The House Of Oracles | Chandini Santosh


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You And Me – How Can You Forget


What We Were To Each Other?

never mind. it is a rhetorical question anyway.

Rant alert. Rambling thoughts.

We had different needs, our lives were too separate. Too far away. And you kept stretching the distance like cheese from the pizza.

We were pretty much on the opposite side of everything but we met, love happened, or so I thought. So many things feel like love and we are so often and so easily fooled. I just wanted a shelter, a sustenance, while you were looking for haute cuisine and a pleasant home. ASnd then one day you fell out of whatever it was you felt, dusted off, got up and walked away. we meant different things to each other. our needs were different.

I lost myself in words and images I conjured in my mind, forever torn between the lover as you were and the lover I had created in my head and in that process somewhere I lost you. I noticed the slow decline from being everything to being no one. Saw every single act of dismissal but I stayed. I wanted to. Just as i wanted to believe everything you said.

It is what it is. You, my dear, are too much to forget.

I will turn fifty in a few years. More than half my life is over. I want to  travel before my stressed out body gives away. I want to go back to places I imagined us going to. I want your memory. I want to take you there with me. Carry you in my heart. I also want to stop being a sad, sorry fuck that I am and be what I would have been if we were together.

A time to shed what’s not me. Time to move on, move away from people who pretend to care and understand but actually wish me dead. Tough luck. I wasn’t born to be ruled by others. If some people did, it is because I allowed or because I was caught in the web of circumstances beyond my control.

While I am ranting, let me also say that natal homes are most often not the safe sanctuary one thinks they are. This thought is pressing hard on my jugular.

Gratitude too is a form of love. I am grateful for your presence , imaginary or otherwise. Grateful for love, for being the wind beneath my wings. Somewhere you changed direction and I plunged into nothingness, picked myself again and now I am drifting aimlessly. My wings are tired and I can not even fold them and rest for a while.

I rant too much. Blame it on the Hormones. Times are a changing and your memory, it comes at most impossible times. Peri-menopause does that. It screws up your mind and body. I was sure I was going crazy, unable to decipher what was causing the hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness, mood swings, anxiety attacks, meltdowns, palpitations and not to forget the intense desire to strip off all my clothes at any given time… Was it the aftermath of losing you or were the hormones going wacko. Jeez, it is hard to go through a heartbreak when you are dealing with midlife crisis. Cold showers, by the way, came handy in both cases but it is still too much to deal.

I would reach for anything within reach that would comfort me. Alcohol, comfort food esp sweets, books, cigarettes.. anything that would cocoon me and keep me safe from the world that had suddenly become so unbearable. But now, I am going to get my sexy mojo back by turning menopause into menopower and I will make the memories of love to make me strong. Love that I felt for you. I am going to fill that You-shaped hole in me with something good and I will wait.

My love for you was wild and reckless, strong and rebellious, painful and desperate, untamed and hungry, It was needy. I was needy. I was hungry. and for me even the less was more. You were needy too but our needs were different as i said earlier. You fed me love with your fingers and then one day you left, and now I know what it is to starve. But you know what, love stays longer, endures more. Lust doesn’t. It doesn’t give anything except a momentary high.

“Loving you was like going to war. I never came back the same.” ~ warsan shire

but I will take those wounds any day.

Seeing you in the flesh, touching you, kissing your mouth, letting you kiss my mouth, surrendering to love, to lust, to the moment that brought us together was the bravest thing I ever attempted and the weakest I ever felt and now my body is like a haunted house that is never owned. A house that is sometimes lived in but mostly abandoned. It is an archive of fingerprints and scars that throb. It is filled with a lingering odour of love, sex and spices.

I am walking through a fog but I trust my instincts and I will make it through the frenzy of emotional whirlpools I am facing now.

If you think this post is not going anywhere, it is true. It is a floe, forever drifting like me.

My boy thinks I need to “chill”, that old age crept on me long ago and I am living in denial. My foot. what does he know.

So I will put a frozen teabag in my vagina (before you get ideas, it is for medical purposes. Sorry to disappoint.), have a hot mug of coffee or  go indulge in the finest wine or anything I fancy from a brain hemorrhage shot to a manga, get a short spunky hair cut that doesn’t need too much looking after.. (going bald is still a recurring thought), eat healthy while keeping my cravings satisfied, change the wardrobe (bring in some colour), and most importantly NOT GIVE A FUCK. Till now I was only writing and not believing but I guess it is time to change that.

Hormones can rage, your ever-present missingness can run havoc, financial trickling can continue, and people can snoop and stalk my blog for whatever they are looking for(you know who you are and I know it too) because I am going to live my life as I want. I am done with naysayers and f*tards that drained me of belief in myself. Go find your entertainment elsewhere.

Of course i miss you and I love you. Trust me, you do not want to feel what I feel. It is not easy task to go from halo to a broomstick in a jiffy. Don’t even try. Just understand.

this will keep me on a roller coaster

But

I will rock the change. I will flow.

And

I hope one day

you will find yourself and in turn find me.

If only
one fingertip
of a touch
could make
you real.
If Only ….

till then….

I will just come here and vent.

Better out than in.

Good things are happening in my writing world . Will share soon. 🙂

Ten On Tuesday


Today I am not really in a mood to write. This year has been a mixed bag of good and bad. In equal measures. “Well, Something’s lost but something’s gained in living everyday.” Remember the beautiful song by Joni Mitchell?

Today I have decided to post ten random things from the various drafts lying in a folder left orphaned since one day everything changed. Lines that could have become poems, stories but now they just lie abandoned, waiting. Just as I am.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is the abject indifference. People may say, “this too shall pass” but it doesn’t, it seeps in the hollow of your bones. Half of July has passed and I am tired of being brave. I can’t go on pretending. Right now dealing with reality is impossible so don’t mind if my conversations seem wounded in love.

1. “I am getting acquainted with your absence. I write as much as I can to write you out of my system but it doesn’t happen. the sorrow doesn’t turn into poems. The phone remains silent as the mornings turns to afternoons, which in turn fall into dark and then the dark too goes quiet, just like you. I stare into nothingness, even the breathing becomes inaudible as I grieve about the parts of me you buried while they were still pulsating with life.”

2. “Even though it hurts, I will stay open and vulnerable. The beauty of the human life lies in its fragility and I wont 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. Courageous risks are life-giving and the rewards are deep.”

3.

“I bring to you my poems

a clumsy bouquet of words

unbefitting for your tastefully done life

wildflowers, a wealth of perfume…..”

4. “Delhi summer drips in mangoes. The summer seasons opens officially with mango blossoms and the entire two months are ruled by the king of fruits, canopies of gulmohar carried forward from the spring into summer alive with cuckoo birds. Watermelons swollen with the red summer heat inside them. Flamboyant Bougainvillea exploding on walls in vibrant colors. Blinding sun, dust winds, road rage, power cuts, melting asphalt, chuski licking, water trolleys, sweat and grime, white sky and chilled lemonades signifies the summer in Delhi. City is a color palette with the golden amaltas, gulmohar, tesu, kanak champa, silk cotton, coral tree, all in full bloom and the neem trees filled with tiny starry flowers. Who can’t fall in love with the lilac spread of kachnar and the beautiful Jacaranda. In me, the summer drips with the memories of you that evoke painful secrets. It is a funeral without a shroud.

5. The horizon makes her lonelier than she is as  she stands looking down at an unspoiled landscape of sand. Now a tree, she once was a woman, a keeper of the words,  a story-teller, a mystery from time immemorial.

6. Age is catching up with the Neem trees (Indian Lilac) in central Delhi (This one is part of the canopy of lush green trees that line up both sides of the Aurangzeb road). It is a beautiful experience to drive down the roads, esp when the vehicular traffic is least, with so much green surrounding you. There was a time I would walk down these roads and simply gaze at the spread of many shades of green above me. One could hear so many bird calls in those days. Each season brings its own dramatic change to the landscape. Each one more beautiful than the other. For once one forgets all the chaos that surround us.

These trees are a legacy of the colonial raj. Ten thousand trees and one hundred and thirteen km of hedges were laid out by an expert from Kew Garden London, with each major avenue having one species. Tamarinds on Akbar Road, Arjuna trees on Janpath, pipuls on mandir marg, and Neems on Aurangzeb road.

We stopped under the shade of this tree waiting for the signal to turn green. In the midst of the thick foliage, high up on a branch was nest, now empty. One can not see it in the photograph though. Life is all about holding on and letting go. Dont know why but a line from Blake’s poem instantly came to my mind.

“The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.”

7. “Whatever you give comes back to you.
I gave myself. Love is a boomerang I never learned how to throw correctly.”

8. Not even for a moment forget that I am a river.
No matter what you put in my way,
i will still find a way to break free.
Don’t assume that I will be on this narrow road forever,
your perception of my exterior
may not match what lies beneath my surface,
I am holding a fiction inside me
if you think you know me, think again
what is visible is camouflaged
what is hidden is true
we are kind of schizoid, aren’t we?
containing multitudes within.

9.

each of us

for all our lives

live

so bitterly

misunderstood

10. I carry a raven in my chest. You, a songbird. Isn’t it clear who should fear the cage?

You And Me – Pause


Suddenly, I don’t know what to say. I do know what I want to say but when the moment comes to speak, I can’t say it or even write it. And yet…

It is that time of the year again when the memory of the days and nights when I knew who I was often come back to me floating through the night. Sometimes I want to touch you, just a bit. A bit of your skin on my fingertip, a bit of your warmth against mine. Sometimes I want to hear your voice. Not much, maybe a word or two just to assure myself that you are real and that it wasn’t a dream when like a tree in bloom I had released my blossoms on you all at once knowing that it would be a long time before the next blossoming. Maybe never. Then suddenly everything fades and I don’t know what to say or do and this overwhelming quiet that cocoons me becomes a constant reminder of my sudden isolation, Was it really sudden or is it that I had always felt the undercurrents but ignored them. Imagined that they never existed. Denied their presence. Denied her presence even though it was always there. Like a shadow. Your shadow. You said you loved me but the way you spoke of her always told me otherwise. Under all the disdain, regret, sorrow I felt a sense of pride with which you took her name.

Maybe I need  this silence to pull myself out of the wreckage of my own dreams. There is an old knot in my heart that I need to untie. I don’t want to hurt loudly now. I don’t want all that I feel to find its way to you. I want to become invisible as much as you want me gone. What you give comes back to you . I gave myself.

Sometimes it is difficult to make out if  it is loss of feeling or a feeling of loss. Sometimes it is best not to stir the embers of a dying fire lest some sparks turn to flames and consume you.

Some things are better not found.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss. For a long time the question lingered on my lips and then on a fateful day I asked, ” Whom do you see when you close your eyes?” “No one.” You replied. “Who was I supposed to see?’

“The person you love most.” I said.  Your silence, your  hesitation unraveled everything like a loose thread in a knitted sweater. A thread I should not have pulled.

If one is unaware of something it is best that it stays that way till one is capable of dealing with the deluge of hurt and pain it brings. There is a reason why we don’t know it all. The knowledge that one cannot do a thing to alter, change or rectify it can suck the meaning out of life and leave one dejected and defeated. Suddenly I feel exposed to things I wish I had never known. They have emptied my life of joy. Of love. Of trust. Once more leaving me fragile, vulnerable and alone.

I have decided to stay in the peace of my new-found quietness. Someday maybe I will find myself. Someday maybe you will remember all that was good between us and then look for me. Perhaps it will be the day when you will find yourself. I hope you do because I want to be found and I want you to find me with the credence I long for, the credence that has faded with time. Till then I will weave myself warmly in a cocoon and wait for the unfolding which will come from you.

 

From My Window – 2


Post -2 in the series ‘From My Window’

Today I will tell you about a one window house where I stayed for  a short period. Before I take you  into the world outside my window you must know something about the house.

The flat was on the upper storey of a two storey building in a congested, filthy locality meant for sweepers and lower staff of a government hospital. How I came to this particular house is another story. It was the first year of my marriage and I was seven and half months pregnant with my first child and the stuffy, humid post monsoon weather was no help. There would be unpredictable dust storms, heavy relentless rains or just intense heat.  The house was filthy, unkempt and most of the places near the sink and balcony had algae growing in various shades of green. The ceiling was high and the only bulb that provided light to both the tiny cubicles called bathrooms was fused. I could not by any given chance change it.

The high point was the big rats who infested the house. Day and night they would  practice high or low jumps and destroy anything that they could lay their teeth on , from suitcases to bedding to clothes  and food.

I would sit there watching the scenario with brimming eyes, trying to protect myself and the few things I had.  None of the neighbors spoke to me as they found me “above their level” and were strangely surprised to see us move in.  With no help and long hours of loneliness I would stand near the window or sometimes pull a chair close to it and look out.

The window opened to an open patch of land between all the buildings and apart from a tree , some small saplings and a tiny patch of grass held nothing. I would stare at the vacant patch that resembled the emptiness inside me. I would wonder how I will manage once the child was born? How will I ensure its safety , what will I feed the baby, who will look after me? Why did the father of the child bring me to this hole? Why wasn’t he there? What went wrong? I sought all the answers from the world outside my window. No birds came there but I could hear their calls from nearby trees. One could also see other buildings that surrounded the dry patch. Plaster chipping off the walls, dirty water flowing out of the pipes, piles of garbage tucked in corners, mothers yelling at kids and kids yelling back. Sometimes one would even spot a drunkard trotting around in the fading light of dusk.

Mostly I had to keep the window close to keep away mosquitoes and other pests and from the hazy glass panes the view outside blurred to a dusty brown.

Even after rigorous scrubbing the glass panes remained dull and depressing.  Most of the time I would feel sick and had no energy to even eat but the little life inside me nudged me gently to get proper nutrition.  In the mornings the milkman came on his bicycle ringing the bell to announce his arrival. The sight of milk made me vomit but I still went to the window to watch the women from other houses take milk from him. That was one ritual that connected me with other humans. I listened to their conversations , watched the kids running around and for those 15-20 minutes my mind took a flight someplace else. I dreamed of fresh air, clear sky, my baby and a life outside the cell I was imprisoned in. Not that I could not or did not go out but due to my condition and lack of resources I stayed home.

In the afternoon boys would play cricket and  scream and shout at every run taken and every dismissal.  Rarely I watched the game.  Evenings brought more people out of their houses. Men, back from work, gathered to exchange daily news, children came out with their elder siblings or mothers and rode their bicycles  or played while mothers gossiped.

Usually a fruit or vegetable vendor would venture into the area but mostly I would hear them call from the road which was not visible from my home. Sometimes  I could also see the thin elderly man who sold chana poori on his bicycle. He had a small stove, a pot and a basket which contained plates (dona) made of dry Banyan or Sal leaves). For a few hours during lunch hours he would set up his little food joint at the corner of the building. I could never see who bought the food from him but he seemed busy from his actions.

Many times there would be nothing to cook at home and on one such day the father of baby decided to bring food from outside. To  my amazement he decided to try the same chana  kulcha. The choice was clear, either go to bed hungry or eat what is served. Thick red oil floated on top of the chana and it smelled strongly of kerosene.  With great difficulty I managed to eat a bite or two. Drowning away the sting of chilies and hurt with water. From then I would get an imaginary smell of spiced kerosene from the window. Only a good spray of mosquito repellant all over the window would drown that smell. Or maybe not.

Rain  or dust storm would bring havoc  as the window would struggle to fly free from its latches. I would struggle from the other end to tie a string to the two handles to keep the shutters from opening. Dust and water would still trickle in. It would enter from every possible place.  The rats would hide till the storm raged but I was always able to  hear them lurking behind things ready to launch forth.

My baby would be still too urging me to rest while I could. I would communicate with it and pray for the storm in my life to settle.  Once the wrath of the weather gods would end I would open the window again and smell the wet earth combined with various other undesired smells but it was still better than the caged stuffiness that lay on this side of the window.

A cable ran across from the side of our building to the opposite one beyond the patch and usually it did not attract any visitors but on one particular day a sweet melodious sound brought me to the window and I saw a tiny black bird merrily singing. Oblivious to its surroundings it slowly swayed on the cable hopping to the right and then to the left as if dancing to its own tune. It was the only brightness the window ever brought into my life and a signal to something better for me and my unborn child.

Within days of that beautiful sight we moved out of the place to another house that would change the course of  my life forever.  It was a forced decision which I took for the sake of the safety of my baby who was about to arrive in this world within a month and a half.

One day before we moved out one side of the window pane crashed as the cricket ball found its target. The impact not just broke the glass it also shook the frame from its hinges. The whole day as I packed my meager belongings the window door rattled swayed and banged against the wall and the remaining part of it whole. A monotonous requiem for all that died before it had chance to live.

We bid farewell to the broken window on a still September morning  never to return. Though I do feel an urge to take my elder one there once for some odd reason.

 

Do read  Post -1 

You and Me- Stones and Pebbles


Even the coldest stone warms up to you if you hold it in your hand for some time. Stones are memory portals. Be it a beach pebble, a mighty mountain or the one watching the world from the river bed. Each one alive, content and patiently waiting. Warm and enduring like love.You can always depend on stones. They are always there no matter what.

Some lives are like stones. So are some loves. Some others, like water. Restless, curious wanderers. Always off to someplace else. Disappearing quietly, unseen, unheard.

As I gaze at evening sky, my hands rested on ancient stones I imagine myself to be my gravestone, watching over my bones since hundreds of years. The river had changed its course many a times since then. The flesh rotten and gone. Only the bones had faithfully stayed and the stones.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Deep shadows  rapidly began to  consume everything as the sky furiously bled on the bare breast of  the river. A cloud had caught fire and was slowly turning to ash. I watched till only its shadow remained in the sky and then that too merged with the deepening blue. I opened the palm and slowly dropped the stone into the river.  The calm surface of the water embraced it lovingly. I imagined it slowly embedding itself in the river bed. Finally at home.

They say the best stones are those which you gather yourself. It was under the same sun stabbed sky I had found mine almost  hidden among other bigger pebbles. Shimmering green against the light. A rare, unusual find. Legend says that you never keep the first stone you find so I offered it to you. A symbol of eternal love.

“Keep it safe. It is precious and will bind us to this place and to each other.” I had said placing it on your palm.

“A stone? We aren’t Penguins sweetheart.” You had laughed and placed it back in mine.

It was the last sunset we watched together.

You once said I have a heart of stone.

Yes, I do and it is a heart you should have trusted.

You and Me – Four Seasons


In memory of that love which was there and yet not.

I lost all the four seasons in an autumn I don’t even want to remember and now it is winter and my heart is filled with the agony of untold stories. I no longer understand their alchemy or follow their plots,  the strange portals that lead to them remain closed or obscured behind a dense fog that has settled inside my head. I have known these characters from the days of their inception and now they refuse to obey. The words sound  trite and concocted. Devoid of joy the projects choke for the lack of air. Outlines fill the pile of drafts.

I am beginning to understand my limitations, my insanities. Beginning to feel my cracks. my fragments and the dislocations in myself. My vials of love have dried in the environment filled with ache and isolation. I have lost the elixir of life from which were born my stories, my poems . The cup is empty, the papers blank. Their voices mute. The strings inside me have broken, a pearl has slipped away into the dusts of time. Soon others will scatter too unable to hold on to the flimsy thread. It doesn’t matter When.

They say I look anaemic, that I have lost blood. A ghost of my former self. A writer’s blood is the ink and her tongue the pen with which she fills the blank papers. I let myself loose on paper and spilled the stories of love, pain, joy, terror, apprehensions and all that was me. I  squeezed myself in each droplet of ink till there was nothing left. I have nothing more to give, nothing more to tell.

Till then read those words that await in their shadows for you. They may seem just lifeless markings on a plain white sheet to you but look closely and you may see my heart and soul stapled to them. You may feel a pulse, a breath, a drop of crimson and salt in some of them. They may cling to you, ride on your mind, make you think, look within. They may crackle under your feet like autumn leaves that died and fell from the trees and like parts of me. Don’t forget to remember the colours they brought. It was a grand finale to something very beautiful. Gather those scurrying leaves rustling with the breeze. Listen and they will tell you the stories. Each colour, each crack, each pattern a cascade of nostalgia. Words, mysterious and magical even in death.

Nothing burns like cold. Find the winter in those words. The melancholy of lonesome nights. The deepening silences. The snow flurries. The long hours of waiting. Words ice locked gripped with bitter cold. You will see them trembling inside some story, invisible under a curtain of thick fog.  Numb. The air burning with their Fragrance. Our fragrance and the fragile familiarity of it.

Watch them cling to the sadness of things like droplets of dew. On a sunny day you may even see a prism of our dreams and hopes in the morning dew as the sun fills their lives. Jewelled words, a verse, a tale on wires, grass, flowers and leaves. Evanescent  as love.

Of endless summers and flirting springs I shall not talk, for you will find them as you rummage through that autumn  long forgotten this winter. I lost all the four seasons to it, the words turned strangers just the way you did and the story-teller disappeared in her own story.

Video courtesy You Tube. All rights to the owner.

Monday Memories 1 – Bottomless Pits, Edible Weapons and More


I was looking for more ways of wasting time and thought of starting a new series called ‘Monday Memories’ .  There are times when some little thing in the present takes you back to some moment in the past. Some bittersweet memory comes floating to you and then the things you remember are more real than the things you see in the present. I always wondered if a moment from past tasted the same . Sometimes it does. You can actually feel, hear, see touch exactly the way you did at that moment or maybe you believe you do and that’s all matters. It keeps you going in hard times, in times of loss, separation, loneliness.

My boys are now grown up and many a time a simple little thing as a pack of cookies, a box of crayon, a song or a sentence in a book sparks a memory of  their childhood, a childhood that was an adventure for them as well as for me, and I realize how those memories are piles in endless stacks inside me.

My elder one is now 21 and I guess we spend 3,000 more hours on our first-born than the second one. Every little thing the child becomes precious. I don’t think I remember his “Firsts ” or  “Lasts” but I do remember some particular incidents that filled my young mother’s heart. Raising boys is not for wimps. It is a challenge only some can endure. I guess I developed eyes at the back of my head when Adi was growing up. He was one little explorer who was curious about anything that he could lay hands on. A complete foodie and an absolutely fearless boy. While I struggled to keep things under control without going insane he invented different ways to bring the house down. Those were moments when I cried and laughed at the same time unable to decide which was the best thing to do.  Never thought that these very incidents will become irreplaceable with time.  I had to think two steps ahead to find a way to involve him while  I went about doing my household stuff. One of them was colors. He would sit for hours totally immersed in various types of coloring material, old newspapers etc and create masterpieces on everything in the color zone including himself. He would then look around quietly, make sure I am not watching and then slip through the door with a riot of color in his little hands. He would pin it somewhere or place it where I will surely see and then hide. Waiting for me to make the move. As I said, I had somehow developed superpowers so I would know exactly what to do. I would pretend to do something right where his treasure lay and accidentally discover it. It was such a joy to see him creatively involved. I would say ‘ look what I found. This is such a beauty and who made this gorgeous piece of art? ” and he would shyly emerge from his hiding place , his eyes sparkling with joy and pride and his a big dimpled smile lighting his face and say , “me’. I would hug and kiss him and we would sit and talk about his masterpiece all covered with colors of love. For many years I kept those paintings and drawings till they were discovered by another curious adventurer who had found the art of dismantling, dissecting, tearing and making new objects what could be  anything from weapons of war to some new inventions of a technical genius. 😀 My second boy was exact opposite of his elder sibling. four years his junior he loved a leisurely peaceful life most of the time. Another bottomless pit was added to my misery. At times I thought I was created for just two things- cook and clean.

Shubhang was always curious about the “hows” and “whys” of life and he practically dismantled anything and everything to observe the intricate machinery that lay within the mundane looking objects.  If a watch was missing we knew where it would be or for that matter bigger things like camera carelessly left unattended. It would all end up in the junk box or will be discovered months later buried under something neatly tied in a bundle. One really needed a high IQ to figure out what that originally was.  Watching him working with rapt attention on some complex toy or gadget that he had decided to open up I would often marvel at the working of his mind at such a tender age. Of course I went into a rage on finding something destroyed for good but then there was some magical spell these boys put on me every time they screwed up something. Yes, they were a gang of two. Partners in crime and vowed to defend and protect each others honor at all times Unless there the offered bait was a better option :D. I had to shell out big time in kind more than in cash to get the desired information. This was the beginning of a very strong bond between them which I can see even now.

One thing one must remember as a mother of growing up boys is that anything can be converted into weapons and landmines. It is through cuts and bruises and spilling of blood one learns this unless you are prepared for it and you never are. You never can possibly know what will burst under your feet or hit you from nowhere. It just isn’t possible to know. I realized it when I watched these brats chew their toasts in shape of guns and shoot each other or target strategic places or people with things they found uninteresting to eat. Although I hovered like a chopper to watch over the proceeding they managed to turn almost anything into a missile. I just had to learn and master the art of being alive.

The space between these memorable moments were filled with hair-raising tales about which I will talk some other time and between those tales of horror I cooked endlessly to fill those bottomless pits. It was something I loved to do till it became the sole purpose of my living. “WHF, I would say , You guys just had your meal” and they would look at me with those innocent puppy eyes and I wold melt like butter on toast and tie my apron once more.

But you know what, although I could kill with bare hands and I got so tired at the end of the day that I wanted the earth to split wide open and take me in I never restricted them in any way. I disciplined them but not at the cost of snatching away their childhood thought they may feel differently.

That bond which we three developed grew with passing years and slowly we rose above the mother-sons  relationship without even noticing it. This is a friendship which I think should be there between all parents and children where the kids aren’t extensions or your subordinates but individuals. You got to respect their uniqueness and intelligence to gain respect and love. You got to listen to them, praise , them, guide them and make them believe in the fact that they can count on you for anything and you value their presence in your life.

Anything is possible in the house with growing up boys. It is fantasy land where you can trip on cars, you got to dodge flying objects and things popping out of no where, where there are no time zones, where there is battles are won and lost every day and you can hear one of the finest remixes and music pieces ever written. It is also a warm cozy zone of love and togetherness, of laughter and craziness, of pains and pleasures that life offers. Here you will find yourself floating in a cocktail of emotions almost all the time. From birth every stage of their enchanting life is an irreplaceable miracle.  You learn the biggest lessons of life and the greatest strategies of survival in this world. You got to enter at your own risk but once in you are part of the gang. Once in never out. That’s what friendships are all about.

This is for my boys with love and a warm hug. I treasure them and very proud to see them all grown up into sensitive, discerning young adults.

Enter The House Of Stories


I live in a house of stories. In a phantasm. Here everything is made up of words. Said and unsaid. Written and unwritten. Heard and unheard. Familiar and unfamiliar. Words that are still in the nuclei and others which are decaying and dying. Dead words and their ghosts. Orgasmic words exploding at touch of a thought. All encompassing all including words. Tainted words. winged words- magical, ethereal.  Then there are the creative trouble makers. Words that will bewitch you, cast a spell and posses you. They will become your fingers and write the stories for you. You will have no control, no power. Drugged by them your stories will rise from the belly of your mind and float out of the house while you watch in helpless trance. They will be your masterpieces. Your finest creations.

Cast a net  catch a few starry words, look for those glowing words hidden in the crevices, sniff the pain and  joy, vulnerability and  passion, death and rebirth if you have a nose for it. Allow your senses to indulge. Let the words have their way with you. Let them tickle you like a soft feather, undress you slowly down  to the wire syllable by syllable, consonant by consonant. Let them undo you one vowel at a time.Lend yourself to them. Surprise your tongue as they gently push past your teeth , rejoice in the deeper play they create inside you. Watch their sweet swell. Taste the salt on their skin. Dance to their symphony of lust. Let them feed you a story or two in bite size morsels. Be part of their stories. Always searching, always needing, always wanting. There is  a beauty in staying incomplete. Hungry.

Do not be afraid. Open yourself to the house of stories and it will sing you its  siren songs, it will string together and weave fascinating tales.  It won’t lie, It can’t. It isn’t capable of deceit.

No emotion is superfluous here, everything is an all engulfing whirlpool. Everything is larger than life. Raw, naked, stripped off of all inhibitions, everything is free of boundaries reality imposes.  The boundary between the animate and inanimate is in itself animate. Walk that line.

While you do all this always have an escape route. Don’t let the words hold you captive in the house of stories. Slip away the moment you feel the cage closing in. Escape. Heaven is real but so is hell. Sometimes the word wall will crumble like cookies and the winds will scatter them. Do not despair. Other words will take their place and those flung far and wide will take roots there and lay the foundation for some other house of stories. There is always a birth in death. Nothing actually dies.

There is also a dark world lurking in here.  A house within a house where you can cut yourself on words, bleed. Weapons- sharp, loaded. Silent cold words with sharp jagged edges. Gleaming daggers. They can ravage your heart, pierce through it, nibble on it or tear it like a carnivore, throw you off-balance and hurl you down a narrow, gaping hole. They can strip you naked and whiplash you till your skin burns crimson, black and blue but as I said do not be afraid. Let them hammer on your pain points, slump you like a deflated balloon but remember it is all a part of love-making, of self-awareness, of  becoming aware.  Be aware, let them scribble on your heart, accept, relax, surrender to them as they surrender to you. Let the house of stories take you in its warm, moist fold as you take it in yours. Stay joyously drunk on them. Enjoy the fluidity. Ride through it, plunge, rise, drown and rise again. Meet those unmet passions, unbound desires, celebrations and raptures, slaughtered dreams and rejections, the end of the rope and secret shame, discover the road map of scars, heal them , touch them with love as they throb inside your being. Let them bring you to your knees as they take you on a roller coaster ride called life. Watch the swing and swirl of words as they tangle with human emotions.

Be a relentless seeker. Seek the stories hidden in the nooks and corners of this house. Reach out to them. Reach for the void at the end, look for spaces between for it is there you will find yourself. Listen to the echos of your heart. Curl up and retreat in those empty spaces. Don’t be in a hurry to fill them for they add meaning to all that is around you. The spaces between tears and laughter, silence and words, between the pieces of yin and yang that lie in your path. Nestle in the light that seeps through the spaces of darkness and dark that quietly descends between the light. Be there in the spaces between your breaths, give yourself to the space between the rising and the setting sun, slip through the spaces between your fingers, sit quietly between your illusions and delusions.

Find stories hidden in the spaces between awake and sleep, between birth and death,  in gaps where the warmth meets the chill, where yearning meets the indifference, Don’t occupy it , just be there. Dig deep into yourself. Feel the intimacy of being with oneself in these miracle moments.

This house is ever reinventing itself. You can’t live here as a whole. You are split into a million nano particles, each as complete as the other.

You are the house. The house is you. It is a maze. It is an extension of you. Add your stories to it. Write. Create. Co create. Love its solitude and yours within it. Be in love for that is what writing is all about. Become your writing and merge into the house of stories so there is no physical self, just words. Let it be an excavation site where every moment is a mystery revealed. Where in every crack lies a spring waiting to launch forth just like your heart. Don’t box yourself in for the true blossoming can occur only when you have set yourself free of everything that restrains, restricts. Explore, take risks, question, allow yourself.

I live here, in my enchantment. 

Would you like to come in? 

The Song Bird


Someone asked me,”Should a blog be used to rant about personal issues? Is it alright to expose your vulnerable side to the entire world?  Is it in good taste to bare your heart’s innermost feelings in front of  everyone? One can write about so many other things then why whine, rave and rant on a blog and why not use a pillow instead to cry your heart out? There will be hundreds who will offer you sympathy but that’s all BS. Actually no one cares a hoot.”

I listened patiently and said,”I don’t do it often and I don’t do it for sympathy. That is the last thing I want from somebody. Sympathy and pity. I write for no particular reason. Not everyone reads my meltdowns and those who do, maybe it helps them overcome theirs. Who knows? ”

Obviously she and I did not see eye to eye on this like many other things. So, if you think personal outbursts are not your reading material, move on. For, this is going to be one such post.

Sometimes one goes through this deluge of “what ifs and whys, If only and I wish” and seeks answers to questions which are better not raised. Questions which burn like embers in a dying fire. If you stir it you might start a wild fire. Uncontrollable and Unstoppable.

Your heart gets filled to the brim with this deluge and overflows on the blog. I think it is cathartic in more than one ways.

It makes me restless to realize that there is no escape to freedom. There isn’t a thing called ‘freedom.” It is always a caged reality. The cage gets bigger and better than the previous one but the walls begin to rise magically the moment you want to step out and not just the walls , the roof and the floor begin to close in till you choke and gasp for breath and surrender to “what is”.

It’s a woman’s life. A caged song bird.

“You always think as if  the entire world is out to get you and is conspiring against you.” She said. (It is strange when women talk about women’s issues in this fashion. Why am I surprised anyway? )

I think it is because at times I feel it.

Not the entire world maybe but then my world is very small. It is a world within a world and in this world are people who don’t give a damn about what I go through but are ready to make snide remarks, pass judgement, show all kind of indifference camouflaged as love, care, support and what not. It is an art. Not all posses this skill.

How does one feel to leave behind young children  in a personal quest for dignified living?  Mind you it is very different from “empty nest syndrome”  and ‘one day kids will grow up and do their own things and go their own way” thing. It is a living, pulsating, raw hurt which eats you away bit by bit. You try to reason with your self  but fail. I always said, “I have given my boys roots and wings”, never knew it’s not them but I , who will fly away leaving them to fend for themselves. Leaving, in search of myself.

Did I find “myself” ?

“No” and “Yes”.

“No”, because there is a lot that is concealed. There is deeper play of shadows that I do not understand at times. A door opens and closes behind me. I forge my way through the unknown only to discover a wall , a trap or again a door, sometimes just a window or a crack. The search continues.

“Yes” , because I managed to cut out most of the weeds which were blocking my way. I bled and bruised myself but finally found myself at the edge of a new beginning. Another challenge but certainly not as suffocating as the previous one

Some prisons have no bars. Some cages are imaginary. Some others we build around us unknowingly or knowingly because we are used to certain comfort zones.

I sometimes wonder who has got who locked in the cage. I just might be free, on the other side of bars. Looking in. Remembering my time within the cage. The feeling sweeping through me whispering to me that I am still there when I am not.

Have you heard the song of the caged bird? Do you find it different from the one who is free?

One day when I woke up I saw I had grown new wings. They seemed so unfamiliar and yet they were part of it. I was scared to spread them lest I lose an illusion. Instead I wrapped them around me and found comfort in the new-found warmth but wings are meant for flying. They throbbed with exciting energy sending sparks into my listless soul to make use of them as I should.

With the break of new dawn I decided to take a plunge into the valley of unknown. Either to sink or to rise.

The cage suddenly didn’t seem to be there. Was I living an illusion or just a shattered one? I wondered.

I looked around at the crumbs , the bowl of water now empty and turned upside down. I looked at the blue sky , slowly spread my wings, flapped them, took a deep breath and folded them back. I wasn’t ready. Then the wind began to blow. It picked up the momentum and I could feel my cage sway with it. Scared of this wind of change I buried my head in my breast but with one shove I found myself at the edge of the window. Perched precariously. Now there was no turning back. I leaped on the back of the wind and dipped my wings in brilliant sunlight and claimed the sky which was truly mine but the storm raged in insane fury and rain lashed like whip of bare skin. Bewildered and panicked by the raging storm, blinded by the dark rain I plunged and rose with the tempest fighting the forces beyond me, trusting my wings to keep me afloat. Fear gripping me from within, a tight fist beneath my breast. Caught in the whirling skirts of winds I circled and circled and longed for the comfort of the cage I had left. I scanned the murky unknown, shadowy in parts brightly lit in parts, a plethora of possibilities that could take me anywhere.

Startled by the fire bolt that swept the sky with lurid glow I screamed and was shocked to hear my own voice, stilled for so long. If I could scream in fear I could sing in joy. I began to hum and the words came back to me. Muted words buried in some deep crevices of my heart. In the midst of rolling thunder and chaos I had found my song. I began to sing and I don’t know when and how I glided out of the storm into a blaze of color — oranges, pearly pinks, vibrant purples, molten gold and when I looked down I saw deep green mountains and rivers coppery with sunset.

Then , at that moment I realized , “Deep in the heart of winter, there lay within me an invincible spring.”

I realized that the cage though real was also imagined. I had built it myself.  It was wherever I went and no matter where I would run, I just ended up running into myself. If you stay within the patterns and conformity you carry the cage with you. I broke those patterns and reclaimed myself, my freedom.

Songbird

This post is especially written for a songbird who lives in the Pyrenees.