kmph even on the smooth highway and visibility was near zero.There was no way we could reach Bhubaneswar before 8 pm.

Sometime during the drive I got a call from a number in Delhi. It was about a letter of offer of employment with Business Standard - an interview I had almost no hope of cracking, because I had screwed in the written test horribly, confusing Sunil Mittal for LN Mittal (which so-called MBA does that?) and not being able to identify key people who are important  nuts and bolts that keep India's financial system running. What the hell was I thinking when I went to write that test. Oh wait! I was crabby and cribby then because I was suffering a terrible heartbreak. It's a wonder I wrote anything in the test at all! But coming back to the point... I FINALLY HAD A JOB!! Mom and dad didn't seem to excited that I'd be moving out of Calcutta yet again (to Mumbai) and for a journo's job that'd pay me less than an HR job (I had consciously made the switch, against their wishes and advice). But I was on the top of the world. There was no way I was letting this job go.

I have go off track now. I am often asked to carry back rosogolla for my friends whenever I visit my parents in Calcutta. What not many people know is that the best rosogollas in the world come from the suburbs of Bhubaneswar, from a place called Pahala. They're made in front of your eyes and served hot. Each is the size of a ping-pong ball, and when you place it in your mouth, it's softness melts into the texture of your tongue, making you feel like you've died peacefully and gone to heaven. Why I am saying this is because I am sure I will die of some diabetes related ailment. I am way too fond of sweets and I am never sorry for it. This is just an attempt to rub it into the faces of all sweet-loving people that I have had these little pieces of heaven.

Back to the drive to Bhubaneswar; we reached Pahala at about 7:30pm. We halted there. And despite the numb backsides, sore backs and cramped legs, I jumped out of the car as soon as dad parked it outside one of the numerous stalls lined along the highway. I was about to taste heaven after so long! We ate some chhena poda (another very popular Oriya sweet) and gorged on the rosogollas before packing lots of it for our stay in the Temple Town.

We reached home at 8pm, as estimated, and after unloading the boot of the car, we rushed to see my grandparents. The bear hugs and the tears of joy when we met after so long was beyond words. It is an indescribable feeling to be so loved and to be able to feel that love just like that, without any effort, without words and sometimes, even without a physical touch. My cousins were all wide-eyed and thrilled, as was I. For I used to carry them around, play with them, sometimes teach them, and when they were really small, change their diapers. To see them as fully grown people, who are so smart in the head and good looking, it filled me with a strange kind of pride. I couldn't stop hugging them and patting their backs (yes! I was behaving like an over-affectionate and possibly overbearing aunt)

I was filled in with details of what they were doing at school, whom they were friends with, how they messed with each other, who their crushes are, what they like, whom they are no more friends with. I wanted to scream with joy. I wanted to hug everyone really long. I wanted to jump about in excitement. I wanted to sleep a peaceful sleep, holding on these good feelings.There was chatter, and evil grins, and conspiratorial whispers and lots of heart warming laughter. As I stepped back from myself and viewed the gathering of people there, I thanked God for giving me a chance to regain my sanity among the people who knew nothing about my ordeals, for they could be happy and make me happy without having to worry about my state of mind then. That's exactly what I needed. I was getting another shot at being me. I grabbed it instantly. There has not been any looking back ever since.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Mad Trip Into The Mad World of my Mad Family - Part V

It was unusually warm that night, very humid and the low voltage refused to let the fan run at a speed good enough to put the air in motion. I remember sleeping very fitfully. But I was looking forward to the morning. It came, but it was pouring then, and the rain-lover in me was ecstatic. I wanted to go to the courtyard and hop-skip-and-play with the big fat raindrops.


Getting ready for the trip back was easy. There was no rush. People were lazy and while we were supposed to have started by 8am, the rain had put out a stopper there. The route was not going to be easy. The narrow mud paths would be slippery and the visibility was bad. Yes! It was raining that hard. We sat in Guruji's study, talking in loud voices to be heard over the pitter-patter on the tin roof of the house. So reminiscent of Javed Akhtar's innocently amorous poetry from 1942-A Love Story... bajta hai jaltarang teen ki chhat pe jab motiyon jaisa jal barse. It was romantic. It was beautiful. And I am sure all of it was laced with a tiny tinge of a treasured but distant poignant memory, for me.

When the rain did stop at around 11am, we were all ready, stuffed to our throats with some fantastic breakfast. Prahlad and I helped dad redo the jigsaw puzzle in the car trunk. It was a mellow goodbye. Guruji's wife gave me some flowers from the temple, blessing me and saying that she had not imagined in her wildest dreams that a city bred girl like me would be able to manage so well and mix with everyone in the village. Although that was a nice compliment, I felt a little let-down wondering what it is about me that Guruji had perceived? I do make an impression sometimes. But I'd have expected someone who has talked to me numerous times to know me just that little bit better. I let it pass. Thanked her. took her blessings and settled into the familiar feeling of being packed into an already stuffed suitcase. We were all back in the car, and raring to get "home". Uncle and aunty had been away from their home for over two weeks now and were getting a little restless.

Dad managed the unpaved roads with his usual agility and in an hour's time, we were on NH5. I was again listening to songs while the elders yapped. We stopped a short way into Orissa border and had some coffee. We stopped at another dhaba for lunch (which was a bad idea). Mom even made dad and me get our own hand wash from among one of the many bags in the car because she did not trust the hygiene quotient of the soap at the sink in the dhaba. And then we stopped at a hotel in Bhadrak for a loo break and another coffee.

While were in the hotel, it started raining cats and dogs. We stood in the porch, trying to figure out a way to get to the car parked about 15 feet away without getting soaked. Mom was most concerned about it. She hates the rains. She also got aunty concerned by saying that the sarees she had purchased to gift to relatives at the wedding could get ruined by the rain water seeping into the trunk. Now it was dad's turn to get annoyed. There was no way water could seep into the car. And mom's finickiness annoyed all of us most of the time. Dad rushed to the car shielding himself with an umbrella borrowed from an attendant in the hotel, drove the car to the porch, and we realised with shock that the trunk of the car was actually open! We were worried that some of our luggage might have fallen off without our knowledge. And we were also afraid something might fall out now in the rain and make a mess of the whole already messy situation.

Dad couldn't hear us call out to him, so I ran to the car, and closed the trunk door. Getting drenched to the bone in those two minutes. And my mother found another reason to crib. "Why wasn't the boot closed?" "Why did you have to get wet in the rain?" "What if you catch a cold now in the AC?" It looked like the havan had worked for me but had made my mother more prone to losing her temper. Mom and dad know me as an insolent child. So I made use of that image and went back to my songs while she continued to nag me, not caring if I caught a cold. Actually, even dad had to ask mom to stop pinning me for every small reason. It was a silent ride for everyone else while I stared out of the window breaking the raindrops into a million little droplets and scattering around. James Blunt's 1973 couldn't have pulled me into it any more
 on this that that was so blue.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

A Mad Trip Into The Mad World of my Mad Family - Part IV

Lost in my world, I hardly took in the flurry of activity around me as the preparations for the evening puja were done. The past has an interesting way of sucking you into it. And the more you resist, the more difficult it is to not think about it. Suddenly, an elderly looking brahmin came to my father and without saying anything prostrated before him. The rest of us looked at the scene agog, while dad kept sitting back complacently, saying, "the moon's rising behind me. He's praying to chandra." We still didn't know what to make out of it. And then the brahmin got up, and bowed low doing a namaskar clearly to my father this time, who choked on the tea he was drinking. And before dad could regain his composure enough to ask what this was all about, the brahmin had walked away. All of us except dad burst out in perplexed laughter, not knowing what just transpired. 

Later, we were called to watch as a trio of singers took charge of entertaining us with retelling certain excerpts from the Ramayana. It was a group of husband, wife and daughter, who were so good at what they were doing. It was quite like the jatra form of storytelling, with the harmonium and the dhol as accompaniments to the lady's sing-song manner of narration of how Shabari offered berries to her dear lord Rama. They were like rock stars, handling the microphone with elan, engaging the audience and having them participate by clapping ans swaying to the beat. We, sitting right at the back, were enraptured in the magic the trio wove with their act. I call them The Bard Trio.

And then came the time for the havan. There were two kunds made. Uncle and aunty sat around one; mom, dad and me around the other, and guruji sat in the middle, reciting the mantras into the microphone for the entire gathering to hear. I did not understand why the whole village was present there if the puja was to quieten my mercurial temper. And then it struck me. Free dinner after the havan... the prasad. Well, some may have been there to genuinely be a part of the puja, but free food never hurt anyone. More so, guruji is a very respected man there, so all were around as a mark of respect.

There was Geeta paath between the mantras and as we poured ghee keep the fire blazing, guruj explained to us parts of the Bhagvad Geeta. It was quite interesting because I like dabbling into spheres of spirituality every now and then (religion is not as appealing). Now was good because of the mood set by the bard, her husband and her daughter.

After the havan was done, the five of us - the main participants - of the puja were asked to walk the parikrama (the boundary) of the temple with small cane-woven baskets full of batasha (coin sized sugar tablets offered to Gods during aarti or puja), while the kirtan singers began their melodious chants of Hare Rama Hare Krishna again. And then we had to throw handfuls of batasha at the two hundred odd people watching the puja. What happened next startled me, for these same people, standing with their palms joined and eyes closed in search for oneness with their Almighty, suddenly scampered and scrambled about on the floor, trying to pick up as many batasha as possible. They called out to us, asking us to throw more batasha in their direction. The chaos was funny. It was a ritual I had never even heard of. I have to ask about its significance the next time I meet guruji.

Dinner was served to the people as they assembled in the courtyard, seated in serpentine lines with the banana leaves spread out n front of them. Aunty, mom and I helped serve the food. After that was done, I was waiting outside the bathroom. It had been long since I had had the opportunity to err... em... okay... take a leak. (have absolutely no subtler way to put it).  Just then the daughter of The Bard Trio came up to me, all flustered and shy and struck up a conversation with me.

In between losing my turn to go to the loo, swaying madly from side to side to try and forget about my bursting bladder and trying to turn my cringes into a warm smile, I managed to talk to the girl - Sonali - for about 5 minutes. And when I could no longer wait, and the bathroom was finally vacant,  I excused myself as politely as I could and sprinted the distance to the loo, just 5 feet away. Sonali was a nice and warm girl. She thought I was still in high school / college (I think I liked her more because she said that). When I told her I am 28, she was shocked and exclaimed, "That's how old my mother is! You definitely don't look your age." I was predictably shocked too. I looked younger than my age! Yaay! To be 28, and have a daughter who's 14 and would appear for her madhyamik (Class X) exams later that year meant her mother was married when she was less than 13. Wow! These things about rural India are known to all of us. But they hit you harder when you  meet someone who has been through it.What is worse is, they have accepted it as a way of life and still go about performing these 'traditions" nonchalantly. I wonder if guruji has expressed a stand against it.

Some pleasant "chit-chat with the villagers" later, people started coming in to pay their respects to guruji and take his leave. I noticed that while everyone respects guruji, it is not just blind faith. They love him because he has been a helpful soul and a philantropist despite his modest means; helping the village folk in whatsoever ways possible. And guruji treats them all like children, sometimes scolding them, sometimes their friend and sometimes just cracking a joke and chuckling enjoyably. Something about him makes me like him despite the fact that I am not much of a religious person myself.

After everyone left, guruji's family and we had dinner too, again amidst lots of laughter and jokes. By the time we went to bed, it was well past 2 am. We were to leave for Bhubaneswar the next morning. I said my "thank you" to the force up there for helping me through the day without making it look like a hassle. I switched on the playlist in my phone and fell asleep to the tune of Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Mad Trip Into The Mad World of my Mad Family - Part III

I had never thought I would wake up at the crack of dawn hearing a cock crow. Wait! A village full of roosters crowing... there can be nothing more irksome than not being able to shut out that cacophony even with a pillow on your ears. All the thrill of living a rustic and idyllic life for two days was forgotten. I woke up cursing (ha ha... in a spiritual abode! I am sure as hell going to hell *grins evilly*). I tried to get off the bed and drink some water only to have my legs and arms get stuck in the mosquito net. My wildly flailing arms did nothing to help me get untangled. I only ended up realising that my earphones had also managed to wind themselves around my arm and were adding to the confusion. I am sure Mr. Bean would have found me amusing then.

A look at the clock said it was only 5 am. I wanted to go back to bed, but obviously, the sounds all around told me that the people in the house and in the rest of the hamlet had already set about performing their tasks for the day. I walked out to the porch on the first floor to look at the sight around. The sky was getting brighter every moment and it was peaceful. My irritation melted away as I stood there and breathed in the scents swirling in the air. And then, the smell of cow dung hit me. I looked around to see Prahlad running across the courtyard to guruji's vegetable patch with a pail full of dung. It was to be used as manure for the brinjal and the tomatoes growing there. All my romanticised feelings buried under the gross smell of poop, I grumbled and went back to bed and lay reading a book.

At about 7, a snooze later, I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom with my toiletries and clothes to discover a waiting list of people waiting to get into the bathroom. I mentally slapped my forehead because I should have got done with all the bathroom work as soon as I had woken up. Now, I was way after 3 people, only to be able to use the bathroom. First come, first serve. It was like being back at boarding school.

Everything done and with ready for the grand puja (and me trying to come up an excuse to scoot from the scene, ranging from most sane and pathetic to most outlandish and unbelievable), we gathered out in the temple courtyard at around 11am. Kirtan and baul singers from the hamlet had gathered to sing on the special occasion. Well, the occasion was actually special. It was Radha Ashtami. So, began the kirtan. From a noisy and chattering group to their extremely melodious swing taking you to the crests of supreme divinity, the kirtan singers took me to a different level of being. Somewhere among them was a lady, who had appeared very ordinary and very snooty before the puja had begun. But now, as she took to the microphone and gave melody and feeling to the simple chant of Hare Rama hare Krishna, she seemed one with her God. Her eyes turned dark and deep with her devotion, and she looked beautiful as she kept us in thrall. The dhols, chaotic in their individual beat, and yet so much in synchronised tandem with her singing made us us want to sway to the chant. It was, I think, the most spiritual moment of my life till date.

We proceeded to perform the rituals of the puja, with me doing most of the work. The aarti, the bhog and the chanting of the mantras after guruji. After the bhog, the first part of the puja was over. It was around 3pm, and the next part was to begin after sunset. Aunty, mom and I served food to all the people gathered for the puja as they sat in lines in the courtyard with banana leaves spread out in front of them. We ate some fruits and pithe (a variety of sweets made of rice flour, pulse flour, coconut and jaggery). We tried to rest, but low voltage and high humidity ensured that we just swat flies and mosquitoes rather than get some shut-eye. I listened to some more songs, read a little bit more of my book, and waited for the day to pass. For tomorrow, I would be seeing my cousins after three long years.

Before the second half of the puja began, dad, mom, uncle, aunty, guruji and I sat outside the house, just off the courtyard, talking generally. Guruji was very concerned about my comfort, since he assumed me to living in AC all the time and used to the classiest forms of luxury in my everyday life. I'd like to live a life like that, but no thanks! I'd rather be on my own. And by that train of thought, I was having a ball. Yes, I did miss checking my mails and the occasional facebook, but I could live with that. The kids were playing nearby and guruji's two grandsons, Hare Rama and Hare Krishna were leading a group in what looked like a political procession. When we were children, we played office, school, doctor and kitchen scenarios. But the dirty party politics in the Midnapore has made children learn to play "politics" at the young age of 8 and 11. Disgrace!

I tried to get the attention of the kids by holding up a packet of candies. They came running, but some of them went the other way. It took me less than three minutes to know that those kids had gone to call the others who were in their houses and would lose out on the candies if they didn't come and get them. Now, random women, who came in also made excuses like they'd been working the whole day and their throats were parched so they deserved some candy. Still others who said that their grandchildren, nephews or nieces were at home and couldn't come, so if they could take some candy back for them... It was amusing, and I distributed candy to everyone, making sure no one got extra (since, now there was only very little left). The smiles and the cheer made being there worthwhile. And the kids got friendlier with me every time I distributed the sweets. It was a good feeling. Too bad that I kept thinking of relating all this to someone who would listen with interest. Some part of me inside was still sore and discontented.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Mad Trip Into The Mad World of my Mad Family - Part II

Like in all comedy of errors, for a drive that should have ideally taken us only two and a half hours, it took us a good six hours to reach Guruji's house in a hamlet in Temathani, a little ahead of Katakhali. The route got more difficult as we neared his house. Kachha roads, made slushy and slippery in the rains, narrow enough only to precariously accommodate our car's breadth on it's extreme ends. Dad was driving with calculated confidence, uncle was holding on to his seat, as if it were his dear life, and aunty and mom letting out yelps of fear with every lurch and calling out to the Gods to protect us. I was unconcerned, confident about dad's driving skills, but worried that the Gods might punish us again for the shrill shrieks of the women were annoying, distracting and scaring dad more than the tricky road ahead of us.

We reached our destination at around noon and toppled out or the car, feeling suddenly clammy - because of the humidity after the AC and the shy, almost reverential and somewhat inquisitive gazes of the dozen or so village children who had appeared from nowhere. Afraid of annoying us in any way, they kept shouting instructions to each other keep out of our way, except aunty's, who was a regular to Guruji's abode in the hamlet. The kids had come to expect her to distribute candies to them every hour. Guruji's own and adopted family of sorts came rushing out with sunny smiles and welcomed us with a lot of warmth. It was all very endearing and nice.

Guruji has made his house himself, with some assistance from his man friday - Prahlad, the local carpenter, a semi-trained electrician and an amateur mason. (Guruji is actually an engineer by education, he turned to spirituality quite late in life). It's a clay house with two floors, and very cool despite the infamous Bengali summers. The bathroom and toilet, located on the ground floor is tiled, and has a tubewell that brings in the water from the pond located behind the house. There are no taps. It was fun using the bathroom (okay... I know I am sounding crazy now). The kitchen was huge and as guests, we weren't allowed to enter it, and we were always served our food on banana leaves on the floor in the area outside the kitchen. It was all so simple yet so lovingly done for us, and it reminded me so much of my childhood and the weddings and occasions in those days, when eating on the terrace, on banana leaves was the happy ritualistic norm.

Dad, uncle and guruji had meetings set for the day, where dad, being a businessman, was to tell the local farmers, fishermen and small traders how to conduct their businesses or transactions more efficiently and improve their standard of living, and maybe make them aware of government initiatives that could save them from being swindled by middlemen. After they were gone, aunty and mom and I sat with the ladies for a short while and then got back to resting, for no one had had sufficient sleep. Post lunch, that consisted of lots of deep fried vegetables - begun, potol, aaloo, bhendi- maachh bhaja, maachher jhol, shukto and bhaat (fried brinjal, pointed gourd, potato, lady finger, fish fry, the famous Bengali fish curry, a special Bengali preparation with all kinds of vegetables and rice),  satisfied and full, we went back to our room again and this time I slept soundly. 
[Pssst... don't judge me, but I think I wrote these lines about food the fastest and most enthusiastically. An Oriya does love food.]

The evening was balmy too, but the cool breeze wafting and bringing along with it a beautiful combination of scents of summery blossoms made it very pleasurable to sit outside in the temple's courtyard. The temple, also built by guruji in 1982 is a Radha-Krishna temple, small, but beautifully and dutifully managed. The evening aarti was done and the incense of sandal and jasmine too soothed and calmed us. I was listening to songs again, this time on speaker, while mother and aunty were talking (yes, again! some calibre they have!) I had gotten along the packet of candies for the kids and after I distributed it among them, I made friends with them as they played with my cell phone and scrolled across its menu using the tracking ball. They were thrilled and in wonderment. The eldest among them was 10 years old. They go to school and seemed aware about a lot of things when I quizzed them about their studies. But it was funniest when the tracking ball was scrolled down to the internet icon, and looking at the animation one of the younger in the lot exclaimed in excitement, "hai go! pruthibi ta ghuriya jaye re!" (Hey! The world's going round!)

The kids took me around the hamlet, showing me their playground, the guava trees they play near and their school. It was a nice walk, except for the uncomfortable feeling of being stared at like I were a celebrity. It was embarrassing initially, but once I smiled back at a few ladies outside a house, they started to talk to me, and it wasn't as embarrassing anymore. I came back to guruji's house once it was dark and there were so many mosquitoes, I was afraid that an armada of them would carry me off to some other place. Also, the power supply chose to give up on us. Apparently it was the weekly evening haat that day, and so, the voltage was very low. Amidst all the voices around me, I sat thinking about the way my life had been shaped by recent events. I had been pensive, a litttle hopeless. I was quite directionless at the moment.

We kept sitting in the courtyard till about 9:30 pm, occasionally chit-chatting with the household women, till dad, uncle and guruji came back from their meetings. They seemed tired and the day ended quite uneventfully, with simple dinner and all of us retiring to our rooms for the night. While uncle and dad slept in guruji's study (which had a couple of nice beds laid out), and aunty, mom and I shared another room on the first floor. The pooja was to be tomorrow, and I had started to feel butterflies in my stomach. I decided to listen to music, and go to sleep to calm myself . I did, only by thinking of some nice moments I had had and some comforting words I had been told. I had a feeling I was going to handle things just fine. After a long time, I smiled myself to sleep, not a happy smile; but just comforted enough.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Mad Trip into the Mad World of My Mad Family - Part I

After barely four hours of very interrupted sleep, my cell phone clock decided it was time for me to wake up and blared out Enrique Iglesias' "Be With You" with a hope that I wake up all grinning and smiley dreaming about Spanish hunks. Wrong! I grunted and groped for the damned instrument and tried to switch it of, all with my eyes tightly shut. It chose to hang just then, forcing me to prop myself up on my elbows, prise it open and pull the battery out to silence it. Apparently, even delicious Spanish hunks are unwanted when a tired woman is trying to get some sleep. Alas! Only sleep was not to happen. For in a house that is being remodelled, and only one bathroom in the house (tragically attached to my room) to be used by four other people to get ready for the road trip, the traffic flow in and out of my room was incessant and desperate attempts to snooze were futile.

Leaden feet, scowls and some hurried freshening up later, I was ready and waiting next to our car in the parking lot by 5:45 am. There were five of us making the trip - Dad, Mom, Dad's childhood friend, his wife (they were in Calcutta to shop for their son's wedding in November) and I. The men and I couldn't figure out what was taking the women so long. We forgot to account for the gazillion "last minute things" they always have to do and, of course, the obligatory morning pooja before they started with their destination for the day. According to them, that would save us from any mishap during the journey. I cringed inwardly while I nodded vigorously in agreement, obviously to avoid a lecture on religion and spirituality first thing in the morning. I was also left wondering if God liked being woken up form his sleep at such ungodly hours.

With dad at the wheel, uncle next to him and the three heavy-weight ladies stuffed in the back seat of an Indigo Marina, already bowing under the weight of luggage that was loaded till the top of the boot space. The rear view glass was blocked with bags of all shapes and sizes, and how can we Oriyas forget that one big bag of ready to eat food packed for any time we felt hungry, or even plain bored? We hit the streets of Calcutta at 6 am. The roads were damp from the rains of the previous night. So was the paint on the old building walls that are the charm of the city of joy. I was seeing Calcutta this early in the morning after a really long time, and it was reminiscent of the morning walks and the chai at thronging Maharani tea stall on the way back home.

Sweepers cleaning the last day's garbage off the roads; newspaper delivery trucks and the stall men negotiating the day's numbers; the pharmacist in a 24X7 medical store asleep on the chair behind the counter in his shop; morning walkers, some with their dogs, briskly walking their routes, kachuri-tarkari and cha stalls with the same morning walkers milling around them; the park benches seated with the retired dadus and the still chirpy and bossy didas indulging  in their customary laughter club meetings and the famous Bengali adda... and the sounds and smells that accompany these characteristic sights of my dear city.

For the first half-an-hour, I take all of it in, letting my senses bask in the explosion of  things so pleasant, thanks to my dad's need for a cigarette. Once mom started complaining about her hair getting messed up in the wind, we had to roll up the car windows. Mom and aunty got into talking abut their kind of stuff and dad and uncle engrossed in recalling the road trips they took while in college. I was thankfully not required to be active in either conversation. After having caught interesting snippets from both pairs, I plugged my ears with earphones, closed my eyes and let go to the great medley of songs that I had painstakingly transferred to my cell phone the night before. Yes, that is why I had had only four hours of sleep and the comedic story warrants another blog post dedicated solely to it.

We stopped for some coffee at a highway dhaba and to buy flowers for pooja in a village on the way (why flowers and what pooja you ask? Hang on.). Somewhere in Medinipur (WB), there was a flat tyre, which I helped dad change, and pulling out all the heavy luggage from the trunk of the car and rearranging it in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle was no mean feat. There were two suitcases, seven bags, a huge carton containing some 150 sarees and two cartons full of food stuff to be delivered (hang on!). I also hired a van and went some couple of kilometers backwards on our route to get the flat tyre repaired. So much for the early morning pooja to appease the Gods to let us have a safe and not-troublesome journey. I bet they were peeved at having been woken up so early and they had decided to teach us a lesson. I had dragged uncle along, and we were having fun. My parents thought I was in the adventurous mode. Truth be told, they have never seen me in my true form.

For all those who are not used to rural Bengali colloquialisms, a van is a cycle driven cart - used to transport things and people over short and not-so-long distances. The way I took a lead to go and get the tyre repaired came as a shock to my parents. Mom got motivated too, and offered to come along, riding on the van, with her legs dangling down its back, her expensive crepe saree's pallu wrapped around her and tucked into the waist. Only after we convinced her that she would get a backache and her saree would be ruined, did she grudgingly relent. The songs playing on the repairman's mobile phone were predictably 90s, but brought back zingy memories of their terrible picturisations and made me double up with laughter- insanely popular (how?why?) songs of Jeet, Jaan Tere Naam  and Daag - the Fire! That done, we resumed, on a route I had not seen before on our innumerable trips to Bhubaneswar. But it had been a while since I drove down there, and I just assumed it was a newer route. How wrong could I be!

I still did not ask any questions. But during the changing of a second flat tyre (yes, in a matter of 30 minutes!), bang in the middle of the morning haat in another village, I heard my mother tell one of the many helpful men who came forth to help dad change the flat tyre that we were headed towards Katakhali. I was taken aback. My feelings bordered on gross indignation. I felt cheated. I did not know what to say. The name 'Katakhali' rang no bell, howsoever tiny, in my big head.

It was after we thanked these men and plonked ourselves into the car again, that I asked where we were actually headed towards. "Why? We're going to Guruji's ashram. I thought you knew. There is a pooja in your name tomorrow, you know, to help soothe your temper."

That flared my temper again, but I decided to look as calm as peace itself. I clamped myself shut to avoid being bombarded with advise about how a girl needs to be calmer, cooler, more, well... more like a "girl". Uh oh! That didn't help. There was still a barrage of advise from dad, mom and aunty. Uncle hates talking too much, and he looked at me, silently extending his apologies and sympathies for the ordeal I was in.

I have nothing against Guruji. He seems to be a nice man and he doesn't force me into believing or doing anything I don't want to. He and I have had discussions about dogma, spirituality, religion, and life in general. In fact, what I appreciate most about him is that he is a karmayogi and that he respects my opinion and my questioning nature.

But I was irked; for the sole reason that I was not told about this puja and I was going to be forced into sitting for it. I breathed deep and decided to make the best of what was to come. It would be my first stay in a village and I intended to have my share of fun. I stuffed my ears to the strains of 'Come Undone' and looked out of the window with something akin to excitement and dread brewing in my gut.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Healing Showers of Pain

Thundershowers at almost midnight in a warm sultry Kolkata....! Tupur tapur on the window sill... multiple tiny rivulets flow along the glass panes making for a pretty picture...  I look through the glass to see a distorted world... The cynic in me laughs and says, "As if it ain't distorted enough yet..."
The distant streetlamps are a pretty blur behind the curtains of shimmering falling water. The streets a field of skittling raindrops, as they hop, skip and jump and finally settle in the lap of a comforting puddle...  The puddle itself trembling with the tremors of quietening every single raindrop it absorbs... Absorbing into itself its every turmoil, its every fear, its every shiver...
The distant sound of thunder like a drum roll... Calling out to solitary souls to rejoice in the storm... To let it wash away the pain, the hurt, the anger, the pessimism... To let it take over the barren and fill it with something of splendour... If only I could let it... For pain seems to have made its home now... Unrelenting, unmoving, uncaring...
Sigh!! How I still only crave for what I cannot have...
The past catches up
Overshadowing my now
Blinding the paved route ahead
I twist and turn
I fiddle with its stronghold
I try to break free
I writhe, wanting to escape
I am pushed forwards
By the same past
That catches up with me
And cruelly taunts me

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

My Blessings in Disguise

Along the shore of life, I stop, turn and look
The footprints of memories - some fresh, some fading,
Some undesirable ones washed away by the waves of time,
The precious ones protected by pretty gilded rocks.
I retrace my last few steps, walking past these timestamps
They come alive; the hues of cheer and bonhomie all intact

The fulfilling friendships, the contented loves and the happy romances
The artsy stuff that brought me joy, the talks about movies, the books,
The unimaginably pretty women who made them good (don’t ask!)
Those booze nights with that special girlfriend and roomie,
Laughing with her over the hush-hush girl stuff
And hugging each other in the middle of the street just because…

The jokes in the balcony, the unbridled laughter and the wisps of cigarette smoke,
The late night chats, the heart to heart with a new friend.
Friends old and new pulling my leg, having me believe a distant light a spaceship
The noisiness that made us all feel at home,
Repeated invites for dinner which I regretfully refused
Meaningless banter in retrospect feels like the most meaningful times I spent.

The walks along the streets of cities that made me
The lone times that left me to play with my fancy
The random e-mails reminiscing an old joke, or making a new one
The visits to the quadrangle that gave me a second family
Fighting over movie show times, over what food to eat
Over where to go, over why a dream won’t ever be real.

Talking to the phantom who brought along stories of his own
He’d ask me to stay, but I’d unwillingly have to go back to my reality.
Sharing the last bit of absinthe conspiratorially with a long-lost partner in crime
Playing with dainty raindrop beads on the balcony railing
While singing out aloud a tune that friends loved to hear me sing
Among thoughts that made sense, thoughts that didn’t,
There were premonitions and scary omens
Pushed back into unheeded corners of my head as soon as they came.

Warmth in my heart on seeing my friends find love and companionship
The bittersweet bye-byes after every time we met, the hugs, the tears
And the promises to meet very soon again
The 4 am phone calls to make sure I was okay every time my heart broke
The other 4am calls to just tell me that they care, they are there
Still others that told me they were just missing me
And the indescribably cherished times we all shared.

Places, people, episodes, quotes, laughter, hugs and the random fight
All vividly painted in a collage of honest illusions that happened
As I close my eyes, they replay one by one, bringing back
A treasure trove of laughter, smiles and sometimes, uncontrollable guffaws
I hold them close, those bits of my life trying to fix something broken inside
Their warmth comforts my tired and drained core
The incompleteness forgotten, they lull me into a peaceful slumber

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Life's Deceptions

Little drops of sadness, draining the mirth out of a forlorn heart;
Small meaningless sounds betray the sentiments wanting to tear apart.
Those few tender moments of covert contentment and long sighs
Spent in gently tracing the lines of something running deep inside.
It touches through the skin, the flesh and the claret flow of life,
Seeping into an unknown cold corner to light a gentle and inspiring glow
Warming and bathing in a mild glaze memories that were born.
With every touch a spark, every breath a sigh, every word a caress,
Melting the stony faithless skeptic into a breathing believer of happy existence.
Tricks to deceive gullible souls looking for the chance of finding love,
Played by a sick sadistic force treating itself on cries of loss, fear and barrenness-
There wins fate's machination over a humble spirit looking for nothing but company.
Left behind is only a carcass of a hopeful hazy illusion of what could have been.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I am at the Crossroads again
One dream lined route pulls me towards it with promises galore
My fate seems to be pushing me towards the bleaker, darker, lonelier path
'Twixt the pull and the push, I stagger, swagger, lose sight of where to go

My eyes play tricks on me, deceiving me with nightmares
Groping about on slimy loveless labyrinthine walls in pitch blackness,
My eyes play tricks on me, treating me to delightful fancies
Holding hands and staring blissfully at the clouds in our outspoken silences

My heart, still beeking in the sunshine of Utopian amour
Skipping a beat now, and pulsating then with wild tribal rhythms
I shake myself out of the reverie, sigh, and try to choose from what's before me
Oh the pull and the push! you are the cause of all this misery

As this air of hopelessness hangs low
I only wish for a tide of my fulfilled wish to wash over
My spirit wants to fight the unfairness of it
But all I can do now is succumb and wait for destiny to take a call.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sinfully Yours.

In the very ordinary human life I have lived for my 28 years, I have felt, said and done a lot of things considered radical and not-so-ordinary for the people around me. I wouldn’t say all of these people matter. But some of them do, and very rightfully so, whether by me giving them that status in my life, or by virtue of my birth.

I do not call my life ordinary because it has been uneventful. It has been extremely eventful, more so, in the recent past – to the extent of providing a plot for a thrilling and super-racy bestseller. I call my life ordinary because like most other human beings, I have played with and been played by the seven deadly sins, as they’re very famously or infamously known.

I don’t know if this makes me a lesser mortal. I am certain that what follows is not a confession to help me go to heaven. I am also dead sure that this is not to tell anyone about my clandestine affairs with these vices and the pleasures these have given to me. Factors beyond my control have taken charge of the way I should live my life, and in retrospect, I want to know how these relationships have shaped me and the way I conduct myself.

I was always easily angered. I learnt to control it as I grew up and began realizing that it affects my close ones more than it does me. Over episodes of exercising control in the worst of situations and learning to use breathing techniques and humour to sidestep getting my mind passionately entwined with WRATH’s twisted and sadistic form, I can safely say, I have moved on. There are recalls, and they’re not pretty. But WRATH is like a drug, injecting itself into my system sometimes, to haunt me, to make me do things I don’t want to do, and to make love to my destructive alter ego, making it blossom like a parasitic thornbush… poisoning me, making me bleed inside. The sting of the pricks hurting for long after it is gone.

GREED for success in whatever I do. The ethicality of the means and the ends both matter to me. And in this case, my sense of ethicality is quite dictated by general world views of what’s right and what’s not. Cheating during exams, bribing, sabotaging of another’s efforts are just a few no-no’s for a self-respecting a person to accept anything she doesn’t deserve. GREED for more… Knowledge, love, money, respect and all the good things in life. But all of it earned, not snatched or demanded. GREED drives me. Call it ambitiousness, call it madness or call it a personality flaw, GREED drives all of us. I think my longest and most fruitful affair has been with GREED, bringing out the best in me, driving me to get ahead.

It’s close cousin, ENVY lies dormant in me, waking up shaken and agitated only when I am worried about losing what’s dear to me. Invidiousness has never been a problem for me, for coveting what rightfully belongs to another is not something that comes to me easily, or even with effort. It would only lead to discontentment and unhappiness. I’d much rather earn what I deserve. For if I have that ability, I deserve better and I know I will own it someday.

As much as I have tried to love SLOTH, it has never managed to make me feel as loved in its lazy hold, often leaving me alone and lonely on dark nights, while it has gone on to seduce the world around me, into peaceful slumber. Its touch has left me fitfully aware of my sometime over imaginative, sometimes intuitive sub conscious. SLOTH and I share a love-hate bond, with each trying to smugly outdo the other, playfully running away from each other, while yearning for each other.

My best friend through thick and thin, my closest aide at all times, food for comfort, food for joy, food to feel at my best, food to sustain me, food to thrill me, to tell me about places I haven’t set foot on, food to heal… I love GLUTTONY. Looked down upon by my gender, laughed at by most as a weakness, food is my route out of any problem, and into a whirl of some satisfying emotion. And I do not hesitate in admitting so. The tastes, the flavours and the aromas play wickedly with my senses and entice me into living in pleasurable sin forever.

So what do I say about LUST? A word that scares the conformists away, makes the traditionalists cringe and has lately become the standard one word definition of immorality. I LUST– for life, one without rules that tie me down. I LUST – for love, pure and pristine. I LUST - for a lover who will love with for who I am. I LUST – for knowledge of all that eludes me. I LUST – for peace, of my mind and in my world. I LUST – for comfort in the truth that my life is for me to live. My self-indulgence may be sacrilege but I revel in it. Living with LUST is heady. It’s intoxicating and it is addictive. For now, no matter how much I try to go back into the problem free days of abstinence, LUST pulls me back into today, with more push than ever, to strive for a life free of conventions.

In loving and hating all these alter egos, I definitely have not forgotten my love for myself. VANITY has kept me sane. VANITY has let me decide how to treat my other six aberrant dimensions. To have me look good in front of others, but definitely not to deceive; to know that I am right, although not by putting someone else down; and to keeping outdoing myself, only to keep myself ranking highest and the best in my own eyes is my VANITY taking charge of my life. And how it has dictated my life’s decisions! My silences, my speeches, my actions have all been slaves to my VANITY. The only times it has lost is when I have forgiven the wrongs done unto me by the loves of my lives. But now, like a deeply bound, but wounded soul sister, it has reasserted itself, speaking for itself and protecting our honour, whenever I begin to stumble to forgive all those who have hurt it. Ours is a respectful and respectable liaison, bordering on blind reverence. My deepest relationship yet.

The seven sins and my interactions with them define me and they have created my identity. The varying degrees of our interplay with them form our characters, making each one of us different from the other. Had we all been the truly “pious” sorts, we’d all have been mirror images, rendering the world predictable and lacklustre. Dharma, religion and spirituality should lead the way, but allow for pragmatic means of drawing inferences. I am again not claiming to be an authority on the subject; far from it. This is just my supposition in a world where I am the lord of me.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I grew up being told I am free
I grew up being told I have to choose for myself
I grew up being told I am responsible
No wonder I grew up with misunderstandings, and being misunderstood

Day in and day out, as I make my life’s choices
I struggle to understand what is more desirable
To do what I would like to be seen doing
Or that that I would like to see myself do

My coterie defines me, is my identity, I am told
Oh my life has become such a reprehensible charade
As I shamelessly flit in and out of roles I am born into
As I shamefully admit to myself my dual existence

An uncanny paradox is my story
For among the numerous characters inside me
And the various people outside I aim to keep pleasing
A loneliness still engulfs me, closing in on me more by the moment

I panic, I splatter and sputter, coming up for air
Only to be pushed beneath that overpowering surface of artifice
By the doppelgangers who have gradually taken over my life
Sucking up to everything I hold dear

I cling to that fundamental part of me; the tenacity clawing into my flesh
Tearing the sinew and bruising my heart and mind, body and soul
The frightened two-faced visage retreats into its once naïve, vivacious shell
To lie forever in bloody filth… scarred by its self-inflicted deceptions

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Monday, June 21, 2010

And Then She Said, "Bye Bye"

Is it a bruise I see? Or just an evil shadow cast on her face? She smiles as I wish to touch her to know what that dark aura is about. I reach out, touch her pale alabaster face. It feels cold and she flinches not. I poke and prod, but all she does is sneer unfeelingly and all I do is feel smooth indifference

She seems familiar though, some one I used to know... But the eyes had love in them. The lips had curved in warmth then. The hands had always reached out to help sincerely. The heartfelt words and tender embraces had healed numerous broken hearts, mended minds maimed by misunderstandings, warded away despair and soothed pained bosoms.

She no longer seems the same. I try to find her, but she is lost in the maze of betrayal. Her thoughts made sense only to her. Her life made sense only to her. To confirm and to believe she wanted, only to her ideals. But her ideals were not meant for the people who made her world. She searched for that soul who would know her, love her and be hers for who she was. All she found were illusions of understanding and of love. Her heart broken and trampled upon innumerable times, what defines her now is cynicism, sarcasm and satire.

She is now the hardened by the expectations that others use to define her, yet she wants to be vulnerable. She defines herself with her rigid beliefs that she would willingly soften for a little understanding and respect for who she is. She wishes for dreams to come true in a world that seems too practical and set in logical equations for "Give and take" doesn't really define her relationships.

Just as it strikes me who I am looking at, the stony facade drops just that little bit and I catch a glimpse of sadness. But before I can ask her to stay, she hurriedly leaves and I lose sight of my soul, buried deep under expectations, conventions and societal norms. All that remains is the pale, unflinching, unfeeling, sneering cold visage.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Seduced by the Rains

As the gusts of winds, smelling of moist deccan soil fill my senses, and the pitter-patter of rain hits my face with loving stings, I see my hand outstretched to hold that elusive beauty, but see the raindrops trickle down my palm and fall off my fingertips. The sensuous chill make the goose bumps on my arm tingle that wee bit more. The songs of Shaan and Mohit Chauhan make my heart skip those couple of beats. But just then the low growling thunder sounds like it is imitating and laughingly mocking my heart that is drumming with the beats of the rain. The feel of the soft carpet of gulmohar petals on the balcony floor created by the messy and impish wind takes my breath away.

The whole experience is playing havoc with every pore of my being. I feel that smile gradually pulling the corners of my lips wider. I feel the tickle as the drops of water teasingly and very slowly move along the length of my arm. I feel the warmth of an unbelievably loving emotion inside me despite the coolness of the rain and the wanton breeze. I feel thankful for being able to be part of this spectacle when nature decides to be at its playful best. I feel elated, for absolutely no reason. I feel somewhat wild for standing in the rain with open arms, facing the sky, and my eyes closed. It’s about soaking in the experience with reckless abandon. The heart takes over reason and logic and the world seems a better place cleansed of all evils!

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But Now I Cry, I Wonder Why?

It happened suddenly, and then it happened over time;
That extraordinary magic was beginning to wind.
Hopeful eyes spoke volumes of the softness of the heart
And our smiles shyly touched the other’s mind

It was meant to be, I beamed when I thought
Nights of sleep were in a happy frenzy lost
The sky was azure; I was in love I was sure
But now I cry, I wonder why?

Staring at the dazzling moon on cloudless nights
Filled my heart with a resplendent faith.
In my secret world I saw us enclosed in togetherness
There was nothing there that could shatter my soul

Life will be good, I told myself
I fought all fears, overcame all dreads
The nights’ silver clouds were a perfect home
But now I cry, I wonder why?

The playful raindrops drew me pictures of sparkling verve
Drenched in ecstasy my steps were bolder, assured, in love,
The ardour was tingly and lingered on for long after
Little moments made life my worthwhile

My smiles grew wider, full of conviction
The feelings out of their shell
Exploding with joyous sensitivity, thrill, delight
But now I cry, I wonder why?

I was hoping for a beginning, but then it ended.
My confidence faltered as I lost it all
It cost my heart many tiny furtive tears
The warmth of love was now unfeeling bitter despair

Sincerity I said mattered most.
It did but not without trust
Shadows blocked every happy thing
I did cry. No wonder why.

Precious vivid memories in black and white
Safely tucked away into that private chapter of my life
With no regret I try to walk on alone
My tears are dry. I cannot cry.

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The Devil Wears My Skin

I just finished reading The Devil Wears Prada, a well-known chick lit made even more famous because of the well received movie that goes by the same name. For those who came in late, the “devil” in the book’s title alludes to one of the main characters, Miranda Priestly, again inspired by Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour. What had made me like the movie was Meryl Streep as Miranda, and while her rendition of the character lent it layers and dimensions as compared to the solely evil description in the book. In fact, I was so taken by her performance that every act, gesture, the raising of the eyebrow and dialogue that Miranda had in the book had me picture Meryl doing it, with her unreadable face, trademark white hair and classy timeless attire – all in place.

I kept turning page after page to see Andy slaving away to Miranda’s unreasonable demands, only because I wanted to know how she calls the whole thing off. The happiest place in the book for me was when Andy publicly tells her boss to “F*** off” and walks away. I have been thinking ever since of all the times I have heard friends talk about giving in to what their bosses demand, however incredulous. I also thought about the times I had to keep quiet and quietly do what I was told to do. There have been times like them, even though my boss was a great friend and guide when it came to our personal interactions, but in the professional arena, things weren’t so great.

We pass out of college with big dreams and aspirations, and two weeks into a promised job or internship, we might as well check the soles of our shoes to see how badly we’ve managed to stomp over our own big ideas. Agreed that we have to do the “picking up the tricks of the trade” bit first, but we are dismissed in a manner that crushes all sense of self-pride and puts us on the lowest rung on the ladder of our morale.

How many times have we bowed over to accommodate requests that take over our personal lives, our personal time and space? How many of us can boast of not having to spend extra hours after work, trying to meet deadlines that our managers set very unrealistically or just to please his boss? How many times have we heard disparaging comments that are hurtful and demeaning, but kept mum to avoid a bad performance rating or losing the job? Honestly, just when did we start believing that our jobs are more important than our self respect? The very thing for which we get into a job – a earn money and gain respect in the society (as if that is the only yardstick by which one’s respectability quotient can be measured!)

It is not that all bosses and organisational leaders are the same. There are many who command that respect by virtue of being good human being who understand human needs and limitations and their need to be loved and respected. But when I was told by my boss that she saw a lot of her in me, I decided I needed a different perspective in live – simply to grow in another direction. I did not want to be as hated as she was. I’d want people to mean if they ever complimented me and I’d want people to give me feedback without the fear of being gotten back at during annual promotions.

We crib and crib and crib. And just today what I known all this while, has put itself into words for me to write down here: we often do not take decisions based on what will make us happy. We take the easy way out. We choose the easier way to make money by not risking our own capital, skills, talents… We choose to live the banal existence that pushes us to endure new heights of humiliation every day… We to choose to let others subjectively objectify our skills and abilities and grade us based on what work is given to us, and not what we would like to do….

So basically, aren’t we letting the devil take over?

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