Saturday, 28 December 2013

Albert Camus: The Artist


Each time a writer writes he puts a little of his soul into his work. As his work grows, a spectator is allowed a peek inside his mind. To an onlooker, at first it might seem that he is caught up in a kaleidoscope of the myriad shades of glass as seen in white light. It is bedazzling. So, the onlooker must be careful to shield his eyes or better yet close them for his own good. These shards are nothing but pieces of the artist’s soul. He embeds each piece in his work. In some he puts a little of his spirit, in some others he dips these shards into hues of other people’s reality and personality and thus gives us a reflection of his own soul and inadvertently a picture of the life and time of which he is an inextricable part. He stands at the center witnessing life with both its point and pointlessness or meaning and meaninglessness.


Courtesy: Ehnemark, Jan via Wikimedia Commons

A beautiful line comes to my mind as I think of this. 

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." 
-Albert Camus

I don’t think that I would be able to go on here without mentioning Camus and his contribution to literature and philosophy.

Born into a poverty stricken Pied Noir family with a cat named Cigarette, the professional quirk of writing while standing and Jean-Paul Sartre as a friend turned lifelong rival, Albert Camus was the second youngest person and the first African born writer to be honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 for his work "Reflexions sur la Guillotine" (Reflections on the Guillotine) against Capital Punishment.

There is no teacher like ‘Life’ because she lives with you from the moment of your inception until your last dying breath. “You cannot create experience, you must undergo it”, he said once and so Life taught him much. It was a different world then where people led strange lives during a difficult war time.  And so, Camus wrote much about human frailties, exposed the internal working of man’s psyche and became a firm proponent of the concept of ‘Absurdism’ which finds speech in his famous essay “The Myth of Sisyphus’.
Naked language that needed no support of extravagant words and thoughts stripped of all superfluity, Albert Camus was a writer whose works till date are an exposè of the veritable ramblings and musings of a common man.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Varanasi: The Sacred Heart of India

It’s 5:30 am and a brilliant orange ball perched on a puffy white cloud stretched itself, pacing its way gently through the calm grey blue of the wide undisturbed sky. It looked like a mystical drama with the universe playing its enchanting part in the ordinary lives of the humans who inhabit the shores of the Ganges in a city like none other: Varanasi.


Courtesy: Orvalrochefort/Creative Commons/Flickr  

Watching the beautiful sunrise, a little boat trip would take you across the Ganges, from one ‘Ghat’ to another as you take in the breath taking beauty of an ancient civilization that still manages to live its present while beautifully wrapped in the culture, traditions and dignity of its glorious past. 

As you enjoy this soothing boat ride, you see the city waking up from its slumber and soon you see people milling about, the priests or the ‘pujaris’ as they are called in the local dialect performing their set of morning prayers with a religiosity that will beckon your admiration while the pilgrims, tourists and the locals go about their own business. With the Ganges flowing, Varanasi is a delightful place to find yourself in as you sit and reflect, to introspect and heal spiritually. Many a times you shall hear people testifying to sudden inspirations and knowledge while sitting at the Ghats, or listening to the chiming bells in the temples.Wherever you go, you will easily find sages and priests offering prayers, performing ritual ‘aartis’ and handing out ‘Prasad’ to all those pilgrims who come seeking divine blessings.

Varanasi, Kashi, Benares

Many names for what is essentially the ‘Soul of India’. There’s something sacred in its air and sooner or later it gets you; it soothes you and calms you. Hailed as the city of Gods, ‘Varanasi’ lends an overwhelming experience to anyone who touches its holy shores washed by the Ganges herself. Even this poetic name comes from the union of the river ‘Varuna’ and a small stream known as ‘Asi’.

What makes Varanasi so unique?

    Courtesy: Meenakshi Payal/Creative Commons/Flickr


Well, there is so much that makes this land such a representative of the Indian culture and society. Let’s see, the city is old with its traditions, ways and culture spanning hundreds of years, yet elements of the new can be witnessed in the way the city has gradually developed with time.  Travelling to Varanasi is so easy. It is connected by the airport, the rail route and the roadways. If you wish to stay, then this city offers a range of options from the likes of Radisson and Ramada to small hotels, guest houses and dhaam shalas to make your stay a comfortable one. The colourful fabrics sported by the people, the silks, brocades, muslins and not to forget the world famous ‘Benaresi Saris’ (a must have in the trousseau of every Indian Bride), present a visual feast for any shopaholic while the rich and spicy platter or ‘Thali’ as it is called by the indigenous of the Northern India gives wafts of delicious aroma truly sensational and never fail to tickle your taste buds. And that is not all, mingled with this exotic profusion of colours, flavours, aromas and delicacies is the essence of Indian spirituality that lives and breathes in the very air of the place. Be it the Ghats, the cleansing waters of the Holy Ganges revered as a mother or the temples with their intricate carvings beckoning throngs of believers to their inner sanctum, Varanasi is a haven for each and every person. It is a place where you find solace.

Make sure when you plan your next trip, reserve a special seat for this holy city and give it the time it rightfully deserves.  

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Reclaiming Bonds- A Short Story

“To say that she had life would be an understatement.” He spoke at length. He spoke with a measured cadence and the slow deliberation of someone who wasn't really used to the activity of speaking. Observer as he had been all through his life, words were not his cup of tea. Today, as he looked outside at the bright afternoon sun, his eyes watered. He wondered if his little listener would understand what was in his heart.

A small seven year old sat on the soft white shag rug, knees drawn up to her chest and arms around them to support the weight of her body. This little listener who sat facing her foster father looking up to him, urged to be his confidante; with her pale green eyes she coaxed him to open up to her.

He looked at her then. There was something about her eyes, her big green eyes with gold flecks in them that gave him hope. The sunlight seemed to dance in them and instantly he was reminded of his ‘Hanna’. He smiled in self derision as he realized that after all these years he still harboured hope that she would come back to him and that he still liked to call her His.

His Hanna! 

He felt a gentle tug at the edge of his trouser leg and looked down to find his little listener he had named Arya still watching him with that imploring look. He smiled in the way of their silent communication, got up from the sofa and came to sit across her on the rug to continue his story.

“Well, she was alive. Like she could make anything and anyone happy and...” He gestured with his hands helplessly trying to create something big out of thin air.

"You could never be sad around her. She was very talkative. Always talking. But I liked hearing her talk. She had a soothing voice. She was funny too. I was a silent type. But she understood that. She never asked me to talk. So, I liked being around her.” He spoke giving spaces and pauses to make himself coherent to so young an audience.

“She was pretty?”

“Yes. Yes, she was very pretty.” He said this quickly, a little too quickly perhaps and wondered why he felt like a teenager on a sugar rush.

“You like her?” Arya smiled, just a hint of muscle movement on her right dimpled cheek but Vivaan knew that his daughter was giving him her apprehensive shy smile on being included in adult talk.

“I Do. I love her.” At this, Arya’s smile grew just a tad bit wider.

“What else you like about her?”

“She was caring. It was impossible not to like her. She had this really big heart…”

“A bigger heart than yours?” Arya asked with an eye brow raised.

“Yes, a bigger heart than mine” He closed his eyes at that and wondered if she knew the significance of the question.

“I think you have a very big heart. You are big.” She spoke with such solemn earnestness that he laughed.

“No Arya, the size of a person’s heart is almost the same for all. But it’s the space inside that counts. The space inside the heart. Hanna’s heart was as big as mine but she had more space. More love. She liked taking care of everybody. She liked everybody.”
She nodded as if completely understanding his point and asked 

“She like you too?”

“Hmm… I don’t know. She did once.”

“So you don’t know?”

“No”

“Ask her?”

“No”

“Why?”

“She might not like it. It’s been too long anyways.”

“Why too long?”

“You’re awfully chirpy today aren't you my little one?”

“Why too long?” was the static reply. He wondered if he imagined seeing an impish glint in her eyes.

“Because we let it be that long. Things just happened and we couldn't control them.”

“What happened?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Tell me in short then.” Seeing that she was about to get a negative reply to her question she added, “You promised you’d tell me about Hanna, Pa”

That did it, her calling him Pa. He was cornered he knew. So, he tried telling his daughter how he lost the woman he loved most in the simplest way possible.

“I met Ruhana one summer evening ten years ago. I was sitting in a park, trying to take a major decision about my life. I had two great job offers. I was trying to decide which one to accept when she caught my eye. She was sitting under a Gulmohar tree I think, with a book in hand. Reading.”


Courtesy: Feelart/Freedigitalphotos

His mind took no time in bringing to the forefront the joys of his yesterdays. And he saw her in his mind as he had seen her for the first time that day in a fuchsia sundress. His eyes crinkled at the corners thinking about all the hours she had spent making him cram the names of all her favourite shades.


“She really liked reading you know. I think it was Gibran’s “The Prophet”. Suddenly she looked at me and I don’t know why but I felt like talking to her. She was a complete stranger. But I wanted to approach her. It wasn't that I was lonely, I had my family of course. But there was something about her. I guess it was the eyes. Do you know Arya that your eyes are just like hers? Anyways, I smiled at her and she nodded. I wasn't that great a nature lover, but I started coming to the park frequently. It became our hub. Coffee and books, with them we created our own private haven under those lovely laburnum trees. We became friends and gradually as we both got to know each other, we developed feelings of mutual love and respect. We were happy. As happy as it is possible for someone to be. How two years passed by, none of us knew. Then one day, I told her that I loved her and wanted to spend my life with her. I remember how happy she was. We got married.”

Vivaan took a break. He realised he had never really spoken aloud his feelings since the time Hanna went away. He realised that he wanted to speak, that he wanted to share and wanted someone to know what he had been going through all this time.

His little listener was too young to understand but after four years of silence, he felt himself opening up; and for the first time words flowed.

“As a physicist, my work took me to different places but I enjoyed the solitude, the peace and quiet of my lab where I spent most of the time hunched over whatever project I was working on. She was the perfect partner I had hoped for. I had never thought that having a partner would mean this much. I am a selfish man in many regards but she understood it all. Marriage with her was more like a happy progression of our camaraderie than a big change people usually are so scared of. She was always warm. Every night I’d come home to her warmth. She’d embrace me, cook really bad food and like children we would sit and talk…”

“Like we are sitting now?” came the query.

“Yes.”

“Like we are talking now?” came another.

“Yes. Just like we are talking now. A heart to heart.”

Arya touched her heart and then her father’s and smiled suddenly. Vivaan kept his hand on her silky brown head in love and protection. She shifted and snuggled under his arms comfortably. Playfully he messed her two small pig tails much to her tinkling laughter. He looked outside and saw that it was evening already. Soon it would be time for dinner. He remembered he had forgotten to do his grocery shopping.

“Every night was our night. We talked, laughed and shared all our ups and downs. She understood me. Even without saying anything, she had this knack for accepting me. Then one day she just stopped loving me and went away.”

“Why did she go?”

“You know how babies come from God. So, when we asked God for a baby, he put one in Hanna’s tummy. We were very happy. But the little baby she had in her tummy was so beautiful that God took him away after some months. We became sad so we went to the doctor but the doctor said that she couldn't have a baby anymore.”

“But why didn't you go and ask God for another baby?”

“We did but God already has many people asking for so many things.”

“Why didn't the doctor help?”

“Well he said that Hanna was not strong inside in her tummy.”

“She did not eat healthy food like me?”

“She did. But nothing could be done. This made Hanna very sad and she cried lots. And then she stopped living her life.”

He remembered it all too well. He had seen it happen in front of his eyes after all. He had seen her dying inside a little day by day. He remembered her fitful crying jags, how she had blamed herself, how she had wept every night lying in bed. He remembered both her painful screams and the times when she’d just grab her belly and howl silently. He had witnessed her losing her health, her weight, her beauty and her glow. But that was not all. The loss of the child had started to drain all her life force. She stopped living and stopped loving. She just lost the essence of which she was made. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't revive her. No matter what he said, what he did, he couldn't bring her back. At first he had thought that it was just a phase which would go away given time. But that did not happen. The baby even by not being there had become the center of her life. 

He could not understand her. And there was always shortage of time. She would shout at him saying that he didn't give her time, didn’t talk to her and didn't listen to what she felt. But what could he do? What could he say? He couldn't leave his work like she had done. He couldn’t quit his job. He had lost a child too. But he wasn’t crying, was he? She had made him angry. And so one day he told her to stop doing it because he couldn’t take it, that he was sick of her and that she could just stop with her drama. He told her how she had not only lost the baby but also their love, romance and their marriage. He told her that he hated the baby which had ruined their lives. He told her that he was giving up on her that he couldn’t help someone who didn’t want to help herself.” With that barrage he had snapped her. She had not said anything then. She’d just looked at him from the corner where she was huddled. She had looked at him blankly like she couldn’t recognize him anymore. She had left him the next day. No note, no explanation.

He had believed she’d come back to her senses and would return to him. He had thought that maybe time alone would heal her. But time had not helped. Things became complicated when he was sent to US for a year and half. She refused to go with him. Slowly the calls decreased, then the mails and then it all dwindled to a measly flower and gift giving tradition followed on birthdays and anniversaries. He felt like an actor taking part in a sham and wondered if she felt the same. They met like strangers a few times a year. He asked her to come back to him but she said that she didn't need him. After that work had taken their time. She was busy and so was he. He didn't ask her again. And then Arya had come into his life.

“You did not give her water then?” came the accusation.

“Water?”

“You said water brings back all dying things.” Vivaan found Arya 
pointing at the flowering adenium they had planted a few months back.

“Pa?”

“Hmm?”

“If you’re my Pa, then is Hanna my Ma?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why?”

“She does not know about you.”

“Why?”

“I have not told her about you.”

“But why?”

“I stopped contacting her after she told me that she didn't need me.”

“You don’t have her hello number?”

“I have.”

“Then call her.”

“I wish it was so easy.”

“You do not know how to call on phone?”

“I know how to do that.”

“Pa you are sad, call her. You said she is your friend.”

“She might not want me anymore.”

“Is this the truth?”

“It could be, I don’t know.”

“If you don’t know the truth then call.”

“Things are not so simple, I am scared.”

“I get scared too. But I always eat the food you cook.”

“Alright then.” He laughed aloud and wondered why he felt so 
good inside. “Wish me luck. Here I go.” And saying that he rang Hanna’s cellphone. She picked it up after five rings.

Arya watched her Pa nervously talking on the phone for a couple of minutes.

“It is set. She is coming to meet us tomorrow.” And saying that he released all his pent up breath.

Tomorrow was going to be a new day. A new beginning. She knew it. 


Courtesy: Derek Cheung/Creative Commons/Flickr

Friday, 21 June 2013

Nestle

Loneliness...

Like blood, it breathes in my skin, it rushes- coursing through my veins, snaking its way around until it claws its way inside, plunging into the very depths, and throbbing with every beat of my heart; and now I am a living, breathing, pulsating life form that reeks of a closed shell with all outlets and channels to open space blocked. All vents locked.

It is cruel at best.

Loneliness...

It sings. And then it doesn't really matter whether you want to hear it or not. Eventually you will succumb to its sword. Didn't I tell you Loneliness carries a sword with itself? Yes, it's a sword and a sharp one too at that. That cold blade - it cuts you. And when it has finished piercing your skin you hear your blood sing the same tune, and the blood in your mouth tastes metallic. And that's when you know that Loneliness is inside you- a part of you, and slowly it shall become  'You’.

Loneliness, no point in staying far away from it. Calling it 'it' will only bring me more pain now that it is a part of me. I will tell you how 'It' became 'Me’.

But before that, let's call it Nestle shall we?

I remember the day I met her.

It was the day my heart broke. How it broke is not important, I mean it is, but that's a story for another day, perhaps another times...

I remember the day when I first became acquainted with her.


Courtesy: Stefan Klop/Creative Commons/Flickr

I was sitting on a park bench, figuring out ways to collect the broken remnants of what was left of my heart. Sitting there alone with an umbrella by my side and raindrops in my eyes, I failed to notice her frail presence. Only the words "Every Loneliness is a pinnacle" raised their head in some distant part of my subconscious. I remembered having read them somewhere before. It became difficult to place them, not that I really cared about placing them in the first place. These words were supposed to sooth me, like panacea. Instead, like placebo they proved to be hollow. They failed. Their very presence belied the function of their existence. These words, they failed to give me wings; the wings would have helped me soar out of solitude's mire and fly to freedom, towards a different hued sky where loneliness had not yet painted her signature black.

Pointless- It seemed was the colour of the day.

But then I guess after a certain point all things lose meaning. You know that's how I think. This is just how my mind works. Even writing right now seems pointless. Come to think of it, I haven't really been telling you anything new. You know it already. But then, what's started has to be finished, right? So I will complete this too.

Hmm...

Continuing my story, she sat beside me and said nothing at all. It wasn't until a big raindrop fell on my slippered feet that I noticed the presence of another pair of pale fragile feet with baby pink toe nails. I looked up and found her sitting beside me. She held my hand and looked deep into my eyes. I knew in that moment that she saw through me. That whoever she was, she was not a stranger but was a witness to my life.  

My lips quivered and more raindrops fell. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say something. I always have something to say. It's like a nasty habit. And I just wanted to say something to her. It's just that the words didn't form. Only my lips gave way to some speechless sound.

It always happens when I think too much or nothing at all. I become a mass of jumbled thoughts and all semblance of logic and rationality eludes me. I think when I am lonely and I observe when I am lonely which is practically most of the time.

I wonder how she knew what I wanted to say but she kissed me then and her taste will always be with me.

Courtesy: Lisa Widerbergs/Creative Commons/Flickr

Let me tell you something about her- Loneliness, she's a feeling who just sits with you like a new-found companion. She talks to you and kisses your lips and when you taste her she melts in your blood and flows into you. There's this ironical thing about loneliness. Even she doesn't like to be lonely. No matter how less a time you give to her, she tries to make a bond with you. In that very short or long span of time she settles comfortably. Nesting. Nestling.

That's why she is 'Nestle'.

Appreciate her.

Tell her that now that you have her, you will never let her go.

That no matter who comes in or goes away from your life, your bond with her will be forever.

Tell her that she need not be lonely anymore, because you've found her.

Just like I did, the day my heart broke.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Grey

Girl with rain, thunder and lightning in her hand
Courtesy: Kathryn/Creative Commons/Flickr

It rained yesterday.
I couldn’t help but fall in love again.
I mean how can one just remain cooped inside and not go out when the sky has turned Grey?
I did just that. I went out and I stood outside in the balcony and I watched my God paint the sky Grey.
There is something so deeply liberating about a grey sky. The moment it turns grey, it gives me Hope that it will rain, it fills me with the assurance that the winds will mayhap blow and move between the Heavens and Earth, it instills a presage that maybe the sun won’t shine too hot in my eyes and that my scorched skin will be embalmed in Grey’s comforting veil.


mist covered window with grey written


GREY
I Like GREY
I like GREY very much
It makes me think of the sky
Sky up in the Skies above so high!
Stop! That’s the same thing.

Grey
I like Grey
I like Grey very much
It’s a nice colour, a healing hue-
“Healing Hue” Now that has a nice ring to it!
I like the soothing way it gently slides into my eyes,
And then goes up and slides again mantle like upon my eyelids and closes them and encloses them
And then flows, caressing my cheeks
And then I taste it and it tastes refreshing, don’t you think?
I wonder why people link it up with gloom or doom or somebody marooned,

To me, Grey is a happy colour,
It brings rains after all, and
It purges the soul and cleans the air
How can it not be a symbol of the blithe, of the living and the alive?

Grey
I like it
I like it very much
It reminds me of winters and monsoons
Of their warmth and cool
Of a frozen sunrise and hot tea
Of a wet sunset and dry bed

Grey
Sometimes, my world also becomes Grey
Blacks and whites are hard to find
We can’t live an absolute life, can we?
Our life is Grey after all,
Is Grey dirty?
Does it need to be washed and dried and spread in the sky to soak up the sun?
I reflect
I ponder
And I wonder if a time will come when we shall transcend this grey
And be all white,
And then perchance everything will be alright?

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Locked Door


Sometimes your hand moves with a will of its own. During such times, letting go becomes the natural course of action. One day I resigned myself to my hand and this is what it wrote seeking its emancipation. I do not remember if my eyes were open or half closed, I didn't force myself to think and obstruct its flow of thoughts. But when I stopped to write, I looked at the watch, and realized only twenty minutes had passed. 

I hope you like 'The Locked Door' as much as I do. Shalom.


Courtesy: Frannie Frou Frou/Flickr


I wish to be hidden in my own world
My own home
No noise, just sounds
Where sounds manifest silence
And ride the waves of silence.

The tinkling bells, the crisp loaf of bread
The rustle of autumn leaves and the crunch of grass beneath your naked feet
Sounds form part of a silent world
It is a world of myriad dreams
Where every action is magnified
So clear and bright, brimming with light
You feel each breath you take
Those fleeting drifting mists which keep you alive
And all that goes out becoming a part of the universe,
Remember what has gone will come back to you for good or worse.

You see the colours?
Their myriad shapes?
Your fingers sift and comb through them,
Scattering the hues in a rainbow wave.
Let not the joys spoil you,
Look beyond and you will see ‘Her’ bright eyes.
These shades form the face of someone I know-
The timeless countenance of my long forgotten mother.

I wish to come home
Bow my head,
Kneeling down, tired and down
Take me in your arms and hold me against your bosom,
Your child is home,
At last.

My tears roll
One by one
And they form an unseen naked pool.
Deep in my heart I know where I belong,
But I have to be strong enough to be alone.

Even as my eyes are closed
My senses attuned to you
Oh yes! I can smell the grass;
And that wisp of smoke, coming from the chimney,
Bringing the scents of home and hearth.

I wish to go back home
This is not where I belong
I am mayhap tired
Of this life or perchance I still have some to go on.

My tears roll one by one
And my heart yearns
Open that wooden door and let me in when I knock
My soul knows the path
It will come to you
It shall drag my body from this world to yours and mine,
Where finally I will sit under the open skies
And my spirit shall find fulfillment dancing in the rain.

And then I will look at you,
Look in your eyes.
For my heart is big
No! Not big.
Words in themselves are mere containers.
My heart is not a vessel.
It holds nothing,
My heart is open and unbound.

When I will look at you with my heart unbound
We would have crossed the boundary set by words to express and understand
The joy that will fill you
Will be a sweet pleasure,
How much you contain is after all your measure.

My tears have dried,
I know it’s abrupt,
I haven’t the time,
I am locking my door,
Will come to you when I am strong enough,
My time will come too,
Wait for me,
Please wait for me...