Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Where is Home

Where is my home ?
Where should I stay
Amidst the vines, I try to roam
But there is no space, every other day

In hunger and thirst, laws we forget
In despair, I cross the forbidden lines
Like me, my prey too is cast in a net
Built with desperation and strong dry vines

I venture into the unknown, take and flee
O' Lord of the jungle, punish me for my sin
I accept my death, with tears not for me
But for you, who's impending death is spreading in

For my brothers, who are still naive
For my prey that I left without you
For the human kind, for their peace they strive
Jungle Lord, how do I tell them, same is their tale, without you

As my blood spills, and eyes cloud
I roared and looked at the crowd
O' Jungle Lord, where shall be my home ?
Where is home ? Where is home ?

Cross-posted from Qyuki.com A few Lines for the deceased...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Let's touch the waves

It was almost 4 in the evening when Mukundan reached the beach. He was not really pleased about it. He had this habit of over-estimating the time it would take to travel, which almost always ensured that he reached every place a lot earlier than what was convenient and would then struggle to while away the time. As he walked across the sand towards the waves, the salty air seemed to somewhat refresh him. The breeze, the distant rumble of the sea, the chitter-chatter of all the people on the beach, the magenta coloured horizon and those sparkling white clouds that decked the blue sky, all of it seemed to have a soothing experience and he almost forgot that he had reached too early.

Almost, mainly because his mobile phone buzzed. It was a message from Sreeshma. “Starting from Office. Should take an hour”, read the message. Reality always had a way of interrupting every serene moment of life. His thoughts wandered over to Sreeshma. They were engaged and were to be married in five months. They had been colleagues and after common friends and known family circles came into the picture, it was not long before Mukundan, found that he had to change from being a friend to a fiancĂ©e. Sreeshma seemed much more comfortable with the sudden changes that swept their lives than Mukundan, who was still learning to cope with it.

The waves were relatively calm today and Chennai seemed calmer and cooler than usual. A few children jumped vigorously into the incoming waves and splashed hard. As he wet his feet, he turned back and looked at the beach. He was unsure of what was tormenting him, but he knew it was mainly because he was not sure of what love was like. There were a lot of couples on the beach. Some seated very intimately, happy in each others embraces, some holding hands and some just sat together and looked deep at the ocean as some words would slip their mouth ever so often. He wondered whether all of them deeply loved each other. Had all of them found true love,or is that they had submissively resigned to the fact that fate had brought them together and were now playing their parts, honestly and devotedly aspiring for perfection in their pretense.

In his childhood, he had often visited the beach with his father and they used to walk the stretch of the coastline from Ashtalakshmi temple, past Velankanni Church till the fisherman huts and back. There never used to be so many people back then and certainly never so many people in love. It was as if, like changing times the people of the conservative city had suddenly embraced romance and decided that love was the toast of the season.

Mukundan had got a better job in Parrys and it had been Sreeshma who convinced him that, he should take it up. So he had shifted, while she continued to work at his old office in Nungambakkam. The two of them met every two or three days at the beach and for Mukundan, he did not know whether he genuinely looked forward to it, or was it that it had become a part of their routine lives. He did not know, but the thought of walking by the sea shore always gave the necessary impetus to the outing from his side.

A distant ship moved on the horizon. It's red body floating on the water just at the horizon. It seemed like a mirage to him. As if the sky was infusing blood into the earth. As he looked from side to side, he could see the whole expanse of the sea and feel the roundness of the earth. He felt small and little, a small inconsequential part of a much larger elaborate, intricate and frustratingly complex design, but one that still worked. He thought about walking in the water again, when his mobile started to ring.

“Where are you ?. I just reached. I'm on the road, near the police check post.”, she said. Mukundan started walking in her direction, lifting his sandals in his hand, trudging his wet feet along the sand. She was smiling and waving as their eyes met. She was wearing that same green churidhar that she had worn two weeks back. She walked towards him and they met near one of those little makeshift shops that dotted the beach, selling bajjis and chutney. He always thought that though the bajjis were tasty, those shops themselves took away the serenity of the beach.

“I almost got delayed. You remember Nandan.? He is leaving in a week and they were planning a team outing.”. Mukundan nodded. He remembered Nandan telling him, of wanting to shift to Bangalore.

“Well! Not surprising. He had talked to me about leaving.” “Oh!. He told you. You never told me.”, she queried. Mukundan bit his lip. He smiled and muttered “Well!, I guess it skipped my mind”.

“Anyway, come let's walk”, she said as she wound her hands around his elbow, leaning ever so delicately on his shoulder. The sky was now turning a shade darker and brighter, as if the sunlight had anticipated it's death for the day and was shining brightly as it's clutches loosened upon the sky. Mukundan's heart raced. He wanted to be near the sea again. He wanted to feel again that last bit of solace that the sea offered him, to breathe in the air near the waves and touch the wet sand with his feet once again.

“Slow down! I'm tired, I can`t run”, she said. He controlled his urges, as he slowed down his steps and tried not to think about the nature that engulfed him. They had but walked a few more steps, when she remarked, “This should be fine. Let's sit here.”. “Don`t you want to see the waves.?”, he asked with an hesitant air. “No! Come let's sit down. Look at all the people around and feel the love.”, she replied, with a distinct naughtiness in her eyes.

“I wonder whether all these people here are sitting in love. Some of it might just be lust.”, he sighed. She laughed aloud as she untied her hair and let it loose. It waved and flowed in the breeze. She looked beautiful and he realized, he was staring at her. “Well! Lust is always there, all around, but so is love.”. “Sreeshma, tell me, what is love?. Is it the knowledge about a loved one. Is it being witness to a loved one's life or are we all actors playing our roles, you know like the Shakespeare Poem – 'All the World's a Stage'. What is it, in your opinion.? ”, he blurted out

“Wow!, so you have been giving this a lot of thought haven`t you ?.”. She sensed a feeling of desperation in Mukundan's voice and was hurt by it. “Don`t you love me? Don`t you experience love?, and you still dont know what it is”. Mukundan dragged his feet on the sand, as his mind was filled with remorse. He had noticed a hint of sadness and anger as her voice trailed. He looked at the waves and the children far ahead, sighed and then turned back to look at her.

“Sreeshma, I 'm sorry if I hurt you, but I have these doubts and who else can I ask but you ?”, he said, looking into her deep eyes. He still did not want to tell her that he loved her, not without full conviction.

“It`s ok.”, she smiled. “I guess I over reacted”. The darkness had set in and with the first rays of moonlight trickling in, the tide started to rise and the breeze was faster, saltier and seemed to attain an aura of earthy benevolence as it embraced them all around. 

The moments lingered as the beach slowly started getting accustomed to the slow darkness that pervaded the atmosphere. Sreeshma was quiet and kept looking at the horizon. She seemed to be lost in thought, which was quite uncharacteristic of her. She ran her fingers through the sand as if she were wading in the water. She then suddenly turned and remarked, “Tell me, what do you feel about love. ? Since I'm sure you must have reached here early as usual. I guess you thought about it a lot. So tell me what are those doubts.? Let's hear them”. She smiled when she saw that Mukundan was surprised.

“I accept that love is still some sort of an enigma as far as I am concerned.”, said Mukundan, as he looked into her eyes and at her fingers which were still playing in the sand. “Think about it. The world is such a big place, with lots and lots of people. Does everyone fall in love. Does everyone have a partner.? Even when one finds a partner, how does he know that he can truly love her.? What if it is just lust.?”. Sreeshma was quiet and looked at the waves in the distance and slowly inched closer to Mukundan. The air was a little cooler and darker around. “Continue!”, she said, her words revealing a sense of interest in her voice.

“I am just thinking that we humans naturally submit to destiny and place our faith in our lives and believe that what we have found is love. We perhaps never know love in it's purest form. I was just wondering about this. Only wanted to know your opinion. Not that I suspected your intentions ever”.

Sreeshma sighed,took a deep breath. Her eyes glistened in the moonlight. She finally turned to Mukundan, looked into his eyes and patted his shoulder. “I guess these thoughts are bound to happen. Marriage is a big decision and it is bound to cause turbulence in our minds. I too had my doubts, but truth is that every single day, my view becomes clearer and clearer. It is perhaps like the sea. The farther we go from the coast, the calmer, more serene and more deep are the waters.”

Farther away, a couple closely embraced each other. Mukundan and Sreeshma glanced at them and then smiled at each other. “What is life and nature if man and woman did not allow themselves to be carried away by the natural instincts that god has bestowed upon them. Lust, though I believe, is just one dimension of love. You remember, Nandan used to have this concept of Marriage.?”. “Oh yes”, recalled Mukundan. “Nandan and his wisecracks. I remember, he said Marriage is like an housing loan. Like how you initially pay interest more and then slowly principal starts becoming greater, likewise as marriage progresses lust diminishes and love increases.”. Both of them laughed, as they recalled those moments in the cafeteria long back.

“Though it was a weird joke, back then, now that I think of it, there was some sense to it”. “How.?” Mukundan, looked intrigued. . “Because, I don't believe in love at first sight. For me, love is an ongoing process, a never ending journey into the wide open sea. You keep exploring, keep learning about your loved ones, discovering all that is there to discover. Yes fate brings us together and we set sail. Sometimes our journeys don't end well, but that did not necessarily stop ships from setting sail again. We have to have faith, in ourselves, in our loved ones, in our love.”. Sreeshma, then turned and and took Mukundan's hands in her palms. “I have been discovering you, learning about you and loving you as we make this journey together. I know there might be moments when things may not feel right for both of us, but let us have faith. Let us keep learning. I can wait for you, as I am still learning every single day to love you”.

The full moon now looked resplendent in all it's glory and shone on both their faces. “Thank you, Sreeshma. I don't know why, but that is reassuring.” His tone, tranquil and relaxed. “Come let's leave. We will get late”, he said as he got up, dusted his pants and lend his hand to Sreeshma.

“No! Wait.”, she said as she got up and smiled naughtily at him. “Not before we go and touch the waves. I know you have been dying to go do that. I can see it in your eyes”.

“Sreeshma, you...”. He was pleasantly surprised and suddenly his eyes welled up with tears. He embraced her and gasped as the words “I love you”, escaped his mouth.

Hand in hand, they walked towards the sea. The silent dark sea, seemed to welcome them with the salty cool breeze, the musical humming and the colorful streak of moonlight that lay scattered on it's surface. The waves beckoned to them with their white surf upon the dark brown sand. They rushed to touch the waves.

P.S : This story, I dedicate to Suchithra, my loving wife, for persisting upon me to start writing again.

 Paintings Courtesy : "Framed Painting Litchfield Beach", by Mimi Gula (http://mimigula.com/), "Marina Beach, Chennai", by Ramesh Jhawar (http://www.rameshjhawar.com/), "All Luvved up Seascape Painting", By Stuart Kirby (http://www.itsromanticpaintings.co.uk/)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Waiting for Magic

Sagar had turned 12.

His sister gifted him a book and a small plant. His mother cooked his favourite potato curry. His father left early to office.

He sat that day, as usual, looking out from the window, at the long road and the trees and the endless sky up above. As usual he felt nothing. He was just an inconsequential part of a much larger reality. His heart felt nothing. He tried to be happy, but he couldn't. He sometimes thought that he was perhaps designed that way, a mistake that Lord Almighty made. He just couldn`t know Happiness. He never knew how it felt like to be happy.

Then, one day he had a dream. A dream that he was floating and falling at the same time. He could not make up his mind. Was he floating or falling?. He just knew that he felt light. He finally fell. He fell from his bed. It was dark and the lights were out. His parents were sleeping and Shilpa was still murmuring in her sleep. "Silly Girl!", he thought. He loved his sister, but was also ashamed that he so much envied her, because so unlike him, she seemed to know how to be happy despite all the chaos around her.

He walked to the kitchen, in the dark to drink some water. He groped in the darkness, struggling not to hit anything, not to wake anyone up. He enjoyed it. The darkness enveloped him and he embraced it. He felt protected and warm as the world around seemed to vanish. Somewhere he would find a new world. He reached the kitchen and found the water in the old glass jug. In the tiny stream of light that emanated from the sodium vapour street light outside, the orange lid of the jug looked red in colour. He opened it and drank the water. He could feel the water trickle and flow through his throat, chest and stomach. The chill of the water cooling his insides like those first drops of rain on parched land.

He walked to the window and looked outside. The street was eerily quiet. A cool breeze filled the street and the leaves of the neem tree whispered sweet secrets into his ears. "There is a new magician in town!", they said. He smiled and whispered back. "I know. I saw his show yesterday". The magician had walked down the street with his big trunk of magic items and secrets loaded on a bullock cart. He had a lot of tricks up his sleeve and would perform miracles and cast spells on the poor little kids who gathered around. Some grew long hair. For some their ears grew longer and thinner. Some grew fat and some could eat more than they ever thought.

It was after a long wait that Sagar could reach near the magician, with all the crowd and the balloons which never burst. He inched closer. He was both excited and scared. The magician had a long moustache and a very long magic wand that he used to cast his spells. As he stood there tongue tied not knowing where to start, the magician continued with his regular display of mind numbing spells and crafty illusions.

And before he knew it, the show had moved on. The street was littered with little gifts, blue shining rubber balls, paper planes and colourful strings. The children around him, hurried to pick them up one by one and gathered all. He was never quick enough. He always thought that he would never be able to get more than others. He had resigned to the reality that he always deserved less.

His mother pushed him hard, as he woke up. His eyelids still struggling to open, he realized it was morning. It was time to go to school.

His mother stayed up late that night. His father had not yet reached home and he lay in her lap watching the ants. They were hurrying to get their supply of the sweet that he had dropped near the balcony. As they huffed and puffed to reach the place, they kept talking and rubbing against each other with their antenna. It was as if in that one single little touch, they had passed on all the greatest secrets of life. All the great learnings that their forefathers taught them.

Sagar didn't know when he must have slept off. He woke up again in the middle of the night and found himself sleeping in the bedroom, beside his sister. He rubbed his eyes, as he made out what was the silhouette of his father's body. He got up and walked again to the kitchen window. Today he had to tell the magician, what he wanted. He had to ask for the spell that was to be cast on him.

There was no light in the street today and there was no breeze, and yet the water drops dripped from the water pipe below. The gentle symphony that they created, as each water dropped struck and seeped into the earth, gently told him that the magician was late today. He waited and waited. The other children gathered in the street and started playing their games. Some with stones, some with balls. None of them seemed to ever win in these games and they lasted for ever. No one complained as long as they were happy. Sagar wanted to join them, but as much as he tried, he never knew how to play. Try as they might, they never knew how to teach him.

And then they heard the sound of the pipes and the hoofs of the bullock from afar. The children stopped their games and screamed with their shrill noises “The Magician is coming. The Magician is coming.”
Sagar ran up ahead on the street and went right up to the magician. He started his show as usual and Sagar watched spellbound. Trick after trick and illusion after illusion, and he cheered and cheered along with all. As the little white angels danced and became white flowers and dropped from the sky, their eyes were wide with genuine surprise.

The magician was about to start casting spells, when Sagar suddenly found the courage to shout this time. Though he started loud, he ended with a whimper.

 “O' Great Magician of Wonderland and Mystery. Wont you please cast your spell on me ?”. “And what is it that the quiet Sagar wants”, asked the Magician. 

“Cast your spell on me, that I may ever smile. That I never see tears. That I learn to happily play”. 

His eyes were blinded with a sudden white light. He felt like he was floating and falling at the same time. He could not make his mind whether he was floating or falling. The white light slowly receded and what remained was the dull yellow light from the sodium vapour lamp.

It was his sister that woke him up in the morning. His mother was cooking the usual on Sundays. His father had gone outside early in the morning. He brushed his teeth and then stood staring outside the window. He saw the long road, the vast expanse of the blue sky and the children playing on the street. He felt nothing and did not know how to be happy.

His sister gifted him a red ball and his parents gifted him a shirt.

Sagar had turned 13.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

By My Deathbed

My mind stirred, to the smell of dead leaves
Awaiting death on a bed, as one heaves
I called my friends to come and share
To shock my soul and cast me thread bare

Talk to me, O' my poetess friend, Of life
Or stories of victory, desolation or strife
Or calm my nerves with praises of nature
Of a beautiful death that shall befit my stature

"Life is, but a transient flash of light", she said
"In an ether of darkness, in between we tread"
"Embrace the darkness, for that is still and real"
"In darkness rests the soul, Dark is the burial".

Her reality, I so detest my believer friend.
To lighten my soul, please unto me, your vision do lend
"Utter the lord's name and find thy place in heaven", he says
But in wonder and mystique, do I think of heaven always

For what is heaven, but an haunted home
Like ghosts, in paradise we roam
Melancholic in comfort, in and out of doors
Nectar to drink, yet our voices hoarse.

"I shall sing to you for music ravishes the soul"
My musician friend, proceeds on his lofty goal
From the seven notes to intricate harmonies, he crafts
As my mind travels upon the ocean on forgotten rafts

Enriched and entertained, I thank my friend, from my heart
Music, it knows no birth or death, like any other art
Is it from the wind, from the earth, from the birds or trees ?
Where from is music born, one of our greatest mysteries.

"Music shan't be your cure", opines my friend, the philosopher.
As ripples and waves do not define the might of the river
"Know yourself and thy shall lend to this world"
"What life has lent to you, at all shall be hurled"

Alas!, I know not, what I have thus by life, learned.
Nor have I piety, wealth, health or salvation earned.
As my friends depart, they cast gentle smiles of knowing.
Of Knowing the comfort, that my sleep does bring.

Pic Courtesy : "By the Deathbed" - www.edvard-munch.com

Saturday, February 25, 2012

For our Crows

If it is true that there was a god high above who sat and created all the creatures and living organisms of Mother Earth, then perhaps there is no greater mischievous mind, no mind that has greater sarcasm and creativity than God himself. For he has probably spent a few thousand light years indulging his creative senses to the maximum and then created our world, carefully placing before us such marvels of creations, each so different from each other in so many ways. While he gave a lot to a creation, he also deprived the same creation of so much and yet the marvel that it is, can only be recognized by some gifted few, who also have been deprived themselves for they are also creations of His. And then there are those few who cannot recognize the marvel in those creations, because they too are deprived.

To my mind always one of the greatest Marvels of his creations shall be the simple neighbour hood crow. The same crow that awakened and irritated our senses with a deafening cawing noise. While all the beautiful birds around cooed and sang and strutted their gentle feathers, the crow remained the vilified poor soul who seemed so out of place and yet truth be told. If there ever was a bird which has been most helpful to mankind, it is this cacophonic black marvel of a creation that knew to keep rodents in their place, who made sure their bodies were disposed off in the morning from the roads. The same crow that searched everywhere with his sharp unfailing eyes and picked every piece of rubbish that there was to pick and kept the place clean. Yet, unlike the cow that strays, was always wary of plastic, knew that, it had to be left alone.

Since childhood, we've heard those stories of how the hardworking crow picked every straw, every twig that lay around, took them up to the tree and created a nest to lay it's eggs. To this nest would sneak that cunning quail, whose singing we all love to hear and yet this lazy bird would lay it's eggs, in the poor crow's nest. If these words, open your eyes and create even an ounce of respect for this crow, believe me our crow is still deserving of more.

It is perhaps the power of a crow, that it realizes that death is required for new life to begin. It is perhaps why that all crows gather for any funeral, be it one of their own, be it of human kind, or be it of that sleepy dog that got run over on the highway. It is also perhaps why in Hindu Mythology our ancestors are believed to come and visit us in the guise of crows to accept our leftover morsels of rice. While some of us believe that the crow is that evil prankster that waits above our heads to shower us or our belongings with it's droppings, I also recollect my mother rushing towards the kitchen balcony on hearing a cawing noise. "My mother is hungry. Let me hurry", she says. It is truly wondrous therefore that while we are all creations of the same god, some are blessed with the ability to respect a crow and some are deprived of the same. So different are our perspectives.

It is a shame that the peacock is the national bird of India, because that place rightly belongs to the crow. But we are fools who grow blind looking at outward beauty. The peacock is a very ordinary bird. It is like that beauty queen who is all skin and no substance and devoid of character, while the commonplace crow is that dusky beauty who has the fire in her to take on roles of substance. Even if provoked to stand together in the same frame, the crow shall always stand out.

Of all that the naughty creator endowed me with, my respect for the crow shall always be my favourite.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Forgotten Journey

At vedagiri, atop the hillock
I wait and wait, where are thou ?
The wind sweeps the sand from the rock
Upon which I perch, will you join though ?

The trees whisper, that I wait in vain
The priests smile a sad old smile
Gone are the days, of soulful rain
When all hearts were pure, by a long mile.

Far ahead I see the sea, glowing bright
Empty skies, no sign of my winged friends
Won't you come and set my heart light ?
Let me relive the peace of bygone days ?

But then perhaps, you too have passed away
and for my sins, sadly let go of your lives
For mother nature's homes that I took away
What good is then, my ghee, sugar, wheat and rice ?

Sinners we are, so you do not visit the shrine
Or perhaps you are watching me from above
As I climb down the stairs, to my mortal grind
Along with all, I must say, you; we always did love.

It is with a tinge of sadness and with memories of a happy past that I recall the winged visitors of Thirukazhukundram. Their timely arrival and the feeding ritual, was one of the first eye-openers for me, as to how much nature has been a vital part of our culture and existence. It is with sadness, because today nature's mystical gifts are struggling to gain a foothold as Mankind dominates. Truly today the shrine stands as symbol of a golden bygone era.

Pic Courtesy : www.wikipedia.org