Tiny tales

Rains make me sad,

my tears washed away

in the torrents that lash

at my borrowed window panes.

I  am no queen, fair and noble

with my life etched on marble.

I am no battered slave,

whose name is called out in pity.

And no, I  am no warrior princess

with arms of steel or a soul of gold.

Like the rain-laden cloud,

I  carry my tears.

Like the brown earth,

I bear my blows.

Like the fluttering leaves,

I fight my battles.

I live and I  live.

Rains make me sad.

 

 

 

 

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Why I love doing the dishes.

A few years ago, I took a quiz ( I know, I am that crazy personality quiz freak ) named, ” Which Greek Goddess are you?” The answer in front of my eyes, asking to be shared, was puzzling. I was a mix of Persephone and Hestia. Persephone, I totally understand : I have a depressive, neurotic personality. But Hestia? The Goddess of Hearth and Home? I did not have a single domestic bone in my body. This is what this site says about Hestia,

” Hestia, as keeper of the hearth, goes about her tasks in a calm, centered, focused manner – whether she is sweeping or doing laundry, she is fully engaged, focusing on her task at hand–like a meditation–and not at all concerned about the clock or what she will be doing next. She experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks. ” 

Ha, indeed. I wondered if these quizzes were a joke, which in all probability, they are. Who wants to identify themselves with a Greek Goddess anyway? However, I was still intrigued. Did I deny my domestic instincts because they would be considered uncool? Perhaps, I feared coming across as a “normal ” person?

I thought some more. No, I was not some organisation freak or a germaphobe or a person who believed “women should stay at home”. I hate cleaning  or cooking, not with a purple passion, but enough to not do some of them for days together. I would rather waste time watching mindless videos on cleaning than actually clean something. I zone out into nostalgia and “what-ifs” in the midst of a major cleaning spree.  Why then, was I a “keeper of the hearth”?

Later, as I did the dishes, the answer did come to me. Normally when I wash the dishes, I have a wave of thoughts that sweep over my soul. It is usually the same wave. I start out feeling thankful that I have food to eat and the energy to make it. Then I revel in how  the specks of food and stains disappear, just like our everyday troubles do, with a little soul-scrubbing. I then wander off into some poetic thoughts as the dishes get shinier and shinier. Towards the end, I break off into a song.

Sometimes, I also process uncomfortable thoughts somewhere in between and scrub a little more than necessary. The physical act of scrubbing brings me peace. Finally, everything is clean and I am more at peace. No, my problems did not disappear by magic. But my heart does feel lighter and I know that, tomorrow, the dishes will get dirty again. Just life Life.  I will have to clean again. Both literally and metaphorically.

I realised, this is why I am a Hestia. Not because I keep a perfect home or that I am a clean freak. It is because  the woman in me “experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks.” It is because, despite my messy home and chaotic surroundings, I do derive a lot of pleasure from making it better. The final product means less to me than the process itself.

Organising the books means endless hours spent reminiscing about the times gone by and thinking of people who are associated with certain books.

Rearranging the clothes in the shelves means an afternoon that is spent in warmth and fragrance and the colours of  our second skin.

Washing the windows is a different perspective to seeing the world around us.

To make it clearer, I do not always approach housework with this attitude. In fact, I rarely do. I leave things lying around or undone. But when I finally get around to doing them, this is how I feel, and this is what truly represents peace to me.

Indeed, I do have a  Hestia within me.

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The Flying Man

It is said that books and people find their way into your lives. A mere meeting or a cursory glance at a blurb might not amount to much, if it is not meant to be. How else could I explain being swept off my feet by Roopa Farooki’s Flying Man? I received the book as a birthday present almost three years ago and never managed to get past the blurb. And here I was, maniacally reading through day and night, finishing it in two days!

The protagonist is very unusual, in that he is a very ordinary man and yet, much larger than life than you and I could ever imagine. It is a story that is as mundane as Life can be and every bit as extraordinary.

“It has always mattered to me, that once upon a time, a long time ago, He loved Her, and that She loved Him back.”

That is the only thing that probably mattered to Maqil, the despicable man who is also the Hero of the story. Just like the ones in his life, the reader also goes through moments of extreme hate, love and helplessness in response to his actions. Strangely enough, you don’t feel anger towards Maqil, no. That’s just who he is. He is just compelled to live life in his head, where he is always larger than life, where it is always eternal sunshine. All dreams have to come to an end, however and in a very unusual fashion, Maqil’s disappointments with reality are yours, too. I guess we all have a Maqil, a Mikhail , a Mike : hiding within the labyrinths of our soul.

I also found the unravelling of his daughter’s character very interesting : she inherits his coldness of character without the flightiness.

The writing provides literary references without any presumptuousness, almost carelessly. The humour is sardonic and witty. One is reminded often of Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ : certain imagery, certain words. Reading the book is like being on a roller coaster ride, tossed mercilessly on the oceans of feeling. Yet, like Maqil, like Life, it is predictable : you do know you are on the ride, after all.

This is a book written like poetry, about a mundane life made extraordinary. It is a performance, like everything else we do in life.

A brilliant performance.

“I’m a child in the womb, once more, buried in ink and blood, waiting to see if there might be darkness, or light, on the other side. Black or Red. I’ve waited too long for this; this time, I’ll take a chance.”

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Reflections of an ordinary life.

We all have those moments of extraordinary clarity. Those moments where we realize how ordinary we are, how meaningless our lives are in the larger scheme of things. You know, grow up, get married, work, die. Thoughts that would have depressed me in my twenties. Surprisingly though, they liberate me in my thirties.

It has been a journey of extreme emotional pain, my transition from the twenties to the thirties. A journey that questioned my identity, killed my self-esteem and threw me off balance in ways that I could have never imagined. I probably sleep-walked all the way, just to escape all the hurt and pain. Yet, it was all my fault. I went through the pain because I was not smart enough. I was not “me” and so I paid the price.

I can now see a lot of people for who they are. I know nothing really matters and so, everything I do matters. It is tough to explain if you are somewhere else at this point of time. We all have a map to traverse, a certain journey to make. And sometimes, you don’t understand things if they are not part of your map. Yet, the ego loves doling out advice, so here goes a few pieces of advice. To all those souls who are struggling to fit in. Or wriggle out of.

The throes of society.

The hypocrisies of the mind.

Those unseen labyrinths of fear and monotony.

Well, the very first thing is,

Never, ever do anything that does not make you happy. I am extremely serious about this one. Fights end, arguments get smoothened over – but the resentment from doing something that you did not wish to do? That requires serious nerves of steel to get rid of.

Which brings me to the next thing,

There is no one “normal” life. I know, we have heard this many times before. But now I know it’s true. We are all products of probability, all our life events are victims to chance. Meeting that one person, landing that one job, meeting that one fertility expert or adoption agency, winning that one lottery. See how ridiculous it is? Let go.  When you die, none of it will matter. It might sound negative but is actually a very liberating thought. Just give an F. I mean, damn. See how easy that is?

Once you have done that, go back to the first thing. Do what makes you happy. You’ll do it really well, whether or not it matters. Keep doing it.

Over and over again.

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On cleanliness, godliness and the like.

This post is going to be full of opinions, thoughts, you name it. On things that matter to me, but in ways different from how I see it matter to other people.

Over the past few days, I have been  trying to teach a few prayers to my three year old daughter. I have been showing her how to light incense, light a lamp and pray. It is true that my faith has been shakey of late. I have questioned many rituals and still do. Yet, I  want her to receive this faith ( even if pretended) for now. As a gift. I have my reasons for this.

The very first one being that rituals provide a template for the study of spirituality. They help you adhere to an idea, a concept. It is a form of meditation.

The second reason builds on this first concept. If you don’t learn a structure, what will you test or break? Like how Tagore says, without restraining the two ends of a string in your veenai,there is no music.

“I have on my table a violin string. It is free to move in any direction I like. If I twist one end, it responds; it is free.
But it is not free to sing. So I take it and fix it into my violin. I bind it and when it is bound, it is free for the first time to sing.” (TAGORE)

Indeed, how will my child learn to  sing with the joy of faith if I don’t provide her the framework to do so? To lead her a little into the realms of the soul, not as a religious person, but as someone who constantly searches her own self, someone who seeks a bigger goal, a farther star. I believe it is faith, not love, that makes the world go round.

Wouldn’t my own wavering faith pose problems? Yes, but nothing that cannot be resolved without an honest chat . Who knows, it might get me started on a entirely different spiritual journey altogether.

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We live in a sprawling house with loads of greenery, visiting birds and enormous amounts of sunlight.  Time and again, people who visit comment on that and then almost on the same visit say,

“Oh, it is a nice house but way too much maintenance. It is especially difficult with a young kid, like yours!”

I smile it off for it probably means our house is not clean enough by their standards, but it also makes we wonder. What exactly is ‘maintenance’?

Is it a shining, spotless floor? Will a clean, scrubbed floor not do?

Is it a dust-free shelf? Will a shelf with well-loved books, read, re-read and savoured not make the mark?

Is it a cobweb free ceiling?  Will a corner in an unobtrusive corner of your home with the most intricate spider  web fail to amaze you?

Is it a pet free bedroom? Would you fail to understand the warmth of a four legged one in the dark of the night, despite all the hair?

I remember visiting grandparents, aunts and relatives as a kid. I have seen moss on their bathroom walls, earthworms in their courtyard, dust covered objects flung into an unused room, scorpions in unused shelves and of course, cobwebs in places that were unused. Surprisingly, none of those aunts or relatives ever apologised for any of this nor was it considered a lack of “maintenance”.

I am not advocating a slovenly existence, far from that. I  appreciate freshly laundered sheets and a clean smelling bathroom as much as the next person.  But I  do wonder if  our standards have been increasing over the years, and might slowly pass over into the realm of the “unrealistic “. The ‘hubs’ of a home need regular cleaning,  like the kitchen, bathrooms and the bedrooms. The other areas,not so much, in my opinion.

Call me a slob but a few (or many) cobwebs or a dusty storeroom don’t make me feel less of a homemaker.  What fun is a home with no creatures to observe or no junk to explore?

 

On how little I have learned…

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We all have those days. Those days of utter hopelessness and desolation. Where a lot of ‘revelations’ shower upon you. This weekend was full of moments of such angst.

I was thinking of how I never learned to play any role that was expected of me in life. Barring childhood, which most of us scamper through mindlessly anyway, I have never been able to just “be”. The most acutely devastating phase of this kind of ennui was after I got married. I just didn’t know how to be a “wife”. I still don’t. I have no clue what goes into the making of a wife. I do things my way and hope to be understood. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a husband who is sensitive enough to my quirks. In another marriage, I would have lost steam a long time ago.

Like I saying, I was plagued the whole weekend with thoughts of how I haven’t understood the role of a mother either. I do not know why I seek to learn what is expected of me! It is silly and important to me, all at once. I know how easy it is to lose oneself in roles like these. At the same time, I feel lost without the rough framework of what motherhood is ‘supposed to be’.I realized I had no clue of this one either. I feel extremely jealous of those who seem to have it all figured out. I wondered how I had spent nine years of my married life with nary an opinion on how a home should be kept, or how a curry needed to be made or what philosophy I needed to adopt for raising my daughter. I am just so clueless that it scares me. Shouldn’t I know a little by now?

I have just been acting upon one whimsical idea after other. I cannot tell you what a daughter or a daughter-in-law needs to do; I cannot tell you how I feel as a “wife”. I don’t know how to be a “mother.” I feel so rudderless.

Sometimes, I think, my only best friend is Time. Who, like a river, flows over all my wounds and insecurities and gives me the gift of perspective, over and over again.

P.S : This might be a post full of ramblings, but it is definitely not  a sad one. It is one that is most reflective of the true ‘me’ and we all come in different types, don’t we?

 

Sunrise, sunset…

 

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I wake up, I lie down

and life goes on.

Around me, the world crumbles

and is rebuilt again.

Each day, each second

time flies or stays still. 

I have learnt naught

Or maybe a lot.

Life and death co-exist,

Games of light and shadow

Play upon windows of ice. 

Acts of love entwine themselves

with the darkness of my soul. 

Sunrise, sunset

How can you tell the difference?

 

 

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns…

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I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner ten years ago, as a girl. I enjoyed the depth of his writing, but felt that it lacked style. The story was gripping and the writing was brutally honest, but there was a little something that I felt was lacking. It is difficult to explain without coming across as presumptuous. Today, a decade hence, the Afghan born doctor cum writer crawls back into my (grown up) heart all over again, with A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The book touches upon Afghanistan, fresh from its upheaval of monarchy and takes us through its journey of war, Soviet occupation and finally, the dark regime of the Taliban. When Mariam’s mother gives her lesson for life at the beginning of the story, little do we realize how much impact those few words have over not only Mariam’s life, but also Laila’s (the other protagonist) :

“Only one skill. And it’s this : tahamul. Endure.”

Mariam’s life is made up of one difficult situation after another, one pain after another. The reader’s heart feels her pain but just like her, is helpless. You almost endure it all over again. And again. Suddenly I think of these lines from The Kite Runner : When tumblr_mcdbhoF9671riifgzo1_500

You know that what Mariam really wants is to escape it all, like in those lines above, but she is trapped into her life, that husband, that country and her mother’s curse : to endure. When you think of women like her, who are still battling reality in patriarchal societies all over the world, your heart is sure to bleed and suddenly, your own life feels like an enormous luxury.

The descriptions of Herat and Kaboul evoke very strong feelings about the places and country. The Boudhas of Bamiyan, the minarets of Herat and the night life in Kaboul stay etched in your mind long after you have closed the book. It is the city of Kaboul that is behind the title, too.

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Beautiful, isn’t it? As a person who gives away her soul to certain places and cities, I could totally identify with it.

If Mariam’s curse was to endure, Laila’s was to wait. Waiting for love, waiting for clouds to pass, waiting for times to change.

“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”

While Laila’s story can retain some hope, Mariam’s is devoid of any. Probably the story of many women in Afghanistan and in many other societies as well. Khaled Hosseini’s might touch upon aspects of politics or history but the central story is always that of these two women, stuck together by kismet, born into a world and a time that was cruel to its women. The book is poetic and poignant, very hard to put down once begun. It is an extremely heart-wrenching tale of life, that goes on, despite all odds.

“Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women suffer, how quietly we endure all that falls upon us.”