Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today I paid respects at my aunt’s funeral, holding my uncle up by the arm, what a loss for him after sixty plus years of being married. Though for the last six odd years she was bedridden and immobile, gradually becoming unresponsive with motor neuron disease. Nothing drives home how little time we really have--smashan vairagya as it’s called. How little time really, and part of the reason I step back from acknowledging, taking credit if I do something “good”, why should the right hand know what the left has given? At some point in some lifetime I have paid with a substantial punya-loss for ego, for arrogance, pride—by design or ignorance--who knows?—and in this lifetime I’m careful to not even lead at prayers, lest that breed pride, or self praise. Weird, but let it be.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sweet Sixteen (yeah right!) is the title of a crisply-written, fresh young adult novel by Vibha Batra. A people-like-them Delhi kid moves to Chennai in Class 11, rebels a bit and then adjusts, even makes new friends. Sixteen is upbeat and enthusiastic, after long I finished a book at one go, staying up beyond midnight to finish. The writing is smooth and smart-- young, peppy--and I quite enjoyed some of the devices she used to sort of slot the book differently (but I shan’t give that away!). One identifies with the protagonist, her voice is very clear, as is that of her mom’s. The father for some reason gets minimal treatment, just a presence in the background, the man who pays the bills. In some ways a window into another world, one of cocooned privilege, where one isn’t terrified of not making it to the right college,or about current events, and where parents are anything but marks-driven and hands on, no angst, no rebelling. Perhaps small town India is different, or perhaps it was, and isn’t anymore and what do I know. The distractions and pressures that a sixteen-year old faces are not to be shrugged at, yes, I did gape at some of the escapades and guesstimate, wide eyed,  her pocket money. A happy, happy  read.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I dreamt of her last night, not the way she was later, not at the end, no not that, but a sixth-seventh grader, her hair in that tousled cut that I’d tease that the mice had nibbled at. In an underground manmade cavern, a ramp led to a lovely pool with great light and Moorish tiles on the walls, and suddenly the kid laughed and ran free and jumped into the pool, swimming like a dolphin, darting below the surface blowing bubbles, and just so happy, so free, the happiest I’d ever seen her. I awoke to a sense of peace, her pealing laughter tiptoeing into my day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'd be very worried if I were she
destroying a raven's nest embedded in a canopy 
of golden green, perfectly formed
where sunlight played hide and seek
green executed roughly on flimsy excuse-- 
 a call for trouble, tempting the fates
I'd be very worried indeed.

the silent afternoon errupted with the cries 
seemed like the skies were filled with black
 distraught crows flapping about
that majestic banyan tree came alive with their pleas
as they watched the chopping, merciless
branches tossed asunder
each cut of blunt axe a slap
to be earned back many times over
such is the curse of the ravens, the messengers of our forbears
I'd be very worried indeed

I usually sleep the sleep of the dead
but last night I awoke with a jolt
3.30 the clock read
I walked to the windows, watched worried
the amputated tree without its nest, the mother sitting over her eggs
in the cosmic game of give and take
what fury would this bring on
this callous call to a raven's might, this sly tempting of the fates
then i tossed and perchance slept
in this game of unending cross and naughts
perhaps this too, was called for
the die is cast, never undone.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Snoopy died early this morning, two days after his return from the dog hospital.
He was restless and disinterested in food these last few days, and one had to follow him  pleading.
The sight of his lifeless form by the parking lot will stay with me to my last days. And the memory of our man wagging his tail, having spotted me at a distance with his food bag late in the night, so as to avoid unctuous neighbors.
Dogs will bark, they’re dogs, it’s in their nature, right? Yet Snoopy had quietened quite a bit, wouldn’t take handouts from other people, and generally kept to himself.
RIP Snoopy.
 Move on to a better life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The nearer you get to that half-century mark, the more you realize how little time there really is.
Yesterday I watched travel plans (a few months into the future) crumble and vanish, that elusive line of mountains grow hazy, as work deadlines intervened.
I raged and i fumed and roared, and I *adjusted*
Today the world has set itself right, flowers have their bright colors back.
Deadline restored.

Monday, June 18, 2012

back in the hometown, they had a townhall meeting to build a new, vibrant, buzzing city...
how I miss home sometimes, and how Mumbai sometimes feels like home...strange and unsettling feeling, this.
some photos in the meanwhile.
Inner Courtyard: Maharani Shantadevi NH

Baroda. Yes, the city of Kings. Including one who turned his back on the Emperor of Great Britain, the ruler of all domains.

Baroda. Heritage city. And its young who’d rather migrate to US UK NZ AZ anyplace even Fiji but not live here.

I want to go back someday. Which is why I still pay my property tax and light bills.

Baroda. Where the temperature sways from 7 degrees (in Dec.) to a sweet 47 (in May).
So shut up and tan/freeze.

Baroda. Where you have one of the world’s best art schools and a fine music college. Where every place is fifteen-some minutes away.

Baroda. Where you know the shortcuts that no one else remembers. And you still rue the time you returned an early Dickens to the Central Library, cause that was the right thing to do.

Baroda. The place that is still home in your dreams, where the stars spread silver on water-cooled terraces.

Wasn't this the Reading Room? opp Dandiya Bazar, off Rajmahal Rd.
Kalabhavan, MS Univ. The Faculty of Engg. The pharmacy dept was housed in a modern building, alas.
Kothi, the District Collectorate. Just how regal this looks!
The Old Police Headquarters.
Shiyabaug Police Chowky. Amazing wood cut outs.
My late aunt's house. Now this entirely gracious way of living is being abandoned.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some beautiful work.
Anusha Jasraj’s Commonwealth prize winning story

Fatima Rashid’s Massachusetts Review story, *It Takes Two Hands to Clap*
(Winter 2010)

That envy-mountain took me a week to get over.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So right that the heavens tipped over- drenching me to the skin
this morning, the first real day of the monsoon
celebrated with a walk though a inspired forest
amidst Asia's largest slumland.
eighty feet of soil spread across seventeen acres
a bricklined path zigzagging
and a forest of sturdy medicinals and perennials planted
 nature left to do her job
birds, butterflies, bees, moths
humming, trilling,
creating a magic neverland
after the skies poured
notebook tucked away
trying to soak in all the wisdom
only the taste remains
and awe

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Venus trails her fingers
across the face of the sun,
surrenders herself to  fiery nothingness
delights in the scorching  flare
her dance languorous
every moment made to last
the next hundred seventeen years.

Venus transit
Suddenly the resident crows on the banyan
Turn silent
Cowls, mourning
But how did they know?

All day I sat
my back to the glittering sea
The waters tipping to the horizon and beyond
A little quieter today,
witness to the dance of the celestials
All day I sat
Clenched fist.

Monday, June 04, 2012

I must be the strangest person I know
Every morning
I talk to trees
Grin at new leaves nodding in the breeze
Exult at the touch of sunshine on green
Frown, coax a branch that’s given up on the fight
A strange kinship, unspoken
Binds me to the ground, this ground

I met them again, all of them,
As if for the first time
Reveled in their families, their origins
Snippets of their history
From the hoary passages of time
Two plus hours trooping from tree to tree
In the park where I usually rush past
This once a note-taker, hanging on to every word
So yes, I met them all again
Tivar, Cajuput, Sita arjuna, Nagakesar
But the sense of pride at the expert’s exclamation
Or a special feature
Was something I lack the words for.