Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
By Anya Ghosh, age 10
Like hot steam that burns
the soul more painfully than a wound
It burns those souls
that have been hurt
More pain, hatred, fear
infests your mind
with thoughts you want to push away
Makes you feel
that revenge tastes sweet
And your head feels
By Rhea Prasad, age 9
Leaves become dry
Trees sway very slowly
they don't die.
Birds don't sing
Puppies howl and yelp
they are not angry.
By Vikram Chowdhary, age 10
And feed on it.
They seek out and find the people who have it,
And train them as Dark Acolytes to use it
As a tool, a weapon.
To use it to harm the ones whom they hate.
The only way to kill the monsters
Is for their Dark Acolytes
To turn against them
And use the power of happiness
To destroy themselves and their masters.
But the monsters' dying screams
Summon their master,
The Shadow Lord.
The Shadow Lord then wipes
Out the Dark Acolytes,
Destroys their home, their city or town or village, their country, their continent, their planet, their solar system, their galaxy and their universe.
Such is the power of hatred.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Not having been introduced to free verse at the age of ten, and being very much the sentimental poet at heart, I remember struggling to release torrents of deep emotion through the excruciatingly limiting art of rhyme. Nothing, absolutely nothing I wrote on paper would ever measure up to what I was feeling and despite abounding praise from teachers and family alike for what I did produce, I wept tears of frustration for first, having the emotions and second, not being able to express them under the strict vigil of Rhyme and Metre.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
When I first walked in, I couldn’t see a thing. I just about managed not to stumble over the blazer-draped empty chair next to the seat I was supposed to take. Opposite my chair, vaguely human outlines shimmered as my retinas adjusted to the dingy but apparently chic lighting. The smell of cigarette smoke woven in alcohol hit me like a tonne of bricks. I think I stopped breathing for a whole five minutes. The music pounded through my head into the deepest corners of my brain. I silently wondered if I was going to get home with a migraine, a wheeze or night-blindness. The environment seemed almost hostile; completely and irrevocably non-conducive to chilling out.
Then, beside me, Gloria smiled and laughed radiantly.
Just like that, I thawed.
All my girls – my girls - were around me.
Kirti in her trendy grey harem pants, squashed in at the edge of the bench, with only one butt cheek on solid wood. Kirti – who is so good at adapting no matter how great the discomfort to butt or soul;
Shruti with mischief written all over her face;
Annie, with stunning blue at her throat and those devil-may-care glances,
Ashita, sunshine happy in the dark corner, swaying to the music;
Lubna, with dappled, satiny hair and ‘listening’ eyes;
Manisha in that pretty blue dress and soft smile;
And Gloria – adorned with elegant pearls, guiding the conversation, fighting through the impossible decibel levels to create a synergy of sharing and laughter.
We ate, drank and made merry. I don’t even remember when we glided to the dance floor, but I soon found myself closing my eyes, allowing the music to fill my core until it overflowed in my movements. Everything else faded; the lights, the smell, the strangers getting up to watch us. The dance was all that mattered.
And every time I opened my eyes to take a peep, I’d find myself in the safe warmth of a circle where each face was that of a goddess, a friend, a sister-soul dancing her own piece, to the same melody; enriching it with her special essence. Together, we brought more to the experience. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts.
I was reminded of ancient celebrations. Moonlit dancing around sacred stones, sacred fires – always in circles of kinship and trust, where your place in the circle kept moving, but your space was respected and what was created from that, was breathtakingly beautiful.
I felt alive, that night, as I left Turquoise Cottage.And so grateful for my girls.
Monday, June 14, 2010
The one written in the dark ink of bitterness
Upon pages of mistrust.
How did I come to believe in that tale?
Where vulnerability is condemned as a villain
And chased away into darkness by puritanical, cold winds of judgement.
How did I come to believe in that story?
The one where no one is happy,
And never can be happy.
I am re-writing the stories I once believed
For I have had enough of stories of lack
stories of separation
stories of betrayal and failure.
I am re-writing the old tales
I am creating new stories
with less drama
and more laughter.
in which bright hues of harmony
Splash across the soft parchment of trust
that are read to me
in voices of unconditional love.
where happiness is not relegated to just the beginning or the end
but where happiness is the story.
It is time for new stories
for me to believe in.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
It’s been a hard couple of weeks. A fortnight of restlessness that, in extreme moments, threatened my sanity. I’ve felt like a tigress prowling her cage, searching for a way out, seething at being stuck. It’s one of those phases when everywhere you turn, your worst is reflected back at you.
Conversations with friends left me depressed. My work, despite its creative, fulfilling nature, couldn’t brighten the miserable void of self-pity I’d slipped into.
I don’t need to describe what I felt victimised about. I can’t even remember the one thing it began with, but before I knew it, everything felt like a conspiracy.
I made secret notes in my head that read:
1. My whole life has been designed specifically to freak me out and push my buttons and challenge the worst parts of me. This is extremely unfair.
2. Every time I have crossed a major mountain, and rejoiced the fact, in a few months I’ve found myself at the base of an even taller, big-ass mountain.
3. I don’t want to climb any more mountains, I just want to curl up into a ball and die.
No, I’m not suicidal.
I’m just dramatic.
I was so dramatically a victim that although I knew I had to get out of this heart-space, I couldn’t seem to move my limbs and climb upwards to the light. The lament of ‘Why me? Why me? Why is it always me?’ got louder by the second.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It’s an ordinary room with a red linoleum floor and mirrors; lots of them. In an alcove sits a table that’s seen better days. On it sits a stereo system and a dusty computer with tiny speakers. A rusty air conditioner is stuffed into a window frame. Photographs of dancing children frozen in time adorn the boards. Tribal masks and puppets stare at nothing lifelessly.
It’s an ordinary room, just like any sleepy, silent chamber. Until....
...the clock strikes 8. Misty figures appear, spells are chanted and...the Dance Room lives.
It breathes a sigh of music. Its red floor pulses with the stomping of little feet. Like heartbeats in the core of a sentient being.
The creators of this enchantment, the women who wrought this magic are easily mistaken for ordinary people. Do not be fooled by their kohl-lined eyes, big bead necklaces, their silver slippers or their ginormous handbags. They are wizards, not women.
Zesty Reema hula hoops with her children till we’re too dizzy to watch anymore. Feisty Rekha guards the threshold of the room with the eyes of a goddess. Dare anyone enter with their shoes on! This wrath of Rekha keeps the chamber sacred (and dust free!) Together, the zesty and feisty wizards choreograph dancing dreams with flavours deeply Indian and suavely Contemporary.
This is where we meet; those of us who were “marked” by the Stage Fairy at birth. We, who were born to stand beneath the spotlight or pace restlessly behind curtains while our art was subjected to the scrutiny of an audience.
This is where we share our heartbreaks, deaths and disappointments; births, recipes, make-up tips, dreams. We share lunch, bhel puri, coffee and cupboard space. We teach each other Surya Namaskaar. We call each other names and critically appreciate each other’s work.
This is where Anjali’s humorous scripts are first read out. This red linoleum floor is the battlefield upon which she fences with our Costume Tailor, demanding Broadway original quality and receiving Bollywood copies instead. Here, Gita pores over her keyboard, hassled and harassed, swearing she hasn’t the faintest idea when to play interludes for the Tin-Man or was it Toto? We laugh at Manas’ comic one-liners and applaud his genius musicality. Beneath our shrieks, Shahana’s soft voice can be heard, tinkling with cheer.
And through all of this, the pitter-patter of little feet. Up and down, in and out. Children excited, relieved, having the time of their lives.
In a corner of the Dance Room stands a red guitar. It responds feebly to my weak and unskilled fingers. It knows I am not its mistress. Cradled in Aradhna’s arms, the red guitar fills our hours with passionate, soulful music. Her rich and heartwarming songs wash over us and we listen quietly to the waves of melody she weaves.
The day is coming to an end. I lift my voice and sing with her. A perfect blend.
All eyes in the room are closed. Reema rocks back and forth gently. Rekha smiles to herself. The Dance Room sighs deeply. Our work here is done.
The song still on our lips, we bid each other farewell. The bags and slippers vanish. The enchantment fades. All is quiet.
It’s an ordinary room again. Just like any other.
Until the morn.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Let me hence, hurry to the point.
I’ve been that woman, chasing the diamond ring for the ‘stability’ it signifies. In Indian terms “settle ho gaye.” (Of course, I’d only have admitted to this under hypnosis of the deepest sort.)
But generally, chasing a diamond ring requires strategy or atleast some modification of behaviour. Unlike heroines in New York City, I’m a terrible strategist. Truth is, I have no strategy. My very birth was orchestrated to ensure this. My horoscope is a minefield that most pundits tip toe through and all mother-in-laws run miles from, when they get to see it. Not a good start for relationships in India, eh?
As a person goes, I am blunderingly obvious but in an elegant, gentle way – which is what probably deceived my exes (I’m sure they think they were deceived.) I’m the sort of girl that a lot of prospective mother-in-laws take to quite well (before my horoscope enters the story.) Their comfort with me isn't due to any sterling qualities I hold, but primarily because I’m not a rude or in-your-face person. I’m polite, sensitive, listen well, and smile at frequent intervals, which is why their sons take to me in the first place.
But, as my exes found out – all free spirits don’t walk around with a man’s swagger, purple dyed hair and pierced body parts. One after the other, each of the men I’d fall in love with would eventually choose to de-link his life from mine. Each had his own style. One renounced the world to live on a kibbutz. One slunk away into the night, hoping he was camouflaged by the shadows and I wouldn’t notice. (I mean – for real?) From finding another woman to marry and then informing me of it, to promising to marry me and another woman at the same time (yes, this last one really did happen) - all said and done, I’ve witnessed amazing reasons for being dumped. The elusive diamond ring would prance away under my very nose.
Each time I was of course, very hurt and spent many precious moments cursing myself and my destiny, wallowing in self-pity and certainly not feeling positive towards the specific ex in question.
In Chasing Harry Winston, (and true American chic-lit glory), we are treated to a ‘punch-your-fist-in-the-air’ moment when the girl’s ex comes crawling back to her, begging to be reinstated in her life as her man. (And if not as her man then at least as the doormat upon which she wipes her feet occasionally.) The sparkling seconds in which she now rejects him are every woman’s dream come true.
Unlike the wonderful world of American soppiness, that sort of drama totally skipped my life.
No one came crawling back.
Not even striding back.
Not even a tentative whiff of a knock at the door.
I was heartbroken. Self esteem plummeted like a rocket crashing into a gravity force field. My ex-es moved on quickly with their lives, without paying heed to the bits of my broken heart scattered on the floor. (Yes, I was a drama queen – well, still am one.)
Little did I imagine that at the ripe old age of 30, I’d thank my stars for this extraordinary piece of good fortune. (i.e. the ex-es moving on with their lives; not my theatrical tendencies.)
It’s been a few years since the last ex walked out, and every day that has dawned since, I am grateful to these men. They saw what I did not see – in fact – what I refused to see. That my life with any of them wouldn’t really work out. I was a round peg in their world of squares and in aspiring to be square and squashing myself into a misshapen quadrilateral, I would have ruined two lives, besides bringing heartache to the families. What I needed was a round world, but I clutched desperately and daftly to the illusion of squareness. (Talk about being thick in the head!)
Thank God someone noticed the truth.
So now, when a golden heart smiles at me from across the horizon, I know who to thank for the warmth in my life. My ex-es are my greatest gurus. They’ve walked me through the toughest lessons of life – relationships. I’ve truly realised that every relationship is a reflection of my relationship with myself. These men are the ones who’ve helped me understand myself better than anything else ever could. They revealed to me my “round peg identity” and dispelled my “square” delusions. For this, I will always be grateful.
I have found my diamond ring. It was inside me, all the while. The only ‘stability’ a human can ever know is her own soul and I revel in the new facets of my soul that sparkle forth every day. I’m getting to know my diamond intimately and I love the empowered feel of it.
Therefore, to my ex-es I say - thank you, each one of you for the pivotal role you chose to play in my life. For uncovering my true diamond for me.
From the bottom of my heart, I do wish you well.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I was pleasantly surprised at the ever cheerful stewards and stewardesses. (I’ve generally noticed their difference in tone, especially when I’m seated near a white person. Split second body language and voice changes occur, and I’ve half a mind to say – “I’m not daft just because I’m brown-skinned.”) So here I was, delighted to find that I wasn’t being treated any differently and feeling goodwill in the air etc.
I ordered water and orange juice, two glasses each. My neighbour on the flight ordered whisky. She happened to be presenting some sort of sociology paper at a conference and so the first hour was spent (quite fruitfully) listening to her understanding of the evolution of the unique individual.
But after she’d ordered her third whisky and puffed on several inhalers and swallowed a handful of variously shaped and coloured pills, I firmly put on my headphones. There comes a point when a person’s alcohol ridden blood directly interferes with intelligent conversation; especially when the listener has mere orange juice pumping through her veins, as I did. Something doesn’t quite match.
Sternly reminding myself to buy a neck pillow before my next long flight, I flipped through comedy channels, made a couple of trips to the loo, then guzzled more water and orange juice. On one of the trips to the loo, I waited patiently in line, behind a dad and his baby daughter. We smiled at each other, all three of us, in that sleepy, dazed sort of way. We politely looked away as time passed, wondering what on earth was happening in the loo. Why does it take so long?
After what seemed like ages, the door opened, and out popped an Indian girl, in her early twenties. You know the metro upper middle class girl of India – five foot something, colour streaked hair tumbling to the waist, strange looking top in stranger material that fits snugly on several love handles, tight jeans, heavy mascara, strong perfume, dangling earrings, and a big glittery bag. The most striking feature of this species of woman is the haunting look in her eyes. It is a strange dark mix of high school temptress and demure Indian girl. (I involuntarily shudder as I see it in my mind’s eye.)
I turned my head away instinctively, literally shivering in my boots, my body signalling: ‘for god’s sake, I’m a woman – don’t look at me like you want to seduce me. I’m not interested.’
But then again, these women look at everything – men, women and lamp posts - with the same vampire-ish gleam so I suppose I shouldn’t feel offended. I think they believe the consistent Madhubala-meets-Paris-Hilton gaze adds to their appeal. Ewww! (I’m not a prude, I just prefer an honest, straightforward look to this slanting, i’m-so-beautiful-i-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself, slithery, sleazy glance!)
I smiled at the dad and his daughter, gesturing for them to use the empty loo before me. He graciously thanked me, then immediately collided with a second woman who walked out the same loo. The dad, the daughter and I all started with as much surprise as we could muster up in our dazed brains.
We looked at her with vacant eyes, wondering if we were mistaken because she was a clone of the first woman. They were obviously sisters. I don’t know whether it’s the sister-thing – I don’t have a sister. I don’t understand WHY women have to “go to the loo” together, “go to the water cooler” together, or do so much stuff “together” all the freaking time.
I cannot imagine how the sisters fit in that airplane loo together, with two big bags and what they managed to accomplish in that space. One sees the strangest things on flights. Especially long ones.
The bloody airplane made excellent time and landed an hour early in Dubai. I was now contemplating killing myself because my eight hour layover in Dubai airport had just been pushed to 9 hours thanks to the exuberance of a couple of pilots.
For the first time in my life, I despised sunlight. It streamed into every corner of the airport while I struggled to fall asleep on a very uncomfortable recliner. I hugged my bag on the left. Then I hugged it on the right. I took out my laptop to write some. Much good that did after a sleepless 24 hours and way too much orange juice fizzing in my bloodstream.
My resolutions to calmly float through this journey across continents came to nought. When I finally made it to Mumbai, I looked like I needed to get to rehab – and fast. My speech was slurred. My hair was a tangled mess. I did not offer to help anyone else retrieve their bags (which I usually do.) I even picked the wrong suitcase off the luggage belt. To add insult to injury, my bag was the very last one off the plane.
I looked at the Customs people warily. I considered bolting for the exit if they tried to get me into a queue. Or, collapsing in nervous shock (something I wouldn’t need to fake.) I think they intelligently sensed I’d had a bad day and let me go.
Needless to say, I’m not keen to get back on a long flight any time soon.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
As an A grade student who didn't choose engineering, business or medicine, I salute 3 idiots.
I hold no grudge against lovers of science, math and marketing. What I wish to know is why artists and lovers of the humanities are sidelined and relegated to living on the edge. This is the attitude I encountered, when at the end of the nineties, fresh out of high school, I chose the Liberal Arts: If I have a "brain" I must only use it for the sciences or I will be wasting the great evolutionary gift of DNA that happens to have resolved itself into "me." Me - a mere pawn of society, progeny of my parents and extended family, member of the Great Tribe of India.
This attitude, irked me severely. Did this mean that the Liberal Arts required no use of the brain? Did this mean that the vast population that did choose the Liberal Arts was ticked off as useless to the advancement of society?
As a teenager I found myself having to justify to my teachers and friends, the reason I had chosen the Arts. How could I explain the claustrophobia, the suffocation I felt when listening to a Chemistry lecture? How could they feel the physical pain that shot through my head when I contemplated a life embedded in numerical figures despite being the daughter of a banker and a potential nuclear physicist? How could I convince them that pure grit and determination to scrape some sense of self worth together in a world where I knew I was marginalised already, had pushed me through high school? How could I explain to them that I respected them and connected with them as "persons" and "fellow human beings" - not as "teachers or students of science?"
What music would they groove to if Shankar Mahadevan had decided to join NASA? What lyrics would transport them to romantic heights if Gulzar had chosen the medical profession? Were these icons brainless?
That brought me to my next question. Why did I have to be an icon in order to be prove that choosing the Arts was worthwhile? Why couldn't I just do my Art, live a simple life and yet not be grudged that I'd wasted my potential?
Which brought me to the next level of understanding. Our Indian tribe's concept of success is a farce. A passionate school teacher in Ladakh is a failure in the eyes of the Ramalingams, the NRIs with the big US brand company name attached to their first names. But in truth, the passionate school teacher in general is a failure. Its one thing to praise the nobility of the profession to a teacher who is not related to you. But if your own child were to say she wants to teach, I would look at your reaction and then know what you truly think of as "success."
I know this because I am a passionate school teacher and witness the constant look of pity from people who've known me all my life. "Such a waste of earning potential!" is the unsaid, unspoken comment.
The waste of earning potential is not my failure. It is the failure of the country to understand the value of my services to society. How many more passionate teachers we would have if teaching were considered a respected profession, monetarily compensated adequately and not waved away as a "timepass before you find a suitable husband" in Indian parlance.
Artists scramble to pay the rent at the end of the month, not because their work is useless but because our society fails to recognise the importance of beauty as nourishment. All the edifices that science builds will have no soul if they are not infused with the perception and love that comes so naturally to the artist with an open heart.
But technology is money. And money is our god. Our big IT corporates, born and bred on Indian soil claim to be injecting integrity and values into the corporate jungle. As a junior school teacher, I ask: what worth is integrity in the corporation when as children we are taught to disregard our inner calling from grade 5 onwards? We lie to our souls, violate the voice of our hearts and then are taught to follow ancient Indian ideals and be "integral."
Unless integrity begins with your soul, you cannot be integral.
Surely everyone's soul cannot be pushing them to set up corporations, mass produce cars, develop software and research genetic engineering. For those who's soulsong is one of these, I stand at the forefront cheering you on. Go, find your success. You deserve it and will do much for the country on a huge scale with it.
But if I find a whiff of parental pressure to turn a child who lives for art into a doctor, I will mourn the daylight murder of yet another youngling of India.
This obsession that we Indians have with Ivy League universities, big phones, big cars, big houses with tiny gardens is exactly what our ancient Indian values spoke of as Maya. We place infinite importance on the objects of success rather than the feeling of contentment within. If we were truly content, not having the next best phone wouldn't make us break out into a cold sweat. Not having our kids get into Cornell or Stanford wouldn't destroy our honour.
Artha, or wealth is essential. I have nothing against it. I love Artha. But according to the ancient tenets, before Artha, comes Dharma. Following YOUR Dharma. Not the Tribe's decision as to which career will get them the most honour.
If there was one message that stood out clear in 3 idiots - it was to be true to yourself. Integrity to yourself. Aligning yourself with your soul's purpose. Is that level of integrity even possible when you belong to the Great Indian Tribe?
As a teacher, I predict that the Great Indian Tribe will be forced to face the challenges of the new kids. Watch out India. Many of today's children will refuse to sing the Great Tribal Song. We will hear countless individual melodies of exquisite beauty. We will see many disappointed parents. We will see far more young adults unable to disregard the call of their souls, flying the nest and finding their own sky.
For all those children, even if I stand all alone, I am and will always be a voice of support, an encouraging friend, a believer in their potential. For them, my hands are forever risen in salute.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
My girlfriend and I are perched on opposite ends of a black leather couch. Our feet curled beneath us. I make a half-hearted attempt to go the whole hog with the ‘girl-thing’ by filing my nails as we chat. I give up. There is much gesturing of the sweeping kind with my animated speech and the file and the nails never quite meet.
For thirteen years – through high school, college, work and different cities we have savoured such once-in-a-year mornings.
The only thing girlie about these sessions is the pink pajama dress code. Everything else is surrealistically fantastic. We surf through mysteries of the Emerald Tablet of Thoth, The Secret and Abraham-Hicks, through past life memories, to Atlantis and goddess symbols, remind each other about loving ourselves, believing in our potential, facing our creative demons, testing our boundaries and trusting the Universe.
We could be Lemurian high priestesses in green silks or robed Native American shamans – those garbs and roles would blend in better with the conversation content. The juxtaposition of the pink pajamas and the iced coffee with deep talk is a little ridiculous...