Saturday, October 15, 2016

Age of Guilt

I smile, what for I wonder
I look around and shudder

Hate, hurt, angst and anger,
Tempers hanging on egos slender

Looting, rape, bullying, murder
Destruction and burning all to cinders

Amidst aplenty lingers hunger
Cruelty, even in love, lingers

Why so much noise and plunder?
Is humanity deep in slumber?

How do we face each other?
Why doesn't guilt tear us asunder?

My hands rise up in surrender
But is there a saviour, I wonder.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Love, and Love

I hide the marks your love leaves on my person
I bury the scars in my heart of love unreturned

My life brims with joy knowing you are near
I shut the door on emptiness of thoughts dear

My life floats in the fragrance of your presence
A whiff of you threatens to shake my very essence

I write with you the chapters of my life
The few words we shared create an epic strife

The journey together, a story of contentment
A life not lived, fighting resentment

Love unspoken, our bond strengthens
In the noise, the silence deepens.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The White Shirt

"Clumsy!" Kavya heard her mother's voice in her ears as she spilled coffee on her shirt. She looked at it in dismay, wondering when she would learn to be less messy. And why did she have to wear white!

The waiter very helpfully offered her tissues. But though she knew she should try to wash off the stain, getting a white shirt wet in a cafe!!!

She controlled the tears of frustration as she paid up and came out. She checked her watch - 10. Her house was in one direction, and her venue for the appointment in another. "Damn!" she thought. There was no time to go back home and change her shirt. She would have to buy another shirt. White shirt. Which idiot thought of making white the uniform at her workplace, she wondered for the nth time!

She looked across the road, wondering if she should just walk into the meeting with the stained white shirt and pretend it was the latest design!

She sighed, knowing that was not going to work. She was about to hail an auto when she realised there was a mall next door. She headed there, thanking gods for this little mercy on her. She entered her favourite shop. She looked for her size in her preferred brand and was disappointed to see they were out of stock. There was S, M and XL but no L.

Reluctantly, she looked for white shirts in other brands, and even in other shops in the mall, giving herself just 10 minutes to complete the survey. She didn't even need so much time. The stores in teh same floor didn't have white shirts. In the next floor, the only store that had didn't have her fit. Either they were too tight in the chest or too loose around the waist.

She recollected her mother's lamentation, "I can never find ready made clothes for you. Why can't you fit the mould?"

Ever since she turned adolescent, she had to opt for tailor made clothes. While for Indian she didn't mind that, getting a good tailor for western wear was a challenge. Now that at the workplace she had to wear western clothes most of the time, shopping was becoming a nightmare. Was it only she who had a problem, she wondered as she finally opted for an L size in an inferior brand and tried to get it to mould to her shape.

She reached the venue 20 minutes late, and not even feeling good about her purchase...

Who decides what a woman's body should be like - the thought wouldn't leave her. Was she abnormal? Was she misshapen? She started looking at herself closely every time she crossed a mirror. She started assessing the expression in the eyes of the people looking at her during conversations. She didn't see ridicule or even surprise in their eyes. Sometimes she even detected admiration and desire...

Then why couldn't she find a simple shirt? She went back, again and again, to try out different western designs and found the same problem. She spoke to her friends, acquaintances, wives of colleagues. It was heartening to know she was not the only one, but she wondered why no one had thought of all the other women who did not fit into the standard sizes.

Finding a solution became her only obsessive thought in the next few days. She searched the web, and all she came up with were tailor names and addresses abroad. Or high end fashion designers...

Her quest took her to e-commerce sites. Nothing much for women, but it gave her an idea.

It took her two years and much talking to her parents to convince them to back her. When she successfully commissioned western wear to fit her shape, she felt liberated. But when she launched a site for women to buy made-to-order wear, she was the first one to order the kind of clothes she had fantasised about all her life!

"My ugly duckling turns a swan," her mother said fondly, kissing her daughter. "Can I order some for myself too?" asked she, surprising Kavya. She thought her mother preferred the regulation uniform she wore. "I never found what I wanted in the shops," her mother confessed and the two had a hearty laugh.

(This story is a creative twist based on an interview I did for a management magazine about a woman who started a portal for customised western wear. It may differ in actual points as I do not know much about the person. The actual article on how her entrepreneurial journey turned out will appear in the next issue of the magazine.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Armed Against Anger

It was like a battery of bullets being discharged, a sten gun in action. Ta-da-da-da-da she went. Anger bubbled. She felt so wronged at her wishes not being given due respect, of being forced to do something she did not want to year.

And then when something she liked presented her with an opportunity to be a part of it, the person coordinating it did not take the initiative to make it happen. He did not allow her to take the initiative either. That further sent her on a spin, and the new anger rekindled the old frustrations.

In that state of mind, my soothing words, my reasoning and my solutions did not give any satisfaction. For every suggestion, she raised a new wall. For every positive, she showed me a million other negatives. Silencing her with authority - it wouldn't have worked in any case. But the disappointment and confusion were so obvious that it seemed unfair to use that final devise here.

Love - oh, that wonderful emotion which we think can wipe out every hurt and disappointment - also falls short. It can comfort, it can give strength, but it can also fail to reach that deepest point where the hurt lurks. Because it cannot change the stimulus - especially if you are also viewed as being cahoots with the perpetrators of that situation. "You cannot understand!" she declared decisively.

"But I do! Even I would be roped into dance every time in school programs, but I wanted to act in plays!" I tried empathise.

Even that was not good enough. The sense of being wronged, the anger at being forced would not go away.

Seeing as I did - that she was entangled in her own web of arguments and anger, that it was a maze from which I could not bring her out unless she wanted to, I used the only final instruction that I have been finding effective in the last few years. "I understand, but since you are in a situation from which you cannot back out, the best is to accept it. Sit down tonight before going to bed and focus on your breath." I feared I would find resistance, but she agreed docilely.

Not only was she able to accept it, but she enjoyed it too. I had to stop her from practicing at night 10 after a grueling session in school.

Mind plays games, dragging us into unpleasant emotions, closing all doors of escape. I have found simply asking my children to spend a few minutes with their breath has helped them overcome negativity and deal with life situations better.

Also Read:

Fighting Fears
The Child-like Mind

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fighting Fears

My seven-year-old started crying whenever we asked him to take bath. He would want me to sit in the adjoining bedroom. This, after two years of taking bath by himself!

Used to the independence of not having to monitor his bath, I fought against his tears and pleas. Anger, cajoling, indifference, nothing worked.

And then I slowly found the reason. A Tamil movie, 'Kanchana', which I thought was a comedy and allowed him to watch in his friend's place, turned out to be a horror-comedy. The ghost comes in the bathroom, and hence his fear!

I tried to fight it through logic. I showed him the pictures of the actor and also how I found him handsome. I told him other stories to distract him. I even made him say Hanuman Chalisa and other slokas.

But while the lip moved, while the ears heard, while the eyes saw, the mind kept returning to the image that had caused the fear in the first place.

This couldn't go on! Bath sessions were becoming a melt down time - too much water in his eyes!

So then, I sat with him in the puja room. I told him to focus on his breath and slowly painted a scene with greenery and lake and serenity. I don't remember how long it took, but the Drama Before the Bath stopped and calmness returned.

It is never too early to teach children to focus on their breathing to deal with troubles of any kind. Solutions may not present themselves in any miraculous fashion. But they will be less stressed about it and that in itself may resolve half the problems.

Soon to follow: Armed Against Anger.
Also read:  The Child-Like Mind

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not As In...

"How did your day go?" Vivek asked when Sadhana returned from work.

"Mmmm..." she replied noncommittally.

"Is that a yes or a no?" he asked, more from masochistic intentions of needing evidence to lament later on.

"It was good," Sadhana answered, but her tone did not reflect 'good.'

"It doesn't seem to have been good, from the tone of it."

"It was good, but not good as in good."

Vivek threw his hands in air. "What is that supposed to mean? Was it good or not?"

Sadhana didn't reply. "Women!" Vivek complained to the universe.


"You stayed till the end? I am surprised! The movie must have been good..." Vivek observed when Sadhana returned from an evening show.

Sadhana laughed... "It was ok..."

Vivek interpreted, "It was bad?"

"Noo..." Sadhana drawled doubtfully.

"It was good?" Vivek asked impatiently.

"It was not good, not bad..."


"Not so bad..." Sadhana said thoughtfully.

Vivek frowned.

"It was bad, but not as in bad..." and then she chuckled, seeing Vivek's frustration.


"Oh, are we going to the party? I thought you said we had not be invited!" Vivek smirked.

"No, she sort of invited..."

"She either invited or she didn't. What is this sort of?"

Sadhana opened her mouth to explain. "No! Please don't tell me 'invited not as in invited...' blah blah blah!" Vikram intervened.

"You never understand," Sadhana grumbled.


"Hi Madhu! Long time! I believe you are working now?" Vivek greeted a friend.

Madhu greeted him with a hesitant smile and hugged Sadhana.

"So tell me about the job..."

"There is nothing to tell," Madhu said dismissively.

"Oh, errrr... you are working, right?" Vivek asked, confused.

Madhu flicked her wrist. Vivek's eyes widened in confusion. Did she or didn't she have a job. He looked at Sadhana for help.

"Oh poor dear," Sadhana put a hand on Madhu's shoulder. "You don't sound happy about it."

"Ya man... nothing to write home about..."

"It's just a job," Vivek started but was glad that his voice was drowned by Sadhana's softer question, "Why do you let it bother you?"

"This is not what I wanted to do... but yes, I should be thankful that I have a job..."

Sadhana put an arm around Madhu and the two moved away, talking about the job. Vivek stared helplessly, wondering why women couldn't speak straight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mars is the Next Earth

Suddenly, my older one burst in on me with this theory - that Mars will be the next earth.
Photo courtesy: Srikant Ranganathan

In her words:
"Kalki avataram is the last of the incarnations after which the earth will be destroyed. Mercury and Venus are going to merge with the Sun, and earth is becoming the next Mercury - hot - as it is getting closer to the sun. Mars will come to Earth's position. Already snow capped mountains, underground water and atmosphere conducive for life have been found on that planet. So that will be the next earth. Then after sometime, that will also move closer to the sun and the next planet will become the earth, and this will go on till all are consumed by the Sun."

I listened with a thoughtful smile, thinking how close she is to the theory of expanding and contracting universes. I quoted:

 पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


In 'Vashishta's Yoga', the idea that the whole cosmos begins from a mustard seed  - a complete circle, that expands in creation and contracts in dissolution - seems to be indicated. What she told me, not based on any scientific fact or even with any understanding of what is given in the scriptures, seemed to reflect this same thought. Though this will mean that the sun will also move and so the relative cosmic distances with other stars, planets and galaxies will change, it is quite possible that in a contracting world, earth will eventually go back to its progenitor - the sun.

We will not live to see this, but I was pleased to see the radiant smile on her face when I explained what little I understood to her. And I was glad of the opportunity to give this self-generated nascent thought a direction.
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