Will You Miss India?

Will you miss India?

Will you miss the crazy honking on the street; the bronze and blistering bodies cohabiting a narrow breadth of space; the stalls of watery, salty-sweet, spicy, laden, yellowing, creaming mountains of fly-infested snacks and the jingling of pennies as bodies rub against one another, pushing to be the first in line; the pink sunsets across a dusty patch of land or through the worn, grey mesh of a half-abandoned building (and there might be a story behind it!); the scarves and kurtis that play at being rainbows draped over pear-shaped bodies under oiled, coiled, tangled, wispy hair worn thin or flown high from the heat and the smoke and the traffic and the dust; the perennial sound of traffic buzzing, whistling, flying past and men hurling words at other men, often not caring; the hostility and the harshness always permeated by the yellow sun, trailing a thin line of birds; an under-construction road or building piled with concrete and mortar and bricks; the tiny hammocks made out of thin cloth with little brown babies placed within them, their tiny fingers grasping the air for the first signs of that constant struggle which is to define them for eternity; the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps clad in half-broken slippers, the supple prepubescent bodies shrouded in hand-me-downs from generations ago and turning black under layers of grime and dirt; the toothless grin of a woman shoving her hand into your ribcage in the hope for a penny or two, dancing with an undernourished babe held in her arms as the signal turns from red to green and your eyes are focused on the vapidness ten feet away; the bone-showing hungry trot of a street dog uncared for except to be thrown stones at or fed by the occasional kindness of a stranger and his bark like a question mark, challenging you or his fellow competitors to hurl another hostile gesture into his life of a street thug; the sway of a cow, its body thickened under worship and fodder as it moves nonchalantly down a busy junction; the lines of girls and boys in their late teens, dressed like a uniform in jeans and a tee-shirt from real brands or fake ones, their eyes surveying the scene of their triumph as they trudge down streets that are unwelcoming to pedestrians or navigate their bikes and scooties with the giddiness of first timers- I could write for hours about the images I’ve absorbed over the years, taking for granted the tiny around-the-corner shop where you can find anything from a stick of gum to a bar of soap and the raspy cry of an ice-cream vendor making his way through rows of houses in the twilight. I can talk about nights of religious festivities where loudspeakers would blare the word of God late into the night, regardless of an individual’s sleep requirements and marriages would be celebrated into the next morning. I can close my eyes and see shops with absurd names next to showrooms of international brands on the edge of a road with barely enough turning space for two vehicles planning to go in the opposite directions. And I can see men staring, leering glaring and women walking with their shoulders squared against the onslaught. And I can see the fear in their eyes and the spark and the absolute certainty that tomorrow too, life shall go on and they shall be here trying to make the best of what they have, fighting through a sea of other human beings just as desperate, just as intense, just as overwhelmed, just as burdened and hurt and preoccupied and obsessed and determined and helpless and amazed by the contrasts and the competition frothing all around them.

So, yes I will miss India, in my own bittersweet way.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no
bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

In as little as sixty pages, Virginia Woolf covers the entire span of humanity’s greatest chasm- the inexplicable notion of ‘male’ and ‘female’, the unending debate on the cycles of gender oppression and denial. This short fictionalized account from 1929 considers what it would take for the world to have more women writers but the essay covers so much more than just women’s ability or inability to pen down their thoughts through the ages. Ms Woolf talks about why there is so little to be found of women’s autobiographical accounts of themselves and how that has led to a vicious chain of suppression for women writers. .

I can say more but I would rather pen some quotes from the book which conveyed the point much better:

“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.””Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority. That was what he was protecting rather hot-headedly and with too much emphasis, because it was a jewel to him of the rarest price. Life for both sexes- and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement- is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate that imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By feeling that one has some innate superiority…”

“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.”
“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.”
“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

“All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are ‘sides,’ and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot.”

And so, despite its often unsavory topic, this essay was not a bitter, distasteful rant but a reasonably concluded commentary on women’s role in recorded history over the ages. Ms Woolf expresses an optimism about the future- and indeed, we can look back now and feel fortunate that so much has changed and writing is such an easy and fluid occupation for women today than it ever was (of course, to be truthful, writing is hardly ever easy and often excruciatingly rigid in its flow). This essay does not lose its timelessness because it is unapologetic about the past of one half of humanity and yet does not beg or pray or demand but releases softly into the world a delicate truth that must have taken it by storm when it first appeared in print.

PS: The one glaring absurdity she expresses is a belief that a woman (or man, for that matter) cannot write unless she has a steady income and a room to call her own. She says that impoverished individuals cannot be good writers which is a bluntly snobbish statement to make.



You have burdened me, oh brain!
With the task of finding out whether
I am big or small

I am who I am
The sum total of this body is
A consciousness
Not weighty, perhaps
In determining how this world came to be
Or how far it will travel

But I am somewhat important to me
Yes, with arrogance and impudence and pride
I must put my bronzed, fading, falling skin
On the highest pedestal
Right next to the sun worshiper’s sun
To do anything less is an unworthy risk
But to do this with the lesson that-
I am not Atlas but I must choose
To be him every day-
Ah! That is indeed the real challenge

The Writing Muscle

http://www.wikihow.com670 × 447Search by image Exercise Your Creative Writing Muscle Step 5.jpg

The writing muscle is a strange and elusive tool- it must be treated with a great deal of reverence, maybe even a little bit of fear. It is a part of the soul and needs careful nurturing. If you neglect it and forget about it and leave it to its own devices (much like I have been doing off late), it will fall into a state of disrepair. Cracks will start to appear along its supple lines and its flexibility will begin to shrivel until what remains is a potted plant, still precious but dying due to lack of moisture. Even good soil in the form of good literature alone is not enough without sunshine.

I spend too much time thinking and talking about writing than I do actually penning my thoughts down. What a dismal way to treat an art so intense, so beautiful that it can turn into life itself. I have always been afraid of being a professional writer- there was a time I wanted to do just that but since then I realized that unless I do not have the content, I would rather not plunge into the world of editors and critics. This is not a good thought to live by in today’s world, of course, to be firmly competitive one must plunge headfirst into the sea of sharks but if those sharks devour parts of your flesh, what would you be left with?

I know that I ought to be exercising my writing muscle every single day, or at least multiple times a week. What wonders I dream myself capable of creating! So sloth is one of my sins because my dreams are big and I forget to arm myself with the resources that I so clearly need in order to shoot for the moon. Today however, I chose to wade through a collection of WordPress Daily Prompts and write about a particular one— The Heat is On.

I do believe I am at my best when I have deadlines to meet- either real or imaginary. This is a tiny contradiction because I do not enjoy creative writing under duress and I haven’t indulged in a lot of professional creative writing anyway but thinking back to the times I reviewed TV shows within weekly deadlines (you can find at least some of them over here)- well that was an interesting and fulfilling exercise.

Every time I tread back into the waters, I am a little more uncertain. I feel that way again today as I prepare to press Publish on another autobiographical post about writing. Perhaps poems are easier because they are so flexible and disguised, I feel I’m in the open and yet shrouded in mystery. It might be time to let the veil slip back a little more again. 🙂

This and That


I’m not all bare ankles and pink toes
I’m not all wide-brimmed summer hats
I’m also patches of mildew and
Smudged ink blotches on a wallpaper patch

I’m not all yellowing wisdom on ancient scrolls
Not all sunbathing on warm stones
I’m also puddles on the bathroom floor
And the slinking grey cat outside the kitty trap

I’m not all sour cream and ripened peaches
Not all steaming cups of warm tea
I’m also ageing stalks and dried leaves
And the bitter gourd’s gutted seeds

I’m not all blue-laced velvet spindly dresses
Not all corsage on an enchanting night
I’m also darkened, cried-out, dried-up mascara
And the crumbling edge off a broken tiara


The lights flashed, the camera shone
Pink lips and cheeks of gold

On the edge of a reasonable shriek
My women’s parts were examined, weaved
Into a thickly plait of cheek

I was the carbon on your palm
From the bills you paid to keep me warm
Your fingers itched and blisters formed
And then there came the storm

You thought the grass was overgrown
I was the acres full of worms
Your muddied arms arched my spreading form
And left the broken roots unborn

I was pretty on my own; you thought
I needed to be thrown
I was a harpy playing traunt; you made
Me hungry for the thorns

I was the christening of the dying leaves
That rustled by the pond
I was the keeper by the creek
Guarding promises long gone

I was the sinking of your teeth into
A vial of dark vitriol
I cried my tears of acid
As night melted into dawn


I see you twice

Once from the gap between my eyes
Where opaque shadows grow limbs and shake
Their sleepy torsos wide-awake
And then from the land where
Fiery-eyed dragons ride an orange moon
And underneath the sea bubbles its blue-green froth
Lending teeth to my skin

I see you twice; you are
The silhouette on my window shield
And you are the little fairy
Tying totems to my wrists

I see you twice; you are
The grains brazing my skin on a sandy road
And you are the blue-grey tinge
Lighting up my mobile screen

I see you twice; you push my hair away
And you find me new ghosts to slay
I see you twice you turn my memories into stone
And warm my body’s hardening clay

I see you twice; you turn off the lights
And on the pillow my heart trots to life
You pull me off the cliff alive
And shield me from the invasive flight

More of Nothing

There seems to be an underlying theme of ‘nothing’ in my poems lately. You could ask me why. I wouldn’t know. The poems are few and far between these days and not as wonderful as I would want them to be but the creativity still oozes out once in a while and perfection is, of course, unattainable. So I continue to pour them out here.

I did nothing
I burnt
myself black
Charred black
It was a planned event of decades
And it belonged to someone else I think

Why mourn the death of one
When I could mourn that of a dozen?
I did nothing
I earned
The reputation of a woman lost in dreams
Lost in something pungent
Lost in that land of steam

The colors moaned, their vibes
Were only remnants of something deep
I did nothing
I stirred
A movement out of those dead leaves
I kissed and sang the wind
And poured language into the void

The kisses made little beasts come alive
And choking love and sound, they grew
I did nothing
I plucked my eyebrows
And made new wishes by the dozens
A gallery of frozen dreams now rests
In that ocean of emotions

I did nothing because it felt right
It was not worth the pain
It was not worth that light
I did nothing and I hoped to fall
But I didn’t because
Nothing meant nothing at all.