So What?

Older

bolder

nuttier by the day

nastier every which way

unusual is nothing

casual is everything

more irritating than irritated

more frivolous than fidgety

fingers in many pies

master at  none

penniless and not pining

ignorant and happy

counting the tyres

mooning over freckles

catch a memory before it goes

guess the name before he goes

in the rhapsodies of the soul

in the melodies of the  heart

yearning  to live life

a little more , a little more

 

 

 

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What did Snow White do?

She had been walking for long.

Her feet tired.Her eyes downcast.

She glanced nervously at the huntsman.He was totally unperturbed.

She looked at his strong muscular arms and legs. If only the fellow would smile a little,her pain would be lesser, she thought.

She just dragged herself aimlessly.

It was clear that the old hag hated her. No matter what she did. How meek and submissive, she tried to look, the woman was upset with her. Always.

She knew that the huntsman was going to kill her, so that no one rivaled the queen in her beauty.

Isn’t my beauty a burden to me?

Am I to be blamed for being beautiful? She cried silently.

She turned to the huntsman and caught his eyes on her.

He quickly turned the direction of his gaze and looked up to study the clouds. Inspired by bollywood?, she smiled to herself.

It could rain and maybe her wet female form would entice him.Maybe she could break into a dance.

Maybe she could just run away.

Maybe a lion would come roaring and gobble him up and leave her alone.Beauty and the beast is indeed a true story , the maid had told her.

It was better to have some support in this unknown terrain. It was better to befriend the enemy.

Snow white fell behind carelessly, carefully stepping into the toes of the huntsman. She looked at him,her eyes flaming in love and desire.

The huntsman could not but hold the waft like girl who fell into his arms. He bent to kiss her  and the rest as they say, is history.

Did the queen find out? She should have been wiser, thought Snow white.

 

Listen In

For often a thought, a desire, a feeling arises in your heart, reaches your mind and demands an action.

Something as simple as drinking a glass of water or going to the loo.

Or the need to ask a question, meet a person, reach out to a friend, or simply take a different route to the office.

At times, you are at the threshold of a great action in your life and you are perturbed. There’s a sinking feeling in your heart.

You  feel that this is not right. You don’t want this or that you are not ready for it.

But you let it happen.

You watch the consequences of the inaction as they play out in front of you.

You want to  step out of the vicious circle  you created.

You like to think of others who are to be blamed. You realise how you almost had no hand in it. You remember you never wanted it this way .

Yet you forget you did not stop the chain of actions unfolding in front of you, involving you.

You refused to stand up for what you wanted, clean air, a happy family, love, career.

You gave in without a fight.

You did not even exercise your right to  question.

You refused to acknowledge your role.

You looked away from what is important to you.

You allowed this to happen.

You connived to create  misery.

Now you blame but who? You?

 

 

 

 

 

One more story, please

One more story please, was my persistent squeal as a child. Adults in the family had a tough time getting rid of my nagging, irritating self.

To silence me I was often told the story of the king and his five sons, ka, da, kha,zhi, nju…which put together meant the  story is over, in Malayalam.

In my grand parents home in Varandhirapilly,  we lived  in a traditionally built Kerala home. Though it was a huge place to live in and though there were many of us in the house, we had just  one electric fan and this was in my grand parents bedroom.

In the night, just after supper at about 8.30 pm all the men in the family would lie down with heads placed on the bed and  their bodies stretched out  in different angles.They  lay like that sharing stories ,beneath the slowly whirring fan blades in the darkness.

Discussions  were usually of  a serious nature  with the ordeals of office and politics cropping up and grand father chipping in with his expert opinion in between. But there always  was an occasional allowance of a story well told, that much awaited moment for us kids in the house.

Shivaji Maharaj, Eklavya,Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya and many other characters came alive in that half an hour until grand father bundled every one out of his room.

Story telling sessions happened in the mornings too. Grand father would return from the fields at about 9 or 10 am. He would have his third coffee of the day  and settle down in the arm chair . My grand mother by then, having had her morning bath, sparkling in her starched mundu veshti and with a huge kumkum bindi and neatly kohled eyes would settle next to him on the floor.

In his loud rhythmical  baritone grand father would  then  read a  text in Sanskrit  and follow it up with discussion. Though not allowed to be an audience officially, I am fairly sure of having  heard Abhinjana Shakuntalam being discussed.

As a day dreamer and as someone who lived more in a world of  imagination than reality, I spent a lot of time, with my nose buried in books. Back then books came cheaper too and so when I insisted on a book as a birthday gift, no body cribbed. Even my father was quite accommodating.

When I joined college for graduation in English Language and Literature, I had already read the Paico editions of all English classics. In the classroom,I showed off with pride my  intimate knowledge of  Hamlet, Ophelia, Iago ,Othello and others with out ever having read a Shakespearean Classic in its original! This, I revealed later to the amusement of  my classmates.

I had always nurtured the  fantasy of myself  becoming a successful journalist. I had hoped to unveil great conspiracies and be a real time hero in the public eye, a la Arnab Goswami. But  Mr.MJ Akbar who  interviewed me at Indian Institute of Mass Communication,New Delhi thought differently. He asked , why do all Malayalis travel to New Delhi when there are enough colleges in Kerala? I was stumped. Did he expect  me to counter him with gusto? I was clueless and  just managed to  murmur some nonsense , blowing up my chance at studying in the prestigious institution. But I didn’t complain. I had my own reason to want to continue studying at the famed Victoria College in Palakkad, Kerala.

I was certainly not to remain unemployed. My mother thoughtfully bought an application form that cost Rs.5 from the Government College of Teacher Education, Calicut and sent it to me. Soon I was doing my Bachelors in Education there. This was, of course after I completed my Masters, got married and had a kid. When I was busy with the numerous extra curricular activities that B.Ed demanded, my little daughter went to a play school. If anyone asked her what she did, she replied that she was doing her B.Ed. Thus started my journey as a teacher. Though I was not a teacher by choice, I thoroughly enjoyed my stint at teaching  for almost 14 years.

Teaching also  gave me much time to regale my students with stories. No matter what the age, children including adolescents love listening to stories. I have had some wonderfully memorable experiences in the classroom because teaching a language allows you a lot of space to do some interesting activities in the classroom.

After leaving school, I was tormented by a certain vacuum that was hard to fill. When an opportunity presented itself to tell a story to children,I latched on to it eagerly. My audience was a bunch of kids  aged not more than 5 but they and their attentive parents, helped me gain confidence as a story teller. Later in the apartment where I stay, I volunteered like others to do a session in story telling.

Hopefully I have kick started my career as a story teller. I hope to tell many stories, to adults or to children. I hope to be able to do so in Malayalam,Hindi and sometime in Kannada too…

Its a wonderful thing to do, to be a story teller, to weave magic with words. The thrill of telling stories is now my new found joy!

 

 

 

 

The Run

There’s something elevating about the rush of the wind against your  sweating limbs ,the dull ache in the muscles, the thrill of the synchronized movement of your legs, the racing pulse ,of looking back to check on  your competitors and looking forward to the call of the finishing line, the loud cheers and the applause, even if you are not the winner.

Commuting from East Bangalore to South Bangalore by public transport calls for some very important life skills, one of which is the ability to run. As soon as you spot a bus to your destination, your  hands move to clutch your bag and you involuntarily get ready to run.

The bus driver slows down tantalizingly close to stopping the vehicle. You heave a sigh of relief. The vehicle which looked within your reach then speeds up and you feeling tired stop, wearily nod your head and resign to your fate.

Not always though. Once in a while you decide to give the bus a chase and run and catch the vehicle when it grinds to a halt at the traffic junction.You turn around with a sly smile of victory at the driver and the conductor, who  just look through  you.Good for nothings! you mutter under your breath.Though piqued at not getting a standing ovation, you feel triumphant, supremely elated and thank the good fortune of having stepped on to cow dung to fetch you a coveted seat at rush hour in the morning. Your day is good, the best in fact, you tell yourself.

The desire to run and the need for it manifests itself at different points in our lives.The other day a good friend expressed his desire to run far away from the reach of his parents who pestered him to get married.The girl sitting next to me was eager to avoid the unsolicited attention bestowed  upon her by one of her distant relatives.A colleague,married for many years wanted to escape her  claustrophobic marriage.

For some the rituals and  of rigors of religion offers the perfect escape. A dedicated artist seeks the path to salvation in his art. A mother who lost her young son, spends hours together at prayer meetings, at service in the temple, attending to the needs of old women who stay alone etc to forget her pain. A lady I know never lets go of an opportunity to travel away from home.

At any given time, everyone is ready for the run. The child is ready to run home from his school, the teacher is waiting for the bell to ring to run out of the classroom, the housewife is ready for escape from the waiting dishes and responsibilities, the man is ready to run for his life from his wife.

The run as the grand escape from the toils and turmoils,the run towards the  so  called enduring pleasures of life is an ever inviting promise.

Leo Babuata calls running his zazen, which in Zen Buddhism means , seated meditation. It is  his meditation, his peace, his sanctum. Running to him is  an effort at trying to be present.

According to Osho, a moment comes when the runner disappears and there is only running. That is when the body, mind and the soul start functioning together. The doors of the divine are many, he adds and running is just one of them.

Why do we love to run?  In his blog of the same name Adharand Finn quotes Holden Claufield in Catcher in the Rye who suddenly starts to run.”I don’t even know what I was running for -I guess I just felt like it” Adharand talks of how running harder, deeper into loneliness makes one feel strangely elated.

My love for running  was so great that my secret ambition was to be the next P.T.Usha.Well, I even believed that I could fly, if I tried hard enough. But if I were to break into a run as a middle -aged adult, it would be such an oddity.

As adults we have long  stopped doing things because we felt like doing them.Perhaps  this is what runners look for in running to do something for the joy of it. Running then is a childhood game in disguise. It’s the much coveted childhood that the beleaguered adult hopes to reclaim through running.

Even as I go farther I come closer

Even as I  run one among the crowd

I run alone….

 

 

 

Alone,not lonely

I am loving this experience. Of travelling alone. Of  deciding when  to talk or not to, to eat or not to. Of out smarting the cabs, the auto wallahs and the city snarls.

I board the train at Koperkhairne to Airoli. I have to reach Vikhroli by 9.30 am.At 8 am the platform is not crowded. The queue at the ticket counter is not too long.The school girls, college girls, men, women, the vendors all wait quietly as neatly dressed workers clean the platform. Stray dogs rest beneath iron benches. Men and women are hooked on to their cell phones. A man sells puffed rice and roasted peanuts standing by the staircase.

At 8.006 the Thane Slow  chugs in. I am carried into the train by my co-passengers.I manage to to find space to stand comfortably. It is a ladies coach. Someone  shouts  bag?? I squeeze in to make room.

Three hanging cosmetic outlets showcase hair clips of various hues and  sizes. Each hair clip costs Rs. 5. The girl seated at the edge of the seat studies the clips and reaches out gingerly.  As she fiddles with the clip, a strong fragrance of jasmine wafts in the air and with it comes  a woman dressed in a bright yellow saree. She smiles encouragingly.

The girl settles for  a pair of green and bright red clips. With the price being so low, there is no room for bargain.She hands over the money  and pushes the clips into her bag where they  settle  next to the hot lunch box.

Shortly a man in lilac shirt and black pants makes his presence felt. He moves forward and hangs a set of bracelets and bangles for sale. These are silver in colour and look expensive. He stands guard for some time and leaves his hanging shop for exploration by his customers.

In the meanwhile , the lady with jasmine in her hair has moved her wares to the other side.Husband and wife? I study the man and the woman. I am still wondering when the train reaches Airoli.I get out and walk quickly to the bus station outside. I have to reach pumping and thereafter catch  an auto to Vikhroli West.

The last day, I asked for a ticket to jumping and the conductor had looked amused. Pumping, he said while handing me the ticket. I am learning, I had thought to myself.

I had decided to utilise public transport in Mumbai and it has been a worthwhile experience.

In Mumbai, do as Mumbaikars do…Eat vada pav, dal khachodi, dahi puri or sabu dana ki vada,make friends easily, reach out to help, look busy and relaxed at the same time and dress smart whether you are a student, office-goer or a house wife and bargain, bargain and bargain…

 

 

Anu’s soul searching

Its after many days that Anu finds time to come to me. She looks tired, her full figure a little more rounder, her eyes deep in sadness. I wait for Anu to open up.I know she will.She always does.

Anu looks longingly at a vacant spot and tells me in how she finds it difficult to keep her self strong. I listen and she tells me of her struggle to keep herself motivated,to keep the work going, to keep the fun going, to keep up the smile. She complains of  the burden of earning and tending to the family.It’s difficult,she confesses. We sit together in silence.

I seek these sanctuaries of rejuvenation in the garden that I tend to, in the cooking that I do, in the music that I listen to but then there are times when the struggle to keep up is all consuming, draining my resolve, questioning my belief in the self and then I lie on the sofa for hours together flitting through numerous stories of exploitation that the television brings to my home,checking face book a hundred times a day ,liking and un-liking photographs and news items which have nothing to do with me..but in that sense, what has anything to do with me at all?

Isn’t life a lonely journey from the first breath to the last? Are we not each of us alone? What can groups and friends and family and relatives do?

It’s not usual to hear such depressing stuff from my dear friend. I grow restless and offer to make us a cup of coffee. She likes it light and sugarless and I am all for sugar. It gives me some reprieve from her constant cribbing.

I am wondering why my evening is being spoiled by such soul -searching when I have found my bliss in channel searching.  I admit my love and respect for her ability to cope the way she does and I tell her of my admiration for her. Many people I know,think highly of Anu. Her many talents and her pleasant demeanor win her  admirers easily. Then why complain, I ask her pointedly.

There’s one thing about the complaint mongers. They expect a sympathetic ear always as if they are the only ones troubled in the world. My change of tone sends that message across to Anu. She gets up in a huff and goes home. I go back to my channel surfing comfort zone. Each to his own.

No Sun for you,my son

pull down the blinds

close the windows

shut the doors

call him in

let him not play

let his voice not be heard

let him stay in

let him not peep out

let his eyes be shut

keep him away from noise, the celebration and the mourning

I will make him a sissy

and you will tease him all you like

I will keep him behind the curtains

away from the air and the sun

outside the predators roam

in their celebration

in their piety

in their vengeance

my boy is the casualty

I lost one, now no more ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did the Sun stop by?

Did the Sun stop by the hermitage?

Did he watch her bloom?

Did he stoop,to hold,or to pluck?

or did he just stand to watch?

I saw him walking by with a  smile on his face.

******************************************************************

Did the wind come this way today?

Did he extend his arms to caress her?

Or did he pluck those petals I see on the garden floor.

I see his footsteps on the path.

*******************************************************************

Did the dark sky bring that smile?

Did the dark cloud just drop by?

Was it a shower or a was it a pour?

Did the dark wind raise and fall at her feet?

Did she blush and lose her gloom?

I see her in this sudden bloom.

 

 

Dashrath from Allahabad

Pitching his pani puri stand beneath an umbrella, Dashrath awaits his customers. It’s 3pm. They will trickle in within half an hour. Students who walk back from school. The parents who pick their children after school and walk back home. Labourers, college students, housewives  and almost everybody else. A  scooter is parked behind in the shade. That is my brother’s, he says. His stall in right in front of the mall. You can see him from here.

A shining aluminium vessel holds pani  and neatly prepped puris adorn his stall. The shining blue canopy  perched on his cycle just about covers his stall. Everything is neatly covered.

We are a dozen, he says talking about his family. There are three of us brothers in the city.  All of us  sell pani puri.  And we make our own puris. That’s why ours are tastier. The puris are crunchy but are  not hard.

I look pointedly  at the vessel containing pani into which he was  dipping the puri held in a gloved hand. We use only bisleri water. He said quickly. I could have kept the can here, you know, just to reasasure my customers.

On a sunday I make  about 1600 rupees and  on other days it varies between  Rs. 500 to 600. We stay at MG road, in a small rented room.Once we reach home, my elder brother cooks dinner for all of us. We help him out. After that, we fry the puris. We can get ready made puris, but they don’t taste good, especially the machine made ones.

What do you do with the money? I ask. We send the money back home.It is not safe to keep it here.My mother manages the account. When do you go home? I want to know. Well, not frequently. It’s very far. We are from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, you know.

He is well turned out. His sun tanned bright face and his shining eyes hold dreams for a bright and happy future. It does not matter to him that he is working at an age when he should be in school. He is proud of what he does. The customers?  They are usually polite .Even when I  say, I don’t have change. Can I make it for Rs 20 instead of 15? They usually agree. As it is the pani puri that I sell are mouth watering.

Now, that’s Dasarath from Allahabad.If you come to Yellanahalli, here in  South Bangalore, you could taste his  crunchy pani puris which are sweet, sour, tangy and spicy all at the same time. And surely, you are going to come back for more.