Friday, September 13, 2013


All day I listen
Hold inside me the pieces I am handed
Some shiny and delicate
Others, shards of broken glass

Alone, at night
I lay them out on my table
To make sense of them
To water the delicate
To soften the hard
To make a song that heals them

At daybreak I rise with a weary smile
To open my heart
And sing

Then I gather new pieces
And set to work
Alone at night, again.

- Saraswati

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Default setting: Lout

A girlfriend recounted a recent experience that is so telling. Flying from Delhi, she landed at Mumbai airport and awaited her baggage at the carousel. A tall, young man stood in front of her trolley, between her and the carousel. When she spotted her bag, out of dreary habit in dealing with Delhi men, she sternly asked him to please step aside so she could access it. He responded simply with 'why don't you let me get it for you.' She had to lift her jaw off the ground, was (understandably) flabbergasted and stuttered, 'No... its okay... I can get it... just ...' And he continued, 'No, I insist, please let me.' He plucked it off the carousel, placed it on her trolley and that was it.

Note and celebrate the amazing events here:
First, the young man offered.
Second, he carried through with his offer.
And third, there was no winking, no leering, no extra chatting.
A case of plain gentlemanly behaviour.

Shouldn't this be standard, default setting? But it's not!

Such a rare pleasant encounter gets rarer by the day.

I know I am in Delhi or the NCR region when men walk straight into me in malls, shopping complexes.  They never, ever hold open a door out of courtesy - even if its a ginormous glass one that takes half my weight to push forward. I'm not asking to be given a chance to pass through the doorway first - not at all. But if you've walked ahead and know there's a woman behind you, at least hold the bulk of the glass back for an extra moment. But no - each time, it comes swinging into me, headlong. On the other hand, a puny woman like me, holds doors open behind me regardless of whether the person immediately to the rear is male, female, aged, or infant. This is not rocket science - it is human social interaction 101.

The 'Delhi boy' walk can be spotted by an Indian woman from miles away. It's the 'my-back-arm-and-chest-muscles-are-so-huge-that-they-impede-my-movement-ape-style' walk. Then there's the side glance, the smack of lips, or intake of breath with a loud hissing sound and most commonly, a vulgar comment called out even in the most upmarket streets of the NCR. This is the average uncouth man's way of expressing his appreciation for the Indian woman's beauty, femininity and existence.

Every Indian woman I know is not only disgusted, but most definitely repulsed by this routine display of 'appreciation.' Unfortunately, the idea of uncouthness being repulsive is fast becoming a faded myth in the minds of young Indian men.

Bollywood endorses uncouthness with it's glamour stamp in fantasy ink. An alarmingly standard movie scene has the hero sing a positively vulgar song to woo an unknown woman on the street, often barring her path, stalking her, sometimes even making physical contact to tease her. This incredible Indian woman in Bolly-la-la-land enjoys the 'game' and often participates in it with hip-shaking glee.

Take the example of the recent film Vicky Donor. Great comedy, lots of laughs. But let's look at the common love plot and how it unfolds. The protagonist Vicky, in my opinion, harasses a bank officer Ashima across her desk every day. This is not glib, smooth gentlemanly wooing. This is not even decent, respectful conversation with a 'possibility of meeting up later' hanging in the air. Crude speech coupled with undisguised predatory stares in broad daylight in a professional set up in official premises, and Ashima breathes deep and smiles back at him, continuing to assist him or answer his queries. If women watching the movie don't want to snap back at Vicky for that instant,  or even slap or taser him or cause him physical pain of some sort, then clearly I am a relic from an ancient past. 

In the real world, if I were at that desk, I would not reply kindly  to behaviour that in my world is undisguisedly indecent. If he continued to harass me, I would call the bank's security to warn him and escort him out. In fact, I would advise my daughter, colleague, sister and niece to call security were they in a similar situation.

How much is enough? When does a woman say 'No. You have crossed the boundary.' When women are brainwashed to 'be nice' no matter what, (as we are in this culture), they eventually lose the ability to even recognise when a boundary is being crossed. 

Sophisticated 'bad boys' with smooth suaveness, cross boundaries too. There are those who deceive, intimidate and visually undress women with such charm and innocence, that some women don't recognise when the boundary was crossed. This is especially true of young girls and adolescents, when 'uncles' and 'cousins' get more 'friendly' than necessary. Young women should be able to recognise even such events and feel empowered to react to them. However, when even uncouth advances are labelled harmless, and not to be treated as an invasion of private space, (as modern Indian media suggests) where does that leave a woman's instinct for self-protection? 

Crippled and worthless with disuse.

A culture that makes uncouth and boorish behaviour acceptable will turn its existing women into instinct-injured prey that cannot tell what is unsafe any more. They will be treated as prey and will live as prey. (In northern India, many women already do live like this.) They will then give birth to a race of hard and cold young women who will never feel comfortable being vulnerable, gentle, tender and openly loving. We will lose the soft beauty of the Feminine that we have (at a high price, no doubt), managed to retain in this culture. When the women are no longer women, we have lost the balance of life itself. A country with only yang and no yin will be a nightmare.

A cold, wintry world with no warmth, light and life.

We might as well live on Mars then.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shiva's Mirror

I step out into the whirling vortex of impressions
and just like that
in an instant,
I forget Who I Am.

So many glances fall my way
luring me to live
the myth
that I am the shell.
And that the shell is
incomplete, imperfect, unlovable.

I find a mirror...
such as Your eyes.

When I see myself
in Your eyes
I am radiant!
A gem of light!

I fall in love with myself -
how can I not?

And in loving this reflection of me...
shining from Your eyes...

I remember again
Who I truly Am...

Chidananda Roopah, Shivoham, Shivoham.
(The embodiment of Bliss Consciousness, I am Shiva, I am Shiva)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I am awed by my mortality. I am awed that despite the fact that I know I will die, I continue to live, to create, to love life. How amazing is that?

As a lover of history, which is the recounting of the memories and lives of people who once lived but are now quite dead, I am consistently brought face to face with the Great Equaliser. You can be Hitler, Arjuna, Napoleon or Gandhi, but you still end up dead. The story of your life, the one you choose to write upon the earth with the ink of this incarnation, is a miracle to me.  Because when you break it down to the basics, we humans live very short lives. The fact that we manage to accumulate such a vast array of opinions, judgements, experiences, accomplishments, growth milestones, failures and successes is incredible! We do so much in such a tiny space of time.

Just in case I give the impression of siding with some fundamentalist thought, I clarify - I don’t think we should ‘want to die’ or ‘sacrifice our lives’ for a cause. Nope. We are definitely of far more use to the planet alive than dead.  I do not support suicide either because for anyone who has allowed the lessons of death to teach them, we know that death is less about dying and more about living happily from the inside.

But the inevitability of death makes it important, in my humble opinion, for the topic to be brought to the table and discussed - without shame and without fear. ‘Mommy became a star’ is alright for 7 year-olds, though I wouldn’t have swallowed that at age 7, since I was exploring the concept of reincarnation then (and I suspect a lot of 7 year-olds would do the same if they were given half a chance to use their amazing intelligence.) But a thirteen year old needs something more substantial, don’t you think?

In polite (Indian) society, children are to be shielded from all discussions on death at all costs which is a ritual I find quite bizarre. That’s what they did with Prince Siddhartha – and when he finally heard of death and saw it, he went on a journey that made him The Buddha. At this time, we could definitely do with more kids taking such personal journeys.

But perhaps not everyone feels comfortable discussing their impending death at a dinner party. It’s generally considered a morbid topic and I haven’t quite fathomed why. There is a paranoia about death – as if by not talking about it, we could somehow avoid it happening to us. I don’t think that’s ever been proven possible. Everyone dies – the maggot, the pig and the human. We can be ostriches about this, but really, the writing’s always been on the wall.

The awareness of death and mortality, like all super-important cosmic truths, is a double-edged sword. It can kill you before you begin to live and make action purposeless, breathing pointless and strip life of all joy. Or, it can push you through that phase of inertia and fire your veins with the determination to live each moment to the fullest; to release the trivia; to make choices that could be deeply fulfilling in the long run.

Understanding the death of a loved one and releasing the fear of death can be messy and sticky – anything that makes us question our very existence and identity always is.  But what is fascinating is how we run from it! If there is one belief or one fact we need to wrap our heads around as mortals – it is that we are going to die.

After witnessing a fair share of death I find that accepting it is easier when we aren’t afraid of it. And what is death? A noun, a verb? What comes after it, if there is an ‘after’ to it?
There are plenty of beliefs out there – which one inspires you?

What I love about facing our mortality is that it brings us back to the very basics - where did I come from, and where am I going? The answers to these questions change on our journey, but the questions themselves  – their mere presence is important. They open up a separate track of awareness in the mind that gives a whole range of perspective to the strange and miraculous events that strung together, are called life.

Death is all around us. Do we know how to accept it when it takes loved ones? Do we know how to taste its wisdom? Do we know how to pass through grief into life again?

Do we know how to embrace death gracefully when our time comes?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Goddess

Wherever I go,
Sunset on the Atlantic ocean, Cape Town
I am cradled in Her blue arms.
Krishnaa by day,
Kali by night.

Wrapped in the blue sky cocoon of divinity,
wherever I go,
I am home.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mom's birthday

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Healing
On this day, 61 years ago, a soul incarnated.
She lived in this reailty for 49 years after which, her path led her to other realms.
For 19 of those years, I was honoured that she chose to play the role of my mother and mentor.
Salutations to that beautiful soul wherever she is on her journey through the Universe.

 Gratitude! Blessed be!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final."

Dehradun, Himalayan foothills: I spent a beautiful morning lying in this stream
- Rainer Maria Rilke