How was your day?

How was your day

You complain

I never ask

You narrate the top headlines

The unruly maid

The unkempt help

The untimely call

The unnecessary gossip

The untidy laundry

The unhappy husband

The unseen sorrow

The unwell joys

The undoing of your mind

And if time permits

The tidings of the neighbors

Of siblings, cousins and nephews

Of promises broken and words unkept

Of those long lost

And the silent goodbyes

In my mind

I narrate the same

With words

Punctuated by silence

And then you complain

I never speak

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Someday

Regularly
We clean up
The debris
Around
The eye of the storm
And sweep it
Under the carpet

Regularly
We take out for a wash
The skeletons hidden inside
Dust the wardrobe
The bleached bones old and new
And put it back in fresh as a dew

Someday
The skeletons will see
The salvation they seek
Resolutions
Absolving of guilt

Someday

Until then
Regularly
We clean

Lady Gaia

An attempt at poetry after years of dry spell

Lady Gaia
In peace, she rests
With a Velveteen cover
Of bright green hues
Dark green lace
Rotund mounds and humps of dew
On a Bed of blue
Pillows of white
Chirping music in the background
Lovely fragrance
Of lush nature
Whiff of tea, lemon grass and pinecones
And whatever wild trees are made of
Light brown veins
Carry her lifelines
Who she let’s live on her
Caring, caressing
Sometimes they tickle
Sometimes they poke
Most of the times they scurry around
Unlike her other multilegged sows
They savour. They support
Her body like she does their life
The two-legged ones, though
Don’t treat her right
But a mother is as a mother does
On she loves
On she leaves
With peace, she let’s them be

Legacies of life

Man has an innate need to leave some part of him behind; a legacy of his life. He wants to remind the future generations that he existed. That he still exists—be it in memory or through art. And this can be seen in the beautiful structures, monuments, art and literature. Go back to the oldest cave paintings in the world and you’ll see a person desperately reaching out to the future with his/her hand paintings.

However, a friend of mine has an interesting theory. In India, we don’t appreciate creation as much. That’s why in the heritage places, we rarely get to see the name of the architect. No, we only know who commissioned these monuments. Contrast this to the West when you know the names of the architect. Heck, in Spain, we even knew the names of the people who melded the gorgeous wrought-iron pieces!

Don’t believe me? Ask around, who designed the Taj Mahal? Who designed the Vitthal Temple in Hampi with it’s intelligent architecture? And intelligent it is. The complex had a main building which was for performances to the God. You didn’t to carry instruments. Each pillar was designed to produce music of a particular instrument. Literally!

And then there were the side buildings like these with their intricate carvings, each telling a story and a story within a story! Take this building for example, there was a miniature carved on each side. It’s like the architect wanted to set in stone is very blue print! But the beauty is in the whole.

After all, each part—even the platforms at the bottom—have a thought behind them. One layer to hold lamps, one layer to convey how people of different regions and countries come to trade in Hampi, etc. There’s also the creative creature with parts of different animals.

This is why I love Guides and archeologists. So much gets lost in translation between the past, present and the future. Whatever little we know of, is because of the archeologists who painstakingly find meaning in dirt. And the guides who convey it to us mere humans.

They offer the spectacles you need to look around with clear sight.

Storytelling 

It’s 8 degrees here in Sierra Nevada and I’m shivering in bed, unable to sleep. Perhaps it’s the cold; perhaps it’s the 4-hour long siesta I had in the afternoon. Either way, my brain is producing words faster than I can comprehend. So write, I shall.

But where do I start?

As I sift through the pictures on my phone to find a good story to narrate, I come across three interesting ones I took in the evening today.

Wondering why they’re interesting?

OK, let’s go back to my school days, especially the geography lessons I was taught. Hidden amongst the whole lot of text, I remember studying about how geography changes from place to place. The biggest notable factor for this is weather. And by just looking around, you can see the tell tale signs of the weather patterns expected in the area around you.

Notice the sloping roofs, the covered garbage can and the thick cone-shaped shrubs.

Can you guess what these point towards?

Here’s how the landscape looks like, if you want some more help:

Answer: Snow!

The sloping roof helps the snow to fall down to the ground and not accumulate much on the roof. The shrubs need to be thick to withstand the cold weather and be cone-shaped to shed snow. And well, the garbage can needs protection too. Else, it would be overflowing with snow and not garbage. Of course, there’s also the danger of the snow water and moisture degrading the garbage. Hence the cover, one that slopes too!

Had it been a rainy area, sloping roofs could have been replaced by efficient plumbing that gathers the water from the rooftop and takes it to the ground. But that can’t be the solution for snow. Hence the slope.

Even the vegetation in the area show all the signs of being in a snowy place.

And it’s amazing that my education enabled me to observe these facets of nature. To the curious, even a meagre education can work wonders.

So all those who crib about the uselessness of the subjects in school, reconsider. Our education, at best, imbibes in us the art of scientific thinking. Yes, I call it an art because science helps me look at how artful nature and life is.

It feels like everything around us is telling its story. Like this worm that ate the small leaf, but left the veins exposed.

Or these trees that announce the change in the sun’s direction of movement—the reds and yellows narrating the story of the change in seasons. 

Of course, it’s not yet autumn in Granada, where these flowers continue to bloom in full rigor. 

Or notice how this harmless snail wants to be left alone, contemplating it’s own existence. It’s shell, thus, a beautiful match with its surroundings. 

And then, you marvel at the beautiful creations around us; at nature’s perfection:

Just like the snail with its perfect Spiral, the goat manages to blend seamlessly in the background. 

I’m lucky. I’ve been blessed with teachers who helped me see that science is nothing but a language that equips you to see the stories being told around you, stories by every living organism or even a supposedly non-living object (like the flysch as below). 

And I’m lucky to appreciate at least some of the myriad stories around us. 

If you only open your eyes, ears, nose, and other senses!

Bonus pictures: This gorgeous sunset in Sierra Nevada, when the drowning sun played hide and seek with the clouds. 

A Legend in 4 hours

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You know you’ve read a good book if you would rather think about it for the 10 hours left in the day than pick up a new one. And that’s what happened to me—still is happening to me—after ending ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’.

It started as an innocuous read to satisfy my curiosity regarding the author’s popularity. But it ended up with the sensation of… let me explain it better with an analogy.

You know that feeling when you are hungry, and then eat a delicious meal—simple, home-made, down-to-earth but wholesome. That feeling when it seems like your entire being starting with heart—and not just your stomach—is full and ‘complete’. That’s the feeling I relished after finishing the book. So much that I ‘had’ to put down my thoughts in the form of words. Mind you, I’ve never given reviews about books—especially in the form of a blog post.

About the book

For reasons unclear to me, what I felt about the book comes across as a string of jagged adjectives and words. If I attempt to weave sentences out of them, they seem to lose their value and meaning. It’s like they refuse to let go of their individual characteristics amidst the other words forming the sentence. So here we go:

  • Subtle
  • Empathetic
  • Realistic
  • Whacky
  • Feminist
  • Flawed characters but perfect in a sense
  • Real India
  • Diverse—you had people from different backgrounds, upbringing, castes, and religions
  • Rich in culture
  • Observant
  • Wise
  • Ordinary yet extraordinary
  • Heartening
  • Heartfelt

Some of my favourite sentences and paragraphs:

(Note: Potential spoilers ahead if you haven’t read this book yet)

  • Till the day it wasn’t and a sunken-eyed Sukriti, her skin stretched like paper over each protruding rib, returned home, holding the gifts her in-laws had given her in return – burns on her back, from boiling water and hot pans.
  • The thoughts that had been locked inside her, and had probably been rattling in her subconscious mind for years, had finally been set free. Words falling, tripping, stumbling over each, till she finally ran out of air.
  • It is an old song, passed down through generations and the women singing are unaware that the song is not about Goddess Lakshmi who resides in the heaves above, but alludes to a gangly girl who once walked among the mango groves. (Can even be considered to the other gods and myths we worship. Especially if you connect it to another character in another story who speaks about how the lemon and chilly is a superstition based in science)
  • By the time the W had been reported missing by Mrs Mastan, who had been sitting right next to Binni, she had lost all interest in embroidery and was looking at Noni Appa across the table, signaling her that it was time to leave.
  • ‘I feel good, Binni, my muscles feel all pulled and stretched, like a ball of dough smoothened out into a nice flat chapatti’.
  • Hai Allah, the mind is also a strange thing, the minute someone asks you to keep the slate clean, squiggly lines of white chalk begin to appear, one line running into another in chaotic whirls.
  • For Anand ji, sitting by himself in the bedroom with a game of solitaire spread over the printed bed sheet, headphones plugged into his Walkman that invariably played Indian classical music as he hummed along, seemed the only way he could find refuge in his own home.
  • Why do people have to define relationships, underline each word till the paper gives way beneath, she wondered.
  • Elisa decided to leave yesterday where she felt it belonged, a hundred kilometres behind her.

Story 1: The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

At once realistic, believable but with a tint of fable, the story revolves around Lakshmi Prasad (duh, as the name duly suggests). What’s remarkable about the story is the writing—the mini observations about day-to-day lives, human behavior (a sister’s jealousy about friends and how she tries to prove that she is the ‘closest’), how thoughts germinate, and how strength of character is often in subtle and small actions. More importantly, the writing is so rich that it paints the backdrop of the story easily. Reading it is like starting an old-school projector in your mind and resting back to watch the story unfold.

Story 2: Salaam, Noni Appa

This was by far my favourite in the whole lot.

Two widowed sisters, well in their sixties, and yet living a life full of unique idiosyncrasies and whacky behavior. Some of my key learnings from the story are this:

  • Life does not end in your 60s.
  • There have been ‘modern, broad-minded’ people well before the current generation—way back when Fiats, Walkmans and Cassettes were in fashion. And this includes women who chose not to marry, even in their 40s.
  • Just because two people are a study in contrast does not mean they can’t live together with love filling their hearts and understanding ruling their daily activities.
  • You come across all kinds of love—even the common ground variety of love in the form of a romantic relationship can be unique and different.
  • Just because you love someone does not mean you need to tolerate all their behavior. It’s ok to switch off your hearing aid once in a while.
  • Just because you love someone today does not mean you stopped loving the person you were with yesterday. And it’s ok. You can love more than one person at the same time.

Story 3: If the Weather permits

An eccentric character, whose whole life is one continuous search—one for a life partner, and the other, an escape from her parents’ pressures. And the search continues until death gives her the much-needed opportunity to escape. Who says life has to be perfect or make sense. And more importantly, who says parents do everything right? They are flawed humans too who bow to societal pressure and their own idiosyncrasies.

My favourite line? So so so many, but I will take with me the epitaph my entire life. “Here lies Elisa, she briefly belonged to many, but truly to herself.”

Story 4: The Sanitary Man from a Sacred Land

Wow. While story spoke about ‘what happened’, I could not often go beyond what the characters ‘thought’ or ‘felt’. It’s a story that completely does justice to the real-life character that Twinkle Khanna borrowed from. In fact, it is a dutiful homage to that courageous individual full of his quirks and innocence, and at the end of the day—a flawed imperfect human! Wow.

(To be updated pretty soon)

The Walking Irony

Images with a quote are all the rage these days. Every single person active on social media (guilty as charged) has liked, posted or shared at least one such image.

What started as a beautiful thing earlier, has now, according to me, gone out of control. As with everything else, a mass democratisation (as our media studies professor called it) brings down quality. In English, this means, when something becomes too popular; when you have to cater to the masses, the quality often drops.

Take this image quote for example:

shitty-quote

I call this the Walking Irony. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the meaning of the quote. The connotation is quite clearly negative. People are usually thankless and not sensitive about the effort someone puts in for them. It is only when that ‘help’ stops that people stand up and notice.

Agreed. So far, at least.

But the second connotation of this quote is that people ‘never’ notice; people ‘never’ notice. But that isn’t true, is it? Everyone, at some point in time or the other, has appreciated or noticed timely help and effort.

So, the quote essentially ignores all these times.

This means you can apply the rule of the quote to the quote itself. Hello, Irony!