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.

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)

The Prostitute And The Beggar – Poem


On the street

under the flamboyant  Gulmohar

two women share the space

A prostitute and an old beggar.

 

One gaudily painted

Like a cheap bazaar toy

And the other

a wrinkled yellowing autumn leaf.

Half clad

One to reveal

the other to conceal
their feminine frames

Day and night they play the roles

assigned to them by fate

She lures lewd passengers

By her fake smiles

while anguish gnaws at her heavy heart

 

She leans against an old lamp-post

blowing smoke in the sultry summer air

waiting to be an one-night bride

Her womanhood laid bare

for hungry men to devour

 

The old beggar woman watching her

with wise eyes and deep contemplation

Like an Autumn leaf her frail body

wrinkled by time, limply hangs

within the tattered clothes she wears

 

Unkempt hair cling to her hollow face

like wild vines on crumbling walls

A dented bowl lies empty

on the torn blanket she sits on

 

Sometimes a carelessly drifting flower

falls from the tree

to fill the emptiness

She folds her hands in Namaskar

and keeps it aside

 

That little piece of land

is their stage

Where they perform relentlessly

 

One, by faking a smile or two

and baring her body

to lure the flesh hungry scavengers

The other , by baring her soul

 

A mere display of her worthlessness

to the world she lives in

Wrapped in herself

her hands outstretched

in dignified calm

 

Like the other

she too had hardened herself  to

weather the life’s storms

 

Many a times she would lie

curled to one side

retreating into her private cave

as the other sold her body and soul

Humiliated ,  neglected

Love crucified in sex/poverty

 

Her life a swivel-door

One goes , another cames in

Nameless, faceless, crowd

Her youth tossed like coins

 

Vulnerable,

My mind becomes

an open playground for thoughts

 

From where I sit

on a wooden stool by the window

beside a table laden with

sinful delights and a bed

made ready for one more night

dressed to please

the one man in my life

I feel my soul merge with hers

 

And then

 

I look at the other

a mere form under the dark tree

and try to hide

the burden on my soul

 

Under tattered rags of leftover pride

I fold my thoughts

and look around the cell

which is my home

and wonder

Am I really better off
than them ?