Friday, December 18, 2015

Come to Me

You ring in my mind
That turns blind
To the aberration
Our love, my love
Is causing in the Universe.
On this blemished landscape
Don’t become a curse
For incoherent rhythms
Beating within the hearts of hopes
Clinging on time-worn ropes
Suspended
From a hook never seen.
Come to me
Like the balancing chaos
Found on the rope I tread on
And the hope I nudge on
To reach you
As world and order crash all around me.

***

It’s been long
That the song
Of our love was hummed
In the chirps of lonely birds
By the cries of hurting herds
Echoing in the vanity of that look
Through the pages of a yellowing book
As yet unfinished
For words are scarce
And end uncertain.
Come to me
Like numbness in vocabulary
Like the need to say just the needed
Like empty spaces filled with dark silence
Like words that mean much,
While saying nothing.

***

I’m giving up the goal
But retaining the dream
I think you not a song
But a familiar scream
My soul lets out for comfort.
Voices are my friends
Reverberating through unlived
Unloved
Undone.
Come to me
Like the dark songs of desire
Like the forest quagmire
That sucks me in
To be freed into you.

***


The smell in my room
And the mustiness of memories
Are the same breed of torture
I willingly embrace
To hold you tight
In my slipping grip.
The past is tricky
For after ceasing
It conjures a future
That could scarce in this lifetime be.
Come to me
Like a memory unlived
Like the times yet to come
Like the moments that never were
Like past which ruins my present
And the future which is stubbornly absent. 

Painting by Leonid Afremov

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Heady Brew - Of Poetry and Winters

Recently, Taneea Aggarwal (my could-be future student) interviewed me for an digital portal which seeks to publish stories of inspiring people and events. It is quite Icy-Tales - a rather wintry name itself! I am truly humbled by the kind consideration on the part of the interviewer and the Editor of the portal to have considered me worthy enough for featuring here.

In an conversation which lasted more than an hour, there were two responses which I particular enjoyed myself. Recalling just the two, but you can read the entire interview by hopping over to this link.

Why poetry? What attracts you most about this form of art?

I wasn’t very fond of poetry during school or college. I never think any teacher was able to make me own poetry the way I own it now. My love for it is not academic at all. Roughly two and a half years ago, I met a lot of self-asserted poets and started understanding the stories behind poems and it’s power to subtly reveal things you don’t want to express directly. I am attached to it now because I have seen it’s power as an empowering medium. There are so many things we want to say but so many times the correct way of putting them in words is through poetry. Poetry depicts little but leaves a lot to be interpreted and applied to one’s life. It’s ability to inspire and connect with the people reading it has always left me in awe. Poetry can take you over on a dark night when nobody’s around you, and give you peace when you’re in a throng. I love the musicality of it, maybe because I love singing. Poetry has opened me up to my roots and made me explore different languages. I believe some of the best poems are written in Urdu, Hindi, and Sanskrit. I like the simpler poets. I have my favorites in Faiz, Neruda, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Wordsworth. But at its very basic, poetry gives me pleasure. It makes me happy.

Which is your favourite season? Which season gets your best work?

Winters. Firstly, because Delhi is the most beautiful at this time of the year, and it is the best time to be out on explorations. Secondly, there is something very charming and romantic about this season which makes my mind a lot calmer. It makes the romance of life, nature, existence, and relationships become apparent to me. On my blog, most of my writings have clustered around the winter months. It’s also a very nice time for nostalgia, maybe because the year is closing. This is the time to warm yourself up. The idea of sitting in a quilt, with a cup of coffee is very inviting and relaxing. My best thoughts visit me when I am in that zone. I believe that winters are necessary to feel warm. My imagination and creativity are at the peak during winters. 




Monday, November 30, 2015

Rajesh Khanna - The Untold Story of India's First Superstar by Yasser Usman

The generation we grew up in, Amitabh Bachchan was the reference point for everything, and so, to believe that there was a star bigger than him sounded nonsensical. I had heard in passing legends about Rajesh Khanna, and his rapid ascent to such dizzying heights of success that he was called the first SUPERSTAR of Indian cinema. Even those who have flippantly followed the history of Indian films must have had their imagination inundated with female fans swooning everywhere Rajesh Khanna went. All these legends, and many more came alive when I picked up Yasser Usman's book, titled Rajesh Khanna - The Untold Story of India's First Superstar



I met Yasser during the Kumaon Literary Festival, where he was a panelist along with Gautam Chintamani, in a session dedicated to Rajesh Khanna, moderated by Sathya Saran. Owing to an absolute inability to rise early, especially after having willingly succumbed to comforts of a warm quilt in mountain cold, I missed the session. Missing the book was not going to be an option, I decided then. 

Here are my thoughts on it. 

The book begins on a masala note. This is not your routine linear tale beginning in childhood and maturing along with the character. The prologue piques your interest by depicting a scene which could've easily been picked out of a Bollywood flick. As a reader, you know you are not in the arms of research and regurgitation; but inside a story which will give you much information, and a lot more spice to chew on. So, while the book delineates the spectacle that RK's film career was, it spends a lot more time investigating the habits, inclinations and scandals surrounding the superstar's life. 

The session on Rajesh Khanna at Kumaon Literary Festival.


The book is divided into neat years of RK's life, yet one wouldn't call it linear. While the career progression is easy to follow and feel sympathy and awe on, the cake is taken by the way details of his personal life are strewn along the book, as a parallel narrative. While RK is indubitably the star, Anju Mahendroo, Dimple Kapadia and Tina Munim also find sufficient space and mention. Without them, the narrative would lose its edge. Good stories carry hints which a reader learns to locate and discern as he dives deeper into it. Which is to say that the author can take the reader along. Since RK's story was full of  ups and downs, I could guess in the latter half of the book which swing his destiny would take. A little too predictable, but the drama value kept me hooked on. 

The very premise of this biography was prophetic - Superstardom to Super-Loneliness - the pages were nearly screaming this out. We literature students are used to going inter-textual wherever an opportunity arrives - and I kept thinking of Sisyphus as more of RK's life was revealed. And that is the point at which I realised that even highly personalised experiences become universal because in parts, we associate with them. I did too. If someone else's story can make you question the scripting of your own, that is a job well done. 

And then I debated - while writing a biography, does an author lose his agency? Which is to say, an author cannot merely be a chronicler - he has to be a creative thinker and writer as well. That is a slightly weaker aspect here. The commentary on RK came exclusively through people who knew him. The role of the author became apparent in a few interrogatives, as an interviewer and chronicler, and that was all. 

A man, any man, is a product of his time and circumstances, and hence the contextualization is important. The building up of characters surrounding the central character is necessary - so it is easy to gauge and understand the dynamics of relationships and situations. Anju and Dimple's character were comprehensible, but I probably wanted to understand more people he regularly interacted with. Sub-plots, wherever introduced (like in the case of Amitabh's ascent etc) were fun to read and relate.

I also wanted to see how RK's career and personal emotions were affected when his chaiji passed away, or when Twinkle got married. They would probably have added to the persona and shed some enigma off him. Details pertaining to his family are rather conspicuous by their absence. 

It was ironical, incredible, and even kind of cool to see how filmy was the real life of a person who was living and drinking films day in-day out. This is a story told well, simplistically recalled. I had virtually zero idea of who Rajesh Khanna is, beyond Bawarchi, Anand and Amar Prem, but now I will know him for so much more. The generation we grew up in, like I said in the first line, had Amitabh Bachchan as the reference point for everything filmi, and so, to believe that there was a star bigger than him sounded nonsensical - but I know better now.

Photo - IBNlive.com


Yasser Usman is an award winning senior journalist and film critic. Want your weekend dollop of everything Bollywood? Connect with him on Twitter - @yasser_aks.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Winter Nostalgia - The Tutor and the Taught

My Universe has become nocturnal of late. The thing with being nocturnal is that nostalgia and goofy smiles start assaulting you with more force than is good for sanity. Memories demand peace to hit you - and what is more peaceful than sitting alone at night with the only sounds in the background being Jagjit Singh ji's ghazals, the whirring of the fan above, and the gentle and endearing snores emanating from the next room (or the next house).

So, yes - this nocturnal memory gazing sent me sometime back in time. And that is when it struck me that the recent past was made up with many beautiful experiences and moments which deserved mention but got snowed under the volume of work and commitments.

These recountable moments fall under many categories, but the first emotions which hit are those which relate to my teaching experiences. Many of you might know that I have been visiting a lot of colleges and schools to talk to them about poetry, and by extension, about life. Among 20 odd such visits, I have taught little, and learnt much. This post is not about recalling those learnings, but sharing some instances, which left me both, warm and stunned. Here goes -

1. Tears of Poetry

Gargi College is the only institution which has gracefully tolerated two of my talks on poetry. This time, when I went over to discuss 'unshackling of the rainbow within' using poetry as a tool of choice, I had no idea that I'd end up unshackling some crazy emotions. Mahika Chaturvedi is a beautiful girl I met there, who got emotional during the talk because the passion for writing we carry on our sleeves became overwhelming for her.

And this repeated in my talk at DTU, when another girl ended up crying, not because I said anything sentimental in the speech, but because I expressed a clear, intense love for the world of words. Last I heard, she was telling her friends about me, "She is quite awesome. She makes people cry in her lectures." Ahem. I will choose to be happy with that statement



2. Twitter Honor

This is by far my favourite tweet of the year. This is so, because, firstly, it comes from the poet I respect most. And secondly, because of the humility inherent in the tweet where a man who has been a legendary teacher for over three decades, recognises me as one. #Win



3. Lawyered

I usually don't lose my cool. But in one session, I did. This was at Symbiosis Law School, where an unfortunate conversation over a futile detail of a sentence I uttered set me simmering. The end-product of that was a lecture on poetry transforming into a lesson on learning. I knew by the end of the speech that I had managed to make some strong bonds with the students of the college, but how well they received my rant became apparent in this late night message from one of the organisers.



4. Discussing Digital Creativity

Taking a break from poetry, I took on the onus of discussing the nuances of digital writing with the students of Shiv Nadar School. We discussed concepts of content creation, curation and aggregation, in the midst of really invigorating comments and questions from the supremely bright students of the school. In a response published on here - http://shivnadarschool.edu.in/website/gurgaon-news/a-visit-by-saumya-kulshreshtha-an-avid-blogger/ - the students had this to say about the session -

"We love Saumya ma'am and her sessions. It is so fantastic to have something new to learn from her each time. Having a session with her on last Thursday was simply amazing. The great connect she has with the students is undefinable. We long for Saumya ma'am to come to our school and to spread bonhomie and information among the members of our Shiv Nadar School family." (-Drishti Mangar)



5. Broken Words, Full Sentiments

The last session I conducted was with school students inside Ramjas College, during a sanitation awareness drive. We did what we do - we wrote poems and discussed poetry, in as basic a manner as possible. Among the many activities, one was to write non-stop for two minutes with whatever comes to the mind, and here is what this girl (whose name I cannot remember) scribbled. I just wish she had not assumed on herself a condition to write in English.



So, those were the top five moments I spent teaching little, and learning much more.

The biggest moment, however, greeted me post my lecture at IIIT Delhi. A late evening lecture, on poetry and poetic traditions across languages, which I delivered in a sleepy stupor, earnt me an opportunity to teach an elective course in the winter semester at the same college. This, I am elated to share, will not be a one time interaction, but a longer commitment to poetry and imagination, into the organized educational sphere. It is one of those challenges I am most eager to take on, since I have the liberty to design my own course and testing methodologies.

To end this post, here is one among my favourite quotations from the world of learning and teaching.


















Monday, November 2, 2015

A Heady Brew - Love Cracks You Open

Love cracks you open.

This dawned in a dilapidated nook of SDA market, where I sat with a listener and seeker, a few weeks ago. Silent nooks fascinate me. I look out for deserted and underutilised spaces, which allow themselves to be owned. Habitation and laughter are fond companions, for those who can afford them, including inanimate spaces. And who is to say that the lifeless do not dream of life and laughter? I mean, what if the same nook now dreamt of being in the company of some lively youngsters each day, who hug like its their last meeting, and who laugh like they are the rulers of the world? Dreams, alas, are creatures of discomfort and desires. I don't plan  on going back to the nook anytime soon.

Source- hdwgo.com


But I do plan on going back to the 'cracking' phenomenon of love, rather hastily. You see, this post is one of the more oxymoronic and moronic in general, the way it is forming inside my head. Like a heady brew, if ever any was fermented in my mind. I love taking risks which are emotional in nature, but at a detached distance. Is it even possible, you ask. Well, in a strange, convoluted way, it is. I am not entirely capable of explaining this, but this whole life is going to be a series of trial and error episodes. Let this one be no different.

Safety is inconsequential and antithetical to love. I believe. Love is the greatest of risks, most potent of shocks and the ghastliest of desires. Initially, of course. As you grow in love, and as love grows inside you, you keep getting fragile - ready to act, react, respond, retract on the expectations of who you deem the centre of your Universe. The problem, my dear, is that there can only be one centre of the Universe - either you, or him/her. Yes, there are instances of two stars revolving around each other - but the gravity of one is always greater than the other.

We have no yet evolved to become such stars who have learnt to revolve around themselves. So, when love makes you fragile, and when hurts caused in love crack you open, you suddenly are lost and livid, and you have no idea what to do, except to curse the notion of love in full and plenty. And some more. As love ebbs in your system, because other, antithetical emotions are brewing stronger, you become constrained and passive, and you assume that to be a permanent state. Because you do not want to crack anymore. Because you think that any further cracks are going to be the death of you. Because you assume you are that brittle.

Only, my dear, you are not.

I am not.

I hate saying these confident sentences out loud, because somehow, the Universe always assumes that I am challenging it. It them employs rose-tinted trickeries to crack me a little more, but now, I am beyond the point of fear. Yes, when I will love too much, I will fear enough to be on the verge of breaking apart - but hey, has there been devised any other way to love intensely than to be attached to the point of mayhem? Can you truly be in love without walking long enough to forget the road which brings you home? And will you not give any and everything for even shreds of those dream sequences which bind your ordinary life to almost surreal heights of pleasure?

The point is, simply put, that love cracks you open. And while doing that, it brings you the closest to yourself. When it has to, let love enter you from all crevices, because, let me tell you, it won't last. This intensity which makes you ride to the point of brittleness, it won't last. The memory and nostalgia of it will - and that will kill you. Try and forbid that from happening, and you are good to go. You possess love, even when you don't possess the object of your love.

I reiterate.

You possess love, even when you do not posses your beloved.

Well, then, enjoy the cracking up!

Source - rhymeswithmagicart.blogspot.com

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wisps of Winter

Today, I felt the first faint signs of chill around me. For one, I developed slight, welcome fever. 'Welcome fever' might be a difficult concept for many to understand. It is the kind of pleasant fatigue that makes you pop a pill, lie down, and willingly let go off he humongous weight of work you had been dragging along. It is the kind which tells you nothing is wrong, but this pause is good to recover strengths and smiles. It, at this point of time in the year, also informs you that the romance of winters is going to knock on your door soon, that the season is changing. So yes, as I lie tired on the couch and type it all out, I am actually quite pleased that the hum of the airconditioner is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Winters are special. They make my city beautiful, and my heart fond. They make coffee tastier, and books crispier. They bring along blankets, and consequently, warmth. They take away the irritating moisture, to replace it with a forced dalliance with cold creams. It may sound odd, but I quite like drawing on my arms when they turn parched, and a sheet of moisturiser is the eraser to this slate. A duller world, makes the self more pronounced. And I like, I like it immensely.

Here is my winter wishlist. All things basic, all things romantic. You're welcome to join me, for any, and all of these :)

1. Street shopping for winter clothes

Janpath, Sarojini and Paharganj are on my radar. Any better suggestions for budget and statement winter-wear? Drop me some advice in the comments section!



2. A book date in Rabindra Bhawan

Rabindra Bhawan houses one of the best libraries in Delhi - the Sahitya Akademi library. For a frugal fee, you get access to few of the most amazing titles from Indian, American and even Russian literature. Enough to keep you occupied. Their reading room is inspiring, and if you don't find space inside, the winter sun can give you company outside.



3. Poetry reading in Lodhi Gardens, Humayun's Tomb, Safdarjung Tomb et al

Delhi is a grand city. So many historical venues call out to you in winters to explore and inhabit them. I am eager to take Poets' Collective to all these wonderful places, and also discover some new ones where poetry can resonate and leave behind memories. Let's do poetry in excess for the next few months, shall we?



4. Early morning walk through Sanjay Van

The last time we went there, it was in scorching monsoons. Bad idea! Lal Kot and Sanjay Van seem like a winter destination for a walk along with some stories. A picnic with the close ones is on the cards, definitely.



5. Roadside Chai

It is not even winters, and we have already begun loitering about in N-Block, Connaught Place, searching for chaiwallas on the pavement. Samosas, kachoris and bina-cheeni-ki-chai are going to be my evening companions as days start getting dark sooner.



6. Statement neck-pieces and dark shades of Lipstick

I don't know much about this. But, these winters will be about understanding a bit more of fashion. Who is helping?

7. Conversations over coffee 

Do you have something interesting to discuss? If you can afford some coffee to go with it, you have my attention. Delhi has many roof-top and garden cafes. I am making a list of all the places I want to go to. May be you and I can go along together?



8. Long walks on random roads

Broke or rich, this is something I have been doing since the past few years. With or without company. Music in my ears. Thoughts swirling in my head. Greens becoming greener. Poems calling me out. I love taking walks in winters - an unparalleled fuel for the soul.



9. Reading and writing romances in my blanket 

Nothing comforts like the warmth of winters. I have my reading list fleshed out. I have my story-plots ideated. And I don't mind doing some cosy story-telling sessions at home - an exclusive all-girls, openly gender-biased gathering.



10. Letting my hair down

Well-styled or unkempt - I am letting my hair loose this winter. Winters ought to be a little wild, no?



You can see, clearly, how fascinated am I with the prospect of some chill arriving in Delhi. My winters, curiously enough, begin in the hills. I'll be heading out to Nainital to moderate a session at the prestigious Kumaon Literary Festival on Monday. I'll carry some wintry emotions back.

What are your winter plans? Would you want to join me for any of mine?

P.S. - I am also giving away a lot more free hugs in winters. Just saying.




Friday, October 16, 2015

Aadat

Aadat ho
Haqeeqat bhi.

You think it false
When I say that all
I care for
Is you, and your pulse.
When I think to care
Means to be fair
To you and to me.
I'm used to you
To the idea of blues
Cherished sitting in your arms
Wooed by your charms
By the sweat on your palms
Which you run on my skin
Mixing salt with sin
Scarring salinity with the romance of ittar
To conjure a smell
Which I can tell,
Is yours, only.
You're a perfumed reality
Fast evaporating in fumes.
The scent, is on my skin
Even if you no longer are.

Aadat ho
Zaroorat bhi.

You're the rum in my coke
The haze in my smoke.
I need you, to go above
The ordinary scape of fizz
I need you, to attain
A state higher than black mist.
I want to linger on
As a bitter aftertaste,
On each tongue that sips,
The sips which scalds the throat.
And all that lies below
In my being
When seen
Staring at you
I am actually drinking through
The intoxicating fizz
I need you like rum
I need to drink you like a hum
Of that trickling elixir
Not off a goblet this time
But off that which rhymes
With lust, and convoluted, undivided, manly love.

Aadat ho
Qayamat bhi.

You can put me off alcohol
But can you put me off you?
You know you're the more potent
Of the two?
Your half open button
Second from top
Reeks of terrains unfulfilled
Of lustful glares
You'd not want to stop.
You're the terror
I abide by.
You're the disaster
I don't know why
I am giving in to
Losing in to
In a dim hope
Of finding a home
Which I know wouldn't last
You're the transitory glory
Of a love spell, now un-cast.
You'll destroy the derived
You'll unmask the perceived
You'll terrify the belief
And you'll break,
The porcelain idol
I had made
With all affection vital, and
Cherished for so long
In my heart,
Like a song,
Negating all wrongs
As if you were the only right
Right as only right can be right.

Aadat ho
Shikaayat bhi.

White faces
Sombre gazes
Tricky steps
Stable embraces
And then a distracted facade
A fragmented visage
A throbbing mirage
Pumps me out
For the want of a future
Who am I, after all,
but a present wound's suture?
Like you have her,
I have him
But you're the whim
To whose wishes
I dance, and prance, on a foot
By now you must've understood
How you're a complaint
Of derangement
Lodged in my head
But I lose sense of indignation
As you begin
Warming
My bed.

Aadat ho
Meethi se karwat bhi. 

The pretty you
The cunning you
The cute you
Then arches his back
With a shuddering climax
And turns away
Like it's a day
In his world
While I battle with dark
And stark
Contrasts
Between him
and Myself
The little elf
Of lust
Stifles the angels of love
As I count the blemishes
On your back
The spots black
Now my objects of affection
For your face eludes
And deludes
My overpowered mind
My powerless mind
Seeking one embrace
One gaze
Which tells me you are here to stay.


Aadat ho
Bagawat bhi. 

Each time I fight
For you
I fight for myself
Out of the haze
Out of the smoke
Of disenchantment
Which blows
On your pristine countenance
And my slurry speech
You're more precious than rum
Than a brook's hum
As it scales mad topographies
To pass out in the arms of an ocean
You're one
Of them
You're one
Of me
You're one
Of you
You're one
Of us
As I cower to the buzz
Of your disapprovals
I give in
To you. To a love true.
And to a lust truer
Than your and mine existence.
You've turned me a rebel
I listen, un-listen,
Pretend, apprehend,
Fade, descend,
I turn depression into a trend.

All for you,
For the idea of you,
For the habit of you.
I know not you
I know this habit, craving, longing
I know the pain in my heart
I know the belonging
I don't care who you are
As long as you are. 
You're a habit, once I cannot let go.

Photography - Shubhrangshu Chakravarty




Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Heady Brew - Part I

My interactions with various communities, organizations and individuals exposes me to questions about prose, poetry, literature and life, to which people are constantly seeking answers and resolutions. These conversations happen on phone, whatsapp, in person, over drinks, over coffee, on the footpath, in colleges, in plush offices, in ramshackle back-alleys, and sometimes, in my mind too. I don't attempt to provide answers, for, hello, this young girl herself knows too little. But sometimes, certain conversations give me points to ponder on, to deliberate, to keep close. And in my mind, all these conversations, irrespective of their physical reality, are always accompanied by the clink of two glasses.

Here is the first heady brew - not difficult to imagine, I suppose, once you add a sprinkling of rum on his collar, and lean in to drink to his thoughts. While he questions poetry, he probably also inspires some.

*****

"When people hear a good poem, they get inspired, and I get depressed."

Is it, haha! Why?

"Because I don't know when will I be able to write that well."

Hmm...

"Also, there is so much being written, everyday, every second, that I am losing the opportunity of writing original content, because by the time I think of it, someone might have already written it."

And here I was, sitting perfectly relaxed, thinking that poetry is so private and personal, that it can never be made to compete. Why write to counter something that someone somewhere might be writing. Why not write because it matters to you. Because it eases your heart. Because it defines your life. And again, because it matters to you, and when it matters to you. You're never losing out time or thoughts or concepts or words. Trust me on that.

"Hmm. You always make so much sense."

Because I am out of competition.

"I like to think of poetry as my way of escaping from reality, my third level. But it doesn't come to me when I need it the most."

Aah. Save poetry from all the pressure please.

I cannot imagine poetry not coming to anyone unless we ascribe heavy definitions to it, unless we are too keen to specify a certain way in which it should come to us. Poetry is a pouring out. It does not have to be profound by definition. But if it is pure or true enough, it will always be profound.

Put less pressure on the pen. Ink will flow easy.

"Oh dear!"

What?

"You're an artist!"

If you insist :)


Monday, September 7, 2015

From The Other Side

I have been a great fan of my teachers. For a child struggling with many tussles inside her heart, mind and the manner in which they related with the very judgemental world, it was my teachers who came to my rescue in ways which cannot be contained inside any text book. This weekend, I took out some time to relive the fantastic college and school times, where teachers formed the pivot around which my life revolved. They were more of my friends than any peer. And I am not exaggerating one bit.

This Teachers' Day, however, I was greeted with another pretty revelation. In a manner uniquely subtle and unconventional, I had stepped over to the other side. It's been a year I have been working with Shiv Nadar School (as a Content Strategist, and not as a teacher), but I have had the privilege of sharing my knowledge of literature and creative writing with the lovely kids there. These few interactions were enough for the students to deem me a teacher, and gift me some love in the form of fond hugs and heartfelt wishes. 



My moment of extreme pride came when I was informed by the Principal herself that students at the school had been wanting me to visit more often, to teach and interact with them. The way my heart swelled and my eyes welled-up is inexplicable in words. What greater joy can greet a person who has made it her life's aim to hear people out and share whatever shreds of knowledge she has managed to amass during her stay on this planet?

I have a special bond with everyone at Shiv Nadar School, right from the teachers, to students to the management, and probably the space of this blog is too scarce to express even a fraction of it. In a relationship spanning more than a year, I have enjoyed the trust of many, and appreciation of the kind that leaves me humbled. What is truly humbling, however, is the scope of learning that the school precincts provide me. I have a genuine belief that the teachers which Shiv Nadar School has chosen to carry its philosophies forward are a unique breed. The value system of the school, as well as the very innate desire to curate learning experiences brims over in a kind of infectious energy which greets me each time I visit. I rue not being able to visit them more often, but, ah, the perils of distances and a crumbling human body. 



The lady, who has left a profound impact on me in that jolly world of learning, as is public knowledge, is Ms. Monica Sagar. It is difficult for me to figure out completely why Monica ma'am appeals to me the way she does. It has probably got something to do with her absolutely down-to-earth and nonchalant demeanour, even on the most glamorous of days. And all this, when she is an exceptional leader. To my mind, she has somehow mastered the art of shepherding her herd while giving them a lead to locate their own paths. After being such a busy woman, she manages to be ready with a hug and smile to greet you at all times. She doesn't exactly teach me, but I end up learning much from her. Always. 



I have written glorious paeans for my school and college teachers, but this Teachers' Day post is an apt time to thank Vaibhav and Karan for being the guides in the professional world, where I still exist as a strong-headed, moment-inspired writer. They manage to keep me going, happy and proud of my work. 

To end, I think a good teacher rises out of exceptional students. Here are a few words from Drishti's blog, which she wrote for her favourite teachers. I am fortunate I fall in that category of favourites for her. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Meet My Family

I spent the day at home. It is a rare occurrence, if you must know. What was special about the day was the fact that despite accomplishing truckloads of work, and putting off another truckload, I slept rather peacefully. That, again is a rare occurrence.

The reason why my closed eyes could breathe easy was the fact that I knew I will make time to finish this blogpost before the day ended. This one is important to me. And it has been pending sometime. I was scared that by the time I get down to writing it, I'll lose the feel of it all, that I will get over the sense of overwhelm that assails me 14 times a week, that I will forget the pieces of memory I am trying so hard to keep together. Today, I knew I will make time to put all these anxieties at rest, because, as of the present day, I have much to be happy, and peaceful about in life.


I have been away from this precious domain for quite sometime, not being able to record all the amazing things my life is blessed with at present. Like, this very moment, when I am sitting next to a window with a mug of tea, with crazy rains outside, and the faces of my beloved kids in my mind. Most of us experience this kind of peace with the memory of a lover, enhanced by the romance of rains and a cuppa with the aroma of shared moments. In my case, the whiff of romance is similar, just that, it is shared with an entire family which loves me more than anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world can. All of them together, all of them individually.

It all began with poetic soiree, almost a year back. A lot strange faces I met were soon going to become my family. The process of coming close has been epic, but more epic are these individuals I seek to write about. Let me talk of the family, I'll talk of the Collective in a later edition, someday. Or not, Poets' Collective is because all of them are. Meet these people who make my heart a mushy place :)

Sumedha
I don't know why I began with her name. It is probably because of a really sweet message she sent my way last night, which ended up making me feel like the luckiest being alive. She has been attending our meets for close to 8 months now, and she never spoke a word - just silently sat their observing the poets recite away to glory. Till the day she gifted me a lovely handmade pen stand, I could not have guessed her levels of affection. Gifts, sometimes, are important. And today, when she has started chattering in front of us, I can distinctly see oodles of love in her eyes for me, and for this little mad family we have all created together. White and pure, these are the words which come to my mind when I think of her. Her talent, I believe, is yet to blossom out in the open - but she is already my young one, literally and figuratively, and I have no doubts in my mind that she will do brilliantly well in life, yet stay humble about it.



Riya
Riya is a rare talent, one that is difficult to control or cage or even channelise. Her thoughts, revolutionary and provocative, will keep flowing over and also singe those who listen to her with an unwelcome ear. She holds in her heart ideas powerful enough to inspire not ours, but a generation of the future. She is someone who is elder for her years, and hence, who humbles me into listening. I have nothing to give her but all the encouragement in the world. She is her own guide, her own flame, and as travellers on a similar journey, I hope she keeps us close. And I miss her. And I think she knows it.





Sharad
I love getting photographed - and that is a world famous fact. What is little known, however, is the fact that I have been fortunate enough to chance upon some genuine behind camera talents, who make me look good, probably better than my own imaginations. Sharad is one such spark of brilliance who has just floored me with his insane levels of warmth and love. He calls me mummy whenever he feels cornered, and the alacrity it fills me with is more than visible on my face. I call him my minion - yellow, funny and happy. I've seen him cry in the middle of a monologue which remains among my most prized moments in life - when this kid admitted to having developed more respect for people around him after having joined the PC gang. In another bit of fond memory, he has learnt to give nice hugs now (and that is something, his girl - now or in future - has me to thank for!)



Divyaksh
He is the funniest brained person I know. His life is discontinuous fragment of satirical observations on the world around, each woven into a metaphor we now understand and associate with. He is a Jaya aunty fan. He has a hold on marketing and mythology logic with the same comfort. He sings bollywood numbers at inappropriate places and comments inadvisable nonsense much to the chagrin of fellow metro passengers. He talks non-stop. He is elder to me, yet gives me the respect of an elder sibling. He says he is a lost soul who feels like he's given direction when he is with us. He loves pink. And as far as I am concerned, he is the one person I feel the safest with.  He can keep me entertained for hours, he can contest my logic, and yet end on a very respectful note. Like everyone else, he is such an important part of my family, and my existence. I hope I can learn from his genius. Also, he is a dinosaur.



Nimisha
I have many sons, but she is the first daughter of my family. I consciously call her my beloved daughter, for she evokes in me a feeling akin to very motherly protectiveness. I feel like taking her in my arms and protecting her from all the ill-tendencies out there in the world. Not once, but many a times has it happened that she hugs me in a restaurant, and before you know it, she falls asleep then and there. And never have I had the heart to rouse her out of the very peaceful slumber reflected on her face. While she is talented and belligerent in her own ways, never has she stepped out of very humble and respectful mannerisms for me. It makes me feel blessed and responsible in equal measures. Till where I can push, I will do so for her. Oh, my only complaint to her - ladki phate kapde pehen ke baahar aa jaati hai. Needs a wardrobe overhaul asap. Rest, she can come to me with all her fears, and they'll be absorbed. Promise!



Anurag
We go back a long way, and I have seen this one go through many lows and highs and yet survive and come out strong. He is again one of those who is elder to me, but manages to give me the respect of didi. Legend has it that I scared him away when I met him the first time, but he managed to be brave enough to return to our kind of poetry, and has kept coming back since. A kind of syntactical distortion lends extreme levels of genius to his poetry, but these distortions exist because he has seen the anomalies and realities of life very closely. What I really want to tell him is that each time he has lived up to his own expectations, he has lived up to mine. And nothing will catch my attention more than his doing well in his own manner, on his own path. I do want to be a happy co-traveller, if possible?



Abhishek
I never call him Abhishek. Never. In public, or private, I love calling him Chintu. And I love it more when he resists this nickname from everyone else, except me. There is no end to how special I feel each time he lays bare his heart and soul in front of me, telling me all little details of things which have shaped him and his sensibilities. He is quite a sensitive and sensible soul, who is capable of taking care of himself, as well as those around him. In our close knit family, he fulfils many functions - a brother to one, a son to the other, a friend to another. The best thing about him? When I am not able to give him my full attention, he does not develop a grudge. He thanks and lauds me for absorbing so many stories of so many of them. I mean, the maturity strikes straight through my heart!




Neha
This girl stuns and surprises me each time. A pretty, sophisticated, ever-smiling girl - I could have never imagined a streak of activism in her, which I am being greeted with since past sometime. Neha is a completely paarivarik girl, who brings along the same values in my family. With her around, I can be sure that no malice and ill-will will enter our world. She expresses less, but when she does, I feel like floating above and beyond the moon. She holds me responsible for much, not realising that had she not been spreading energy around with her infectious smiles, our world would have been a lot less happier. She'll do well, with her smart mind and diligent heart, and she'll always remain a beautiful part of my life because of her almost selfless levels of trust and love for us.



Aniket
Aniket is not among the kids I have spent a lot of time with, but I know in my heart that whenever he finds a zone and opportunity, he comes running to us. For now, what I know is that I quite adore his kurta clad look, and his warm and respectful countenance. He seems to be someone I can trust with many responsibilities, and he will not disappoint me ever. I just want to see him around more, much more.



Shibani
Shibani is the latest entry in our madhouse. The fact that she is a poet-performer-par-excellence is known to all of Delhi. What is not known to all perhaps is that she is mad in equal measures to all of us, and that is why, probably, she feels at home with us. I did not expect to see her around so often, but I guess, she accepted us in her life before we accepted her in ours. With me, I remember feeling super-elated when she gave me a very warm hug post her performance at the last meet. Few things give me greater pleasure than being accepted in the lives of people with such faith. A few conversations later, I am cozy with the knowledge that she identifies with us, our cause, and is honest in her efforts to help us go places. In whatever little manners I can, I am there with her, for her :)



Shiva
She is a stunner. Again, I don't know much about her, but she has much depth and calm to her being. I have not heard many of her compositions, but the one poem I have heard, I keep hearing it daily. Because it calms me down. Because in the mad mayhem of technology, she is a pleasant pause, with old-world values and charm. Because her heart as pure as pure can be and that reflects in her words. Because I know I am not super-close to her, but she is going to be indispensable to our family, real soon.



Prateek
Umm. The caveat here is, anything I say will be saying too less. He began as a creep in my life, and has graduated to becoming an extremely creepy stalker now. I think very few people know me the way he does, because even when I am not letting out much, he is observing and absorbing. Prateek is an incredibly brave child, for he has chosen the difficult path of aspirations in life - but he is holding up. And so long as he is holding up, I am there with him to give the necessary push and guidance. Each time he thanks me for being around, my heart shrinks a little, because I feel I have not done enough for his genius to blossom. But he understands, I am sure he does. He is among the few who understands my affection as much as my irritations. Among my more mature sons, he is probably the one I will remember to call in my old age. To take care of me. Or just to give me a lot of grandchildren to while away my time with. (I will spoil them better than I spoilt you. And you cannot stop me.)



Ambikesh
Can I ever put in words the love we share? Can you do it? Can anyone else do it? You were the useless, pennyless  college student who made me suffer a loss of 500 bucks when you came in the first time. Those 500 rupees are the best investment I have made in life ever. You know Ambikesh, I often end up riling people when I feel they do not reciprocate or do enough for me after we've parted ways. In your case, you are always giving me 2x the love I can. I am already in your debt. I don't speak to anyone as much as I speak to you. I do not go to people to for advice or for sharing my lows as much as I do with you. And you manage to calm me down. Sometimes, you make me cry in confusion, because, when you tell me how much you and the others love me, my mind literally stops functioning because, I mean, how can this much happiness and love be possible. Being the cherophobe that I am, I shut out most of these positive feelings, lest they make me arrogant. But, you all do make me arrogant, you know. This is the best of a family I have experienced, and you're my elder son. It might all change tomorrow, but, you're the focus of my life for now. And even though you do not need it, I know, I'll be protecting you forever.



This is a good season of life. Among the best, but so precious, that I am scared to call it the best. Keep the family together, please?




Sunday, July 12, 2015

Healing Waters, Floating Lamps - A Review

I have not been writing reviews regularly for quite sometime now, but when a request to review a poetry collection came my way, I could just not say no! The fact that poetry is finding its foothold in the literary world was a pleasant fact to acknowledge. It is still sad, however, to note that among the hundreds of books I have received for review till date, Healing Waters, Floating Lamps is only the second poetry collection out of it! Sad, but I hope that changes soon.

At the outset, let me admit, I had to read this entire book thrice over to get closer to the meanings of some exquisite verses penned by Kiriti Sengupta in this wonderful collection. Even then, my comprehension was woefully inadequate to wade to the depth of each poem. Don Martin's Foreword came handy to pull me out of this conundrum. To understand certain works, the voice of an observer other than the poet/author is sometimes necessary - for he is able to think like a reader does, and hence provides certain inroads into the even very esoteric texts. In this case, Don Martin not only familiarised me to Kiriti Sengupta's literary aura, but also threw light on the way the poems held in Healing Waters Floating Lamps contained layers and layers of meaning.

Coming to the poems, they had a serenading beauty. The imagery concocted by the words was capable of transporting one to a Ganga Ghat, or to the sublime regions of one's consciousness. It is the latter where the poet probably was exhorting us to reach, and to do so, he gave us a very circuitous path to tread on. This path led from unravelling the poems, and then placing ourselves in its context to comprehend the message the poet is trying to spread across.

Apart of lyrical beauty, these poems are also imbued with spirituality - but the kind which everyone can adapt for themselves. Very short, but very profound in impact. Deep, very deep within you lies your God, and in the same regions resides the meaning of life. By encouraging an enquiry into nature and meaning of existence, I believe the poet was trying to egg us onto the higher realms of consciousness. I could be completely wrong here, because, as I did state, even after the third reading, many of these poems and their contexts seemed elusive to me.

This book will not make for a casual read, but will ask you to give it time and attention. If you are ready to lavish both of them on poetry, pick this up. I give it 3 stars on 5.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Love Each Other or Perish

Dear Morrie,

To whichever corner of heaven you are comfortably practising your wisdom in, I want to tell you that I am glad to have met you.

I know you must be sad by the way many of us are going about our lives, but I am also sure that you are okay to see us live on making mistakes and sometimes, just sometimes being strong enough to admit those to ourselves. It is essential for moving on, for evolution, for becoming better than the levels of collective misery and mediocrity that human kind debilitates to.



I don't write reviews like this, but since your student says that you promised to be a brilliant listener post your ascent to a world I don't comprehend, I thought I should thank you directly for being who you are. Even if my words of gratitude are a shout into the void, I don't care. The afterglow your book lends me despite being profoundly poignant is unmistakable.

Actually, I am wrong. Not profoundly poignant, but PROFOUND. And SIMPLE. These are the two words I can use to describe your life, your existence and your acquired wisdom. I am talking to you in first person because I have a confession to make. All that you put out in words in your Tuesday lectures, I know those things. I am not dying as of now, but I just know them. Like, I believe all humans do, but they fail to admit it to themselves as many times as they should.

I have been 'preaching' similar things out loud to a few close ones, and beliefs in the same made me take some harsh decisions, and I wanted to be sure if I was not turning out to be a really big person inside my head. After reading your transcribed words, I think I am fine, really. I think I understand where you came from, your humanism and your world view.

My only not so proud moment while going through a journey of your last days is that I would not have been able to care for you the way your student did. I would have lurked around, but not touched you. I am just trying to make my peace with this realization while being on your journey.

Mitch Albom with Morrie in 1995


So, I hope you are always alive and that you keep giving strength to many of us who are grappling with miseries and notions of life without having understood the simplicity of love and longing in its essence. I hope the world understands soon that the only way to detachment goes through experience. Intense experience.

Like you say, "Love each other, or perish". I'll hope not to perish. I'll hope to love.

Warm wishes,

Saumya

P.S. - Thanks Neha Thureja for gifting me this book. You are a fonder part of my life after this book. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What The Stars Know And I Don't - Part II

The Chamber

Jasmine spread its shy aroma
On my bosom,
Lying like a snake
Coiling around my heaving chest
Strangulating my breath
As his faced appeared
Piercing the translucence
Of curtains
Preserving my dignity
To be shattered like glass
The moment he set foot in my chamber.

Like ambers,
My heart burnt.
He carried the promise of vermillion
A splash of red on my forehead,
Inked my life
Made me his wife
To love, honour, consume and destroy.

I stood trembling,
As his fingers traced the contours of my body.
I was titillated, in places I knew not existed
On the uneven topography of my body.
Is this how the Earth feels each day the Sun kisses it with golden rays?
Is this how a lone tree feels when under the influence of wild winds it sways?
Is this how tremors of joy erupt in on silent terrains?
Is this the experience which makes a woman turn vain?

Like Shakuntala basking in Dushyanta’s gaze,
Like Sita glowing through Rama’s face
Like Vasavadatta conjured in Udayan’s dream
I lay fulfilled in my lover’s embrace.

I looked outside the window, as the sky turned a shade darker, and stars turned a touch brighter. Tell me, o stars, can I continue this love-play till eternity?

Painting by George Astametakis


Part one of the post can be read here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Badi Pagal Si Ladki Hai

Prelude - For my birthday this year, I got many gifts, in gestures, in words, in books, in love - in many other manifestations, but the gift I am sharing with you all here is the most special among them. To have had these words read out to me was an experience nothing short of magical and extremely humbling. Gratitude fills me as I post this -

Badi paagal si ladki hai..
Ajab khwaabon mein rehti hai..

Bikhre baal rakhti hai…
Alag sa haal rakhti hai…

Alag ek dhun mein rehti hai…
Hamesha hasti rehti hai…

Kabhi khamosh ho jaye…
Yun toh kam hi hota hai…
Ke jab khamosh hoti hai…
Fiza pe rang nahi chadhta..
Bahaarein laut jaati hain…
Ghatayein ghir bhi jaayein gar…
Boondein dam nahi bharti…

Aur jab muskuraati hai…
Gul bhi muskuraate hain…
Mausam khil ke aate hain…

Ajeeb ik zid si hai pakde…
Ke Gul sehraa mein khilaane hain
Sab kaante mehkaane hain..
Roton ko hasaana hai, roothon ko manaana hai..
Gham duniya ke mitaane hain..

Kabhi koi jo gham, uska..
Gar humsaaya ho jaye…

Gham se ru-ba-ru hokar..
Milaa kar aankh har ranj se…
Yun muskuraayegi..
Ke gham muskura dega

Dard ki baahon mein daal kar baahein …
Yun gungunaayegi…
Ke dard bhi gungunaayega…

Koi bhi dharm duniya ka…
Isko soojhta kab hai…
Mohabbat pooja karti hai..
Mohabbat socha karti hai…

Kabhi poochho sabab iska..
Toh hans ke itna kehti hai…
Ke tum dekhna jaana…
..Ke tum dekhna jaana…
Ik roz duniya ko…
Mohabbat Main sikha dungi..
Ik roz duniya ko…
Main ishq bana dungi…

Badi Deewani ladki hai…

Ke bas khwaabon mein rehti hai…


Picture credits - Mayank Austen Soofi

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Lore of Dungri-Garasiya Bhils

Marija Sres was a name I was not familiar with till about three days ago. Today, three days later, it is a name which has begun commanding decent amounts of respect from me. A religious sister, she came to work with the rural population of India and succeeded in impacting not just the spiritual and economic lifestyles of people by understanding their core problems; but also left an indelible mark on the literary landscape of Gujarat. The doyens of Gujarati literature have themselves acknowledged her genius and genuineness - she carried to the literary domains the legends of tribals and outcastes, about whom, even Gandhian activists shied away from writing. Literature, after all, was an elite, and puritanical domain. However, Marija Sres put in the effort of not only learning Gujarati, but also finding a subject of writing which won her the prime regional literary award.

At a discount fair organized by Zubaan, I came upon this really interesting title - "First Their Was A Woman, and other stories". Slightly subversive, or dreamily assertive - I could not decide. Centuries of religious instruction would have ingrained in us the secondary-ness of a woman's origin. God first created Man, isn't it? The lore of Dungri Garasiya Bhils would differ. The unique ring of this narrative does not end here. Not only did their existence begin with a woman - the procreation and continuation happened without the presence of man. In fact, in the legends, wherever a man is mentioned, he is shown to be deceptive, or silly, or incapable of taking valorous decisions, unless prodded by the female. Such powerful depiction, that even the simplistic manner of writing jolted me completely. 


The all encompassing entity in the tribal culture is Kudrat, who is said to have created Pruthvi first - a female entity. Upon Pruthvi, Kudrat placed a lot of elements to beautify it. The first human to find its way to Pruthvi was a woman, painstakingly created by Kudrat as a Murti out of earth, carved and shaped unto perfection. She was called Sati (root word - Sat - meaning truth). The intrigue in this myth does not end here. When Sati found herself alone, while there were more of other kinds of species, she had an urge to procreate - and this she did with the help of Sapsi - a serpent, and not by desiring a male partner. The Pruthvi, thus, was a woman's kingdom. 

Stories which form a part of tribal orature are not mere instruments of amusement. In them lie explanations for historical changes and sociological connections. In the story of Kava and Kavi, I understood how the naturally more vivacious and energetic female was slowed down using the treachery of beautiful garments and accessories, while she was caught unaware in the web of deceit concocted by male ego. The eternal nature of a woman's love was reinforced in the stories, and adequate light was also thrown on instances where a woman becomes a woman's worst enemy. This, as per my understanding, happens due to the rivalry that economic and social dependence on man bring about between females. 

Because the tribal culture of Dungri Bhils, like most others, was animist since its ancient beginnings, a lot of supernatural instances find their way into the stories. People are gifted with the power of understanding the tongue of animals, and the source of vitality for humans resides in natural elements too. I have a feeling that the hierarchical structure, if any, in these societies would be - Kudrat (Invisible entity), Nature (Visible power), Woman, Man, and rest of the creatures. In a story about crows, the Queen is shown to be assertive and cunning enough to guide her King towards a right decision. In the only story where a King is the Supreme, he is shown to be unreasonable and silly. Snakes and Cobras have been depicted as benevolent and protecting species. 

My favourite stories in the book are two - 
1. Bhaliya and Priya - a love story, which talks of oppression by the King, and then dark, covert revenge by the lovers. Love is the vital force which oppression cannot mess with for long. 
2. Alkhi and Dhulki - a story of sister love, which presents an alternate version to the beginnings of Sati. 

India is a land of such diverse and glorious folk-tales! The more one delves deeper, the more is he surprised with the kind of degeneration that has affected our morality and belief systems. Harking back to animist and tribal traditions is always enriching and endearing in a shocking sort of way. And sometimes, it needs the eye of an outsider to locate stories in a patch of ourselves we forget to acknowledge and appreciate. 

Marija Sres' book is an easy 4 on 5 stars. Thanks to Zubaan for bringing forward this wonderful book to an urban audience.