One Year of Wayfaring And Other Things


Pre-orders began for Wayfaring this day last year. How time flies and within 12 months another poetry book Duets, coauthored with James, is out for pre-order. So much is happening at personal front. The move to a new apartment just a floor above where I stayed earlier. ( No, not my own home. My search for home is still on ) The usual stresses and rants, tiring few days of sorting, packing, discarding and lugging up the stuff then sorting, discarding, giving away what’s not needed and then labeling again and rearranging. It seemed like a never ending task.

It is said, “What you keep rots; what you give flourishes.”

How much do we store and cling to in a lifetime… I’ve suddenly lost any attachments. Gorgeous sarees, books and much more. I have memories attached to whatever little I have now but it’s time to let go.. the future doesn’t have much space for ghosts of past.

I don’t know what to do with the ghosts of present who day in and day out haunt and torment. There is a ridiculous amount of material things here and same number approximately in my marital house which is no longer or never was mine. They are an overwhelming reminder of wasted time and lives and loves that could have been lived better. There are others I wish had something of, but don’t. A memory that sometimes comes floating by sometimes.

Everyone MUST learn the art of throwing away. 99% of us are compulsive hoarders and live through a life of clutter, sometime so organised that it doesn’t look like clutter. I found things as old as 100 yrs. Of course not mine, they are my mom’s. I just organized the clutter in newly painted shelves, racks etc. Some labelled, others just wrapped and stuffed far behind in the dark depths to be discovered later sometime. Then there are books… there are still 2-3 cartons full after filling up the bookshelves. I am still reeling under the fatigue. The good thing is that art comes handy in times of stress and mental block. I took up the #Inktober challenge on instagram and am now sharpening my skills of ink/pen drawing. You can see my work here. A fresh start is a good thing: A new perspective of what I truly want my life to be and what I stand for.

Today FB memories brought up this video from Leaky Boot Press You Tube channel.

I have received positive feedback on Wayfaring till now and it makes me very happy that readers are connecting with me and writing about their experiences. I am expecting a few more reviews in this month. Have you bought your copy? I would love to hear from you. People who have bought it please give your feedback on Amazon / Goodreads etc.

Meanwhile, here is what poet/painter Uma Gowrishankar had to say about the book,

“If the heart can weigh heavier with every turn of phrase, then elegiac is the mood of Wayfaring, Tikuli’s second collection of poems. Tikuli takes us through a landscape scarred by memories. The theme of abandonment recurs in the poems, bludgeons through intense and searing images that are disturbingly sensorial.

The poems in Wayfaring swing between the violence of loss and the silence of deep mourning, that comes from estrangement, tearing away from roots. Exhausted with the tension, Through poem after poem and in a language that stirs with honesty, she takes us on a path filled with compassion and faith despite everything.”

You can read the full review on my Instagram page.

In another news two of my LGBT support poems got published in ‘EquiVerseSpace – A Sound Home In Words‘ and the news came on a perfect day when the Supreme Court scrapped section 377. Thanks Smeetha Bhoumik, Taseer and others for this space. Happy to be part of this write tribe.

I Congratulate the LGBT community, the activists, petitioners and each one if us who believed and supported the right to love and live. It is our victory and only by embracing it we can end the phobia associated with it even though the law has changed. This has been a long journey for numerous brave activists, lawyers and members of the LGBT community. The verdict says that consensual sex between adults of the same gender is not a violation of Sec377.

Even with Section377 gone the real fight is with those bigots and homophobes who make everyday living difficult. There’s a lot that needs to be done for a complete equality. Will it ensure LGBTQ Empowerment? No discrimination at workplace and other places? There are a whole lot of other things that need to be dealt with. Though elated by the judgement I’m a little thoughtful too. Hoping for a mindset change at root level.The branding and discrimination despite the legal win needs to go for a complete victory. I hope the closet LGBTQI community is able to break the shackles of the regressive mindset.

I have been putting off a much needed discussion here. A discussion about the kind of life we live as women, the choices we make and can not make. The double standards of men in the family who support and voice their strong views on feminism and women’s rights but inside the four walls treat the women in the family in just the opposite manner.  I had stopped writing for change and my personal struggles for a good reason that it did not help me at practical level though it helped many others in their struggles but time has come to lay down some facts and seek appropriate help. I am just organizing my thoughts so that I don’t turn the post into a rant. I have to move out from where I am staying and for that I need information and support. Will update on it soon.

The doctor feels my anxiety and sleeplessness can’t be treated holistically. Need to take anti-anxiety pill. I’m not ready. I want to calm my nerves so the heart beats to the rhythm of love. My gut feeling is i can do it with lifestyle changes. I know the root cause and I am working towards resolving it. It is all in the mind as they say. Resetting my priorities and making those necessary changes in my lifestyle. Some factors remain the same but then I plan to change my perspective towards them. We can’t change people but we can change the way we respond to them. Right?

I am also working on a few more Hindi poems and will post them soon. Please keep visiting and drop a line or two in the comments so I know your views.

Here’s a ten minute Tulip flower watercolor I made on sleepless night.

The painting is copyrighted so please refrain from sharing or copying.

 

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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

Celebrations With A Difference – A Wedding, An Award And Other News


I have been away from serious blogging since many months and I apologize for that. The thing is I have been preoccupied with health issues, my book release and two big events that brought absolute joy to me.

First was the wedding of my elder son Aditya   to his girl friend Snigdha. Beautiful, talented and compassionate this daughter of mine is like sunshine on a rainy day. I had loved her from the day we first met some years back. Something had told me that this was going to be a bond for life for these two. It is a beautiful feeling to see the strong threads of friendship in a marriage. Rest everything is superfluous.

I never liked the statement, “they complete each other”. I think both of them are complete and fractured in their own way and respect that. For me this is the basis of any good relationship.

It is a perfect match and I am very happy for these two young adults starting a new chapter in their life. I am sure with Snigdha on his side my son will continue to grow into a better version of himself each day. He is a sensitive, caring boy fiercely independent yet very giving and exceptionally talented. Just needed someone to rein his wild temperament a little and all is well 😉 . These kids deserve all the awesomeness in the world.

Did I tell you she’s an awesome poet apart from being a very fine journalist? Well, now you know. I have been nagging her to publish her poems. She is way better than me and needs to be read.

The wedding was nothing too ostentatious. I do not believe in pomp and show with people dressed up like Christmas trees exchanging pleasantries for the sake of it. The simple sobriety and intimacy of the occasion was what made it memorable. With the melodious sounds  of shabad floating in the air the whole atmosphere was beautiful beyond words. The reason I love Sikh weddings are many. It is a short ceremony, happens in daytime and there are no long dragging rituals.  The Anand Karaj ceremony is one of the most beautiful wedding ceremonies I have ever witnessed and I am glad we opted for that.

The interesting fact is that this union was in line with the tradition of ‘love marriages’ my side of family has, beginning with my maternal grandparents. You choose your partner for life and are responsible for the consequences. 😀

We are also slowly becoming a very fine example of  cross culture family in the true sense, leaving behind the shackles of caste, creed, religion etc.  You get to know different cultures, eat different food, learn different languages and it is such a good cocktail of happiness even with the problems it brings at times.

In this case the ‘meeting the parents’ happened much later than ‘meeting the girl’. Like always the moment my son began dating her I was one of the first to meet. Not for so called’ approval’ but to break the ice and for us to know each other better. A fellow Mirandian, a poetess, a girl who loves to travel, read, is fun to be with and is highly balanced and focused in life, she can talk with just rolling her large eyes.. finally I have someone with whom I can gang up against the brats..oh the joy of having her as part of the family are many.

Meeting her parents extended my faith in ‘friends are the family you choose’ . By the time the couple were engaged to be married we were already partying hard. I was happy because my son was.  He had been through some of the hardest times a child has to go through for no fault of his and to see him beaming with happiness was the only thing that mattered. This coming together of two families gave me strength too but that is another story for another time.

Overall, it was a fun wedding where the close family and best friends spent the time of their life along with the gorgeous couple.

The newly wed had a great time and so did we. It was a celebration with a difference though like a true blue Punjabi wedding we had the dhol, bhangra and over loading of food and booze. 😀 And of course the DJ (a friend of my son in this case, the fact that he is a celebrity is a different matter all together) churning out the apt songs for the occasion.  We made the best memories together with so much love and craziness. The task force behind the entire celebration were the fantastic friends of the Snigdha, Adi and Shubhang, the kid brother. Without them rang pheeka reh jata. They made the fuctions come alive. Such energy and joy… irreplaceable.

Indian weddings are huge projects with a deadline one can not surpass and if there is no masala in an Indian wedding it didn’t happen. So, we debated, argued, threw tantrums and had bouts of emotionally charged episodes with tempers flaring and tears flowing.

I do not have much of an experience of wedding planning as my own marriage was a quick simple affair but this one was an overwhelming experience. Stepping away from the traditional, ritualistic customs and doing away with a lot of stuff that made no sense whatsoever except for an overload of expense and waste of time wasn’t easy.

At many points in this adventure I was convinced we’re going to screw up in a big way. Even the groom was certain there would be a disaster. We ranted, glowered, decided to part ways and all that. We were worried, tired, clueless about many things and behaved like jerks, myself included. There were long telephonic discussions, arguments over guest lists, outfits and unlimited shopping expeditions. The fact that we were based in three different places in the city wasn’t helping much and to top it I fell sick. But,  I am a sucker for emotions and to see my first born getting married was too much to joy to handle. On one hand I was jubilant and on the other his entire life flashed before my eyes like a movie, turning me into a sentimental wreak.

It was insane. The bride’s side had meticulously planned even the minutest detail and we were in disarray to the point of being hilarious but we survived.

For years I would be very scared and spent sleepless nights wondering if our broken home will bring the unfortunate stuff people said it would, would I fail in the end as a mother, as a friend, as a pillar of support I always tried to be but as it turned out there is a power in being true to oneself and doing what is right. In believing in oneself and one’s children, in listening to them and understanding them as individuals.

Even in the times of raging wars we are one and love each other unconditionally. The boys have outgrown my lap but not my love and that keeps us afloat even in the strongest of storms.

Kid 2 has started a new job and is living his life on his own terms. I wish him well for that he aspires for. Now, with his best friend, an elder brother who practically raised him up in the most crucial years of life when I was away, settled in his new phase of life, I know he will feel the void but that is what growing up is all about. Physically we may be away but there for each other always.

Unforgettable, irreplaceable magic of holding my first born and the crazy journey called Life that we share. Unmatched bond of friendship. 

 

#Adikishaadi #Snigdog

Don’t they look gorgeous? 🙂 #kalatikka These precious moments will stay with me forever.

The newly weds are back from their travels and already back to work. I wish them a life full of love and adventure.

Now,  let us get back to poetry, blogging and a very special award that I won.

2017 marked the tenth year of Indiblogger and my association with them entered its ninth year and what a fabulous journey it has been. Indiblogger is a credible platform for bloggers who wish to showcase their work and a recognition from them is highly cherished.

When they announced the nomination for Indian Blogger Awards #IBA2017 I was slightly hesitant to nominate my blog as I hadn’t been posting much of poetry lately but ten years of blogging nudged me to at least nominate, perhaps to get more readers if not anything else.

There were 3500 nominations across 117 categories. Not in my dreams I had thought that I will win the special #VOW award for poetry.

The awards were announced at a very interactive blogging conference #BNLF2017 at Dehradun in November and were judged and given in association with Valley Of Words Literature Festival.  

This award is very special to me not just because it validates my hard work but also because it came just two days before the release of my second book of poetry ‘Wayfaring‘.  I couldn’t be there at the ceremony so the team requested for a short acceptance video which I finally managed after hundreds of retakes, that’s how challenged I am technologically. 😀

Here’s the lovely poster indiblogger team made for the winners.  I would like to thank them for the commendable work they are doing by bringing the Indian bloggers at one platform from across the globe. Thank you to my readers, those who voted and the esteemed jury. We Blog. Therefore We Are. 

Winner of The Indian Blogger Awards 2017 - VOW Awards

I also received Google Chromecast as a gift from the Inditeam on winning the award. Now waiting for the certificate and trophy if that happens. 🙂

 

In another news, the praise for my poetry books is pouring in.

My debut book Collection Of Chaos reached a reader in France and she posted this beautiful message on FB. She is reading the second one too and I am eagerly waiting for her feedback. Thank you Anne for your kind words.

Common Wealth Prize-Winning Author, film maker Siddhartha Gigoo. chose his most interesting reads of 2017 for a HT feature  and I was pleasantly surprised to find my new collection Wayfaring in the list. What a joy to find a media mention within a few weeks of the release.

He also reviewed it on amazon bringing the much needed cheer in my life.

Praise for Wayfaring

Thanks for appreciating Siddhartha.

 

Keep me updated if you buy any of my books. Reader’s feedback is very essential for the growth of a writer.

Here’s to poetry and other adventures of life. I will try to keep the blog afloat with regular posts. Keep visiting and do leave your comments.

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.

Thank you for all the love and support. Blogging with WordPress has been a very satisfying journey. The stats show the encouragement I get from all of you. Stay connected.

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.