I want to hug the Bay of Bengal

I woke up today morning, telling my husband, “I want to hug the Bay of Bengal.”

The Bay of Bengal is an emotion for me. An intense emotion. It’s much more than an ocean. I have grown up with it. I remember crying as a child when the rising waves took away my little shoes. My mother consoled me by saying, “The sea will not take anything away from you, it will give you back your shoes. Remember to always love the sea.”  The sea returned my shoes. The love lingered.

Both my parents loved the Bay of Bengal. We immersed the ashes of my father in the temple town of Puri which is home to the Bay Of Bengal. I feel, parts of my parents’ soul now remain in the Bay of Bengal. So, I feel at home with the rising waves, the falling waves, the rolling waves, the mellowed setting Sun suddenly disappearing in the horizon leaving no trace of its existence till the next morning and the cool breeze that strokes your cheeks as the dark nights become darker.

Years ago, I spent a mildly cool December morning all by myself on the shores of the Bay of Bengal to clear the cobwebs in my mind. My heart was full of agony, hurt and pain.My mind was a cluttered one. I had lost my way. I was afraid to grab tomorrow. I sat down to just look at the waves even as wild thoughts moved in a synchronized rhythm in my mind. I just sat there looking at waves. I didn’t know then anything about the ‘Art of Just Being.’ By the time I left the waves behind, I was clear in my heart and mind to move forward. The Bay Of Bengal gave me the strength, the wings to leave the ruins of the past behind and embrace the light of a journey ahead.  Sometimes the sound of waves on an otherwise silent morning gives you strength to listen deep within.

I go back to the ocean now to feel the presence of my parents. I go back to revel in the memories of my mother buying me delicate shingaras (known as samosas in masculine parts of India) filled with little cubes of potatoes with their almost silk like smooth skin, melt-in-mouth sweets that go by the name of Madanmohan, fiery, salty, seductive jhalmoori with a dash of mustard oil and cups of coffee which sometimes carried a faint smell of kerosene. I loved the sight of my mother taking out the money from her purse and then indulging me with these lip-smacking delicacies. The fiercely independent career woman within me took a backseat as I soaked happily in that moment of tenderness. I happily let myself to  become a little girl.  The ocean was a witness to the unconditional love that defined my world.

ocean

 

Sometimes, the universe feels the thread of emotions that run deep in our hearts, deep in our veins. The universe comes like an guardian angel to hold us, comfort us, soothe us. As I was longing to roll in gay abandon in the wild embrace of Bay Of Bengal, I received a photo of my niece holidaying in Florida in the company of Atlantic Ocean. The photo soothed me. She’s a 15-year old bright, intelligent, creative girl. In the pic, she’s enjoying her solitary moments with the ocean. Albeit a different ocean, I grew up with. I don’t know what thoughts are running in her mind. But she’s having her moments of solitude. By the waves, by the shore. It’s necessary to have your moments of solitude. Certain emotions are universal. And certain legacies are always carried forward. Even without any realization.

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‘Three’ is a crowd

She: Moonlight samosa-jalebi ke kasam, I love you.

He: Yeh hui na baat… Do you realise that only two of us can feel what it means?

She: Like grief, intimacy is personal.

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She: Is the shop still there?

He: Come over.

The act of missing

memory

What do you do when you miss a person? I cling to something that feels/smells/reminds me of her/him? In my moment of missing, I cling to the ear-ring both of us bought together in a city which is not home to either of us. It was a gift for me. Not a ‘surprise’(liberalised India is now obsessed with the element of surprise in relationships) gift but it smells of ‘us.’

I never wear the same ear-ring for two consecutive days. But I have been wearing this beautiful ear-ring for the last two days. May be I will also wear it tomorrow. If my heart still continues to ache/long. You know, the act of missing. A person.

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.”

Of love, longing and a passport

passportAnd you are not mine,
I told you as I ran my fingers through your curly hair,
You looked into my eyes and said everything I have is yours,
What do you want?
I just want your passport.
Passport? You silly little girl…
Yes, it’s your passport I want…
so that tonight you will not fly away..
I want you here under the September Sun,
I want you to lead my way through the crowded streets,
I want you to hold my hand as we carve our own little world
In the midst of sweating millions and a thousand colours,
I want you to buy me that huge dark gulab jamun sitting prettily
On a plate in the mithai shop,
But you have to go…
With the passport kept safely in a leather pouch….
And you told me you have to go…
Yes, I know you have to go
But you know I will grow old while you are away
And there will be one more tomorrow without
You and Me not walking hand in hand
On the streets.
Full of faces I don’t know.

Happiness…

A cup of Earl Grey tea. Reading the newspaper in the midst of stillness of the morning. Sitting by the window in a cafe and watching life lingering lazily on a Sunday morning. Writing my journal and filling almost silk like pages with my fountain pen even as I wait for my toasted brown bread. Getting lost in the pages of Forty Rules of Love and soaking in the sublime beauty of two stories woven beautifully in one novel.

happy

Running my fingers through the piles of bed sheets and finally choosing to pick up two. A random thought embraces me. Will these strangely attractive geometrical patterns ever see two of us together in a bed lying next to each other? Entangled bodies. Entangled emotions. Packing a dinner of rice and mutton curry… food that defined a Sunday. Years ago. When father was there in his elements. Mother was in her pink of health. Putting the AC at 18 degree even if the weather is not brutal outside. Pulling up the comforter till my neck. Holding a glass of whiskey, sipping slowly and even occasionally rubbing it against my cheek. Reading Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman and an ache runs deep within. The soft yellow light of the lamp surprisingly doesn’t bring back shadows of yesterdays. And it’s time now for Adele’s ‘Set fire to the rain’ and yes I know the next will be Dier Strait’s ‘So far away from me’. It’s in that alphabetical order of ‘S’. You don’t forget certain things even when you are too happy or too sad. Is happiness a sad song? No, I just don’t know the logic of being happy. But right now I’ m happy as I gently tap the touchscreen and let it flow.

I must let him go…

My friend says, “Deepika, let him go. Don’t cling to him.” It’s true that  I have been clinging to my father since he passed away on January 3, 2011. It has been two years but I just can’t let him go. I know where I am not going right.

Not a single day passes when I don’t long for him. Very very Intensely. The word ‘pining’ has taken over my existence. I still can’t go into his room without feeling the numbing pain of a sharp knife cutting through my heart. I don’t enjoy now going back to Bhubaneswar as my home now reminds me of what I don’t have. Rather than what I have.

But then as my friend says, “I must let him go.” It’s time to liberate him from the cycle of life, death and attachment. Till he rests in peace, I can’t. It’s vice versa too, I feel. I need to be liberated from this cycle of attachment.

I also understand that by clinging to him in desperation, I am not being able to enjoy all the wonderful memories of growing up under his love, care and guidance. I went to Delhi thrice in the last two years in search of rediscovering the magical memories I had of my father. Memories of us enjoying delicious Chinese meals at Golden Dragon. Memories of us doing endless shopping at Sarojini Nagar Market. Memories of us enjoying endless cups of tea at Orissa Bhawan where he used to stay during his visits to Delhi. But I just couldn’t remember anything. I feel as if my mind has become a blank slate.

It’s true that suffering, illness and pain takes over happiness and pleasant memories. The power of pain is overwhelming.

But  at the same time, I realise that it’s time to let him go. Till that happens, I can’t revel in happy memories. Now that all I can afford is memories, why not cherish and revel in them.

Post Script: “At the temple, there is a poem called “Loss”, carved into the stone. It has three words…but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read “Loss”… Only feel it.”

October, my muse

The autumn nip in the air, a sense of anticipation, festivity, celebrating my father’s birthday, family get-togethers— that has been October for me for decades. October makes me happy and a little bit restless too. Even without knowing, I become a better person, a tad more giving and a little more forgiving too. October is the month which sees the start of the festive season in many parts of India. Dusty Ahmedabad (where I now live and work) suddenly looks like a new bride as Gujarat sways to garba beats and revels in the intoxicating romance of the nights. Yet that doesn’t entice me. The colour, the celebrations, the frenzy make me feel like an outsider. That’s why, I run back to Orissa to add more new images to the collage called memories.

But remember the saying: The home you leave is never the same you return to. This time I am returning home during October (after giving it a miss last year). There’s an element of pain and sadness within me. October now reminds me of what I don’t have (the loss of my father and my beautiful loving aunt) rather than what I have. Or may be I should just look back with fondness and celebrate what I have gathered in the journey of all the Octobers that have passed by me but stayed in my heart for all times to come. Here’s to you, October.

Locked door, closed windows

I am wallowing in grief. Because the door of the house in which my aunt and uncle lived is now locked and all the windows are closed. For me, this three bed-room apartment is home to a collage of wonderful memories. I will hold it close to my heart till I breathe my last. Everytime I went to Bhubaneswar on holidays, I loved being in this sparkingly clean house. It was a house where I could walk in at any point of time even without making a phone call. Five star hotels could have picked up a few lessons in house-keeping from my aunt. Not a single magazine/newspaper was ever misplaced in her house. For years, my favourite way to relax in her house was to lie on her absolutely comfortable bed and read an Outlook or India Today.  Every now and then my aunt would come to me with a cup of tea/coffee and a plate full of mouth-watering snacks. The tea always came in a different cup and on a different tray. I felt like a princess soaking in the love and warmth of my aunt and uncle. Pampering a niece came naturally to them.
Without ever saying, it was understood that it was a home where I was always welcome. I could just put my feet up on the couch and ask my aunt to give me a visual account of all the sari-shopping she did when I was far away. She would then open the cupboard and take out feather-like soft silk and cotton saris in bright colors. In between looking at the saris, I would cast a glance at myself on her dressing table mirror. Life felt like sheer poetry.
I spent languorous moments watching my aunt applying powder on her face after her morning bath. I loved the quietness that ruled the morning air. I loved the way time stretched its arms even as my aunt and me laughed, talked and drank cups of tea. It was love and affection that brought me back to this wonderful house year after year. It was a second home that gave me a chance to escape from existential realities.
I was looking forward to savour that slice of life once again in October. But destiny had willed it otherwise. My aunt passed away on the wee hours of July 17. Last night, my uncle moved to Bengaluru to be with his eldest son. From now onwards, my uncle will divide his time between Bengaluru and New Jersey. The house that once smelt of my aunt’s lip-smacking bread-pakoras, elaichi tea and chicken curry is now locked. Warm memories of laughter laced moments spent with my aunt now fill up my eyes with tears. Sooner or later, dust will settle on my aunt’s pebble like smooth dining table. The colourful teacups that line her kitchen shelf will long for a lip. Every time I think of the locked house, images of my beautiful aunt moving graciously from one room to another haunt me. I still can’t come to terms with the thought that next time when I will be in Bhubaneswar, I will not actually see my aunt pottering around the house like a butterfly. Like my aunt, the house will be as far as the distant horizon.