Choices


“You know how sometimes you tell yourself that you have a choice, but really you don’t have a choice? Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean they apply to you.”
― Rick Yancey, The 5th  Wave 

I titled this ‘Choices’ for the lack of any other title. These are just reflections of the last seven plus years that I spent rediscovering myself. This is purely subjective piece of writing. A large percentage of women, even in India, may take completely different steps and bring a change in their sordid lives irrespective of age but some of us are unable to. Mostly because of our own inner fears. Most of the times these fears are  based on aspects outside our control and sometimes they are just baseless but still take a grip on our psyche.

I have always been a drifter and always been ridiculed for it. Sometimes it hurt me deeply and at other times I didn’t care. As a young girl I would often dream of travelling to all the places I saw in National Geographic Magazine and the other books I read. I would dream up places too. Beyond stars and galaxies, beyond the known and unknown. The consistent aspect of each dream was a house. A small yet comfortable house which I would turn into a home. A home where I wanted to be in but never was in reality. I would include a husband/partner/lover as the other resident and yes, there were children too. It all depended on how lonesome or solitary I felt. There would always be a nice kitchen soaked in the warmth of winter sunlight but coolly shaded in summers. There would always be a small garden attached to it. There would be books, music, food, laughter and most importantly love. Other things changed time to time. At that time I never thought of living alone. I was too lonely already to long for more seclusion. Later of course things changed.

At that time not many people asked me what I would want to become when I grow up and I felt grateful for that but when someone did I said, “I want to become a nun or I want to become a trapeze artist.” Fascinated as I was by the world of circus artists. It was a fantasy I wanted to escape into. Of course all that changed once sense prevailed but the drifting continued and all I needed to do in the  future was find a haven away from the chaos.

During the middle school years every time when I  returned to an empty house, with the house key dangling around my neck in a black thread, return to cold meals and silence, I would cringe and envy the kids who had someone waiting for them at home, mostly their mothers. Of course, we were raised differently and there were no gender assigned roles in our house but I was young and grappling with many issues. I think I even cringed at being alone with my dad for various reasons. It was at this time the feeling of living alone began to grow. The dreams remained the same but there were no companions, no family. Perhaps a few friends who would visit but not cling. I was increasingly becoming weary of people around me. It was a complex situation where I wanted the company and yet needed my quiet space.  We didn’t go out for movies or attended family weddings/functions. Hardly anyone visited our house but we did sometimes go to my maternal grandmother’s house in Pune. Another place that I was very fond of for many reasons and yet carried a lingering fear in my heart about it. Someday I will write openly about it.

There were times I enjoyed the peace and solitude of being alone at home. It was a good change from the tensed, argumentative, stifled time when others were around. In some part of my heart I reminded myself again and again that I did not have a ‘normal’ home environment and vowed to give that to myself and family when I grew up.  It did not happen that’s another story though I did leave my job before I got married in hope to make my marital home the haven I had always dreamed of. The lingering thought of having a working mother and my constant loneliness as a young girl made me believe that only stay at home moms could provide the secure and loving home a child needed.

In my circumstances it wasn’t a good choice to be a dependent. Financial independence could have saved me a lot of hurt and humiliation. It could have changed the course of my life but then there are a lot of other factors that contribute to the kind of turns life takes. One can go on about the ‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘would be’.

When I look back I see my life divided into slots of  about twenty years each. I am in the third phase now. Two major life changing decisions came at the age of 24 and 44  I got married at 24 and left my marital home at 44. The reason behind both was similar and yet different in some ways. I have written about both in other posts.

Seven years on from the second decision I find myself at the threshold again. Still not able to find a closure. Sometimes I feel I am a rider inside the motordrome or a silodrome with no safety harnesses. I guess the universe took my fascination of circus acts a bit too seriously and put me on this eternal side-show in his carnival called Life.

It is very easy to judge people for the choices they make. I think the only person who can judge is the choice maker. Only he/she can weigh the pros and cons of the action taken. Most of the time the decisions seem correct at the time they are taken and it is only later when we look back we see the hollowness of the choices made. Sometimes we can start afresh and at other times we can’t, no matter how much we wish.

The last seven years revealed some very poignant things.

It is very important to be financially independent from an early stage in your life. It helps build confidence and gives you power to control your life to a large extent. You may question my statement and tell me stories of happy stay at home wives and I do agree that if your partner/husband is caring and respects your decision to follow your dreams even if it is to keep home then it is worth every bit but that is not always the case. I saw the dream shatter and the lack of financial support left me nowhere. As the years passed I found it extremely difficult to acquire the job that would suit my ‘outdated’ academic or professional qualifications.

Also that ‘academic intelligence’ or even life skills sometimes do not guarantee real world success or employment especially if you over 45+ woman and looking for a career.  It is a personal experience about which I will sometime write in detail.

The second phase of my life was a struggle to  cope with a non supportive/cooperative marital family, raising children and trying very hard, against all odds, to make that house a home. It did not work. So, I put aside the idea of  living my dreams and put all my strength to see that my boys get what I did not. It was a choice I made. I was weak, emotionally and mentally. The strength to rebel came very late and with tremendous consequences.

The idea of love is very rosy but be very assertive about your self-respect and dignity. Do not ever allow the other person to take hold on you in any way just because you are in love. If there is no mutual affection and respect in a relationship then it would never thrive. Everything else fades away with time. Adjusting, compromising with yourself on various grounds in hope of a blissful haven is foolish. Unconditional love is a silly thought. There is no such thing. Every act of love seeks something in return and if one doesn’t love oneself one can’t expect love from others. Again, something I knew but never practiced. What you give to others is never enough and is often thrown back at you as an object that supposedly smothered them. Never give away all of yourself to anyone. Never.

I also feel that heartbreak is often good for you because you know exactly what you do not wish in your life.  Mistakes / failures are always very good teachers. Each failure, each rejection is a stepping stone to something positive so instead of crying over them it is always better to move forward and be grateful for the things that broke you so that you could collect yourself and walk much stronger and experienced. They teach you lessons that you need to learn, strengthening and resurrecting you in the process. It makes you reach inside and know yourself better.

No school or college can teach you what life does. Be attentive to it. The beauty of the human life lies in its fragility so don’t give it up or give it away. It is the real strength and power of being human to accept your brokenness, to put it all back together. To fill the cracks with gold of love and move on. Cracks are the wounds indicating you have suffered and have overcome that suffering. Something like Kintsugi . 

I spent years carrying the hurt in my heart and then one day I just let it go. It made all the difference within though the daily struggle to assert myself and live continues. Insecurity and discontent robs you of your peace and your health.There is nothing like travelling light and finding joy in small things rather than moaning over the past and the negative. Unfortunately financial instability or lack of money and a basic comfortable life in a space of your own can pull you back in that muck time after time.  The reason I suffer even now, even after knowing all this. It’s tiresome being a fighter all life long.

I’m essentially a very trusting person but the events of last few years have made me tougher. I am not cynical but careful than before. People who claimed to be well wishers back stabbed in such a way that I began to question the very essence of any relationship. It broke me but then I emerged wiser. Now there are a selective few I trust and the others need to prove their worth.

Each person and the environment in which he/she lives is different but one thing that runs through every situation is unless the men in your life (father/brother/husband/partner/lover/ son..) are enlightened enough to see you as a human being with a mind of her own who has goals and desires you will always be subjugated and remain unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself and others. To stop that you need to be strong and vocal about what you want from life and take full responsibility for your actions. I realized this very late in life. Many things were out of my control and irreversible by then. Never make this mistake of handing the pen in someone else’s hand. Write your own story.

I told someone to stay single and pursue the goals she had set for herself unless the partner is supportive of her blossoming. Not many agreed but darlings this is the only way to happiness. I support people who not to have children and also who decide to have them/adopt them or just sponsor a child. It is a choice they make. Why should one judge? We are very judgmental lot especially when it comes to the choices women make.

Patriarchy sees red when women make choices and that is one of the reasons why many of us have stilled voices. Also, our society is obsessed with marriage. It is time to look beyond pushing kids to settle down and have babies.

Women are “natural givers”, this is a concept taught by the patriarchal society. A woman has to think of others before she thinks about herself. ( If at all she dares to think.) We are made to believe that our very existence is for others. A girl is conditioned to this thought since childhood and the society frowns if she resists making her feel guilty and most of the give up her dreams. In each role she plays her glory is in sacrifice.

“Selfish” became my middle name the moment I decided to break those barriers. People often say women don’t want to break out of patriarchal mindset as they love to play victims or as an excuse for their life state or unwillingness to be decisive and take the hard path. Though I do agree that many of the women do that but it’s also true in many cases the lack of support system and financial instability can also hinder their movement towards a path they want to walk on. The hard path is harder than you think. At different social levels the choices differ and so does the ability to break free. Especially in the case of middle class, which has also now got segmented, women find it much difficult to step out. It’s easier said than done.

I think it is very essential to know and realize your worth not just as a woman but as a human being. As an individual.

Another thing that life revealed in last few years is, if you are in an abusive or an unsatisfactory marriage then take a stand as early as possible. If you delay then it would be very difficult at later stages. Not all natal homes are supportive and not every woman will find a steady income to support herself or children ( if there are any). Early decision also gives you enough time to make a fresh start if you need to look for a job to support yourself.  I spent twenty plus years in hope that things will improve but they did not. Don’t believe in the misconception that once you have children things will change for good or improve. No, they don’t and then children suffer too.

People often ask me, ‘ why did you take it for so long?” They say among themselves,”How could an educated woman with liberal thinking do this to herself?”

In our country unless you have a back up or a support system worked out it is lethal to step out and fight for your rights. If you think your natal home is where you’ll find solace, think again. It is very frustrating for many. I know because I am living it.

I had spent two major phases of my life struggling with myself trying to find who I am and where I am headed. Oscillating between what I was and what I had become.

In solitary hours I would stare at the walls on the house of bricks that held me captive because I let it. Slowly I felt my energy depleting at all levels. Though I kept myself involved with children and work at home there was something that was so unfulfilling that it began to gnaw at me.  I did things to distract myself from the mess I was in and found ways to keep myself and boys as much out of it as possible especially in the first half of the marriage. My natal family knew of all that was happening but as they say, if you do not help yourself no one else does. No support came from there to give me courage to break the destructive cycle. I talked, wrote long letters ( boys think that may have been a stepping stone to my blogging  at later stage) but never found a solution or a helping hand.

I also believed that time will heal things and a change will happen. Time doesn’t heal. Don’t believe it all you have been told. Time simply crushes you, chains you, makes you its slave and whiplash you to obey its commands. The answers, the healing comes from either within or from elsewhere. Time just watches the drama and laughs at our misery . Time is the devil to whom we have sold our souls. It is the master, we mere slaves. Only an inner uprising can bring the change. Only that can create true love, true courage, true self.

Abuse ( mental/emotional/physical), is difficult to explain. Many women find is hard to break the cycle of pain and either reach out for help pr move out. They resign to their fates, a guilt, a painful silence that penetrates their bones and makes its home there. The fear, the insecurity, the distrust cripples them. It is very disturbing and depressing. In my case it showed very clearly in physical symptoms. I became a hypochondriac to a very large extent.

Friends were helpless too even if they understood the situation. Suddenly I realized I was alone in this battle. There are many well-meaning people who understand your struggle and encourage you to ” stay brave” but the intention of wishing well does not help. Action does. Not many stand up for you and actually help. The boys were growing up fast and the clock ticking. I had to take a step or fall forever in the quicksand that was sucking me in.

I realized that the only person you can change is yourself. People do what they want to do despite you telling them otherwise. I used to get affected by the undesired outcome, still do at times, but ultimately I found that getting affected by the result harms me more than anyone else involved and that made the difference. It is better to let go and leave people to their views and doings rather than fret about something not in your control. (Still learning)

Someone I admire told me about the universal law of attraction and the role of destiny. I do believe in universal energies but unless one resolves things within the universe does not help. Unless you try to do something to bring the change in your life no one else will do it for you. People can be very comforting and good listeners but no one likes all day whining especially when that is all you do.

I turned 50 last October. Completing 3/4 of the expected average human lifespan and I am worried. Worried about future.  It terrifies me to see that I have neither the security nor the funds for my old age. So, what did I do all these years, let’s say from age 21 to 49 (the working years)? Nothing for myself except a three four years of work from home job given to me by a “friend” as a “do a good deed” pack. I earned some money and experience no doubt but I lost a lot on personal front and then the job itself. As the person said himself,” No good deed goes unpunished”. Not his quote but Oscar Wilde’s. My punishment was to be thrown out of work when I needed it most. It was a crucial time for me and a few more years would have seen me through a lot of troubles. This is when I realized that once you taste freedom life is never the same again. Also, that without enough money for everyday sustenance every notion of freedom and living a life one dreams of falls flat on the face. When someone knows that you are looking for safe refuge more than anything else and at any cost they get you to do stuff they want. I will tell you this very important story one day soon.

Dependence is imprisonment and even though I know it I have very few choices. The ‘hard path’ that people tell me to take is all fine and dandy but my inner fears and physical, emotional health doesn’t allow me to cross the line once more at this stage of life. Now, in this third and perhaps the last phase of my life, I am again at crossroads. The choices are clear and very few unless a miracle happens. I do believe in them by the way. 🙂 You tend to believe in everything when all else fails.

A few of those choices will mean giving up on all that I worked on in last few years. Giving up on my ideals, my beliefs and to start afresh is scaring the wits out of me. I have to make a choice soon even if it means a complete turn around or shedding my skin once again to begin from the first step however hard and painful it may be.

Someone asked me why I decided to play the role of a homemaker when I was ‘educated’ and ‘talented’? Why didn’t I take up a profession, become a ‘working woman‘?

The answer is, every woman is a working woman. As for professional life or being a career woman, It was a choice I made and thought it to be correct at that time. I never imagined things would turn out the way they did.  I never imagined that the ‘home’ that I always dreamed about can only become a reality only IF I earn.

Sadly, everything hinges on money.  I have seen even the supposedly closest people turn away the moment they realize you have nothing much to give in terms of money.

This post is just a rambling to help me and maybe others to decide what course to take to make life worthy. I am seeking answers everyday as I battle with my fears. Will the patriarchy win? Will I eventually find my space? Will I find the closure? I tell myself I have been there before. Fought the war, for myself. Won it too. I keep the faith in the choice I have made now. Though I know the stanch feminists will disagree with it but then again I know what’s best for me in this difficult time. I have to correct certain things. I have to make peace with myself. I have to resurrect a bond I cherish. I have to end the search for a home for good. I have to find that space where I can make the choices without a finger pressing my jugular.

My heart is full but my mind tells me not to give up after coming so far. I have battled fears, depression, physical health issues, heartbreak, regressive mindsets, constant bullying, physical abuse and more at other levels. Still battling many of these. Being home bound for years has made turned me into a nervous, jittery person. I feel scared to take on the world as I did so naturally earlier. It has made me shrink into a non believer in myself. Crowded places make me uneasy, going in empty elevators, public transport scares me. I am not the person who didn’t give a hoot to troubles. BUT, I’m slowly changing that. It is a painful task but I am ready to bring myself back into the game.  I have constantly repaired myself and moved on with courage. I have a feeling now is the time to take that final call. Changing old patterns takes an effort and that effort needs immense strength to carry forward but I am not a quitter. I may give in many times but I won’t give up.

“Don’t ever think of me as “easy” “provocative” . I may speak my mind openly and seem to you like a “non typical Indian woman” but then you don’t know Indian women. It is time you changed your perception. I have scars from touching certain people in my life .. and
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran

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Delhi Monuments : The Khair-ul-Manazil Mosque


In 1450 the Mughals began their reign starting with Babur, the Mughal empire flourished and reached its pinnacle during Akbar’s reign. He was an ideal king and is considered one of the best rulers among all the Mughals.

Emperor Akbar is usually associated with Fatehpur Sikri, the capital is founded in Agra but I wanted to explore the bits of his story that lives through the ruins in Delhi. I went to the two places in Mehrauli, the tombs of Muhammad Quli Khan and Adam Khan, sons of Maham Anga and Akbar’s foster brothers. I think her remains too are buried along with Adam Khan here but I am not sure. Maham Anga was Akbar’s chief wet curse and held an important place as an adviser to the teenage Emperor. Shrewd and ambitious she was in-charge of the empire and acted as the de-facto regent of the Mughal Empire from 1560 to 1562. The worse kind of petticoat government that ever was.

Khair ul Minazil was commissioned by her during Akbar’s reign and the complex has a mosque and a madarsa (Islamic seminary). The name means ‘ the most auspicious of houses’.  This is an important structure because there aren’t many instances of  surviving  architecture which have the patronage of a woman.  It was perhaps the first Mughal Mosque in Delhi.

This serene mosque is located on Mathura Road, opposite the Old Fort  or Purana Qila. Driving down the busy road in the front of the mosque I had always wanted to stop by and spend some time there. This time I especially made a plan to do so. One can see hundreds of pigeons flying around the structure and for once I didn’t despise the sight.

It all blended in so well. Perhaps in olden times this complex was part of the Old Fort complex. Not many people actually venture into this beautiful structure and that is a pity for one can sense the grandeur of the place by just standing inside the complex. History tells that an assassination attempt was made on Akbar’s life from the first floor of this mosque in 1564.

The double storied gateway of the mosque is made of quartzite and red stone but the mosque and the madarsa are made of rubble. If you look from inside the magnificent gate has medallions and intricate stucco patterns etched on it.

On both the sides of the mosque stands the two storied madarsa in dilapidated state. The larger rooms are on the ground floor and a narrow passage leads to the smaller ones on the first floor. Most of the walls are crumbling and no doors or windows are left if there were any.

The vast rectangular courtyard has a waju hauz which is not working hence not in use. The old well, on the other hand, is working and people draw the water for waju (ablution).

One can see water pitchers near the hauz that are filled everyday for the residing pigeons.

 

The mosque is better preserved than the madarsa. Earlier there were five arched bays leading to the mosque but now only three are visible. There is a dome at the central bay of the prayer hall while the other bays have been roofed with vaults. The mehrabs, curves and Qur’an scripts are on the verge of decay due to the neglect of the structure.

 

The Persian inscription  set above the central entrance that tells us that this was built by Maham Anga with the assistance of shihabuddin Ahmed Khan. We also see two more names apart from Akbar that of Niyaz Baqsh who constructed Khairul Manazil and Darvesh Hussain who supervised the construction. The name ‘Khair-ul-Manazil’, when written in Persian, yields the number 969 Hijri (AD 1561-62), the year of its construction, and thus is a Chronogram. A very interesting and unique feature of this structure.

The inside floor of the mosque is still in a fairly good condition because people offer Namaz but the outer floor is in very bad state.

One can see copies of Quran sharif kept in one of the brackets in the wall.

The Mecca facing western mehrab still has some remnants of the exquisitely vibrant blue, red, violet green and yellow enamel tile work, a testimonial to its glorious past.

Most of the awe inspiring artwork is now lost to the years of neglect and the gorgeous facade bears a blackened appearance and yet it stands tall as a witness to the beauty and grace this place has managed to keep even now leaving behind the rectangular protruding projections. One can imagine how grand this mosque would have looked in its prime days. Maham Anga was resourceful, rich and very confident woman and left no stone upturned to make this a work of art. No tow tiles of the facade are of the same design. The geometrical and floral patterns are different in each tile. There are some verses from the Holy Quran inscribed on the walls.

On the outer wall of the mosque one can see the brackets that once supported the chajjas or the wide eaves that were meant to keep the sun away.

It is hard to believe that the mosque is erected without any foundation.

The iron gate and the boundaries restrict the movements if you wish to photograph the complex from various angles.

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I wanted to take some pictures from the expansive lawns of Sher Shah Gate or Lal Darwaza complex but it is under restoration and public is not allowed at the moment.

I hope more people visit this stunningly beautiful mosque but I also feel that the lack of interest in this has also preserved it from the onslaught of those ‘tourists’ who harm the monuments by engraving their names or drawing cupid hearts etc on the walls.

I also hope Archaeological Survey Of India considers some restoration work here before we completely lose whatever artwork is remaining now. Do visit this place whenever you are on Old Fort side.

 

 

Delhi Monuments – Chor Minar ( The Thieves Tower )


I often wonder how I never paid any attention to this solitary tower in K block Hauz Khas Enclave. I have seen almost all the big and small structures around this area but never stopped here. Yesterday I was wandering around the city and was in the neighborhood so decided to walk down and take a closer look at the tower of punishment, a landmark with a gory history, that is usually ignored by many.

The minar is located in the midst of posh bungalows of Hauz Khas. This supposedly haunted structure is encircled by a garden and serves as a traffic roundabout. The monument is made of rubble masonry where large irregular chunks of stone are held together by thick mortar.  The tower, with 225 regularly spaced holes on the upper half,  is kind of macabre to look at. It also seems incomplete and gives a stump like look. If you view it from a distance it appears to have its head chopped off. Sends a shiver up your spine to think what it hides in its dark depths.

Delhi has had its own share of horror filled past and this Chor Minar is a fine example of that. Built in early 14th century, under the reign of Allauddin Khilji (1290–1320) , this tower was used to display the severed heads of thieves and criminals. The heads would be impaled on spears stuck into the holes, to act as a deterrent to others. Though there is no proof if that was the sole purpose of this tower it is very much possible as those times were very turbulent.

I stood there imagining 225 blood dripping heads staring at me from the stone walls of the Minar and turned away only to face the tree in the compound with hundreds of dried seed pods hanging on its branches. It is perhaps one of the Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) trees but I need someone to identify it correctly.

I can’t tell you if I was amused or repulsed. The eerie silence holds you captive as you marvel at the structure, the bloody times in which it was constructed and the Sultan’s preferred way of  delivering justice.

Perhaps with the growing threats from the Mongols, it was necessary to maintain law and order for Khilji. Only with a streamlined administration he could have faced the challenges imposed by the mongols and other invaders. It is believed that when the crime rate increased then heads of only the important noted criminals were displayed and the rest were piled like a pyramid next to it. A blood curdling scene that is hard to imagine as one stands there looking at the manicured square patches of grass that surround the tower.

There is also a belief among the historians that a large number of Mongols who attacked Delhi during Khilji’s regime were defeated and captured and their severed heads were hung from the holes in the Minar for striking terror among the masses.

I wondered if the man who peacefully slept under the warm winter sun, the girls who took selfies next to the Minar or the creme de la creme living in those upper crust houses knew of the headless ghosts that may be grinning or peering at them.

Unfortunately not many people are aware of its history and the morbid tales associated with it and the tower stands there seeped in its blood soaked secrets.

I sat there on the bench taking in a piece of history one would wish to forget. The tower is headless and that seems like too much of a coincidence. It stands on a platform with three arched recesses on all four sides. The central recess on the east is the entrance to the tower with a spiral staircase leading to the top. The gate is locked now and is inaccessible. Only the birds, the squirrels and the bats can see what’s in there.

A woman walking the dogs gave me a strange look as I stood at the gate peering at the minar and hoping against hope to get a signal from some presence in there. It was a hot winter day and the afternoon sun was blazing in its full glory. I had a few more monuments to visit so said goodbye to the ancient inhabitants of the Chor Minar promising to be back soon as my elder son lives a stone’s throw away.

Do visit this haunting beauty whenever you are in this part of the city. The place isn’t very far from the Metro station and the guards near the colony gates or the autowallas will guide you there.

 

 

 

 

Book Release, Interview And Other Milestones


So much has been happening lately that I have lost count of things I needed to share with my readers though most of those who follow me on other social channels must be getting the micro updates.
I gave in to the temptation and joined Instagram. It is overwhelming and though a great platform I need to nip that desire to make it a focal point of living. Those of you who are there can follow me  @tikulli 

Can’t believe I have already shared more than 120 posts there. 😀

Now to the Good news that has kept me busy and happy.

My elder son Aditya is getting married to his lovely girl friend Snigdha. I don’t know how to explain the feeling of happiness. It is a new chapter in their lives and ours. As the big day gets closer I am becoming very nostalgic and emotional. (Not that I am not that most of the time lol)

I wish them friendship, love and joy. And Peace. I know I tried to do my best as a parent and I hope he starts now on a new note leaving behind the grief, sorrow and grudges of the past. Cherish the bond we share.

Sharing a box of rich dark ganache, dark chocolate from Fabelle chocolate boutique, ITC Maurya Sheraton. This delicious chocolate is made with exquisite Ghana Cocoa. I went there recently and got blown over by the range. Post coming up soon.

Now to writing and other things.

In July poet-editor-academe Seb Doubinsky featured me on TABAGO, his wonderful international page for writers. A great honor for me to share a platform with some of the finest writers.

“I think both fiction and poetry are socially relevant projects just like any other art, a form of protest.”

Let stories be told, poems be written and songs be sung without fear. Let there be tolerance, compassion and love for all. We are living in difficult times and there is a dire need for change for the good of future generations. 70 years of Independence mean nothing if we still live in fear, if human lives do not matter. Violence, apathy, intolerance, bigotry needs to go.

Here is the link to the interview.  TIKULI DOGRA  

Another fantastic new is selection of my short story in ‘Silence is White’ an exceptional anthology dedicated to my dear friend, author, editor, academe, Seb Doubinsky. Kudos to  Chris Kelso and James Goddard for making this happen and Manu Rich for the brilliant cover.  I am the only Indian writer in the anthology and very proud to be included. Thank you James for putting the soul in my story. Releasing Date – October, 19th. You can pre order the book here. Soon it will be available here too.

 

 

I have a very important announcement coming up in a few days. Stay tuned. 🙂 

Meanwhile, my blog has been nominated in five categories for Indian Blogger Awards. Even non bloggers can leave a comment through Facebook. If you enjoy my writing, photographs etc do leave a testimonial by clicking on the given link.  #IBA2017 

Show some love by leaving a comment here.  You can even click on the right side bar widget to reach the page. Indiblogger completed a decade this year and I have nine years of wonderful association with them as a blogger. A great platform to be part of.

In nine years of blogging with WordPress I have now 2,700+ followers and 704,608 blog hits.

The blog was listed in Top Blogs of India for the sixth consecutive year. This year was the seventh edition of the Directory of best Indian blogs. A great milestone for me. Thank you for being part of my journey.

We blog, therefore we are.  

Keep reading and do leave your comments on the posts so that I know your views.

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The House Of Oracles | Chandini Santosh


Very few books are cathartic, even fewer leave you listless yet fulfilled in a strange way. Chandini Santosh’s The House of Oracles opened some blocks in me. Tears came effortlessly as I finished the book today. They came because a catharsis was much needed. The sky poured endlessly outside my window. I do not know how to review a book so just jotting down what flowed from my heart. This is the second book revolving around an ancestral house that has touched me so deeply. Both the books are by women writers and extremely compelling reads.

Some incidents from past can haunt you for the lifetime, emerging when least expected. Chandini has so beautifully woven that in the theme of the story. Throughout the novel the thought pulsates underneath the current happenings seeking release and atonement in some form or the other.

The heart wrenching narrative tugs at you to keep reading but I had to pause because the characters drew me in at different levels not letting go. The story is set in North Malabar region  and I urge you to do some reading about the ‘Oracles of Malabar’, an incredibly vibrant tradition that is slowly vanishing now, before proceeding to read. The House of Oracles is not just a voyage down the memory lane exploring the rich history, rituals, customs, it is also a journey within. A search for inner happiness, an effort to engage with oneself at levels one wants to push aside. Every one of us has to go through the myriads of  emotions, struggle and pave our path through the pressures and demands society as well as life inflicts on us and that is why perhaps the line between fiction and reality blurs as one reads through the pages.

Although the strong female characterization is the strength of the novel it is the portrayal of the male characters that grew on me. The vulnerability of human emotions is so deftly crafted that it is impossible to disconnect. Each character, even the short lived Vishnu, gets permanently etched in the mind.

The women on the other hand have this inner strength that surfaces quietly at times and at others more vociferously. Even in the midst of chaos that surrounds their lives there is resilience and dignity.

Chandini is a poet and painter par excellence and from the opening lines the four hundred year old house of oracles, the outhouse, the graves, the trees and the forty steps leading down begin to emerge before the reader like a painting. A painting alive with the aroma of the Parijata flowers floating down like tiny, wispy dreams or the moon dragging over the tulsi plant in the atrium, the stream swollen with rain, the daunting shadow of the seven layered stone lamp eternally etched on the walls, the grape-eyed monkey looking beseechingly from the tamarind tree, the lake simmering like a silver coin tossed into the night.. the imagery takes your breath away. One feels compelled to get under the skin of the characters and follow them around the House of Oracles and at times one almost becomes the house itself. There is no other way than to give in.

It is the phrases like, “Forgiving is a limbless genie. It has to be carried in rounded palms or the open hollows of the grieving mind” and “Everyone has to find their own key to the treasure; everyone’s treasure is different” that make you cling to the book till the last word.

Weaved intricately between family traditions, human tragedies, ancient customs is the inevitable social transformation, caste struggle, anomalies of land grab, the ways of the neo-rich and the uncomfortable transition from traditional to modern.

This intense, fast paced narrative will not let you down at any level. The cover design is based on a charcoal sketch by the author and is the portal to a world of storytelling that’s hard to come by these days.

I highly recommend Chandini’s debut novel to everyone. Go pick up your copy here – The House Of Oracles

In The Light Of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez


 

After reading a book if something changes inside you for better then it is a good book. I found light from this one. Simple stories told from the heart are the best. Our lives, across the globe, are all connected with fragile threads. Sometimes these threads quiver just a little to make us aware of their existence and of the beauty of life that is unfolding despite everything. Threads that help us ‘cross over’, to move past regrets and sorrows and embrace life to the fullest.  These potent threads lead us to one another when the time is right and makes us whole again.

I went to the book launch of In The Light Of Darkness last Saturday and met Radhika for the first time. Though we had been in touch on Facebook since some time and I had read her blog occasionally I wasn’t too familiar with her writing. The book is published by  Readomania and their events are always heart warming. You must check out their other books and website too.

When I got the invite for the launch from her I had not seen the cover. The name itself was enough to convince me to look forward to the event. When she shared the cover, I was blown over. It just drew me in. A lot of emotions stirred inside and I thought what a beautiful poetry in picture it was. Later, after reading the novel, I realized how apt the cover was. It sums up the entire human saga of patient waiting of a woman, a mother, a son to being to closure all that needed to be closed. It sums up the very essence of the novel, how ‘the light of darkness’ eventually finds a crack, breaks through and brightens everything around it. It tells the importance of befriending,  understanding and embracing those ‘dark’ phases in our lives for these phases are an important gift for our overall growth and well being. I personally called them ‘rooting years’ .

The novel is exceptionally well written. One of the best I have read among emerging Indian writers. What a fantastic debut.

During the conversation Radhika told that it was Mary Oliver’s famous poem ‘Uses Of Sorrow’ from her book ‘Thirst’ that inspired her to write the story . Incidentally it is one of my favorite books and poem.

While reading, one can see how  beautifully she has captured the essence of that poem  and blended it in the narrative with such affecting simplicity. Throughout the book there is an underlying current of hope and faith. In the midst of all the struggles the character continuously find some thread to hold on to and renew their faith in life, in relationships, in themselves.

That brings me to another thing that has receded in the shadows of time. Letter writing. There is something very personal in writing a letter with hand. Words that came alive and pulsated as you run your fingers on them. Letters that evoked so many emotions in you even after years of receiving them. Letters that bridge the distance and sometimes bring things to closure, assuring a new beginning. I remembered such letters as I read Susan’s letter to her son. there is a certain clairvoyance in it. A light in the dark. I have known the power of such light and could see how beautifully it lead Matthew to the path he had known but never had strength to take.

This isn’t  book review or critique of her work. I am writing this to tell you how the book connected with me at many levels.Page after page I paused and lingered at places that took me back in time in my own life. So many things came up to the surface and eventually found closure. A feeling of Déjà vu made me so uncomfortable at times that I did not know whether to continue reading or to pause and then I realized I needed to go on, go on to find something that will provide the catharsis. If a story helps you look within it always heals.

Sometimes a line becomes so significant that it plays in the mind on a loop. This book had many such lines and I was tangled in them. I could have read the book in one go but as I said there are words that pulled at my sleeves like a kitten seeking attention. We all choose our karmic path and are responsible for our decisions especially the toughest ones. Decisions that drastically alter the whole flow of life, shaking the very bonds of love, of comradeship, of trust. We hope that those who are directly or indirectly affected by those decisions will eventually understand. This hope sustains us, gives us a reason to live.

A mother-child relationship is much more than just a natural bond. The author has dealt with the complexities of this bond so effortlessly. The book makes you wonder about the woman who is torn between being a mother and a woman. It makes you reach out to the son who is struggling to find the light of hope in the darkness that was gifted to him by life. For me, it brought back the memories of a similar decision I had to take for my son. As the story unfolded I was filled with the memories of those dark times and how that box of darkness became a gift to me and possibly for my son in a different way perhaps, but none the less a gift. Not many narratives shake your conscience  the way this one does.

When the story is too close to home it often messes with your mind. In those times I wrote to Radhika and poured my heart out and then I found why this book is so special. Radhika has this innate ability to comfort and love which instantly made me feel better. It also made me realize that time is insignificant to connect deeply with someone. Only a person with so much depth can touch lives with her words.  I know I will cherish this one for long.

The book conveys an important message. I don’t know where your reading of the book will lead you and I am not discussing anything about the plot or the characters here. I want you to find your light once you read it.

 

Go pick your copy of In The Light Of Darkness

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Spring In Delhi, A Poem, A Story And Some Thoughts


The more a voice gets stifled, the louder it gets. So much has happened in past few days. There is too much anger and anguish inside me and I am just not getting into the rhythm of regular writing. Pages are still lying blank. Pen poised over them like a finger on the jugular.How can one remain composed when  voices of dissent are silenced. When Rohith Vermula is pushed to commit suicide. When peaceful dissenters (students) are painted as “anti nationals” charged for  sedition without any proof, for just having a different political ideology and guess which one got targeted as a terrorist and why? When news channels incite the public with doctored videos/audios. When evidence is manufactured. When goons are given protection and encouraged in their hooliganism. When students, teachers, journalists are beaten up for speaking up for what is just. When Perversity rules. When acid is thrown on the face of a  woman tribal right activist to muzzle yet another voice of dissent. When the country burns in the fire of communal hatred. When you are hounded and trolled for your stance on what is happening right now in the country When a twelve year old child is hit and her father killed for asking a second helping of meal. When the tragic suicides of the farmers is termed as “fashion”. When there is a complete breakdown of law & order. When anger kills the power of reason. When you are targeted because of your gender, caste, name, political stance or simply because you use your mind and speak out against the unjust.

It makes me uneasy. Makes me pause and reflect.

I fear for my life every single time I open my mouth in this country where I was born and raised. Who will stand up for me or any ordinary citizen? Who will listen to our pleas? I am not as articulate as many of my writer friends but I am a thinking and concerned citizen. A woman trying to stand for her rights and her dignity. A mother watching two young adult sons growing up in an environment that is getting vicious day by day. I taught my children dissent, I taught them to participate actively as citizens. I taught them to be discerning without being judgmental. That is what my parents taught me. I do the same. Does that make us Anti Nationals? Tell me how? Be very careful when you label anyone. Know its power. Labels box you in. I have been boxed in and I know how it feels. It dramatically changes your life in a matter of seconds. Most of the times scars you for life. Listen to that little voice of conscience and dissent that is knocking from within you to wake up. Listen and act.

In the midst of this unrest the spring came quietly to the capital bringing myriad hues of flowers. Every roundabout, every garden, every park is a riot of colours. The barbets, the flaming golden woodpeckers and the parakeets and many other birds are here. The roadsides and roundabouts are full of nasturtiums, yellow poppies, purple asters, yellow violas, red pitunias, Cinnenarias, dog flowers, marigolds, sweet peas, sweet williams, chrysanthemums, dahlias and bougainvilleas in varied hues have painted the city in every colour. Some of the Mango trees are blossoming too and then there is this distinct fragrance of the Saptparni tree across the city. The coral trees and the Silk Cotton trees are beginning to bloom too.

Delhi also hosts flower shows during Feb-March. I went to he 29th Delhi Garden Tourism Festival Yesterday to get soaked in the colours of basant (Spring)

And when we talk of flowers and blossoming how can we forget poetry. A poem got published in prestigious Open Road Review Magazine recently. You can read it HERE.

A Short Fiction also found a platform in Read Fingers, a portal for those who enjoy reading and writing. This story is very close to my heart. Do read it HERE.

Heartfelt gratitude to the editors who appreciated my work and included it in their magazines.

Talking of magazines, if you have not submitted your piece for Cafe Dissensus March issue (23) then please do it fast as the last date is not very far. Here is the submission link. I am guest editing the issue this time. 

I will leave you with this brilliant piece by my friend Nabina Das. – ‘After Every War’: Reading poetry in the dark times 

And One more by Saif Mehmood – Repression and Resistance, Delhi 2016: Through The Prism Of Urdu Poetry  

 

 

 

 

Ten on Tuesday – Ten Books I Read This Year


This year I wasn’t able to read much due to my eye surgery but here are the ten books which I read and loved.

The House Of Twinning Roses – Nabina Das

The Girl Who Loved A Pirate – KulpreetYadav

A Kind of Kaddish – Jerry Wilson

Scion Of Ikshvaku – Amish Tripathi

Unbound 2,000 Years Of Indian Women’s Writing – Edited by Annie Zaidi

Along The Red River – SabitaGoswami

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Collected Stories

Neruda Selected Poems

A Darker Shade (17 Swedish Stories of Murder, Mystery and Suspense) – Edited by John-Henri Holmberg

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Vol.1) – Edited by Robert Silverberg

Ten On Tuesday – Ten blogs to follow


Serenely Rapt  Do checkout her project called rugs of life.

bNomadic  If you love Himalayas this is the place to be.

Vidya Sury| Going A Musing Collecting Smiles

A- musing | Purba Ray

Healthfood Desivideshi and Banaras Ka Khana

Aam Janata

Shekhar Kapoor

Joshi Daniel Photography

My Garden

Tilling The Earthwoman

The reason I have just given you the links is that I want you to go explore and relish each blog. Find something that connects with you. These are the bloggers among many others that I love reading. Go indulge