Storms ruled the first thousand years of life.
By the time I claimed my room, I turned into a zombie...
Suspended somewhere between the worlds within and outside...
Vaguely aware of either...
But then, existence needs more meaning, and spectacles need a windowpane...
Right here, I found mine…

Who am I? An average woman - trying to work on my share of maze through layers of haze...

Monday, October 09, 2017

My Tryst with a Park

And why it is my entitlement, and not a privilege, to have a park in my locality

Morning fitness regime (Clicked by me, Sep 22, 2017)

My day starts slow. To escape the lure of the messy morning bed has never been easy for me; and now that two plump little hands hug me even in sleep, getting up is harder than ever. Life, however, always conspires of ways to pull me out of the bed, and this time it has placed a decent BBMP corporator (i.e. member of city council) in my ward and a great park in my vicinity.
The park, known as the BTM 4th Stage Park, is one you can’t overlook; for it sits, flaunting an excellent outdoor gym and brightly hued playground equipment, right in the heart of the locality. Visit early enough, and you’ll see this big group of grey haired citizens booting out their age with the roar of laughter and claps. Late mornings and early evenings resound with the joyous shrieks of kids of all ages. Joggers, walkers, oxygen-and-nature lovers, laptop-lovers occasionally tired of their gadget-spouse — there’s something for everybody. And the upkeep is excellent. For a person like me who is struggling to get back in touch with her battered creativity, a daily dose of this effervescent freshness is almost therapeutic. I can’t have enough of my morning walks these days; they restore in me the vitality that the last few years of multi-pronged stress had wrung away.

Outdoor gym in full use even as park is renovated (Clicked by me on Sep 22 )
Outdoor gym -a closer look (Clicked by me on Sep 15)
These walks, in a way, have also been an eye-opener for me. Allow me to explain.
I spent the first decade of life on the banks of the river Ganges, within the premises of a large, beautifully planned residential area accompanying a water treatment plant in a town called Barrackpore. My father worked in the plant in the capacity of an engineer. My mother was (and still is) an outstanding homemaker. Our first floor apartment had this balcony that offered the view of a large sky with many constellations arching over the river where dolphins could be spotted in the monsoon afternoons. It also overlooked the grass lawn where I played all evening with a bunch of other kids. Cows grazed. Sunflowers bloomed. Touch-me-nots drooped. Mangoes ripened. Red shimul flowers burst open in early May and silk-cotton floated in the air.
When we shifted to our second home in a more practical part of the town, I accepted the behind-closed-door life of our new locality as a normal inevitability. The first decade was a privilege I was fortunate to enjoy. Normal mortals had to satisfy themselves with a tinier view of the sky, potted plants, board games and constant honks on impatient roads, I told myself. It was only natural that locality ponds should get filled up by promoters and sold off as lucrative lands; that the rare open ground should be dominated by jobless no-gooders for most part of the day; that morose senior citizens should resign themselves to the idiot box churning out stale melodrama year after year.

Children's playground equipment (Clicked by me on Sep 19, 2017)

Children's playground equipment (Clicked by me on Sep 25, 2017)

It was in the third decade of life that I shifted to Bangalore, my present city of stay. This city, once recognized for its green cover and all year round pleasant weather, has been struggling under the pressure of oversaturation. Doomsayers often call it a dying city. And yet, the focus of its civic authority on restoring to the citizens their lost breathing space demands nothing short of whole-hearted appreciation and support.
My ongoing tryst with the BTM 4th Stage Park has jolted me into a keen awareness of how much humans benefit from the proximity of nature and open space, and why it is absolutely unacceptable when civic authorities fail to factor this in during city or town planning.
Yes, these are the surroundings amid which I picture my little boy growing up — playing, running, slipping in the puddle and laughing all his way into a healthy adulthood.

Squirrels

100 word story: IMWT (Idiotic Morning Walk Thoughts) - I

Source: Me! (Location: BTM 4th Stage Park, Bangalore)
Two squirrels chase each other. Idiot pauses in her track to gaze at them. Her fitness app throws a fit. It isn’t programmed to factor in human caprice.
Idiot, WALK! 55% of Bengaluru outwalked you last week!”
The reprimand goes unheard; or worse still, unheeded. The ‘to do’ maggots infesting her brain halt in their act of procreation, startled.
The squirrels, unaware of the chaos they just stirred up, jump across branches, fences and grass in an obscene show of nimbleness. They stomp over the maggot larvae in idiot’s head, mashing them into jelly.
And catastrophe ensues; the world falls apart.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Stealth, Death, Resurrection and the Garden of Eden

Source: Me!
Story 1: Stealth
It was one of those less sunny August afternoons when I escaped for a stroll. It wasn’t an item to be crossed off my to-do list. Neither was it an act of rebellion; although it was true that I had felt restless and repulsive for many days then. I hardly knew what my eyes wished to see, so I loitered along sleepy houses in narrow alleys with vehicles parked on both sides. My phone rang; a dear voice wanted to know what I was doing. I lied. Of course, I didn’t need to.
What was I stealing from him?
Time.
Story 2: Death and Resurrection
On a less sunny August afternoon, I escaped for a stroll. The world had been clanging all around me; my mind wanted to flee. I thought I wanted to go somewhere far. Far from whom? I wasn’t sure. I ambled along houses that held stories within, until braided women eyed me with suspicion. I tried to make myself smaller, inconspicuous, non-existent. My soul walked along to reach the Garden of Eden.
The garden had playful squirrels chasing each other. I sat on a bench quietly and called back my body. After ‘a hundred years of solitude’, I felt whole again.
Story 3: The Garden of Eden
It was on an August afternoon that I discovered the Garden of Eden. It was quite a chance discovery, not something meant to be. I was walking alone, partly disillusioned, partly distracted, when the broken concrete of the nameless alley gave way to scattered patches of un-manicured grass. I looked up, distinctly conscious, for the breeze here smelt different. And spread before my eyes was a solemn island of green, complete with unloved flowers, papery butterflies and playful squirrels chasing each other. Murmurs of leaves drowned distant car horns.
It was on an August afternoon that I hugged myself back.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Ode to Solitude

Solitude, it were the crumbling nights of free fall when you had embraced me, 
And I saw beauty in the dark. 
Solitude, it were the restless half-dreams of a trust-less world 
Through which you had lulled me to sleep, 
And I found a friend in me. 
Solitude, have you traversed the ages to visit me again? 
Come, here I open my arms!

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Lazybone’s Gratitude

100 word story: Idiot celebrates the completion of her first jobless month
‘Personal-Room’ at it’s happiest

Idiot completes a month of joblessness.

“How do you feel today?” – She thrusts the mic at a mirror.

Idiot-In-Mirror: “Grateful.”

“To hubby, ‘coz he now has to make ends meet?”

“Na, to room… Personal-Room.”

Idiot gives a long hard stare to her counterpart. She should’ve seen it coming.

She ends up dusting, sweeping and mopping Personal-Room until the latter beams like Baby-Idiot fresh out of bath; every hair combed neatly into place. Gratitude, she muses, is powerful indeed. 

How else do you thank a good room that asks for nothing, but quietly stops the world from chomping up your thought-noodles?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Zombie on the Podium: The Prelude




“Thump… thump… thump… drump… DUMB… DUMB…”

My heart was lambasting me. I was standing alone on a podium. My school, sorted height wise into neat lines, stood staring at me.  I was supposed to say the ‘Message of the Day’ – ‘A sleeping fox catches no hen’, as assigned to me by Mrs. Kunar, our class teacher. What did it mean? What was so remarkable about someone not being able to sleep and catch someone else in parallel that it had to be announced to half and a quarter thousand boys and girls in the morning assembly? I wasn’t sure. What really mattered was that I had muttered the sentence under my breath all morning, and not once did it sound right. The accent sounded vernacular, the articulation crude. This was clearly not my job. And yet here I was, on my way to make a mockery of myself.

My heart was lambasting me. I ignored it, and uttered the words in haste. My school stood silent. I couldn’t look them in the eye, so I couldn’t gauge their expression. Did they hear it well? Should I repeat myself? Should I proceed straight to the school anthem? Did I remember the school anthem?

My heart was lambasting me audibly. I could’ve faked a stomach ache in the morning and missed school today. I could’ve collapsed on my way to the podium – acted unconscious for the next half an hour. I had wasted golden chances to escape this ignominy, and random words from the school anthem were now escaping my memory. The principal and the teachers stood behind the podium; I could hear them breathing. Their collective breaths pronounced their growing unhappiness with me, the class topper. I started singing the first line of the anthem and then lip-synced the rest of it along with the singing crowd. At the end of the assembly, Mrs. Kunar asked me whether my microphone had stopped working. I avoided her gaze and mumbled vague words.

I was in Class V then. In the next two decades of my academic and professional life, I would avoid almost every opportunity to face an audience. Exceptions would be few, far between and nauseous. My parents had me trained in music, and yet none of my school mates or colleagues would ever hear me singing solo. In chorus performances, I would position myself away from the microphone so that if any individual voice were to become too conspicuous, it would surely not be mine. Off periods in school would make my classmates cheerful and me wary, lest a replacement teacher should choose to pass his/her time by asking us to sing or recite. Knowledge transfer sessions in office where I was required to present would have me looking stiff and struggling to frame my sentences, and not because of lack of knowledge or experience. All these years, life and I have fancifully taken each other close to and away from triumphs and failures, love and betrayal; but my fear of public speaking has always hung around my neck – like a rock I’m married to for life.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to break this obnoxious bond. However the world I inhabited till some twenty days back was that of corporate professionals; and that’s a world where you often share your coffee break with smiling vampires. Would you want vampires hovering around your bed while your wounds get opened and operated upon? Nay!

For some time now, I’ve also wanted to reclaim my piece of the sky, where I could quietly work on myself, away from vampires and the unentertaining melee of regular cockfights. My current joblessness has helped me achieve that space.

Earlier this week, I called up some of the local Toastmasters’ clubs with an intention to join one of them. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Toastmasters is ‘a USA headquartered nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communicationpublic speaking, and leadership skills.’ (Source: Wikipedia). You could read more about them here.

You see, I’m finally ready to put myself out there, on the dreaded podium, and allow myself to stutter and mutter and forget my vocabulary in front of a live audience and bore them to death! I, a lost class topper of a long lost era, bring to myself the ignominy of failure so that I may try and take a step beyond it. Dear reader, would you wish me luck?


“And the only way to get rid of a shadow is to turn off the light. To stop running from the darkness and face what you fear, head on.” – Grey’s Anatomy 

Originally published in The Ascent

Friday, September 01, 2017

Red

Do you like me?

“Who are you? And why on earth should I like you?” – You may ask.

Well, I am red.

“Red?!  That too with a small ‘r’? Didn’t they teach you grammar at school? Are you prone to typo-s? Is this the new trend of writing one’s name? Are you a redhead? No? You must be red in anger then; or in shame or embarrassment; or…”

Come on, I’m the color red. Is it that hard to guess? I’m also the color she despises the most. And before you can drown me in another deluge of questions, let me tell you who ‘she’ is; I’m referring to the idiot who is writing this piece.

She has just let her heart triumph over her ever-cautious brain and quit from her stable job of seven years. To put it mildly, it wasn’t an easy victory. Her heart now wants to raise a toast to her new freedom and write; her brain, still seething, has chosen me as her write-up topic out of sheer spite. Do you now see why I call her the idiot?

At first, she thought of writing about child rapes. She contemplated imagining the unimaginable agony of the countless victims she reads about in the daily newspaper; the helpless, senseless, universe-drowning pain of those little girls whose tender body they rip apart; the inescapable thrusts, each of which push them closer to a death they don’t deserve. I shuddered and closed my eyes.

“It’s relevant.” – She said. “And it’s a matter that has been haunting me for some time now.”

She kept rambling about the topic in her attempt to win me over. Apparently, she wanted sociologists, psychologists, economists, criminologists, political scientists and every other ‘ist’ she could recall to come forward and examine the society with their magnifying glasses and find out where it’s going all wrong. “It’s brutally urgent!” - She claimed. “We need to stop all the brouhaha about outrageously small and fast gadgets, driver-less cars, fancy space tourism and what not, and focus on the critical aspects of human advancement.”

All that’s fine, I thought, but how could I let her write a piece that would have the blood of the purest souls dripping from it and call it ‘Red’? I cannot let my name be maligned so! Why, am I not the color of the Gulmohar’s elegance? Am I not the tint of the sunrise and the sunset? Am I not the hue of the throbbing life force that flows to and from every cell of your body all your life? Think, red is your core color, the truest of your many shades. I was there with you in the earliest days of your existence, when you were a tiny ball curled up in your mother’s womb, much before you acquired that amber, green or hazel of your enchanting iris or the black of your hair!

The idiot was visibly dejected at my noisy, and as per her, nosy intervention. She started thinking about a large, large sky colored in the rich red hues of sunset, and tried to set it as a backdrop for a pair of parting lovers saying their final adieu to each other. In an hour, she found the story-line juvenile and raised a melodramatic ruckus to which I was the sole hapless audience. When I tried to cheer her up, she pretended not to know me and went on with some banking and investment tasks with a look of stoic resignation.

On the next day, of course, she was back with her mouse hovering on the haggard looking MS Word draft. This time, she was shaping her fantasies around a not-so-young artist who had taken up his paintbrush after a cursed slumber of years. The artist had reasons to be angry with the world, but anger is an emotion he had not mastered well. So he wanted to unleash his aggression on his paper; he wanted to paint a picture in red, only red, and the most assaulting version of it – the scarlet red! But deep inside, our artist was essentially a soul who loved peace, rain, croaking frogs and the smell of sodden grass. Every picture he tried to create in his mind-canvas took the shape of a woman with uncombed hair and eyes of moist lily, or a landscape with soothing breeze and serene huts and trees and ponds with ducks in them, while his hand created ugly blotches of discordant red on his sheet of fine handmade paper. He wanted to die, at least for a moment.

There I intervened again. You see, your friend can’t see any good in me. Green reminds her not of jealousy but of playful squirrels chasing each other along the branches of large trees in the park where she goes for her morning jog. Melancholy is the literal synonym for blue, and yet the color reminds her of deep, somber depths of the ocean in a strangely respectful way. And red brings to her mind loud, attention-craving, garish, pompous folks who can’t but be at the center of the world. She would rather have them wiped out from the face of the earth.

“What can you do, being a mere color?” – You’re probably trying to reason with me by now. “Colors are helpless beings… without free will. Colors don’t chime, clink or jingle either in pain or protest. All you can do is beautify the world as per others’ whims. To take control of your fate is not a power the Almighty has bestowed on your lot, you see.”

Says who? For one, colors can hypnotize idiots and take control of keyboards and mice.  Who do you think wrote this piece, that morbid, miserable friend of yours?

And what do you think of the social media post she made the other day, with photos showing the entire family dressed in red? Why do you think she scanned two supermarkets looking for a tiny red bucket all through the last weekend? Clueless you are? Now listen me out; I’ve found my way into that twenty month old mushy brain of her son, you see, to the point that the kid keeps blabbering about objects being red, or ‘not red’! Catch ‘em young, they say!

Finally, did you see that half-read book laid by her side right now? Come on, look closer… see its name… “Orhan Pamuk?”… Na, that’s not the novel’s name…. look again… “My Name is Red”!!! Tadaaaa…!

Puny human, remember, hell hath no fury like a color scorned! And a color ALWAYS has its way!

Do you like me now?

...

Also published on Medium.