There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Babu-My Little Old Son

By Jaya Sarkar
Dubai, United Arab Emirates 

One needs to be truly blessed to get an opportunity to serve others, to do ‘seva’ (service) as they put it in India. One such small opportunity came my way and completely changed my view of life.
I am a Maharashtrian who met, fell in love with and married a Bengali who hails from a typical middle class family.
Abhas, my husband, is the youngest among his siblings with wide age gap between him and the rest. So, it was no surprise that he was pampered and given very little responsibility during his younger days!
Today, though Abhas and I have two sons, my husband remains the ‘little boy’ of the family. As it is said, growing up is mandatory but growing old is optional.
One day, basking in domestic bliss, I was watching the kids play when it occurred to me that soon the day would come when my sons would grow up, take up career and move away from home. The nest would be empty…
The thought suddenly made me nervous and weak…and my mother-in-law’s face flashed through my mind. Wouldn’t she have been feeling the same? After all, her most pampered son was thousands of miles away from her.
It was a moment of reckoning. I realized how difficult it is for a mother to let go of her children. Call it an epiphany but I realized why mothers feel so agonized when children leave home to start their own lives.
There is a popular saying in India: ‘Whenever you wake up and think it’s a dawn, start the day’.
I shared my thoughts with Abhas later that evening and his first response was to pack his bags to go to Jamshedpur (in India where his parents lived)’ “I am bringing Babu and Ma home,” he said. At that time we were staying in Indore (in Maddya Pradesh). Babu, as my father-in-law was affectionately called at that time was retired from Telco (Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company).
I know that the difference in our life styles would entail a big adjustment from my side but the voice in me could not be stilled. I was willing to compromise anything to enable them to come and stay with their ‘little baby’.
Having learnt Bengali well, communication was never a barrier. My in-laws are extremely accommodating people and we had developed a great fondness over a decade long association. I think that when a woman visits her husband’s house, both parties are at their best because the stay is short and temporary. The real adjustment comes when they begin to live together for a long time, if not permanently.
Although, Babu was 82 year old and Ma was 72 then, they were in good health; Babu was quite hesitant about the long train journey as he had severe urinary problems. He was suffering from an enlargement of the prostate gland for over 17 years. But he had been living with the problem and, being a homeopath, he was not in favour of surgical intervention. His health problem was one of he reasons he preferred not to travel.
In Indore, I was working as a teacher in Choithram School. Choithram also had a hospital. Being in the same organization, all the doctors were known to me personally as their children were studying in the same school where I was teaching. The urologist at Choithram hospital was one Dr. Thatte and as my in- laws were to be staying with my family for some time, I consulted Dr. Thatte about Babu’s health problem. He told me that if a patient has not major health issues, age is not the constraint for surgery. He recommended laser surgery which in 1995 was an advanced medical technique.
I told my eldest brother-in-law and his wife about Dr. Thatte’s opinion. They placed complete trust on me and convinced Ma and Babu to come to Indore.
My excitement knew no limits. My housekeeping skills reach their pinnacle in anticipation of their arrival. I made sure everything was done to ensure their comfort. I topped up the fridge and larder with their favourite foods, learnt a few typically Bengali dishes from my Bengali friends and also learnt how to make ‘roshogulla’ (after a few disastrously messy attempts)- a sweet Bengalis love with unmatched passion.
My boys were given a thousand instructions-repeatedly-on what to say, wwhat not to say, how much to talk and how much not to. I threatened them with dire consequences if they so much as even hinted at the quarrels between Abhas and me. Poster boys for good behavior, they gave me assurances provided there was a bribe in it for them.
The time was drawing near…
There was nobody in town who was not informed about Babu and Ma’s arrival. From neighbours to colleagues, house helps to watchmen, vegetable vendors to the postman..i made sure the whole world knew about in. in fact, the world seems too small to place to share the new with.
You see Babu and Ma have always been very special, kind, gentle wise and utterly lovable parents every child would want to have. Even though we lived away from them, Abhas and I always spoke about them..Their likes and dislikes, hobbies, interest, everything used to be discussed with our kids. To me this was such a simple way of keeping their grandparents close to their hearts. Deprived of the presence of grandparents, this was my way of compensating for it. I personally believe that there is nothing so enriching and beautiful than growing up under the loving gaze of one’s grandparents.
And then came the day. Babu and Ma came home.
I was overwhelmed. The kids were overjoyed. The house was suffused with euphoria.
A week passed in a wink. The routing was different but we adjusted to it like fish to water. Abhas was extremely busy after his ‘unexpected personal leave’ and work pressures kept him occupied. I used to take Babu to the hospital which was 10km away from home. These trips enabled me to gain Babu’s confidence. I took him to Dr Thatte. He recommended a series of tests. All the tests revealed that thanks to his disciplined life styles, Babu was in great shape. This gave him so much confidence, he beamed with pride. rOther than his prostrate problem, he was in perfect health. However, due to age, his cataract had matured. So the surgeons decided to first remove the cataract before performing the prostrate surgery.
The cataract operation was a minor surgery. Post surgery and some rest, Babu did not require wearing spectacles. This boosted his morale.
Now came the time for the prostrate surgery, something he has been postponing from many years. The doctors advised that he should be admitted to the hospital a day prior to the surgery. That morning, I found Babu very restless. I put it down to the normal restlessness that comes with a surgery looming ahead. I went to school and returned home at 3:45 pm. The kids were taking their afternoon nap and I lay down next to them.
Suddenly, I realized a strange thing was happening. Droplets of water seemed to be falling on my hands. Surprised, my eyes flew open only to see Babu, my father-in-law, sitting on the floor by my bed and silently weeping.
I froze in deep shock. This gentle, wonderful man, who had always been a pillar of strength, was now, pushing aside all his orthodoxy, holding my hands, putting his face in my palms and weeping. “I am now in your hands,” he said, through his tears. “The after tomorrow is my surgery and I know you will there with me. During that period, you might see me in many odd conditions and you would be required to perform certain tasks… I lost my mother some 45 years back but today, I find glimpses of her in you. From now you have three sons. I am probably the youngest. So ‘Ma’ (mother) I surrender myself to you”.
It was an unforgettably heart wrenching moments for me. I felt such an intense outburst of emotion seeing Babu the mighty member of the house surrendering himself to me like a little helpless baby. But with a composure that came from God knows where, I gathered myself, sat next to him on the floor and comforted him as though he were a small child.
After achieving the status of motherhood, I had always felt so honoured. But this day, seeing my father-in-law in such a vulnerable state and conferring upon me a status so high and humbling at the same time, I felt special and utterly blessed.
The next morning Abhas and the kids left for work and school respectively. Ma performed special prayers I packed a bag for my overnight stay at the hospital. Holding Babu’s hands I was walking towards the door when Ma came towards me and with misty eyes and a clear commanding voice said: “The ways you are taking him to the hospital is the same way I would want you to bring my husband back to me-safe and sound”. A jolt of electricity ran down my spine. I felt weak, nervous, but determined. I hugged her tightly and with a sense that I was now the mother of five in that household, walked out of the door holding on to Babu’s hands.
The surgery took five hours… five hours of nervousness, anxiety and apprehension. Dr Thatte emerged from the operation theater and his big smile said it all. “Mr. Sarkar Senior (Babu) is a very cooperative patient. He is doing fine and will be shifted to his room in the evening”.
I managed to take a few days leave from school to be with him during his post operative care.
For me the hospital had become an extension of home. I used to go home only for a few hours in the evening to see the kids. I was doing everything for Babu right from administering medicines, sponging him changing his operation robes… Initially I sensed a great awkwardness on his part; after all he had spent his entire life being self dependent. Yet, in a few days’ time, it was my turns to feel overjoyed again as I sensed him acquire a certain level of comfort with me.
Once again, I counted my blessings. The hospital stay has bounded us in a way all the years before had not.
Otherwise a very and composed and quiet person (having had to maintain the status of a senior member of the family) he had to learn the to conceal the child in him for decades.
This was his time to let that child out. He would laugh and regale me with jokes, tell me about his naughty pranks of his childhood, of how he met Ma and promptly fell in love with her, how he persuaded her parents to allow them to get married…
He told me his first job in Telco, his first interaction with Mr. J R D Tata…
 I was enriched in a way that is indescribable. He was a found to knowledge. We spend time well-he teaching and I learning- Sanskrit verses, English and Bengali proverb, idioms, short stories, poems… He made me learn the names of all the seven forefathers of our family tree. His eyes shone with childlike luminosity through all this.
Eventually, Babu’s erudition drew doctors and staff who were not even on his treatment rota to his room.
On the seventh day, his catheter was removed. In the afternoon I fell asleep while reading a book. I suddenly woke up with a jerk hearing Babu’s desperate voice calling me. I rushed to the washroom attached to the room and found him urinating like a normal man without any extra effort as he used to make to do so before operation. Like a small kid he said, “Look at the flow, I have not seen it from over 17 years. His joy knew no bounds, he was cured, and he was free. There was no awkwardness no odd feel. I came out and then he came out from the bathroom and lied down on the bed. Tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks and he said, “Giving you my mother’s status, I have eased my burden from my heart or else I would have survived the surgery but could have died of a shame and utter embarrassment. Misty-eyed I held his face in my hands and smoothed back his silver hair. Babu ‘ my little old son’ was well and all was going to be well.
He was discharged from the hospital the next day. When people knew we are going home, they all gathered to see us off. The Thatte opened the door of the car and said to me, “Drive safely, he is my special patient”. We felt so humble by the abundance of love.
The world is still a beautiful place to live in; all we need is the will to communicate heart to heart. We all have Babus and Mas in our families. They all need us.
Let’s play role reversal. I played it, loved it, was humbled, enriched and moved by every minute of it. One life is just not enough to spread the abundance of love God has blessed us with.
When we reached home, the kids and Ma were waiting for us eagerly. I handed over Babu’s hands to her and said, “I brought him back for you. One day, you handed over your son to me. Today, I have handed over mine to you. Now we have no more dues to pay each other”! 

Cloak of Anonymity

By Chaitali Sinha
Dehradun, India

I have this online friend of mine. I know him very well.
We started our first conversation on farting and puking - and our mutual appreciation of both important mechanisms, on January 27, 2007. Looking back over our eloquent talks, "LOL, :P, :D, hahahaha" were our favorite fillers. We eagerly shared all our Youtube links, and my knowledge of music quickly grew to include Porcupine Tree and the Fray. We learnt to have pillow fights with "-smacks-" and "-throws-" and I quickly realized India is considered a poor country, really. 
He was from the UK, you see. So one day, we would be discussing the finer points of Rene Descartes' while on most days, I would suggest different hair color experimentation. He would explain to me, it was okay to drink at 16, and shake his head in wonder when I explained our oft-odd rituals.
He wanted to be a writer, eventually. We used to discuss, disseminate and analyze each other's works. 
X : "No waii!"
Me: ":O"
X: ":D"
Our conversations were enlightening, in the least. One would think, if you talk to the same person for two years or more, you would know him, right? Right?
I don't know. Salinger, Jane Eyre mention superficiality in eras not replete with iPods, Macs or the Internet. ( God, how did they survive...? )
Well, he was nice enough. He made me laugh at times. I got into the habit of saying, "lol" aloud. I guess, in most ways, even honest. He shared details with me, most of his real friends or boyfriends did not know.
I'm assuming he noticed that it would be hard for me to travel 10,000 miles or more, knock on his door and let slip his little secrets.
I would giggle and say, "Ooh, did you know he was the one who spilt the wine on your white bear rug, Claire?"
I would term it "inter-ficiality." No, that doesn't make any sense. "Anony-ficiality"? Closer.
Our bond didn't develop due to mutual interests in Linkin Park, Descartes or snot alone - but the fact that I was too far away to shake and rattle his life, the stable rhythms of his time with my new-found knowledge.
He could even imagine stuff and tell me. I didn't need evidence to believe he went to meet Chester Bennington last night, but hey, it could be true. Hey, he could dream.
He died a week ago.
His mom got his Messenger acct. from the whole "next of kin" thing. I'm not sure how that works. Anyway, she came online, and she gave me the biggest shock of my life.
He didn't have any goddamn red hair.
He was my online friend. I didn't know him at all.

Monday, January 18, 2010


By Anima Dey
Bangkok, Thailand

This is about me, Sophie – the “Day Dreamer” as all my hostel friends called me. Well I didn’t know then where all those dreams my eyes wove belonged! But I had read that the greatest need of every human is the need to belong and now as I pen this for you, I know where I belonged and by the end of this story you’d have believed it too. As I walked the aisle that stormy night hand in hand with my Stan, my soul-mate, fate had crafted my reasons and the need to belong already. We couldn’t take our eyes off each other as the fingers held the ink that etched our togetherness and knit our souls forever. There was complete silence between us, Silence - not because we were bored of each other, we were confident of our mutual respect for each other. “Most of the times my words had conveyed that I wanted to make Stan my soul-mate, and that day my silence meant that I accepted him already as being one.”
Stan’s heartbeat transcended and lo! It met mine, and ominous black clouds screeched, the registrar pronounced us couple, and we were now bound, yet free to walk our destined path. Air breathed raging passion, wind crooned a mellifluous suspense and thunder stilled a moment in hand. We called for a taxi and headed straight to the hotel room. I wasn’t alone yet why didn’t the heart believe in the togetherness of that moment? I had this anxiety running through my mind, between what was and what could be. Of course it meant I wanted to control the future, the line of frown on forehead was a proof of the recognition of my compelling desire to carve my future and the over anxiety in my mind was a seal to the acceptance that I can’t control it. Stan believed nothing will mean tomorrow what it did today, as meaning changes with the context. He felt it was enough that we make a difference to each other today. Well, my Stan was my belief and my faith and my only reason to live in the world. I believed that I was not responsible for my feelings, but definitely responsible for what I did with it. I brushed my cheeks on his shoulders, and let off all that anxiety. Taxi was in motion and so was my mind.
 After all, this was what we had planned for past couple of years. Stan’s childhood had bloomed into adulthood in a conservative educated middle class Indian family and he was the youngest of the siblings. All his siblings were settled across the globe and remained well connected. His parents were adorably simple and highly educated. Mom was a house wife and father was retired government servant. They had built their cozy family house already and his parents often lived in oblivion that Stan will choose to live together and raise his family living with them. They were of course very community conscience, thus proposals for Stan trickled from marriage bureau every now and then. He was very handsome boy muscular and tall, curly hair, soft, and expressive eyes and artistic long fingers. He had a flawless wheat complexion that gleamed of his love for me and I felt so soulfully in sync with his shadow. But the best part was that he was more in love with me than I was. I so desired to be the one to love him more than he did , but he never gave me an opportunity to love him more than he did love me, he just took all trickling moments to shower me with his love one can only dream of.
In contrast to Stan I belonged to a very rich and influential American Indian family with my parents having soaring aspirations for my future. Their dream and reality meant that I graduate in India after American high school, learn about the Indian culture that they felt they could not imbibe if I continued to grow with them in America, then get back to them so they could have me married to another rich American Indian boy, who would care less about my being so well accustomed to both cultures. I could never shred walls of their whims of high society norms and hollow expectations. They had drilled and voiced their desire to have me married to a business tycoon so I could live with all material comforts I grew up with. Yet I often doubted, was I really meant to be born to them, I believed that god had mixed up something here definitely. Despite all this I had been very clear about my partner. All wealth and charm on one scale and Stan on the other would outweigh all the world’s riches and social whims. Right then, Taxi stopped and the man turned back to ask us for money. Stan parted with a few hard earned rupees, and we walked into the Lobby.
 Mating souls impeding obstacles unseen, blissful silence, quivering touch where would the final destination be? We had cherished every dance together and every trophy we won had carved a silver lining, yet there was inveterate loneliness dancing at every heart beat. Elevator door opened and we walked hesitantly to our room. Door closed, our eyes met, lust fret, and moment stood still. A blessed moment yet our feet struggled to the rhythm and trembling hands lost the grip to hold on tight. We sat at the edge of shame & lust, one bed for the first time with our bodies shivering to unite forever, our trembling hands gently caressing each other, wanting to feel the ripples in that sea of passion that lay between our love that night. A moment of deep silence awaited the sound of our breath. Heavens humming - “Take my breath away……..”. We waited for the storms inside to subside lest the passion would loose bounds and the world would fathom our love. We chose to hold on to that quiet moment for a while. After all mind lives in what it sees.
 I finally broke loose, my tear journeyed my eyes & found an anchor on Stan’s lips. His hands reached my neck, fingers caressed my body, and I could not hold on to my hunger. The kiss oozing of passion, the touch brimming with lust, just love had the space between and nothing else. Our night was consumed by the lust of our desire to unite our souls as our bodies had united. It had never been so beautiful and I felt a complete woman as we made first love the entire night. I had always felt so sure of life and every challenge in life seemed fluid when I was with Stan. Stan absorbed every breath of me and voiced my mind before I could even utter any word. I had barely felt the need to voice my fears and doubts. His undying support & understanding parried between life’s hurdles & our journey of love together. We both spent that night in each other’s arms making love like never before and didn’t realize when dreams paved their way in. Morning dawned with a knock on the door; Stan’s friend was standing with bed tea for the two of us. This day would by far be the most crucial day of our lives, as we’d candor our alliance to Stan’s parents. A brief and heartfelt Thank you quickly bade adieu. Stan’s friend had been an absolute gentleman for the night’s arrangement. And now we were, finally fathoming into our reality.
 As we stood on the huge entrance of Stan’s house our heart beats perched to skies, the sound of air around was deafening, fear was pounding with every breath. With an awkward hesitation we rang the door bell, Stan’s mother opened the door, dad was behind her and much to our shock they didn’t seem flabbergasted at all. I hesitated to broaden the corners of my lips and in a smack she took us in her warm embrace congratulating us with her shivering and cold palms. They felt emotional and I was absolutely awed, as Stan stood choked. She let us in as the maid put our luggage in Stan’s room. They both posed so normal that the suspense was now shrilling the fear. How on earth could this ever happen? Stan very hesitatingly queried the reason for their earlier disapproval of this marriage, but mom explained in less than two sentences –“Plans we make in our life eliminate discontent by promising us change, but ironically it’s only OUR decision to imagine a different future, if we had to follow this rigid plan we would only block our own connection with people we love!”  I was sure by now that forgiveness is the willingness to begin afresh, and guilt only signifies the love of staying stuck. A second before she was an object we feared and now she is like a god with feelings of love for us with whom we felt protected. Truly there was no absolute for something as relative as a mother; there can’t be rules for something as gentle as a heart of a mother. However as for that moment the acceptance and first breakfast with family had relieved much of the tension we had both been through in the past couple of months.
 Stan was quite settled in his job, and I had an offer to teach dance in the local dance studio alongside freelancing my designs to a fashion boutique. Since mine was a part time job I was able to strike good balance between my life at home, with friends, Stan and family. Most evenings when I would teach late Stan would wait outside the studio and after the last class, as my lessons would end, and my student would leave, Stan would play our favorite song and have the last dance as if it were our first. In those days every dance was like the first dance. Between our soul’s lay just two steps, I’d take the first step and in an instant my love would take the next and the union was complete. Our love wasn’t a substance of theology but significance itself. We could both listen to our inner rhythm of being. I had realized that once in awhile even in ordinary people’s lives it happens.  We knew those few moments when suddenly one day we woke up in the morning and everything seemed to fit in perfectly. The birds were singing, the air was fresh, the sun was rising, all seemed quiet. That’s when I believed, whenever we fall in harmony with ourselves, we fall in harmony with our existence too, if all the  inner conflict disappears even for a single moment then in that moment we are one, consumed by love. We knew the glory and splendor of our life; each step we danced together.
 Just as life was dancing by, a moment of fated negligence changed the course of life that left us no earth to step onto. A still in the night, no breeze, no movement & a menacing silence filled in. I finished my last session with my students and Stan was waiting outside the studio as always. Slowly one by one all my students left & Stan played our music, he pulled me closer & held me, but something was different, his looks pale, his eyes drooping, his touch shivering, and his passion receding. His eyes met mine, and yet the magic didn’t happen, hints of passion deflecting in coy glances, I was worried he had never missed his beats and his eyes never failed to stare at me giving me weak knees every time we danced. Suddenly Stan fell in my arms, his body cold and numb. I held him gently and put him on floor. He had a blank out. I squeaked in a nervous rage, the guard ran in with some water, we splashed some water on his face and as he regained, he still complaint of feeling weak and was unable to hold himself stiff. I rushed to call dad and in few minutes Stan was with our family Doc. Dad and Mom were clam and serene, to my dismay. I just could not understand how his parents could stay so clam in the gravest of moments and there was not a frown on their foreheads.
 The doctor took his time examining and then expressed the desire to talk to me and Stan alone. Dad didn’t look very pleased but co-operated as I insisted I go by wishes of the doc. The Doc stared at us and in a very grimly & trembling voice cracking in between, explained the reasons for Stan’s fall, we were now a couple and so I held the right to know facts. The entire world crashed in for me in one second, when my ears heard him say that Stan was born with a rare birth anomaly that would grow worse with age. His bones would degenerate with time and dissolve; chances were he’d often feel weak and numb for a few seconds and then regain himself back. It’s not sure what part of his body would suffer this adversity first. He had it couple of times when he was in school and his parents were in complete knowledge of Stan’s uncertain future. Although after that he was kept on medication for sometime, there was no routine medication or permanent cure for this, it was a rare disease that one in a thousand could get, and Stan just happened to be one of them. I died a million deaths in that one second, WHY my Stan? If he was the chosen one, why chosen for this? I knew then why his parents resisted our marriage and why they accepted it with equal dignity.
 Stan was mum, my eyes met his. He was calm like never before. He held me close in his blink, and it didn’t take my heart a beat to know what I had to do. No science could demystify our life, to science love is just chemistry, but the grandeur and splendor of our love could not have been reduced to one answer. Our mind lived in what it saw or heard. Mom and Dad explained that in that moment fear was neither an intelligence we wished would lead us, nor was it a sin. We couldn’t still our fearful thoughts, but we could always bring into focus the thoughts of stillness and our love. Yet, between our hearts fear was the static at that moment, prevented us from hearing to our intuition. Anxiety paved a run, there was an image a thought at the corner of our minds and we didn’t want to eye it, just like a child closing eyes as it sees the ball come towards it.  Yet awareness needed a free mind. Our inadequacy awaited a description of the fateful reality of our present. I knew why god chose me to belong to him, and him to belong to me.
 I called my parents and as I disclosed the news finally they got the shock of their lives, as they had believed I was still doing my internship and will return back to them once completed. Given the circumstances they decided to fly down immediately. That week felt like a lifetime of wait. It was so hard for me to see my mother in front of me, I coupled her emotions to my present, realized what she’d have felt without me, how could I live without my Stan Ma? I left my whole world Ma, to belong to him, who would hold me & Dance a lifetime when he’s gone Ma? As she held me close, I sobbed in her arms for hours, our tears met on the way and her tears absorbed all of mine, the moment taught me, I was her weakness but she was always my strength.
 They accepted my fate & what I was destined to live, and why not; after all our life was half way through creating a history. My parents lived with us for a few weeks, living a hundred lifetime’s pleasure in that destined togetherness. They did their best to conceal their hurts and applauded my efforts to live brave. In a few weeks after spending emotional moments with everyone they left thanking Stan’s parents for being considerate and promised to keep in touch with us always. They even insisted we accompany them to USA to get some treatment from best of doctors. We were all open to this idea but it was a very tough decision to make and time was the only solution.
 As time passed Stan’s condition worsened slowly, He often worked from home when he felt up to it, and dad always brought him to the studio when I had my late evening sessions with my students. He would drop Stan so I could play the music we danced on always and Stan would watch me dance. His toes tapping to every beat, his hands reaching out to hold me, his breath feeling my heart beat, his tears melting with my sweat, his eyes drowning in my passion, his lips waiting to caress my tender hands & his body trembling in the sheer joy of my moves. Not a soul stood between us, when I danced for him those nights.
 I was so proud to belong to Stan, and my life became an inspiration for many of my friends, who could ne’er have imagined how a girl like me could live this through. I can’t say who was blessed, I believe the love was blessed, and I was where I rightly belonged. After all who needed me more than Stan? At the end of my dance he’d always whisper to me “Sophie, I am your night; I will fade into the arms of the morning for you to wade.”  Oh! Stan, “Please stay - Let me Belong to you just a little longer!”

 When you call me yours
There’s a feeling of pride
Every dance we dance lures
As our souls glide

At your tender glance
The world curls closer
As every careless trance
Turns an inveterate loser

Every word you utter
Holds an assuring sound
Every smile you litter
In your love is bound

You encompass the world
Of content around you
Where I yearn to be curled
Through your eyes view
Night break the seal
& through your hands feel
The early morning dew! 

Enazoree (The Assamese word for An Invisible Bond)

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA

Read the word a couple of months ago I think, chanced upon it again in a different context today and refreshed the meaning in my mind - "an invisible bond" a few references on the web said... and a friend I know confirmed.. made me smile.
 Some of the most beautiful things in life are inexplicable, like the sunrise from an airplane, or the sound of waves crashing on the shore, or a little baby's giggle, the crackle of a warm fireplace, the sound of dewdrops falling from leaves, the warmth of the summer sun after a long cold winter... poems, sonnets, and literary treatise have been written about such phenomenon and more. It is a challenge for people like me to express the unexpressed in words, to capture in all within one's grasp to fathom it, to perceive the tangible...
 With you it's different now and somehow I like the change. You make me want to aspire for something I have never given a chance... SILENCE...
 You make me want to perceive the silence, the absence, the unknown, and make me look for meaning in the have-nots, the seeming gaps, the unsaid words. You find meaning in all this by not looking for it. You don't seek conclusions out, you let them evolve, you grow with the process.
 You teach me how to not get lost in the quagmire of the day to day and instead look for the beauty in the complete picture. The light, the dark, the greys, the reds, all mesh into a plethora of hues that cannot be described anymore. Life itself looks more real, not more or less beautiful or happy.. just real. And that can never be a bad thing right?
 I don't know who you are at times and at times you are inseparable from my core. I have given up wanting to define what we share, because I realize I cannot. I don't know if I love you, because even love seems confining in boundaries of what I feel for you. I have stopped looking for answers because there are no more questions. I know I will falter, slip, but I know each time, it will get easier for me to get up.
 I feel like a child at times with you as I rediscover things about myself and life that I could only try to describe in words, but maybe never really felt. The heady romanticism was all it was about.. the sensuality, the tangible beauty. Somehow I find myself wanting more than that... wanting to find my peace not in you, with you or without you..but in this solitary space within myself.. where you are omnipresent, always real.
 There is no definition to what we share, there never was.. and today I don't even want it. I don't want to lose myself in you because, you enable me to find myself a little bit more each day. Am feeling this unique sense of freedom today where all the strings I had that tied you down are gradually coming off and it is like I am setting myself free and you too in the process. It is not a goodbye nor is it a reaffirmation of unsaid vows. It is the most amazing feeling of knowing, your soul lies within you and with it.... what you share.. can never be fathomed.. because it is and will forever remain...................

Friday, January 15, 2010

Akaash, Our Boundless Sky

By Ananya Mukherjee

Kis kis ko bataayenge judaai kaa sabab hum
Tu mujhse khafaa hai to zamaane kay liye aa
(Who else must I explain the reason of separation

Come, despite your displeasure, to continue the ceremony)

An alarm screeches loud and clear through the silence of the night. Thirty minutes past four. Half asleep, my hands reach out to stop the annoying buzz of the black and gold clock ticking on my bedside table. Obviously, I don't mean to wake the whole neighborhood up, not at least at this hour. Fifteen minutes later, I slowly drag myself out of bed. It's difficult to part with the comforts of the soft cushions, blankets and a warm bed, especially on a late autumn dawn such as this one, but I manage to put on my sportswear, a warm jacket, track shoes and head out of home. 
I have been living in isolation for a couple of years now. Tired of the recklessness of urban corporate and social life, I have deliberately decided to move out of relationships and everything else that was once tied to my name and chosen to live my own life in this tiny hill-station up in the Himalayas. Far away from the dispensable luxuries of being known, I have consciously opted to close myself to faces and names I was once familiar with. Instead, I have opened myself up to the unknown, to explore and welcome the unfamiliar and rediscover my own self in the entire process, an intentional stance towards self actualization through the art of elimination. In Indian philosophy, we call it the third cycle of life, Vanaprastha or the preparation period before complete renunciation. They say, the life of a man is divided into four asramas or orders—Bramhacharya (preparation for domestic life), Grihastya (domestic duty), Vanaprastha (preparation for asceticism) and Sanyasa (monastic duty).  It is interesting to note how our ancestors had foreseen the stressful temperament of our modern lives and therefore, had prescribed individuals to adapt themselves with the changing requirements of time.       
No, it is not a physical or emotional abstinence that I am talking about for myself when I align my decision of isolated living to the age-old concept of Vanaprastha, only a preparation perhaps. I haven't given up on everything to live the life of a hermit. I still read and write for a living, still enjoy my evening drink over a forgotten ghazal, and still hopelessly fall in love with babies, flowers, music, rains and sunsets. It's just that true to my name, I have made this unique decision to call it quits while I am still young and beautiful, and opted to live a small part of my life just for myself. Just traveling light with no extra baggage, as I call it!
 This morning, I decide to take the road less traveled. This one in particular, is a favorite of mine. Meandering uphill to almost touch the sky, it's camouflaged by thick deodar and pine trees and lined up with bushy musk roses. The end of this winding stretch rolls down to a seemingly endless cul-de-sac, a metaphor of my own life, I feel. Every time I stroll by this route, I end up walking up right till the edge of this inestimable little road-to nowhere and spend an hour or so looking at the glowing dawn across the valley. Despite being repetitive, it is always a delightfully amazing sight every day, as the sun shears its way through the dark curtains of the night sky with a master stroke and creates a riot of colors; bold, distinct flashes of vermillion, blue, magenta and scarlet spill generously over the valley in a rich abundance.

 Not many locals from the town or the villages at the foothills come here. It's also an area where the Army has wired the territory and put up a rusty board that says, "Prohibited area. Trespassers will be prosecuted." However, no one has ever stopped me from watching the sunrise and invoking my energy and positivism from the majestic beginning of the day.
It’s late October and a little cold this morning. Usually, the wind from the north gets this chill by mid-November, but I can already feel the nip in the air as I jog through the mist along the path strewn with dried fallen leaves and early morning dewdrops. The air feels young and fresh and laced with fragrances of wild flowers. For an insomniac who has never been a “morning person”, I feel good that I have been able to discipline my wild self to come out and jog at this hour.
 As I take the last turn to my little private haven, the end of the road, I see the shadow of a man standing exactly in the same place where I am heading to be. A little upset about someone else raiding my privacy, I am also curious about my strange intruder. Who can that be? No one comes here. Maybe a young army officer who has just come to check his territorial rights! Or possibly he’s an over-enthusiastic tourist! Clearly, I am unhappy to be robbed off my little space. Anyway, as headstrong as I am, I decide to march on and find out for myself who this odd man can be.
Just when I am close enough to be heard, my intruder turns around. Draped in a thick jacket over a pair of somewhat tattered denims atypical of travelers, and armed with a camera and huge lenses, he hardly looks intimidating. Probably a lover of nature like me, who's also out here to capture the first rays of the sun across the valley, I tell myself. The stranger looks back at me with as much skepticism, I must admit. And then….time stops.
Beneath those layers of unfamiliar expressions against an unforeseen, unplanned backdrop, I see a face—yours.

For a moment, I am transported to another world, rewinding by years, through a tunnel of memories, enameled by snapshots from a celluloid dream. Frames move back into the past by years, months, weeks, and I stand numbed by the presence of the present.
You probably don't recognize me at the first glance. Time has faded out the images of a relationship that once grew around a few hundred songs and poems, everyday giggles, grins and gripe, conversations that started from the sunshine and winded up with the starlight, enough to leave behind timeless impressions; yet too little to hold back the hands of the clock. The lyrics of a long-forgotten poem, one that used to be one of our favorites, flashes on my mind…

Ek umr se hoon lazzat-e-giryaa se bhi mehruum
Aye raahat-e-jaan mujh ko rulaane ke liye aa
(Too long have I been deprived of the pathos of longing;

Come my love, if only to make me weep again)

How many times I had rehearsed this scene before! In my moments of complete isolation, where unchained thoughts overflowed beyond social prescriptions, I had imagined seeing you again and again. But right now, am faced with the biggest dilemma—should I tell you who I am or should I just turn back and walk away, and leave you to think that it is just another intruder raiding your private moments? Do I stand there transfixed and not tell you how I have missed you all my life and that my world never seemed the same after you were gone? Do I refrain from the truth that I am still hopelessly miserably in love with that memory that we called “us’”?

Pehle se maraasim na sahi phir bhi kabhi to
Rasm-o-rahe duniya hi nibhaane ke liye aa
If not for our past association
Come to fulfill the rituals of the world)

I hear myself silently reciting some of your favorite lines again. You would’ve probably hummed it out if you were in my place at this very moment. 
Don't ask me what I do next. All I can think now is a picture frame from the night that follows the dawn and the day. The fog outside my window is dense and I am home, sitting at my desk in the soft lights of a lamp, writing something. It's a poem and it's called "Akaash" (the sky), the name we had hoped we would use one day to christen our child who never saw the light of the world. He lived in our dreams while we were together and faded into our memories after we parted. And now, even that was so long ago, the memory had gathered a veil of dust.   
Yet, in another frame, I can see that the mist has cleared and a clear starlit night envelops the entire valley like a black zardosi scroll. I can also hear Louis Armstrong crooning “What a wonderful world” across my candle-lit living room. The house feels alive after a long phase of hibernation, and sitting close on a low settee, next to a huge crystal vase full of freshly-picked white lilies, I can see us singing along, talking, laughing, crying, kissing all at the same time, holding on to the moment, holding on to ‘us’, like there is no tomorrow…
 My favorite author Paulo Coelho had told me once….”Let love be the guiding light of your life”. In this timeless, placeless destination, unprepared and unarmed as we sit, I see that spark of life glowing in you, I see the stars shining in your eyes and I tell myself, how can I not fly free, high, above and beyond the limitations of lines,  when you are the wind beneath my wings?

Yes, I see that light guiding us once again and enlightened as I sit with the knowledge of the truth, I drop all my guards and admit, I have found my boundless sky, my unlimited freedom to live, love and laugh, my unconstrained luxury to be imperfect, silly or just plain stupid, my space to be myself …I have finally found our sky, our “Akaash”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Buddhijibi"--The Wise One??

By Shoumik Das
Kolkata, India

I have been wondering these days....wondering about a word which perplexes me as much as it humours me. Although I am not sure as to who originally coined this particular word, yet I am sure that we are all aware of this tiny cluster of alphabets which has been made quite popular by all forms of media over the last couple of years. I am talking about the term, "Buddhijibi". It might be that I am too insignificant and ignorant a person to comment on this, but I would really appreciate if someone could help me understand the meaning of this word and "whom" we try to address by this. Most of us are not aware of how this word has sneaked into our vocabulary, but I am certain that most of us, if not all, invariably use this term whenever we are in the midst of political enlightenment.

But what exactly do we mean and whom do we refer to, when we say "Buddhijibi" ? Do we refer to our celebs or do we refer to our authors and musicians ? Do we refer to our dramatists or do we refer to our philosophers ? As far as I can remember, this word had stirred up quite a storm during the Nandigram/Singur episode in Bengal and rightly so. The influence of our "Buddhijibis" in bringing about the winds of change has been paramount and they have had an important role to play in redefining the socio-political environment of our state. But I have often wondered if it has really been appropriate to address these people as "Buddhijibis". What exactly does this term mean ? To me, it would sound like someone who is "wise" and "knowledgeable" about the topic being discussed; a person who has sufficient "expertise" and "experience" in the field in which he/she has been requested to comment. But as far as I can recollect, I have rarely seen any engineer, doctor or professional manager comment on these issues on TV or in any other form of media.

The whole issue regarding the setting up of a small-car factory at Singur has been greatly debated on television and various opinions have been placed regarding the exact land-requirements of the project, and the "majority" of the people who have presented their "expert" opinion regarding the same, either bear allegiance to some political party (left, right or centre) or hail from the field of literature or the fine arts. What surprises me most is that this is a technical question and only technical people should be consulted to provide their "relevant" opinion about this sensitive issue. But I have never seen any television interview on any of our popular (and sometimes biased) news channels involving people from a technical or scientific background. Are technical people not wise enough, or do they lack emotions ? I do not have anything personal against any profession neither do I swear allegiance to any political party - I am just an ordinary individual trying to make sense out of the comments made by our not-so-ordinary "Buddhijibis". Whenever a production unit is set up, there are a lot of parameters which have to be taken into consideration. It requires a complete analytical analysis of the supply chain and the output potential in order to determine how much land would be necessary for an auto project, and it is also not necessary that every auto-project in India would have the same requirements. It depends upon the technology being used and the business process being adopted. It is not the forte of some painter, singer, author, journalist or politician to comment on the technical requirements. But, unfortunately, so far we have only witnessed "Buddhijibis" making somewhat irresponsible statements on mass media without understanding its feasibility.

As I have already mentioned, I do not wish to offend any profession, but it is high time that we assign the right responsibilities to the right people. Celebs and people from the fine arts have done an incredible job in generating an unprecedented political awareness among the masses. This is worthy of a standing ovation and deserves the highest praise. They have provided us the courage to stand upright and vote for our own future. They have empowered us to dream that even Bengal can attain "11% GDP growth" like our "neighbours", but in the process, it appears that they have also empowered themselves to interfere and comment on almost every social and political issue. This is not desirable. I think it would be better if our brothers and sisters from the media could interview people with relevant knowledge about a particular topic, rather than selecting them purely on the basis of popularity and mass appeal.

It is very important that our social leaders have the necessary EQ, but it would really not be advisable to ignore IQ. Correct me if I am wrong......