Crossing The Threshold – A Poem


 

 

in the half light of dawn the breeze-

laden with the scent of mango blossom-

drifts in from the courtyard,

calling her thoughts to the waiting river;

quietly she leaves her bed,

gathers her unkempt hair in a loose bun

then pauses for a moment,

listens to her husband’s measured breathing,

then silently tiptoes out,

tucking in the corner of her sari at the waist

she hastily collects the fallen Parijatak in her pallu

placing a few in her hair at the same time,

the red from their stalks rising to her cheeks;

beside the well the empty pitchers wait,

nearby the battered clay stove

recalls her own scars,

for a split second she wavers, then crosses

the threshold, her heart frantic with haste,

leaving behind the walls

that had risen around her brick by brick;

the river hears her hurried footsteps 

with rapt attention, at its bend

under the shade of the mangroves,

a boat and a promise patiently wait

ready to carry her away.

 

GBE2 Week #64 : Hidden – A veiled Life


Her fate was sealed the moment she was born. The Chador that wrapped her, grew with her infant body. Layer after layer it hid her slow painful journey into womanhood, chained forever to her home and hearth,  by norms of society and religion. She was born to serve and submit.. Serve  and submit to the omnipresent men of her clan. In silence.

She was one of the few who survived birth but her voice was stilled for life.  The muffled cries of her infant sister dying a forced slow death still woke her up in the middle of nights. Unlike the so called emancipated, literate, liberated urban women, her life was tied by invisible ropes that rubbed against her soft flesh and left wounds that scarred her being.

She ceased to be human the moment she “came of age”. The menstrual blood brought with it emotional and physical abandonment. It also brought a sudden realization of turning into a “woman” who had, a body “to be kept hidden”, tongue which was just a purposeless mass of flesh, heart which would in long run become a vault for unmet dreams and desires and a mind which was considered “non-existent” and which only worked behind a camouflaged screen of darkness.

Suddenly she shrunk under the chador which had taken monstrous proportion since her infancy days. Her life was no longer hers.  A marionette whose strings were pulled and pushed by the men in her household and extended family.  Shrouded in mystery of her gender, modesty, pleasure, shame, pain and drudgery she carried her body through the lonely barbed web of rules designed to keep her in hold all through her life.

She was still in better position than her aunt, barely a few years older than her and a widow, who had to continuously protect her “unguarded, dangerous” body till she is lowered into her grave safely, a daunting task in a society of vultures ready to pounce on any slice of flesh that they can lay their eyes and hands on.

Deep buried and hidden under layers her body and voice stirred and quivered in want of release but never reached the climax. Considered unfit for any function but marriage, childbearing, housekeeping her entire being came out from the hidden depths during the dark recesses past the midnight silence.  Lying next to a snoring satisfied husband or alone, she  freely roamed around the courtyard and beyond the threshold into the unnamed, unknown lanes and streets like a alley cat.

Suddenly the landmines erected by society to prevent her from deviating from specified gender roles forgot to explode as she stepped on the prohibited terrain.

Not swathed in black from head to toe in the age old dirty chador that hung near the main door, she set the woman in her free. Reclaiming herself. Night after night.

In those intimate hours with herself she would try and familiarize with the contours of her body, feeling that fervent rush which knew no outlet in her forsaken life. Many times she would slip into the veranda, dressed in nothing but a thin duppata, which made her a bit comfortable with herself, throw her bare arms in the air and watch the night sky with two bright starry eyes, letting the breeze flirt with her.

Imagination would thrown open the doors and windows which usually remained bolted. Walls that had risen brick by brick around her segregating and secluding her would collapse in a heap, making her vulnerable and alive. She would create and recreate the stories told in the midst of giggles and laughter by her city cousins.

Before the first light of dawn, hidden in the safety of the darkness she would dare to live a life she imagined. Strange that the very darkness that engulfed her in daytime became her saviour at night.

This post is written for GBE2 WEEK #64 (8-5-12 to 8-11-12): Hidden

Inspired by Tamil writer Salma’s book and Kamla Das( one of my many muses)

Breathless – GBE 2 Week #62


Little rivulets streamed down the nape of her neck as she stepped out of shower and reached for the fresh lavender fragrant bathrobe. Usually she would hurriedly pat dry herself, get into some clothes and start her usual routine but today something made her linger. Absently she ran her slender fingers over the soft plush fabric smoothing out the nonexistent creases and remembering how he had looked at her the other day. His eyes pools of longing.

Friction of her wet thighs started a fire that exploded in her body like a rocker flare. She shifted uncomfortably, surprised by her hunger and as she turned she caught sight of herself in the long mirror and then, she saw herself  from his eyes.

It was long since she had really seen herself  in nude. Little prisms of water quivering on her smooth flesh, her prominent collar bones and the taut angular muscular neck, ripe full breasts, the curve of her belly, the supple soft folds of her body now glowing in the sunset colours of her beauty, she felt the heart of her desire throb with longing between her legs.

She was at an age where she had begun to regret staying faithful to a man who had never really loved her. For years her soul dwelled in an unknown body of  a woman she did not associate with, an empty bottle thrown in a corner by some drunkard.

But now, as she stood there gazing at herself,  inflamed by the urgency of a choice between a last hope of an exotic experience or a final resignation. Drenched in a blend of magic and mayhem, need and disruption, she began to question the course her life had chosen long ago. For the first time in her solitary, confined life she saw in herself a possibility and a potential of corruption that left her breathless.

This post is written for WEEK #62 (7-22-12 to 7-28-12): Breathless

2011- Courageous risks are life giving ( A New Ending Post )


You have given me wings with which to fly
Now I breathe in deep and spread them wide
as we lift off from the silken petals
into the wind where the butterflies glide

This is not a year-end post or may be it is.  A requiem for the past  and a song of  courage for the future.

I wanted to wrap up this year and all those before them and bury them for good. 2011 has been a year of extreme highs and lows in more than one ways. We lost some of the most loved, immensely talented artists/musicians and many other luminaries from diverse fields. Let us say adieu to those who left us in 2011. Bhimsen Joshi , Jagjit Singh, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Satyadev Dubey , Bhupen Hazarika, Anant Pai, M.F.Hussain, M.K.Pataudi,  Hargobind Khurana, Jehangir Sabavala, Mario Miranda, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Tylor, Amy Winehouse, Ustad Sultan Khan, Navin Nishcol, Gautam Rajadhyaksh, Indira Goswami and football player Socrates and Gary Speed.. the list seems endless.

Year 2011 also took away the fierce tigress Shehla Masood, Nighamanand and RTI activist Nadeem Sayeed. Any voice that rises against the rotten corrupt system, the age-old orthodox so-called values and norms  is silenced. Sometimes one pays with one’s life and at others one has to take courageous risks to stand for one’s dignity, pride and right to live as a human being , as a woman.

When a woman decides to break the shackles that chain her to submit to the will of others, when she walks out on a relationship that smothered her for years , when she decides to be fearlessly herself , to not be a “trophy wife” , when she shows the inner strength and moral courage to defy submitting to what society defines as ” excepted rules and code of conduct for women” then she is born again and trust me this is a difficult birth. This metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly is a slow painful process. A process which for some means shedding layers and layers of borrowed hurts and burdens. This journey from darkness to dawn requires an inner courage  which is unmatched and unbreakable especially when one is economically dependent. It is difficult to take that first step and say ENOUGH. Difficult to leave behind young children and  a large part of one’s life but when relationships stagnate  they rot and it is better to cut the rotting part before it infects and kills. It is difficult to stand for your dignity and face the filth flung at you by the society for whom a woman is merely a “puppet that can be fit into various roles with strings pulling her from all sides deciding when she should do what “.

A forgotten species not allowed to dream and live the life she imagines. Always subjected to ridicule, contempt and told to shut up, she is supposed to adjust , compromise, suffer, make peace, forgive the offenses and injustices inflicted at them and go through difficult marriages with ” patience and tolerance. She is “not allowed” to follow her dreams, aspirations and put them all on a back burner to make sure ”  a peaceful happy married life” and if she rebels against the established conventions and charts a path for herself then the situation is even worse.

But,

Courageous risks are life-giving. 

2011 changed  direction of my life. Sometimes it just takes a tiny spark to light a flame within.  I have already written about what made me step out and start afresh.  It took me many years to find my lost confidence, my voice that was stilled. Change is uncomfortable, new beginnings scary for someone like me whose world was confined.

I have so many friends to thank for this transformation, for instilling this strength in me , for believing in my potential and for making me love and believe in myself as a woman, as a human being irrespective of the roles assigned by the society. Each word, each gesture made me stronger than ever. Friends who showed me the mirror, who spoke their minds to make me see the reality as it is, who helped me get out of the closet and express through my writings, each one of them played a significant role in making me who I am today and my heart is filled with gratitude for them. The reason I write about me is again to be a spark in someone’s life , to light a flame of change in some woman’s life.

I realized that after that initial fear is conquered there is no turning back. At  the end of  2010  the embryonic plant encased in the seed coat was beginning  to prepare itself to break the sidewalk and  blossom into a flowering plant.  I have come a long way from the time I wrote ‘  The time has come to be fearlessly myself  ‘.

I took some bold steps just as Tara did.  For, If it hurts it is not love  .

It wasn’t easy for me to leave but I knew that nothing could be worse than what I was going through. Separation from my boys cut me deep. They put up a very brave front in standing by my decision. It was I am sure their energy that made me spread my wings and take a flight into the vast open sky through the tiniest crack in the walls that were closing in every moment. I know I could not have done without their never-failing love and support. They taught me some very fine lessons in life. The period of nine months since I stepped out were filled with extreme emotional upheavals but the fact that I did what was right for me  as a human being , as a woman , kept me going. It is not that the guilt of  leaving behind the children did not gnaw at my heart  but sometimes to survive and live one must take the most painful of  steps.

Now at the threshold of a new year , I find myself  heading towards a new ending, a much-needed closure that will be the new beginning for me. The road is rough and full of uncertainty but I know that the wind beneath my wings is strong and I won’t fall.  It is with this unsurpassed trust and confidence that I greet the new year. There is still a lot to be done and having taken this first step all I see is the summit. I know that to climb steep hills requires slow pace in the beginning and I am taking one step and a time.

There is no turning back.

I have the gift of life again and I want to cherish and nurture it with respect and love. There were times I cribbed about life being unfair and people being unjust to me but now when I look back I thank the universe for all those hardships and all those people who made sure I suffered for it is due to them I am stronger and sharper.

Life never gives you anything you can not handle , it is just that some flowers take time to blossom. Nothing goes waste. Those years gone by were my rooting years. Now with strong roots and stronger heart I am ready to take on anything that life offers.

I thank all my readers, my friends, everyone who helped me open my resilient petals. To all of you I owe my new self. Thank you for enriching my life.

Wish you all a very happy New Year. 

The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision.

 

This post is dedicated  with love and gratitude to a very special person. 

Butterfly picture courtesy Google Images

The Female Convict : A Woman’s Story


The story has been published in a collection of short stories by 26 Indian Women Writers called Ripples .

you can buy the book from

http://www.apkpublishers.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=89

Poetry challenge : Old Begger Woman


Author and friend Kris Saknussemm gave this second challenge to write something which had rhythm.

I quote

“write something to that rhythm. Don’t use any metaphors to clue us in–EMBODY the rhythm. Don’t worry about “melody.” Worry only about the rhythm…and use ALL the words: CLAWS, WRETCHED, GRATEFUL, TORRENT, SEETHING & TOMORROW”
-Kris

Here is my poem

Old Begger Woman

Near the village square
A shriveled frame
in tattered rags
Squatting
Her mangled hair full of
tiny, dry leaves blown by the wind
Her wrinkled face
bursts into a toothless laugh
Along with the mocking kids
A dry weed, broken from its roots
Flung from shore to shore
by the torrents of abuse
Even with a seething heart
and mind mauled by
the claws of memory
She rejoices each moment she lives
Grateful for a life well spent
unconcerned about tomorrow
“Wretched woman they call me”, she laughs
“What about them?
Living but still not alive