Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Womb in Sorrow

Halfway gone, halfway to go-
Not a soul for these emotions to show.
A second of mirth, and a second later,
A pool of tears in the heart's crater.
Life's struggles pull apart every bit
Of what was left in this lonely pit.

Oh look! There's something moving there!
Trying to enter a realm unaware.
Is that what brings the storm within?
Or is it because of the unforgivable sin
Of feeling, crying, speaking out,
Of deeds of love that naively sprout.

Alone you can conquer the world, they say;
Alone you can find your destined way.
Alone you should try, time and again,
Alone you will fail, once more slain
By needful urges of your spirit weakened,
Bringing you closer to your self sickened.

Apologies if these lines weren't meant
To light up your day, or fix your life's dent;
Sorrow is the truth that we all face
And yet deny it to run the rat race.
Happiness isn't all that matters;
A real cry fixes what a fake smile batters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Friday, November 20, 2015

Diwali Nostalgia

The evening began with Deuta and I struggling to light candles and diyas in our tiny compound, finding the perfect spots to protect them from the wind. Maa was busy in the kitchen, making sweets and savories. Our house was bathing in the fragrance of agarbattis. Pablo was running from here to there, restlessly eager to burst the crackers that Deuta had neatly arranged on a table. Friends started pouring in slowly, irrespective of caste, creed, region and religion, to celebrate with us. And like every year, we inaugurated with phuljharis. We used them to write our names in air and to light the other crackers. There were chakras (my favorite!) and anars, and if people were feeling adventurous, rockets and bombs. Maa's delicious goodies kept coming, and the merriment kept going even after the last cracker was lit.

Bidar

Disguised as a neglected mass of red land that lies hidden in the north-eastern corner of Karnataka, Bidar, with all the cons of a small city, unveils patches of archaeological and natural beauty that will amaze you. As the city shares its border with Telangana and Maharashtra, it is an ideal symbol of India's cultural, religious and linguistic amalgamation. The Bidar Fort is the place to be, early in the morning - deserted and clean with blue skies enveloping its vast expanse, and if you're lucky, the echoes of local people singing. Religious or not, you must visit Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Saheb, or you'll miss out on some of the best parathas that are served in a neighboring cafe. As for the fauna surrounding the city, Bidar hosts a good variety of birds, , especially annoying little cattle egrets who follow the buffaloes wherever they go, hoping to sneak a taste of the insects flying around the animals. However, the main attraction here is the endangered blackbuck. Mother Nature took her own sweet time to create this magnificent creature, whose enchanting stare brimming with innocence can leave you dumbstruck.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Finish Line

The elevator was out of order.
 
THAK. THAK. THAK.
 
Her footsteps echoed as she climbed up the narrow and deserted staircase. She kept rubbing her sweaty hands against each other, repeating the word “Breathe” to herself over and over again. The irony of it struck her. She knew that her destination was waiting to snatch her breath away.
 
She paused for a few seconds and closed her eyes to calm down. Her mind was filled with an incessant babble, however hard she tried to quieten it. She could hear his voice ringing in her ears, “I should have never met you!”
 
As she opened her eyes, a tiny teardrop rolled down her cheek – the cheek that he used to kiss every morning before going to work, and every night before going to bed. Used to…
 
Remembering that her tears had lost their worth from the first month they’d been together, she wiped them off. “Enough!”, she told herself. “The Finish Line is waiting for you.”
 
For a fraction of a second, she blamed her parents yet again for her ache, for giving her a loveless childhood, for increasing her hunger for love to such an extent that she found life’s meaning in nothing else. But then, it was all futile. Her marriage was already over. Her faith in love was gone. Her ache would also be gone. Soon.
 
She dragged her feet along, to ascend the final flight of stairs. She knew that her descent would be quick. She was prepared.
 
THAK. THAK. THAK.
 
And there she was. 200 metres from the ground. She was afraid of heights as ever. “Finis. You HAVE TO do this.”, said the prodding voice in her head. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
 
She jumped with her eyes open, and her arms spread out. She was scared, but for the first time, “good” scared. The fall, the wind, the thrill, the bungee cord tied to her ankle. The bond that freed her.
 
The Finish Line was only the beginning.

A Moment

**Some fact, some fiction**

They'd taken a 70 km tuk tuk ride from Siem Reap to see Beng Mealea. It was not cloudy like the previous days in Angkor Wat, and although the ruins were covered with a thick shelter of trees, she was worried about her tan from the ride. She'd purchased new walking shoes for the trip, and the shoe straps had formed a black and white pattern on her feet, thanks to the merciless sun. "Wrong choice! I should've bought the ones that covered my entire feet." she thought, and complained aloud about the heat for the hundredth time, fanning herself with a hat.

"Sshhh, just be quiet. And listen." he whispered.

Ignoring him, she kept on looking at her once-upon-a-time pretty feet with a mixed expression of pity and adoration. As she was staring at them, something pricked her right arm near the wrist. "Ouch!" she cried, rubbing her arm, "Do these insects have something against me? That’s the fourth bite since I’ve been here. And look at these creatures; I don't remember when I’d last seen mosquitoes as big as these!"
"Better you than me!" he laughed. "You should've worn full sleeves instead of half; they don't allow sleeveless here anyway. And FYI, that's my hat you're using like a hand fan. May I have it back?"
She handed him the hat with a scowl, as they continued their stroll on the wooden walkway constructed for tourists to admire the ancient temple. There weren't too many visitors, and she wasn't surprised.

"Who'd want to travel all the way in this heat? I'd rather stop by one of those cozy-looking stilt houses that we passed during our journey."

"They are rural Khmer houses."

"Of course they are, Mr. Wikipedia!"

"Guess why they're built on stilts."

"To avoid floods?"

"Wow, look who’s getting smarter!"

Even though she knew that he was teasing her, she couldn't help but smile a little.

"Stop." he said all of a sudden.

"You want me to stop smiling? I thought you liked my smile!"

"You know I love your smile. I'm only asking you to stop walking. And talking."

"Okay, but why?"

"What's that pranayama you taught me, the one in which you make a humming sound to calm your mind?"

She said, "Bhramari" and looked around. She was too busy fretting over bugs and the hot weather to notice the enchanting beauty of the place she was in. The crumbling temple was more than a thousand years old, with motifs depicting two major religions in the history of Cambodia. The trees, the chirping birds and insects, and the fragrance of pure air mingled with the ruins to magnify its antique charm. But she needed a moment to absorb this aura.

She understood at once. "Shall we? One. Two. Three."

As she opened her eyes slowly after the yogic hum, she saw it all again. But this time, the still of her surroundings had seeped into her mind. She stood there for a minute and turned towards him.

"Let's go." she said.

"Don't you want to stay here awhile longer?"

"I don't have to."

"Hmm. And what about the scorching ride that awaits us?"

"I promise not to whine about it; if you give me your hat!" she chuckled.

"No. Seriously."

"Oh come on! I'll bask in the sun and then show off my tan to my friends at work."

And she did.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Daphne

My brother-in-law and his wife put us up while we were in Melbourne. I noticed something interesting in the city - people (mostly the elderly) moved around with their own trolleys to carry their belongings. My husband and I saw a lady pushing her trolley while exiting the supermarket. She was really old, maybe in her 80's or 90's, and was walking in the slowest possible pace. While another old lady (younger than her though) gave her some space to pass through, I took a quick glance at the trolley. It was a box with the symbol of a bat on it, exactly like the Bacardi logo. I was wondering why someone so old would want to buy a carton of Bacardi breezers during winter, which compelled me to move my gaze to the box's contents. There was a purse and what looked like a sweater or a jacket. I looked at her face - she seemed to be in pain. I called my husband's attention to it and asked him if we should help her, and if it was a good thing to let old people go about such activities on their own. In spite of the infrastructure in developed countries allowing the aged to be independent, I found the whole "senior citizens living alone" thing to be a bit sad, especially when I thought about my parents in the same situation. My husband, on the other hand, pointed out that it was better for old people to carry on with their daily jobs on their own, however slowly, rather than having them lean on their family or friends for support. I agreed with him eventually, and the topic was forgotten once we were home.
 
About 45 minutes later, my sister-in-law accompanied me to the mall. It was my last day in Melbourne, and I still had some shopping left. After crossing a few houses on our way to the tram station which was near the supermarket, we saw an ambulance outside one of the houses. Two paramedics were attending to a woman who was lying flat outside her doorstep, and a couple of youngsters (I'm guessing neighbors who called the ambulance) were looking on. My sister-in-law said, "Oh my God, I hope she's okay." I asked her if she knew her. She replied, "Yes, that's Daphne. She's been living all by herself after her husband's death. She spent her childhood in India and came to Melbourne in 1959. I speak to her in the supermarket sometimes. She's really old, you know. She cannot always maintain pace with her trolley, so she puts a couple of bricks in it to slow it down."
 
As she was telling me about her, I couldn't help but pause for a few seconds to notice something familiar - the trolley that the old lady possessed. It was a box with the symbol of a bat on it, exactly like the Bacardi logo.