When the mind cuts like a knife

In many ways, words become living beings in the course of our life journey. Words assume a life of their own when we listen deeply to our inner self.
She thinks of the word ‘Pining.’ And thinks of him. He taught her the word — through  his presence and absence.

Both of them feel they should have been together. It would have been wonderful to read, write, dissect, reflect and exchange ideas and world views. Night after night. In the midst of ordinariness of life.

Even though their  interests are different, they share a very strong sense of adaptive intellectual and cognitive connectivity. After all, all you can now only hear cacophony around you. There are so very people  with whom one can talk these days. Don’t get her wrong. She doesn’t believe in intellectualizing human relationships.

People think she’s flamboyant. They find her cool. But you see people see themselves differently. She feels the flamboyance is actually a kind of cover up for all the years of longing she has kept within her.  Lest the brutal world will shred her soul.

Over cups of black tea and Farida Khanum’s soul-stirring music, she tells to her friends, “Love and loss mean the same. I have loved only one man in my life and lost him so many times that in the process love and loss are intertwined.”

One friend asks, “What makes you stay attracted?”

“Tenacity and ability to look at the world like a sharp knife. It’s gratifying to see someone to cut the flab/the excess and hold on to the essence. Something like holding a knife and peeling the yellow skin of a mango.  A simple yet meaningful act. There’s immense beauty in it. Probably, that’s why I am always attracted to austerity, melancholy, bareness. Excess is vulgar.”

There was silence in the room. Silence can be sharp too.

 

 

 

 

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Love

“Lie to me” – She whispered.

“I love you.” – He said.”

Sometimes, the lie comes in the form of diamonds, roses, wine, candle-light dinners, chocolates, cup cakes, a Little Red Dress, a tie, a linen shirt, a kiss.

And sometimes in the form of Facebook status updates.

It’s easy to lie and wrap it in myriad ways.

Love is an industry now. A globalized product. Love thrives in the market.

Interestingly, in the midst of all this, almost everybody craves for pure love. People spend their entire lifetime waiting to experience that intense love.

What did you say?

Today’s Valentine’s Day.

Wait for tomorrow.

‘Home’ by Warsan Shire

No one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

Your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

You have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

No one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

No one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

The
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

Or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here

 

Three years after my mom died…

It has been exactly three years since I lost my mother. October 18, 2013 is still there in my mind/heart like a photograph. Sitting on my computer today, I am trying to tell you a story. My mother was a wonderful story-teller. I always coaxed her to tell me stories. Again and again. I never got bored of her stories. No one now tells me stories the way she used to.  In the absence of the story-teller, I become the story-teller. Here’s my story of our story.

Love makes you do strange things. Without any struggle. I have never used a handkerchief in my life. But for the last three years, I have always carried this beautiful handkerchief of my mother in my handbag. This soft, humble cotton handkerchief with a pashapali (it’s called so because it resembles a chess board) print reflecting Odisha’s magical textile heritage is my constant companion. My mother never stepped out of the house without her handkerchief. Now, I don’t step out of my house without this handkerchief. My mother travels with me wherever I go.

handkerchief

Ma loved wearing glass bangles. One of my most vivid and beautiful childhood memories of her is watching her put glass bangles. Every now and then. The sight made my little eyes glow in awe. It made life colorful, magical and sensual. I now wear glass bangles to feel closer to her. I love the clinking of glass bangles as I keep on furiously typing on my computer. The sound makes me happy and comfortable..

glass-bangles

I have inherited some of the textile gems (especially Odisha’s ikkat saris) from her wardrobe. The smell, sight of her saris in my wardrobe brings in a slice of her life to embrace me. I love wrapping her sari around me. I feel as if our lives are entwined. Saris like memories have no  S, M, L, XL size. You just need to  wrap it around you with love. It never fails to amaze me how a nine yard cloth can hold so many years within it. So much of love and warmth.

Sari magic

Joy and sorrow are part of life. There’s a winter. There’s a spring too.

Grief breaks you. And grief also makes you. Grief makes you look deep within and discover something innately new and warm. To embrace newness, you need to be open in grief.  During the process of healing the broken pieces of my fractured soul, I have discovered the magic of Buddhism. On many evenings. I now sit quietly and listen to ‘Om Mani Padme hum’ even as light and shadow dance in a joyous mood in my home.  Last April, while travelling in Sikkim, a deep sense of peace and calmness embraced me as I just looked at the tiny prayer flags fluttering high in the air. Spinning prayer wheels at monasteries elevated my soul. The majestic  mountains with the cool, crisp air gave me an intimate feeling of being at my spiritual home. Somehow, it also made me feel that my mother must be happy wherever she is now. It felt as if I have made peace with my grief, loss. I could feel the rush of love in my blood. Even in the absence of a lover.

prayer-flags

My journey in the last 1096 days (2016 is a leap year)  has given me the gift of looking deep within. I now have little faith in this whole talk of rationality. Modern life is too obsessed with rationality/ rational mind. I believe, if you listen deeply to your voice within with a larger sense of love and compassion, you can actually feel the presence of those who have left you. The rational mind has not really explored the mettle of heart. When you listen deeply to your heart, you will find your own answers. There’s no need to be limited, fearful.

PS Needless to say, there’s a pleasure, joy in the physical world — the world of touch, smell, voice,  beauty, warmth,  sensuality. The physical world is deeply fascinating and it can be soul-elevating too. My mother’s absence in this physical world hurts me.  I terribly miss her physical presence in my life.  For years, my morning ritual was to make a phone call to her. Sometimes with my eyes half-closed. With traces of deep sleep defining my voice. I now miss making that phone call early in the morning.

I miss her food very much. In her absence, food just doesn’t taste the same now. I miss everything about her food – the texture, the color, the variety, the seasoning, the rich, delicious mutton curry with huge chunks of potatoes, finely sliced aubergines fried and then gently put in a bowl of thick curd (seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaf),  piping hot pakoras that could give tempuras a real tough competition,  potatoes cooked in a mixture of puppy seeds and green chillies, her signature dish of scrambled eggs cooked in mutton gravy and lots more.  I try to recreate her magic by pressing the rewind button my memory.  But, as they say, it’s not just the same.

 I really find it amazing to see how people around you maintain a stoic silence when you talk about a loved one who’s no more. People try to play with their hair, ear-rings, mobile phones when you talk about your memories of a loved one.  They smile uncomfortably, most of them look like  unhappy stock brokers.  To all those nervous, fearful souls, I would like to say, look higher, look within. it’s not about death.  It’s about love and more love.

We ruminate and savor memories of those only whom we love deeply.  So, join me today in celebrating memories of  togetherness, joy and love between a daughter-mother.  There are always love stories in the world to warm the cockles of your heart. 

Aren’t these flowers beautiful?  So, smile. Just smile.

flowers

His Last Letter

V Rohith, a Dalit PhD scholar of Hyderabad Central University  committed suicide on Sunday, January 17, 2016 leading to protests in many campuses (including his own) across the country. Rohith along with four of his activist friends were expelled from the hostel on disciplinary grounds some time ago.  Here’s the letter young Rohith wrote before committing suicide. ( This photograph is a mark of respect to the departed young soul and also in the hope that the dark times would make way for light, love and compassion)

 

Good morning,

I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of lamp

you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan.

I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.

I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.

My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.

If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.

Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.

“From shadows to the stars.”

Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.

To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.

For one last time,

Jai Bheem

I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.

No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.

This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this.

Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.

Paris, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Pop grief

Paris, the city of light grappled with death and darkness on November 13, 2015. We woke up on Saturday morning to this horrible blood bath. I logged into Facebook late morning to find  a number of notifications that showed friends crying out, expressing their ‘grief’.

Their profile pictures were all changed to ‘Pray for Paris.’ Some took great effort to go through their fading personal photo archives of late 70s/8os  to show to the world that they have actually visited Paris. Even if it happened decades ago. They were so eager to show their ‘Parisian’ attitude. There are some who changed their whatsapp profile picture too.

I called three of my ‘grieving for Paris’ friends later in the day to talk to in the hope that conversations will soothe aching hearts. But they were all enjoying Prem Ratan Dhan Payo in the darkness of swanky multiplexes in different cities of India. With pop-corn and cola in their hands. They all thankfully picked up calls and sounded all happy, cheerful. May be in the interval, they checked into Facebook to see how many ‘likes’ they received for their status updates and change in DP(s).

Urban India’s popular ‘national dish’ in the form of that little two minute instant noodle pack is back. How can pop grief meant for our timelines  not be there?  Only if some of us old souls could learn this art of switching off and on. Grief included.

 

 

 

 

 

When people leave

I  had my first brush with Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi while editing an interview of him done by one of my ex-colleagues. He stayed there in my mind though briefly. On July 18, 2012 I received Siddharth’s novel ‘The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay’ as a birthday gift.  I had lost my aunt to cancer on my birthday. After days of wallowing in pain and loss, I picked up the novel to read. To put my restlessness to rest. Siddharth’s words touched the chord of my soul and in his words, I found solace. Siddharth and me are now friends on Facebook. After my mom’s death, he wrote to me, “One day you will be larger than your grief. Till that happens, be kind to yourself.” It was comforting to read these beautiful lines.

Siddharth is brilliant, I feel. In understanding life. In giving a healing touch through his words. There are times in life when you must let people go if they wish to go away. I hope sometime in life, I will look back and smile at the gift of some people’s absence in my life. I don’t know when will this hurt of parting will end. But I know the process of parting began when emotions cease to be what they are. May be it was waiting to happen, to die a death. To decay in unceremonious glory.  Till I become larger than my hurt, I choose to take shelter in the world of words. Here goes Siddharth in his own words on people going away from your life. Thank you, SDS.

We give credit for the presence of people in our lives. But we seldom thank people for their absence. Increasingly, I find myself thanking people I have had to let go, or who let go of me, because their absence returned me to an abundance of myself: to imagination, to the pursuit of truth and beauty, to a silence in which I could hear myself again. We are defined not only by the company we keep but also the company we avoid. Today, I give each one these people thanks for taking leave: everywhere we look we will find only gifts of absence.

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Siddharth’s Facebook status update on the New Year… (2013)

“Let it all end, let this year, let all the small things in it end, let all the small people in it leave. They are not worth the time of your heart, the strength of your nostalgia, the shade of your language. Don’t you see? You were made for the white might of ocean, you were made to meet night with daring, you were made for tall, unventured mountains. You were made to rejoice in yourself – not for small things like happy endings or dinners in low-lit restaurants or fancy hotel suites. You were, in fact, made for the ending itself: in it are all the innumerable beginnings you were never brave enough to see.

“You were made for the beginning, to always begin, to never stop beginning. You are boundless, infinite, and those who limit you, who give your love boundary or affront, let them end, too. You were made to know what was ahead of you, what is yet to come, the superb possibilities of fate. Every time something ends, it frees you. Be free of all ending, of this year, this time. That is my blessing for you, for myself, for all the shining hours ahead of the both of us.”