Feast

He read a poem
and she fell in love
with herself
just like the words
promised.
She sat
and feasted
on food
on words
and smiled
at the stranger she met

A Sunday brunch after a philosophy class in the company of a poet’s last work. I was introduced to the poem Love after Love by a friend and since that first reading, I find myself with that same sense of wonder at the discovery of oneself. Inspired by the spirit of the words of Derek Walcott, I took myself out to lunch and feasted on my life.

Sharing the poem below because good things must be shared.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

by Derek Walcott

Kaleidoscope

Sarees are incredibly sensuous in themselves for their texture, colours and fluidity. Today was all about light and colour and the many moods of shimmering, colour shifting and spilled memories from long ago. A kaleidoscopic day so here goes…

Kaleidoscope
the mind is

shifting pieces
of wounds
and scars
to make
hymns
and dirges
sung
long after
the years
have closed

There’s
only one
lens
to enter
the enchantment
of illusions
and art
of an artist
doomed
to
create
recreate
arrange
rearrange

Inevitable
the slash
of pain
but
craft
demands
its price

Experience

A reader’s writing

I’ve been a reader since I was 8 or 9 and discovered that I could lose myself in the written word. There was no need to navigate people and situations with a book, one could live suspended in another’s world. It’s been many years and the act of reading has been a faithful one. Some years, I read fiction, some mythology, still others biographies and for many, I studied ancient texts. It has been an unending love affair with books. The finishing of a few of them have been an aching loss while others have been dipped into again and again.

Now that many years have passed since that first children’s book, I find that there is a maturing of the reader too, a coming of age. I thought the grown up books I read as an adolescent made me adult and worldly but I found that one needs the experience of living, loving and losing to truly taste language in all its multi hued nuances. I just finished an expansive volume on Kama by Gurcharan Das, a modern unpacking of desire and it unleashed many words inside that I didn’t know existed. Words of poetry or philosophy, I know not. Can they be both? Where does one end and the other begin or have they no boundaries? Maybe they’ll surface here, maybe not but I do hope they are found after I am gone.

Leaving with a musing that wrapped many layers from the colour of my saree to the book I read…

Half and Half

Ascetic. Erotic.
Blue Bodies

Half of him is her
Half of her is him

Upward. Downward.
One mind

Half of her is him
Half of him is her

Bound. Unbound.
Forever free

Half of him is him
Half of her is her

Notes on Desire

What is this desire
Will it burn and consume
Will it stoke and feed

Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha are the purusharthas or four goals of human life and living. Each stage of life, roughly estimated at 25 years was meant to be devoted to one of the goals in that order to maintain harmony in the individual and society. Essentially, it was to keep a time and place for all aspects of being human. In the context of our diminished times, they can be split into 20 year blocks and it will still remain true. Go explore.

Desire

2020 woke me up to the sounds of peacocks.

2019 was tumultuous silence.

It’s difficult to make sense of a year that destroyed life as I knew it. Early on in the year, the word relentless got set as a cue and proceeded to unravel the frayed threads that were held together with the grime of inertia. The year stripped me naked with nothing left to hide and nowhere to hide unlike Draupadi’s disrobing which never unclothed her. It left her with smoldering rage while I became a clear stream.

Of all the sarees, this humble Kadappa cotton is probably what desire would look like for me

A year later, I find myself drawn to ‘desire‘ and maybe this will be a year of discovery. What do I desire? We’ll know in 12 months. Serendipity, I don’t know but the first book of the year is Kama The Riddle of Desire and right in the early pages, the author says, “Over the years I have come ro realize that one has to be deserving of desire.” As a theme, it has been a subject matter for my offline writings and I cannot help but draw a parallel between the act of writing and desire. Both seek expression. Can the wild flower refuse to blossom for you?

Desire is that wild bloom, for its own sake.

May the year show you what you truly desire.

Wander in the woods

I met a dog on the trail today, a bounding bundle of joy who demanded love and gave it abundantly in wet doggy licks. Just the pick me up I needed. It was a bleak day and a walk seemed to be the only way to salvage something out of it. There’s no one at the time save a bunch of cricket crazy young men in a couple of clearings. So, I had the whole trail pretty much to myself.

It feels like a precious gift, this access to a patch of wild where the city fades away just a couple of hundred metres into the woods. Once I’m in the heart of this land, my life outside of it disappears and I don’t think much. It’s a sensorial experience of intoxicating wood smells, bird song, stray dog sightings and so on. In such a setting, there is no urgency of deadlines or meetings. Just a full sense of presence. I’m looking forward to getting to know the trail and its whimsies over the next few months.

Today, I hung on a branch and swung like a child, picked up a dried stick and swished it around and finally threw it as far as I could. Childlike thrills. Why do we stop playing as adults? Anyway, I walked for an hour and tentatively ran a few hundred metres in installments and the voice in my head automatically kicked in about the cadence, arms yada yada even as the rational part of my being told me to not mess up the knee. If I got hurt or couldn’t walk, it wouldn’t be easy to get back.

Long story short, the woman who entered the woods wasn’t the one who came out. I felt rejuvenated and had a spring in my step. On my way back home, I also found a coconut seller and quenched my thirst with sweet tasting coconut water. Sometimes, all you need to do is wander in the woods.

And a friend dropped off a stash of sarees, some mine, mostly hers.

Kindling

and so she sways and sashays
kindling on her head

Behind her a sister shouts
“wait for me”
but she walks on
a song on her lips and
dance on her mind
thinking of Raju
who helped her split wood

Oh how she wished
to have him all alone
but that would never be

So she sways and sashays
thinking thoughts of Raju
and his mesmerizing musk

Dragonflies

The stragglers are left
Drunk in the winter sun
Buzzing here and there
in frantic dance

Their tribe has gone
Disappeared someplace
Where do they go anyway
Once the season is done

Another time another place
They were a sea
of glittering wings
and happy dance

Now they’re old dragonflies
In the last throes
And so they love
Like there is no tomorrow

1969 -2019

The year was 1969 or thereabouts. 50 years ago, India would still have been very young in her freedom and quite poor but the handcrafted aspect of her everyday was rich, a living, breathing continuum of history, full of colour and flavour. A tiny part of that piece of culture wound up in a country far away marking time.

A New Yorker visited India as her friend was from this exotic land of colour and chaos. Perhaps her only visit and she might have been enamoured by the colourful sarees she saw on the women around her, enough to splurge on a few herself. Soft silk with exquisite zari work, thread work and unusual motifs, they lived half a century in the wings before winding their way to me.

I wish I knew more about that lady, her impressions and thoughts about my country as it was then. Travel in that era would not have been like it is today with app based cabs and airbnb. It would have been fraught with logistical nightmares and culture shock. I am curious to know about her relationship with M, the Indian lady who was her friend. Which part of the country was M from? What nostalgia did she bear for her country that kindled a desire in her friend? What were the seasons of their friendship and how did their lives play out?

I don’t know any of the answers and the questions still bubble over as I run my fingers over 50 year old silks in extremely good condition. Part of me wants to know and the other part is happy imagining their lives and flavouring it the way I choose. All of life is really a series of choices, moment to moment anyway and a different choice at any point could result in a different unfolding.

These sarees found their way to me via a pretty circuitous route. I opened the package yesterday and they shimmered in all their silken glory. The choice of colours would have made it just the right range for an exotic garment of an infrequent saree wearer. I wonder how many times M’s friend would have worn it and the way she might have played with it.

M’s friend would have been quite the hippie and might have worn the saree out and about in NY. I imagine a happy woman with a full throated laugh who would own a drape and make it her own. In my head, I have an image of Audrey Hepburn like elegance. These were a part of her life’s possessions and her daughter kindly offered them to me, a stranger on the internet. And just like that six yards of silk stretched across time and space to connect the lives of 4 women and an unknown number of hands who wrote poetry on silk.

Social media often gets a bad rap but it’s brought me real people and their stories, some from many miles away. Often, homes are opened and strangers like me have been privileged to break bread. And sometimes, they take the shape of stories, like this one about vintage sarees that unfolded thanks to a fellow blogger’s generosity. Thank you Caitlin for sharing a piece of personal history with a stranger.

Update:  The New Yorker in the story- that’s Caitlin’s mother Cynthia and Molly Tharyan’s friend. Cynthia wore these sarees around Toronto causing quite the scandal amongst the sedate moms in their understated and elegant pearls and cashmeres. She would have been an exotic adventurer considering she did a trip to India in a cervical collar after an ill fated dive into a swimming pool. The silks are so vibrant and full of life, colours of throaty laughter and uninhibited expression.

Half a century later, Molly has passed on, her sister and daughter lost to distance and time. Estrangement at many levels. Some wild art of me wants to see a story unfold here, it’s just a romantic’s dream. Maybe Molly Tharyan’s daughter and sister stumble upon this post via an unknown reader and connect with Caitlin. I’m not sure if that’s desirable or not but it makes for an afternoon’s worth of story making.