Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Red. Bleeding, flowing red.

Red. The colour of Christmas.

Happy families ushering in the festivities with Christmas trees, Christmas gifts, planning the Christmas dinners. A few just taking the chance to spend time with friends and family, planning holidays and getaways. Even fewer spending time with those less fortunate, spreading cheer and happiness at orphanges and old-age homes.
Christmas, a time to hear the happy carols of little voices, see  the joyful laughter on little faces, read their letters to Santa and watch them eagerly opening their Christmas gifts.
Christmas, the season, children all over the world look forward to.
But for a few, this Christmas, meant none of the above.
The innocent ones who got killed. Before they could even imagine their gifts this Christmas.

Red. The colour of blood

Terrorists rounding up school children and killing them mercilessly. I can't call them humans. They lost that claim the day they killed children. Nameless, impotent animals who could look at the children in the eye and round them up and murder them. Unflinchingly. Mercilessly. Using religion to justify the massacre. Children who had probably gone to school with eager hearts, full of plans for the holidays. Children who had probably thrown paper planes at each other, waiting to open their lunch boxes and drawing cartoons on their notebooks when the teacher turned his back.

Till he entered. Till they entered. The gunmen.

Red. The colour of rage

I cannot even imagine what the parents of the children who were gunned down feel. No parent can. It is the worst imaginable nightmare. And the children who survived? Can anyone even feel their terror and their fear? Their friends being gunned down in front of their own eyes? As a parent, I sit, numb with fear, my hands shaking even as I pour out words. As a writer, I know I am shooting words as the only medicine that I feel can stop my shaking. Anything that will make me stop everything and run to my daughter's school right now. Hold her close and pray. And  wonder how I'll explain to her about evil that even I cannot comprehend.

We teach our children to gaze into the prism of imagination, paint a rainbow of dreams that crosses the bridge of reality. We teach them to be brave, to be independent. Can we teach them how it feels like to be held at gunpoint, in your own classroom, in your own school? Can we teach them not to cry when they are alone at that moment, needing us desperately? Can we take their place and save them from a destiny that was never meant to be theirs?

What should we tell our children?

Red. That's the colour all of us are probably seeing today, in our hearts, in our mind.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A 100 hands and more

Centuries ago, Kabir, the weaver and the mystic poet wove his tales of mystic wisdom in his bhajans that transcended boundaries of faith and race.

Today, a Hundred Hands and the Handmade Collective that showcases work of artisans across India celebrated its 5th edition of annual exhibition in Bangalore bringing together work from states across India using multiple mediums but all interwoven with the common thread of poetry.

Artisans, poets and singers have often been inspired by the everyday nuances of life that they saw around them.  But people have rarely tried to combine them together and search for the common threads of history. Today, as many such traditional, hand-made art forms are struggling for patronage, it was wonderful to see the Collective bringing together people for such a wonderful cause. And it was much more than an usual Delhi-Haat copycat exhibition where the sellers sold outpriced material to the unsuspecting, rich buyers.

Here, the focus was more on awareness and interaction which worked better than just selling the wares. The Let Poetry Be event, an informal session with poetry and music discussed the many dying art forms such as Miniature Mughal Paintings and the Sojni art form of Kashmir. And to have a theme of art inspired by poetry, was indeed something Kabir himself would have dedicated a bhajan to!

Who knew that the Mughal miniature artists lose their eyesights by the time they are in their 40's needing to train their next generation or forever lose the mastery of the craft?  And the paintings, which started as an infographic recording of the kings' valour, have now become a recording of the history of the times? Or that the baskets that are woven in different parts of India have their own quirks and stories? Yes, history played a large role in the event as the interplay of motifs and colours across the regions of India added variety and richness to the display.

The delicate wares might decorate upmarket drawing rooms in apartments across the country. But for the artisans, it was a chance to tell their stories. Each stall, a story, of dedication and determination. And if some of them sold, well, then that wouldn't be a very high price to pay, would it, to adorn our beautiful drawing rooms?

The exhibition will continue till Sunday, for those interested in participating.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Who needs stories more?

Stories. We all loved them as children. Some of us still do. Last week as Kathalaya celebrated 15 years of their storytelling journey, that's what I felt as I heard internationally acclaimed storytellers Anotoni Rocha, Geeta Ramanujam and Prahlad Acharya shared their magic with the audience.

A folk tale from Brazil with crocodile and chicken teaching the powerful lesson of universal belonging. A message we would love our children to learn as the world increasingly becomes more polarized and intolerant. A lesson we might have thought they are too young to understand. But a lesson made simple and memorable by the plight of the thirsty, dancing chicken and the questioning, lazy crocodile.

Sometimes, even sounds and words seemed superfluous. With just hand movements showing the caterpillar's walk transforming into the flight of a butterfly and a spider busy spinning his web, Antonio created a world we had all seen, but rarely stopped to observe.

Geeta shared the simple message of spreading happiness through the tale of a scary, monster that was too scared to look at its ugly heart. Happiness, how much more simple could the message be? How much more important could it be for our children, and for us?

And then Prahlad showed his magic, literally. A single string of rope that transformed into threads of magic in his dexterous hands. Not happy with just showing kids the Indian rope trick, he also had them in splits with his ventriloquism act with an oversmart monkey. And saving the best for the end, he demonstrated the classic "Mile sur mera tumhara" with shadow play. 2 hands. All he used to recreate the differences and similarities of the myriad, different faces of India. Mesmerizing. Not just for children. Quite a few adults were moved to tears.

For two hours, children forgot their iPads and video games. Parents ignored their whatsapp messages and facebook posts. As they all returned to the simplicity of a world of stories. "Storytellers are just observers. We observe and then we share." Antonio summed up the evening even as eager children clamoured for autographs from their new heroes.

Over 15 years of storytelling from Kathalaya has now become a larger movement in Bangalore. New storytelling institutes have emerged today, engaging with schools and parents to share stories with children. Lessons of history, morals, geography are being shared today in the language children understand the best. Stories.

As a mother and a storyteller, I only hope more people join this movement. And that stories weave their colours of imagination and tapestry of dreams in the hearts of our children.

But wait a minute. We all know children love stories. What about us? Don't stories have the power to still give inspiration for the most cynical souls among us? The ones who have lost their way, the ones who are tired of battling with their own demons, the ones who are just a tiny step away from giving up, the ones who are so busy that they have forgotten how it felt like to just forget the world and hear the magic of a simple story? Can we observe and learn again? And share?

Stories. Our children need them. But I guess, we adults need them more.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A wooden post card

I was not just a clean, rectangular piece of wood. You knew that. You knew that when you splashed the tears of black onto me. When you drew swirls of circles, each small circle blurring into the next, like wheels that had lost their reason to be in motion.

Why did you not choose any other colour? Red would have looked nice. Maybe a touch of green too. But you choose black. And I felt your tears, black, as black as the colour you poured on me, as you swirled up a storm of emotions that left me exposed and you empty.

I wanted to stay on your desk forever. But you were not done with me. And you were not done with her either. She, who had left Koru forever. You labelled me, stamped me, posted me.

Now, I am just a rectangular, piece of wood, looking for an address, looking for an identity. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

And then there were none - top 10 ways I could murder the top 10 lists

Today happens to be Agatha Christie's birthday. Well, the queen of crime in her brilliant book "And then there were none" conjured up a story about an odd mix of people stuck on an island with no room for escape and no place to hide as the killer silently chooses the victims one by one till none remain. The chilling suspense of the book and its arresting title will forever remain a testimony to her unmatched mastery over her art.

So, if you had a way to murder something till there really were none left, what would you choose? I would choose the list of top 10 ways to do, well, almost anything.

See a quick search result from buzzusmo on this topic - a website which claims to give the social buzz on any trending topic. Well, there seem to be top 10 lists for just about anything from losing weight to am sure losing your mind as well. There is even a list of 10 ten ways to stay alive. Just in case we forgot that we are not dead yet.

Quite paradoxically, if you run a search on Google Trends on the same topic, the result you get is quite contrary. It actually says the trend of top ten lists is on the wane over time; though you wouldn't believe it with all the top 10 lists you are forced to see everyday unfailingly, even if you manage to avoid reading them.

Now this article is meant for my fellow struggling writer-in-waiting souls who write content at work apart from writing fiction in their inspired moments. It is not enough that we stare at the clock, sweating beads of frustration, gulping our 5th cup of cold tea as we wait for that perfect phrase to reign sunshine on our content darkened souls?

Wait, the world tells us now. Before we hit publish, we have to do buzz check; how good really is our content? Does it have the potential to become trending content? Don't publish unless it's a top 10 list. Why not 12 or 13, you ask? It has to be 10, you see. That's what sells.

Did I hear right? Now, did they just discover a way to predict the next best-seller blockbuster content? Did Salman Khan and Chetan Bhagat just compile a joint book of top 10 dummy ways to best-seller success?

Or are we just chasing the shadow of trending content before it vanishes in the trail of its own tiny scroll bar, lost till another tweet or link claims the fantasy of the reader? Who decides permanence or success of content? Who can predict the mind of the reader through the lens of the top 10 lists?

You decide. And yes, till we do that, if anyone else talks about 10 lists on the Queen of Crimes' birthday, it is as good a day as any to get started on the top 10 ways to kill that person. Now that would be a good list, I guess. The Queen of Crime has more than 10 lessons for that.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks

At last, a social challenge for the ones who ones who would rather ignore social conventions and curl up with a book. Aha, naming top 10 books you have read when reading books has been a compulsive habit all your life! Child’s play really, you thought. That’s before you actually sat down to name the books and organize the rush of emotions and memories that accompanied the name of each favourite book.

You scan through your bookshelf. You open the first book. Remember?

  • The book you were reading when your sister called you to feel the rush of rain in the balcony on a summer evening choked with the sense of an impending wait, as if the stifled air was waiting to be released from its prison of dampness. You felt the wet wind on your face even as the first raindrop fell on your book and you ran to save your book while the relentless rain drenched happiness on your hair, your eyes, your arms, your senses.

  • The book your best friend gifted you in the library when sharing books was a hallmark of shared friendship. The book which formed your very first definition of love before you even knew what love  meant. The book you discussed and debated over steaming plates of Maggi. Much later, you thought about why your friend gave that particular book to you. Was he trying to say something? You were just friends, weren't you? You discussed every plot in every book you both shared and read but you couldn't ever discuss the reason.

  • The book you read when you were recovering from your first heartbreak; snuggled in bed with a large bar of chocolate, the treacherous tears threatening to create pools of darkness that your self-pity could easily drown in. Then you laughed, incongruously, as the character in the book cracked another insane joke and suddenly the world did not seem so dark anymore. You cracked up, rolling on the bed and despair seemed to melt faster than the melting chocolate in your hand.

  • The book you read when you felt nothing made sense, when the steps to success seemed slippery and steep and emptiness and bitterness gnawed gaping holes in your heart. The world seemed to be your enemy and no one seemed to understand your feelings. Except the author and the character in the book you were reading. Each page seemed to be a story of your struggle. And as you turned the last page, the night disappeared into the dawn and you felt, whole and inspired, all over again.

  • The book you tried to read in snatches as your child slept in her crib, her tiny hands holding on to your fist. She stirred in her sleep and you automatically reached out to soothe her nameless fears; even as you turned the page of your book. The silence of the long afternoon and the questions that the book raised emerged as answers you were looking for and could ask no one. You still found the bookmark in the book; the bookmark you had crumpled over and over again as you thought through decisions that needed to be made.

Memories. Books. Friends. You dust each cover and replace them back on the bookshelf;  the handwritten inscriptions from your friends and loved ones, now timeless imprints on the yellowed pages. Each inscription, an ageless memory of love and care.

It wasn’t just the top 10 books. In a way, for the ones whose lives have been shaped irrevocably by the books they have read, it was also the top 10 memories of their lives. For “sometimes memories sneak out from your eyes and roll down your cheeks”.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Vizag: Lost pages of history

"Long weekend in Vizag?" you hear incredulous whispers. "What will you see there?" "Why not Goa or Kerala?" India's only natural harbour, Vizag or Visakahapatnam, is hardly seen a place of choice to spend a long weekend. It is as if its rich tradition steeped in the culture of centuries from King Ashoka to the Cholas, Chalukyas, Mughals and British are now forgotten pages of old text books resting on dusty book-shelves. As if its wartime history with the Japanese bombing in 1942 and its contribution in the 1971 Banglalesh war could be shrugged as lost secrets from its high cliffs.

Vizag today is seen more as a canny real estate buy for the rich and moneyed looking for another sea-facing getaway. Signs of commercial development are obvious all across the coastline even as the local people go about their business at their old pace; the smells of a small city merging with a rising commercial hub.

Vizag is not well-marketed today. Even on a national holiday, there are very few people from outside town flocking its so-called tourist attractions.  But for the few relentless travellers that make the journey, Vizag holds a  lot more surprises and beauty.

1. The Sound of the Sea against the Soundless Hills:
The waves of the restless sea crash relentlessly  against the narrow sand beach. The hills in the distance stand tall, as if protecting the secrets of the past and guarding their beauty against the rush of uncaring commercial travellers.

A Hollywood style VUDA (Vizag Urban Development authority) sign, a narrow ropeway and a super-slow toy train aptly called "flying" train; can all be forgiven for the majestic view of the Sea and the hills.

2. The Submarine Museum

In the fading evening light, INS Kursura Submarine, stands at the banks of  the RK beach like a rock still capable of protecting the nation, the way it did 30 years back. The real-life statues of the crew once you step inside, tell a vivid tale of lives lived during battle, not an inch of space to spare but hearts filled with courage and dreams.

A fascinating treat for children, this.

3. Thotlakonda
A reminder from the Kalinga days, the vast expanse of 120 acres overlooking the majestic sea today shows the excavated ruins of virahas, stupas, pathways and signs of learning and religion.

The waves make no noise at this distance; there is absolute peace, calm and quiet, the way it would have been, centuries ago.

4. Borra caves

The majestic Borra caves situated about a couple of hours away from Vizag in the breathtaking Araku valley is a journey worth making not just for the destination but also for the journey. As we set out early in the morning on the road to the caves, the rain Gods smile on us, the clouds playing hide and seek with a truant Sun as our tempo traveller meanders its way up picturesque hills dotted with tribal villages.

The caves themselves are among the largest in India. As you descend downwards, your eyes blinking at the darkness, the stalactites and stalagmites forming imaginary shapes in your mind, your eyes turn towards the ceiling - just a sliver of light painting a golden ray amid the layers of darkness. You hear the bats screech, maybe, as you touch the damp walls of the cave. Despite well-positioned lights and staircases, the caves are sure to bring a thrill for the travellers whose imaginations always travel with them.

4. Back to the waters

How can I not speak about the food? From signs of bamboo chicken at every street corner, to ample servings of biriyani at all times of the day, Vizag is also a paradise for food lovers.

Of course, there are a few Continental and Chinese restaurants which serve global cuisine to those inclined. And for those looking for authentic local cuisine, Vizag promises a treat for the tastebuds if one is willing to overook the service time which are obviously not meant for those always "on-the-go".

At the end of the long weekend, as we let the restless waves wash over our tired feet, the wind blowing across our faces; the footsteps on the sand receding into the darkening swirl of the waters, Vizag seems to be finally telling us its secret; a secret that we all knew, but rarely stopped to hear. A secret whispered by the waves, carried by the wind, echoed by the mountains, buried deep in the caves and in the layers of the stupas. To just let life be, in all its pain and beauty. To let history remain untouched even as future claimed the present. To stop the hurry and the worry, till we could feel the salt in our eyes and the wind swaying our hearts.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

When the iceberg cracks

The show over,
He bowed,
The audience clapped, still in splits
Over his jokes and wisecracks,
Holding their aching sides,
His warmth,
Melting their iceberg of sorrow.

The show over,
He stood, 
Laughter billed by the hour,
Darkness accumulated over years,
Hiding his aching pain,
His smile,
Cracking his iceberg of lost hopes.

They say that "the loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do."

On a day when Robin Williams, a man who made millions smile, lost the battle to his own demon of depression, the question that we all might ask is do we know the ones who make us smile and laugh the most are the ones who might be suffering the most?

While we crib our hearts to them and they listen and they give as they always have, do they ever share what is gradually tearing them apart? Can we see the darkness in that kind smile? Can we hold their hand and hope they will find the strength to cry? And in crying and in sharing, they will find the strength again to live and smile not just for others but also for themselves?

Can we save the Robin Williams we all see around us- the ones that seek to inspire always spreading kindness and happiness but never sharing their own darkness? Can we stop the iceberg from cracking?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Which story will you tell your daughter tonight?

"Tell me a story, Mummy" she will say at bedtime, her eyes still wide open, her tiny fingers holding on to your hand, the night lamp still darting shadows on the childish paintings that adorn her bedroom walls. Paintings of rainbows, of butterflies, of a Sun that shines over a small house, stick figures of a family with smiling, happy faces.

Yes, a story. You want to tell her stories of bravery, of dreams, of reaching for the impossible and finding her true self. All that you want her to achieve. You want to tell her a story about the rainbow and the sunlight, about the Sun that shines brightly as she hopskotches her way onto her shiny dreams.

But then there is another story you need to tell her. A story about darkness and a cloud called bad touch, that rains only in the dark shadows where evil awaits wearing masks that she may not recognize - a relative, a helper, a cleaner, a neighbour. Someone she trusts. Someone she has seen everyday. Yet someone who could blacken the rainbow forever. Who could turn her brightly colored paintings into splashes of black and red in an instant.

It is a story that is probably being shared by millions of parents to their children in homes across India tonight even as the latest Bangalore rape reminds us again of the monsters that lurk beneath the faces we see everyday and the utter fear and the utter helplessness that we feel as parents.

Which story will you tell her? How can she be brave if you ask her to be scared?  How can we say we are free if we are worried sick every moment our children are away from us in schools, in daycares, in the very places that are supposed to nurture them and guide them?

How can we answer their innocent questions?

"Is touching on the shoulder ok, Mama?" "Or on the leg?"

"Are we safe outside school?"

"Why are bad people allowed in the school?"

One incident. Many questions. Are we brave enough to answer them for our children? Will we again forget till the next incident comes back to haunt us? How can we tell them the right stories, make them continue to paint in the bright colours that is their right as children?

I am a mother. I have a daughter. And I want to hold her hand and show her the stars, help her paint her dreams in myriad hues of imagination. I do not want her to cower in fear, afraid of lurking shadows at every corner. I am a mother. I want my daughter to be safe. Is that too much to ask for?

So yes, I will tell her a story tonight. A story of rainbows and the Sun that shines over all the dark clouds. Tonight and every single night till no monsters can even lurk near her dreams.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Bookworm Gardens and Tall Tales

Far away from the addictive laddoos of Chotta Bheem, far away from the flashing screens of the iPad, far away from the digital world that is increasingly locking our children and possibly their imaginations too, there lies another magical world that sets them free, a world of books. At a time when they and their imaginations should both be running free and wild in the meadows of childhood, scraping their knees, falling down, but experiencing the sheer joy of running without fear; a lot of todays' children are unfortunately ignoring the magical world that can shape their minds, increase their vocabulary, widen their horizons and indeed, paint a whole new world.

A world that a lot of us parents wish our children to enter into as we keep taking them to bookshops and buying the latest stories that seem to be firing their imagination from Wimpy Kids' wimpy antics to Geronimo Sliton's scaredy mouse habits. But it is a world that is increasingly becoming difficult for our children to comprehend and understand given the explosion of other media that is blinding them with their bright colors and jazzy images as they stand transfixed, lost, as if admiring candies in a candy store but unable to make up their minds.

Yes, we read them bed-time tales, yes there are storytelling sessions nowadays which encourage creativity and reading habits in children. But they all seem to be fighting a losing battle as bookstore sales drop and library memberships dwindle and children wrinkle their noses at classics and fairy tales as if they were poisons similar to another forced dose of carrots or banana.

And then I read about this. Bookworm Gardens. 

Located in Wisconsin, a DisneyWorld to a booklover, the park, which has free entrance for all, is a place where children and their imaginations can roam free, in a world of classic stories and much loved tales brought to life creatively and humorously. A packed lunch and a day to roam free with stories and imaginations. That is what the park offers.

We may not have such a luxury here. But we do have farms and parks, gardens and myriad lost, old stories that lurk in the everyday mundane. Can we not use them to create such a beautiful world for our children through storytelling; can we not picturize for them a world full of the greatest riches and boundless pleasures, a world locked between the covers of the old pages of a book, a world which only they have the magic key to open, when they finally flip the covers open?

A confirmed bookworm I am for sure, my world shaped by the books I have read since childhood and the new ones that I hope to read everyday. But after all, John Lenon did say, "You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one."

If more and more parents, try painting this picture, our children too will rediscover the magic of books all over again. Till then we may as well cower in fear as the screechy sirens of the Chotta Bheem theme song threatens to invade sanity.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


He saw a new face,
Sharing, teaching,
A scarf covering
One side of her face,
Her wisps of curly hair,
Her dark black eyes,
Mere glimpses.  She
Was beauty, she was grace.

Till one day, thunder
Roared, the wind howled,
Sheets of incessant rain.
Her scarf blew away,
No match for the gale. And
She turned, he flinched,
Her grace unmasked. He
Tried not to look away.

His face burnt with shame.
Horror. Anger. The scars
From a distant past. Did they
Make her lesser than whole?
But she smiled, she laughed, 
As the rain caressed her face,
Washing away the pain, baring
Her real grace, her unbeaten soul.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Paper Memories

Paper memories
Tiny bits of paper,
Dreams colored and
wrapped with love,
A hut drenched in rain,
A bird too large,
The Sun's bright rays
The river, a boat,
A blue mountain.

She gives you her card,
Glued with imagination,
Painted with dreams,
Drawn with hope,
“I am busy.” you say
Absent maid,
ever-present boss,
Card discarded. Too much
For you to cope.

Tiny bits of paper
Faded colors,
Now line the walls,
Of the empty nest.
The cards are all
that’s left in time.
Time’s flown, so has she, 
taken all the rest.    

You dust each old card,
10 times a day,
Each forgotten moment,
Now a shadow of a wreath.
You pick up the phone,
You call, and you hear
“I am busy, Mummy”

Paper memories’ death.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Vagaries of a writers' life

You battled for hours,
Late into the forgotten night,
Chasing your lost voice.
Laptop keys and imagination,
Locked in the usual tireless fight.

Bleary eyed, you typed send,
Black coffee, stale breath.
Chipped nails. Chopped dreams.
And then the inevitable mail.
An inch closer to writing death?

You wrote in a fury, uncaring,
Not stopping to even think,
Of the metaphors or the voice.
A rush of words, spit out,
Sent before you could blink.

400 likes, 20 shares,
Triple the usual view.
Just when the last candle
Blew out, the letter
Came with the morning dew.

What’s your real voice?

Does the writer have a choice?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

There's always something left to love

No shrivelled body,
No ashes and no dust,
No piece of paper,
To anul a relationship gone bust.

No disappearance,
No clean break,
If only it were so easy to end,
Friendship that turned fake.

Just like those childhood moments,
You close your eyes tight, you run,
Away from the strong, bitter medicine,
That always burnt your tongue.
Away from the creamy froth you scooped
Out in vain from the spoilt milk.

The hollow wall of formality pounds,
Restlessly against your shattered heart.
You jump as the final nail in the coffin
Of dead friendship, jabs again - a lost start.

No disappearance,
No clean break,
If only it were so easy to end,
Friendship that turned fake.

You stand still, reluctant to face the change,
Even as Facebook likes and twitter pokes,
Widen the cracks, seem easier to crack,
And replace your heartfelt chats and endless
But just as the wheel turns, you hold on,still,
“there’s always something left to love” you feel,
As you collect the fragments of memories,
That refused to get crushed in time’s wheel.

No disappearance,
No clean break,
If only it were so easy to end,
Friendship that turned fake.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Lessons I had forgotten

Once upon a time when we were all children and we used to read children’s books, we used to always look for the morals at the end of the story –morals that crystallized the learnings for us, that taught us right from wrong, good from evil.

Today, far removed from the black and white angelic world of childhood, as we sit surrounded by the quagmire of grey and the wall of cynicism that surrounds us, children’s stories might seem to be an alien concept to us-only fit for reading at bedtime to our children, at best.

But reading them again today, with my daughter, I find new meaning in the old tales, new power in the words that the much-loved characters used to say, new lessons for life today.

We may not want to read the morals again, but some of the simplest dialogues in our best-loved childhood books hold some powerful lessons for the struggles we go through in life. A few are mentioned below:

From Alice in Wonderland

A wonderfully clear message when we are fighting confusion in life and looking for the right road to turn to
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.

On change and what that means
“I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

From Winnie the Pooh

When you lose faith and need to believe in yourself all over again
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you believe and smarter than you think”

On friendship, in a cynical adult world when we start believing more in Facebook likes than real friendships
 “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

From the Little Prince
On the power of the heart when the mind is all you can hear
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” 

On loneliness and being alone
“Where are the people?” resumed the little prince at last. “It’s a little lonely in the desert…” “It is lonely when you’re among people, too,” said the snake.”

From Matilda

A quote for the dark times when we are tempted to take short-cuts in life
“If you are good life is good.” 

On the power of dreams, when all we can worry about is survival
“Matilda said, "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable...

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Summertime dreams

“It’s summertime, Mummy”,
She strums the guitar.
Strikes a pose, and declares herself,
The latest rocking Rockstar.
Next day, she ponders thoughtfully 
In the kitchen; oblivious of the mess,
Chocolate chicken in the making,
"Papa, can’t you guess?"
The remote is no longer under any control,
Sounds of Chotta Bheem blare.
"I am just planning a new TV invention,
Science research you see, shh..secret, can’t share".
Then again in her shiny, new, roller skates,
She balances delicately; you run to break her fall.
"Watch me fly" she laughs; you cry -
“Baby, be careful, keep your eye on the ball”.

But when the ball drops,
When the guitar string breaks,
When we forget the lyrics of the song,
That once lulled us to blissful sleep,
When each new recipe tastes of
Broken dreams and lost hopes,
Aren’t we still entitled
To that one crazy, forgotten, dream?
Can't summertime dreams last
an entire lifetime? Don't we all remember
that summer, when the world was our dream?

Monday, 3 March 2014

On the music trail in Jodhpur

Why would you go to Jodhpur? Options could vary:
  • You are enroute to Jaisalmer to visit the Sonar Kella (immortalized  by Satyajit Ray in the movie by the same name) and are stopping by in Jodhpur on the way
  • You love history and want to spend hours at the historic and majestic Mehranghgar Fort
  • You want to have dinner at the Umaid Bhavan Palace, never mind the exorbitant cover charges
  • You are out of "jutis" (leather shoes) and Jodhpur stocks them in all shapes and colors in affordable prices
  • Music..and this is a new reason. Music tourism is still quite new in India and not as widespread as some countries in Europe.But with current Maharaja’s patronage, Jodhpur has transformed itself into a city that lives and breathes music and welcomes people who do the same.
I was lucky enough the attend the World Sufi Spirit Festival hosted at the Fort in February 2014.
Sufi music, at its best, has the power to transport one to a world of oneness with the Almighty where earthly cares cease to exit. Sufi music against the backdrop of the majestically lit Mehrangarh Fort, promised to be just that. Of course, Sufi music of late has been much used and abused in Bollywood with many a movie cashing in on its recent popularity and belting out songs that range from a few divine ones to some plain bizzare ones.And though the organizers did get the usual Bollywood quotient by inviting Kavitha Seth and lesser known, Chintu Singh, they did manage to go much further than that.

The beauty of the festival lay in the other voices it managed to attract - Voices from the Pamir Highlands, voices from Morocco, classical Sufi strains, Sufi music and dance from the Middle Eastern countries.

Music that broke the barriers of language, music accompanied by unknown instruments and powerful voices that reached across the sturdy walls of the ancient fort to reach the hearts of all the listeners.
The listeners too represented a wide spectrum of people – travellers across ages and cultural boundaries from different parts of India, foreign tourists who have seen Sufi music in other parts of the world and came to experience it in India, even some celebrities and some wannabe celebrities. They were all there, united by a common bond of music, the strains of the soulful notes stretching into the starlit night; the shadows of the past merging into a musical journey across the corridors of time.

And when the three official festival days were over, the music still continued. Folk musicians from Rajasthan sat at the corners of the forts, playing the ravanhatta (folk instrument) and singing old folk songs in their raw, powerful voices. The crowds had thinned by then, but the folk singers were oblivious, their voices blending perfectly with the stone walls of the fort, keeping tune with the secrets that the fort would not share with the casual visitors who came to visit just for a few days. The festival was over, the music will continue, forever.