Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bird in the Gym




I was in the gym the other day and something about the whole experience felt a bit different. Not because I was exercising after what seemed to be a century but because of the way the music inside my head was getting louder than the cacophony in the gym. And I was the only woman inside; thus establishing that the skill of disturbing the aural eco-system doesn’t lie entirely with the “fringed”- pardon the pun!

The 40-going on 20 man on the treadmill next to mine had decided to give a full-throated voice over to Arijit Singh’s soulful rendition of Kabiraa. And just to drown his voice, and my grief, at this cold-blooded murder of sur and taal, I turned up the volume inside my head. By rerouting the input pathway, I felt more connected with the Universe now. My treadmill faced a glass window, which gave a panoramic view of a small verandah with a few trees tucked away in quiet corners. As I was walking, sprinting, spluttering, gasping and then crawling in intervals, I noticed a tiny sparrow (it could be anything between a warbler and a peacock- I couldn’t tell the difference to save my life) came and perched on the branch of a tree, positioned at 10 o’clock. Nothing great about a bird coming and parking itself on a branch, you’d say. My sentiments, exactly. 


Experiences, they say, come in the briefest moments. And they come unannounced.Like the I.T. guys. As I looked at that little creature very casually, I was hooked by this crazy thought that the bird was staring at me. No, I wasn’t working out after a heavy lunch, so no chance of delirium caused by sudden spikes in blood sugar. I averted my gaze and looked back at it. Gawd, for sure the bird was staring at me. This was a bit crazy. Averted my gaze again. And looked back again. Sure as hell, the tiny round eyes were fixed on me. That sideways glance was so obviously and purposefully directed at me. It also seemed, however, that the little winglet was trying to keep it as discreet and polite as possible. Was it the bright colours that I was wearing? Was it the way my hair looked (prospective birdy home)? Was it my boobs/ was it male? WAS IT/ Wait…yes, that was it! It struck me then. 

The bird was most certainly a male member of the species. And no, it wasn’t my body parts that had his attention. It was perched a few feet away from an untidy, scruffy nest tucked away in a nook among the branches of the tree. I could see it when I looked around for evidence for my theory. Yessir! The daddy was on smart vigil. He needed to go to his nest but did not want to do it as I was looking at it and his irresponsible flight could have given away the secret location of his home, and compromise the safety of his family! He needed me to look away, not just divert my gaze, in order to ensure that nobody watches him fly home in a covert operation!!!  I smiled. You sweet, little soldier-on-the-guard, I thought. And as visibly loudly as I could; I turned my neck a decent 90 degrees to my right, my peripheral vision trying to keep him in its radar. Twenty seconds was all it took. I looked back and lo, there he was - lovingly straddling his little ones, wings spanning the nest as if to say: Don’t worry I got you covered. I continued to watch – smiling at the tender joys of Nature, as well as on the satisfaction of a validated thought. Oblivious of my immediate neighbourhood, I must’ve uttered some deep-throated groans, rather unknowingly, sending wrong signals to the aspiring singer. My foul-voiced neighbour on the treadmill had started to settle his hair, rather coquettishly, in the glass as he saw me smiling (probably thinking that I was smiling at his reflection in the glass). The bird was oblivious of its stealthy observer now, completely immersed in its task of feeding(and smothering) the little ones.
 I simply had to stop my sprint, pick up the phone camera and click a few pictures; both for my satisfaction and my neighbour’s clarity of thought.  The pictures didn’t come out too clean but the moment stayed with me enough to motivate me to write about it.




What I’m still struggling to understand is: what is it that made me think instantaneously that the watchful, protective bird was most certainly a father to the nestlings and not the mother. Was it heart-warming to tell myself that daddies are there to protect? I am still wondering. Any answers, anybody? The Arabic evil-eye charm on the wall seems to be watching over everything like a matriarch. Stereotypes? I wouldn't say so...







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



Wednesday, October 7, 2015

अलविदा

जिसका जो जो 
मेरे पास है
सब लौटा रही हूँ
कल मैं घर से
कहीं दूर जा रही हूँ
जो भी तोहफे
प्यार के पर्चे
फूलोकेगुच्छे
ढेर से वादे
झूठे-सच्चे
भीनी यादें
अनकही बातें
सब उम्मीदें
और ख्वाहिशें
इस संदूक से निकाल कर
सब और फैला रही हूँ
मैं कल घर से
कहीं दूर जा रही हूँ
इन्हे सजालेना
सुंदर हैं
फूलोंकी तरह ये नाज़ुक हैं
मेरी ही तरह
अति भावुक हैं
काँटों को अनदेखा कर
प्यार की धूप, समय के पानी
से हो सके तो महका लेना
पर इनके रहते गर बादल उमड़ें
दिल में बद-हवासी घुमड़े
तो तस्वीर मेरी की ढाल बना कर
कुछ आँसू छल्का लेना
मॅन को डपट, मना लेना
ना जाने क्यूँ
तुम्हे यह सब समझा रही हूँ
मैं कल घर से
कहीं दूर जा रही हूँ
तुम सोचोगे मैं पागल हूँ
बेमानी सी घायल हूँ
हो सकता है
कुछसच भी होगा
पर जाते हुए इक बात बता दूं
चेहरे की बेबाक मायूसी
बिखरे मोती
हँसी रूआनसी
कब से आँचल पकड़े हैं
लहरें, जो आँखें जकड़े हैं
इन सब को कहीं उडेल कर
रूह नयी सी सुहेल कर
हो ना हो 
वापिस आ रही हूँ
मैं कल घर से
कहीं दूर जा रही हूँ

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Loss of Akhlaq

A man was ruthlessly lynched, in Dadri, by a barbaric mob, over rumours of having consumed beef. The holes, in the threadbare fabric of Democracy, gape shamelessly at us. Akhlaq, which means virtue, morality, good conduct and manners, is with us no more. Words, however deeply felt, fail to commiserate.

The Loss of Akhlaq


Why are things so broken,
Lives so cluttered,
insides so shaken
Souls so embittered
when now
There’s so much knowledge,
Such awareness
Pursuit of God
And propriety of goodness?

Why are acts so clueless
Of their purpose or worth
Why blood’s a witness
To guile and mirth when
There’s so much more freedom
More expression
More clarity
And far less suppression?
When all the tools
And ingredients
Keep growing to better
Genetic pools?

Weren’t things nicer when
There was less of everything
Less words that spread
Lesser readers and the read
Less knowledge
Less thought
Lesser power
Of the writ and the wrought?

Weren’t things better when
People
Knew less
Thought less
Wanted less
And sought less?
perhaps yes
When food for the stomach
Did not ulcers bind
When rewards of the till
Were not burdens of the mind.

Between then and now
Have we grown?
Have we reaped
What we have sown?
Why Ramraj didn’t last
If it was perfect?
Why’d faith go aghast
and not the way of the Prophet;
the path of love
and tolerance and heed
not that of spite
and vile and greed.

We evolve
We maintain
That learning
Helps regain
Balance and peace
But what worth is knowledge
That doesn’t seep
Into the ground
Into the roots
flooding the innards
Of religious shoots?

It’s a wild world out there
that always holds a seed
Of a messiah now and then
Is what we always need
As the ivy binds us tight
Of poisonous caste and creed
A new one will come
And show another way
And yet more blood will flow
In the name of Faith to stay.






Saturday, September 6, 2014

IF I WERE A TREE

5th September-Teachers' Day in India. A day marked to commemorate an iconic academician in the history of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. All of us have a favourite teacher or more, from our childhood or academic life, who we remember with warm,fuzzy feelings because that's how they'd made us feel when we were their students. However, while we all overflow with chocolatey love for many of our teachers, there's also another fact that meets us squarely in the eye-the existence of the disgruntled teacher, who hates being in the profession and is there for any reason but the right one. The teacher who loves the bright, intelligent, confident and self-motivated student: the student who makes her/his professional life easy by being just them-perfect. The teacher whose wrath finds no mediators when it comes to the average, under-par, less than wonder-child kind of a pupil, and worse still, with the consistent under-achiever. 

No, I will not take away from the flavour of the day when everyone is feeling wonderful about teaching and the teacher-taught relationship. Instead, I want to dedicate this post to one of my teachers from school who, in a bitter-sour kind of a way, is the reason why I strove for a certain proficiency in English through my learning years. Yes, the teacher who loved every student whose diction bespoke of privileged high-society upbringing. And then there was me- from a mediocre, Punjabi-speaking family; whose parents' greatest dream for their children was a plush, convent education. So, one PTM day this teacher of mine told my parents in the most unpretentious manner that I did not belong to an English-speaking environment and that they should seek out a lesser-public school for me, where I would blend in better. It did-not matter if I was good at everything that I chose to learn. All that mattered was my inability to speak, understand and write well in English. I don't know how my parents felt about it then,but I for one, colloquially speaking, was mortally struck. That was the moment when I boarded the English high-ride, rather subconsciously, I'd say. So today, while I should be profusely thanking that teacher for the humiliation, my heart really doesn't.  While she may have been the starting -point of my journey, loss of faith in certain other beautiful things in life, was a huge price to pay. And irrevocable too.

As we celebrate the ideal teacher each year, I'm forced into thinking about several other students like me, who are humiliated by their teachers every day in the classroom, without anybody hearing the sound of that impact. Students who continue to believe that they can never be the best, because their teacher reminds them constantly and consistently about their shortfalls, in several visible and invisible ways. The under-achiever is nobody's favourite. The under-achiever may as well find a school that caters exclusively to losers. It's a happy day when the under-achiever remains absent from school because the only time they're missed  is when everyone needs a good laugh and the resource is missing.

Therefore today, to celebrate the teacher-taught relationship on Teachers' Day, here's something that a far-less-than-perfect pupil wants to say to.....whoever cares to listen:

IF I WERE A TREE

If I were a tree
out there in the woods
stark different from
the orchard's; free
of the gardener's able hands
reared by moody, guileless winds
and the ageless, tireless bee
Would you let me be?


If I were a rose
thorny and wild
with unkempt petals
and restless leaves
different from the ones
raised skill fully
in your garden; and taught
to look like you
sway like you
for you
by you
then,
would you be able to see
with non-myopic vision
my form, my spotless beauty?


If I were a puddle
of unholy water
mixed with grunge and slush
the drivers of sin
Would you,
like the preacher,
take me in your hands
and bring about
stillness, and clarity?


I ask you, teacher,
i seek, I plea
for the sake of our sanity
to take me as I were
and try not
to hold me 'gainst stronger light
to see the dark in me,
for the sake of posterity
love me for who I am
find, mould and nurture
the unseen,
the unnoticed
the undiscovered in me

for the world needs all kinds.
Words and acts blind,
only dole out one
much like another
but fail to add
to the multi-hued glory
of a rainbow's austerity.

I beg you, teacher
for the sake of eternity
let not education break me
but bring in balance
order and peace
first in my heart
and my soul
And that's how the world shall be
for the sake of world-harmony
O' let me be
and the Rumi in me
stay alive and free
so, let me be
Just let me be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Black Water White Fire

Whooooosh.......I'm back! And how.

Delighted to share with everyone, the book launch of Black Water White Fire, my first traditionally published novel, by Gyan Books. The book launch, at Taj Vivanta, Lucknow, was attended by honourable Minister of State Sh. Abhishek Mishra and Padamshree awardee Dr. Parveen Talha. A book -reading session, followed by a Press Conference over tea, was how my baby was introduced to the reading world. Eight leading dailies covered the event yesterday and I was on air with Radio Mirchi, in a tete-a-tete with RJ Rashee. The book is going to stores now. It is also available at www.gyanbooks.com
Photo 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sleep, My Angel

comm-563-change-is-constant
Change, I heard, is the only constant in life. Most of us find change to be the catalyst of our joys and aspirations. There are also people who live in perennial hope of some radical change in their lives, never to live the joys of the moment. And when the change comes, it ascribes an altogether different meaning to the want. Have you ever been stuck in a change that you wished and prayed desperately for and yet, wanted to undo it all when it came in an unexpected form? ‘Sleep, my angel’ is the story of one such person.

“Sleep, my angel, roaming free,
the day is charmed, the night breezy…”
I had never sung her a lullaby. This was an unusual desire. I wished I could cuddle her. She had been mumbling in her sleep for quite some time now.  Her father lay next to her, exhausted by two consecutive weeks of running around, signing papers and finishing off with tedious, unnecessary formalities. She had wriggled out of the covers too. I tried to reach out in desperation; as if in a dream. The futility of it gnawed away at my core reminding me of my inability to make her snug in bed once again. She had already rolled over and put her arms around her father, who tucked her in lovingly.  I lingered on till the cuckoo clock sprung out, gauging the chiasmic distance between us. It had been two weeks now since we had parted ways. The weather didn’t look too balmy either. It wasn’t the ‘thunder, storm and lightning’ kind but just a melting, sweeping drizzle pressing upon the window. Irrespective of the weather, it was getting increasingly difficult to go away now.
Read the complete story at:
http://300stories.com/sleep-my-angel?fb_action_ids=10152387480283136&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Revisiting...





 FLIGHT OF FANCY


Green and white,
crisscrossed by black
the tiles on the floor;
some drooping shy,
some free and wild,
spring-flowers through the door
to-
the staircase then
leading to when
they hopped over the fence
the cobbled snake
moved on to meet
a sprightly wilderness.

A look about
and furtive search
for rabbits in the dark
mushrooms and twigs
and berry things
not found in the park

climb up a tree
that doesn't know
its nature, name or fruit
hang upside down
and try to see
the world with wandering roots

the beehive or the weaver bird
don't spare a look or care
the clumsy vines,
the unkempt hair
who needs to stop and stare?

the frenzied brook
and the broody nook
with cradled rocks ahead
the deer, the doe
that briskly go
to the princely tiger's stead

then run askance
and leave behind
all glories
and the chase
if one would stop
to ponder much
they'd lose their wondrous gaze

hop, skip and jump
and lo, behold
the house is back in sight
what joy, what fun
in the winter Sun
and a chair-bound aimless flight !


*****



WAIT FOR ME, TIME

I found my way back to this place, after a long trek through mountainous terrain, sometimes treacherous but mostly pleasantly tiring. Along the way, I met doubt, confronted pain, emerged triumphant and resumed my step, trying to catch up with lost time, sailing adrift a song:


Wait for me...
I’m breathless!
Don’t move so fast,
So reckless!
It’s a snaking spread
For me. For you?
just a darting spurt ahead.
I keep trying
t’ match your step
and just when
I think I’m dying
and barely up to speed,
with a teasing brush
of orchids
‘n’ spearmint
away you sprint
to another arduous lead.

I know you’re strong
don’t need to stop
at any curve or prong;
or even the coveted top;
what you have
I amply lack
the propensity of having
by virtue, vice or tact.

To travel light
like a mountain spring
or a string-less, hands-free kite
or a baby cloud
an empty shroud of
reflective, air-combs white
each one of these, a poet's muse
to the sky? -a wishful reverie
you never take
a walked-through path
yet beaten roads
are forced on me.
So, does that mean
that every walk
will be a test of strength?
I’ll keep calling, catching up
yet you will stay abreast?

Come now, my friend
call off this game
Go find a worthy opponent.
Henceforth, I give you not
any of you that’s mine;
you play with those
who have you none
and chase you so,
a-fleeting, O Good Time!


*****



MY PINK, HANDCRAFTED CUPBOARD


In light of assaults on women in recent times, these few lines are an attempt to relate to the thoughts of a rape-survivor, who is trying to regain balance between the trauma and her life prior to the incident.




It rings loud

and hollow

in its shiny newness

my pink, hand-crafted cupboard,

as I begin

to put in

one after the other

vibrant drapes

to adorn my work and play.

Layer upon layer

the shelves and walls

absorb within

the clamour of loud, soulful hues.



It was then yesterday,

that I wore on me

an apprehensive thought

in rueful blue

and paisley yellow

as I ravaged through

the pile of clothes

from a brand new cupboard

and straight on to bed.

The void inside

started to grow

as the heap on the bed

bled to the floor.



The voice of contempt

rang loud and hollow,

like a void

hitting a void;

guttural sounds

running straight into

a larger empty space

on the shelves now

and the walls

empty with

an emptier nook within,

and hooks and hangers

to put

frightful memories on.

Was that yesterday?



Some time today…

…My hospital bed

and the white-washed sheet

is safe because

an unassuming apprehension

has been replaced

by a listless, sanitised calm.



But the soft caressing

of cotton sheets

can’t stop

my skin from pricking

at the recall of rough hands

like nettle on unsuspecting skin

over my mouth

breasts and thighs

engulfing the memory

of my father’s gentle fingers

and brother’s benign wrist.



The hollows

in my eyes

stare at the moment

that led me to that space,

in which,

robes undone

mindlessly lying

where they didn’t belong

unclaimed, unwanted

yet devoured and relished.



I’ll take them

To a tailor,

perhaps

or a seamstress, that’s better

to darn the gaping holes

or possibly

restitch together

a patterned, patch-work quilt

Would that help?

The nurse is not

a seamstress

She says she doesn’t know.



I wonder as I,

on this hospital bed,

relive

in every empty moment

thrusts

of ruthless, mocking laughter

my body, that cupboard

now a gargoyle

for refusing

newer waste

Then and now.



Be brave

I’m told

stay strong

the only way to be

Alive.

I am, always was

and yet, now

I do not know

how to live

despite the acerbic breathing

in a prickly world

of sympathetic stares
and inquisitive cares

that dress me

like mouldy, nettled fabric…

…I find all around…

barter after barter

trade after trade

bravery for safety

courage for peace

comfort for silence

blue for grey

red for white

And yellow for an abysmal nude.



It’s tomorrow now…

I’m home

and normalcy rules

in the corridor, lane, road

outside my house.

And in the loud

ringing hollows

of my cupboard,

I shall fold the colours

to tuck them away

in the deepest nook;

I am now learning

to refill the emptiness

and order the chaos

In my pink, hand-crafted cupboard.



*****



ROCK, THE STAR



A rock can be a mountain,
and mountain becomes a rock
when shadows
come ahead of you
and the fiesty Sun behind
grips you at the ankles
it consumes
your smallness
that tallness
then purges
the mountain
and you, the rock.

At that step,
do turn around
and leave
the shadows behind
just run up to the Sun
through sweat and singeing skin
does that change the facts?
For some.
As the shadow then
gets to tail you
and before it
nails you
at the next pile of rubble
you have left 
the mountain far
and you,
the rock
now, a hurtling shooting star.

*****