Author Archives: Deepika Sahu

About Deepika Sahu

I earn my living through writing stories, editing what other people write (in simple terms, I am a journalist). I dream of opening a cafeteria in the mountains, owning a beach home on the shores of Bay of Bengal... but right now, they all seem like wild dreams. A gypsy at heart --- am passionate about India's rich diversity, life, music, words, cooking for people I love, soaking in the lashing rain and just looking at the changing colours of the sky. I am a great fan of the Indian Railways and I long to travel in First Class AC coupe across India with my man.

Poetry Pharmacy

(In tough times, one needs to seek solace in poetry. And that’s what I am doing. Almost 25 years ago, on an autumn evening, I found this poem on the wall of a friend’s home in New Delhi. My love for this poem was instant. Later on, I asked another common friend to write (rather copy) the poem on a piece of paper and give it to me. He was gracious enough to do it for me. Since then, I have changed cities, jobs and homes but this poem neatly written in my notebook has stayed with me. My attempts to search this beautiful poem on google have not been successful. Hope, you all will enjoy this) 

 

Everyone walks the way he can,

Some with their chest ajar,

Others with only one hand,

Some with identity card in pocket,

Others in their souls…

Some with the moon screwed in their blood,

And others with no blood, no moon nor reminiscence with them.

Everyone walks able or not,

Some with their love in grumbles,

Others hidden in altered skin.

Some with life and death beside,

Others with death and life astride

Some with a hand on some other shoulder,

And others on the shoulder of another.

Everyone is walking because he is walking,

Some hopeful with a person,

Others meeting none on the journey across,

Some through the door opening,

Or so it seems to the road,

Others with a door on the walls or dream on the air perhaps,

Some not having begun to live,

Others too not having begun to live,

But one and all walk with their feet to chains

Some on the road they themselves made,

Others on the ones they didn’t make and all those they shall never make.

——— Roberto Juarroz

 

Advertisements

India waits…

Like millions of Indians, I am waiting for the election results to be announced on May 23, 2019. I feel that rush of anxiety in my heart. I don’t think that I was this anxious even for my exam results. Human emotions are strange, actually.

It has been a bitterly fought election in 2019. Too much of mud-slinging, character assassinations and hate speeches.

Even as I am waiting for the results, in my head I am planning a nice dinner for myself irrespective of the result. Earlier in the day, I tweeted : Notes to myself: This too shall pass. #electionresults2019

Five years ago, on May 19, 2014 the then general election results were announced. It was a gruelling summer day in Ahmedabad. I was trying to make a sense of the path ahead for India (well, I  am still trying to). But at the same time, I didn’t want to be consumed by the political climate. I had ordered a plate of biryani and caramel custard just to feel better.

Let us see how India swings.

 

Home is where the trees are

I am in deep mourning. I am grieving for all the beautiful, strong, not so strong trees we have lost as Cyclone Fani ravaged Odisha few days back.

I have grown up with trees. I have hugged them in moments of happiness. I have leaned against them in times of sadness. Sometimes I have taken their presence for granted. My most beautiful growing up memory is all about waking up in the morning and sitting quietly on the verandah of our then house (I have lived in different parts of Odisha) and just soaking in the ethereal beauty of swaying coconut trees, watching tiny birds jumping from one branch of the mango tree to another.

There are no gentler souls in this world than the trees. They give shelter even to those who come to brutally hack them from the roots.

Even as I grieve deeply, I hope we will soon plant more trees in Odisha and love them more deeply and pray for their longer life.

In their existence lies our future. For trees are life.

(This banyan tree belongs to the soil of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. I was mesmerized by its richness of life. Being with this tree felt like being with my ancestors… the sense of its history warmed the cockles of my heart. How can we become this large in our hearts? )   

PHOTOS : YOURS TRULY

 

FullSizeRender (11)

 

 

 

tree3

 

tree

 

 

 

One way ticket…

(‘Desh’ (meaning country) is how my mother-in-law refers to Kerala whenever she talks about her years of growing up there. I always tell her, “India is your country. Why are you referring Kerala as your country?” But she refuses to listen to me. She shifted to Gujarat when she got married almost 50 years ago. This piece first appeared in an anthology titled ‘People called Ahmedabad’. I am sharing this here as we celebrate Gujarat Day on May 1. This is about leaving home, finding home and also about love and longing)  

mummy

(The Matriarch… )

More than fifty years ago, Sowbhagyabati Menon arrived in Ahmedabad from a small village in Kerala as a young bride. She started a whole new chapter of her life in this dusty city which is so very different from the lush green village of hers dotted with beautiful houses, swaying coconut trees and paddy fields. Today, she starts her day with a cup of tea and two Gujarati newspapers. And she loves her eclectic mixed neighborhood of Khanpur, in the walled city of Ahmedabad.

She looks back at her Gujarat journey with a sense of nostalgia and fondness. “It was my first train journey and everybody in my family thought that I was really going away too far. We all had heard of Ahmedabad only through news.The first house I stayed in Ahmedabad was on rent. It was a small house but I was surrounded by wonderful neighbors who wholeheartedly welcomed this young Malayali.”

Gujarati language sounded more or less like Greek or Latin to her. But she was hell-bent on learning the language. So, she sought the help of her neighbour’s school-going daughter. With a paper and pen, they moved around in the kitchen to note down the names of vegetables in Gujarati. Later on in the day whenever she found some free time, she diligently practiced on her own, saying it gently and slowly, “bataka (potato), dungri (onions).”

In Kerala, she was used to having boiled rice and in the initial days of her arrival here, she just couldn’t stand the smell of basmati rice in her friends’ houses. In the beginning, she stayed with her Gujarati friend for a couple of days. Her loving hosts were feeling miserable that their guest just refused to touch any of the Guajrati delicacies they offered to her. Then one day, her host friend went to a small south-Indian restaurant to pack a meal of masala dosa, idli, vada for her.Probably that South-Indian platter was more precious to her than any piece of gold jewellery she was wearing.

But she has come a long way since then. Today, she loves her share of thepla, methi gota, sukhdi, khichdi, poori-aam ras and undhiyu. In fact, her children and grand-children now especially ask her to make Gujarati khatti meethi dal and every Uttarayan, she gets up at 3 am in the night to prepare lip-smacking unidhiyu. From her kitchen now comes a regular spread of both Kerala and Gujarati cuisine.  

She loves being in Ahmedabad which has given her a home, friends and beautiful memories to go back to. With a sense of love, she says, “Gujratis are nice,warm people. They are affable and made me feel at home from the beginning.”

So, what has she enjoyed the most about her life in Ahmedabad? She says, “I feel a sense of freedom in Ahmedabad. Here, I move around freely with my friends, have gone for late night movies. There is no restrictions on movement like I had in Kerala and I have enjoyed the freedom to explore life. My neighbours have taught me the art of saving money. They have taught me the art of compounding interest. So, that has definitely made my life better now.”

“I have also enjoyed celebrating festivals like Diwali, Uttarayan, Navratri and Bestu Varash (Gujarati New year).  And yes, I was a true blood Malayali before, having my share of cooking in coconut oil. After more than four decades in Gujarat, I have lost my taste for coconut oil.”

Does she miss Kerala? “Oh, I miss Kerala’s magical monsoon. Even after so many years, Gujarat’s dry, arid long summer feels really tough. In these months, I long for Kerala’s rains. I also miss the fabulous celebrations of Onam in my village. Though I try to cook an elaborate sadhya on Onam but it just doesn’t feel the same.”

But then she trails, “Many of the people with whom I grew up in Kerala are gone now. The ancestral house of mine needs constant attention. Life in Ahmedabad feels much easier now. And did I mention about the uninterrupted power supply in Ahmedabad?”

Well, home is here only.

The Art of Self-Branding

A FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE

“I write like a dream. But that doesn’t take away the effort I put into every book, every launch, every conversation, every interview and every thing associated with my work.. ” 

All around us, we see people blowing their own trumpets. And with social media, self-branding has got a brand new aggressive makeover. Almost every day, we come across such acts of self-branding. Now people are busy in advertising themselves on Facebook, Instagram and the like. Everyone is a writer, a photographer, a master chef, a film critic, a designer… the list goes on. Everybody is everything. The lines between amateur and professionals are blurred.

So, here as an Indian, I am going back to our mythology to understand this act of self-branding.

*************

From The Mahabharat 

Krishna tells Arjuna : “You can kill yourself physically by harming your body or intellectually by praising yourself. For when a man praises himself, it is intellectual suicide.”

*******************

From the Ramayana

When Valmiki completed his Ramayana, Narada Muni wasn’t impressed. “It is good, but Hanuman’s Ramayana is better’, he said.

‘Hanuman has written the Ramayana too!’, Valmiki didn’t like this at all, and wondered whose Ramayana was better. So he set out to find Hanuman.

In Kadali-vana, grove of plantains, he found Ramayana inscribed on seven broad leaves of a banana tree.

He read it and found it to be perfect. The most exquisite choice of grammar and vocabulary, metre and melody. He couldn’t help himself. He started to cry.

“Is it so bad?” asked Hanuman
“No, it is so good”, said Valmiki
“Then why are you crying?” asked Hanuman

“Because after reading your Ramayana no one will read my Ramayana,” replied Valmiki.

Hearing this Hanuman simply tore up the seven banana leaves stating  “Now no one will ever read Hanuman’s Ramayana.”

Hanuman said, “You need your Ramayana more than I need mine. You wrote your Ramayana so that the world remembers Valmiki; I wrote my Ramayana so that I remember Ram.”

At that moment he realized how he had been consumed by the desire for validation through his work.

He had not used the work to liberate himself from the fear of invalidation. He had not appreciated the essence of Ram’s tale to unknot his mind.

His Ramayana was a product of ambition; but Hanuman’s Ramayana was a product of affection.

That’s why Hanuman’s Ramayana sounded so much better. Valmiki realized that “Greater than Ram….. is the name of Ram!!!! ”
( राम से बड़ा राम का नाम ).

There are people like Hanuman who are just happy to celebrate what their heart says. They are not hungry for praises. They are content with their craft.

So let us not be like Valmiki, thinking our ‘Ramayana’ is the best.

(Even as I was writing this, I came across this phrase in Hindi Apne muh miya mithu (It basically means self praise. In other words it means to tell other people how good and successful you are.)

Humility

Last November, I got my flat renovated (I don’t live there.)  It was humbling to see carpenters, paintmen dirtying their hands, sweating it out to make a house beautiful in which they will never live.
Most of them are migrants from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Before they gave me the keys back, I went to my flat to treat them to chai, nasta (tea and snacks). It was my way to to express gratitude and say ‘Thank You.’  I have always admired people who create things or change things using their hands. It could be anything from cooking, gardening, pottery to stitching.
Seeing them sitting together and enjoying their share of tea and samosa was deeply moving. They all have families who live in far flung areas. They all are living alone in this dusty dry Ahmedabad — carving a life far from the land and people they call their own.  They are here to earn money so that their children can live better. They kept on asking me, “Didi, are you happy with our work?” All of them —one by one. It was truly humbling.
It is the rich and privileged who always carry that sense of arrogance about everything they offer/ give. Rarely taking a pause and asking “Are you happy with what we are offering/doing?”
And very few of them create things with their own hand.

Anonymous,the most prolific poet

When I was a child, I used to read many poems in the text books ending with ‘Anonymous’ (as credit). So, in my little mind, Anonymous was the most prolific poet in this whole wide world. And for some odd reasons, Anonymous was ‘HE’ not ‘SHE’ (well, gender conditioning begins early in life.) I used to dream of growing up to be ‘Anonymous’.  Till one day, I discovered the truth behind Anonymous. And there died my desire to be … Anonymous