Monday, November 13, 2017

Shadows with Dreams

I cannot be your shadow 
That fades at noon
Or melts into nothingness
When the sun goes down...

I am not the bottle 
you toss away, empty
In the midst of your 
cross-country run

I am not the twig you break
Nor the grass you step on
Or the water you push back
When you swim forward

You pass me by; unseen 
My struggles, my progress, 
With your eyes on the horizon,
Seem to you like baby steps

I'm seeking unexplored oceans; 
Unseen depths of the woods
The other side of the desert
The vast expanse of space

I must be the sun 
I must be the chequered flag
I must be the trophy; 
I'm the finishing line.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lost Child

The little girl was missing.

A thousand storms burst over my head. Lightning flashed in my eyes and thunder roared in my ears. A little girl entrusted to my care was missing! What could possibly be worse?

“I don’t know where she is, Madam!” The ayah who was supposed to keep an eye on the children waved her hands up and down in a pointless gesture that could mean that she was terrified, or that it was not her mistake, or that she didn’t know what to do. When I turned towards her, I could see the fear in her face. She seemed to be more frightened of my rage than of the fact that the child was lost. The same fear that was in my eyes, but for a different reason.

If I could vanish with the lightning, I would gladly have. I ran my fingers over my eyes.

The ayah just stood there, bewilderment and helplessness on her face, waiting for my orders, whereas she should have been running around looking for the girl.

“Go, find her! Go find her! Go!” I yelled. She just ran, possibly to hide herself from my fury, I thought vaguely.

I took a few deep breaths. She was right there, an hour ago, when all the children were taken for lunch to the third floor. I was there myself, supervising the proceedings, making sure all the bouncing, squealing, laughing seven year olds were within view. It was only a matter of a few more hours, three at the most, and the ordeal would be over. After the children finished their lunch (during which I had to keep yelling every two minutes to make it fast), we took them as carefully back to their classrooms. Yes, Nishika was there then, I was sure, for I remembered noticing the way she straightened her dress and pulled her hair back carefully behind her ears like an adult. She always made sure she looked right and set her lips in a way some women do to pretend that everything was alright. She must have seen someone do it. Then she sat down by her model to wait for the next visitor.

Continue reading ->

Saturday, September 30, 2017

If only...

How simple life seems through the eyes of a child; how easy!
Life is either black or white; right or wrong; this or that; left or right.

How strange adults are, how proud, how arrogant!
How heavy the burden they carry,
How unbearable the sins of their past;
How they struggle with a simple smile, a sorry...

How harsh on friends but kind to strangers they seem.
Polite to the powerful, how callous to the poor they can be.

How quickly occur misunderstandings,
How difficult they are to resolve.
So unsolvable are small disputes;
So effortless it is to hold a grudge.

If only things could be as simple as seen by a child
How easy theory appears against practice!

If only one could live for the moment,
Forget every tussle in minutes,
Worry not what may befall, fear not the future.
If only one could bury one's ego...

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dreams

If you have a dream to pursue,
An ambition to chase-
That does not involve
Worrying about tomorrow's meals,
Or about a loved one's incurable disease
Or about your child's school fees,
Consider yourself lucky.

Because there are many
Whose today's dreams
Are confined to
Making tomorrow's ends meet.
They may be denied the luxury
Of dreaming the way you do.
Or perhaps they have cast aside
Burning desires that once kept them awake.

If you work for your goals or not;
Struggle with failures or not;
If you have twinkling stars in your sky,
A rising sun on your horizon,
If you don't see death in your spouse's eyes
Or pain in your beloved child's,
Consider yourself privileged.

Spare a thought for those
Whose dreams may never be;
Hold your luxury close, value it;
Tomorrow the tide may change.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Inspired

There will be death. There will be illness. There will be failures - tonnes of them. Any narrative that does not acknowledge these can only be partially true, at best.

We're no longer inspired by brilliance that has faced no setbacks. Heroism that knows no doubt. Success that has encountered no roadblocks. People who experience no longing. Happiness without misery. A God with all the answers.

We're inspired by weaknesses. By failures. By repeated disappointments. By abandonment. By uncertainty. By depression. By a series of mistakes. And then by a spark that has to be blown on for minutes, for hours; that has to be protected against excessive wind and rain until it bursts into flame.

We're inspired by oceans that have no borders, by the land that we lose sight of, by the water we swallow while we are drowning, by the strength of will that survives in spite of impending doom.

We're inspired by the smallness of our world, the largeness of our hearts, the blueness of the planet, the greenness of nature, the darkness of our deepest feelings, the enormousness of a man-made structure, the endless expanse of the Universe.

Quite simply put, we are inspired by those that we chose to be inspired by.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A welcome reprieve

​​Let this peace continue!
The one that has appeared
out of nowhere
When least expected.
​A welcome​ reprieve​
From the struggles
Of a million years.

The shift in perception-
Almost overnight;
Truth laid bare
Before the eyes:
The path forward, and
The road taken;
The mist has cleared.

Caught between
The urge to impress
And to follow instinct...
A desire to do
the right thing
And throw dreams
To the wind...

I've strayed too far
Into the woods
Seeking, searching
And sometimes finding.
There's still fear...
There's still fear
And nightmares.

Swimming across the flood,
Often against it
Or flowing with it.
I place a hand
on the shore...
A stop, but-
Not the destination.

There's stillness
In the air,
As if in anticipation
Of the next turn of life.
What's meant will arrive.
In the meantime,
May this peace continue.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

We all need appreciation

At the end of a work-related conversation, I said to my friend, “What you did regarding [a certain task] was great. Good job.” 

It was not a rehearsed statement; I had just remembered it in passing. Perhaps it was my unconscious intention to end the chat on a nice note. I was about to move on, when she stopped me and said, “No one else had said a single good word about it. So, thank you.”

I was taken aback. Half-hearted though my appreciation was, it obviously meant much to her. I would have ignored what she had done, just like everyone else did (it was her job, nothing more), if we hadn’t had a reason to talk that day. I wasn’t planning on the appreciation; it had slipped out.

Everyone needs appreciation. I know I do. But do I give it away as much? I doubt it.

It would not be too far-fetched to say that people turn to social media in search of appreciation in the form of Likes and comments, for some form of approval and validation that we do not get in real life. And generally, they find it there too – because it is easier for most of us to hit a ‘Like’ or post a happy emoticon than to call them up and say, “Great job.”

Why do we find it so much easier to shower appreciation on little children? Their beaming face, their eager, proud eyes, and their efforts to impress us again? As children grow up, they consciously lose these tell-tale signs and learn to confine themselves to a stiff “Thank you”, as though appreciation means nothing to them. They – we – also decide that some people are worth appreciating; others are not. We become stingy with the congratulations.

An experienced writer I used to work with asked me once if I liked a recent article of his. I said in surprise, “Of course, sir.” It was a reader’s delight, as all his pieces were. Nothing short of expectation. Outstanding, as usual. “Then why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. I had no answer. I stammered something about he being a great writer and who was I to make comments on his writing, and so forth.

He took a deep breath and said kindly, “You must say it. If you like it, whoever the person is, however famous, you need to tell them. They need to hear it.”

Everyone needs appreciation. This statement is worth repeating. This is a note-to-self as well as a reminder to anyone who reads this.

Today we blame the social media for taking us away from real relationships and real connections. But what if, we were already withdrawing into ourselves that the arrival of social media was exactly the medicine that the patient needed? It was the door that opened at the right time for us to vanish into.

There is a recent advertisement on TV in which a couple sit together to watch a film on a popular movie app. Soon, each realizes that the other had watched the movie alone, earlier. I probably shouldn’t read between the lines (it is a cute advertisement), but it seems to be exactly what we are doing these days – confining our world to our palm. Television used to be a family activity. But it was only a matter of time before that too became part of our aloneness. We are all so used to hiding behind our screens that the only sights we can appreciate are the ones that exist within the bright rectangle of our handset. We can see and communicate to each other only through our gadgets. (Except old people and very small children, who still prefer real company of real people over anything else. Let’s not forget them.)

These days, there is a great deal of talk about mental well-being. An alarmingly large group of people are on the verge of – or already drowning in – depression. Feeling worthless is a major cause. “Whatever I do, however I do it, goes unnoticed. Why do I do it? For what purpose do I exist?” Which in turn leads to, “all my doors are shut; there’s no way out”. I am not fantasizing. It is the truth.

Social media steps in. Virtual adulation is the thin straw that we clutch at, to drag ourselves out of the darkness. 50 Likes. A handful of “wow” smileys. Some of it may make us feel better. No, it is not as shallow as it seems; it might be a life-saver. “Maybe I am not so worthless, after all. Maybe there is something worth living for.” But what happens when social media ignores us as well?

Let’s say a good word when we can. We have nothing to lose. We do not know whose life it is going to save.

You ask me if I practice what I preach? 

I’m trying, my friends, I am trying.


Monday, May 8, 2017

The Writer

Across the mountain she saunters,
Her silhouette against the sun.
Slow but determined, on and on,
Her chin raised, shoulders erect.

Down the valley she ambles, not
Stopping to smell the flowers;
The twigs across her path don't sway her
Nor the thorns break her stride.

Her intent is firm, her resolution final
The day has arrived, a note has been left.
A hundred years hence, I follow her trail
I'm where she was, I pursue her course.

Oh writer, I know what brings you here
And what you must do;
Your struggle against the tide, I feel it too
You gave up the battle, and some day so will I.

At the water's edge, you take a deep breath,
A sparkle of your tear, glides down your face.
You have no regrets, no second thoughts.
Your mind is made up. Your eyes are open.

It's now time for me to turn back.
But I'll return time and again
To the river's edge, on a different night,
I'll make my choice, again and again.