Tag Archives: life

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

Play

Being

You now, do.

Windows open,

Closed doors say, “Come, do.”

But just sit there, and breathe.

In, and out. Out, then in. Life.

Talk to the breeze hugging your skin.

Listen to Time travelling for you.

Rejoice! Relax. Be very you. Now. Here.

jh

___________________________________________________________

I could claim credit for the title, but I can’t, even though I might have thought of it. Alas, Osho thought of it before me.
Advertisements

Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointment comes with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly. Continue reading Only disappointment

Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointments come with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly.  Continue reading Only disappointment

Of birds, pinks, and full circles

My parents came over to visit us for a week and a little more. During my occasional walks with them, I remembered I’d been wanting to take pictures of the numerous birds that inhabit our neighbourhood and show them to you. The desire is like that of a child saying, “Look, I can see that! Can you?”

A few days back, I did take the camera, but was able to manage only a few pictures that are postable here. Perhaps I’ll ‘win’ some more in the subsequent days and post them, too.

A family living close to us has placed these earthen vessels on their wall for the birds to feed and drink water from. Mornings and evenings, a huge flock of parrots comes and satiates itself. This picture is only of one of their kind, but you get the picture!

Right next to this parrot haunt, there’s a silver oak tree (it looks horrifically chopped because people chop off the tops in winter — it helps the tree, and provides firewood for homes). This big guy was looking down right at us, we thought. My mother told me to take a picture of him, too. I had my doubts that it’d come. Backlit setting and all. But she insisted, I took the picture and lo, we can even see his eyes!

Ready to move on, I saw this dried vine with its gourd-fruits. We use the dried up innards as loofah. Do you? I thought it’d be interesting to show you. My current loofah is about to say adieu, but then I have a spare one, otherwise I’d have been aching to climb up the electricity pole and get a couple of them. Climbing is such fun, I’d have done it without any fruit at the top. But then, sensible people would stop me. For all of these reasons, I took a picture instead.

Talk of sensible. This one had his back to us and didn’t show any intention of turning around, but then my father said something and he turned!

And gave us and eyeful, too! Sensible indeed.

This bird has been intriguing me for two years now. My internet search tells me it’s a magpie robin, but his call doesn’t match the recorded calls I downloaded. Whatever the bird, this one is elusive.

I had to walk around the tree to get more than his butt for you.

Here’s another, sitting on one of their favourite perches. I wonder why, when there are so many beautiful ones to choose from.

Isn’t it amazing how the most incongruous of things can flourish together? This never ceases to amaze me. Of course they don’t always succeed in coexisting, but whenever they do, it is nothing short of a miracle of effort, I feel.

I itch to know names of things. Animals, birds, people, flowers, plants, even microbes. I look at these blossoms and remember I don’t know what they will turn into. Pears? Plums? Peaches? Apricots? And then I remind myself that it doesn’t really matter.


As long as I can continue to look at their glory, and enjoy it, it probably doesn’t matter.

Especially when I go closer to the tree to take a close-up, and the family’s dog fails to feel welcoming.

As we walked on, my parents kept showing me this and that. Things I know I’d have overlooked. Birds I’d have ignored. Like these pinks without double petals.

Or these beautiful finches. They’re finches, I think. But then, what’s in a name? My father kept whispering “look at these pink ones here! Look! No here, on the hibiscus bush.” They were so far away and so difficult to see, I’d have missed them. 

Or missed this raven, whom my mother pointed out and said, “Why ignore him?” Why indeed?


Some associations remain for life. Like this woodpecker. We’ve learnt to call him Woody Woodpecker because of the story my father used to tell us when we were children. Whenever we see this bird, it’s always, “Woody!”

We were nearing home after a longish circuit of the residential colony, when we spotted parrots again.

Not just parrots, but a whole colony of them. Chattering, preening, jibing. These are a different variety. They have rosy heads. But they talk the same language. At least I think they do.

The sun was getting ready to set. But it would take at least an hour before it did. Thankfully, its light lit up the tree and the parrots just right to give us a beautiful picture.

Now that they have left, and I look back on those ‘walks’ I’ve walked with them, I feel grateful for all of those sights they’ve shown me. It is uncanny how parents have the power to show in the most tacit of ways. As I prepare for a little one of my own soon, I realise the baton is getting passed on. Or duplicated. For parents never really stop giving, do they?

That Special Thing

There are some things you experience in life which enrich you beyond your understanding. That feed your soul even when you think it is hungry and parched, only for you to of a sudden realise that you were only being forgetful — help is at hand. Even if you’ll have to search real hard for it.

Dadiji and Dadaji (my father’s parents) are a couple of such people, who coloured my life in ways it is difficult to put in words. Memories can be narrated, but what they do to ones heart and mind, and how, is a thread that gets fogged with every attempt at an explanation. But I am going to try it.

Dadiji with the new-born me.

They had seven grandsons from their five sons before Dadiji became desperate for a Dubey granddaughter — a girl to carry on her family’s name. She prayed for a girl throughout my mother’s pregnancy. Her prayers were answered. When I was born, needless to say, she rejoiced. And showed a figurative tongue to my mother, who was certain it’d be a boy. That is, however, where her overt expression of a wish fulfilled ended. Never again did she show through her actions or words any preference for any of her grandchildren. Not so my Dadaji. He very clearly showed his love for my brother, Shonu. A man of meagre requirements and a strict routine, he didn’t quite agree with celebrations and parties, but he did insist for a big third birthday party for Shonu. How people behave and change, how their expressions differ from time to time is such a mystery, is it not?

Our meetings with them were fixed for at least once a year, when we went to Jabalpur for summer or winter holidays. We’d first go to Rajnandgaon, where my Nanaji and Naniji (mother’s parents) lived and then go for a longer stay at Jabalpur. Dadaji decided to shift to Jabalpur in a huff. Though his roots were from Raipur, he vowed never to return to it because of the strange ways of the people there. He was one of the first from his community, perhaps the first, to go out of the country and spend time in England. The people around him weren’t interested in his achievements, but in the fact that he’d gone and maligned the sanctity of their society. Perhaps eaten meat. Even touched a white person. Perhaps he drank alcohol and smoked foreign cigarettes as well? Blasphemy! So they sort of ostracised him, sure that he’d come and apologise to the powers that be. Dadaji didn’t think such a people worth his time and life, so he decided to remain in Jabalpur after he retired.

The decision was the most trying for Dadiji. Even though she’s spent most of her married life outside of Raipur, she’d looked forward to returning back to her people. She loved gatherings, gaiety, food, fun. Well, Jabalpur wasn’t going to stop her from enjoying all of that! She had friends in Jabalpur, too. Dadaji didn’t have any money to make a house, though. A well-feared collector, he often neglected the fact that he would need a place to go to after his retirement. Spending money on property was just not his game. No, he wasn’t a miser. Only a little impractical. But Dadiji came to his (and her own) rescue. She got a house built with the jewellery she had. It got completed just in time to welcome them after Dadaji retired. This house is where many of my childhood memories wander.

Dadiji with my mother, brother and a cousin with his newest pet

She had diabetes ever since I can remember. Though it made her life a little less than comfortable, I don’t remember her complaining. What I do remember is her grumbling that everyone took the doctors too seriously and denied her her two favourites — mango pickle and rice. She got her way with rice somehow (that’s a different story for a different time), but the pickle was never much of a hit with her sons and daughters-in-law, who continued to prohibit her from eating it. But little did they know, she had a comrade-in-arms. Me. I’d sneak in after lunch or dinner to the pantry, fish out a few pieces from the huge pickle jar, wrap it in layers of paper after sufficiently removing the oil, and hand it over to her. I knew how she felt, because it was my favourite, too. What’s more, she was alert enough to remove the evidence from under her pillow before someone discovered it. I can still remember her cataracted eyes twinkling with joy whenever I succeeded in getting her the loot.

My reward was more time with her skin. Wasted muscles  and vanished fat had left her with bags of skin in her upper arms. I could spend hours touching, squeezing, caressing the soft folds. And then moving my hand down to hers. Such a difference between the two! Hers was gnarled with time and hard labour. The skin pushed into the skeleton, embossing the green-blue veins. And yes, I could spend hours tracing the veins, trying to straighten her unrelenting fingers with my young, keen ones. Is there always a need for a reason for one to be fascinated with uncommon things? I don’t know, but I was fascinated without ever waiting to find out why. For years, I couldn’t bear to straighten my fingers as the hands joined for the school prayer. “But didi can’t do it, so how can I?” So mulish was I, raps from the PT master’s cane didn’t budge me, and the fingers promptly went back to being bent.

Dadaji and me. He has my favourite toy in his hand. But I probably have all eyes on my brother's birthday cake.

Dadiji wanted to marry me off soon as I turned thirteen. “But I won’t survive until when she grows of age! Get her married. I want to see her as a bride!” She’d try to reason with my parents. She knew she’d not have her way, but she tried. If my dreams of when I was thirteen were to be analysed, it’d become clear that I’d have supported her wish if anyone had bothered to ask me. I wanted to get married, dress up in beautiful sarees, wear vermilion. Like her, I didn’t think of the added baggage — a husband. “But you can always do the gauna (a child bride stays with parents until she becomes mature, then is sent to her husband — the event is called gauna) when she’s done her college!” Such wisdom. Or so I’d have thought then.

College was a time when I was busy wondering what I was doing anyway. Confused about future, boys, career, pimples and cellulite, I didn’t have time for anything less important. So, my letters to Dadaji became less frequent. He’d been alone for almost 4 years after Dadiji’s death, and had become more insistent about getting his letters. He still wrote back. He was nearing 96, his words on the paper were like determined prints by a magpie with inked feet. It took us minutes to decipher them, but we eventually did. This was a welcome project we were given at least thrice a month.

That day, he asked me on phone whether I’d written to him. I mumbled a guilty no and promised I’d write that day. He laughed. And said, “What’s the use now?” He died the next morning. His housekeeper said that that morning, he went out for his walk after weeks, came back and demanded a glass of milk. Joked with him the housekeeper and told him to make paranthas for breakfast. Paranthas? He’d not eaten them in years! But then there’s always some room for change, he said. Sated, he went to his room, lay down, and must’ve gone and met his Ram sometime in late morning.

I don’t remember how Dadiji died, and I am not interested in asking anyone. Was it at home, or in the hospital? Did she suffer? I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I immediately thought of how she would miss my wedding.

There are so many memories of them, so many ways they make me feel warm and cared for — even today. I suppose this is what you call enrichment.

I wish for an awareness of beings in people. I wish we noticed life more. How I wish I am able to write letters to my grandchildren when I am 96 without my written words turning into magpie footprints more than they already have with lack of use forced by a weak will and a stiffness caused by endless hours at the computer. How I wish my children and grandchildren are better than me in being patient with the limitations of age, that ill-mannered slurping of Bournvita milk because the lips are losing their grip, that frightening smell of old age. That they know the value of that glint of an eye, that slap on the thigh with sheer amusement, the love.

The picture on top is Dadiji, Dadaji with one of their great grandsons.

Nostalgia

This evening, when I found an old CD with photographs that got hidden in the cobwebs of time, I found nostalgia. The joys it brings, the memories it rummages are precious, don’t you think? The times in these pictures are all gone, the moments but a frail memory. Some people in them are gone, too. Just like that, with the next grain in the hourglass…

Allow me to indulge a little in nostalgia today with this etheree.

Continue reading Nostalgia

Of old lessons

Originally posted on 30 September, 2010

When in doubt, run to friends. Their station in life or the grades they got in school regardless, they will come up with responses that light up your life. Serious, concerned, pertinent answers or witty, in-your-face humour. Years back, I ran (virtually) to friends, implored them to help me remove the cobwebs in my head. I take life too seriously, you see. It becomes a humongous task to not analyse my contributions in my own life. This particular situation arose from the doubt that I was probably being too impatient with humanity in particular and myself in general. So, I did what I feel most comfortable doing. I wrote. And sent mails to a few friends who I knew would be honest. The following is an excerpt.

“I am introspecting again… It’s like spring cleaning…. I need your feelings on this. It may seem strange, but I’d like to know my faults/weaknesses/what have you. I am terribly uncomfortable with saccharine praise. Is it possible for a person to do things and not make ANY mistake?… There needs to be a not-so-nice bit in people somewhere.  All this praise makes me feel unnecessary conceit… I look for validity of all that we see around. I want to believe. In compliments, smiles, expressions of approval. And try as I may, I don’t see any validity. It’s a lonely place to be in.

…Cynicism makes me dizzy with fear. I am alone here in this world, usually. Loneliness is the last thing any of us chooses, right? I fear spending my time peeping at the world from behind a veil made of cocksure I-am-okay-by-myself attitude. … that loving is a lonely thing to do. And it is such a sorry plight. I am scared, because I have stepped into this threshold of accepting loneliness as the only way out of an insane desperation in search of something that is so wonderfully wholesome, that it overwhelms you for the rest of your life.”

(You must grant me bravery. Now that I am reading these words after a gap of seemingly zillion years, I admit I must’ve been quite a character back then. Who spring cleans the nice bits? Why analyse when you can live? Whatever. It was back then.)

And they wrote back. And lit up my life. Good Samaritans, all.

Don’t lose your spirit trying too hard!

OK just don’t sound so cocky when you answer calls. You might scare people away.

Forcing humility or self-evaluation has no value attached to it.

Conceit is not a problem as long as it is not apparent.

Talk because you want to, because you want to share. And there shouldn’t be the feeling of wanting to say the right things to get approval.

Each one’s emotional investment in a relationship can never be to the same degree as yours.

You simply have to be able to open your mind and speak.

I honestly believe that even though we lend power to everyone for the way we feel..at the end of the day we believe in ourselves through other’s eyes because it’s convenient. It’s easier to blame others than one’s own self.

Try doing things for some one else. Unless that coincides with what you want  to do too, it’s a strain, you have to push yourself, things don’t go right, everything is generally miserable because we are trying to go against nature.

…..and you definitely don’t need their (people who don’t know better) adulations.

Anything they don’t understand, they just idolize and antagonize.

I see the shelves at bookstores crammed with books on improvement, and how to live a better life… everyone seems hell bent on trying to teach the world how to live and how to improve (and wonder of wonders, the reviews point out that it actually works for people!!) I say this again – I’m not evolved enough to understand how I can improve by accepting parameters set by people whose views on life, and whose beliefs are probably poles apart from mine.

What we have to learn is  that every minute we live is important . Everything we do, think, see, taste, smell, blah, blah is important.

Look for peace within you. If you are not calm , no amount of love from the outside can be a balm. You are your own disease and your own medicine.

Well, phew. That’s a lot of lessons in a short time. Begone, unnecessary ‘introspection’! Reading and re-reading this (and all the other stuff they wrote) reminded me of the importance of simplicity.

We spend our times wondering whether or not we did the right thing. Or whether we received what we deserve. It can become an overwhelming whirlpool. Getting out of it requires much more than the knowledge of swimming. And some don’t even know that.

In such situations, skepticism may become necessary. Cynicism, however, is just hogwash.

(Skepticism – it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.)

(Cynic is one who “shows a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, and is wont to express this by sneers and sarcasm.”)

My leanings towards a lonely road of disappointment at the moral and emotional inadequacies? They were curbed.

I have believed (and thankfully still do) in living and letting live (one friend did point out some enlightened souls like Mr. Axl Rose who believe in living and letting die). In the path of leading such a seemingly indifferent life, I may and do encounter times when I want control. Control things for the sake of love or self-preservation or both. But as long as my own harmless existence is not threatened, it is suicidal to want to be in control. As long as I remember to sip from my own wellspring of soul-wisdom from time to time, things normally turn out just fine!

For months now, I have been wanting to write about people around me, who make a small difference. Some make small, almost invisible differences in their own lives, some in those of the others. All, however, make this world a better place — the one in which laughter has a place, and so does love and security. I kept postponing this post, because there were so many other things I wanted to talk about, too. I kept telling myself: “Next time; they’re not going anywhere.”

But for me, this post is now never going to be the same – whenever I write it – because one man I wanted to mention in it died this morning of a heart attack. He was 55, and raring to go.

Vinay Mama, one of my mother’s four brothers was a man of his own principles and sense of honour. He was a man of indescribable compassion and care. He meant to us children of the family much more than just an uncle.

Leaving the traditional (and safe) path of a salaried job, he decided to cultivate the land of his forefathers. That was two years back. Today, his farm is teeming with bananas and vegetables. He had got it going, despite the warning of most. People try to tell you it can’t be done, because they cannot do it themselves. Mama was among the few, who proved them wrong. Juggling between a job and farming wasn’t easy, but he did it. The bank he worked for officially released him for retirement yesterday. He was now going to have all the time in world for taking care of his dream. But it was not to be.

Vinay mama.

To him I dedicate this day. To you, I introduce a man, whose story I shall tell when I come back to blogging. Until then, please keep loving, and showing it. And pray for a soul, who could have given a lot more here on earth, than many others put together.

Vinay Mama with his wife, Rashmi Mami -- proud owners of this banana farm. This photo was taken last July on a monsoony morning.

Crossing Streams

Before you know its worth, the incident you thought was just another drop in the ocean becomes part of an irretrievable history. And all you can do is to wonder if you’d lived it differently, would you still be the same.

If we had not been forced that day to go to a picnic of sorts with our parents, Chaitanya, my now dead brother, and I would never have crossed the stream to enter a different world. Shergaon, we discovered with time, was an example of a place where people don’t bother with inane things like time. A hamlet about 20 km from Tenga Valley, our home-of-the-year in one of the Indian states called Arunachal Pradesh, it lived a life quite removed from what we had ever seen.

Almost 30 years ago, I was just as reclusive as I am today, and just as awkward in forming human ties. I preferred a book, or a pine needle instead. Even a newly-legged toad would do. One of these attractions was precisely why, I think, I turned down my parents’ offer to picnic that morning. Well, no, it wasn’t an offer, it was an instruction to get damn well ready for it. They won, I sulked.

It was the same story with Chaitanya. (We call him Shonu affectionately.) Shonu was interested in playing cricket with his friends. But who was listening? We were sure at that time that they, our parents, were the worst anyone could be lumped with. How cruel they were! We were asked to get moving, get ready, and climb up the Jonga (an Indian army issue jeep-like vehicle) jolly well before they lost their top. Who’d heard of a picnic where the picnickers wanted to be elsewhere? And what fun would a village be anyway?

It was a tense drive. Our parents chattered aimlessly (so we thought); while we looked out of the window, wondering if there was a way out of this time-out from hell. Who’s to teach sense to an eight or eleven year old? A twenty-kilometre drive on most mountains in India takes about an hour. It seemed to me like the pine needles would turn brown sooner than we’d reach there. Papa’s “They’ve even got apple orchards!” “And there’s the Lion and Peacock dance this afternoon!” were all met with only Mummy’s enthusiastic exclamations. The target audience was busy looking out of their windows, and, yes — sulking.

Looking out of a car window at the distant mountains is the best antidote to imposed gaiety, trust me. It helped me then, it helps me now.

As we neared Shergaon, the purple-indigo mountains at a distance that could make your head spin at the thought of your tininess began to look more interesting than we’d admit at the time. “Look, that’s China,” Shonu informed me generously. If I were the current me then, I am sure I’d have heard my parents’ collective sigh. Their child — at least one of their children — had woken up! “Hrmmph. China’s not so close,” said I, even though the obvious distance and height of those giants were making my head spin. And I am sure, Shonu’s too.

Perhaps that’s why the conversation began rolling.

We talked of the orchards we were going to see, the butter tea we might have, the children with pink cheeks and dripping-with-the-thickest-possible-goo noses, the slightly scary looking lions with funny legs in the Lion and Peacock dance… Before we knew the time, we’d reached the stream that shhhd along the edges of two different worlds — one that made you do things, and the other that made you want to do things.

I don’t know how it is now, but when I was 8, you had to drive through a shallow stream to reach Shergaon. And it made all the difference. The road we had left to reach the stream went on to even more distant lands — those of monasteries and valorous soldiers, and strawberries-under-the-snow. This road ended in a stream, and then went on to kiss the feet of a whole new world — that of blushing green apples, pea fields, houses on stilts. It was awesome. It was so awesome, I can even use the now-exploited word for it. Eyes agog, Shonu and I transformed along with the air. It was as if we could breathe magic. The dirt road was flanked by green fields; the houses were all made of wood painted red, or blue, or green. Or, left in a splendid naked. And their stilts! The people of Shergaon were wizards, I was now sure! I knew it was all because the magical people understood that the houses had to have some means of running away, should the lions decide to stop dancing. The gompha stood like the sole guardian of the valley. Everywhere we looked, we found stuff that makes memories. It was wonderland.

We went to a miller’s small house (it wasn’t on stilts, but had the most impressive carved wood rafters). He made us sit on a cot and offered us something that looked like gooey halwa. We forgot the taste that was so strange to our tongues because we finally saw some cute, apple-red cheeked toddlers lolling about in the courtyard. They all had dripping-with-the-thickest-possible-goo noses. Splendid!

As the morning turned to noon, we walked through the fields (I  don’t remember the crop) to reach the massive wooden courtyard at the back of a red building. I think it was the gompha, but it could’ve been a wizard’s palace.

Shonu ran away to climb up a stone wall to go to the courtyard. We were to sit there to watch the dance. Then the butter tea came. It had the power to bring down the rush of a newly-discovered wonderland, the taste of the brew was such.

But we were adamant. We, Shonu and I, had made up our minds to have the best picnic of our lifetimes. And it wasn’t difficult. We sat there, mesmerised, as the dance began; the tea bowls in our hands, we knew no other way to spend time. The dance, the drums, the smell of wood and incense all joined in. Staccato drone and thump of the drums made our heads all woozy with Shergaon. Well, it wasn’t just the drums.

We had picnicked to remember.

————————————

It is Rakshabandhan today. A festival in which sisters tie a string of love around the wrists of their brothers. The string is called rakhi — The Protector — urging the brothers to protect their honour and integrity. Rakshabandhan means The Bond of Protection. I tied rakhi to Shonu for 26 years. It’s been eleven years since he’s gone to, hopefully, a wonderland of which I know nothing yet. He’d have been 38 this Rakshabandhan (also called Rakhi to simplify matters).

————————————

Pronunciations in the order of appearance:

Chaitanya: Cha (as in charity) – I (as in indigo) – Tuhn – Yuh

Shergaon: Shar (as in shame) – Gaa – Ohn (n nasal)

Tenga: Tan (nasal n) – Gaa

Arunachal Pradesh – Uh – Run (as in Cameroon) – Aah – Chal Pruh – De (as in day) – Sh

Shonu – Sho (as in show) – Noo

Jonga: Joh – N – Gaa

Halwa (sweet-dish made of flour or cream of wheat): Huhl – Wah

Rakshabandhan: Ruhk – Sha – Bun – Dhuhn

Rakhi: Raa – Khi

A bonus:

Priya: Pri (as in primitive (!!)) – Yaa

All images, except that of the stream have been taken from the internet. The photo of the apple orchard is from a random search — it is not of Shergaon, but the trees resemble the ones in mind. The gompha is in Rupa, a place very close to Shergaon; and the stream at the end flows in a land very, very far away from Shergaon.

A Jumble of Excess

I have an indefatigable sweet tooth for supporting the underdog.

Take, for instance, stem roses. No, they’re not the underdogs. They are the underdoggers. Other flowers almost never get a chance on the edgewise, what with the well-known popularity of these cornucopias of divinity. And this has almost always helped me indulge my sweet tooth mentioned above. But that’s not all — I didn’t think much of roses, especially the ones that make it to the bouquets. Until very recently, that is. If roses were people, I thought,  the very elegant stem rose would be a classy, beautiful, snooty, vain, middle-aged woman. Not my type. (Except the middle-aged bit — middle age is a necessary evil, I’ve realised with time. But I digress.)

You must understand that it makes me uncomfortable to choose anything. It might be because this essentially neutral brain of mine feels alarmed at choosing one over the other. It is actually over the other that discomfits me. In the case of roses, I have found a comfortable position.

Climber and wild roses are, to me, like that person who brings in life wherever they go. My special liking for these varieties helped me begin to see a stem rose-person in a different light. When I look at it now, I realise that the snootiness I see there is, in fact, none of my business. I can just choose to not be around it, because I have life-bringers to choose instead. So, after all these years of mind-rallying against certain roses because

a. I want to support the underdog instead

b. these certain roses aren’t my type

I could stop the spinning caused by choosing over, because I am choosing instead. It was just a matter of one word, and there is now an indescribably wonderful sense of peace in some tiny corner of my mind. I can even see the classiness and elegance sometimes, instead of the vanity.

Phew.

But not so fast! Most of this strange mind of mine is still on a continous spin of choosing, not choosing, supporting, rejecting. It buzzes frantically for the longest time,  and then short-circuits, my poor mind. And then all you can see is a Jumble of Excess.

Superior beliefs

Is there anything like a superior belief? Belief, in my definition, is interchangeable with faith. And faith, for all sensible creatures, should build and create peace. As long as it does that, its superiority is self-evident. To believe that the tangent of your faith is the only superior one is a folly. And, sadly, our world is seething with it. The religious, economic, social anarchy in not just my country, but yours, too is a proof of just this one apparently small mistake. If I look closely, I am on the verge of following this erroneous path of self-promotion at least a dozen times everyday. I quail at the thought of the sheer number of people sitting in all corners of this world, believing that theirs is the mightiest — a dozen times a day. No wonder people lose their minds and then go on to produce peace-annihilating bombs in their kitchens, run governments, control religious institutions, harp about human rights, and make monetary policies.

If God, financial robustness, or social harmony were to be acquired by the belief of one self-promoting sect, we would have reached Utopia in the Middle Ages.

The Lovable and The Lovable

Moti, our peace-loving dog, isn’t aware that people fight to protect what’s dearest to them. He likes to protect his territory, but looks askance if he’s faced with aggression that’s willing to bare its sharp teeth at times.

Bulu, our assertive dog, likes to play as long as it’s not yet time to retaliate to a challenge. When faced with even the slightest bit of aggression or threat to his territory, he knows and sees nothing but a fitting reply to it.

We love them both, of course. But differently. Bulu’s boisterous play time is our time of joy and heart-overwhelming love. Moti’s gentle licking or companionable pawing is for us an assurance of life. To choose one over the other would be difficult, but to not choose one instead of the other for what they’re best at giving would be impossible.

Absorbent?

Turkey invented the Turkish towel, havalu, to indulge a rich bride before her wedding day. The Ottoman Empire knew how to luxuriate in the finest of things, as those of us who have used these pieces of fine craftsmanship know already. Such softness, such absorbency. Such weight, such thickness.

The Indian sun is enthusiastic most of the time, in most of the places, so the thickness of a Turkish towel wouldn’t be much of a problem — most houses don’t have laundry dryers, the sun ‘s heat, which is aplenty, does the job beautifully. (And oh, the divine smell!) But absorbent? The Indian towel, known as gamccha in most Hindi-speaking parts, is handwoven cotton, without the piling. It absorbs, and then dries quickly, even in monsoons. Where does the thick, piled, heavy Turkish dream stand? Well, to me, nowhere. But not to most, only because it is said that the Turkish towel is the ultimate in luxury.

To decide whether to choose or reject one of the most important pieces of cloth on the basis of fashion and trend is nothing but the wretchedness of an indiscriminately absorbent mind.

Act with reserve

India has held its head up high through centuries of organised division of people on the basis of their birth — caste to be exact. The head has remained high despite all evidences against the pertinence of this system initially started to categorise with the intention of delineating the professions, privileges, and responsibilities on the basis of skills and expertise, and not birth. For hundreds of years now, the caste system has become rigid, intolerant and downright nonsensical. But apparently not for long.

In 1993, a mandate proposing educational and social equality of the ‘backward classes’ was implemented. The Mandal Commission was met with enthusiastic jubilation by the said classes, matched only by the outrage of the ‘upper’ ones. The Commission is designed to give reservation of educational seats and professional jobs to the classes that have received little or no educational, professional and hence social facilities over time — just on the basis of their caste.

It seems justified on paper. These people have had enough of discrimination, it is time the discrimination moved in their favour.

____________________________

I could go on with all that’s churning in my head, but I am going to wait. I am going to wait for a wild, or climber rose to show me I can keep my sanity amidst all this involuntary spinning of thoughts wanting to oust the vain, and the snooty. Oh, and also the blind.

Dismissed too soon

Years ago, I read a tale of an old man, who gave his sons a lesson of a lifetime — the lesson of the four seasons. He sent out his four sons to look at the same pear tree in different seasons. Needless to say, they all had a different report to give. One talked of the promise of spring, the other the devastation of winter, yet another the abundance of autumn and the youngest spoke of the newness of summer. “It is but vital for you to see, notice, acknowledge and appreciate a being in all its four seasons,” advised their wise father.

Recently, when I related this story to a friend — the context was the obvious, common difference in the ways deaths of people in their spring and that of people in their winter are treated. There is natural despair at an untimely death, the death of a young, blossoming person and then there is sometimes an almost eager, relieved goodbye to an old, ailing one — he asked me to write an etheree on it. I have written two. As if that suffices.

Courtesy http://www.oriontrail.deviantart.com

So

Leafless.

‘Twas my tree.

Winter iced it.

I forsake it, though.

For I smell nothingness.

~

‘Tis Spring. There, my blossom tree.

Life ate it to death with malice.

Tears are not enough for the loss.

For life’s departed into nothingness.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Courtesy http://www.redbubble.com

~ ~ ~ ~

Leaves and blossoms gently nurse springtime fruits.

Life’s giving life — unsated, joyous.

Ah, the lovesome delights of spring!

Days perfume eternities.

~

White lights come in, laming

Eternity so!

Disown fruits now?

 No. Look, life

Outlives

Frost.

————————

An etheree comprises of 10 lines. It begins with a one syllable line, increasing one syllable per line until the last line of ten syllables. The syllable count of the entire poem is 55. The syllabic structure, therefore, is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, and is unmetered and unrhymed.


Of living, eating, and forgetting

It is raining as I write this. And it was raining when I took the pictures below. And it will continue to rain indefinitely until the monsoon season decides to leave this country. A land at once sated, and harassed. Patience is a virtue you might wish to keep a good stock of while you visit this blog in the coming days, for it will have more of rain. And of the places I visit. Today, feast your eyes on life, as the world lives it. The levels of struggle, the extent of including the unnecessary, may differ from communities to communities, species to species, but the world does live on these — struggle for comfort, struggle for food, and the occasional indulgences.

Adat bazaar at Nainital -- the place we will see today. Adat means a wholesale market for vegetables and fruits, and sometimes grains.
Sitting on a high perch, I looked at the intense interest people have in the one thing that is arguably the basis for all life -- food.
Wholesale vendors look for bulk sales, retail vendors look for the best bargain.
Like these mangoes, most vegetables come to Nainital from the outside. The terrain of the town is such that not much can be grown here.
This lady is oblivious to the sounds of haggling, rain, triumph at a good bargain, despair at the grumbling stomach. She reads her newspaper among her ivy and geraniums.
This man under the umbrella has deft fingers.
To fill this carton with carrots....
... he chops off the unnecessary with a knife. Sometimes two, or three carrots at once. Where do the scraps go? We'll see.
This porter is one of the many, who make life in a hill station like this livable. They carry anything from grocery bags to fridges to homes that are right up on the mountains where no vehicle goes. Where these young boys in their Adidas shoes will not dream of going in slippers.
These women were probably devastated. Outsiders, they did not know it could rain; and the steep climb didn't add to the comfort. But there's always a shoulder to lean on when you're with friends, no?
Though I love the normal fuschia, I am beginning to like these with a white bottom. They display the contrasts so well.
Forgive me for adding the unnecessary. I just love the look of wood. If only we planted more trees to make up for the ones we fell.
This police woman was careful to not let wet splashes ruin her kurta. Holding the umbrella with one hand, she grabbed the flailing cloth with the other. What would she do, if she had a handbag, I wonder.
This young lady was enjoying the drizzle, for it had become a drizzle by this time. Showing off her ponytail (or was it happiness radiating through the ponytail?), she looked around with great interest.
These people don't look too happy, now, do they?
Ah, a lawyer. Walking to the High Court nearby. I love his pinstriped trousers. Don't you?
Jalebis and pakoras. And copious amounts of oil in the middle kadahi. 🙂
These school kids were wondering if they could leave the tiffin boxes their mothers had packed for them somewhere around here, and, when they needed to eat during the school recess, they could sneak into the canteen outside of their school. Tiffin boxes a cumbersome to carry.
Another unnecessary picture. It is here because I love letter boxes. Much more than the email inboxes. And I love the canisters for milk in the background, too.
The clouds were closing in again, the wind vane surprisingly silent.
This fruit section of the market attracts few people. It is expensive.
Our sparrow friend hopped on this electricity line, obviously pleased at the short-term respite from the falling water.
It never ceases to amaze me -- the incredible amount of wires and cables and lines we have to depend on. So many connections, such ugly ones. And so necessary.
Sometimes ugliness has a virtue -- of being quaint, and most of all, of being useful. Someone has tied wires around this tired gutter. It is almost as good as it needs to be!
This monkey stole a roti (chapati) from a shop nearby. By the time I could divert my attention from the drain, he had already tried his loot. And got bored with it, for some reason.
Moving on to the rooftop, he did something more exciting -- got himself de-liced.
And then, returned the favour. The pleasure was doubled, for as he discovered subsequently, lice are tastier than rotis.
Potatoes. The one vegetable that everyone HAS to like. Oh? You don't? Think of all the wow-energy it gives you! For cheap, too. Hill people in India love this vegetable, for it is one of the few things they can grow, it is tastier than the ones found in the plains, and it is comfortably priced.
Grain sacks, brooms, shoppers and wealth. Of sorts.
A local mithai shop. Sweetmeats. The brown thing is chocolate barfi. A favourite among the tourists.
Back to what drove me to sit on this perch in the first place. The sheer energy of this place!
And all for this.
A porter carrying apple cartons to I do not know where. I wonder what they do to their drenched clothes once their day is done. Once it is time to settle in wherever they settle in for the night. Do they have spares?
This caller was calling for gourd takers. He has a humungous task. People usually do not like gourds.
And look at this, this feat of mankind. Standing here for at least a century, defiant. Though it might seem like it is neglected by the successors of the ones who made it, it is simply a matter of choosing aging over botox. Oh, chuckle all you wish. It is indeed so. The day you become as wise as I am today, you'll know.
Laugh at my foolishness. I'll laugh with you. Things are meant to be maintained, of course -- so that they don't leak, look good. But if things are functioning well the way they are, beauty can be found anywhere -- so that the resources can be saved.
Speaking of which, I wish we had not discovered the virtues of a CFL. It is inelegant, and gives off the worst light possible. What resources are we saving?
For whom?
I wonder if these tomatoes will go all pulpy by the time this person takes the sack to his small roadside shop somewhere in the other end of the town. Do you know?
These are more patient witnesses of this bazaar. They might.
This person kept coming up to adjust the plastic roof above his shop.
And here comes my favourite part of the outing!
His master directed him carefully through the veggies.
But not carefully enough! Ha! What a catch! He got one big potato, all for himself!
After he unloaded the wares, the master didn't forget to cover our potato-lover with a sheet of plastic. It helps against the rain.
And now, he's found a tomato!
But this man could use some chai. And an umbrella. Shivering like he could shake off the cold, he kept looking for mangoes.
And here's our scrap user. Remember the scraps from de-greened carrots? This man's companion was collecting edible waste from all the stalls, dumping them here. But the man couldn't wait for her to come back to sit with him and eat. He began his feast without her.
She's got her week's requirement. And is now looking for some fruits. Eventually, she just went away. Perhaps they were not to her taste.
There is such a difference between use and misuse, wouldn't you say? A few years back, this bazaar scene would have made me furious. Why is there so much disorganisation? Why can't they make proper shops? What about the ones who see food in front of them, but have to eat the waste? There are so many questions that probably need no answering. Or perhaps they are answered without words.
Like everything else, everything that is not else, lives. And life is about survival.
But what about reaching for the sky?
What about achieving that one extra inch of height, so that you are higher than the others? Better, efficient, creative, beautiful.
I do not know. But I do know that with time, and harsh drops of rain, only the one who focuses on the necessary will win. In their own right.
I leave you with the images of these birds, who wouldn't say "I lose", no matter the intensity of the rain.
Defiant,
Grumpy,
Each dealing with the rain in their own way,
Some patient, some otherwise,
Some wishing I'd stop analysing.

This is for you, Rosie.

All I see is rain

I have finally succeeded in writing a complete story. And also found the courage to make it public. Be gentle, reader. In your reading, your criticism, your dismissal.

————————————————


“Oh, damn!” Jack almost dropped the five-rupee note on the chai wallah’s wooden cart as he heard the train toot its departure. His love for the Indian tea had often put him in a tight spot, but nothing as life-threatening as this. The door to his coach was steadily inching away from him. “Run, run, saahib!” The chai wallah looked less than impressed with Jack’s hesitation. Run to catch the train? Or miss it.

His beloved tea spilled outside of the earthy terracotta cup in mud-coloured splashes; he ran.

A man in clean white kurta and pyjama was standing at the door of his coach. The smoke from his cigarette confusedly swirled towards his glasses, and drifted away without any warning. He held out his hand for Jack to grab, “Come on! It’s not that difficult. Just hold my hand and put a foot on this step here.” Jack, panting and holding on dearly to the chai kulhad, grabbed hold of the smoker’s hand, and climbed up. On a normal day, he’d keep his nose valves on slow around a smoker. But it wasn’t a normal day, was it? As soon as he heaved himself up, his eyes met the smoke-yellowed ones of his saviour. And though Jack was preoccupied with plenty, he found that his vision had moved down to the brownish teeth smiling their delighted smile at him. These much-abused set of sufferers were in all likelihood unaware that they emitted a clawing whiff of air riddled with smoke. “Hi, I am Joyodeep. JD.”

“Jack. Thanks for saving my life there,” managed Jack, breathless at 57 years.

“Not a problem. Going all the way to Jabalpur?”

“Yes… Yes,” Jack breathed back.

The train was almost out of the Habibganj station. It looked like it could rain.

Wanting to check on his luggage and drink his tea, Jack decided to go inside the air-conditioned compartment.

Shivani had finally settled on her seat next to the window. She always made sure she got a window seat. If she did not, she shamelessly reasoned with the person at the window to give it up for her. There was no need to do it today, and it was just as well, because she didn’t have the strength.

She hoped that the seats next to her would stay empty. But more than that, she was hoping the tomato soup vendor would come sooner than he usually did. The hot liquid might wash down the lump threatening to betray her otherwise indifferent appearance. She liked the too-sweet tomato soup and the oily croutons they served on this train. They reminded her of the ever-embracing life with too much of everything.

At least one of her wishes was not going to be answered today. A visibly tired-looking man in purple khadi kurta and faded blue jeans came and sat on the aisle seat. “He looks like a European. An American would never have that air.” Shivani looked away. The slums had begun to thin out. It was greener and wetter outside.

Jack had a habit of clearing his throat before he said anything after a long gap. “I accidentally kept my newspaper there in your magazine slot. May I..?” He pointed at the newspaper, not sure whether she’d know English.

“Sure,” said Shivani, but still took out the paper before he could reach it.

She looked at the kulhad in his hand and wondered if he would manage doing both at once —read and drink. He didn’t. He neatly re-folded the paper and inserted it into his slot. And began sipping the tea.

The soup wallah would take time to come. Shivani decided to look out of her window. Mud huts drenched in last night’s monsoon shower stood steadfast against the elements. Or were they scurrying away? Each moved out of her vision before she could decide. She was aware that Jack was looking out of the window, too. Her window.

On a normal day, she’d have initiated a conversation.

On any other day, Jack would have drowned himself in the newspaper.

“Are these neem trees?” He wanted to know.

“Hm? Yes. Oh yes,” smiled Shivani faintly.

“These are sacred here, aren’t they? Like the peepal tree?”

“All trees are sacred,” she turned to look at him, wishing he’d melt away.

It had been an hour since they’d left Habibganj, and no one had come to sell any beverage. Shivani decided to go looking for them. When she got up, Jack got up, too. He apparently didn’t want to be discomfited when she edged through the tiny space between the two rows.

She couldn’t find anyone from the train’s pantry car. By the time she got to her seat, and made him get up again, the lump in her throat had won. She was crying when Jack accidentally lifted his eyes.

The behemoth chugged on its rails through the teak and sal forest, defiant against the menacing arrows of the monsoon rain. The windows of the train were blurred with insistent rivers of raindrops. Time slipped by quickly, much like the landscape around them.

“Hey! Did you see that? I am sure it was a sambar!” Jack was determined to do something. He didn’t know what, but he couldn’t just sit there and let the woman cry. So he tried to distract her by pointing out an imaginary deer in the sal forest.

“No.” Shivani’s voice was noticeably dead.

“It wasn’t a sambar?” Jack persisted.

“I didn’t see. All I see is rain.” Shivani did not believe in pessimism, but today was different.

The soup wallah entered the compartment with his gleaming stainless steel dispenser.

“And all I can see is endless life.” Jack was not an optimist, but he was willing to change today.

Shivani turned to look at him. She had a strange depth in her eyes, Jack noticed.

“Bhaiya!” She waved at the vendor. “Ek idhar.”

“What’s that?” Jack wanted to know.

“Tomato soup.”

“They make it too sweet.”

“Yes. And the croutons oily.”

“I’ll have one, too,” Jack nodded a yes to the vendor.

He winced at his first sip.

Shivani laughed.

“It’s not for everybody. Especially when they’ve had chai just before it.”

“I like the crouton, though,” munching at the fried bread square in obvious delight.

“Really? I thought you’d stay away from all of that.”

“Why? I love pakoras. And samosas.”

“How long have you been in India?” Shivani looked pleased, and yet surprised.

“My aircraft landed at the New Delhi airport last week. I have been in India almost all of my life, though. Figuratively.”

“How so?”

“My parents were missionaries here in Jubbalpore.”

“Jabalpur.”

“Jabalpur. I was born here, but was taken to Brooklyn, New York, when they died. I grew up listening to their stories.”

“Who told them?”

“My grandmother. Mother’s mother.”

The forest was getting denser. The lights in the train seemed more meaningful now. The rain had let up. If a sambar showed up now, Shivani would be able to see it.

“So, are you going to Jabalpur to see your parents’ place?”

“Yes,” Jack looked out of the window with a strange depth in his eyes.

“Why now? Why after so many years?”

Jack turned slowly to look her in the eyes, and asked instead, “Where are you going?”

“To my parents’ cremation.”

“Oh. I am sorry.” He waited for a while, and said, “Alone?”

“My husband couldn’t come. It was so sudden. Their car hit a rock while trying to avoid a rogue truck.”

The rain must have been chasing them ardently. The forest had given way to a modern-ancient human settlement. But the rain covered it indiscriminately. Just like it had done the forest. The buildings were standing next to wilting trees; the people were travelling to chase time. They could almost hear the blaring horns; smell the stench of struggling humanity.

They had finished the soup, but she wanted more. And Jack was surprised to notice that he did, too. This time, the vendor obliged quickly.

“It is a little over an hour to Jabalpur now,” Jack didn’t struggle much with the newly learnt pronunciation.

“Yes.”

“Is someone coming to pick you up?” Both said together, and then smiled.

Shivani said, “Yes. My uncle. What about you?”

“The son of my father’s friend. I’ve been in touch with them all of these years.”

“Why now?” Shivani persisted.

“How old are you, may I ask?” Jack evaded the question again. Or seemed to.

“Thirty-seven. Does it influence your answer?”

He looked away for an instant, and seemed to have made up his mind, probably thinking she had seen enough years to understand.

“I was trying to experience life before I came to see where it began. This way, I wouldn’t have to change my process of experiencing it. Do you understand?”

“I think so. Does it mean that you have now stopped experiencing it?”

“No. It means I am now ready to live it.”

This was the train’s last stop before Jabalpur. People came here to visit the numerous temples it housed. Shridham. The Home of the Supreme Being.

“Were you close to your parents?” Jack wasn’t sure it was the right question, but he asked it, nevertheless. Shivani seemed to be open to questions, he thought.

She took a while in answering. It surprised her that her eyes didn’t well up for yet another time since yesterday.

“Yes. Very.”

“Does it bother you that your husband couldn’t come?”

“Yes. A lot.”

“Are you married?” she asked in return.

“Yes. Cathy couldn’t come either.”

“Does that bother you?”

“Yes. A lot.”

“I am surprised at these temples (we call them mandir). Why do they keep them so dirty, when they are so sacred?”

“Like why they cut trees, if they are so sacred?”

“Yes, a lot like that.” She closed her eyes and rested her head on the back rest. Jack assumed she did not want to talk anymore. Disappointed, but willing to let her have her way, he tried to read the newspaper.

Before long, though, Shivani opened her eyes.

“I don’t know your name. I am Shivani,” she held out her hand.

Jack took it and said, “I am Jack.”

“Jack, if you need anything, any help in Jabalpur, call this number. It’s my uncle’s.”

She took out a small note paper from her bag, wrote a number and a name, and was giving it to Jack, when he said, “May I come over for the cremation? Will that be all right?”

“Yes,” she said, ” Yes, I should think so. Here, I’ve written the address. They’ll leave at 12 noon today for the ghat.”

“They?”

“Women don’t go for cremations. I might stay home, though I wish to go. We’ll see.”

The Jabalpur station was approaching. Jack felt he wanted to say more. Like most times, though, he did not know what he wanted to say.

“I am glad I found you on this journey. Five hours is a long time to read a newspaper.”

“Thank you for talking with me. I needed to talk; just say anything,” Shivani said.

It was raining in Jabalpur. The train’s windows were blurred with insistent rivers of raindrops.

“Look! Did you see that monkey crossing the road?” Shivani pointed at a blur.

“No. All I see is rain.”

“Oh? All that there is, is life.”

—————————————-

New words in their order of appearance:

Chai wallah — Vendor of chai, the sweet, oh-so sweet and milky Indian tea

Saahib — It has a complex origin, but in the current Hindustani, it means ‘big man’, or ‘sir’.

Kurta and pyjama — Kurta is a loose-fitting long shirt with slits on the side, pyjama is a loose pair of trousers with drawstrings. Seen often in the Indian subcontinent, worn by both the sexes.

Chai kulhad — Kulhad is a terracotta cup, usually used to serve tea or sweet curds/yoghurt and some other sweetmeats.

Joyodeep — Masculine name meaning Light of Victory.

Jabalpur — A city in central India, among the Satpura hills.

Habibganj — A suburb of the capital of state of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal.

Shivani — Feminine name meaning Female Part of Lord Shiva.

Khadi — Fabric, and clothes, made of natural yarn in handlooms. Usually associated with cotton khadi.

Neem — A tree found in the Indian subcontinent. Use in medicines, and ayurveda.

Peepal — A tree found in the Indian subcontinent. A ficus. Considered sacred.

Sal – A tree found in north, central and south India.

Sambar — A kind of antelope found in the Indian subcontinent. It moves in herds that are different from the other deer herds; in that, usually, the mother sambar, her youngest calf, and a subordinate female make the herd, instead of the normal large numbers other deer species have.

Bhaiya — Older brother. But women normally call a male stranger this way, too.

Ek idhar — Literally, “one here.”

Pakoras — Fritters. Most common ones are made of black bengal gram flour, onions, potatoes, and vegetables such as cauliflower.

Samosas Savoury snacks. Fried in oil; flour triangles, usually stuffed with a potato stuffing. These days, they are available with all sorts of stuffing, vegetarian and otherwise.

Jubbalpore — The spelling and pronunciation used by the British when they were in the Indian subcontinent as the rulers.

Ghat  Cremation ground, also called shmashan ghat

*****

About things old

Nostalgia is another silly thing among the very many silly things we like to shelter. Well, I like sheltering it. On a day tiresome with aimlessness, for example, I can rummage through it and fish out an appropriate memory to feel nostalgic about. And then, all’s almost less tiresome, though not necessarily less aimless. Today was one such day. No work, some unavoidable grocery shopping, a nagging feeling of not having written anything to keep my writing cells exercised. After countless minutes in front of the computer with nothing constructive to show for, I decided to take out my camera, and start looking for subjects in our summer garden. Nature’s bounty is an ethereal nostalgia in itself, wouldn’t you say? It dragged me in, letting my being soak in its simple love.

It is difficult to accept simple love as it is. To forget you are not wearing slippers, the grass blades are jostling with the sharp silver oak leaf edges to kiss your feet, the sun is blinding your already struggling vision. But once you do, all is well. As I drifted from flower to flower, bird to bird, I remembered how these simple things brought back memories that could never get complicated even if they spent a day with adulthood as we know it.

Many people misunderstand adult behaviour as a bland and rigid means to sensible living. How sad! Actions, like everything else in this world, are servants of choice. You can choose to be unencumbered yet sensible  or shove yourself and the witnesses of your action down a morose drainpipe. But choices aside, I feel that actions have a beautiful prospect not only because they get stored in the memory bank to come back as nostalgia, but also because they can be guileless and uncomplicated, if you choose to make them so. Never mind if they are sometimes completely crazy and downright suicidal.

When we went out for weekend trips to magical lands on our beloved bike, we liked to cover the entire distance on one day. The ride was almost always an accelerated version of drifting. B refused to wear glasses, so the wind’s blast would make his eyes water. And I? I also refused to keep it sane. I’d open my mouth to fill in the wind. The strong gush would fill my mouth with excited air. The next best thing was to look at myself in the rear-view mirror, and listen to the gush of the wind. It stormed in, making the lips part, the cheeks bulge and ripple hideously, and making me look like some startled fish who wasn’t afraid of showing the entire landscape of the inside of its mouth. Did I mention I loved it? I loved it, even though the air brought with it B’s eye-water, countless small insects and probably even more countless particles of dust. When we reached our destination, B would feast his eyes on the greens and I, well, I had to first raid the resort’s usually low supply of water to clean out the now completely dried out fish-mouth. And then I’d go gather more memories.

Memories just accumulate, don’t they? Some stay back to refresh and revitalise, some may have been a pain when they were happening, but years later, they seem to be the stuff for nostalgia.

Another recurring memory is of a time when I was in college and doubling up as an online hotel bookings girl. Life was full of dreams and fluff. And shopping lists. Well, no, none of that has changed yet, but in those days, dreams and fluff and shopping lists constituted the bulk of routine. The fights with the other girls to receive a particular agent’s phone call just to hear his honey-dipped steel voice; the numerous trips to the best libraries in the city in the belief that they would magically transport me to all those places I read about; the much-loved trips in auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) to the local road-side clothes and junk-jewellery market to get the best cheap spiffy-looking dress; the after-shopping visits to cold-coffee-and-sandwich places to sit and discuss the loot. By the time it was mid-month, all the money would be gone. Poof. And then, for the next fifteen days, it’d be hostel food, bus rides, sorry thoughts of suddenly distant dreams, and impatient wait for the next month.

These two aren’t the only memory-trips I took while I was taking the following pictures. There were numerous. And they all left me with more life than I could hope for on a lazy summer day. The tiniest of things merged with the most innocuous of memories. Everything turned, for some odd reason, anything but aimless.

 
 
 
 

Fulcrum

My parents's morning tea mugs.

We dreamed big, Shonu and I. Sitting under the shade of a tree similar to the Australian bottle tree, we’d dream of becoming small. We’d pick up one of its pods that looked a lot like a boat and imagine a miracle that would make us tiny enough to fit inside it. We’d plan to rip off a part of his shirt (it was always his shirt, never my frock) to make a sail of it, and sail the nearby watershed. Or, when the monsoon was gone, we would dream of sitting atop the very tree we used to be sitting under. Right where the birds sat. And look at the world from the eyes of a being that Saw It All. It was a big dream.  At least we thought so at the time.

Colouring courtesy, Val Erde of Absurd Old Bird. She had coloured these images a long time back. It took me that much to finish this post.

The three years between us was just the right distance. At every age, he was old enough to save his little sister, and I was young enough to satiate his sense of responsibility. I was a bungling, confused, irritable little girl and he was naturally suave and charming. But we were both incorrigible recluses. Quite a twosome. We laughed at the world, protected each other from it, learnt the tricks to rope in the moon just a little closer. Yes, we were great together. Perhaps that is why, despite having the usual friends at school and around home, we never really did need a special confidant for a tête-à-tête, or a best friend to chide us when we did wrong. When we grew older, we shared common beliefs. If one of us got past the other in overcoming a hurdle, the other was never left in the cold to wonder about the confusing labyrinth, for there was always a hand to chalk out the path. It was beautiful. We were old enough to call each other best friends of a lifetime, when he died.

Writing about a loved one gone is sometimes threatened with the prospect of the words sounding like eulogy. Please remember while we traverse through some of these memories I have of him that this is not a eulogy, it is a love note.

He called himself "Little Papa". That's exactly how he wanted to see himself.

When I was born, my mother tells me, he would stand at her room’s door in the hospital and refuse to come in. He would just keep looking at this tiny bundle from a distance and probably wonder what it had done to his mother. He was in the habit of sleeping only if there was a strand of our mother’s long hair across his lower lip. I had come in between him and that strand. When they brought me home, he kept his distance from both our mother and me. We were with my grandparents at the time. The whole household was worried that he wasn’t accepting me well, and such a delightfully pleasant boy, too. A couple of days later, probably tired of sulking and dying with curiosity, he agreed to come to my crib-side. When he did, I grabbed his fingers, I am told. He grinned for the first time in days. That must have been the beginning of a relationship of mutual delight and support.

Through heartbreaks, failed cycling attempts, Rambo I – First Blood stories, climbing guava and mango trees (only to get stuck at the highest branch) and shoddy academic performance at school, he continued to hold my hand. I slipped and fell often, guided by my rebellious, confused ideas. In such times, he first did what I thought I needed the most. He saved me from my mother’s acerbic remonstrance, in turn saving her and, sometimes my father, from the agony of having to say difficult things to their much loved but annoyingly headstrong daughter. And then, in private, he gave me a piece of his mind. Ever so gently.

The Dal Lake in Kashmir. Shonu taught us the joy of palming the water in a moving boat.

Our father had to be away often for months together on military exercises or deployments. We all missed him, of course. Mummy and I would tell him as much on phone. Shonu acted the man of the house, hiding his frustration when he needed this or that answered, or just wanted the dining chair next to him to be not empty. To keep us a little happy, my mother kept a picture of my father on the television in one of the bedrooms. She began to notice that on some days, the picture was turned down flat on the T.V. Blaming it on her own failing memory, she thought she sometimes forgot to put back the frame after the dusting. One day, she happened to be in the room when Shonu was going to take a bath. The bathroom was right next to the T.V. While going in, he turned down our father’s photograph. Curious, she asked him what he was doing. “Papa’s looking at me. When I come out, there will just be a towel around me,” he said shyly. “I sometimes forget to put it back up.”

But his gentleness was selective. And extremely biased in favour of those that he loved. I was 13 when I began to notice the attention from the older boys at school. I told my brother one day about this guy who’d buzz around my friends and me, exhibiting his newly discovered hormonal surge. He was the school’s newest, much-feared ruffian. The next day, this buzzer came to me and my friends, head bowed down, and said, “Sorry, sister,” and walked away. My brother was standing at the far end of the school quadrangle, watching. When I asked him what he’d done, he said, “Why would I do anything? He must have seen sense.”

My brother could lie too.

A proud gunner with his regiment's catapults

At his interview for joining the Indian Military Academy, the interviewer asked him how he rated honesty. He said he couldn’t possibly think of being honest all the time. “How can you tell a bride on her wedding day that you think the look is not quite right?”

Twenty seven years is a lot of time to leave memories that may last a lifetime, and more. Which ones do I type? What do I tell you to tell you how this absolutely brilliant individual changed my life forever? In his life, and with his death.

This vicissitude in our lives, my parents and mine, after we lost the one strong anchor that had helped us home in to the Goodness, has left us struggling to find a footing somewhere. But he wouldn’t know. He’s probably up there sitting on this tree-top outside my window, grinning his usual grin. Yes, he had a way with his grin.

About the title: Had he become a pilot, as he had wanted to, he’d have wanted his call name to be Fulcrum.

Little Shonu
The helipad was right behind my parents' house in Gangtok. Shonu (in the dark dungarees) used to often run to look at the choppers. I wasn't born then.


Goa. Always the protective big brother. I wish I could have given him more.
With friends and fellow subalterns
At Lieutenant Chaitanya (Shonu) Dubey's Passing Out Parade luncheon (Graduation Day for the cadets); Indian Military Academy

Sensibility in Nonsense

Holi (pronounced like holy) is a festival without any clear origins. Some like to call it the invocation of spring, some relate it to a mythological tale of a demonaic father thwarted by his devout son’s faith; still others believe it has something to do with the much-believed-in god Krishna’s complaints to his mother about his companion, Radha, being much fairer than him (causing the mother to colour Radha with numerous powdered colours to cover her fair skin). Whatever the origin, the festival of Holi is the one fun thing an average Indian looks forward to. And the law-keepers dread. Wait, I’ll explain both by and by.

I typed about a hundred words, trying to give you some details about the festival — the days it is divided into, the traditional rituals practiced, the detailed hows. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? So I deleted the Inconsequential Ones, for they were just mere words, trying to provide encyclopaedia-esque information which has no use for you, really. Let me tell you why I love Holi. (Forgive me if you would rather find out more. Please feel free to visit Wikipedia. It does quite some justice to the topic.)

Gulal. The garland in the centre is made of solidified sugar syrup. Children wear it and keep eating one bead at a time.

So, the not-so-important reason for my love for Holi is because it is celebrated around this time. Since the Hindu calendar is different, the date is different every year. But it is always in spring. Just when the flowers have reached the peak of bloom, the winter chill has given way to the infamous heat, the breeze has a whiff of everything mature and abundant. It is a beautiful time. And what better season to choose to get up in the morning, oil your limbs and hair, wear old clothes, pick up powdered colours called gulal and abir (these days permanent colours dissoluble in water have become more popular among the excitable lot — they have no interesting name, the permanent colours), and start grabbing hold of people and colouring them? Just like that. Some run, some stand, some giggle and scream, some shout. Everyone, without fail, gets coloured. Yes, even those people who suffer from modern-age allergies or those who have to walk in to plush offices the next day with traces of colour on their faces and hands and arms, rendering them less multinational.The idea is to have fun with colours. And the motto is “Bura na mano, Holi hai.” The closest translation is “Relax, don’t fret. It’s Holi.”

The people living in the slums close by. There is enough water this year to indulge.

We celebrated this Festival of Colours yesterday. The day begins with interesting deviations from routine. No bath. Well, some sticklers like me insist on taking one, but most know that the day will be full of water, so they just change into old clothes. Why old? Because you are going to be immersed in colour, red, pink, green, blue, black, silver, orange. In powder, in water — water, powder, powder, water. It is an endless chain of all the things your mother told you to stay away from. Get wet, make people plead you to spare them, throw bucketsful of water — coloured or otherwise, smear with gulal, aim water-filled balloons and send projectiles, run after the not-so-agile ones, corner the agile ones, pick up a device best called a hand-held spray and spray water. And laugh. At yourself, at the next person, at that grumpy aunt, or with that timid kid next door. If you visit most parts in India on this day, you will hear more laughter and feel more gaiety than you would in Nero’s court. And nothing’s burning this time, even though the streets do look like something could be amiss. Most shops are closed, stray, coloured people loiter around, young boys zoom past you on their bikes occasionally. But nothing of the usual, maddening crowd. Why? Because most people are in some house or some ground somewhere, singing to drum beats, eating the traditional sweet and savoury dishes, sharing old jokes and stories. And yes, colouring each other.

It is said to be a day when all animosities are forgotten. Just one day, but it is good enough, we like to think. The neighbour you’d like to throw your rotten fish at comes at your doorstep and hugs you, colours you to suit your preference. Just a small dot on the forehead? Or a few streaks on the cheeks? Or, if you are like me, trigger a deluge of colours. No mercy. It is Holi, after all. The rotten fish can wait until tomorrow.

Such fun. Unbridled and honest.

Perhaps he is in some better world, dreaming of places long forgotten. Bhaang or alcohol, whatever his tool, he wouldn't be bothered, I suspect.
The very cooperative policemen. Their day to play Holi (Holi is played, by the way. Not celebrated) is the day after we play.

Humans, like they are meant to, make things a little less human, a little less honest and palatable. Especially when things are unbridled. Holi is no exception. The traditional concoction of bhaang (cannabis (which is legal, by the way)) is one of the causes of unbridled ecstasy. Modern times necessitate modern means to satiate the senses, so the local and imported alcohol adds to the range of tools for bacchanalian pleasures. Alcohol shops, if I tell you, are closed on the day of Holi, you will be relieved some. But the seekers of pleasures know better ways. Shopkeepers brace up for mouth-watering business the day before Holi. All their stocks get sold out, and are secreted by the Holi-makers in their homes, cars, wherever the bottles fit in. One day prior to The Day. Alcohol is said to make people lose sight of sense. Add bhaang to that. And look at the festival. Since it, the festival, is in many ways nonsensical, the combination of intoxicants and Holi is scary even for the devil-may-cares. The keepers of this society decided we needed policing on this day. So, the policemen are deployed at every major crossing. They are on duty throughout the day to ensure the people can be nonsensical without losing sensibility. Just as well. The rush of being coloured with all the colours of the rainbow, and more, is such a heady feeling even for the ones who don’t consume intoxicants, it can be disastrous for those around the ones who do.

But if you ask people to narrate stories of bhaang intoxication, most will tell you about the kinds that deserve being carried over generations. One such story, of which I am a proud witness, took place when I was probably six. The victim might have been in her thirties. Vinod aunty. The bhaang had been mixed with the pakoras (vegetable fritters). When its effect began, aunty began to see tremendous merit in climbing up the drain pipe on to the terrace. She was pretty sure she and my mother could reach the moon from there. My mother, who doesn’t quite care for pakoras, wasn’t too sure. Her brilliant idea thwarted, Vinod aunty moved towards the host’s bathroom. Brilliance has its way of returning. She realised she had to, simply had to, do all the laundry. Picking up linen from wherever she could, she reached the bathroom, and began washing the clothes. It may have been a little easy on her if there was a washing machine. We, the children, crowded around the bathroom and listened to her enlightening talks on Shakespeare, who, she told us, if born in the 20th century, couldn’t hold water to our Vinod aunty. She was taken home. Her house had more clothes, I am sure. She had three young children, one my age. The effect lasted a week; enough time to wash everything thrice over.

I began by telling you the not-so-important reason for loving Holi. The important reason still remains undiscussed. Or does it?

On our way to wish my aunt, we encountered this bucket-happy boy. All the windows were closed, thankfully. He looks happy with his shot, don't you think?
This is how I began the day. The branch in my hand is from a tree called palash. The flowers were used to make colour. In these times of instant gratification (and chemicals) all that home-made colour bunkum is traditional bullock cart.
These kids from our neighbourhood came to show their hand-held sprays called pichkaris. Ours used to be made of brass or bamboo and looked like giant icing guns. Theirs look like guns, too.
Two gulal and colour vendors with their shoppers. The one at the back is my favourite -- with his no-nonsense expression, and the skeleton-men earrings in his ears.
Invasion. My cousins were sure they'd catch me soon enough.
Cousins. Holi players.

Of muddled webs and letting in the light

I joined a professional gym recently. When all the sweets and cheeses and fried goodies showed no sign of leaving my languishing-under-the-strain body, I had to. There were many reasons for having done this instead of trundling along on my own regimen. The most predominant one is — I simply cannot have a self-imposed regimen. If I could, I wouldn’t need to look at discarding the security of my own home and wobbling my hitherto hidden bagsful of jellied anatomy in front of people. It does have its advantages, though. For one, you have someone else imposing the regimen on you. The second is a little trickier to explain — it puts you in a blissful cocoon.

Yesterday, as I thomped on the treadmill, the boom-boom blast of the skilfully remixed songs egging me on, I noticed that the deep staccato drove out everything from my thought-mist. At home, on my elliptical trainer and with a modest music system, the effect isn’t half as effective. Here, the mind wanders towards that cobweb next to this wine-bottle plant, or the dish-washing detergent on sale, or those cute boots I simply must have. There, inside that sprawling gym room with struggling ex-indulgents and ambitious muscle-developers, everything gets squished down under the boom-boom. It is almost like a divine hand, blotting out distraction. Yes, everything gets drummed thin. Even those cute boots.

That must explain the blissfully blanked minds of the youth listening to boom-boom. It’s as if nothing else matters. For me, the focus gets beaten in for the remaining 23 minutes of atrociously horrid stationary biking. For the boom-boomed youth, it must be the this-second gossip on Justin Bieber. Whatever it is, the drums succeed.

For weeks now, my thought-mist has been playing muddle-you with me. I read blog posts reminding how worlds are crumbling, the Human is now struggling, now succeeding; of the Devastating, Terrifying, Seemingly Commonplace, and the God-please-don’t-make-me-open-my-eyes. It is too much to handle. Especially if you have to retain the strength of your mind to remind yourself that the two dollops of sinfully chocolatey ice-cream are not for you. Not fair, wouldn’t you say?

I read on. And keep feeling like that tiny speck of floating seaweed, now waved there, now sinking, now waved here. And now on the top of my swinging world. If someone explores this possibility to somehow aid calorie-burn, they will make history.

But discovering ideas and people and being overwhelmed with the depth of a number of emotional journeys is not restricted to reading-a-blog habit. At least that’s what I think. There is a smooth muddling of our lives in general.

Since it is a muddle anyway, let me introduce a tiny Light without any preamble.

Years back, in 2006, a movie called Rang de Basanti (Let there be Yellow (the colour of spring, revolution)) took the Hindi-speaking world by storm. People, in swanky cars, smelly buses, the literate and the illiterate alike, thronged the theatres to watch it. Regardless of the tremendous profit it made, it brought in a much needed sense of doability among people; the youth especially.

Sue McKinley, a struggling British filmmaker comes across the diary of her grandfather. He was a jailer with the Imperial Police during the Indian independence movement. Going through this diary, Sue learns about  five freedom fighters. She can’t resist the intensity of the passion these men must have felt and generated, and decides to make a film on them in India. Her friend Sonia helps her cast four young men, DJ, Karan, Aslam and Sukhi to portray the revolutionaries. These four typify the typical disgruntled youth, who has no belief in the system; seemingly no direction whatsoever.

They are not enthusiastic about a film on a drab topic like the independence movement, but Sue eventually manages to convince them. Laxman Pandey, a political party activist, joins the cast later. He is unpopular among the team members due to his anti-Muslim beliefs and contempt for Aslam, a Muslim. During the filming, these young men begin to warily appreciate the revolutionary heroes they are portraying. They gradually begin to realize that their own lives are quite similar to the characters they portray in Sue’s film and that the state of affairs that once plagued the revolutionaries continues to torment their generation.

Meanwhile, Ajay, a flight lieutenant in the Indian Air Force, Sonia’s fiancé, is killed when his plane crashes. The government claims that the crash was caused by pilot error and closes the investigation. Knowing that Ajay was an ace pilot, Sonia and her friends do not accept the official explanation. They know that he went down with the plane to avoid ejecting and letting the plane crash over a heavily populated town. Restless, and looking for some justice, they begin to ask questions. Soon, they come to know that a corrupt defence minister had signed a contract in exchange for cheap and illegal MiG-21 aircraft spare parts for a personal favour, thus making the plane that used these parts unreliable. When they also learn that the person who got the deal through was Karan’s father, they are enraged. And Karan is heartbroken.

Peaceful rallies and seething anger does not seem to help this bunch. (Does it ever?) DJ, Karan, Aslam, Sukhi, and Laxman decide to take a leaf from those very freedom fighters they had enacted, and resort to violence to get justice.

They kill the defence minister. Karan, in the meantime, shoots his father, realising he can’t be reasoned with.

The media says that minister was killed by terrorists. He gets a martyr status. Not outdone, the five friends decide to announce the real story to the public through a radio station. They forcibly take over the station premises after having evacuated its employees. Karan goes on air and reveals the truth about the defence minister and his wrongdoings. Still on air, they are all killed by the police and military commandos.

When they are at the radio station, this song plays in the background:

Here’s a video of the song.

The conversation between the little kid and his father in the video:

“Come, Bhagat Singh.”

“What are you doing, father?”

“I am planting a mango tree. Plant one, reap a thousand.”

—————————————————————–

This morning, when I reached the gym and told my trainer, Rahul, that I simply didn’t have the strength to lift any weights, he said, “We’ll see.”

And then quoted a famous cricketer, “If your day’s bad, make it good. If it is good, make it great.”

I ended up exercising more than I usually do.

———————————————

Note: I pasted the movie’s story from Wikipedia, and modified it a little to suit my convenience. Is that plagiarism? Sorry.

Boy-Man

2010

If a boy of fifteen can catch an angry bull by its horns and force it to bow down to him, he must be something. And if the very same teenager, changed into a benevolent leader of sorts in a school hostel a year later, silences bullies-to-the-weak with just a look, he effectively tattoos his path of choice for the rest of his life. The path of Selective Toughness. This boy, now a boy-man, is Bhartan. My husband.

Bhartan is proud of his machismo; and justifiably so, I hear. The boys of yesterday have passed his legends on to those of today. The narrow streets in the tiny Nainital, his home town, sometimes witness a whispering huddle, talking of his triumphs with unabashed awe. Still. After all these years of his having become a reluctant adult. It makes me chuckle in amusement. And swell with pride. But I confess I see more in him than the valour and physical strength. I shamelessly admit that I find that More more disarming than the punches he’s capable of.

At four, he went missing. He used to play in the market square in front of the house and used to be back before sundown. That day, he didn’t come home. People rushed around, search parties were sent. He was found 500 metres away in an elephant camp, sitting next to the animals. Just sitting there, being with them. The next day, the mahout offered to give him a ride around the then sleepy Nainital on top of his best tusker. Quite a sight it must have been. And such a thrill for Bhartan.

His fascination for beings doesn’t end in just wonder. It begins from and develops into care. When he was about six years old, his mother has related this story to me a number of times, he went with his parents to visit an aunt who kept a cow. He heard its calf mooing in distress, because it was tied at the other end of the shed. They needed to milk its mother. It bothered him for a long time, the calf’s call. When no one was watching, he untied the little one. It drank to its fill. That day, little Bhartan was the happiest in that house.

What about the bull-fighting macho, you might wonder? Where does that fit in? His father told me this story of when he and Bhartan were walking through the jungles of Nainital on a narrow footpath. A bull, who apparently saw them as intruders, charged at Bhartan’s father. I don’t think the bull knew what hit him next. Or grabbed him. Before long, the beast was pinned on the dirt track — the calm, still boyish, boy was holding him down with its horns for having put his father in discomfort.

2011 Some things never change.

The many unannounced strengths my husband has somehow take a back seat for me, because this unfaltering love for all beings, including humans, is a virtue with which I am quite content. It will make him do no harm. And when he does wrong someone, he will make up for the mistake with  a natural logic and precision. He always does.

The boy you’ve just read about hasn’t changed even after all these years. Through national boxing championships, boyish ego duels and immature need for a macho image, he has retained the sincere child in him, who will rush to pick you up if you fall, and never laugh at your misadventure. His love for life and its creatures is unfailing, and honest. His honesty, in fact, can be disconcerting. At least for me.

I used to drink wheatgrass juice in those days, when we’d just met. During one of our walks at a stage of our friendship when an infatuated man is normally inclined to please his love interest, he stopped me from cutting wheatgrass from the endless fields the villagers grew close to where we were. “You have no right,” he said.

He was twenty nine then – a boy much beyond seeking the pleasures of a ‘manly’ show of strength; grown up to become a boy again. And back to looking at the world with a wonder reserved for the innocent and the wise. I like to think I was the same, only, thankfully, a girl. This shared wonder must have been the thing that made us run away whenever we could from the boarding school campus we taught in. We walked the hills, felt the desert sands, biked to the remotest village for a cup of tea or drove to the faraway city to eat pizza. The wonders never cease, they say. For us, it was just that, an Endless Wonderment. Perhaps with one difference in the way we saw it. He soaked it in. I rattled on about it. And it’s still the same.

During our trip to Narkanda, a beautiful village in the Himalayas at 11,000 feet. It rained that day.

Five years later, however, our time is filled with hurried love. There’s work to do, dogs to care for, more work, parents to think of, and again, unfinished work to go back to. It becomes a little too jet-setty at times. But that is how I see it. Bhartan seems wisely unfettered. He talks of the love nest we have created. Of the richness of loving and giving and receiving. I try to see it from where he views it. However, my selfish desire to just be with him and get his undiluted attention makes it a little difficult. In his strangely gentle way, he reminds me of the fact that we are together, and want to be, too.

Only love

Generations in a family love and hate. Usually, it is the love that makes it to photo galleries.

It is only love. Or is it? I would never say ‘love’ and ‘only’ in the same sentence. Or allow ‘only’ to come any closer than two paragraphs. Never. Because — it is an emotion that punches you at a point (still unknown to science, philosophy, religion, and whatever else likes to blow its trumpet)  with such heart-numbing, heart-stupidifying precision that you see stars, feel winded enough to wonder whether you had ever in your life breathed at all, smell heaven from wherever you are, cry bitter tears, and sweet too, see hell everywhere else, or right here — all at once. An emotion like no other. Only? I am not off my rocker.

Why in the world am I writing about it, then? Something that can’t be quantified, judged or in most cases, expressed in words? No, not because it is Valentine’s Week, as the retail market is wont to call it. (Today is Promise Day, by the way.) Perhaps it is because I feel obligated to continue the sequence of emotions I have promised myself to cover in this category. And probably because I love. And so do you. Same pinch. (Or punch).

But I confess there is no purpose, no message to give, no angst to release, no thoughts to share. At the end of this post, you will be right where you started. Some things still have to be done, however. So, for all these reasons, and my love for sparring with the undoable, I am going ahead.

Our dogs' love for killing the grass takes precedence over our love for a breathtakingly green patch. Such is life.

The beauty and horror of love could spin us around a million times over, and back. In fact, it has! Heartaches float invisibly, acting like catalysts to give birth to music, paintings, photos, sculptures. The Wheel, even. And there are even more healed hearts to revolutionise art and science and sports and religion. And the retail market, as we all know. Haven’t you noticed how they fuel all of our planet’s existence, demise and rebirth?  Isn’t it justified, then, to think that it is so, so very empty to try to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings? And yet – surprise of all surprises! – it is so meaningful to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings. Whatever the choice.

The horror begins when things come to choice, actually.

You simply love biking. And you love your spouse and children, who’d rather sit in the garden and count the bushes. You love counting the bushes and you love them, too, of course. But you have to choose. Bike or Bush. (The latter with your family thrown in as a bonus). Choose both? Choose one? Choose none and run away with a tattoo-maker? Like everything else in the 21st century, there are options galore! (In fact, I suspect it must be for the love of things and misery that we’ve decided to inundate our closets with options. And throw the skeletons out. We have evolved, Darwin.)

So, back to love options. They do cause hyperventilation of all kinds, don’t they, now? And yet we go on. It is a many-splendoured thing, after all.

A tacit understanding of trials and past glories could be love, too. My brother's fascination for sharks must have come from his belief that he was on the Titanic in his last birth and was eaten by a shark on his way down. I believed the same, except I thought I had drowned. We discovered our common belief much later, when we were adults and found it all right to share our hitherto hidden nightmares. After we'd talked about it, the words 'shark' and 'drown' never had the same meaning for us again. And though there is no glory in being eaten by a shark or in drowning, there was love in the understanding.

It is the phenomenon that makes people understand without having to use language. It is the energy that can make a person rise up and say, “I am alive, because I love. And am loved.” It is the lovesome succor for the soul that makes people get up in the morning to make bed tea for their loved one. Or do something else that is their cup of tea. Love, not surprisingly, needs no words to understand. And yet, surprisingly again, words make so much difference. Or gestures. Perhaps love cannot survive without a carrier, regardless of what it is.

The splendours of love. Who’s to count them? And how? And more importantly, why? As long as love for one is there, floating through the mists of life, at once illuminating and relaxing, never tugging at a love for another, there is hope.



Only embarrassment

It is only embarrassment. Ha. Easy for you to say. It was me, however, who endured Aparna’s and Nupur’s cruel giggles. We were 16. The age is considered to be ‘sweet’ for some strange reason.

The occasion was Aparna’s sister’s wedding. While I was getting dressed, I discovered to my horror that my favourite black velvet high-heel shoes had an issue. The left one had separated from its heel. But I had to wear them! So, I stuck the heel and the shoe together in what I thought was a 2-hour safe plan. The adhesive I used was a trusty thing called Quikfix. It didn’t last 30 minutes. They, the velvet killers, were sitting at the opposite end of the room, beside the marigold decorations, staring at my velvet dream and snorting (aka howling in resplendent, cruel delight). The witches.

What stays with me to this day is not the excruciating pain of seeing the left heel peeping askew from beneath the shoe, but the superlative excruciation of seeing those two idiots cackling at the sight of it. Blood rushed to my ears and cheeks. It felt hot. I had to get up and go. I got up. The nearly shoe-less heel knew nothing better than to wobble beneath my weight.  The crescendo of the Indian drums singing praises of the bride coincided with the now-peaked squirts of dolorous, heart-breakingly amused laughter. The last sounds I heard in that room were of my pride being slaughtered at the hands of those, arrgh, the names are too embarrassing for weak nerves. Let it rest.

The point is that embarrassments are never too minor. Ask the one at the receiving end. Ask yourself. Could you call that ballroom scuffle you had with your charming date ‘simply nothing’? When your feet experienced unexplainable magnetic attraction towards your partner’s left big toe each and every time you waltzed?

My sentiments exactly.

To do justice to our superior intellect, however, let us explore the possibilities of overcoming the urge to fall face down on to the murky waters (or whatever else is available, as long as it keeps the  trauma of distressing feelings safely zip-locked) and hide. The importance of overcoming this urge is just one. To relieve yourself of the intense desire to smash the heads of your tormentors. You don’t want to go to jail, should your wishes be granted, do you?

So, what is the best way to overcome debilitating embarrassment?

I don’t know.

I’d say sock ’em on the face and walk out. But what if they are Mike Tyson and Batman?

Or, remove the cause of embarrassment. If you are a red leaf among the gold ones in a Christmas wreath, stop being red. Possible? Nah.

Or, stop feeling embarrassed.

Is it worth a thought? To not feel a deep sense of shame at a situation you have no control over? All right, agreed you allowed your shimmery dress to ride up to your waist at the posh party; every one was too embarrassed on your behalf to tell you; and you discover it only when The Queen is set to honour your (more respectful) doings. We will heartily laugh at your sad predicament. But you can choose to laugh, too! And learn the importance of smoothing out that shimmery dress.