Monday, July 29, 2013


Although this poem had many words/names I didn't know (I had to look up fillibuster, Wendy Davies and Rick Perry), I was riveted from get go. Love the line "A failed erection the worst of their strife".

Ever since I returned to India, this man-woman thing has been gnawing at me. For years, I have lived and thought of myself as a human being, unaware of being a woman in my day to day activities. But here, in this village, I am reminded of my sex again and again. I know that things haven't changed, only I have become more aware of this nonsense and am sensitive to it. Nowhere does it strike me more than when I visit a temple, which believe me is rare. That some places and activities in temples are reserved for men shocks me no end. That I can't enter some rooms because I am a woman disgusts me. Making places special for men is so obviously an expression of their insecurity, but look how smugly they tell me about these rules. Thankfully, there is no man controlling what I do with my life and body even remotely. I don't think I can handle that shit anymore. Here's another reason I love being single. 

Back to the poem- really, what will it take for all women to wake and to finally take these fights? Enough is enough. When will we be done with this male power play? After all, aren't we half the world? 

By Sarah Firisen

As a woman, I know so much pain
Not the least pre-menstrual weight gain
Menopause is no fun
Birthing pain can quite stun
And we do it and rarely complain

Men get to glide right through
A failed erection the worst of their strife
We have the right to refuse
But they still get to choose
When it's time to be husband and wife

Men get paid more, the ceiling's still glass
I'm still judged on the size of my ass
My gray hair is old
They're distinguished they're told
And they're still the world's governing class

But through all this we just grin and bear
Even though lots in life don't compare
But enough is enough
Men, we women don't bluff
What is broken it's time to repair

The control of my body is mine
Not your's or some being divine
Some graying white men
Just won't tell me when
My uterus is no longer mine

So back off, Wendy Davies was right
Should we all fillibuster all night?
Now what will it take
For all women to wake
And to finally take on this fight?

For the women of Texas to say
"Rick Perry get out of my way"
It's not your choice, it's mine
And I'll make it just fine
We're all done with this male power play

Sunday, July 28, 2013

As morning turns to evening to morning without a break

I am lost in the flow of life.
Morning turns to evening to morning without a break
And I turn into breeze
Soft, fragrant and free
Reckless, fearless, high
Holding on tightly to this happiness in my fist
Beaming like a child, gleeful
And losing myself in this amazing sway
As morning turns to evening to morning without a break.

But sometimes a voice speaks roughly in my ears
What the fuck are you doing with your life?
What is your goal? What do you want to achieve?
Have you forgotten how cruel life is?
Have you forgotten its scalding burn?
How dare you not slow down and atone each day?
How dare you float?
How dare you flow?
How dare you love?
You are a fool to think you can hold it in your fist
Like air, like sky, like sand, it will slowly bleed out of your hand
It's evanescent. It's a mistake. 
As morning turns to evening to morning without a break.

I am tormented.
Do I live like life is slipping away and every minute precious?
Or do I live like life is eternal and every minute precious?
Do I forget everything but the mad joy of being alive?
or do I remember everything else sane?
Do I allow myself to feel more than I ever thought was possible?
Or do I stop myself from repeating the same old mistakes?
Do I live do I live do I live?
Or do I just curl up and die?
Is this way of living more like dying?
Or is that way of dying actually living?
I am lost...who will show me the way?
As morning turns to evening to morning without a break.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Control. Freak.

I am the least controlling person I have ever known. Just saying.

(This non-controlling attitude applies to everyone except my kids. Where my kids are concerned, I am very directive and downright bossy.)

I accept other people for what they are. Even if I don’t like them or what they do much, I don’t try to change them. I don’t even give them “feedback” because this much overused corporate concept implies that you know better or are superior to the person opposite you. If the person is not there specifically to learn from me and has not explicitly sought feedback, I keep my mouth shut.

If I have opinions that differ vastly from another person’s, I state my thoughts only if I think it is necessary, like if I am asked about it or if we are having a discussion on the topic. But if I feel the other person is just being himself/herself, I let them be what they are, as is their right.

I accommodate people in my life rather easily. I keep some parts to myself, some time, some activities, but I allow people to mingle with the rest of me. As a child, I knew no boundaries between myself and others, and sometimes I feel that state of mind lingers even now in some ways. As a result, I don’t insist people do things the way I do. If it inconveniences me, I mostly take it in my stride. I don’t mind if I have to work a little harder to find things or do chores. I even don’t mind if I have to change my habits to accommodate habits of others.

If I must change someone or something, I do it with actions - by showing how I like it done, but without much pomp and show. And if they don’t get it despite that, I move on. I rarely find myself using harsh words to get things done my way.

I know all this sounds very self-promoting. Why am I indulging in all this self-praise? Because there is a flip side to this way of being, and it’s frustrating, to put it mildly.

Just because I don’t enforce any rules on them, people start to think I am myself undisciplined. Just because I am not confrontational, people think I have no opinions of my own and need to be educated. Just because I make efforts to accommodate people, they think they are unobtrusive. I have people lecturing me about things I have meditated upon for years. I have people trying to mold me out of the form I have spent years creating for myself. I have people thinking they need to fill my ocean because they see it as a void.

Hell, just because I am not controlling, people want to control me! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Desert Rose

When you, a seeker of gardens, come across a desert, you can walk away and pledge never to return. When you, a lover of flowers, can't find any in the sand, you can walk away and seek greener lands. But when the desert is yours, a primal land, and you love flowers and seek gardens, then even as if you find greener places and even as your eyes feast on pretty flowers, the memory of the desert will haunt you and dry you out. The only way for you, born of the desert, seeker of flowers and gardens, is to water that desert for as long as it takes to green. And if it so happens that only one shoot sprouts, then the only way for you is to make yourself so expansive, so receptive, so gracious, that even that little shoot gives you the shade of a huge tree.

And you can rest, finally. Or not.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Are You Ready?

Are you ready, Ms. Cynic
To drop all notions
of how meaningless love is
and what's the most it can mean to someone?

Are you geared
To accept that there are people
and things about them
That you, Ms. Know All,  just can’t comprehend?

Are you prepared, Ms. Prudent
To let go of this stuff, this self
you hold on so tightly to
As if all of your insignificant life depended on it?

Are you willing, Ms. Self Control
To at least imagine 
Madness as a possible way of life
And a valid reason to die?

Are you ready, Ms. Been There Done That
To accept, at least to yourself,
That you haven't been everywhere 
And haven't done it all as yet? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

13 Years Ago

First, an honest admission. I struggled to write this post, which is sort of against my blogging principles. I believe that if something is not ready to be out on the blog, then it should stay where it belongs- inside. But certain dates are special and they deserve a gift of a post. So, here is one for a very special day.

Today, 13 years ago, I became single. All paper and court work for the divorce was done by proxy in Delhi while I was in Singapore, and it so happens that I didn't know that it was all over on that particular day. My brother had sent me an email informing me gently that I was a free bird, but I did not see his email until the next day. So, I spent the day as any other day, miserable as was usual in those days, but clueless about the momentous event happening back in Delhi.

A very good friend once told me about his theory about how long it takes for a person to get over a divorce- half the number of years you had been married! Imran, it didn't take 8 years, more like 5, but the warning was very useful, and much needed. But so much else happened in these years that I had no warning of.

In the last 13 years, I truly became the person I am proud of being. I always knew I was no weakling, but the extent of my strength became visible only after I had to live my life by my own with none of the support I had always taken (and was given) for granted, such as family, friends and money. I always took motherhood seriously and knew what type of mother I wanted to be, but an understanding of what parenting really is dawned on me only after I became a single parent. I always had a seeking spirit, but it became laser focused only after I was left with nothing but unanswered questions.

For all this, I am grateful to the event that took place this day 13 years ago- I am who and where I am today because of what and where I was on this day 13 years ago. For all this, I am grateful to the man whose heartlessness of those days almost seems benevolent today.

Today, I want to thank him for forcing me to see and be myself as I really am, stripped of all pretense and pseudo identities. I want to thank him for freeing me from ties that were knotted up too early, too badly and in all the wrong places. I want to thank him for handing me an empty life that I could fill with wondrous second chances. And mostly, I want to thank him for this precious gift of total freedom and self discovery.

Finally, though I had trouble starting to write this post, it soon got easier and easier, and the end result is something I will cherish forever. On some days, principles can go (beep) themselves.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sharp Edged Differences

I have been wanting to write this post for some time now, but was hesitant for several reasons. For one, I didn't want to sound like some pretentious NRI. I also didn't want to pass shallow judgment and opinions on something profound and beyond my understanding. But then, this is what I feel deeply and if I don't write about what I feel, who will?

I moved back to India after living in Singapore for 13 years. This is not a very long period of time by any standards, and so I didn't expect to have any adjustment problems. I thought I knew what to expect and how to deal with it. I certainly didn't expect to be shocked by poverty of any sort. But strangely I was.

The first time it hit me was in March, when I paid my maid's first salary and then went to buy Anakin's dog food the very next day. Instead of converting the cost of dog food into dollars and thinking it was not that bad (as was my habit with every expense in the early days), I was struck by its comparison with Asha's salary. The price of a bag of Anakin's food, which would last him less than 20 days, was more than Asha's entire month's salary! I was so taken aback that, no kidding, I didn't buy dog food that day or ever since. Anakin has been eating rotis and rice and stuff since then. And the bhukkad loves his new diet.

The next time it hit me was when someone mentioned a mortgage payment they had to make to the bank urgently to avoid losing their land. That very day, disgusted with my iPhone camera's behavior, I had checked the price of the latest smart phones in the market. The price of the phone I was considering was more than the mortgage payment that was going to cost this poor family their only asset and push them into a spiral of poverty. Needless to say, I am back at forgiving and loving my old iPhone.

Now, this difference between the haves and have-nots should be familiar to an Indian who has lived most of her life in India, you would say. Yes, I would think so too, but it does bother me a lot and all the time. I often wonder why I wasn't bothered by these differences in Singapore. After all, some of our favorite meals in fancy Singaporean restaurants would cost a lot, often more than Mallika's salary.

I don't have a concrete clear answer, but have some inkling. In Singapore, even the poorest had a decent house to live in- IMO that's the first barrier taken down. But more importantly, they had aspirations to do better and had a fair chance to do so if they worked really hard. And people like Mallika, who didn't earn a lot by Singapore standards, were still able to save enough to make a difference in their families' lives back home. There were differences between the rich and the regular folks there too, but there was a constant fight against these differences. There were dreams and hopes for change someday.

Here, there is a certain docile acceptance of this difference. It is a fact that the two people I mentioned above would not at all be shocked by the differences in our standards of living/spending. They accept it as given. It is OK here for someone to spend on a phone as much as you would earn in a year. It is OK for someone to spend on weekly grocery shopping what you would spend on yours in six months. It is OK because rich are rich and poor are poor and that's acceptable to them.

Maybe it's this OK business that I am not OK with. Maybe it is this soft acceptance that feels like a sharp edged knife. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Secret of Sad Songs

There is something therapeutic about sad songs, I have always known that. Once, when I was recovering from a relationship that never took off except in my head, I healed myself with Talat Mahmood's sad songs, a singer I had never before, or after, heard with so much attention. I heard the songs so often that I had memorized the lyrics of each one of them. Even now, I have a soft spot for each of his songs, even though I can't listen to them more than once.

Recently, I met a person who said that he heard only sad songs for over two years after his marriage failed. He couldn't bear to hear any other type of music. Now he has switched back to romantic songs and has no interest in songs that were his friends for years. No rewards for guessing why.

But why are sad songs therapeutic? Of course, one of the reasons is that they resonate with one's state of mind. But I think they do more than that. Grief is one emotion that needs articulation before it can be accepted and absorbed, but it's hard to articulate when you are gasping for breath. Listening to sad songs is like having someone else articulate your grief, someone way more articulate than you. Personally, as someone who reads and writes poetry, it is like finding a poem that tells my story almost as if the poet knew me intimately.

And there is another thing- sad songs allow you to explore your grief from many angles and expose it so much that there is no hidden pain left inside undiscovered, no chance of your being surprised or hurt by a sentiment out of the blue.

Sad songs exhaust your grief. That's their secret, and magic!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Not today

Maybe one day
I will not laugh so much 
at the crass one-liners you tell and retell a hundred times,
But not today. 

Maybe one day
I will be distracted
when you lay bare the secrets of your simple life,
But not today. 

Maybe one day
No magic will happen
when your rough hands touch mine,
But not today. 

Maybe one day
I will be tired
of your untiring youth darling,
But not today.

Maybe one day
I will not want to be loved 
the uncomplicated full-on way that you love me,
But not today.

Maybe one day
I will want to claim my life back from you
for myself or for someone else,
But not today.
Just not today. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Only Regret

In the month before we left Singapore for good, I was busier than I ever had been in my entire life. And it was the worst type of work- filling forms, visiting lawyers, planning my finances, digging up old documents, readjusting my insurance plans, getting quotations from movers and the likes. Weekends were especially crazy because Atreya would be home and there were so many things to be sorted out for his move out of our home and into RS’s. The result of this extreme busy-ness was that Atreya and I hardly had any time to talk about things that really mattered, now that the change was no longer hypothetical and just around the corner.

One late Friday night, just as he had come home from the camp and devoured the special dinner I had cooked for him, we sat on his bed and began talking of the stuff that he needed to discard before he shifted to his new place. I don't know at what point we switched gears, but the conversation soon moved from tactical to emotional issues- we began discussing what we would regret most after the move. 

I had only one regret, shared openly and often, and that was not being with him for this one year that he would have to stay on in Singapore. I did not regret the loss of income, or career, or lifestyle. All this, if any, was long resolved and dealt with. 

When it was Atreya's turn to share his regret, I expected to hear him say something similar, that he would miss me, or the food, or our home, or the family, or all of it. But what he said was quite different from what I had expected. It saddened me, yet gave me so much hope for our odd little family.

He said that his only regret is that he would not be there to see Aloka grow up! 

Playing Monopoly (or as Aloka says, Meenopally)

Going out with Bhaiyya

Rakhi and Rakhi gifts

Acting the goat

Sleeping in Atta's bed
(Here is another post about this brother's love for his sister.