Are You Free ?

“We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.” ( Maya Angelou)

Why I Got My Books Back

Today, I am strangely dejected.

By now, most of you would have realized that I love reading and books.I like people who read. I encourage everyone to read. It opens up worlds hitherto unknown to us.Once you read, you will forever be free.That is my strong belief.

We have a nice library at my workplace. Almost 15 years back, when I started working, I would buy books for this library. The librarian,  a quiet unassuming fellow, would smile in amusement at my glee when I would inform him about the books that I have bought for his ‘fiefdom’. He would thank me. The money would of course be reimbursed to me.

Then I left to work somewhere else, only to return to the same office 1 & 1/2 years back.

Today, I wanted to look up a particular reference  to ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. I remembered buying the book  for the library. When I got the book, I saw that it had been issued to me 15 years back.Only a single entry in the issue card.After that, no one had issued it to read.I called the librarian, now on the verge of retirement, to have a cup of tea with me.Hesitantly, I asked him about ‘all the books that I had bought’ & ‘do/did people read them”. He  gently told  me ”Mainly no, Madam,I am afraid”.  Very foolish tears welled up in my eyes as I told him “You know, I had bought those books with such a lot love and hoped that people would read them.It was as if I had left a part of myself there among the books “. We sipped the tea in companionable silence.

In the last 1 & 1/years that I have been back, I had bought 19 books again for the library. ‘Chote Lal ji”, I told him,’you would be having a record of them, right ? Please issue them all to me. I will then inform you that I have lost them. Naturally, I will have to bear their cost, which I shall pay back. My books will return to me”. The old man’s eyes became moist but he nodded. He understood.  I think he was glad too.For like me, he loves books and reading.And he will not have books dis-respected. I sadly quoted Ray Bradbury to him “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them’. He nodded again and left.

I guess I am way emotional and sentimental. Perhaps, many would also consider me foolish ?

But those of you who like feel/have felt this :”Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens “( Carlos Ruiz Zafon, ‘The Shadow of the Wind”), you will understand why I have decided to get my books back. For you see, I cannot bear to leave a piece of me to those who don’t believe books are magic.

Pardon me, for being fanciful and restless. I need to listen to the very beautiful George Harrison.

Pillow Horoscopes

I hope anyone reading this blog has an obsession for pillows. I hope it is a healthy obsession. For I have a horribly un-helathy obsession with pillows. You will find pillows  & cushions of all shapes and sizes in my house.In every room. A recent acquisition has been a cushion for my kitchen chair where I sit on weekends and instruct my crazy cook in our culinary expeditions. The cushion says ‘Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll”. My cook ,  I believe, has taken to reading psalms for my soul.

People form opinions about others with reference to their values,principles, up-bringing etc.Yawn! A big YAWN and a Garfield-y full body stretch! So boring,non ? I seem to be forming opinions based on the after-shave that is used, how green the house plants are, whether a dog/cat/hamster/tortoise is around, whether adequate attention has been paid to naming the pet, whether fine Darjeeling tea is favored, whether the woman detests male hair sprouting from the nose & ears,whether the man doesn’t burp to show his appreciation of wifey’s cooking, etc.

And yeah, do the woman/man or both like pillows and cushions,first? Second, do they like lots of them around ? Or are they minimalist? While I admire the minimalist decor too, I however,like my bed to be full of pillows and cushions. I somehow can’t relate to people who are mingy about pillows on the bed. More then once, I have seen , these are the very same people who would look at you accusingly if you go for the fifth ‘gulab jamun’ or ‘teeli waali kulfi’! ” Sigh! Such Philistines! Don’t they know what Blake said ? That “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” And there are certain people who sleep without pillows! I find them to be absolute horrors! If one does a random statistical survey, such people would in all probability love getting up at the crack of dawn, are cheerful in the mornings, do not drink coffee, have quadruple toned milk, snack on wafer thin carrot sticks, read books on self- improvement…ya’ll get the drfit, guys?

 I read this article about what your pillow says about you here :http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/555476/list/what-do-your-pillows-say-about-you I really haven’t been able to decide my style in these stylish set ups. Whoa, I guess I am a ‘pillow -neurotic’ then! So Sylvia Plath says “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.” I can be both a Bohemian and a traditionalist when it comes to pillows and cushions.

Check out some of these pillows 🙂

STPPLWTLKBS1007_3_Large   STPPLWTLKBS1011_3_Large STPPLWTLKBS1005_3_Large

(http://www.bedbathmore.com/brand:stoa-paris/white-cinderella-and-prince-charming-pillow-talk-bedlinen/code:stpplwtlkbs1002)

I have ordered the last one online :D.  Because you see I am a great believer in women’s ‘over-equality’ movement 😀

Ta, guys! I am having some awesome ‘chole-bhature’ for lunch to celebrate the boss being away .He has been struck with loosies. His wife informed me. She sounded dejected. I wonder why ? Is it out of deep love and concern? Or is it because she is stuck 24x7x2days with his terribly un-exciting persona ?

Time for some music.The only way to ‘ be ‘ is…..be dynamite :D.

The Fragrance Of A Lunchbox

Couple of days back, I watched the movie ”The Lunchbox” on TV. Although I had seen it when it was released last year, this time I appreciated it even more. Perhaps, I saw it at a more leisurely pace and with some great friends.It was on Valentine’s day too which added a certain poignancy to the film that deals with the need to be loved.

The performances of the actors is magnificent, the direction and editing is tight, the eye for detail is uncanny! The movie was shot on a shoe-string budget and although the director had permission to film for 50 days , he had to complete it in 30 days as he had no money!(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lunchbox)

I consider the movie to be an  extremely intelligent  piece of art. Much of this flows from the ideas and thinking of the Director, Ritesh Batra, which was translated impeccably on screen by the actors. I came to know that during the entire shooting of the film, lead actors Irrfan Khan and Nimrit Kaur do not meet at all! They met only when the film was complete and during the promotions.The film was shot separately with both and then synthesized into a whole. Bravo! Another piece of cinematic brilliance was that, at no time during the entire movie,is the neighbour of Illa shown. We just hear her gravelly, old voice and her ‘presence’ is symbolized by the cane basket in which , both of them exchange everyday household stuff, across different apartment floors in the same building. My favorite scenes are the ones in which Irffan Khan opens the lunchbox to inhale the fragrance of the food.As if he is inhaling the fragrance of the woman who has made it. Something very sensuous about it, oddly reminiscent of ‘Scent of A woman”. I have always believed that scent or fragrance stimulates very powerful emotion and memories. A woman’s perfume thus is referred to as liquid memory. Another brilliant movie by an equally brilliant director,”Haider” by Vishal Bharadwaj uses this concept very beautifully. Shahid Kapoor, the son, buries his face in Tabu, the mother’s neck  to smell her ‘ittar’, conveying an Oedipus complex as well as perhaps, signifying a longing for return to innocence.

The central theme which emerges in the film is that of loneliness and a cry to escape from it. The director  chillingly depicts the deep, hidden cracks of indifference and neglect in a married couple’s seemingly happy, normal day-to-day life. He is so brave in making  the lead female actor’s mother, portrayed by Lillette Dubey, admit that she felt a revulsion while attending to her bed-ridden husband;that there was no love left;only a duty. The exceptionally talented Nawazudin Siddqui ,acting the role of Irffan khan’s  office colleague, is an orphan.Although he is a happy-go-lucky chap, one feels his existential angst and loneliness when he makes up a fictitious mother in order to make himself feel less of a freak.

The director says that the film is full of ‘silences’  which require tremendous acting to ‘fill’. For example in a defining moment in the film, when Irffan Khan is asked about his wife by his colleague’s curious lover, he has to wait for  30 seconds or so to say his dialogue that she is dead. It is exactly how he emotes in those 30 seconds that make him one of the finest actors we have today!

 I was reminded of a poem by Charles Bukowski. ‘Love is a Dog from Hell”.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock.

people so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.”

The director and the actors  have managed to convey this effortlessly.

It also got me thinking about the lunch boxes we all normally carry to work. What do they convey about our lives? Who makes it every morning ? Is it your wife/girlfriend/partner ? Does a working woman’s husband/boyfriend/partner chip in ? Can you feel the fragrance of your relationship in the food? Or do both partners depend on a cook? Do they both groan at what the cook has made and call each other up? Do they smile with pleasure at what the cook has made and call each other up? Yeah, do we connect with that person in our life whom we have promised ‘ to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” ?

I don’t know whether I will ever pack a lunchbox for my guy when he leaves for work, because he and I live on different continents. But I just want to tell you Adi, that I would have done so, had you been here .And had the cook done so, I would have put tissues with the perfume you love on me in your lunch box 🙂

Ta, guys 🙂

A Cricket Match & Imran Khan

dont-keep-calm-its-india-vs-pakistan-1

Well, my already genetically and regionally agitated Bengali cook, Joy ( the harbringer of much un-joy actually) , went  into a hysterical overdrive with the India vs Pakistan cricket match today @ World Cup, 2015.On a Sunday, I was rudely awakened at 7am with morning bed tea. On normal  Sundays i.e. when no India vs Pakistan cricket match is scheduled, ‘morning’ is ,naturally ,either 12:30 or 4:30 pm, depending on intensity of the Saturday night partying.Considering that yesterday-a Saturday & Valentine’s Day-the partying began by mid-afternoon to end around early hours of dawn today, I had vaguely hoped for mercy from Joy.But, no.He was wearing the Team India T-shirt and shelled peas in front of the TV. I wondered whether I would get any lunch today? When Virat Kohli bowed out at 107, Joy shrieked  in pain and pride.And also scattered the peas on the floor.So ‘matar-paneer’ was out and our man informed me that I would need to have toast and an omelet. ‘Baki sab, time lega Memsahib”, he said firmly. ( Translation: Any other lunch would take time Madam)

 Few friends on Facebook went nuts analyzing each ball, stroke etc. I sometimes wonder whether they are actually watching the match? I mean, how can you as a serious cricket aficionado,not totally concentrate on the match?So we have these pearls-of-wisdom status updates ‘ Gone. Kohli” , ” Dhoni at crease”  , ‘297’ etc.Jeez, man, people do have a TV and are not deaf or blind.They can hear the commentary! When I was growing up, cricket was serious business.And I guess treated like a ‘sport’ ,rather than the commercialization it sees today.

We also had larger than life cricketers. While I was watching the match, I couldn’t help remember Imran Khan. The patriotism of the  Indian girls was severely tested when the great Khan was around. I doubt whether any other cricketer has been able to generate the hysteria which Imran Khan evoked in his heydays! I remember an Australia vs Pakistan one day match in my hometown Cuttack way back in the 1980’s.My sister and I were seated in the VIP enclosure , just next to the players’ pavilion. Imran Khan came out and lazily stretched.Oh man, he was so glorious 😀 .My Dad throughout the match hissed at me ‘Keep your eyes on the game” 😀

Later, Godrej came out with an advertisement for Cinthol soap.This one :

I saw a great business opportunity in this. I bought a soap, scratched Imran’s name on it with a fork and told everyone that I had bought it at an auction in Bombay. The gullible girls fell for it! I charged 50 paise to just see it and Rs1/- to touch it 😀 Soon I had a princely sum of Rs 50/-. My game was up when a nosy, neighborhood Aunty inquired about ‘Imran Khan’s soap’ from my Ma.All hell broke loose! My parents were shocked at my uh-uh ‘unscrupulousness’ : Dad’s words , naturally :D. I was made to return everyone’s money which I did grudgingly 🙂

Imran Khan recently cropped up in a conversation with my sister. The cricketer -turned-politician  has re-married. His wife  Reham Khan, was a weather reporter for the BBC and now hosts a political talk show on Pakistan’s Dawn News.Imran Khan was previously married to British socialite Jemima Khan and has two sons. His new wife reportedly has three children from a previous marriage. My sister asked me why did they both re-marry ? What is it in marriage? Food for thought, she told me. I went vitriolic and  all ‘Gone Girl’  and said perhaps, “both like to make do with dutiful sex and gassy bedtime rituals.. settle for TV as conversation’ ? But then, I seriously thought about it. I think both have re-married and bravely taken a second chance at marital bliss because they are friends. I like to think that they have become wiser in their choices.So Nietzsche says ‘it is  a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”

Well, India won the match today. And won it well! That calls for celebration say my friends. Hell,yeah! So I am going partyin’ 😀

Love ya’ll 🙂

A Love Letter

Dear Adi,

                A strange fact about you and I.It is you, the man in the relationship, who says that I don’t speak about my feelings! Usually, that’s the woman’s complaint. Yes, I am unable to.For a number of reasons which sometimes to me also feel stupid.But that is the way I am. I can only express myself in words for I have spent my whole life folded between the pages of books. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. So I decided I shall write you this letter. I am smilingly stupidly because it is Valentine’s Day tomorow too. But I hope what Aldous Huxley said turns out to be true: “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced”.

I wonder if you remember the first time we saw each other ? Almost two decades back? On a rainy, windswept afternoon, I was standing  on the ‘ ring  road’ in front of the river Mahanadi, holding an injured pigeon and crying forlornly.The pigeon had been stoned by some cruel children.Helpless, I could feel its life ebbing away.You thundered by on a motorcycle and stopped a little distance away.You returned , asked me where I lived and told me you would take me home. Why did I not find it suspicious?  That I should not be taking a lift from a stranger? Why did I just  go and sit on the bike very naturally ? As if I belonged there? We walked through the back gate of my Daddy’s government house.That was near to the shed my sister and I had made to take care of injured animals and birds.You wiped the blood off, on that poor,frightened little bird and dressed the wound. It did not flinch. I watched your hands.They were powerful.Yet, oddly gentle too. You were a Prince of darkness and light, both. You murmured soothingly to the bird.And, I guess it was in that instant, I fell in love with the wild beauty of your heart.

 The depth of my love and passion for you frightened me.It made me so vulnerable. People talk about the heart and soul.But to me, my mind is the only thing that is of singular consequence.  You got into  my head.Into my mind. I became angry because I couldn’t be logical about you.Me, who had everything and everyone sorted out in my mind.

And that is why I ran away from you. To people who didn’t understand me.  I wept. I wept because the process by which  I became a  woman in heart,body and soul, was painful. I wept because I  no longer  was a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes  opened to reality.I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I wept because I lost my ability to feel pain and I was not  accustomed to its absence.Because you can only feel tenderness if you can feel pain.

So the years passed.There never was a single day when I didn’t feel the urge to touch you.Could you make that out in all the ”normal” conversations we had ? Yes, I ached for you.Through my various loves and half-loves.Through your various brunettes, blondes and redheads.Through that one woman who  perhaps loved you truly…the one you allowed to stay for a sometime only because she reminded you of me…that is what you told her simply. She had called me up then and told me that it is only to me  you have given that part of yourself which could break you.

 Two years back ,you were drunk one night. I was reading Kahlil Gibran. I had asked you which did you think was more important to me. My life or yours? You had said ‘mine’. I smiled because you did not perhaps realize or know that you were/are/will be my life. Every lifetime Adi, I would choose you….jiski furqat ne palat di ishq ki kaaya ( the one who transformed the nature of my love).

Holy Mother of God , this doesn’t sound like me, right Adi ? More like a stupid, mushy doppelganger! Alright, my Dark Lord,die into me as I die into you.So that we are really alive.With hot, salty,real blood flowing from my heart into yours.Cut your soul up and weave it into a blanket to protect me.Rule my mind as I rule yours.Remember only one word: ‘Rapture”.

And I shall quote you this, my beautiful man.Not Neruda!This is you and me, non ?

“every mouth you’ve ever kissed
was just practice
all the bodies you’ve ever undressed
and ploughed in to
were preparing you for me.
i don’t mind tasting them in the
memory of your mouth
they were a long hall way
a door half open
a single suit case still on the conveyor belt
was it a long journey?
did it take you long to find me?
you’re here now,
welcome home.”( Warsan Shire)

And, I shall play you this,my bad-ass rocker.Not Led Zeppelin!

Love & Penguins

They (penguins) then fall madly in love and live happily ever after.
And so you ask yourself: “If a penguin can have a worthwhile, stimulating relationship, why the hell can’t I?”
Or maybe you ask yourself: “Would I be happier if I started dating a penguin ?” ( Bradley Trevor Grieve,”Looking for Mr Right”)

Well, since I believe that ,if it is not madness it is not love, I had seriously thought of dating a penguin 😀 .  Then stepped in  my utterly beautiful guy and all’s well that end’s well 🙂

But why am I talking about penguins? Besides being totally captivated by these endearing creatures, an article and picture on social networking site caught my attention. Here:

oldest-man-australia-knits-penguin-sweaters-1

(http://www.boredpanda.com/oldest-man-australia-knits-penguin-sweaters-alfred-date/)

These are sweaters that have been knitted for injured and sick penguins by an Australian man, Alfred Date.He is 109 years old.

I got curious and wanted to know why the penguins would need sweaters.And I found out that,knitted penguin jumpers play an important role in saving little penguins affected by oil pollution. A patch of oil the size of a thumb nail can kill a little penguin. Oiled penguins often die from exposure and starvation. Oil separates and mats feathers, allowing water to get in which makes a penguin very cold, heavy and less able to successfully hunt for food. Read more about it here :http://penguinfoundation.org.au/about-the-penguin-foundation/wildlife-rehabilitation/

 John Grogan says “Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky”. Way to go, Mr Alfred!

I have such a glad, happy feeling in my heart that I need to play a song I love. It is from a huge Bollywood hit. Nobody quite like Zeenat Aman, guys, I tells ya! I saw this as a kid and threw a major tantrum as I wanted the same red dress as her. Uh-uh I was dissuaded by my Ma, thankfully :D.

Ta, guys!

In My Secret Life

“I saw you this morning,
you were moving so fast.
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much,
there’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In my secret life.
I smile when I am angry,
I cheat and I lie,
I do what I have to do
to get by,
In my secret life.” ( Leonard Cohen)

Tara : A Little Girl’s Birthday

 In the evening today, I have to go for a little girl’s birthday party. She is my friend Kabir’s daughter. A heart- breakingly pretty girl, with serious eyes that seem to be asking questions about life: both its sadness and beauty. Her name is Ayesha. But I call her ‘Tara’. I have always loved this name. In Hinduism, ‘Tara’ is one of the ‘Dasha -Mahavidyas’ or great wisdoms, representing the Divine Mother or supreme,cosmic ,female energy. The name means  “The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves.Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation” . She is the illuminator. ‘Tara’ always reminds me of Scarlett O Hara too, who is a favorite literary heroine of mine. Oh, Tara in a way of mutual admiration calls me ‘Lara Croft’. My Ma is the only one who calls me ‘Lara’. That’s my nickname actually,after  Boris Pasternak’s “Dr Zhivago’.

Tara and me have a very special bonding.So much so that she once seriously told her parents that they should allow me to adopt her.We have struck a deal instead, and I am her God mother.If you have seen the movie ‘Stepmom’ ? Well, Tara & I have the same relationship like Julia Roberts & the little girl Jena Malone. Here , watch this :

She is going to be 11 today.

I got up very early in the morning today to bake her, before leaving for work, my famous chocolate cake which she loves.I have stuck a card on it which says ”Be Fabulous, Be Classy”. And I am of ,naturally, going to gift her a book.Yesterday, I was wondering which one.I decided that she needs to be introduced to Pablo Neruda 🙂

So I chose this exceptionally brilliant book :

9780805091984

“Pablo Neruda : Poet of the People”, by Monica Brown;illustrated by Julie Paschkis.Henry Holt & Co.( BYR) http://us.macmillan.com/pabloneruda/juliepaschkis

The book goes :’Once there was a little boy named Neftalí who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly. From the moment he could talk, he surrounded himself with words. Neftalí discovered the magic between the pages of books. When he was sixteen, he began publishing his poems as Pablo Neruda.

Pablo wrote poems about the things he loved—things made by his friends in the café, things found at the marketplace, and things he saw in nature. He wrote about the people of Chile and their stories of struggle. Because above all things and above all words, Pablo Neruda loved people.”

As I type this, I am reminded of Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossypants’. She says ” First, Lord :May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty…..Guide her, protect her…..Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels…..May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.”

That is what I wish for Tara as well.And I will tell her his evening,do your own thing and don’t care if they like it 🙂