Category Archives: life

Stillness

In life there are few moments when you experience a kind of stillness which changes something in you, a perceptible shift occurs. Without being aware of it the conscious has changed. I hadn’t recorded my experience in any form then. It was days later I thought about that dusk inching closer to an inky night, in the wee hours of the morning in another kind of stillness, of dawn breaking and banishing darkness. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was but feeling centered and belonging to the moment as it unfolded was a big part of it.

The winding village road was bereft of street lights. The stars looked so bright without light pollution that I wondered why we were crammed in the city. The path through green meadows where a lighthouse like light moved on both sides made it all the more surreal. I remember there was a waning moon and it looked ethereal. Was it my imagination or the quality of light was different than the one in the city?

I wonder what would travelling alone on a bike, moving with the wind and experiencing it with every fibre of my being feel like. I guess that is why people travel. To live out their unlived lives.

The moment was fleeting (aren’t moments like these always fleeting yet so much is contained in that moment) and even though I was surrounded by people it was as if no one existed. In the silence my mind was completely still. In these rare moments of stillness I feel something I can’t quite explain. Is it what feeling one with the universe and acutely being in the present moment feels like? I intend to find out.

Have you experienced such moments of stillness?

Tagore’s The Post Office and the living

I lay on the bed
for the better part of the day 
looking listlessly  out of the window
the wire mesh blocking the view
partitioning the sky into small squares.
Sleep eluded me
pain overpowered me
I longed to die.
I felt my heart thudding
hanging on to dear life.
Death laughing sardonically
watching with cold glee
whispering in a thin voice

your time is yet to come.

Continue reading Tagore’s The Post Office and the living

Chod aaye hum woh galiyaan

When I saw the song Chod aaye hum woh galiyaan from Maachis, I couldn’t remember if I had seen the film but the song felt familiar to me and the visuals unfamiliar to me. How is this possible? I love this song and didn’t even know it existed until yesterday. Yes, you can safely say I’m losing my mind or is it something serious like going mad? Well I can hear my school mates saying, “we knew that you will end up in Ranchi”. It’s such a shame I didn’t write diary entries during  those days. It would have made mining out information so much easier.

When I was a kid I went to see films with my maternal aunt and her friends. She took me along, mind you, I didn’t tag along or demand to go with her. But I don’t remember if she took me with her to see Maachis or if it  was a recommendation by her? Guess I will have to ask her and I really hope her memory is better than mine. With Gulzar it was bound to be a double treat. He has directed Maachis and the lyrics are also penned by him. Vishal Bhardwaj is the Music Director. Now you know what I’m talking about.  I have a movie to (re)watch until then you check out the song.

Life on the other side of twenty. It’s all downhill I tell you. Nobody told me that  20 is the new 40. Well I have always been an old soul. Is that all I hear you say? I was not the forgetful sort but lately I have been having trouble with my memory and none of my friends take it seriously. They think I’m exaggerating. The bane of having self-depreciating humour is that no one believes you even when you are screaming the truth out loud. They think you are always trying to make people laugh by putting yourself down. No amount of wailing or complaining will get me my memory back or for that matter my past life. Believe me I have tried both and it’s not something you want to ever see.

A song can bring back many memories, memories you didn’t know you still had but they are there somewhere. I have a uncle who looks like Chandrachur Singh, who I had always associated with Kya Kehna and suddenly I remembered that he(not my uncle but the actor) was also in a movie called Yeh Silsila Hai Pyaar Ka. Before you roll your eyes, when I was young I wasn’t that discerning a movie watcher. I just looked stupidly at the moving pictures and it’s safe to say I have watched some pretty ridiculous and lame movies oblivious to their greater purpose. Oh wait you weren’t bothered about the movies but were alarmed by my scattered thoughts? Well  it’s not in my hands (resigned look on my face).

Laurie Halse Anderon’s Speak

 I saw Speak a while ago, the movie adaptation of the very acclaimed book of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role. Despair not, it’s nothing like Twilight (to be fair to her, Twilight fans say that’s how Bella is, in which case excellent acting ) where she has only two expressions (longing and longing) but it doesn’t translate into emotion. She is so much more than a pretty prop. Incidentally I knew that she can act having seen her in the bit role I had seen her in Into the Wild (one book I must get back to again). She emotes with their silence which speaks volumes. The movie does justice to the absolutely brilliant YA novel that deals with teenage rape and depression, alienation as a result of it, very serious issues which parents, teachers and the society at large will rather not admit exist, forget dealing with it. I kept remembering stuff from the book, the lines from the book in the screenplay and the things they missed.

I always follow this rule of reading the book first if I can help it. Like most book lovers or bibliophiles (I don’t mind what you call us, we are what we are) if I know the movie is adapted from a book I prefer to read the book first (I had to wait for long periods for reading Speak) and it has always been rewarding because I get to build the world created in the book, and that joy every book lover knows. Of course on the minus side the movie usually (I thought of using the phrase ‘more often than not’ but now that I have read On Writing I feel King’s watching me) falls short of expectations, except the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I don’t know why so many people look down on YA. Trust me there are many. What you read popular fiction?! The term pop fiction is even more hideous. What’s wrong with the term contemporary fiction? Other than classics and books written by dead writers everything else they look down upon. Book snobs! They deal with real things in a real and sometimes not so grim manner, and do not put people to sleep so that their target audience actually does read and understand it. I was absolutely bowled over by Speak. Anderson is brilliant in the way she captures the voice of a teenager on the precipice of completely losing her sanity and spiralling into a quiet depression, and sinking into it but for her art teacher who gives her something to do that she enjoys, hence something to live for and she looks forward to stay in the land of living day after day.

It was first published in 1999 and five years later the movie followed in 2004. At first look the movie appears to tread a familiar territory because we have seen so many high school movies but it couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

The book cover had intrigued me for a long time and I took some time to be convinced about the story- I did not want to read about another victim who had thrown her life away. I liked Laurie Halse Anderson’s website, read her blog, bought the book and absolutely fell in love with the cover again, one of the most beautiful covers ever and waited. I believe every book finds you at just the right time. Another way of saying it unless I feel compelled to read something I don’t read it. I read it and it was literally life altering. The author interview at the back gave me some background to the book and the furore it created after its release.

She deliberately goes mute chooses not to say a word because when she tries to speak out the truth about what happened that summer nobody listens. It gnaws at her inside and she changes from a girl who lived life to just existing. She finally speaks out and she is the one who helps herself climb out from the horrific past and begins the process of acceptance as she tells herself that there is no point denying what happened. She is never going to forget it and the best way to deal with it is to confront it head on, which would someday eventually lead to healing.

The book is a must read. How come it doesn’t top favourite lists here isn’t exactly a surprise to me, it is because of the themes it deals with. I highly recommend it. Speak the book is more powerful than the movie. I will be talking about the book again soon. It’s been calling out to me again. Time for a reread.

You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.

You can’t speak up about your rights and be silent.

You need to  visit the mind of a great one- Picasso who saw the truth and ripped it from the earth with two angry hands. If something is eating at you, you have gotta find a way to use it.

A revolutionary is only as good as his analysis. Why? We should be able to shout out how things can be better.

Youth is not wasted on the Young

When I was young
I believed in happy endings.
When I was young
I believed in the goodness of  people.
When I was young
I was idealistic enough to make the world a better place.
When I was young
I believed that love conquers all.
When I was young
I believed that a fantastic tomorrow awaited me.
When I was young
I believed that ideas could change the world.
When I was young
I believed  that everything happened for a reason.
When I was young
I believed that the universe gave you what you deserved.
(Now I know that the universe thrives on chaos and works according to its own structure with no one at the helm to control it.)
When I was young
I believed in a higher power.
(Now nature has taken this place and rightly so.)
When I was young
I chased happiness even if those moments were fleeting. 
When I was young
The rose tinted glasses were my constant companion.
When I was young
I saw the universe in black and white but there are were colours aplenty in my life.
When I was young 
I believed in impossible things  because I didn’t know that they were not possible.
When I was young
The possibilities were endless like the vast expanse of the blue sky.
When I was young
I just lived my life going with the flow.
(I was free from the analyses or a cynical view of the world.)

 

Waiting for life to figure itself out

Waiting for people who never come. Reading meanings into things that never were. This is the tragedy of life. Will I fight against it all my life?  I am weary in my bones and in my soul, and to live life as it is, is torturous. Yet I carry on in the world of living, as unzombie like as I can be, trying hard not to be a soulless automaton. Growing older, I have given up deciphering what it all means, in the quest to find peace, if not joy.

Some things aren’t for my puny brain to make sense of. Joining the dots and finding the thread of interconnectedness is something bigger than myself. It’s not my job to waste precious neurons and try to figure it all out. Life figures itself out. I ain’t dead yet. So why should I live life as if it didn’t matter, when it is the only thing that is real and tangible.

What’s the plan?

What do you to say to someone, who is a new acquaintance and has no idea where you come from, and thinks that she sees you as you are (how is a conversation or two enough to know a person that I will never know), sees so much potential in you that you wonder if you know yourself at all (lasts for one shaky moment and then it passes as quickly as it had come) and wonders out loud (while you are standing right there) about what are you doing with your life. What’s the plan now? I am sick of this question and I suppose people are sick of waiting for me to figure things out.

It is in everyone’s best interest to shrug it off and run as fast from the conversation and the person in question. I will run as fast as my hypermobile joints will carry me and as long as I don’t end up in a hospital, it should be fine. On a completely unrelated note, it’s true the sure thing boat does not take you anywhere and even if you can’t run your own life, you can at least run away from it and wallow in self pity till life smacks you back into place and drills some sense into your stubborn skull, beyond which there is hopefully a receptive and working brain.

An acquaintance was shocked  when I said that I had decided not to work in the field I was interested in at the moment and she took it to mean forever. Why are people so quick to jump to conclusions and worse, they think they have all the facts? It is difficult to explain the present as it is, forget about the past. It has taken years (basically all my life) to become the person I am today.

How do you explain the many false starts and disappointments? How sickness and being ill played spoilsport and took away even the will to live? They cannot be so casually dismissed and taken so lightly as people do. Words fail to communicate where and when they are needed the most.

Keeping mum is the only thing to do here since explanations will always fall short. Trust me, I have tried explaining and it serves no purpose other than making me look like a babbling idiot, frothing slightly at the mouth with a glint in my eyes (She is gone bonkers is what they believe and I do nothing to convince them otherwise). Total radio silence is sometimes the best thing.

But if you can bask in the glory of nothingness and be at peace with where you are in life, and proclaim it gleefully to the world then there is nothing better than that. Sit back and enjoy the puzzled looks on their faces as they try to reconcile what they see with what they know about your situation, and how you should feel.

A song which walks you home

It is eerie the way songs come back to us when we need them the most. Listening to some songs is like coming home, to a part of you that existed long before in a freer time, a part of you which you thought was lost but the song awakens it, long forgotten and belonging to another era, buried deep under the artificial layers unconsciously created to deal with the world. It’s a wonder such a thing exists, untouched by the brutality of the world. It is reassuring to think that deep within, you are the same you that you have always  been – the core of who you are, what defines  your soul and what you hold dear. It is beyond the reach of the everyday world and remains unaltered. Ain’t that a cheerful thought?

I was walking home and a song just popped into my head. I have thought about this song from time to time, in the way that I will put on it my playlist and listen but never do. There are times when I really need to listen to a song and be completely present, as opposed to tunelessly humming it. And when I finally hear it, it is as if I am  hearing it for the first time. A sense of urgency leads to the discovery of a thing which has always existed but has acquired a new meaning now.

 If you associate a song with someone and for some reason it all goes sour, then you berate yourself for losing both the song and the person. Though feelings are not facts, when our mind connects certain things or traits with someone, it is difficult to let the association go so easily. Even more annoying is the fact that it was not done by choice. You must have experienced how difficult it is to hear that song without thinking about all that you have lost.  And then one fine day, you can listen to the song and not think about the past. You have healed and perhaps moved on.

Funny how a song led me back, holding my hand, beckoning me to a movie that I liked once upon a time but I now wonder if I am the same person that liked it because it has such a cliched story-line (I don’t know if it’s growing up or cynicism making inroads into my soul). The movie is sort of a fairy tale, where in the end love triumphs, people find a way back to each other and walk off into the sunset feeling complete. And I realize now that the fond memories I associated with the movie were due to the song(s).

The movie was playing on the TV and I sat through the entire movie looking for the song thinking it will come now but some other song came on. The movie ended and I still hadn’t found the song. And I wondered if I had been an idiot to think it was a part of the movie because I couldn’t even visualize the song. Thinking I had been mistaken for so many years, I was about to switch off the TV when the credits rolled on, and that’s when I heard it. The best song of the movie isn’t a part of the movie, which is about music connecting people together. Talk about irony!

It’s good to know that you can always find your way back home, if you truly want to. That it is possible to return to a place that remains untouched by time, where you remain the same old you, the self that is truest to you.

Thoughts on The Heat and Dust Project- How (not) to tell a book what you feel about it

 

 The Heat and Dust Project is a travel memoir and not just a travelogue as the title says. It is about the two people who are married to each other and how their relationship changes when they are travelling through India, to discover it and themselves in the process. It is about the feel of the place and the people they meet there, more than the place itself. They themselves along with the places they visit are the main characters in their own book.

They have dared to show things as they are, and shown themselves in less than flattering light many a time. Their relationship is there for everyone to see and that can’t have been easy. Two writers in the house and both fiercely opinionated and stubborn. It must be have one hell of a writing and editing process. I, for one, would have loved to be a fly on the wall to see how it came to be the book it is.

Reading the book  shortly before an impending trip, it fell into my lap at just the right time. I bought the book a few months back and hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then one fine day it struck me that it would make a great gift for a friend of mine who has the wanderlust and frequently travels with her better half. I read the authors’ interviews to know more about them and their project and I thought I will read  just  the author’s note to get a feel of the book. Then to get a better idea I read the introduction and before I knew it I was reading the book.

The strange thing is, whenever I read nonfiction (which is not very often) I only want to read more nonfiction. Initially it was a slow read, I was savouring every moment and nonfiction is more powerful in the way one experiences it, probably because one feels that it is something which has actually happened, real and tangible. The writing is conversational but still literary. A good balance I thought.

Anxiety is a strange but not uncommon response to beauty. It is mostly exhibited by people with a talent for stress.

 Devapriya or D as she calls herself says this when they were going gaga over the beauty in Jaisalmer and thought they might not be able to do justice to its breathtaking gorgeousity (yes that is a word). At times like these I wished the book had some photographs.

I finally found someone, to whom dusk matters and affects, in equal measure. Finally a person who has a relationship with the setting sun, a person who has revelations at dusk. And just like me, dusk is a harbinger of hope for her. How a moment captured during twilight becomes perfectly stored in one’s memory has always been a mystery to me. A marker which nature gives us every single day, to take stock of the day, to pause and reflect.

When I had started the book I was feeling lonely and unsure, everlasting solitude doesn’t seem like a good idea now that I am wallowing in it. It’s true. Everything in excess is bad and solitude in large doses can turn into melancholy, as I have often experienced. I actually shed tears seeing them begin a life changing journey. I did not know that by the time I finish I would have tears in my eyes too.

Few pages into the book, I am enjoying the journey along with them and back in my, if not happy then, content place, where I can once again live with myself. The golden days of solitude and unhurried activity. Of short naps and long silences, punctuated only by the cries of birds and the sound of wind swaying branches and rustling the dry leaves (which have a characteristic sound) and occasionally people. Now I am more accustomed to the book, attuned to its needs and it to mine. And I am excited to be travelling with them.

Continue reading Thoughts on The Heat and Dust Project- How (not) to tell a book what you feel about it

Not a damsel in distress

A snake is standing guard at the entrance ready to swallow me. If due to the fear I don’t walk on the path that leads to my destiny and allow the crippling fear to rule over me so that I am rooted to the spot, where does that leave me? The imaginary hisses in my ear bothering me so that I can’t get out of bed, fearing that under it a great big snake is waiting to snap at my ankles and that will be the end of me. 
 
Time to put my feet down on solid ground, snake or no snake, and take a step towards reclaiming my life.There will be no knight in shining armour. There is no wizard with a wand. That’s fine as I’m not  a damsel in distress anyone else can rescue. It’s only me and my wits. Bodily strength has deserted me but  still enough remains to help carry myself to the other side. Shield the feet with slippers. Pack a knapsack with essentials and start walking. It all starts with a decision to get out of the bed.
Wish you would budge Mr Snake,  and give me enough space to pass. I want to go in the direction of the road you are blocking.

Why, my little lass, you are asking for permission. My dear, if only you would have demanded, I would have let you go because that meant you had been brave enough to say what you wanted and meant it. But you are unsure my dear, hence the request. Unsure about the path you want to take. Unsure about a mere decision. Go back and ruminate on it. Come back when you are ready to fight and standby your decision. Shoo. Go.

You will find me standing guard, waiting…