Monday, January 27, 2014

A Reluctant Disciple

I am not you
I am not even the idea you have of me
Nor I am moldable into it.

My path is different
Though it crosses yours for a while
And may not diverge from yours abruptly.

These eyes see different dreams
And this mind sways to different tunes
Familiar though both may seem to you.

My heart is different
And even though it met yours effortlessly
It beats to its own beat.

My eyes are set on a different horizon
My wings have a different flight
Though we soar in the same skies.

We are both good people in our own ways
And there are possibilities of magic

But you are you darling
Sharp, awe inspiring, with unbounded energy
And I...I am me.

Listen to it here:

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Tale of Dry Cleaned Jacket!

After almost a year of living here, I finally felt the need for a dry cleaner- my black wool coat was a mess. So, I asked a friend for a nearby dry cleaner. Her response was cryptic- she asked what I wanted cleaned. When I told her it was a coat, she said "Ok, for your coat you can go to the dry cleaner opposite Sacred Heart. Don't go to him for sarees." I had never heard of such super specialization in dry cleaning but I didn't probe. Maybe I should have.

So the next day, I went looking for the dry cleaner who was OK for coats. It was a small hole-in-the-wall shop right opposite the most famous school in our area. There, I was greeted by a middle-aged man who smiled and bowed as I approached. His smile stayed put as I showed him my coat and asked for it to be dry-cleaned. This is how the conversation went.

Me: When can I pick it up?
Man (smiling): When do you want it?
Me: When can you have it ready?
Man (smiling): Tomorrow
Me: Tomorrow morning?
Man (smiling): Tomorrow evening.
Both smiled at each other.
Me: Will you give me some receipt?
Man (smiling even more): Nahin ji, koi zaroorat nahin. (There's no need for that)
Me (feeling uncertain): How much will it cost me?
Man (smiling ear to ear): Koi na. Le lenge ji. (No problem. We'll take what's right.)
Me (totally flummoxed, but disarmed by all that smiling): Ok, thank you.

I went back for the coat two days later and found a little girl at the shop. When I asked her for her father, she asked me to take a seat on a bench and wait for 10 minutes while her father finished his breakfast. I had stuff to do, so I left. I returned the next day and the same man greeted me with an even bigger smile and a reproach that I was late- "Kab se tayyar hai ji, tussi aye nahin". He took out my coat from a cupboard and quickly wrapped it in newspaper (no plastic bags in HP) and handed to me. I made the payment and came back home.

A couple of days later, on a bitterly cold morning, I took out my coat from the newspaper wrapping with the intent of wearing it and was shocked to see that it was no coat but a kind of poncho. I had been given someone's else's clothing! I went down to mom's room to tell her but could not- I was laughing so hard. When I finally managed to tell her, she said that the same shop had mixed up her jacket too just last week, but she had noticed it right there and got her jacket back.

So, I went back to the shop. This time I found a tough-looking woman at the counter. When I told her what had happened, she said "Oh, this belongs to an Angrez (foreigner). She had come for this shawl yesterday and I searched and searched and finally told her we didn't have it. When she insisted that it was in my shop, I told her that was impossible but why not she checks thoroughly at home while I do the same in my shop"! Feeling total empathy for the Angrez, I asked what  her reaction to that proposed solution was. The lady said "O maan gayi ji"! (She agreed!)

Now, came operation Search-for-this-non-Angrez's-Coat. A lot of hangers were moved here and there, a lot of jackets were brought to me, and after a lot of "Is this your coat?" "Is that your coat?", she finally found my coat and gave it to me.

This time I checked and made sure it was indeed my coat before it was wrapped in a newspaper. As a parting advice, I told the lady to start tagging clothes and giving out receipts. To that she said "It is not needed. I never make a mistake. I was sick so my husband took over the shop for a few days. It's he who creates these problems. You see, he is not right in his head."!!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Electricians!

I woke up at 3 am- freezing! Why was the room heater off? Oh, no electricity! It was a first. We rarely have electricity cuts, and certainly never at night. I wrapped myself in the razai and went back to sleep. At 6, I got out of the bed to complete a promised deliverable and still no electricity. Then I noticed that the meter light was on. Dang! It was no power cut, but some other problem.

By 7:30, mom had called three different electricians, hoping at least one will turn up. By 9, all three had arrived! Mom and I bit our tongues and giggled in embarrassment.

But none of the electricians left upon seeing the others. Two of them watched as one fixed the burnt meter wire, while mom made small talk with them all. I heard mom say something about me to them, something about English and Facebook and how good I was. Really mom? Curious, I step out of the kitchen where I was pounding chutney manually (no electricity you see) to see what was going on and I notice two faces that looked very familiar.

Then it struck me- they were my conversational English students from a nearby hotel! I had been teaching them without knowing that these students, electricians in the hotel, had done the electrical wiring in our house when it was being constructed. No wonder mom had called them to fix our problem, and no wonder they had turned up.

Of course, I forced them to speak to me in English, much to their embarrassment. Mean of me to transfer the embarrassment to them no? :) 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

More Brother Sister Project

Here is one more of my poems that Arun read out.


Sometimes I remember you
and wish I didn't,
Sometimes I forget
And search in panic for a glimpse.

Sometimes you are near
I can see you from the corner of my eyes,
Sometime I walk the desert alone
Parched for miles.

Sometimes it is all a dream
Illusive, false, sure to come undone,
Yet sometimes I stand convinced
that you are the one.

Sometimes practicalities matter
What, where, when, who...
While sometimes I just float in the sea of emotions
that connects me to you.

Hear Arun read it at:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Do You See Yourself As?

Yesterday, Atreya asked me what I see myself as nowadays. When I didn't understand his question, he explained that last year he knew me as this professional, hardworking, single mother taking care of her kids. What do I see myself as now, a year on?

Not an easy question to answer. I have changed my lifestyle so drastically that some things that were an integral part of my identity have just vanished, and some others that I never associated with myself are now dominating my life. That's what he noticed and thus the question.

Atreya and I have a habit of concentrated focused conversations that don't permit postponing responses, so I did the easy thing- I compared the keywords he had used for the old me with the new me. I said I am still hardworking (I never oversleep, I am on my feet all day), still good at what I do (teaching, cooking, writing, having fun), and I still look after my family, even though the things I am doing and the people involved may have changed.

All that I said may have been true, but the fact is that beyond these basic similarities, I have totally changed the way I live and feel. Instead of getting up and getting ready to go to work every day, I get up and get ready to let the day take me where it pleases. Instead of spending the day talking to and working with self-important self-absorbed people, I spend the day being with simple people who don't take anything about themselves seriously, and who would be considered inconsequential by most. Instead of looking for tiny scraps of happiness in a day full of stress, I sometimes remind myself to look up from the sea of happiness and consider bringing some discipline into my life. And instead of struggling to find meaning in life, I dare life to find meaning in me.

So, darling, to answer your question truthfully, I see myself as a person who is not just a mother or a breadwinner, but a beautiful and interesting woman too. I see myself as a person who is great at everything she does, including not doing anything. I see myself as a person who is kind to people and makes them happy. I see myself as someone who deserves to be loved for who she is, and not just respected for the battles she has fought and won. But mostly, I see myself as a happy person who deserves to be happy and reckless and young and wild because she never had a fucking chance to be all this earlier.

And it must be showing, because Atreya said he has never seen me so happy and young ever in his entire life. Now that's a compliment if there's any!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Like a Chinese Sky Lantern

(Picture from s2010/09/
I long for a song of love
A song to touch my heart
And make it burst into flames

I hunger for fire
Flitting from page to page
I return disappointed, half fed

Where is my song of love
Where is my poet
Where are those words

I had a vision yesterday
that I could be anything I wished
that I could soar higher than I could ever imagine

I long for that song of my life
A song of singular beauty and stark truth
A song to take me to the sky and burn

Like a Chinese sky lantern.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My balanced score card for 2014

After almost a year of living in the moment and doing what took my fancy, I have finally thought deeply about what really makes me happy and what I need to do in order to go even closer to that state. As a business leader, I always used the Balanced Score Card to define the goals of our business. Now, as a leader of my own life, it only makes sense that I use it to define my personal goals.

Personal happiness/growth/fun
  • Invest in relationships with people who make me happy.
  • Travel around the region, making at least one trip a month.
  • Write at least one blog post a week.
  • Learn to play tabla and practice drumming.
  • Learn dance for March.
  • Practice driving the car daily and venture out more by myself.

  • Help Aloka find friends and spend time with them.
  • Spend 1-hour with Aloka doing activities.
  • Be available for Atreya whenever he needs me and spend time with him (w/o becoming a nuisance to him).  
  • Spend at least 1-hour with Mom without interruptions and take care of her.
  • Build stronger ties with Anu and Arun.

Community Service
  • Teach kids from Sonkhni da kot school regularly.
  • Approach another school for similar programs.
  • Provide free English lessons to locals.
  • Get involved with Sambhavna and the library program.

Profession and financial
  • Grow consulting business.
  • Build my Rakkar house for b&b and training business.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blissful in Mine

I do not know the meaning of life
I tried, believe me, for years
And then one day
When life slipped away
I gave up.
That, which can slip away so easily
Is not worth thinking too much about
(Regardless of what I heard Buddha say)
It is worth only living
As long as it lasts. 

I think now of myself
As being just as significant
As an ant.
I don't take myself too seriously
Or aim to be a role model for anyone
What I say, what I do, or what I write
Is just about as significant
As an ant's toiling
An act of survival
Or perhaps a little less. 

My heart's desires
Its pain
Its suffering
Its fears
Its delight
Are no more than an ant's
And my body's slow dissolving 
Into nothingness
Nothing more than an ant
Your feet just crushed. 

I am telling you
No point talking about me 
With a twinkle in your eyes.
Or wasting that all knowing look
Upon secrets you unearthed
(My secrets are not very well kept anyway)
Or shocking me with shocking tales of my many misdeeds.
I live like an ant does
Unaware of your existence
And blissful in mine.

Note: Someone had me quite sore recently and this is my response to her.