Thursday, December 18, 2014

Making Sense of Nonsense

I am silent
I don't comment
I don't like
For I dislike

Extinguishing lives
Young and old alike
Driving through the hearts
Sharp shooting spikes

Can one even start to think
Of explaining all this stink?
Of hatred that runs so deep
That it has its own course to keep?

In the name of God, they say
Playing Devil's advocate
Revenge for our hurts, it seems
Hurting so much that heart weeps

Soothing can these words be?
These smooth, double-edged swords?
Raking wounds, reminders of loss
Reminders that it could be any of us all

In routine we find solace
In denial there is paradise
Just mind your business, friends
And we will be rid of this nonsense

And so we shout
And so we complain
Then get back to our lives
Till new irritants arise.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Man in the Mirror

He rolled down his car window for some fresh air. It was late in the night, less traffic, clearer air.

He saw billboards splashed with faces of leading actors and actresses dotting the skyline. The commercial capital ran on the wheels of commercial art - the cinema, he thought with a wry smile.

He turned the corner and inhaled sharply. The face of Jay Surana stared at him, face angled flirtatiously at the camera, a shining burgundy blazer stylishly draped on the shoulder, black trousered legs at an angle to indicate he was just walking away.

He couldn't help admiring the perfect expression on the handsome face and imagine its effect on the women in the room. He knew women loved that expression, had heard enough and more about it, seen several articles discussing just this very look threadbare. Jay Surana. He had used that very look to reach the top in the tough world of cinema.

He shook his head in disgust and rolled up the window. Popular actor but critics' pet peeve. "No stuff, all fluff" - sobriquets that Surana had brushed away with seeming ease. Women would die for a look from him. But the intelligentsia looked beyond that and saw only a man cool and calculative.

He tut-tutted. He knew Jay inside out, knew his guts, his hardships, his hardness - the armour he had cultivated over the years to get to the top and remain there. It needed ruthlessness. It was futile to discuss that point.

He grimaced in disgust. He turned the air conditioner dials to make it cooler. His mobile rang. His wife's name splashed on the screen. Mechanically, he turned the Bluetooth on, and spoke briefly. "On my way."

"You are late," she reminded him.

"Yes, it got late. Technical glitches."

"She was there?" she asked in a more hesitant tone.

He chuckled. "Of course, I told you."

"You are coming home, right?" she asked softly.

His chuckle swelled to laughter. "What a question! What did you think?"

"Nothing... I am waiting."

His smile died as the call ended. He became more aware of the pain in his chest. Not his a way, it was his heart, but not the organ.

She had been there - Shreya Samarth; the no-nonsense Shreya who did not suffer fools lightly and whose straightforwardness could cut through swathes of lies.

The moment she set eyes on him, the fire in her eyes died and they turned cold like icebergs fractionally before she turned to face her fans with her characteristic animation.

Oh they carried on with the show - Jay Surana and Shreya Samarth, Rekindling the Magic. They were veteran actors, acting was in their blood. They could rekindle the magic and make it look natural enough.

And it had strained every nerve to not show how much the fire was consuming him - striking the right balance of intimacy and yet the respectable distance of talking about a co-star. Reviving memories...

Was that a tear, making its way out? Did he still have it in him to cry?

He reached home. His wife came eagerly forward and scanned his face. His cool look was back. He patted her cheek. "I am tired. Would like to hit the bed," he said and left her behind to enter the bathroom.

When Shreya and he broke up, something else broke inside him. Or did she break up because she saw that nothing would break him, that he was beyond caring?

He looked at the man in the mirror. He realised that when he met his eyes in the mirror, the fire died and there was only coolness.

Jay Surana did not like meeting Jay Surana.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Rose-Tinted Glasses

"When I was growing up in a village, during weddings, the family would not have to buy much. Coconuts would come from whoever had a coconut grove, someone else would bring fruits, somebody would contribute with labour for cutting vegetables, etc." an octogenarian told me in some context.

I was editing a book on Rajasthani rituals, where it was mentioned that along with the invitation for the wedding, a request for the brethern to help in the preparation would also be sent.

In modern times, contractors and money play a big role. Even if friends have loads of turmeric and betel nut sachets going waste, we still go to the market to buy fresh stock. Forget about contributing materials, even the packing of the return gift, where younger cousins would sit together as they readied the bags, is being outsourced. Many close relatives visit like guests and probably are among the first to leave, yours truly included. Children don't know how they are related to the rest of the family, even the first cousins, sometimes.

When I bring up the image of the relaxed chatting and laughter of the men and women working together and children running around to  bring a wedding to fruition, I feel we are missing something crucial in our lives. We go on holidays, but even there, we are "intent on having fun" rather than spontaneously enjoying simple joys. We have money, but we are poor in love and compassion. We have friends, but we rarely let our hair down.

We cannot turn the clock back. We cannot leave the rut we have fallen into. But at least on special occasions, we should drop everything else to be with people with the single goal of enjoying simple tasks that is made interesting because of warm company.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't Play with Fire

The stranger in the bus stop turned and smiled at her. Rinku inhaled sharply, stunned at how the curve of his nose looked just like Pratul's.

She looked away, chiding herself for being silly. She was always seeking Pratul in every man she met. Sometimes, even in women. In their smiles. In the colour of their eyes. In the shape of their teeth!

She really must stop this obsession. It was going to drive her insane. If she was not already one, Rinku reminded herself as she hailed an auto and gave directions.

As always, memories of Pratul drove a knife through her heart. She could not forget the pain he had caused her before going so far away that he could never give her any joy any more.

She had known him since childhood. He was a couple of years older, but because they lived next door to each other, it was inevitable that they should meet everyday, several times. They hopped in and out of each other's homes on work, or just like that. They had such a lovely time growing up together. How her friends teased her about him. His friends too, she knew, teased him. A soft smile played on her lips as she recalled those wonderful days.

And then, the dark cloud had cast its shadow. A new neighbour had moved in and their stunning daughter seemed to win everybody's heart, including Pratul's. It was hard to see him smile in a special way every time he saw Mahima cross. Rinku consciously kept her distance, but that was a mistake, she realised later. Because Pratul and Mahima became friends, and since Rinku had been obviously indifferent, she found Pratul dividing time between Rinku and Mahima.

They seemed to have all the fun. They started going out to all fun places while Rinku strove hard to maintain her steady, 'I am waiting for you' image. Either he did not understand or did not care. No, that cannot be true. It was Mahima who did not give him the space or the time to think about her. Rinku's lips pursed in disapproval. Oh, how she hated that girl! Always buzzing around Pratul like a bee around flower.

"We are in love, Rinku. I want you to be the first one to know," Pratul had told her.

She had slapped him affectionately. "Of course I know, you silly," she had chuckled.

"Of course," Pratul had laughed good naturedly. "You know me inside out. Probably you knew before I did that I was in love with Mahima." He had hugged her, not knowing how her world had crumbled.

The auto stopped at the entrance to her home. She looked up sadly.

Life changed after that. It seemed as if happiness forgot her, working full time at Mahima and Pratul's homes. And the worst was being his confidante, seeing his eyes shine thinking of another woman, his lips stretch in a wide smile sharing trivial nonsensical stuff.

How could he not know how her heart burned! Didn't he know her every mood, her every look? Didn't he really not know that she loved him?

"Hey," he slapped her on her back. "You fall in love soon and we can celebrate a double wedding!"

It was an insult to their relationship. She realised that he was blinded by Mahima's physical beauty. What was beauty? Just skin deep. If that vanished...?

But for it to vanish and Pratul to realise the truth, she would have to wait a long time. The more Pratul spoke of Mahima, the more eager she was to shake him up and make him see the truth.

She went out of her way to befriend Mahima. They visited each other. It burned her to have Mahima share intimate moments. She wanted Mahima to burn in pain too.

She invited Mahima to her house for tea one evening. They entered the kitchen with a warm laugh. "Go ahead, you make tea. I am in a mood to be pampered," Rinku gave Mahima way. When her attention was turned, Rinku sneaked up and let Mahima's dupatta catch fire.

Feeling the unnatural heat, Mahima squealed and threw the dupatta with a stronger flame. She threw it mindlessly away from her. It fell on Rinku's kurta and her synthetic top burned faster, the flames reaching up to her face even before a shocked Mahima could help her new-found friend.

"It's a miracle that she survived and her organs are not damaged," the doctor seemed to have assured her family repeatedly.

"Beauty is only skin deep, Rinku, You are my best friend forever," Pratul went out of his way to assure her, sitting with her after every plastic surgery to reconstruct her face.

He waited, he promised her, for her to get back to her feet. And then he married Mahima and left for Canada. Way beyond her reach. Leaving her alone to deal with her scars.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Make a Difference

In the 1990s, hearing of the work done by a charitable organisation promoting computer education in village schools in one of the districts of Tamil Nadu, a European lady desired to see the place. A teacher herself, she sat with the girls during the class and could not but help notice the cramped seating arrangement.

After the class was over, the lady met the principal and asked him how he would spend the donation she made. He told her that he wanted computers for his school.

"What you need is more space for the girls," the lady told him and contributed the amount needed to provide more classrooms and benches for the girls.

A few years later, when meeting another school principal, she saw smoke billowing outside. She was told that food was being cooked for the children under 6 in the two anganwadis nearby. She went to investigate and found that the smoke was due to the firewood. Aware of the need for clean atmosphere for children to grow and develop in, she insisted that proper kitchen with gas stoves be arranged and donated the amount needed to make two kitchens.

The elderly gentleman who had represented the organisation and coordinated these efforts recalled these incidents when I met him recently. But even as he spoke, I was amazed at the lady's interest and insight. She probably made the same contribution she had intended initially, even more probably. But it is the thoughtfulness and the courage to express it which was thought-provoking. If each of us were to take greater care in our efforts to contributing to the society and follow up to see the impact, we will probably see better results, implemented faster.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ahead of Peers

Disruptive, evidently bored and with loads of attitude, the 13-14 year old boy was a past master in evading activities the rest in his noisy groups were willing to do. Finally, when I realised that it was futile involving him in any activity, and better in fact to let others keep doing their tasks and engage him in conversation (I am a wannabe psychologist too) he asked me quietly, "Ma'am, how did you get your books published?"

Startled, I turned to look at him closely. This was a workshop on writing for children, and though I wondered what I can teach kids of today, to talk of publishing even before writing seemed overly precocious. "Why do you ask?" I hedged.

"My friend and I have written a novel which is part fantasy, part mythology. One of our friend's mothers is a patenting agent and she has helped us patent it. We are trying to get it published."

I was silent and glad when a distraction caused us to break up the conversation. Patenting agent? I hadn't event heard the word till I had started working.

Then he showed me another novel he was writing based on the Wimpy series. I read through a few pages and could well understand why he would have found a workshop on writing a waste of time.

Not everybody had that standard in that class of 52, thankfully. But I wondered, what avenues did such children who were ahead of their age groups have? What coping mechanisms were they being given when they met with disappointments?

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Friends

One Earth: New Friends: An earthworm struggled on the gravelly road near my children's school. Once upon a time, I couldn't put enough distance between us....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Will Be, Will Be

Your right arm cannot become your left; your head cannot become the feet or vice versa, thus says Vasishta's Yoga.

No rocket science, that, we may well think. And yet, to remember it at just the moment when we need it the most - when something we desire does not bear fruition; when something we expect as inevitable proves evasive; when something we aspire for goes beyond our reach - that is the real test.

When the hand that must pull you up tells you to stop instead, when the person who is to open the door blocks the way, when the wind beneath your wings clips it instead... Will anger, ranting and raving be of any use? Will we overcome hurdles, pass through closed doors, fly on the strength of our emotions? 

If the hand stops, the door closes, the wing is clipped, is that the end, or do you find new ways, new strength, new purpose?

Maybe the roadblock is meant to divert you to a different purpose. Maybe your purpose was only to go thus far and no more. Maybe the hand pushes you down so that you may jump higher.

Some lines from 'Murder in the Cathedral' that I am trying to locate but have not: Your destiny turns so that the ultimate destiny be achieved. If we knew that, maybe we would remember the words from Yoga Vasishta always. But it is the obscurity, the mystery, the uncertainty that is like a rite of passage, a test by fire that can consume us like wood or strengthen us like steel.

When I think thus, I understand these verses from Bhagavad Geeta better - Do your duty, do not worry about the results. With no expectations, you are not affected by the consequences. And so, you take the next path that opens up, that will open up... 

And you will see it because anger did not blind you, disappointment did not make you dejected. Because you will know that it is part of the journey, a stopover to your final destination.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Moment of Glory

When my friend, my guide to sites that encouraged writing, mailed to me about a competition on a site where one of my novels was already serialised and another is currently running, I thought and almost dismissed the thought of sending in anything. But 'The Circle of Zero', written from a the point of view of a man, contrary to my usual obsession with women and their complicated lives, was lying idle, having been written in 2009/10. So why not, I thought and sent that, not really sure what to expect.

When the mail inviting me for the event came, I had to excuse myself as I was traveling that evening. Then I got a mail telling me I was a winner.

Now that changed everything and after much agonising, I decided to risk going there. Oh what a sweet surprise was in store for me!!! The first prize in Romance!!!!

Of course we were getting late as the event stretched beyond expectations, but when my name was called out and I walked up to receive the prize, it was as if my efforts had finally borne some fruit. Getting published by Pageturn was the first step, but this one was a recognition of a different sort and just gave hope in a new direction.

With hope comes a sense of responsibility - that I continue to write different things and that too, stuff worthy of note or at least consideration.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unconditional Respect

Yesterday while driving on a busy street, I noticed an old man trying to cross. Just as he thought he got a clearing, a two-wheeler came rushing down to cut his path and the man stepped back.

Not an unusual sight. I have heard my father complain about the impossibility of crossing certain roads. I recently took my mother out and was surprised at how, in the last one year of restricted movement and commuting only by car if needed, she found the roads that she had traversed with as much alacrity as her age permitted, unsafe. I don't even send my children to the road outside my gate for fear of speeding vehicles though at their age, I remember being sent to the local shops several times in a day.

This syndrome of treating the road as personal domain is a result not just of the high one gets from the powerful engines and the speed associated with it but our own attitude to the world. I think it is a consequence of the attitude - 'only 'I' matter(s?). If you want respect and consideration, earn it. Till then, I shall act just as I please.'

The suave may have cultured ways of expressing it. But when practiced by the uncultured or the pretentious, it borders on to aggression and insensitivity. It transgresses boundaries and interferes with others' rights and lives, disturbing them in ways that do not make us any respectable.

Have we forgotten the question, "What do I do to deserve respect and consideration?"

I will not hark back to ancient times, for the brash and the bashful existed at all times. In fact, aware of the human tendency to become selfish and self-centered, the stress was on respecting lives, be it other humans, animals or plants. The question asked was not whether they deserve respect but whether we have it in us to be respectful.

I can understand well why. When I pause to give someone way, when I try to put my needs behind, the heart expands and the feeling of well-being spreads through my body. When for some reason, even genuine, I dig my heels in, I feel closed and tense like a taut string. Certain situations cannot be avoided. But that moment need not define the respect I give the other. I can and must learn not to colour my attitude of respect with a moment of disagreement. If disagreements continue, I can maintain my respectful distance.

Giving respect is an act not for the benefit of the other person, but ourselves. It makes us better humans and let's strive for that.

Friday, September 12, 2014


The seasons change slowly, gradually. The flower blooms at leisure. The waves crash or relax, determined solely by the will of the wind. The clouds drift at their pace, relishing the view of the earth, going where the breeze takes them. The seed sprouts if the conditions are right and grows into a tree enjoying the process. A dog runs either for food or to sleep. A cat forages furiously and spends the rest of the time languidly, its belly full.

"It's 11.33!" exclaimed my husband.

"Oh ok..." should have been my response. It is information that hands are touching specific numbers in the clock. But I reply with equal urgency, "What! Oh my god!"

Why? I ask myself. Why do we live with an eye always on the clock. And force our children to too.

"It is 7.45, and you are still not in the bath!"

"It is 8, eat fast!!!"

"Oh my god! It is 8.22 and you are still eating?"

Is this how life was always, or have we fallen victims to some disease, disease called deadlines that then slowly percolates all aspects of our lives. What are these deadlines anyway? Who decides when something should happen and what will happen if it did not happen that day, that moment? Will the world come to an end?

What does happen when something happens as planned? Does the world become a better place?

 Am I in my dotage, or a slave protesting the iron grip time has on my life?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One Earth: Water, Water Nowhere

One Earth: Water, Water NowhereThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner lines come to me often (the only two lines I know):

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

From the time I shifted to Chennai a couple of decades ago, my refrain has been: 
Water, water, nowhere, 
Nor any drop to drink.

Though it has been raining almost every year, since Chennai receives rains only during northeastern monsoon, the summers are dry and water lorries rule the roads - water pouring generously from all directions though similar oil lorries seem to be able to seal the precious liquid more tightly. And I wonder for how long this can sustain. How long can water sources from nearby villages sustain the water needs of the growing city of Chennai?

Then I heard that despite the heavy rains that Mumbai experiences, there is still a water shortage in the city and water lorries feed the city. Cherrapunji, the place with heaviest rainfall, is facing water shortage because of deforestation and water running off the hills! 

Can this be a sustainable solution? Isn't there an alternative? We may have money for the water lorries, but soon, will we have enough water to buy? RO plants are criminal in the water that gets thrown out as waste. How then can we access safe water and improve our resources?

When the discussion for budget for water came up in my apartment complex, I remembered speaking to one Dr. Ragade a few years ago. I met him sometime in 2005 for an article in a magazine and knew he had done something for water management in his building. His logic was simple and his solution elegant. He reminded me of how water was recycled in each home and he had replicated that model in his apartment complex of roughly 32 flats. Could it work for us? 

Opportunity presented itself when I did another article on his solution for another magazine and realised how basic and yet sensible his solution was. 

Dig shallow wells, connect them to the rainwater system on the one hand and the borewell on the other. The shallow well can be kept closed, so it can even be in the parking area in small apartment complexes. All one needs to check is the quality of the soil - is it conducive to retain water without stagnating.

We also thought the quality of our ground water was bad since the bath water, which is what the groundwater was used for, was yellow and dirty. We got water tested in a lab but could find nothing wrong. It was embarrassing how he went straight to the root - the source of water - with just a long nylon rope knotted to indicate the feet and a lota. Worse was to know that the water was excellent and the yellow colour was due to the water from the latest borewell that had been dug which was yielding yellow water. Since it was being mixed with rest of the water in the tanks, even good water was turning yellow. I was thinking that in our dependence for modern technology, we do leave common sense behind!

Under his guidance, we just finished constructing a shallow well 6 feet wide and 23 feet deep in our complex. Apparently, we struck water at 10 feet from ground level, going up to 12-13 feet below. 

It is early days, but according to Dr. Ragade, who also works with the Rain Centre in Chennai,  and has authored the book 'Self Reliance in Water - A practical manual for city and Town dwellers', the rain that Chennai receives is enough to cater to the needs of the city-dwellers. In a couple of years, the well will be enough for us. If entire neighbourhoods dig shallow wells and divert rainwater to these wells, the water situation can improve.

Even if we do not completely eradicate the need to buy water in the short term, I am hoping that this system will at least reduce our dependence on water lorries. It is not just the direct cost incurred that will be saved, but we will be contributing less to the water loss that happens in transportation, and also decrease the demand for such water.

I am taking the liberty to post some links not just about Dr. Ragade but others who have tried various techniques to increase water sustainability and sufficiency. May we take a leaf out of their lives and do our bit. Even small apartment residents and independent house owners can implement these simple measures and motivate others to do so too. Surprisingly, it does not involve anything complex.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Anubavangal: கதை சொல்லும் நேரம் - Time for Stories

Anubavangal: கதை சொல்லும் நேரம் - Time for StoriesHarishree Vidyalayam needed a Tamil storyteller on the occasion of Tamil Day in their school. When my friend from New Horizon Publishing asked me if I would, as ever, I was ready.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Friends Indeed

The four boys swore eternal friendship. "In good and bad times," they affirmed. With a knife, they slicked the thumb and drew blood. They picked up the four sheets of paper they had thoughtfully brought with them and wrote - 'in good and bad times'. The blood was not enough but it was the thought that counted. They looked at each other solemnly, overwhelmed by the solemnity of the promise.

At 12, the boys knew what the promise meant. They may not have money or luxuries, but they had each other. That was not to be dismissed lightly, each one knew that when he looked at the other three.

Nothing was small or big to share. Be it chocolates, juice or sweet, they made sure the others got a share. If one was compelled to partake of something without the rest, he would secretly pilfer an equivalent to atone for the mishap. The friendship was their faith, and there was no crime big enough to commit if their friendship was at stake.

The bond deepened. They repeated the ritual every anniversary. It seemed more than a ritual. It was the purpose of their life. One got the mobile, another the prepaid card, and the third and the fourth charged it in their homes taking turns. If two fought, the other two mediated. There was never any situation where there was any possibility of a break up.

Waah, the villagers wondered at the friendship. But they were also wary. United, they were strong. And their strength made them overconfident. If anyone questioned even one of them, he had to face all four. They were four bodies, one soul. They were four hearts with one mind. They were Brahma, with four faces but one brain.

Teenagers now, one question slowly raised its head. What would happen if one of them got a girlfriend or married? They laughed and joked. They didn't think one day one of them would succeed in beating the others in getting a girl to be their special friend. Was he a traitor? They watched him, the strain telling on their friendship. Did he spend more time with her? What did he do behind that tall tree, or hidden behind the bush?

He grinned and shared every small bit of his conversation with his 14-year-old 'girlfriend', but it all seemed so silly. Was he having them on? Was he betraying them? Were the girl and he making fun of them?

The mood was turning grim. It was like having a known traitor in their midst. And yet, without him they were nothing.

He was nothing too without them. He squirmed, wanting to prove his loyalty but unable to convince them, try as he did.

And then, his casual conversation took a serious turn. The girl and he, betrayed by their youthful bodies, the romantic dusk and the total privacy of the fields, went beyond mere words. He felt one with the universe as the two bodies united. What bliss!

He lay back, the girl on the crook of his arm, staring at the sky. Suddenly, he knew how to regain his friends' trust. He promised them heaven. When he lured the girl into the fields the next evening, she came trustingly, believing in the power of their love. She was hardly prepared to be the oblation he offered on the altar of their friendship. She lay whimpering, forgotten in a corner after each had tasted the promised heaven.

The four friends embraced, their friendship intact. In good and bad times, that had been their promise.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Project Status

Alka felt bored. She was in no mood for a movie, she didn't read books and her friends were all busy with various things. She called her husband Atul. "Come home early, na?" she pleaded with him sweetly.

Atul sounded impatient as usual. "You know I have a dinner meeting with some clients from abroad," he said.

Sighing, she cut the call and called the beautician one of her friends had recommended. "Can you come today? It is urgent,"  she lied easily. The lady agreed but quoted a price higher than what she normally charged, which was in itself higher than the parlour rates. That was the premium she would have to pay if she needed the service at her home, and at her convenience. Right now, it was an emergency - she was dying of boredom.

Three hours later, and a few thousand rupees lighter, Alka found herself back in the lap of boredom. Her teenager children had classes and did not need her to chaperone them. Her 47 year old husband had a career that did not brook interference from his wife. Alka's diversion came from her friends, who seemed to have conspired and left her in the lurch!

Reluctantly, she decided to go window shopping. But used to light-hearted gossiping with her friends, she felt rudderless as she peered through shop windows. She entered a shop, thinking she would look at clothes more closely. She kept a purple top against herself and peered into the mirror, undecided. She realised someone was shaking his head and glanced up, her eyes meeting those of the stranger in the mirror. She hurriedly put it away, glanced furtively at him and picked up a pink top. This time, he looked at her more openly though she herself felt shy to meet his eyes. His glance suggested this one didn't meet his approval either. He looked around and his glance fell on a rich green top. She walked across, feeling like a fool, but glad of this distraction. She kept it against herself and smiled. She nodded, went to the trial room to try it on properly and was elated - not just at the choice but this little interlude to her otherwise boring day.

She came out, paid the bill and saw the man leave with a package of his own. "Thanks," she called out. He turned and she realised that he was quite attractive. Though slightly filled out, his features still suggested a certain aquiline quality that appealed to her. She invited him to coffee at the cafe in the centre court of the shop. It was an impulsive gesture and she was pleasantly surprised at the way their conversation flowed easily. Ritvik - that was his name - was an artist, new to the city but planning to settle down here. She felt like a hostess and waxed eloquent about the places he should visit. Soon she was offering to chauffeur him to some choice places. He, in turn, promised to show her his works.

It should have ended with those empty promises. But social life no longer sustained her interest. She called him one day, unable to dismiss thoughts of him any longer. He had still not seen the sights the city offered, he told her in a tone that suggested that he had been waiting for her to do the honour. Flattered, and finding a new purpose, she drove him around the city. Over lunch and dinner, she became drawn to the fire in his belly to change the world. She had needed just this spark to rekindle her life. She adopted his causes; his interests became hers. She had something to look forward to. She found his dependence on her charming. She felt needed after a long time.

When he invited her to visit his studio-cum-residence, she went eagerly. She had no understanding of art, and his art left her confused. But his conviction about the subjects was enough for her. She clicked pictures of his works and mailed them to her friends, recommending them to buy them. She herself bought one piece that she thought she could hang in her house without feeling embarrassed. When Atul laughed at her purchase, she snapped at him angrily, "What do you know about art?"

He shrugged and buried his face in his laptop. He showed her a review of Ritvik's works - it had been ripped apart, especially the one she had bought paying nearly a fortune. She pursed her lips, resenting his chuckle. "Must be a novice writing," she replied defensively.

He laughed outright. "And you are the expert?" She did not deign him with a reply. "Looks like a good-looking chap," Atul continued. "Young, handsome, artist... Quite a potential firecracker combination. He is single?"

"How should I know?" she demanded. She hadn't really cared that much, but now she couldn't rest till she had the answer. Ritvik went still when she asked him that. "I am sorry," she said, instinct telling her she had touched a raw nerve. His break up story was quite tragic - rich girl, struggling artist, opposing family. "Oh, the poor boy," she thought sympathetically. He was not a boy, she guessed he was almost her age. But to know of the way he suffered and hid his feelings really touched her. She spent more and more time with Ritvik. He seemed to be grateful of her small gestures that were aimed to soothe him.

The more time she spent with Ritvik, the less did the life with Atul appeal to her. She watched her husband, comparing him to Ritvik. Less than five years separated the two men, but they belonged to different generations. Ritvik still had life in him, whereas Atul was fading. She felt drawn more and more to the artist and his unstructured life. She made excuses to be out with him, keeping away from the boring monotony of her domestic life.

Soon, it was not just dinner or lunch, that Ritvik and Alka shared but the bed too. It all seemed so  natural, and yet, when she really thought about it, it wasn't. That is what made it so special. Atul hardly seemed to care about her whereabouts. She wished he would find out about her affair. She wanted to shake him out of his smugness. Sometimes, she wanted to confess to Atul her indiscretion and get into a fight with him. She broke down at times, thinking back to the days when small fights would lead to making up and making love. Now, they just froze each other out.

When he returned from his trip, she chose a convenient moment to corner him and blurted out the truth. If she hoped for him to plead with her and renew their relationship, she was in for a shock. He served her divorce notice, used her admission of the affair to wrest custody of his children and left her penniless.

Thoroughly humiliated, she cut off from her friends - or did they cut her off? Defeated, she turned to Ritivik. He had packed off without a word. "He had taken the house only for a few months. He came looking to make a fortune, and he said he had," the neighbour informed her. "His friend Atul seems to have paid him for some project he undertook."

Alka felt her world slipping away. Within months she heard that Atul was getting married to a woman he had been dating for a couple of years behind her back. Alka realised she had been that project. That Atul had used her to get the divorce, keep the money and the children. And to think she had thought him blind! It was she who had been asleep with her eyes open!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pretty Parul

"Hi Sam," Parul purred on the phone.

Sam leaned back, a smile on his face. "Hello Parul, what a surprise!" He couldn't control the excitement from reflecting in his voice. Well, why not? Any man would welcome being greeted by that husky voice. Anybody would give their most expensive iphone just to have Pretty Parul call them. Sam was neither a saint nor immune to pretty faces. And he was going to enjoy this moment in the sun, when  the very woman he had been dreaming of ever since he met two evenings ago had taken the trouble to call him.

"Did I disturb you, handsome?" she asked and giggled.

He chuckled. "You disturb me even when you don't call..."

Parul squealed delightfully. "Oh you naughty boy! I didn't intend calling you, you know," she said, trying to sound matter of fact. "But I think I mixed up numbers and ended up calling you."

"Really? And yet you knew it was me," he said, exposing her game. She laughed. "Nothing escapes you," she teasedg him.

It was the best 10 minutes he spent that day, talking inanely to this woman of his dreams. But since he was just a salesman with targets to meet, he had to get on with work and excused himself. "Have to rush for an appointment. We'll talk later."

"Oh! On the phone? Why not meet?"

Sam thought for a second. "What about this Saturday?"

"Oh, but that's almost a week away!" Parul said and he imagined her bow-like lips pouting.

He smiled. "Flattering... And I can't wait too... But," he sighed heavily, "weekdays don't work. I have a lot of projects to submit for a course I am doing..."

Parul seemed to find that reasonable. Sam found pleasure in waiting. But Parul didn't seem to believe in that. She called again two days later. "Hi handsome," she said, her voice caressing. "What are you doing?"

He glanced at the clock - a meeting in 15 minutes. "I will call you when I get on the road," he said and dashed to his bike. He plugged the earphones, dialled her number and called. The way seemed shorter, now that her voice accompanied him. "Okay, gotta go now. Meeting a client."

"A client? Put it off," she said prettily. He laughed. "See you this Saturday," he said and rang off. But she called again. "I am bored," she said petulantly. "Meet me after the meeting." He frowned. "No dear, have back to back sales meetings. Month end, targets to meet... you know the works."

She let him go reluctantly.

Saturday. Excitement. Meeting Parul.

Sam was on a high. He dressed carefully, made sure his credit balance was respectable. He inhaled sharply on seeing Parul dressed to kill. Even without trying hard she could have walked all over him. He felt immensely lucky at having her in his life.

They quickly hugged each other and then walked to the diner together. She took his hand in hers and he smiled.

The food was brilliant. He wished the evening had been too. But somehow, Parul and he did not seem to connect. Her conversation did not hold his interest, and what he wanted to talk about did not seem worthy of her attention.

Didn't she see, the unfathomable chasm between them?

"When next?" she asked when they got up to leave. He hesitated, but not wanting to disappoint her and deciding to give it another chance, he offered to meet her next week. "A week? Playing hard to get?" she teased. When they met again, his misgivings were confirmed. She, though, seemed blissfully unaware of the mismatch.

She was pretty and not unintelligent. But no, they didn't have the same wavelength. He decided to ease her off. When she asked, "When next," he tried to be diplomatic. "It is going to be difficult for sometime to come..."

She frowned. "As in...?"

"Parul, I don't think I am the right person for you... I..."

"You are bored of me..." she said quietly.

He took a double take. "I don't mean that... I mean, I just fear we are not cut out for each other."

"So you are cutting me out. After using me, you are saying bye to me."

"Whoa!" Sam said, shocked. "Using you? We have just met twice and I am telling you that it is better we back off now."

She wheedled, "We can make it work. I feel it in my bones."

Sam shook his head. Her persistence put him a fix. He didn't want to be rude. He said, "One more try."

"I am not your slave!" she snapped angrily.

Perplexed he said, "Absolutely."

"Then what is this about trying?"

He rolled his eyes. "Because you think we can make it work but I don't."

She leaned towards him, "I love you Sam. Don't you feel the same about me?"

He wearied of this circular conversation. "Parul, why don't we give this a break and meet if we really feel like after some gap?"

"When you say Parul like that..." she smiled suggestively.

He got up and left, hoping she got the message.

She was hoping the same. She called, and how! Morning, evening, night. If he didn't pick up the phone, there were messages. When he ignored them, she called almost every 10 minutes. Unable to bear it any longer, he answered the call. "You cheap MCP! What do you think? You can play with a woman's emotions like this! After leading me to believe you liked me, to drop me like this!"

He tried reasoning with her. But the next moment she whined and wheedled. Frustrated, he put his phone on silent if she called. Even if he could not ignore the persistent ringing, at least it did not disturb or intrigue others around him.

The messages though were hard to ignore. He was called a flirt, a womaniser, MCP and more in that vein. He was harassed, scared to even carry his phone because of the vitriol that poured out of it. It was distracting, troubling, scaring...

He changed his mobile number.

But that did not end his troubles. There she stood, outside his office, "Please Sam..." His colleagues teased him. "Oho, he has a pretty girl wrapped around his finger."

No! That was not what he sought. He just wanted some peace and quiet... But her repeat appearances despite his trying to discourage her, psyched him. He caught himself looking out of the window frequently, especially if he had to go out. She came looking for him in the office and if he were there, he had to rely on his colleagues to send her away saying he was not there. If her stalking him was one problem, their teasing him another.

Seeing no way out, he finally sought and found another job, which took him out of the city.

Of Parul, he heard nothing more.

But with women, he was more wary, earning the sobriquet 'Shy Sam'.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eternally Young

She wore a bright red, sleeveless evening gown. The lipstick matched the colour of her dress. She dyed her hair black, a stark contrast to her bright dress. She carried a black clutch and paired her dress with black heels. Her eyes glittered black and were kohl-lined heavily, to hide the crow feet and the slightly baggy look underneath.

Her face was heavily made up - a pathetic attempt to hide her 54 years on earth. She had been moisturising her hands and feet for several years now, and yet it looked as if in a few years, the gnarled look would slowly take over. The red finger and toenails somewhat distracted from the weathered look, but not for long.

She eyed herself critically and what she saw passed muster. She would never regain the first flush of youth, surely, but nor was she out of the race. Yet.

She checked the time. As the clock struck 6, the doorbell to her suite rang. He was punctual, as she had expected. She smiled at her reflection and adjusted her lips to get it right. She tried different expressions and finally settled for what she thought was a smouldering look.

The bell rang again. She walked quickly to the door, paused, took a deep breath in, put on the smile and opened the door.

He stood there in bottle green full sleeve shirt with dark blue jeans. She realised with a pang that he didn't look a day older than the first time she had met him almost 10 years ago, when he was just 32 or so. He moved back, seeing her dressed as if playing a part. The dismay was evident on his face though he smiled by way of greeting.

She put an arm on his shoulder and reached up to touch his cheek. Reluctantly, he leaned closer.

"I have ordered dinner in the room," she said in a husky voice.

They sat across the table and she served him wine. "So... How have you been?"

He shrugged and picked up the glass. "All well?" he asked, as if saying too much would get him in trouble.

"How is your girl?"

He took a deep breath, sipped the wine and started to say something evasive when she smiled with an eyebrow raised. "I remember the day we met so clearly."

"Do we need to go there? I have got the papers for you to sign."

She leaned back . "Oh, what's the hurry. Is my presence so abhorrent now? I can remember the day you pleaded with me to marry you. Remember, that day?" He was silent, so typical. "I even pointed out the age difference, but you didn't seem to care."

"You were right then. Happy?"

She laughed, a pleasant, throaty one. "Sometimes one likes to be wrong. But looks like you were! You thought you would love me always, no matter how old I became. But you couldn't, could you?"

"Look, this is getting us nowhere... I was wrong, you were right... So..."

"You do know you will not be young always, don't you?" she asked sharply, moving forward.

He inhaled sharply.

"What a pity," she studied his face without blinking. Nervously, he gulped the drink. He felt his throat burn. He coughed. "What a pity... But no... I love you too much."

"Look," he began but choked. He coughed some more and she affectionately patted the top of his head. "I love the way you are. I would hate to see you grow old..."

He got up, clutching his throat. She leaned back, an arm casually flung across the back of her chair. "People discard you when you grow old. It hurts, hurts deeply. Especially when it is someone you love." She looked at him as he went on his knees, coughing still, eyes popping. "I won't let you grow old and wizened and weak and abandoned. I want to remember you the way you were when we first met," she said, her eyes glowing dreamily, away from his prone form, struggling for breath, the veins in the neck  standing out from the struggle. Suddenly, she got up and sat next to him. "No, you cannot grow old and be forgotten, like me." She took his hand and said softly, "I love you too much to let you hurt yourself."

He fell back limply, his body still as the final breath racked his body. "No," she murmured, stroking his hand gently. "You will remain forever young."

Friday, June 20, 2014

One Earth: Seeking Answers

One Earth: Seeking Answers: I turned the car a/c knob to 2, turned the vents towards me and wondered at the change I had undergone. There was a time when I hated the...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Greatness at a Price

Let me be done with the problematic bit first - language. Throughout the book, people 'laid down to sleep'. There were other editing mistakes that had slipped through, and being an editor myself, I can only wonder at what the original text looked like. Maybe the editor needs to be patted on the back for giving us a highly readable book despite these flaws.

The author has been involved with the theatre and maybe that's what gives him such a hold on the plot. His interest in history makes him scratch beneath the surface and present a highly plausible tale of one of the greatest kings in Indian history, despite which not much is known of his early days. So what Pillai writes of comes from his readings of the books mentioned in the Bibliography - most of which are about the agrarian economy in the times of the Nandas and the Mauryas.

My knowledge of the Maurya founder comes, like most other historical/mythological tales, from Amar Chitra Katha. I realise the lack in my education when I read authors who take this popular tales and dig deep.

For me, Chanakya was always the hero and Chandragupta Maurya, a beneficiary of his guru's infinite wisdom. Even in Ashwin Sanghvi's Chanakya, this view was strengthened.

Pillai, on the other hand, shows Maurya in a different light, with much more personality, skills and foresight. Even without his guru, he has mettle. His life is not all that smooth and he not a playful man having fun in life. He is a king, a responsible one, and morose, toughened by life and bereavements, betrayed by near and dear ones. 

The journey is fleshed out neatly, logically and without any rose-tinted glasses colouring the picture. WYSIWG - What you see is what you get. You need to act to achieve your goal, but that does not always give you joy though it may give you the desired result.

A must-read for those who like historical fiction, and even those who don't. But, read with a liberal mind to forgive those errors in language for the purpose sometimes is larger than technical details.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One Earth: Debut Compost

One Earth: Debut Compost: Can you imagine, this is my kitchen waste! And now, it is mud!!!! Started with the process around Feb 23, with two small pots. Was worried...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Fervent Hope

BJP on its way to forming the government. Narendra Modi on the verge of becoming the prime minister.

While one camp celebrates, the other throws its hands up in frustration, thinking nothing good can ever come of yet another old party coming to power.

How did this frustration seep in? When I think back, I remember PV Narasimha Rao from the Congress as prime minister and the revolutionary changes he brought about to the country's economy. I remember Atal Behari Vajpayee and again the continued progress. Yes, there was the Godhra incident that we cannot forget, that we should not forget.

Then came the Congress government, two terms. Progressive decay, as a relative pointed out. Corruption in every aspect of life. No wonder, we are bitter about politics, political parties in general.

We now have BJP elected, well entrenched in the Parliament. The challenge is not just for the party but the people as well. Responsibility, if you will.

* Of delivering on promise of ensuring progress
* Of ensuring communal harmony
* Of fighting corruption
* Of good governance

And the people, of making sure the government walks the straight path.

The hope is that the Congress under an inexperienced Sonia Gandhi was an anomaly. That opposition will be strong and monitor progress closely. That Congress will learn from its mistakes and reemerge with more sanity, headed by visionary politicians and not promoted by nepotism. I have no love for the party but we need options at all times if democracy must work.

That AAP will learn and emerge a strong voice that understands governance - yes, we need more than two parties.

But always, always, that the interests of the country will remain supreme.

Friday, May 9, 2014

One Earth: What kind of mother are you?

One Earth: What kind of mother are you?: How can I miss the action elsewhere -  mother langur rushes on.  "Mommy, take me too!" the young one clings. My father...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Can(n)on Shot

Tipu Sultan's soldiers fired the cannons from this slot when enemies attacked.
It is still useful for firing Canon shots to get an aerial view of the Bengaluru outskirts from Nandi Hills.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Kind Turn

My elder one came home almost everyday with a bird dropping its blessing on her person - her clothes, her hand, her head! Naturally frustrated but philosophical by nature, she asked me in an amused and frustrated tone, "Why is it happening to me, ma?"

"Because you care so much for the birds - you are after me to give them food and you are so sensitive to their plight... It is their way of saying a thanks. They don't have anything else to give, so they drop their blessings on you," I teased her.

A few days later, when riding the scooter with her behind me, I told her, "You know, everyday a loose gravel or sand hits me on my face."

Pat came the reply, "It is the road's way of thanking you for using the scooter instead of the car and causing it less pain."

Quick learner...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Forgotten Skill

I walked into my friend's house as usual on a Thursday evening to take class. I was stunned to see her mother-in-law surrounded by leaves from the coconut tree. Though I guessed the purpose, I couldn't help asking, "What is this for?" "For making a broom," she replied without any self-consciousness. I was overawed. A skill that most household had back then - of use and reuse. I wondered why we lost that along the way. The evening light falling on her at an angle reminded me of my own grandmother's house and my visits there when we would roll out papads after the morning chores were over.

Friday, March 28, 2014

When I Say No...

She came to the balcony and noticed the new boy who had moved into the neighbouring house standing in his balcony, facing hers. She pulled up the wicker chair and leaned back, her books in hand. She tried to focus on her studies, but was also aware of him. She pretended though to be completely engrossed in problem she was trying to solve, and soon, it did draw her in. When she looked up after half an hour, the boy was not there. She smiled to herself - he must have got bored staring at her bent head. Then it turned to a giggle - how foolish of her to flatter herself! As if he couldn't have been standing in the balcony just to enjoy the view!

But a few days later, she couldn't ignore the coincidence. He was definitely there in the mornings and evenings whenever she went to study. She enjoyed the cool breeze, which was the main reason for her being there. His presence also brought a thrill, but with time, it discomfited her. She changed her timings - going 15 minutes earlier in the mornings and 15 minutes later in the evenings.

Were his timings also changing? When she mentioned it to her friends, they laughed and teased her. It was flattering. But she had ambitions, and being hooked up to a boy who did nothing other than stand and stare - a great poet's urging us to do just that didn't seem aimed at this purpose - was not part of it. Hold on, she told herself. You are jumping the gun. He is just passing time idly... She forced herself not to cringe and hide.

When the blank call came on her landline, she intuited that it was him. It made her nervous. The next stage was when he managed to get her mobile number and started messaging her. She oscillated between replying asking him not to contact her and not responding at all. Neither seemed to work. His messages ranged in intensity - from a simple hello to professions of love.

Ignoring was the only choice and she stuck to that. Her friends teasing her was not amusing anymore, and she became withdrawn because she saw him almost every day. Not in the balcony, at least, not like before. For she had stopped stepping out. Now she studied in her room. But balcony was part of her house and she needed to go there to dry clothes, to pick up the dried clothes, to water the two saplings she had planted, on a thousand mundane chores.

So yes, she saw him still but that was rarer - as there was no set timing. But she had to go to school, to tuition classes, she had to return. And at all those specific times, he would be there, in his balcony or somewhere near the entrance to his block, or at the very gate of her complex.

Then he started following her - not obviously, of course. But she found him outside her school once, buying something from the hawker. Seeing her, he offered the toffee but she refused and doubled her pace, tears welling up. She was scared to tell her family or friends, and scared to walk around alone.

On such days, he would message variations of the same message: "Why do you ignore me? I know you are pretending, that you are thinking of me... I know your no means yes, so why are you teasing me? I can wait forever... but make it quick. :)"

Sometimes she would want to scream at him, and instead she would reply: "My no means no... Stop hassling me."

"See, you reply to my message. You are interested."

You are damned if you do it; you are damned if you don't!

She felt guilty. Was she somehow encouraging him when she looked at him involuntarily? She always looked to see if he was in his balcony. Did he think it was because she sought him?

She avoided trips to the balcony - for that's what it had become, a journey to be planned.

And then she got a letter from him. He thrust it on her and she was too startled to reject it outright. She read it in the secrecy of her room and started shivering. A suicide threat if she refused to accept his love.

That night, she cut her vein, unable to take the responsibility for the life and love of another individual so prematurely.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I was crazy about babies when I was growing up. Wherever there was a baby, you would find me there - cuddling them, petting them, even distracting them if they cried.

I had no doubts about becoming a mother. I gave up my job to be ready for her and the fact that work from home worked out for me is only incidental. Despite some doubts, we had the second one too.

For a few years after that, I could not go near other babies. Not because mine were possessive, but I was 'scarred'. The responsibilities, I thought, weighed me down. I thought it was all the bottom wiping and the constant checking that had tired me out.

But as I read 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult, I understand this change a bit better. No, mercifully, I do not have to live through the nightmare the parents in the book live through. But I can see what makes parenting of multiple children difficult - the arguments, debates, back-answer... all those are incidental. What is more difficult is to make choices.

If both children have a different demand, which one do you give in to? If both need attention and care, how do you make sure each gets their due? Worse, if one is unwell and the other is well, can the latter be expected to understand any neglect by parents? How do you balance their needs in times of crisis?

I remember an incident that came to light soon after tsunami hit the coasts of Tamil Nadu. A western mother found herself in the sea with two young children. She could save only one. She had to let go of the other. A celebrity Indian author and mother of six wrote scathingly about the mother for having made a choice; she felt the mother should have tried to save both.

Which mother wouldn't? But isn't that what makes motherhood the greatest challenge? Many things are expected of you, and yet you are as limited as the next human being. Deification does nothing to minimise the frustration of not living up to those ideals. Even simple things like nourishment can weigh heavily on her mind.

No one prepares you for this, no one wants to scare you, maybe. And yes, rewards far outweigh the troubles. But like in everything, the road to that success is filled with challenges that you traverse alone, or, if you are lucky like me, with a husband who shoulders your responsibilities.

For the Fitzgerald family in the book, the choice is that much more difficult. One daughter has leukemia and they have a third child just so she can be a donor for her sister. The eldest son turns destructive because of neglect. The youngest child sues her parents for rights to her body when she is just 13.

Picoult excels in bringing out how each one reacts to the situation. It is difficult to pin point and say who is right and who is wrong. You want them all to come out winners. In a well-knit family, maybe that is possible. Waiting to complete the novel.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Bothersome Ingredient

Well, my mind-block to cooking is known among my friends and family. I cook so that my family does not go hungry, and gets the required nutrition. But the moment there is a need for delicacies to be prepared in authentic way, I get jittery, need time to prepare myself mentally like before every interview call I take and sometimes I just drop out.

Corn in white sauce is one simple dish that I have made, not mastered, but my children get excited on seeing it. Lumpy or not, they happily lump it on the occasions I have made it so far. And yet, that maida component has bothered me for long. It is like a niggling problem that needs a solution.

So this week, when I decided to make it on a weekday - in itself an adventure for me - I decided to add some roasted and powdered almonds just to enhance the healthiness factor of the dish. And then I said, why not roasted gram powder? So a handful of roasted gram went into the wok. I ground the two to powder and noticed that it was sufficient to make the sauce, and added just a teaspoon of maida - more out of fear than anything else.

It wasn't white sauce, it was yellow. But with salt, pepper and mixed herb powder for flavour, it was a healthier option that I didn't mind giving again during teatime as a snack.

Now, I will agonise less about making this sauce in this new format in the future.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Moving Forward

"I look fat!" I complained when my husband showed me this photo. He started cropping it to oblige me but I was already in a dilemma. I had let myself go and it showed. Why hide the fact? After all, people who saw me perform saw me this way!

Just then, my daughter jumped up to see which photo we were discussing. She said, "Amma, it is not how you look but how you danced!"

Stunned at this piece of wisdom, I asked her what she meant. "Grandfather said you were dancing like a teenager, doing the thoppukaranam (sit ups done before Lord Ganesha) with ease."

This pose was at the fag end of the varnam, by when I had already danced for 30 minutes non-stop on stage. I was tired but not out. I went on to do two more items without fatigue overpowering me. I had felt one with myself throughout the show, feeling the emotions flow freely and my feet and hand move agilely. Why then should I apologise for how I looked?

I posted this photo as it is. But I promised myself, next time, I would not give myself any reason to feel embarrassed.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Earth: de Composter

One Earth: de Composter: I was stunned when editing a section in a book about how before weddings, a community in Rajasthan (maybe all communities in Rajasthan) wor...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Editing the Noise

'War is the last resort of desperate and foolish kings' Dasaratha's message to his sons, quoted by Lakshmana in Ashok Banker's 'Bridge of Rama'.

But it is not just the war in the battle field that I think of. People speak freely, uttering all nonsense that comes to them in a moment of despair and anger. They speak ill of others.

And the person being spoken of hears of this. Does he discard it as nothing? No! It takes root in his or her heart and starts becoming a poisonous tree. She awaits an opportunity to vilify the person who spoke ill, whatever the trigger, or confront and punch holes, leaving a crack that can never quite heal.

And this vicious circle goes on unabated, spreading unhappiness, not just among these two but everybody connected with them. Battle lines get formed, loyalties are sworn. With time, the original charge is forgotten, only the feeling of resentment prevails.

War mongers have field day, carrying tales, twisting words and adding spices to even inane statements. The ear still does not know how to filter out the noise and the brain laps up everything the ears hear to relish the moment, anticipate the 'enemy's downfall and somewhere feel triumphant for no rhyme or reason.

'How much is price of that reparation? When will our honour be sufficiently redeemed?' Rama demands of Lakshmana a few lines later. 'At what point does the cycle of revenge end?'

Never, unless we develop selective hearing, understand ourselves well and are beyond the touch of mere words. To gossip can be fun and entertaining, but like a movie or a game, should follow codes and have an end. Or else, like a serial, it will simply stretch, running into years! And you know how mindless that can be!

Friday, January 31, 2014

She is The Breeze

The earth sighed, feeling tied
He watched her twirl and rise high.
Knowing he could never travel wide.
But what wonder, he was rising with her
The dust whirling, having great fun.
She cannot touch my core, he thought.
But when she settled, he felt heavy at heart.
She was the breeze who entered crevices.
Exploring dark corners he thought he kept a secret.

The water flowed, but thought with envy.
Ah she can travel, more than me!
I am bound by banks, but she knows no limits!
Even through territories uncharted like a spirit.
And he saw his surface rising in joyful waves.
Tiny droplets carried a long way off.
Falling on lands he dared not dream of.
She was the breeze who carried him easily.
To places he longed to visit secretly.

Fire roared and burned and thought himself strong!
And yet she tamed him so he may do no harm.
When he thought he would die out in shame.
She gently roused him to his former frame!
She teased him, lured him, carried him far.
Showed him his place when he puffed up too broad.
Never mind that she burned too to save.
She was the breeze who would rise again.
And she held in her hand all his secrets.

Calm, untouched, too far above all.
Ether felt benevolent, watching the tiny forms.
Scrambling hither and thither, sending prayers his way.
He thought he held in his hands their fates.
His vision blurred though with the cloud cover.
He rumbled angrily, sending lightening and thunder
She blew clouds away and made them scatter.
She was the breeze who defied his might.
Knowing how hard he kept his weakness a secret.

She was the breeze who gave them life.
She knew all their wily little secrets.
She knew the joys and sorrows they felt.
And played and teased when in the mood for it.
She would not be tamed or contained.
She gave all life, she knew with pride..
She was everywhere and yet unseen.
She was the breeze and she roared and whispered.
Through it all she keeps her secret!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Shadow Lover

You are the sky to my earth
You are the rain to my pond
You are the ocean to my river
You are the cloud to my sun

You are the one I seek
In a quest that goes deep
When I am awake or asleep
Whether at home or in the street

When I hear your voice within
Ever so fast my heart beats
Like a flippant, fleeting vision
You slip before I can reason

Distracted by the forms around
I grab what comes anon
In ephemeral things I think
I find that thing that I seek

Is it too much to ask?
Is revealing yourself such a task?
Must you remain just a shadow?
No form that you could borrow?

To grasp you tightly
To feel your presence
To become one with you
Forever and ever.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Prized Collection

Paloma glanced at the room, making sure it was spic and span, every object in its place. Her eyes then ran over the various mementos she had collected over the years during her travels. The large African tribal dolls, the Mexican hat on the wall, the miniatures from Thailand, the ivory table - again, from Africa... Juggling, shuffling, remodeling her rooms sometimes to fit in her acquisitions.

When her husband and she divorced a few years ago, she had negotiated hard to get this house with the artifacts. They hadn't fought so hard about the custody of the children even! Building on what she had - how she loved it! She had managed to find a job that helped her maintain her lifestyle. She traveled, collected, displayed them and invited people for parties so that her displays could be admired and envied. Once her children flew the nest, she felt all her restrains breaking. To the world and her friends, it looked as if she were filling the emptiness in her life with travel. But to her, the children had finally vacated the space she needed to explore the world more. Of course she loved them, they were her children, after all! But she could not hang them on walls. Their achievements were modest and sometimes a good excuse to entertain. Now...

The phone rang. "Hi baby!" she said, excited to hear from her daughter.

"How was your trip?" Tapasi asked.

"Great! I got a rare miniature painting that I just hung up near the staircase. You know the space..."

"Yea, yea... I know. I just called to say I maybe coming down next week for a couple of days."

"Oh how wonderful! You haven't seen the ivory box or the sandalwood..."

But her daughter impatiently ended the call. Paloma sighed sadly. Her daughter strangely did not share her excitement for beauty. She hoped at least her daughter-in-law would. After all, after her, it would all pass down to them and she hoped it was to someone who knew the worth of the things she had collected painstakingly.

But that was not to be. The young bride of her son was an outdoors person who traveled light and liked her house furnished simply. Paloma turned to her daughter, trying to get her excited, telling her of the money she spent on each piece, where she bought them, how she knew it was authentic stuff... Paloma hoped Tapasi was able to appreciate the time and effort each piece cost her.

When she breathed her last, her thoughts were for her possessions. Would they be taken good care of?

"This is like a museum!" Nethra, the daughter-in-law said as Paloma's children and their spouses sat around to discuss the next move. "Selling it is the only way out."

"But who will buy? Are they really worth it?" Veer, Paloma's son asked.

"How many times I told mom not to just keep getting things! I told her we have our own stuff to worry about, but she insisted it was for us! Let's just divide them and then do the best that we can!" Her voice broke as she remembered her mother's pride in her purchases, but frustration at being burdened with all this contorted her face.

The discussion continued long into the night, and Paloma's spirit, which lingered awhile, screamed in agony unheard as her callous children treated the artifacts with scant respect. How she wished she could take them with her to her new home! How she wished she could mark this address and be reborn. But already, she was dissolving into nothingness and her memory fading. Only the desire to cling to her acquisitions remained strong.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What's in a day?

"Is new year on Dec 13?" my younger one asked, perplexing me completely. Did he mean are we done with 2013 or something else? I nodded mechanically then asked him to repeat the question.

"Is new year on Dec 13?" he asked again, making me laugh.

Oh yes, he figured it out in a few seconds but I was amazed at how completely disconnected he was from the date. Was it because he was on vacation and doesn't need the dates?

Really, what do we need dates for? I hardly feel a day older than I did a few years ago (not from the day I was born. Of course, I have grown since but not like every year, every minute!). Unless there is a deadline or a flight to catch, the date and time all are relatively insignificant (okay, okay, there are the birthdays and anniversaries to remember). And then, deadlines are artificial pressures we create to add excitement to some of our lives and drag others down - life will not end if an upgraded version of a particular technology is not released on a particular day. And emergencies do not announce their date of arrival.

So let's just enjoy this day as any other - the sunshine, the cold, the rain, the day the night... Let's just enjoy every day.
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