Friday, August 13, 2010

Let there be Peace..

Note: Thank you to everyone who sent in emails and comments. It means a lot to me. However, I have decided not to hold any discussions on this post. I hope you understand.

Not sure anyone visits me anymore. I haven't given anybody a reason to, I suppose. But today I feel this overwhelming urge to write only for myself. Nothing makes much sense to me anymore. Life as I know it, is so unpredictable. We are nothing but marionettes in the hands of The Almighty or Whoever is up there. May be there isn't anybody. Maybe it`s just our destiny. And that`s why all prayers go unheeded almost always.
I prayed every single day for IHM`s daughter. I don't know why, but I did. May be it was the vision of a mother sitting by a loved one near a hospital bed and praying for mercy. May be it was this vision that reminded me of my own mother and what she is going through. Whatever the reason, I prayed for her religiously, without fail. And today as I read IHM`s post, I am stunned beyond words. I sit here crying, helpless and scared - as I realize that prayers don't have the power to protect. Mine never do.
Death to me is baffling. The uncertainty of it all is scary. But what is even scarier is the absolute certainty. I still go around touching familiar photographs and memorabilia from the past, listening to familiar songs. Sometimes I fiddle around with a discarded fishing rod and sometimes with a decaying spool tape. And I smile at the memory of a 10 year old, skipping alongside her Dad on a warm summer afternoon, excited about her very first fishing trip. Have I mentioned that part of my Dad before? And I think of telling my Dad about the new pond I discovered in the woods just around our house. And the song I just picked up on the guitar. And that is when it punches me so hard in the gut that I crumble up on the floor. Unable to breathe. Unable to move in. Or move on. Yes, Death can be very baffling. One would think it is easy to think of happy memories about the person who means the most in the world and smile. But what does one really know..

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 8

People, my very first attempt at shooting fireworks! Of course, there are several faults in the pictures and it would have been better with a nice, well lit back drop. But on the whole, I have to admit I`m very proud of these pictures! Over the last few months, I have spent hours reading up about various technical details and camera accessories as well as studying the pictures taken by professionals. And the hard work paid off, I guess :):) Here`s a collage of a few from my maiden attempt! Do click on it for a better view.

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, the flies die from happiness and the sky explodes in fireworks. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."
Erma Bombeck

I do! :)

Happy Independence Day, America! :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sinner or Sinned against???

Disclaimer: Thought for the day - I am NOT a gender stereotype (read a 'regular' female!), as many 'expect' me to be! Does that make me a sinner? Or simply 'the Sinned against' (given the multitude of unfair expectations of many) ??

Pal, Swaram and UmaS (unofficially!) tagged me to do this post on 'Sins on Gender stereotypes!" started by IHM (trust her to come up with something as interesting as this!)

To list at least ten things you have ever wanted to do or done which your gender is not 'supposed' to.

I thought this was a splendid way to break the mental block I was going through in terms of writing. And so here`s my list. I know this is a long, long read and so if you want to skip ahead, just read the footnote! :)

1. I whistle tunes perfectly.

2. I own more books and music cds than clothes and shoes. In fact I hardly go shopping for clothes, jewelery, shoes, make up.

3. I dont wear make up. Never have. No lipstick. No nail paint. No mascara or what have you! Not even a lip gloss.

4. I have never owned a stiletto, nor do I wish to.

5. I tune my own guitar without a tuner (not sure if this qualifies! Somehow I thought this was a pretty cool thing to be able to do!) :):)

6. I can climb trees or pipes on a building. I once climbed three stories up a water pipe, only to have my mom frantically shout at the caretaker of the building to pull me down. He was scared to climb up in the first place! So after much cajoling, I made my way down, only to be yanked up again by my mom (this time up the staircase!).

7. I love motor bikes. The best times I`ve had are the ones on my bike, riding out into the horizon on a warm summer evening all by myself. I miss those times. I miss them desperately. And right now, I`m saving to buy a Harley.

8. I detest doing house hold chores. The G does it all! :) He actually does! :)

9. I can spend hours in front of the t.v, watching sports. I spent a major part of the year watching NBA religiously. Now it`s the FIFA of course (I still cant believe Brazil just got kicked out!) And after this, I`m waiting eagerly for the National Football League season to begin. I`m a hard core Vikings fan (more so with Brett Favre in the team now!). For the uninitiated, he`s the quarterback in the National Football League for the Minnesota Vikings.

I am also addicted to watching the news all the time!

Which explains why The G and I never fight over the tv remote :)

10. I can pitch up a tent, make a fire and sit around all night singing. There was a time when I could do all of this alone. Not anymore though.

And now for the best part :) I, hereby tag:


Mystic Margarita







Is there anyone who`s not been tagged yet? Please feel free to take it up! :)


There are several other things I have done (and still do..) which are totally 'unfeminine'. But I do not want to mention them on a public forum and scandalize unsuspecting readers (read spying relatives and 'friends'!) into a state of shock! And so here is where I stop! But even

as I write this post, I realize that I have changed. I have changed so much and I`m not even sure if all of it was for the better. Over the years, there has been a mold I was cast into. I was the son my parents never had. Independent. Opinionated. And mostly free. I biked to the neighborhood corner store to fetch eggs or bread for Mom. I took tattered shoes to the cobbler`s for repair. I wore my hair very short and played cricket with the neighborhood kids. I bullied them into submission and led them to discarded wells (to throw in buckets and see the water splash) or dilapidated, crumbly houses to search for a witch(?!!). I seriously did that! And while I was busy doing all of this, life passed me by. I went on to join a medical school and then the army. And there was no looking back. Not until I met The G. And over the years of our togetherness, he has managed to unfold that part of me I never even knew, existed! There was a time when I was content to survive (and make him too!) on subway foot-longers and maggie noodles. Now, I take pride in preparing elaborate meals for him occasionally. Last year (on our vacation to Clearwater,Florida), I booked us a 3 hour long cruise into the Atlantic, where there would be a candle light dinner for two and some dancing into the night. And I even went so far as to buy myself a beautiful black dress :) Definitely a first timer for me! :) I`ve started keeping monthly appointments at the salon to do up my hair! I religiously wear the mandatory 'sindoor, shnakha pola' a married woman is supposed to wear back in my state of West Bengal and I do it because I like doing it! I`ve even started giving up on the bigger bite or saving the last bit for The G! And even though I still detest the color pink, I still dont do household chores, I still nurture the dream of owning a Harley someday and I go by my maiden name (and forever shall); He has managed to smoothen out the rough edges and turn me into the woman I was forever destined to be.. :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 7

The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.
The answer is blowing in the wind..

People, I wonder if anyone`s noticed. I havent written a single decent post in a long time. Yes, I have been caught up in the run of things, some I never thought was possible. But that has nothing to do with my silence. I sit religiously everyday with the blogger page opened. I type, read back and delete. Bear with me until I find my voice back again. Until then, I will stick to these picture posts. And I hope you will enjoy them as much as I enjoy doing them! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 6

Little things. Magic things...
( My three year old nephew! A 'MUST-CLICK-FOR-ENLARGED-VIEW', THIS ONE!!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 5 (Tulips at home!)

From this..

To This...!!

A Journey called Life...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Those were the days, my friend..

Life, they say, is a strange place. Shuffling along, alone and a little weary, I came to a crossroad and there he was, walking towards me one August afternoon. Time stood still just for a moment as I found myself hurtling down an endless tunnel. And I knew that very instant that the falling would be slow, dark and abiding.
S was our neighbor`s son, all of 22, who was visiting home for summer and who would soon be my Maths tutor. He happened when I was all of 15, had braces on my teeth and sparkling dreams in my eyes. High school board exams were around the corner and Ma decided she seriously had enough with my poor grades. Much to her relief, S`s mom came to her rescue.
"Of course he can help her," she squeaked with obvious pride, " He`s in engineering school now. What`s high school level Maths for him!" I protested animatedly just to throw Ma off track, all the while reveling in the warmth of the distant possibilities my mind had already conjured up.
Fast forward to the first lesson that was to begin in 10 minutes and I was already there in the community room of our apartment complex in eager anticipation. Wonder of wonders, so was he! For a while, not knowing what to do, I sat there absentmindedly shredding a tissue into flakes that settled on my black school bag. Soon it was time to begin. I hurriedly shoved my bag aside and tried hard to focus on the Maths textbook, all the time trying to avert my eyes as I sat across him in that room. The rest of the afternoon is a big blur. All that I remember from that afternoon is the way his lips curled at the corners as he spoke. And how startled I was at how tall he seemed from such close quarters. That, and how from certain angles and in certain lights, he resembled his crazy mother! But I brushed those thoughts aside.
" You did great!" he said finally.
I flashed him what I hoped was an alluring smile.
"I`ll see you on Tuesday. 4 o clock."
"You will?" I grunted, taken aback by my own display of immense dimwittedness..
"Hmm..well, see you around then." And he was gone. A wave of relief washed over me as I saw him quickly disappear. It was slowly getting difficult to breathe.
And so it went on. Glorious days of waiting for those Maths lessons. And two hours into them, two long hours in which I flitted from one textbook to the next, my attempts at cheery banter so edgy and stiff that at moments I felt almost foolish. There were days when we sipped on chilled cola drinks in plastic cups and let the conversation drift to topics outside our permitted domain. Graduate school life. His friends and mine. Family ties and how he was grappling with the expectations thrust upon him by demanding parents. And as we spoke, I watched his eyes glued to the skin of my hands in a long, fixed stare and I remember quickly moving my eyes to the bubbles of the drink rushing madly to the rim of the plastic cup. Oh I was in love. I was so in love! Now is the time I should speak up,I remember thinking. Instead, I found myself staring at an invisible screen separating us, the kind that glided smoothly into place whenever I approached anything intimate.
I reckoned I was going through a second childhood or maybe catching up on all the youthful rebellion in the name of love(!!) that I never had, given that mine was an all girls` school. I gave it some thought before I realized that it was true. I was showing all the classic symptoms. I put unnatural colors in my hair (much to Ma`s consternation!). I spent hours in the bathroom getting dressed! I was going out a lot in the hope of catching a much coveted glance and coming back late, reeking of forbidden desires. I had ever-growing phases in the day when I forgot that the high school board exams were near. I danced longer and wilder than anyone else in the community dinner hosted by all the residents of our apartment complex, until Ma dragged me away with firm arms and a steely look that threatened to tear me apart, while all others quickly moved aside, appalled. Yes, I was in love.
"This cant go on much longer," he said to me one day and I almost dropped the biscuit I was chewing on. I calmly dusted off the biscuit, soaked it in the tea cup and watched half of it dissolve to the bottom in lumps. I pretended this had been my plan all along and sipped the tea (which now had biscuit scum floating on the surface) with as dignified a look as I could muster. Then I coughed loudly for about 10 seconds and only then did I say, "Pardon?" He let it go and we chatted about the dinner he was attending that weekend with some old friends. I bit my lip so hard that I may have left a scar, but I did not ask for further clarification. I wanted it that way. That was where I wanted to be, pregnant with possibilities, full of hope. Nothing was defined between us. Nothing was overstated. By some tacit understanding, we were just the two of us and I felt safe that way.
Up until then, that room with its grimy blinds, worn out leather chairs and chipped off wall paint was the most perfect place to be. Every time I walked into it and shut the door behind me, I imagined that all around me the hands on the clocks stopped, the sand in hourglasses halted mid-trickle, the universe skidded to a halt - a frozen world outside and in here, the two of us. Every day I knew there was one less day of us together. Once the tests were over, there would be no reason for me to come here again. The waiting would be over. A new life awaited.
But God, I was besotted.
Even now when I get a flashback to those days, I smell the familiar smell of those blinds and the leather chairs and I`m back there, 15 again, stupid, skinny and in love. My spine springs up, I feel layers of dimpled flesh peel off my being, my cheekbones come back alive and I find myself running down the road towards him, like there is no tomorrow. But there always is. There was.
Three years back when I was visiting home, happily married to The G and the past indiscretions all forgotten, I bumped into him again. As we exchanged pleasantries and polite introductions to our better halves, I smiled to myself. He looked more and more like his mother and as I shared a knowing smile with someone who had held my heart for a while, I couldn't help sending a quiet prayer of thanks to the Heavens up above. The old times were good times, I said. But Thank You God, for now is so much better. And then I turned back and walked away.

This is my entry for this week`s Blog Adda Contest in collaboration with Pringoo.
Within you I lose myself...

Within you I lose myself...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 4

Shamu, The Killer Whale performing at Sea World, San Diego!
(please click on it for a better view!)
He was Born Free..

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Good of Small things..

I have always been very excited about celebrating birthdays. Mostly my own. I love feeling special. I love the fact that one day of the year is just to celebrate me, my very being :) When I was a kid, I never really had big birthday parties with a theme and a designer cake and lots of friends over. Mine were mostly simple affairs, with Mom baking a simple cake and a lavish dinner, a few balloons and the neighborhood kids and cousins. But I always attended some of my classmates` birthday parties. Most were lavish affairs that I secretly wished I could host. And it was pretty mortifying, not be invited to someone`s party, especially when your best friend was! In the later years of school, I remember 'going out' for lunch with friends. Mom would give me money to pay the check and I remember feeling so important! But nothing could quell the secret longing for a swanky birthday bash(the kind I never had!). And so over the years as I grew up, celebrating birthdays became more and more of a child-like obsession (like the 8 year old ones I once had and never grew out of!)!
This year I had the perfect birthday. I woke up to a bright morning and a flood of emails and birthday messages! From friends, from people I was not in touch with, from people I`ve never met too! I cannot explain why this was so moving, but it was! And one of the high points of the day was a surprise card by Sagarika, which completely blew my mind off (in the nicest way possible!). I couldnt imagine doing the same - making special efforts for someone I hardly know, just to make the other person`s day a little brighter. I am so touched by this gesture and very, very humbled too! It brought back several fond memories.
My best friend since school always took special care to prepare birthday cards for me. She once gifted me an assorted collection of all our favorite songs(including our all time favorite 'That`s what friends are for'! Check this out, J!), having made special efforts to look around for the songs and record them herself! I have cherished all those cards and much more over the years.
Which is what set me thinking.
I dont remember a single thing I may have gifted or done, not a single gesture that someone might have cherished over the years. But then, I think about all the times when I`ve just been around, heard someone out, cried together, whined and complained or simply laughed together. And I wonder if that is ever enough. I wonder, because sometimes it isnt with me. Sometimes I need to be pampered, made to be felt special just because. And I`m not talking of gifts that one can buy by throwing money at them. Expensive jewelery or clothes or perfumes or what have you! I`m not even talking of everyday things like waking up 10 minutes early to pack a fancy lunch for the kids (though there is something fascinating about the immense love hidden behind such diurnal monotony too). I`m simply talking of simple heartfelt gestures which show that you care and how! A thank you note. A hand-made card. Flowers. A surprise dessert date after dinner. An assorted collection of favorite songs. Surprise concert tickets. You know, little things like that, which touch a single chord and the notes resound forever..
I realize that I have truly never done anything like that for anybody! And so I step back, alarmed! Am I always taking and never giving? And more importantly, is the 'Art of Giving' something that one has to cultivate or does it come naturally to people(and sometimes not at all to others!)? Here`s the time to pause and think. Have you ever made an extra effort to show someone you care? Have you ever surprised anyone with a thoughtful gift??

And now for the cards I was talking about.
This one is by Sagarika : Album covers of The Gods(Pink Floyd!). I especially love the bday cake with my name on it!

And this one is a collection of old bday cards especially made for me! (This one`s for you, J!). Please click on the individual snippets in the collage for a better view.
Click to play this Smilebox collage: Piper`s Bday cards!
Sometimes, I see magic in little things.. Do you?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 3

Winged Wonders.. (Please click for a better view!)

Spotted: Blue Damselflies!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The persistence of Memory...(my own!)

Back in the past when digital cameras were a dream, I owned a good old Kodak 500. The pictures were on negative photo films! I remember the excitement of planning out each picture carefully and the endless wait till the film was developed! I miss that part of my life sometimes.. Technology has made all of that antiquated now. And life a tad boring (if I may so add!). However, it is in this age of digital photography that I find myself fascinated by what a camera can do. It is amazing how one can transform a seemingly ordinary place or an object into something remarkable. And so I go, in search of the incredible - an alchemy of sorts - in my venture to touch the commonality of things and cast them into gold.
According to the contest rules by blogadda, I need to put up only FIVE of my best travel pictures. Since it is near impossible to pick just five, I will dedicate this post to the five places which have had the most profound impact on me. Each in its own different way. And I hope they touch a chord in you as they did in me.
Please click on the pictures for a better view.

1. Bridges of Madison County
No. This isn`t about the movie or the book. This is the story of our visit to the covered bridges of Madison County. Yes, The G and I drove down 300 miles to Des Moines and from there, to the small village of Winterset,Iowa to create what will remain one of the most special memories we`ll ever have in our togetherness.Endless rambling pastures. Slow,sensual rhythm of the wind-mills,unmindful to the passage of time. Absolutely nothing for miles except grey overcast skies, the covered bridges and the two of us.We took to the road in search of something undefined, yet so clear.We went there looking for Francesca Johnson and everything that she stood for - the lonely existence of a suburban wife; the passions that stirred in her soul briefly and with such power; the everyday struggles of love, hope and loneliness here in the middle of no-where . We ended up finding ourselves. All over again..

2. Lake Superior, Minnesota
Sometimes when I flip through old family albums, I see big sad eyes and a resistant smile of a 9 year old stare into the camera. Or clenched fists of a gawky 15 year old.Or drooping shoulders of a 20-something caught unawares. That`s who I was. And then I gingerly turn the pages of the album, the edges now yellowed over time. And I see bright, happy faces and a fiery smile lighting up the frame. No more clawing fists, bleeding lips and bruised souls. Pictures taken here in Minnesota, which I have grown to love as my new home. That is what Minnesota does to you. It makes you happy.
The G and I have a wacky ritual - one amongst many - we drive up north every Christmas in a raging snow storm to usher in a new year. There is something intriguing about the white wilderness of the great lake. It is peaceful. It is untouched. And it does not freeze. This picture was taken along one such sugar-dusted, icy shoreline and it continues to remain a personal favorite.

3. Grasmere Village, Lake District, UK
The unspoilt English countryside. Just as I had imagined it would be. The pints of cider just taste better out here and the smiles seem more genuine. The Sun more guarded. The moors greener. The air more crisp. The sheep look up startled, while the ducks mock at tourists in wooden punts.An endless patchwork of fields and rambling hills with an occasional break for a tiny little wooden fence.Rustic footpaths and wooden bridges where you look over your shoulders every now and then, expecting to see a horse-drawn buggy. And you almost do. Rose bushes creeping up on the moss-covered stony walls in unexpected warmth. And bushy hedges fiercely guarding little cottages. Farmers still building wood and stone pasture walls by hand, years of history in each perfectly placed rounded rock. Here time runs a little slow and the pace is relaxed. It felt strangely liberating. Like I was free to breathe again.

4. Poonch, J&K
Those three years I spent at Poonch, J&K, by far have had the deepest impact on my life so far. Not the Kashmir that most people know of, but life under the most primitive living conditions. Shell proofed bunkers. No running water. No electricity. Generators going off at 10 in the night. Writing letters in candle light and willing my adamant mind to play dead and fall asleep. Having to wait for hours before getting a call through to Mom Dad and barely managing to hold back tears and not choke up. Hating every moment of the dark sleepless night and yet feeling proud at having survived the day. A few lonely tears over the people I`ve lost every now and then, those who shall never return back home; and silent prayers for mercy. Locked up in my room and listening to my own voice for inspiration. Pushing my limits and knowing that I can move a step forward yet again. Looking back, those were jolly good times. Not something I`d like to repeat. But a profound experience all the same.

5. Disneyland, California
By far, the most radiant picture of the lot. The trip to Disneyland was a dream come true. Amidst all the colors and the dancing and the smiles, I felt a tear drop landing softly somewhere deep inside. We are all the same, I thought. We, who come from varied nations, across varied cultures and religions; We, who stand here in our togetherness, clapping and dancing to the same tunes and the same happy parade, we are all the same. We breathe the same air, sleep under the same sky which carries the same old moon on the same silken thread. The same things make us happy - yes, all the hundreds of us who stand here celebrating a vibrant Disney parade in unison. And yet we will go our separate ways, back to our own circumscribed spaces and hide behind phony carapaces of religion, caste, skin color or nationality. We will no longer be the same crowd that stood together to enjoy a happy parade. Ironical, isn't it? We, who are all the same but for self-created barriers, seek to destroy that which we have helped create?

Do pictures really speak a thousand words? You tell me..


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 2

Of Raindrops and green whispers..

Please click on the picture for a better view.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Catharsis of Insoluble thoughts..

I have a problem. I am a person who must have an opinion on everything.
That`s not the problem. The problem is that I feel the need to voice them.
There was a point in my life when I was proud of who I was. Proud of the fact that I could speak my mind loud and clear. I was honest and upright about things. Not any more. No, I havent stopped being candid. Just that I have stopped feeling proud of it.
People dont necessarily like candid people. I dont understand the dichotomy. People appreciate honest deeds but not honest words. And it leaves me confused. If I disagree with you and give you reasons for it, you dislike me. If I say the same thing under the guise of smiles and cotton fluffs and such like, I may stand a chance. Better still, if I acquiesce! People seek out audiences that reflect their own perceptions of themselves. They do not care if I actually believe in them and their ideologies. They simply want me to convince them that I do. They want complex and braided acts, all garnish and frills and words.
But I cannot give that to you, I say. I cannot be what you want me to be. I cannot live life in a reactive mode for long. Because after a while, something snaps and I find myself rebelling. A ball of fire slowly rises and bursts forth. So much so, that many who stand close, have to move aside so as not to get torn in the blast. Not worth it, I say. Definitely not worth it. And so I go about as I normally do; annoying the people who demand conformity and twisted acts in return for frivolous banter over home cooked dinner. I refuse to be 'politically correct'.
But then comes a time when I get scared.
Imagine being caged up with someone whose brains have been eaten away by disease. Imagine being unarmed, with nothing but your words and your thoughts. You scream at the creature to stop. You shout out reasons why it should not attack you. You see blazing eyes and a moving tongue that doesnt know when to stop. And you know that the thing cant see, nor hear you. It cannot be reached. Not in any way. Never through your words. And yet there it is, breathing and moving around in front of you with an agenda of its own. Now that is horror, I say. That is what scares me. That there are several such creatures hovering in and around.. And my words are not enough to make them stop.
The only conclusion I can draw therefore, is to simply keep quiet and ignore till I am harmed. To keep my words to myself. Because, for people who decided to leave their brains behind as they were growing up, my words wont make a difference anyway..

"People want nothing but mirrors around them, to reflect while they are reflecting too. Like the senseless infinity you get from two mirrors facing each other along a narrow passage. Reflection of reflections. Echo of echoes. No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose. That is what people want."
Dominique Francon
The Fountainhead

*The example quoted is from The Fountainhead too*

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 1

I confess - I didnt have the faintest clue about 'wordless Wednesday'. I thought it was something started by Swaram! But of late, I have noticed some spectacular pictures during random blog hopping and realized how beautiful a concept it is, to be able to speak to your readers through pictures. And so, without getting too 'wordy', let me begin a new trend on my blog too.
I promise that the subsequent wordless posts shall all truly be wordless! :):)
For now, allow me to explain why I have chosen these pictures to be the first ones of the series.These two pictures are actually a patchwork of a few letters that Dad had written to me, when I was away at college. Each one of his letters have been a guiding light in my life. Some are even funny (like 'dont quarrel'(!!). I cannot accommodate them all. But here`s a glimpse of a few.

It has been a little over a year since Dad went away. And even though sometimes I still hurt so bad, I have been able to look at these letters and smile. And so, here I am, sharing my most precious possessions with you. Letters from my Dad.
As I mentioned earlier, all subsequent wordless posts will be just that - wordless! :):)
*In case you cant read the hand writing, I`ll be happy to oblige*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Status Updates..

The G is away and wont be back until the weekend. So I have been driving myself crazy, wondering how I will spend the nights. As sundown approaches, the fear is slowly beginning to border on paranoia. But for now I will think of happy things.There are several things on my mind, mostly unrelated and hence this is going to be a bullet post.
#1. Strange, how subservient we become to human companionship. There was a time when I would go for days without talking to anyone and never even realize. I was happy. I was content. But marriage has impaired that part of me. I thought I was looking forward to some lone time by myself but really, it feels pretty dismal. And as the sun goes down, I`m beginning to feel a little tingle in my heart. I`m making mental know..lock the back door, keep the front lights on, close the kitchen window, pull down the shades of the den, remember to take the knife to bed etc etc. Last time when The G was away, I had decided to hole up in a motel. Some found it strange..even weird. But trust me, I was comfortable. But this time we are having The G`s friends over for 3 days during the weekend and I have tons of work to do. And moreover, at some point I have to grow up. So here I am, by myself. I guess I`ll be just fine.. hmm..
#2. The D.C trip was great, the high point being a visit to the Holocaust Museum. It deserves an entire post and so I wont mention much - except that it was a very solemn, overwhelming experience. After a four-hours sojourn inside the museum, I sat there by myself at the Hall of Remembrance and heard an old woman recite the names of the victims one by one and saw the flame burning. And then I thought of all the hate and the alienation in today`s world and the gruesome aftermath of it all (be it the Middle East or Darfur or be it my own country), and I realized that nothing has changed. We have learnt nothing from History. I sat there for a moment to reflect. I said a silent prayer and called out their names, all those who disappeared and never came back. And I thought, I will still  keep my faith and I will keep my flame burning. In spite of everything, Oh please let us all keep the flame burning..
#3. Spring is here, People! And it is just so beautiful! The sky is so blue. The flowers are blooming. Bright colored children flock together under the April sun and I want to sing out aloud. One look at these pictures and you`ll know why.

#4. Simon & Garfunkel have a reunion Spring tour and they`ll be here in the Twin cities on the 8th of May! The G got us tickets for the concert. It was supposed to be a birthday surprise(4rth May, if anyone wants to wish!!), but I found out somehow! :):) I`m still so, so excited about it. Imagine! I grew up listening to these guys. I share so many fond memories. And now I will be listening to them live!! :):) Not only them, Joan Baez in July and tada!!(For Sagarika especially) ROGER WATERS (The Wall Tour - and his last) on Oct27th!! Yes!! LIVE!!!!
(For the uninitiated, Roger Waters is The God I worship. Of Pink Floyd fame)
#5. Lastly, I wish to thank each one of you who sent in best wishes before the grad school interview. Looks like I made it through this time :):) I received an acceptance letter and I`ll be starting school this fall, after all :) Life suddenly seems to have taken a start!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April, 2010 - Remembering Dad..

It`s been one whole year since I lost my Dad.
But sometimes it feels just like yesterday..
April 11th, last year at this time, I was with Dad.
I remember staring straight ahead at the cardiac monitor. Steady. Cold. Unflinching. I remember looking long and hard at Dad. And praying for the end to come..It didn't matter that I wouldn't see him anymore..death didn't scare me anymore. But the suffering did. As I watched the doctors in their last attempt at CPR, I sat tying my shoe laces, while my mother went around packing our things. There was no space for anything other than immense relief.Dad was at peace.We were finally going home.Pain didn't scare us anymore. The worst was over, I thought.
Little did I know that I would be learning about pain soon enough. That it would forever lurk in ordinary things. In the lonely moon. Or the strum of a wooden guitar. In the laugh of a two year old. Or an old, discarded record player. Little did I know that the surreality of it all would come back in waves, to haunt me forever.Destiny whiplashing again and again, until I would be on my knees and begging. While other people my age learn to live their lives and not just exist, I learn how Destiny negotiates it terms and collects its dues. And I shall never forget. The smell of Destiny. Like the distant rain on a breeze. Elusive. Slippery. A harbinger of dark clouds and thunderstorms. And then some easy rain.
Death is baffling. I roam around, touching familiar objects and photographs, listening to familiar songs and I smile.I think of picking up the phone to talk to Dad.And then I remember I cant do it anymore. And that is when it hits me. It hits me so bad, I want to crumble up and die. And then I think of Dad and all that he would want me to be. And I go about, making him proud. Like I always did.
One hot afternoon a week ago, the doorbell rang. Standing outside our home in Ranchi was a rickshaw puller with a bouquet of white flowers in his hands. As Ma stood there in perplexed silence, he extended the flowers towards her and said," I know you have a prayer service for 'Sahab'(Dad) today. I came by to pay my respects. 'Sahab' gave me dignity. Today I respect myself and the job that I do because he always respected me."
When Ma narrated this to me over the phone, suddenly it all became clear.
The presence of that one rickshaw puller who cared, is far, far more worthwhile than the coerced phone calls or plastic presence of extended family who dont.But it doesn't matter to me anymore. I no longer feel bitter or angry. I have learnt to calibrate people and level my expectations accordingly. And sometimes not at all. In other words, I have grown up. And even though I`m still grappling to come to terms, I am trying. Trust me People, I am.
- I joined a music club, because I had a compelling urge to be near people who shared the same passion, people who made beautiful music, just like Dad did.
- I started guitar lessons.
- I got a few stories published.
- I made a couple of friends(and lost a potential one too!).
- I worked hard towards joining grad school.
- I worked hard on myself. I still do.
When Dad left, I kept his wrist watch with me. Time stopped at 3:19pm that April afternoon. And I wore it on my wrist as a reminder of all that I have lost. Today as I celebrate Dad`s life and the hundreds of ways he touched mine and so many others`, I decided to wind up the watch. It will not bring back lost time, I know. But it will herald in brighter ones.

This will be my last post for a while, People. I will be flying to Washington D.C tomorrow.
Any readers from D.C? I hear this is the busiest time of the year in terms of tourists. But all that I hope to cover in two days is the Holocaust museum. I`ll be back soon. But before I leave, I want to convey my heartfelt gratitude to all you people who have been there for me during the most traumatic times of my life. You have been my most loyal supporters, my well wishers. You have been there with a warm word or a hug or a smile, just when I thought I would die. And you have helped me stand up and dance once again. Thank You People. Thank you very much..
So long! I`ll be back soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The thin ice..

Today afternoon, like most other afternoons, I walked into the coffee shop and saw my favorite table occupied. I almost always sit here because it has room for 6 people and I like to spread out my laptop, books, cell phone, iPod, coffee mug and what have you. Today there were two girls with colored hair(purple streaks, if I may add!) and layers of make-up instead of clothes (second generation Indian American undergrads(read wannabe) -I could tell from my previous experience).
* I normally never comment on appearances, but then again, I have my moments!*
I walked up and put my back-pack on a chair."Do you mind if I sit here?" I asked. They gave me the once-over. Exchanged looks(pbly because of the sindoor-shankha-pola).One of them thus spoke, "Err.. yes we do. We have someone joining us. If you want you can sit for 5 minutes," she cooed and then both of them burst of laughing (?!!).Allison,the girl at the counter, who was privy to the whole scene, insisted on buying me coffee to make up."Its on me," she said as she went around trying to find a seat for me. No one joined the two girls. They left after a while.
I am stunned. But more than that, I am terribly, terribly angry!
What is it with the Indians born and raised in the USA?
No really, what`s with all the cockiness huh?
What about my appearance was so lousy to warrant a filthy stance like that?
I am still fuming.
You can spot them from a mile - second generation Indian Americans(henceforth referred to as SGIA for convenience!), born and raised in the USA.
You can spot them by their outrageously inappropriate clothes(given a particular situation), their reckless attitudes, their strange loud ways and their stranger accents.Gross generalizations, I know( The G has a SGIA undergrad as a student, who is exceptionally brilliant and does excellent research!).But I am feeling mad enough to make an outrageous, sweeping statement like that! What is wrong with them?
The issue here, however, is not that simple. Far from it, in fact.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who`s doing research on second-generation Indian American children.She says that as a group, they are typically discriminated against in schools, by their peers. They are frequently referred to as 'Coconuts'(Brown on the outside, white on the inside(?!!). We all know that children can be ruthless that way. The incidence of such alienation, it seems, is alarmingly high! So the SGIA children, born and raised here, find themselves at war. They have to walk the thin line between 'Indian traditions'(their only reference being the occasional trips back home and the wisdom imparted by rigid/insistent parents) and unforgivably savage peers. They are literally at war. With themselves! Which can sometimes manifest in bizarre ways. The inner turmoil they must feel, sometimes get directed at the wrong people at the wrong times! And so, while I have had the good fortune of meeting warm, accepting Americans, my interactions with the Indian counterparts have been grim, at best.
I cant help feeling a little sorry. And I wonder if these children ever grow up to be healthy adults. At some point in life, do they grow up to be comfortable with their own identities as well as those of others? Or is this something that one cannot generalize at all?
Last night we went out for dinner with a bunch of friends. One was an Indian family with a two-year old daughter in tow. The wife is a good friend of mine. And every time I saw her pick up the child, talk to her and answer her myriad questions, I couldn't help but smile. Her was a woman who was content to stay at home and raise her child(as opposed to working, after graduating from a top engineering school in the USA). And what`s more - she is very happy. I cannot imagine the lil one growing up into the stereotype I just mentioned above. Same for my nephew,the little devil growing up here. I cannot imagine him turning into one of the children I just described!
When I was growing up, I didn't dare be disrespectful of anyone. I still remember my mother`s steely looks literally stabbing me to the core, when I made fun of a neighbor`s son who couldn't run as fast as I did. I will never forget the lecture she gave me that day.And then I also remember all those times when I was sassy,rude,impertinent to the point of being nasty - mostly when Ma wasn't around to drive home lessons with a brick bat! And I cant help wondering.
Does the growth of a child into a wholesome adult depend solely on the kind of parenting or are there serious social/environmental influences in the development chart? And if that be so, are the children back home in India really any different?

If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear stained eyes
Don't be surprised, when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice

- Pink Floyd

Friday, April 2, 2010

Time out of mind..

A very big 'THANK YOU' to all my blog buddies!
I couldn't have made it without all your good wishes and pep talk!
The interview went very well - no unpleasant surprises!
I think I just might make it to grad school after all!

My head is reeling and I`m feeling faint!
I have been studying for the past 6 hours!
And I have managed to cover pretty much everything under the sun.
(Now you know why I havent visited my favorite blogs in ages now!)
People, trust me, I have worked harder than anyone ever has for an interview.I decided that it is better to be over prepared than have surprises sprung on me(which incidentally,they probably will anyway!). But nonetheless, I think I have worked pretty hard. And in spite of this, if I screw up or don't make it for whatever %#&$&^&*^ reason, then it`s just too bad..
I will simply end up as a waitress in a coffee shop, write stories and play my guitar on rainy Saturday afternoons(which I long to do anyway).
This is the last post before the interview, which is on Monday.
I will spend this Friday evening studying. Tomorrow I will rehearse my answers in front of the mirror and then spend the evening at a salon! Sunday,I will eat out my brain and then The G`s..
And all this for a grad school admissions interview!

(If I sound neurotic, that`s because I`ve probably lost it. I mean literally!)

So wish me luck People. This means more to me than you could ever, ever imagine..

"People on the platforms, waitin' for the trains..
I can hear their hearts a-beatin', Like pendulums swinging on chains.
When you think that you've lost everything,
You find out you can always lose a little more..
I'm just goin' down the road feeling bad,
Tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door

-Bob Dylan

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Communication breakdown..

Goofy Mumma`s post 'Connected or Stressed?' set me thinking.
A few days back, someone gasped at the lengths of my emails. He said it was unnatural because he had gotten so used to brief, to-the-point messages. My emails made him uncomfortable, as did my thoughts. I couldn't get over it. It bothered me.
How can communicating be a bad thing?
In long ago lifetimes, I remember how I would run out of the girls` hostel, clutching a letter in my hand. I would drive to my favorite spot near college, a lone banyan tree on an abandoned hillock(also called LBT by AFMCites!), curl up underneath and devour the thick wad of paper full of gossip and news! Letters from home, from my sister. I would sit alone with the letter in my hand and weep some. And then I would begin to write..When Dad passed away last April, we had to go through his personal stuff. And there, wrapped up in a plastic bag, now crinkled over time, were all those letters I had written years ago, sitting alone under the tree. He had saved every single one of them.
I still have letters written by some of my closest friends in school. I love to hold them, to read them from time to time. It smells of History; my history and those who were a part of it. I saved each little note, each letter, so I could read them silently to myself on warm summer afternoons or a lonely winter day. I read the letters over and over, so as to remember those who were a part of my life once but not anymore. I read,so as not to let the words slip from my as never to forget.
A piece of paper conveying diverse sentiments, ranging from fear to love to warm hand clasps and big hugs..sometimes even anger, across distant souls. Some are brief. Some are piquant. Some loving. And some plain caustic. But all are heartfelt. All are earnest, unfeigned emotions that I had managed to evoke in someone; emotions strong enough to warrant an unbridled, unchecked expression of thoughts through a letter.
It never ceases to fascinated me.
A few years back when I was in the Army, I used to write long letters back home and to my friends. There was no cell phone connectivity along the LOC and landlines were unreliable. We had to go through 2 army exchanges to connect to a regular PCO. And then wait for days before there was a connection home. And so I wrote. I wrote every single day and like there`s no tomorrow. All that I had was my heart written out in pieces of paper. It was a life line; the only thread that kept me bound to the world outside; the only honest expression that told me I was still in the same world, still under the same sky, still breathed the same air. Everything else was surreal..
I still check my letter box everyday, but no one writes to me anymore. And so,like everyone else, I stick to emails too, though I have never seen it as any different from a letter, hand-written. What better way to put your thoughts and feelings across than by writing. It is gratifying. It pleases me. Satisfies my soul. Yes, Emails definitely help to keep in touch.But communicating? That`s a whole new ball game.
Consider this.
After a couple of long emails discussing Ayn Rand, I got a two-liner reply back from a "friend", stating how we should meet up over elaborate drinking sessions to chat up. I took that seriously. I was excited at the prospect of making a friend(God knows I needed one!). And I wrote back some more.. Only later did I learn it the hard way that sometimes people write two-liners for the heck of it. Yes, emails have made it easier to evade, to palter,to fool..And yet, despite the realization, when I dont get a response,it makes me guilty. It makes me sad. But most of all, it troubles me. Have I just ended up making a fool of myself? Has it been misconstrued as too eager or too desperate or too jobless. Why would someone avoid a coversation by sending back one-liner scraps/replies and sometimes not even that?! How can responding to an email be a bad thing? Or is this simply about not responding to my email?
In a world swamped by technology, everywhere I go, I find my personal space invaded. And it is at such times when I long to receive a letter, all gooey, gushy, maudlin..filled with words carefully chosen and eternal, meant for no one but me.. And yes, I have written such letters too - with no reply, thank you very much! Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic, or just downright old-fashioned.
In today`s world, where sentimentality is ridiculed and friendships have become a matter of convenience rather than need; where there is a growing apathy amongst men and urban alienation continues to take new forms, I cant help wondering..
Has interpersonal communication really gotten easier?
Or has it simply broken down..

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more.
People talking without speaking..
People hearing without listening..
People writing songs that voices never shared.
No one dared disturb the sound of silence.."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Insanity...and a lost cat!

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being happy and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth!"
- Cynthia Heimel
And so I go about, making a complete F&%%&*%* A%^%*^& of myself.
Each day!
In some way or the other!
People, I have a grad school interview lined up for the 5th of April. It is just so crucial that I do a good job. Because if I don't make it, I will die. No kidding. I can't imagine sitting at home for another year. I feel immense anger at myself for allowing this to mean so much to me. I realize the potential aftermath, if I fail. And yet, instead of working for it, I just while away my time.
Am I delusional? No seriously, am I?
And then yesterday afternoon, the weirdest thing happened!
I walked out to the backyard to find myself being greeted by a cat! He came running towards me to rub against my legs I think. And poor unsuspecting me! I nearly had a fit! You`ll never find a stray animal around where I live. So I realized he must be lost. And terribly scared. And I wondered what to do.
Truth be told, I am not a cat person. In fact I would even go so far as to say that I`m very scared of cats. But I didn't want the poor little thing to die. He would you know, out in the cold(Yes People, even in March! It`s Minnesota!)without food. So I decided to leave the porch door open and wait for him to come inside and sleep. I thought it would be good to wait it out till The G came home. So I left him a bowl of water and the door open. And lo and behold, he came rushing in, even before I had a chance to make an escape. He thought it was his home! But he realized quickly enough(seeing me dart inside) that it wasn't. Nonetheless, he decided to stay for a while. Sniffed around the chairs in the porch, and then settled down on the floor. And then he left, as suddenly as he had appeared.

I cannot begin to tell you how I`m feeling right now.
He`s gone of course. I dont know where. And it`s bothering me. I wish I had some way of knowing that he`s found his way back home.
And as I sit here wondering why he paid me a visit, just like that, I cant help smiling at the momentary truth of the connection we shared, albeit very briefly. It was strange - here we were, Mr Cat and me; loneliness,the sole nexus between us; and each trying in our own ways,to find our way back home..And may be..just may be, we did.

We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.

-Pink Floyd