Tuesday, August 15, 2023


When I die

Don't anyone say,

That she let her grief kill her.

That her heart was torn to shreds,

And the shreds could not beat.

That her mind was tortured by nightmares of memories,

Till it could not hold any other thoughts.

That she searched for herself in the broken mirror,

But she was nowhere to be found.

That her story was rewritten by others,

And she started believing in the abomination.

When I die

Instead, tell everyone,

That she put her grief in the backseat, most of the time.

That her broken heart could still beat weakly

To the drums of distant hope.

That the rubble of the nightmares shifted, 

And her mind could still find some light.

That she found her lost identity 

Reflected in the shards of the broken mirror. 

That her true story was written in indelible ink,

And she carried it in her heart, till the very end. 

Monday, July 10, 2023

The Lost Love

I heard a story the other day of a tribe that lived deep in the deserts of Western India. The chieftain of the tribe was a charismatic man, strong and proud. He had a son, who everyone loved. 

One day, the son, a young man, decided that he wanted to see the world, beyond the endless deserts of his home. The villagers were shocked, the father angry. He was after all the heir, the future! How could he leave? So, the wish was denied vehemently. 

But the son had wanderlust. He left one night in the dark, telling no one, taking nothing with him but the clothes on his back. The morning brought great sorrow to the entire tribe, especially to the father. He was broken, but maintained a stoic front. 

Days passed, then weeks, months and years. Everyday, someone or the other would come by and ask the chieftain if there was any news of his son. Each question brought fresh sorrow to the father. So one day, he announced that no one was allowed to talk about the son. His name was not to be mentioned. The tribe went quiet. Questions remained in everyone's mind but were unspoken, unasked. 

The chieftain had a young daughter. She was just five when her brother had left their home. Initially, she missed her brother, but as years passed, her memories of him began to fade. It didn't help that no one in the village spoke about him. 

One day, while she was out grazing her favorite sheep, she stroked its soft fur and remembered that her brother wore a coat made of sheep's fur. That started a flood of memories. She spoke to the sheep about him, tears streaming down her eyes. The more she talked, the more memories were stirred, the more tears she shed. 

Upon her return to the village, she began talking to everyone she met about her lost brother. The villagers responded to her innocent chatter and soon everyone was once again talking about the chieftain's son. 

The chieftain heard about it and was angry with the villagers and his daughter. Seeing the anger in her father's eyes, the little girl hugged him tightly and said "You knew my brother before I was even born. I want to know about the games he used to play with you, his favorite animals, his hobbies, what made him happy, and what made him sad. I want to know everything about him, father!" 

Faced with the innocent girl's questions,  the father's anger melted. His harsh eyes softened, his stoney face crumbled, and he began talking. He answered all her questions and some more. He spoke about his son till the one who was supposed to listen was fast asleep. 

The next day, a new rule was announced in the tribe - You cannot wipe out the memories that you cherish. You cannot deny the beauties of times that have passed. 

Just because things didn't go the way you wanted, you cannot lose the love that you have in your heart. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

I Accept

How arrogant was I to think that just because I had some serious struggles in life, everything will be okay from now on. Things go wrong in everyone's life. Why should mine be different? How arrogant of me! And how foolish!

How am I any different from the young woman who once told me that nothing bad can happen to her siblings because hadn't she lost her elder brother to illness? I had pitied her and thought to myself "How foolish of her to take that as a given. People don't just have a fixed set of sorrows. How foolish it is to assume this." Was I any less foolish?

So, my son has become a stranger to me, and I to him. So, he sees every action of mine with a twisted judgmental lens? So what? Is my suffering so bad? Is it more or less than a mother who has a terminally-ill child? Am I better off or worse than a woman with no escape from a repressive marriage? Do I suffer more or less than them?

Suffering is suffering, different in nature, yet all the same, part of everyone's life.

We humans invent a god (or gods) to whom we pray for protection against sorrow. And when things do go south, we believe we didn't pray enough, so we pray more. We invent the concept of karma to understand why we suffer. And when that doesn't work, we believe it's something we did in our past lives to deserve the pain. Guilt all-around.

When an ant is accidentally crushed under our feet, is it her karma? Is her god unhappy with her? Who feels guilty about her accident? Is it not something that just happened?

I accept this suffering as part of life. I accept this as my ant-like life having been crushed accidentally. It happened, that's all. I am done blaming myself, blaming him, defending myself, defending him, feeling guilty, feeling ashamed. I am done.

I guess this is what the fifth phase of grieving is all about. After denial, anger, negotiation and depression, comes acceptance. Not really in that order, and not once linearly (how I wish), not closing once the cycle was done, not even when you reach acceptance.

I accept. For now, for today, I accept. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Tik Tik Kadin Emegi

We had just arrived in Cappadocia after a couple of harried "tourist guided" days in Istanbul. I hadn't yet figured how to pronounce the name of the town our travel agent had chosen for us in Cappadocia-  Urgup. 

I had played no part in selecting this town and I couldn't be more grateful for it. Had she asked me, I would have said Goreme, because I had such wonderful memories of time spent there with mom and Atta a decade ago. But as I found out later in this trip, Goreme has changed totally. From a laid back quiet quaint town of my memories, it was now a "cheap" tourist town.  Not inexpensive cheap, the other kind. Urgup was different. 

We had arrived mid morning at our lavish cave hotel and decided to walk to the town to have lunch. After walking for about 10 minutes through the winding narrow empty streets, we reached the main road. There were no restaurants to be found. The one place we thought was a cafe turned out to be a wine shop. There was hardly anyone on the road that we could ask. Aloka and I were puzzled and totally famished. 

It was then that I saw a sign on a stairway with an image of a woman holding a bowl. Could it mean food? What were the words- Tik Tik Kadin Emegi? Hungry and curious, we climbed up. 

It was a good decision. We had the best meal of the entire trip in a small tastefully decorated room with just three tables. Looking at the very limited menu, we ordered Tik Tik, which turned out to be a delicious ravioli dish served on a bed of curd. We also had the most delicate melt-in-the-mouth-no-nonsense baklava, so different from the sugary heavy baklava we had in Istanbul! Despite the language barrier, we made some conversation with the woman serving us and figured out that this was a woman's cooperative of some sort and the food we ate was made by the local women.

Of course, we were back at the restaurant the next day. A different woman served us this time. She started by lightly pinching Aloka's cheeks, who blushed red. After our delicious meal of tik tik and baklava, I peeked inside the room at the back where I could hear some talking. A most delightful scene awaited us. Four middle-aged woman sat on the floor, working feverishly with their hands and chatting. One of them looked up and nodded at us. That was all the encouragement we needed to enter the room. 

By very clear hand gestures, Aloka was invited by one of the women to sit next to her. Her cheeks got patted/pinched some more. They all seemed to like her instantly. Soon, the woman was teaching her to make ravioli. She was a bit apprehensive initially but soon got the knack of it.  I joined in and we worked in the kitchen for over an hour, making tik tik, the delicious ravioli we just had. 

Sitting on the floor in their kitchen, with no common language between us, I learned the names of all the women, and they ours. We also figured out how many kids we each had. When I had trouble reciting their names back, one of them managed to convey that it was okay because while they had to learn only two names, I had to remember four. There was so much laughter and shared joy among total strangers. I felt totally at home. 

Before leaving from that beautiful place, we bought a few packets of tik tik that we had contributed to making. We had them for dinner a few times after we returned home, each time transporting us to the lovely afternoon spent in the quiet quaint part of Ugrup, Cappadocia. 

It was only later that I googled the meaning of "Kadin Emegi"- Women's labor! So happy that  now it includes our labor too!