Wednesday, April 28, 2010
A poem I wrote some time back. There are days when the magic of light and shadow transports us to a matrix where time stops and suspended in this warp we look at this existence differently.
Smell of boiling milk
Spilling through the kitchen window
And your hands on the table
The window brings in the sky
And the warm sunlit breeze
Speaking of a blank dazed noon
When a black bird sang outside
And broke the silence blanketing us
Smells of paint, varnish and white wash...
Shadow dance of leaves on white bed spread
Your hands entwined on the table
Take me to that warm dazed noon
with pregnant curtains and stark blue sky
Monday, April 26, 2010
There was rain
And I got drenched
It was spring
And I wove flowers in my hair
Breeze was a river carrying me far
How could I stop rain from drenching me
Or stop Blossoms from raining
Or breeze from taking me
Where daisies bloom...
Fingers untangle the wilting blossoms
And the breeze shies away from me
It was so...
It rained and I got drenched
Thursday, April 22, 2010
A few days back this story started forming in my mind and I never realised that it was Earth day today, posting it here as in other parts of the world now it will be celebrated. If you wish to read it to kids, you can substitute Himalayas with the mountains in your country. Read it to one hundred thirty kids today and then to another similar group in second and third grades. They kinda liked it, had added many more things as the story started building up through their questions. Had a box full of leaves, stems, berries, pods and distributed these as the story unfolded.
Bulbul's Summer Vacations
There was a pretty little girl. Her name was Bulbul. One day when her summer vacations had started and the sun was shining high in the sky, her mother asked her to help her in packing. They were visiting her father’s village in the beautiful Himalayas. She brought her dresses and neatly folded them, helping her mother in packing the suitcases.
Early in the morning Daddy loaded the suitcases. It was dusk and the birds were still asleep in the nest. There was a cool breeze blowing. Bulbul said bye to her plants and she hugged the stray cat that came to her for milk every morning. Soon they were driving towards the Himalayas from Delhi. Slowly, the sun rose in the sky and birds chirped in the trees. Bulbul sat near the car window, watching the monkey mamas jumping, their babies holding their mama’s bellies tightly.
She clapped when she saw a beautiful peacock cross the road. Her father slowed the car so that the peacock could cross the road. Mamma gave Bulbul a burger and a packet of chips (question: Where do you put the empty packets after you eat the chips?)She folded the packet of chips and kept it in a bag to throw away later.
Early in the noon they reached the village. Daddy parked the car near a dense pine forest. There was a stream of clear water in the path and Bulbul saw small colorful fish swimming in the water. She sat down to watch the fish move very fast in the water, She cupped her hands and tried to catch a little fish, but it was a very smart fish, it moved under a rock and hid there.
Bulbul loved the forest behind their cottage. There were apple trees and plum trees (Question: Have you eaten plums? How do they taste and smell?) In the cowshed, she discovered a white calf. She gave her green grass to eat. The calf was very happy and jumped and ran behind her.
Everyday she visited the stream; she liked the dark cool shade of the pine trees. Slippery pine needles made it fun to slide and reach the bottom of the hill. (Can you think why pine trees have needle like leaves?) Next day, she visited a temple with her father and in the way their car got stuck as a lot of rocks and mud had piled on the road. There were no trees on this hill. Bulbul saw a river flowing near the hill and all the soil was washing away in the river. She asked her father, “Daddy, why are rocks tumbling down to the road?” Her father explained, " Bulbul, trees hold the soil with their roots, even floods are unable to wash away soil when trees grip soil tightly. here all trees have been cut by some selfish people and that is why there was is way to hold rocks and soil and so the mud and stones are falling on the road and washing away into the river."
Bulbul felt sad. She loved trees and flowers, she helped her father in removing rocks from the road and the next day they planted a plum tree and many pine trees and watered them. Her cousins promised to take care of the plants.
A year later when Bulbul visited the village, the hill was green once again. There were happy birds singing on the plum tree and there was no mud flowing into the river. They had a bath in the clean river water and sat under the shade of the pine trees. Bulbul chased the fish in the river and ate fresh apples. She collected pine cones which were lying on the ground and ate the delicious seeds inside them. When it was cold in the night, she collected twigs and lit a bonfire. Now she knew that trees and the Earth give us all the wonderful things in life. She decided to plant more trees and take care of Mother Earth as she had come to know that Mother Earth gives us every thing we need to live.
Monday, April 19, 2010
When I was born, my mother was diagnosed with jaundice and was not able to breast feed me. As a result I was brought up on canned milk powder, she tells me I would shake the glass bottle to see if it was full, if it made sound I would just throw it out and it would shatter into pieces. After observing my liking for a perpetually full bottle, parents got a steel bottle that was retrieved and filled up again. The bottle was still lurking in some corner of parents' home. I love powdered milk even now, a taste that developed as a new born. My grandmother used to give me cooked vegetable dish of brinjal and I hated it, but one day she made look like a lolly pop and I fell in love with eggplant! Parents were in Baroda and there was a join family of businessmen next to us. My mother tells me that they did not have a child in their home so I was practically brought up by the women in that household. In small cities, these bonds are deeper, mother says if deep into night I would cry, the neighbors would come knocking and take me away to quieten me and try their home remedies. There was a women who was employed to massage me and considerable part of my father's salary went to this woman along with the bus fare. My mother remembers that she would bath me with scalding water after massaging me with oil and if mother complained of my wailing and temperature of water , the women would threaten to quit.
Memory is such a magical thing, I still remember so vividly, sun streaming and making patterns of window bars on the floor and my mother talking to her friend standing on the doorstep. Her cotton saree well-worn and soft, I sneak into the bathroom and fill a huge jug with water. I was kept away from a drum that housed a bee hive and it attracted me like a magnet. As mother was busy, in my two-year-old wisdom, I seized the opportunity and poured the water on the hive. Soon the bees were stinging my cheeks and the mother and her friend sprung into action taking me inside and plucking out the stings. How clear are those stings in my memory!
My parents were fond of movies and first day first show was a norm. They would stick a fanta straw into my mouth and as long as the clod drink lasted, I would leave them in peace. They thought I didn't register a thing but I still remember the love making scenes in that adult flick, blue lagoon. The scene when the teenagers stranded in this Iceland try and deliver their first baby, I remember that too, though I never saw that movie again.
So many things one remembers, mind is such a wonderful sensitive part of us. The first formal school, Convent of Jesus and Mary, the stone building and stern spinsters who taught us. The day I was called into the office with the teacher complaining that I was not able to pay attention in class, I still sense the fear and humiliation. It turned out that I was underage and as I was able to answer most questions they had given me admission in first grade without considering my age.
Home was a vast house with land stretching in every direction. There were snakes in the stacked tiles that made the boundary of our lawn. There was a swamp at some distance and white storks moved in slow motion looking for fish in the muddy water. Massive trees with sweet seeds that danced to the ground lined the roads and a few days back I identified the tree near Qutab Minar and told Jayani, my daughter about these seeds. The taste transported me to those warm days when a girl friend and I would look for broken glass bangles to make a bangle box. We would peek into houses through windows and giggle. One day she was telling me how we can make the flesh near knee look like genitals, when my mother overheard us and I was pulled into the hose and told not to speak to her again. I still remember her name, Jyotsna, funny how things we are forbidden become etched forever eh!
Gentle ripples of thought
Green peaceful words cascade
Blue kisses of memory
Fleeting embrace of time
Dusk and dawn entwined tenderly
Flowing into wilderness like a dream
Foot prints on a rainy day
Moments that became today...
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Today it was wonderful to discuss forest with children,they asked for a story and I told them about my father's Himalayan village. The swift brook we had to cross to reach the two-storied mud house, the tiny transparent fish that I could never catch. Children loved to hear of pine trees with cones, one kid brought a bag of pine cones to me and I told them of seeds that float with the wind, I asked them why do they do this and they could come up with the answer, they need sunlight, water, soil! Next, we talked about how the monkeys ate the plums and walnuts. We reached to the part where they came up with tigers eating cattle, I asked why would they do it? And they told me that since man has cut forests and encroached on their habitat the animals have to come out and feed on cattle, wonderful! We don't need to tech kids, we need to learn. I sketched a tree on the board to explain how the roots hold soil and they complimented me on my drawing. Two kids came next to me and sat very close, they wanted to know when I was coming next. The older kids were restless at first, I was told that I need to discuss cells, started with how we as individuals are bundles of cells working in harmony to create 'us'. Kids got interested when I drew an amoeba and traced the evolution to man. My head was aching but I could get things that interested them. It was wonderful with the sixth grade when the kid brought an ibex horn he stumbled upon while trekking. they came up with all kind of stories, some genuine and some made up, made me smile and their snuggling aginst me on such a hot day, well it felt good to be loved!
Those eyes, they could soak up soul
Now, the wandering dust remains
The gaze was touch of child's cool soft hands
Now, the coarse sand sleeps against the lids
Friday, April 9, 2010
My son is in ninth grade now, he finds the class boring as his classmates from previous section were shuffled for the comfort of teachers. Since fifth grade, I am used to hearing this one crib from the teachers, " he knows all the answers so he disturbs the class." In the eight grade this issue got escalated, he and his best friend Kanav were a source of constant irritation throughout the academic year. The teachers decided to separate them because they 'smile' in class. He used to go to school looking forward to meeting his friend, now it's boring out there! How the system works to kill creativity, these kids were great together. I have seen them struggling and solving most complicated mathematical problems and literally discuss all the subjects and understand them as they should be understood, even if it was just before the exams.
Some days clouds blur the horizons and rising mists blurs everything, just confusion remains. At times like these, one should let the spirit be, let it vent out, weep. Once the storms have passed, clarity filters through, like rays through fronds. Time creeps in those moments and all colour fades, it seems these times are always pregnant with insight. We are so consumed by how things are on outside that we completely loose touch with the constant truth. It is through the breakdown that we are able to force ourselves to drop the gross appearance, shadows and seek for the eternal. If we make our minds like a camera, we can almost see civilizations turning to dust in a fast forward, one rising, the other dissolving, all happening in quiet blur. It is kinda same with life, the essence and the things that go ahead and add to the core of our being remain, rest just drifts away. Fear is human reaction devoid of wisdom, the animal instinct built in to protect the territories and procreate, kicking in involuntarily. What we as humans evolved, comes in later when the stronger reactions subside, understanding, introspection and realization of subtle truths that remain unshaken. It is beautiful to be human, to make mistakes and learn, stumble upon essence and grasp the precious knowledge with both hands and heart.
Sapphire Blue Earth
Lonely planet drifting away in cosmos
Floating like a blue dream
Dreams woven of its soil and sunlight
Millions of them cocoon the silence
Thoughts of hunger, love, pain and power
Of bitter days and tired nights
Births, deaths, madness, wars
Interlaced over the icy blue loneliness
Whispers of love winging above cedars
Tears of loss salting the soil
And the blue sapphire floats away
Carrying noise in its silence
Wave after wave of sounds, light and senses
On its travel to the womb of eternity...
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Heart has its roots and throat holds the branches
Tears well up and rise like sap
Earth embrace me
Clouds weep with me
A tree bearing tears its branches in clouds
Salt at its roots yet it grows
Roots growing deeper in my heart
Sap overflows, tears flow
That which brought joy shall bring the sorrow
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Lately when I meet with women friends, I hear of so much cruelty towards women that sometimes it feels we are in the medieval ages. In Indian marriages the bride's father washes grooms feet just as the procession of grooms family enters the bride's house. The groom is then gifted clothes, shoes, shawl, ring and many other things in a suitcase. This is the first step in our patriarchal society that brands the bride and her family in whimpering submission. I have not seen much of the dowry scene as luckily we belong to a a community of Himalayan Brahmins where dowry is not strongly demanded. In the plains of India as every one knows there are still dowry deaths where women are burnt to death for not bringing a car, cash or whatever the in laws fancy.
With women stepping out to work, things have improved but just as the customs demands, the roles are cast in stone and very few are able to be liberal enough and broad-minded enough to bring about balance and fair play in inter personal relations. When I take kids for tennis there is lady friend I talk to. Yesterday, she did not turn up I wonder it has something to do with her aunt's daughter whom the family is trying to rescue from her husband's tyranny. Have researched extensively and yet I will not go to the psyche of Indian women shaped by the role models. Should I put all this I hear into a short story?
She was ordered to quit her job in London to immediately return to India, her father had found a good match for her. Life as she knew it was about to change, she would come back from college and mother would fuss over her tired daughter, bringing her cold coffee as she lay listening to back street boys. The ticketing course she was doing kept her on her toes all through the day as the classes would follow the college. " Mira, can you help me with the clearing up?", she would take out an earphone and yell back, " what mamma, didn't hear you!" Her world had just begun to open up as she would quickly finish the last touches to her makeup, she would see a healthy but happy young woman in the tiny apartment her company hired.
Today, she was flying back, she could not dare to disobey her Rajput father. For Rajputs, the daughters are a liability, and a matter of great shame if they bring disgrace to family by marrying outside the cast, she had grown up listening to the bed time stories of rajput queens committing jauhar, the mass self immolations to escape being captured by Muslim invaders. As the lane landed she was hurriedly escorted to home and briefed about the absolute urgency to accept the proposal.
She saw him with the family and no matter how hard she tried she could not get a chance to talk to him alone and gauge him as a human and a prospective mate. Before she realised, the arrived when decked in bridal finery with henna-painted hands she entered her bridal suit. He came in late, after midnight and she, a virgin sat on the edge of the bed with ponding heart. " Can I take off your shoes?", she asked in a whisper. He looked at her, was she dreaming? There was contempt in his eyes. He came near and held her shoulders till she stood up trembling, a hand flashed across one, twice, thrice till she lay in a bloody mess near the bed post. " You are a fat whore". He slurred," look at your self in the mirror, you are worse than these shoes I wear, you will take off my shoes?" Blood dripped on her maroon ghagra and the sight of blood angered him. " Get up and wash this mess and come to the bed." Years later as she plays with her daughter, she tells me how she has never washed that wedding dress. He gets drunk abuses her, she has warned him now that another beating will make her call the police. I play with her daughter and wonder how this little child's psyche is being shaped watching her father abuse her mother in drunken haze. Her father now generously doles out money to her to keep the sham going. Her confidence of the early morning in her tiny London flat had fled the very first night, now she just wishes for some peace when he drives back in terrible moods from office. " He checks the groceries and how I manage them when he gives me the money", she tells me. Back from office I see him digging in the garden, pruning the hedge, lining the pots. Creating a distraction for those who bother to see from the hell he has created inside that shell that he decorates-his home.
To breath and not to live, it's a crime
Yet, find the innocent in the crowd
Deep stagnant pool of conditions
And a sad lotus smile floats up
Why is this blossoming?
Certainly, to tease the rules
Before the petals unfurl iron eyes scorch the life
Fragrance dies, a fetus in dead lotus
Gloom's musty vapors enbalm the bud
It is wrong to blossom here
Look everyone breaths, such equality
This was corruption, this smile
Rest now that it drowns to the stagnant depths
Innocence and living is dangerous
Breathing is safe, all breath deeply, freely now...
Pic: Himalayan evening