The Moroccan Voyage


It’s been two months since I blogged  here, but they’ve been good months. And so, for readers of my blog (if any still linger!), here’s my WordPress Daily Post on Voyage:

I was in Morocco in the months of May-June as part of a Study Abroad course. Travelling through a new country can be quite an experience. Morocco was not a place I had ever imagined myself going to but when I saw the opportunity, I thought- well, this isn’t a place I would have thought of visiting otherwise but here’s an opportunity to do so that I did not foresee! So I took it.

And I was rewarded. I went in with very little expectations because I hadn’t spent all that much time preparing myself mentally. Of course, some things only hit you in hindsight- for example, the fact that travelling to multiple countries in a short span of time can be daunting and disorienting, reverse culture shock is a thing, in a short amount of time traveling can fill your cup to the brim with a sense of fulfillment that little else does and leave a void which you will struggle with once you resume normal day-to-day activities, talking to people who did not share your travel stories can feel uncomfortable and not as pleasant as you would expect before you took off, and once you start embracing all of it- your soul will absorb these experiences until they are a part of who you are.

And that is why an extended stay in another country is a voyage- a voyage in which you discover another culture and learn to accept it, but more importantly, a voyage in which you discover yourself- a task that is much harder than you would anticipate!

Morocco taught me a number of things about itself. And I have shared a lot of them through posts on Instagram and through blogs I wrote elsewhere that you can read here. But Morocco also taught me a lot of things about myself.

  1. It taught me to not take culture for granted: As an Indian, there are many things I have always resented about India. Part of the reason for this is because I have had a hard time fitting in, although that in itself is a discussion for another day.
    From as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to go and experience other places of the world. When I was younger, the reasons for doing so were personal. But with time and the direction my education has taken, the reasons have become more evolved and nuanced- for me, the feeling of being a global citizen is important.

    For good or for bad, I never felt like I had a local identity as an Indian. And in a country that is so diverse, that is one of the things that has always stayed with me. I have moved so much within India and made friends from all four corners of it and that did for me on a mini scale, what Morocco did on a much more macro one. Having seen a thin slice of the world, I have enlarged my national identity to fit that of the world.

    And don’t get me wrong- in no way can you take a global identity for granted. It isn’t something you feel inside you all the time. Sometimes, you have to belong to places, to moments, to people, to cultures. In a world where the concept of identity is so layered for most people but still centers around specific points in time and space, I have no option but to be the same in some ways. So, as an Indian, I will always return to India, whether or not I choose to do so.
    But as I find myself  wanting to know more than just one culture and more than just one national identity not by embracing them as fully as I ever could embrace being an Indian, but by understanding, listening, accepting and empathizing with them

    As a result, I have also started realizing that there is so much that I have taken for granted about being in India. Coming back to India after a year abroad has made me see the country in a different lens and rediscover its stories from a new perspective. It kind of feels like spending your entire life looking at a zoomed in version of the world, then suddenly zooming out into the world and then zooming back in to India.

  2. It taught me to embrace differences: While I have been taught over the years to be respectful and tolerant towards others by family and school, I would give a large part of the credit for teaching me tolerance to all the reading and writing I have done. But it was truly travelling, and especially travelling to Morocco that reminded me that I really must respect and embrace people who are different from me.
    It isn’t easy of course, no matter what we say, to continually interact with those who see the world differently. But at the end of the day, it helps to remember that each individual human being is shaped the way they are because of a combination of their genes and their environment, and that their unique stories make them who they are. And remembering this helps in embracing the differences.
  3. It taught me how much I care: Over the past year, as I have begun to redefine the purposes of my life, I have started to come to terms with the fact that I have a worldview that is just one way of looking at the world. This is true of everyone- there are no rights and wrongs, only what we think is in our head.
    And I’ve realized that I care about suffering in the world. And I have accepted that while this may be a very patronizing way to think about those who suffer, I want to try to do something to reduce the suffering. I can contribute best by doing the things that I am best in, of course, and that is what I intend to do.
    Morocco taught me this because I met people in Morocco who had very little but with the smiles on their faces, the hugs they exchanged and the love they had to give, they touched my heart. This experience cannot be shared, it can only be had. But the lessons from such experiences CAN be shared, and that is what I hope to do.
  4. It taught me that I need to write:  I have never given up writing, even though I have been doing lesser and lesser of it on this blog. I learnt years ago that writing is something that will always stay with me in some way, shape or form, and it has but the ways in which I write keep shifting.
    Before leaving for Morocco, I tried to read up about some things and found that there was absolutely no information available about it in the context of the country, at least in English. I decided then that I will come back and fill the gaps that I can and I intend to do so.
    The reason I can’t seem to stop gushing about Morocco is not because I want to be that annoying friend who keeps popping up on your social media with multiple posts about the same thing, but because I want to add to that wealth of information that is online.
    I was in a nearly-deserted ghost town in Morocco when it struck me- if we had done this trip thirty or even twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have generated the massive amount of information we did today. In the age of information, we are adding a host of stories about Morocco to the treasure trove of knowledge online- and that is okay because perhaps our stories will provide information to those who need it in the future.
  5. It taught me what fun is and how to make friends again: This is an area I constantly need help in because I am generally so absorbed in my own world of books and Netflix, that I forget to do both these things. But spending 24 days with a group of 15 (I think!) people and very little internet accessibility can change that- and I am glad it did, because the group I travelled with had an amazing treasure trove of stories to share! And we made new ones along the way as well.
  6. It showed me how to integrate what I learn academically with what i see and experience of the world around me: The purpose of a Study Abroad is to learn while experiencing at the same time. And until now, my sustainability experiences had been largely contained to reading the written word. Hence, this was the first time I learnt what it is like to do actual “research” in the real world. It is often messy and confusing to be on the field and follow your theory at the same time but most importantly, I had fun! And that is the biggest take-away for me from the this voyage.

Finally, I will leave you with a few more photographs from Morocco:

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Ait Benhaddou

 

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Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech in the morning- a square that lights up with life and colors and snake charmers and monkey tamers and a very busy market at night.

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The Strait of Gibraltar

 

More later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pain in my chest


Good god! Who sought
The pain in my chest?
It was real. It was raw
The pain in my chest
I saw images I fought.
Reflect in the pain in my chest.

The pain in my chest. They come
Again. For me, I withdraw
To be half-mad is a game to me.
The pain in my chest. They said
It was gone. I chant again and again
The pain. The pain. My pain.

I want, I demand, I belong to it
Once again. On my own. I am drawn to it.
The pain in my chest. My chest.
Not yours. My pain. Step back!
I am trapped. It’s a trap! A trap.
My sweaty palm. Red eyes. White lips.
It’s a trap! A trap. Stay back

The pain in my chest is withdrawn.
I retreat. The pain in my chest is gone.
You spread a sheet on the floor.
A white sheet. Snow white. We befall.
Into dreams. Sweet dreams. I am gone.

The pain. My pain. Not yours.
Step back! It will not be poured out.
Like wine, cheap wine. My pain.
The pain in my chest is mine. They will come
They will see. They will go. They will say
To be half-mad was a game to her.
The pain in my chest. And she won.

Victim-hood


There are some poems that can only be triggered by your past. This is one of them:

I have been a victim too…
Not in the traditional sense of the word
Some would even say that my kind of victim-hood
Is a privilege of the well-off
Exercising the rights offered to them through the toil of others
They demand off life the duty to pay their dues

In that sense I have been a victim, yes
From the walls of my bedrooms
In quiet corners of a raped land
I have sought retribution
Off a soil that owes me nothing.
For a people that see crimson
Bloodthirsty, scarred, desperate, aroused
My victim-hood has been a lie masquerading as the truth

A Recipe! And Some Candid Thoughts (As Usual)


Something I’ve never done here before. But. I was mixing ingredients today after getting over a bad day that involved a lot of walking in the hot Phoenix sun than I had anticipated. And came up with something that turned out to be surprisingly easy and yummy. Since I haven’t blogged for a while, I thought I might just share this—are you ready for it? A recipe!

(This feels weird already).

Ingredients:

1/2 a cup cottage cheese
1/2 a cup shredded spinach
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

Here’s what you do: whisk the eggs, add the spinach and and cheese. Add salt to taste. Pour the mixture onto an oiled pan and scramble until the eggs are cooked. Sprinkle pepper. Comes out a pretty green:

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PS: I’ve been thinking lately of taking Blue Loft in a different direction, since that’s the direction my life is going in right now. I still love poetry and fiction but…strangely, that’s not where I am at anymore.

I think I’ll be honest here: The past few years of writing made me feel that there was something missing in the kind of writing I pursued. The truth was, I was scared of venturing into deeper waters while writing prose; poetry is easy because you can hide behind obtuse metaphors and THAT is the whole point and beauty of poetry for me! But prose is…harder. You need to polish it more for perfection. And I just want’s good enough for myself.

So I thought I would venture out into the world and return to fictional prose when I was…maybe forty. In the meantime, I can still write but that’s how long I ha(ve/d) decided to wait before attempting something ambitious like a novel. I figured, by forty I would have amassed a wealth of wisdom, probably some sort of discipline and the kind of research skills that would be useful for writing a novel. I also figured I would have seen enough of the world to KNOW what I wanted to write about. I didn’t have a concrete plan for how I was going to do it (I never have had concrete plans with my life before, cue the music for why I made such a big mess of life).

Strangely, the past few months have taught me that things CAN fall into place once you start to listen, however unconsciously, to that sound deep inside your heart that keeps nudging you into the directions you want to go. Not only have I unknowingly made some really great choices, it seems that things are…somehow aligning. Even if it all goes kind of downhill from here, I wouldn’t regret 90% of the decisions I made in 2014-2015. The remaining 10% will most likely be fashion choices.

Coming back to the question of prose: while deciding to not attempt to write a novel before forty (a decision I will be pretty flexible with as life plays out), it did strike me that along the way, I would….change. Somehow I have been a writer since I was six and I am sure that I will be that for as long as I live, even if it is not in the ways I had initially dreamt of. So I wasn’t afraid that I would want to stop writing though I have had my fair share of that fear as a teenager. But what I didn’t anticipate was that I might wish to move away from fiction. I tell myself every day that I will return, as a long-lost friend, to that world of imagination. But somehow, right now the real world has pulled me into it. It seems more fascinating than fiction…with fiction too I had been venturing into the unknown, trying to be as adventurous as I could with the books I read. And, for now…fiction isn’t what I spend my days dreaming of. Perhaps when real life is a drudgery, turning to fiction is the most logical and sensible thing to do to retain your sanity. But when real life plays out far more interesting things for you to donate your energy to, fiction CAN slip into the background.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I have found new places to forcefully attempt to pour creativity into right now. Cooking isn’t it though, despite how I started this post: please don’t think that’s where I’m going with this. And so…to come back to the point in a very round-about manner, I have been thinking about taking Blue Loft in a different direction. I have thought about starting a new blog because this has just…been about creative writing so far. But it has also been about my journey (?). Blurbs of life can be edited and so, blurbs of blogs can most DEFINITELY be too. Well, this is a rant. Something I’m great at. But it remains to be seen if I can and will be good at something else.

Jeez, here is a twist that I never saw coming!

OR maybe this is just all a big, fat, beautiful excuse for procrastinating novel writing until I’m too old to give a f***.

Birth and Death.


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Sweet child of mine,
Only afterbirth crept out of me
Capturing my absolution
In a soaking white light
Fracturing it into darkness
And then trailing behind

For this lifetime
You will follow me as I swallow
Lessons. And spit them un-learnt
Onto the pavement of life
Or for eternity I will
Grapple with your ill gains
Think about those spasms of pain
When I beget you

I had help, dear
Dreams aren’t born still
And sadness does not follow
From the acts of a single woman
They are conceived collectively
Sometimes forced upon you
After long battles under the summer sphere

Remember that I will always speak
With the bitterness of my early twenties
Who needs heels and sparkly dresses when
You can twist and turn from heartburn
Rise and fall in spirals, and proudly
Carry stretch marks from your wretched cowering

And hence, sweet child of mine
As you traverse mountains and seas
(or maybe even galaxies)
Remember, I will follow
With a host of dead souls.

 

 

Choices


What does it mean to choose? What is our aggregate, as we go from day-to-day making decisions about what to hold close, what to reject outright, and what to let go once it is no longer valid to our lives?

Everyday
In my choices
I engrave an understanding
of the structures of this world
And my mind mirrors an acceptance
permeating thickly across every room
that I am– this strange, magical form
With its conceptions of time and space
Mingling in and out of jungles of thoughts
Grows firmer with every new day
As a result of these
Choices.

The Story.


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Let me tell you a story today.

There was a girl once. She thought dreaming big meant a big, warm, sun-kissed house with huge white, smooth walls with no cracks or stains that could be windows for monsters in the dark shadows thrown by night. These walls would be like an empty canvas and the windows that were punctured onto its surface would be so wondrous that they would magically enhance the properties of light until it would bend and twist and turn and fall on each and every surface of the house. No shadows would form on any surface within this house.

And there would be no paintings on the walls with imaginary people staring down their crooked noses upon the house’s inhabitants with their malignant eyes, no corners or attics or staircases or bookcases for ghosts and goblins to hide, there would be strange sounds of leaking pipes or creaking wood or crackling fire or the strange drifting voices of shadow people who secretly dwell around and outside every house.

And outside the house…why, nothing would exist outside this wondrous house. No buildings or cars or roads or trees. No wind or birds or bears. No hate or pain or loss or fear. No. Other. Human. Being.

 

The little girl was very happy dreaming about this beautiful house inside which there would be absolutely nothing to surprise her. The space would be entirely her own. Colorful rugs and books and crayons would appear when she wanted them to. They would disappear when they began to haunt her. She would be fed and clothed. She would be healthy and…happy. She would be blissful.

 

The little girl continued to grow this little house to suit her needs. She added slides and flowers and birds when she was lonely. She tore them down, and tore down her memory when she was afraid they were bearing down upon her fast. She made art but erased it as soon as it were done, before she could identify the patterns of pen and paint upon her book and start to feel them and feed them and be fed by them.

 

Then one day, on an unusually cold summer morning, without a single warning, somebody picked the entire house from over her head and…walked away. It was a beautiful clear day outside. The sun was shining and she loved it. But there was something unpleasant against her skin. It was the wind. It brushed against the little bristles of hair on her hand and whispered the first tidings of a painful world she was yet to seen. And then, just like that, she was plunged into reality. There was the honking of cars and the bellowing of smoke and the mooing of cows and the chirping of birds. But most of all…there were other people.

 

Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of people. Everywhere the little girl looked, they were there. And they weren’t just still figures so she could stare into their eyes, ignoring their physical manifestations and unravel their identities with a single word or thought in her brain, and let that haunt her psyche. No! They moved. They talked! They loved and hated. They were hurt. They were in pain. They were speaking to themselves and to each other in a myriad of different languages with connotations and dialects and enunciations she could not unravel. They were weaving and threading stories, they were meeting and breaking apart. They were thrusting into each other, mentally and physically and spiritually. They were tearing themselves down, one atom after the other.

 

The little girl didn’t know what to do. She ran to the closest human and tried to explain to her that she had a house. A beautiful white house she couldn’t see anymore. She tried to ask him if he would help her find it. But the little girl realized that this human could not understand her. He looked at her and heard her and tilted his head to one side as though he was puzzled. But he wouldn’t help her. The little girl didn’t know why.

 

She rushed from human to human, asking someone, anyone…to guide her home. But now, something even stranger began to happen. The more she talked and stayed, the more attuned she became to the noise around her. The void she had missed so badly was now just a throbbing sweet nostalgic pain inside her. She was getting used to these people. Their chaos and their mayhem was becoming her own. But that wasn’t enough for this strange new world that she had suddenly entered. Oh no. These people she barely knew had begun to thrust their heads and necks and arms and legs inside her. They were merging with her and they were slowly engulfing her. Were they becoming her? That could not be, because she was just one and they were so many. She drifted around, wondering whether they too had fallen out of their own beautiful little houses.

But they had forgotten, she realized with a pang. They had forgotten what their houses had been like. Was she too, meant to forget? She couldn’t! A sense of panic and sorrow started to grip her. The more they thrust into her, the firmer she became in her angst. She was floating aimlessly in a sea of creatures who were just constructing realities as they went. There were too many of them. They were full of too many thoughts and emotions. She did not want to be a part of this world. She wanted her house.

But she couldn’t find it. She searched every corner of this world she was in before she realized that that house was gone. At least for a while. There were ways to bring it back to her, or bring herself back to it but she did not have access to those ways!

In the meantime, the world around her had made her almost entirely its own. Her body felt different now. It had smells. It moved differently. It weighed different. She hated it. But she could not remember what it had been like before so she could not complain.

Her mind felt different too. She could no longer make and erase things at will. Everything she said and did was written in stone. If others had thrust themselves into her at first, now she too was thrusting herself back into them. She didn’t know if the things she thrust into them were parts of herself or remnants of what had been thrust into her. She didn’t know the difference anymore and she couldn’t tell the pieces apart.

But even as she moved and breathed in this strange world, she was constantly uncomfortable. She knew pain, fear, guilt, hate, disgust, angst, misery, helplessness and anger now. She knew what they felt like to her and she could almost smell them on other people, she could almost tell what it felt like to them. And that was unpleasant. It made her cringe. It made her remember her beautiful little house.

Years have passed now. The little girl is probably no longer little. She still feels that way on the inside though. She doesn’t know if the house ever even existed! She has lived in this world long enough to forget what she missed. But still, more often than not, she feels that overpowering sense of sadness…the patter of rain on the pavement outside, the cry of a little child, the aches of her own heart, the chaos and madness of people whose paths and stories crisscross each day, as they thrust into and out of one another causing all sorts of miserable emotions. They don’t let her forget. She sees the world from the eyes of the little girl in that long-forgotten house and as long as she can’t let go of that house or let go of this world, a part of her will continue to scream invisibly.

PS: Disclaimer! The white house does not represent heaven, which I do not believe in anyway. The white house is not a good place to be in, for it is devoid of everything that gives us expression. The white house is a dull, boring and possibly unbearable place to exist in. Its manifestation in my life is probably a substitute for safety and love, free from every negativity- an actual impossibility.

World of Broken Glass


I never knew my singing highs
Were born on flimsy waves
Of maddening thoughts that rode
The deepest sighs of life
Seemingly calm in their expression
But filled with tirades of gloom
Galloping on fields of wind- and
Fearless above this world of broken glass

Hello, world! I’m welcoming 2016 with a post after months. I hope to continue my saga of poetry and the occasional bookworm-ism (a term I just coined).

 

On your Birthday, Sylvia: In Confession


http://www.the-declaration.org/?p=2282- Quiet Songs by Cindy Song I thought this summarized Sylvia quite well, also , this page contained images of other women I adore, who suffered from the curse of their own minds

On your birthday, Sylvia, I will not write you a poem but be brave enough to confront words the harder way- prose. Like you, I struggle with prose, recognizing how much harder it is than summarizing in a few lines of poetry, the breadth of the entire world. People would write you tributes, I’m sure. But I don’t think even those would have made you happy. You would have questioned yourself and them, and nit-picked through their glowing compliments to dig up the occasionally scantily-clad or well-shrouded criticism and sat with tears running down your face, wondering why you weren’t perfect. But that is not what I am driving at either.

There was something inherently designed inside you that I can so clearly recognize- the ability to see everything through a lens of intense emotion. The world you constructed revolved around you and yours; is this narcissism an important component of your mostly-confessional style of poetry? I think so, Sylvia because without it you would have been at a loss about what to write. You did not know anyone or anything better than you knew YOU, and you could not. Had you been able to look beyond your own dark pool of thoughts or changed your lens of examination, you would have found all the reasons in the world to get out of bed each morning and be alive in 2015 (and be less of a legend perhaps, in my mind) and write, write, write a lot more. You would have polished your art, striven harder and suffered from the classic curse of a creator, lived through heartfelt misery and channelized it into your writing in ways you perhaps couldn’t do. You would have been a legend of another sort, Sylvia.

But then I wonder: what if you hadn’t? What if your greatness only came from your inability to look outside your bubble of grief? What if, without it you were an average schoolgirl or a plain professor who wrote book after book but did not catch the imagination of a whole new genre? This is interesting to me because the reason that killed you was the very reason that made you. I ponder over this long and hard, losing touch with my reality when I think of the gratification that can be received from holding on to sadness. Sadness is like an anchor, without which I wouldn’t discover the wreckage of ships at the bottom of my sea. I would float unattended on top of the ocean, see fish and land and beaches, people, the sun, and an occasional dark storm. But I wouldn’t know what it felt like to have the pressure of the deep sea resting on top of me. I wouldn’t see the crevices at the bottom and the fantastic creatures that linger there. I wouldn’t understand the legend of sea monsters and merpeople. I wouldn’t find the occasional nugget of gold or a well-carved block of wood from a long-buried shipwreck.

I tried to look past your acerbic excerpts, Sylvia, at the truly knowledgeable things you said. I couldn’t, and I stumbled with refining my own definitions inside my head because I was starting to be consumed by your story that ended inside an oven. I can scratch the surface of melancholia but waves of hope and good fortune wash me against the shore of people and places I am able to fall in love with all over again, and I keep alive and I keep swimming on to the next destination. That is where I defined our differences, that was where I defied your glorious, shattering mentality. That is where I fail to be the kind of writer you were.

But I can still feel envy the way you do, and I can still hate the things I love. I can stretch myself until your moods become my own. I don’t.

And so, on your birthday, I wrote a confession of my own. I can imagine you reading through it and thinking, ‘this does not hold a candle to what I am capable of writing.’ And I would believe you . But I would go and read something the next day and feel this same emotion myself. And then I would bury it under a mountain of ‘what ifs?’, knowing that I can only write in short patches of fervent passion and do not have the energy to expand it into anything more concrete. I berate everything that seems ugly, including myself. I wish people were better to everyone else they knew, including myself on both ends of this spectrum. But who would they be better or worse to, because the moment I touch other people I explode into a growing mushroom of complications that force me to turn and run before I destroy myself and them. And then I wonder if these creative metaphor are anything more than gross exaggeration, because at the end of the day I am breathing, fighting, emerging, moving, sometimes crawling forward.

I know, I have always known, that all I am is a writer. Everything else is worthless without recording this journey of pain and that is what I do best.

And to commemorate, a stolen montage of some  Sylvia quotes:

Truer words have never been said https://fictionandflowers.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/sylvia-plath-quote-fictionandflowers-wordpress-com-why-do-i-write.jpg

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