Rejected Poems


Two of my poems did not find a home in any online magazine. They were not considered “poems” but a jumble of words. Well, what can I say, most of my work is a jumble of words.  I’ve been away from blogging for more than one reason but thought of sharing them with you. Maybe one of you will be able to unscramble these words.

1.

Somewhere in the thick of the night between sleep and wakefulness I suddenly found myself furiously typing away on my mobile. It continued till I got exhausted and then I cut pasted it an email draft before turning the device off.  In the morning I read what my possessed fingers wrote, rearranged the words and decided it was a decent poem. The poetry experts thought otherwise so here it is.

NIGHT THOUGHTS

In my search for a home

All I wanted

was two arms

that would hold me in love,

a quiet lap for my head,

fingers stroking my hair

a shoulder to lean on

when my heart was heavy

But that was asking too much

all they gave me

was four walls and a roof

A window to see the world

and a door that kept me in

Often

i would stretch my arms

out through the window,

close my eyes and free myself

of everything that held me,

often

i would try to fly

but would fall instead

my injuries seldom showed

Once

i found the door open and fled

as if my life depended on it

No,

my life did depend on it

I had no experience of freedom

there were arms, laps,

shoulders everywhere

luring as a spider lures a fly

to make the kill

With sinking heart

i searched for those four walls,

a roof, a door

that would keep me in,

a window that was closed

unless i wished it otherwise

I wanted to hide away in the dark

Away from prying eyes

but they found me…

Every single time

I wanted to bury myself in a hole

but they would only dig me out

Instead

I was a forever drifting

between what was

and what might have been

The only constants

were the walls and the roof

enclosing me,

morphing into arms, laps, shoulders

that pushed and groped and pressed

Till i was like a palimpsest

Absent yet strangely there

Sometimes

everything was a black expanse

Even in the searing daylight

from that blackness

They would pull me in

Deeper

deeper

Until my breathing failed

until my heart exploded

yet still i stretched my arms

Trying to find freedom

from all that held me

Sometimes

hands would pull me out

only to abandon me as i held tight

then i would fall again

invisible injuries hurting so much

Sitting in this black hole

desperately

i stare at a patch of sky

I feel the sides for hand and footholds

I find a few

but my legs

Have forgotten how to climb

I stretch my fingers

Press them hard against the cold

Hoping they’ll grow into vines

Vines climb upwards

Follow the light

Snip

Snip

Snip

A sound echoes

………………..

2.

An autobiographical sort of poem written in moments of deep anguish. Sometimes this is the only way to release the stress, the emotional burden and the anxiety. My search for a place I can call my home continues, the struggle with my emotional, physical health continues and so does the constant effort to keep my finances stable. Many times I reach a breaking point and then pick myself up. Sometimes writing it out helps. A lot of people question my public writing of my personal struggles. Why do I write and share? Do they serve any purpose? Well, perhaps not to the readers but to me they do. They help me with many things and that I will keep to myself. On practical grounds writing may not helps, it may not get me a house or improve my monetary situation but it is a a stepping out of blocks that choke my mind.

There have been betrayals and backstabbing, abuse and gaslighting, there have been people who snatched what was truly mine but then one learns. It is all about moving on. Writing helps.

LONELINESS

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for being born when no one wanted me

not even me nor the womb that carried me

as I wrapped the placenta around my neck

as I tried to end what should not have begun

a son was enough to continue the family name

a son was enough for a mother to love

who needs a daughter

conceived perhaps to spite the mother

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for shuffling between life and death

a cause of utmost bother to caregivers

forced to revive a child

in almost vegetable like state

it snapped their backs and their feelings

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

            for abandoning that little pup

            on a side street many years ago

            a pup who had cried with me

            when mother was taken to the hospital

            her heart weary

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for that is all I had to call my own

as I wandered the streets after school

not wanting to go back to a loveless home

whose key hung around my neck like a noose

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for witnessing what I shouldn’t have seen

someone close and her lover

a man who played uncle

his hands reaching for places

that I was beginning to discover

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for trying to wash away

that dreadful touch

which scarred my innocence

which made me flinch away from men

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for giving it all

sometimes at will at other times forced

for retreating within my adolescent heart

as I was forced to atone for sins I didn’t commit

punished by my father every other day

the gaze of the neighbourhood scalding my skin

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

because that is all I had to call my own

my mother too busy

my father mostly absent

my brother indifferent

not much has changed

except my father is dead

he doesn’t come home every season

to replace his clothes.

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for marrying a man I thought loved me

as I wanted to love him

tied to his mother’s apron strings

he could never give enough

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for clenching my tongue between my teeth

so that no words escaped

for drinking the bitter taste of agony

as they fought for breath then gave up

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for crossing a line women in India

are not supposed to cross

better to die in the marital bed

than return to the childhood home

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

            for abandoning my sons

            for leaving them in a toxic house

            that I could never call a home

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for craving love either non-existent or forbidden

years of carrying a curse has turned me into one

though when I raise my voice in protest

I’m labelled with the choicest of names

reserved for women of my kind

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

things go full circle

a placenta wrapped around my neck

slowly and steadily tightening its grip

what begins has to end

loneliness is a curse I’m tired of carrying

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for it is still all I have to call my own

The Pathbreakers – Remembering My Grandmothers


 

This is a  cross-generational and cross-cultural story of two immensely talented women born in late 1800s and early 1900s in two different states, communities, castes. I emphasize on these terms because in those times they hugely impacted the lives of people especially the women.  What makes these two women , my paternal and maternal grandmothers, special is their ‘non-conformist’  stance. They were ahead of their times and charted their paths irrespective of the brickbats from the highly patriarchal setup in which they were born and brought up. They inspired three generations of women in my family and many others whose lives they touched.

I wanted to write about my grandmothers for two reasons. As you read you will see the stark contrast between their lives  and the choices they made.  The one who got higher education and exposure settled into a homebound life and the other who was uneducated or less educated perhaps ( only home schooling if any) stepped out of her patriarchal home and lived an independent life on her terms.  Somewhere while listening about their lives the thought that emerged was that financial independence or education was secondary when it came to them taking a stand about their lives. It was an inner fire, a deep commitment to self and a strong will that led them to break the ‘codes of conduct and living’ that the society had imposed on them.

For one the family support  played a major role and for the other rebelling against the family worked.  As I look at their lives I see  a somewhat similar pattern in the next two generations of women. Here I mainly speak of my mother and me.

 

My maternal grandmother ( Aaji) Vardha Moghe

Aaji was born in early 1900s in a a middle class, educated chitrapur saraswat brahmin family. This community was known for its liberal vies in those times too. Her elder brother (20 yrs senior) was the principal of Pune Agricultural College.  He was the first Indian to hold that position after his British predecessor. Well known in the education system for being an excellent teacher he wrote a book – Aamchi sheti (Our Farming) – in Marathi for the indigenous  students.  Her younger brother was an excellent photographer and spent some years in the armed forces during world war 2.

Aaji lost her mother at a very tender age of nine and as sent to the only girls’ hostel, ‘Hazoor Paga’,  in Pune at the age of eleven. At that time her father was posted at Belgaon in the admin office of C.I.D and people used to come and consult him about English language as he had a very good command over English spelling , grammar and syntax.

After schooling my granny attended the prestigious Fergusson  College, Pune.  She did her M. Sc.( Botany)  from there at a time when very few girls opted for science as a subject (1926-27).  As a student she was often reprimanded  or punished for being too outspoken in her nationalist leanings. She was grounded once for  sneaking away from the hostel to listen to Mahatma Gandhi’s public lecture. She wore hand spun Khadi like many owmen of that time.

Her father was ostracised as he had employed a Muslim gentleman to teach Sitar to his only daughter Vardha, i.e. my granny. He did not care much about the unjust social dictats and continued to let the maestro teach the daughter.  In no time she mastered the art and began to play Sitar to perfection.

Following  the footsteps of her father Vardha joined the Young Theosophists and met her future husband there.

My Aaji Vardha Moghe on her wedding day, June 1929

Her marriage to R.V. Moghe brought much heartburn amongst her community as she had marrying a Maharashtriyan Brahmin. Now, those who are aware of caste and community system in India especially during those times will know how it enrages the petty mindsets of orthodox society.  I do not wish to digress in explaining that. The CS community looked down upon them as the CS  Brahmins were educated, forward looking and supposedly ‘liberal’. You can see the hollowness of their ‘progressiveness and liberal attitude’ through this example.  It was a love marriage arranged by the family. The first in our many generations perhaps.

My grandfather did his masters in both English and Marathi and was a good friend to Gajanand Jagirdar (actor/film maker), Achyut Patwardhan, socialist leader N.G. Gore and others involved in the Freedom Movement.

When Grandpa came to Varanasi in 1929 and joined  Dr. Annie Besant’s organisation as a teacher in the then Theosophical National Girl’s School and college ( later known as Vasanta College for Women, Krishnamurthy Foundation, Rajghat, Varanasi)  my grandmother came with him and that marked the beginning of yet another life changing phase for her.

She had a creative mind and was very keen to bring Science to the level of younger children’s understanding. When she came to Banaras she hardly knew Hindi but learned it in a very short time due to her determination and willingness. She then created worksheets for children of age 4-10 introducing the basic principles of science through everyday experiences.  Unfortunately due t othe burocratic ramifications these workbooks remained in MS form.

She taught in the children’s school for sometime but her failing health (early  rheumatism )  and frequent pregnancies practically tied her to home and then to bed.  Despite of her ill health and restrains she had this wonderful sunny disposition and joy de vivire that she instilled in all her children and grandchildren.  I have some very fond memories of our time together and in times of hardships in my life she was the one who came to inspire me through her spirit.

Banaras, in those days was an epitome of Indian art and culture. My grandmother ‘s home in Rajghat was a hub for many cultural gatherings and meetings.  Many stalwarts from performing arts, writers, political leaders, thinkers visited the home of my grandmother .  Some very fine artists like Nandalal Bose, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, writers, musicians like Vinayakvrao Patwardhan, theosophists like George Arundel , his wife Rukmini Devi who established Kala Khshetra and gave a status to Baratnatyam, Leslie Holden, Mulk Raj Anand  etc. visited TS and often came to my grandfather’s home there.

She tried to encourage and instil in her six children all that she could not do due to her poor health.

There were musical gatherings in the house and she made sure, along with her husband, that her children find a wider horizon.

In mid sixties she and grandpa left Banaras for Pune and it is there my Aaji passed away leaving behind fond memories and a legacy that was carried forward by her children and their children.

The brightest thing about Aaji was her attitude towards life.  She had a strong personality and never complained or regretted about the events of her life.  It was always an onward looking, positive attitude.

She always found something good in everything and focused on that.

I remember my time with her in Pune and how I cherished every moment of those few weeks of summer vacation that I spent there. She still sometimes cooked and made fresh white butter for me even tough it was really painful for her due to her medical condition. There was an inherent quality in her that brought people of age groups and from all walks of lives closer to her.  I also remember the story telling  and music sessions that happened in her Pune home where everyone sang and created such a magnificent harmony among each other.

She lived life on her terms from an early age and that is what she imbibed in all of us.  I guess, being the eldest daughter, my mother got most of her positive qualities and now when I look at my boys I feel that  a latent energy that has run through the three generations on both my maternal and paternal side has shaped us to a large extent.

 

My Paternal Grandmother ( Amma/Dadi) Ram Dulari

My Dadi's only photograph.

Exactly opposite  to my Aaji’s life, here is a story of a woman born and brought up in strict ritualistic, orthodox land owning community of Uttar Pradesh in late 1800s and how she chose not to ‘confirm’ to the existing patriarchal norms and codes of conduct for women.

Born in a wealthy landowning Kayasth Srivastava family she was the daughter of a zamindaar who owned 12 villages, extensive farmland and mango orchards etc. My father always told me stories from that side of his family where there was no dearth of servants, coachmen, attendants, workers etc. Women were mostly home bound and stayed behind the pardah. They practically ruled from there but had no say in the ‘matters outside their periphery’.  The Boys were taught Urdu and Persian and the girls enough Nagri characters ( Hindi alphabets) to enable them to read Ramcharitmanas, write letters on postcards and read them if the occasion arose.  Cooking, stitching, embroidery of intricate designs, work with zari, salma sitara etc were learnt from elder women in the family.

All the girls were supposed to know how to present food artistically, for example, drawing floral/geometrical patterns on a plate of dahi vada or a bowl of kheer with the requisite spices , nuts etc.

Excellence in cooking and housework  was looked upon as a great asset in the kayastha families and was a matter of pride and honour.

Girls who were really keen to learn from the books would hide behind the doors of the verandah where boys were being taught and try to learn.

My  grandmother, Ram Dulari, was married off in her late teen which was supposed to be late for marrying a girl. Usually they were married off  much earlier than that.

My grandfather belonged to the same community of Allahabad Kayastha Srivastavas who were considered somewhat superior to  the other kayasthas. The kayastha community are supposed to be the descendants of Chitragupta  and are placed between Brahmins and Kshatriyas in the caste based hierarchy of Brahminical order. Because of their fluency in English and Persian this community was well places in higher positions during British times and was highly influenced by the Islamic culture too. It reflected in their cuisine and tehzeeb (way of life)..

My Grandfather was a graduate and a qualified Ustad of Persian and Urdu language. He had a good job in a British run Insurance company but he ran into an argument with his British Superior and slapped him hence lost his job. Those were the times of Freedom Movement and the atmosphere was always charged.

After losing his job grandpa earned sporadically from teaching the two languages as a tutor and held a few temporary jobs to feed the family . She was an excellent cook and women often gathered to learn from her. She was always consulted by women from the extended family and community during any social occasion like weddings or festivals.

Slowly in the later stages of his marriage he got addicted to drinking. My grandmother had several miscarriages and infant deaths before my father was born. He was the only child who survived. She somehow managed to run her home with utmost dignity but when the financial condition deteriorated the mother and son shifted to her elder brother in law’s newly built house. By then alcoholism had totally destroyed her husband, he could not support the family and stayed on his own.

Even though she was dependent on the brother in law she was never treated as poor relation. Grandma was respected by all and treated with dignity but she did not wish to remain a dependent  and that is when she turned to religion and took to fasts and rituals almost as a penance. Most women of her times in feudal set up had a strong bent towards religious activities like satsang  etc. It was nothing unusual.

Even in her fragile social condition she lived with a head held high. She refused to be led by the orthodox codes for women that her community and social position demanded and this would cause a daily rift in the house. The male members did not take this rebellious attitude nicely and always created a furore over these matters.

Every morning she would walk down to the Ganges along with other ‘ordinary’ women to bathe in the river and do her rounds of temples. The elders in the family highly objected to this but she remained firm on her decision and continued to follow her heart. No women from  upper middle class families were allowed to go about the town like this. Going to bathe in the river was not considered ‘proper’ for a woman of her stature. Even though the men raised objections none had the courage to go against her. It was her personality and approach to life that made her stand out among other women.

My father was in college during this time and everyday arguments made him quit advance studies and take up a teaching job so he could take his mother to live with him. She had never asked him nor spoken to him about this but she took a stand and decided to leave the family house and shift with him to the other end of Allahabad in Naini. The brother- in –law’s family tried to persuade her to stay back but  her decision was final and she stood by it against all odds. For some years she continued to stay with my father, her son. My dad was in his 30s and still a bachelor so the ire was not just for the mother but for the son too. He had past the marriageable age and that was not right.

In her new abode my granny lived her life as per her wishes. She had already cut the shackles which had caged her but something was still bothering her heart. She wasn’t truly independent. She mentioned to my father that she no longer had interest in running a household and wishes to renounce everything. She went for a yatra ( a pilgrimage) and from there wrote to my father that she won’t be returning home. It was unthinkable for a woman in those times to leave her husband, her home and her only son to live on her own somewhere and pursue what she wanted but she found the true liberation she had always sought.

On her return she stopped at the outskirts of Ayodhya in an ashram though she neither followed any sect nor became a part of any religious group or followed any saint  or Guru. Her pursuit was not a religious one but a spiritual one.

She built herself a small Kutir ( a small hut ) and lived there as a sanyasin (ascetic). It was a choice she had made.

Although she lived in the Ashram compound she never took advantage of the facilities there and did all her chores including fetching water for which she walked quite a distance and went up and down the steep stairs. The Ashram staff was always eager to help but she refused unless something was totally beyond her.

She had two sarees and a few utensils which she had bought from her earnings. (she did not take a single thing from the house she left).Before leaving for the yatra she had handed over a locked truck to her sister with the instructions that it was to be given to her son’s bride or if he never married she should open and do what she pleases with the contents.

Mom tells me that the sister never even opened the trunk to look what was inside and it was only brought out when ma visited her after marriage. The key was handed over to her and ma opened the trunk. We still have some of the beautiful embroidery work and a few other things including a few ornaments of hers. A treasure we cherish. For a long time that black truck remained with us until rust ate it up.

My father often visited and supported his mother to some extent but mostly she fended for herself. On many occasions she stitched and embroidered the clothes of the idols in the temples and was paid either in cash or in the form of food which she accepted but never demanded.

She never went back to her husband or family and devoted herself to the prayers and simple living.  Members from the extended family pleaded to her many times to come back but she refused.  She had chosen her path.

Considering the kind of background she came from it is hard to imagine how she adapted herself to this lifestyle. For someone who was brought up in the lap of luxury and then married into yet another comfort zone it surely must have been an act of immense courage and strong will to live the way she did.

During her last days she fell sick but continued to look after herself. The Ashram management informed my father of her grave health and he promptly visited only to be turned back after a week’s stay. Her time to leave the body had arrived and she wanted to be on her own. Within a few days of my father’s leaving she passed away peacefully and was cremated by the Ashram people as per her wishes It was then my father was informed to come and collect her meagre belongings and wind up the place.

I never met my paternal grandmother nor did my mother but my father and all the other relatives from his family speak very highly of her and with great affection.

She was a woman of substance. Many people who knew her thought that she was extremely headstrong and got what she wanted to be done at all costs but most of the times these things were positive in nature. Some even thought she was unlike her two other sisters and this very headstrong, obstinate nature of hers led to the drift between her and my grandfather but then women were always condemned for speaking out their mind. Whatever the case, she never took anything from anyone and lived the way she wanted to.

While she stepped out to pursue her way of life my maternal grandmother chose to stay  within the family structure and bring the change from there. It was mainly because of the different cultural and socio-economic environments I believe. There were no similarities between the two except that they chose not to adhere to what was imposed on them. Perhaps if I go to my ancestral home and find out more about my paternal grandmother some more facets of her life will open up.

Both women refused to confirm to the usual set of norms dished out to them, both found a way to nip them and keep the future generations free from the tangles of that skewed system. Both women had a ‘sun inside them’ as people who knew them remarked. It was mainly a flame lit from the inside out that radiated in their remarkable persona.

When I look at the lives led by mom and me I see a pattern, I see where we are coming from, our struggles, our abilty to deal with the hardships or the failure to face them, our non-conformist outlook and the rebellous nature. I see that in my children too. There is a flow of latent energy that has helped us shape our lives in a certain way. This strong energy has come all the way from these women I believe. I also feel that this generation of women had much more inner resolve and strength than the next two generations. I wonder what the reason is.

I had been wanting to write about them since a long time but there is so much more to their lives that I can describe.

Often when I am faced with some life changing decision I try to seek some solution  by thinking about them.  Today we give so much importance to education and financial independence but here are these women for whom these things were secondary.

Can a woman in today’s time truly liberate herself of the age old bondages or was it easier in those times?  How much has our society changed in this span of time? Has it become any better for women? Is the so called ‘modern woman’ truly liberated?  There are many questions that come to mind as I write. I also think what step my paternal grandma would have taken if she had not chosen the spiritual path. Were there any other choices for her? Are there  any for us unless we are economically sound? Does social stature affect the perspective and the choices made? How far have we come today?

As the world celebrate women’s day today I think of women who are marginalized, who are struggling everyday for a life of dignity, fighting for daily bread and butter, fighting misogyny, fighting for equal rights, safety and security, fighting the psychological fear, struggling just to exist peacefully, respectfully in a world which still treats them as commodities if not anything worse.

It is an uphill task for us.  It is an everyday struggle.  To live, to breathe, to be.

Get Up Stand Up Stand Up For Your Right


Don’t give up the fight. Life is Your Right 

RECOGNIZE your inner strength, BELIEVE in yourself, Be Ready to SHED what is not YOU,  if you feel you are being caged ESCAPE  from the tiniest crack you find,  FIGHT for your Dignity and Worth.

Be True to self,  Be selfish Love Yourself  First, Break Away, Cut the cord that strangles you. Bend the Rules.  

Never let anyone write your story. Never hand over the pen to them.

Never feel guilty of  doing what your heart feel right. Never complain. Never explain.

There are no excuses to let yourself be treated like shit.

Never compromise yourself .

Never be bullied into silence. Don’t be a victim.

Never lose your true self  under the deluge of  masks society offers you to wear.

Society has never been kind to women who stand up and speak their mind, make your choice. Be free or be damned.

Freedom to be oneself  comes with a price , sometimes a huge one, Pay the Price or let others pay the price of  trying to cage your spirit.

Nothing is more important than your dignity.

HAVE COURAGE  to Chat Your Path. Never resign to your fate. 

Stand alone, it better  than being lost in a crowd. 

Never submit to the will of others.

Walk out of relationships that smother You. Dare to break away. Be at loggerhead with the society. It is not a cakewalk but it is worth every moment. Subjugated life is devoid of any soul.

Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.

Never let your bodies to be outraged. Never let yourself become an object.

Draw a line and stop the “little adjustment” from becoming a big compromise.  If it takes the monstrous shape it just engulfs before you know it.

Don’t wait for change to happen.  Make your move. It is never too late.

Stop living in your fears.

Think for yourself, never go in with conformity and herd mentality.

Recognize Abuse , for it is often camouflaged as love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail.

Speak up. Silence only helps it breed and dig its claws deeper into your being.

It is better to raise your voice against unjust than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as old newspapers.

Be financially independent.

Be fearlessly yourself

Sometimes  it takes more than just courage and will to do what is “right”. Look within and you will know your reason to do it.

 Someone said to me , ”  It is all there for you to get, the only thing is How badly you want it.”   You can’t imagine how true it is. It gave direction to my life.

Courageous Risks are life giving  – Take Risks

I DID 

“My priorities are sorted out. I have moved on” , I said.

“Moved on ?”  “True moving on is to bring the past to a closure. It is done and over “

“True that ”  I said.  “So be it.”

It was last year this date that I made the life changing decisions.

This year this day  I am  That I am  and nothing else matters.

I am grateful to my friends, fellow bloggers, readers, and each person who believed in me and stood by me, some visible some invisible.

My boys are my strength and it fills me with tremendous pride and love for these young adults for understanding  my decision despite of the physical distance it created.  Thank you for  being my children and for loving me for what I am.

We all have a spark within but to turn it into a flame  one needs a breath of life –  ♥ レo√乇

Remember 

There is nothing more gratifying than being oneself.