Sunrise Sunset

It’s rare that I get to sit and enjoy a sunrise and a sunset on the same day. Mostly it’s a hustle- work, home, yoga, writing and escaping into the woods. But somedays I get a perfect ordinary day that rolls out rather spaciously. Yesterday was one such serendipitous Saturday. I woke up to a sleeping household which is unusual considering an insomniac mother who is fast fading into senility. A quiet cup of coffee later, I took off to the woods nearby. No one saw me or heard me leave home and I was reminded of a younger me as I hurried out with a skip in my step. Those days I sneaked out to meet a boy, these days I sneak out to meet myself.

Five minutes later I was swallowed by the woods along with the sounds of the city and transported to a different soundscape of parakeets and distant train horns. The dried leaves felt satisfactorily crunchy as they disintegrated under my feet becoming part of the spread of forest floor in front of me. The glyricidia is almost at the peak of its blooming and I remembered my poet friend in Bangalore. So, I tagged her on a photo I scattered on the internet in one of the countless web notebooks I’ve opened and never closed.The trail never disappoints. It has its assortment of humans, things and animals . Mostly, I leave the beaten track and amble without any design,, that’s where the magic comes alive. I’ve come across a bunch of papers with notes and poems, seen voodoo dolls nailed into trees, a bike that has been steadily coming apart, pants hanging on a tree and so on. Sometimes, there are little tableaus left behind like a clearing with broken coconuts, vermilion, flowers and ash suggesting a very romantic runaway marriage. Then there are the groups of people at play or chopping firewood, running or doing drills- those I steer away from.

These objects or arrangements of things or even people are rich fodder for an overactive imagination. It’s always interesting to see two or more people and watch from a distance. Without the benefit of verbal communication, body language speaks volumes and it’s easy to make up stories. Writing is a sly craft that way, piggybacking on real lives. Often the watched are unaware and I’m aware of my voyeurism but I can’t stop myself.

Like the barechested man I saw at a remove. He was in a yoga pose and part of me wanted to adjust his torso while another was curious about his sequence and still another wondered about his motivation. And then the story making began, without any warning. Slow brush strokes of imaginary people and circumstances of his life and once a flimsy narrative begins to emerge, the details start filling themselves in. Barring a name, he is alive in a way he probably isn’t in his real life.

And it repeats for all that I encounter, people and things, living and inanimate. Abandoned poetry and essays, voodoo dolls hammered into trees, pants hanging on trees, a motorcycle without wheels and handles, the old man and his gorgeous Alsatians and the list goes on. Every day, different stories unfold. Yesterday, I heard music but didn’t look behind to see simply because words began to unfurl…

a voice sings behind me
plaintive, it dips and meanders
somewhere behind
but i walk on

the melody is haunting
perfect perhaps
for a song I wrote
but i walk on

maybe it’s a troubadour
i see gypsy tents
in the distance
but i walk on

the music is relentless
urgent, insistent
a message
but i walk on

the wild woods spill
onto a beaten path
i am expelled
i walk on

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

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.

Bleed

I submitted some samples of work to get feedback and was surprised to receive a few lines. It did sound very algorithm generated in a manner of speaking but none the less, it was a revert. I’ve always hesitated to put any of my work for scrutiny because how can any art really be evaluated? It’s such a fluid experience involving the creator, the creation, the receptor and the spaces of memories in between them.

Sharing one of the pieces here. Bleed is a disassociated observation of menstruation and its meander through the lives of women, young and old, fertile and barren.

Bleed

I watch as the blood runs thin

Metallic smells

ricochet off bathroom walls

as the stained cloth

washes a life that might have been

Is there loss?

No, just relief

But what is it my sister feels?

She of the barren womb

and silent home

I’m soon approaching

the drying of my eggs

The signs are there

The dropping sag

The beginnings of fatigue

A heaviness that doesn’t lighten

with menstrual blood

40 odd years is a long time…

The blood flows for days

Stays silent for months

Like all my sisters and mothers

I’ll deny

the whiskers on my chin

the thickening waist

I’ll never know when

the blood will finally depart

A year may pass

and then one day

Pause

Menopause

For now I bleed

like my daughter bleeds

Forgotten summers

There’s still a summer from long ago in my forgotten lane. It finds a voice in the golawala’s bell that rings loud around noon, the proverbial pied piper’s music and children tumble out from buildings, helpless to the sweet-sour tastes of his golas.

His bottles line one end of the cart, a tantalising world of possibilities of colour and taste and the little humans fall under the spell of the array. Sometimes, they sneak out and at other times, they pester their folks no end till it’s just easier for the hot and bothered adults to say “go”.

My daughter is the same age as his, 11 and she asks if she can go and get a gola. Her need is so great and her suffering so huge that I smile and say ‘Yes’. The little mite gets me one too and we spend a summer afternoon in secret pleasure, our mouths stained the colours of wine and hearts filled with happiness. It’s a pleasure unlike any and brings back memories of sweet summers as a child. The heat doesn’t bother children, it’s just the adults who sweat and swear while the mercury rises. The kids just enjoy the season and make merry with crushed ice.

The other day, I asked the youngling about the golawala and her only important piece of information was that he gave free golas once a year to all the kids. It piqued my interest enough to want to know more about this man who so obviously seemed to love his job. I succumbed to the bell and ran down to catch him and find out who was this magical man. His name is Kailash like the mountain and I thought he couldn’t have had a more appropriate name.

Now, Kailash has been selling golas in the neighbourhood for 18 years. He plans to retire in a couple of years since he says, a man pushing a cart should work for only 20 years. If only, retiring was that easy for the rest of us. He came to the city from Jalgaon and joined his sister-in-law who had a cart. A few years later he branched out on his own. Perhaps, the birth of his son might have necessitated the need for independence and a little more money in the pocket. His son is 18 now and a college dropout. He works in a mall though and Kailash is a little sad that the boy hasn’t chosen to complete his degree. He has high hopes for his little girl and proudly says that he will educate her. “Main tho use padaoonga (I’ll educate her)”.

It’s a harsh life, selling golas in the punishing heat of Pune. There is also the added hardship of having his cart impounded by the municipality and the loss of business until he manages to release it or get another one. He sells anywhere between 50–100 golas a day and has no fixed income. He nets about 200–300 rupees a day and the family’s income is supplemented by his wife who also works. He used to work in a restaurant but prefers the freedom to be his own boss.

He sells golas for 10 months of the year. In the monsoons, he takes a break and sells butta (roasted corn) instead. He makes his own syrup and is proud to say that his concentrate stays as is for a year without getting spoilt. It’s basically a sugar concentrate which is cooked and left to cool before the fruit extract is added and mixed. The crushed ice is packed onto an ice-cream stick and swirled in the liquid before it is served.

I wonder if anyone else was interested in his life and day. He was happy to chat and had a smile even when not smiling. Perhaps, it was the honesty in his heart that shone through. I wonder if he went back home and told his family about a tall, lady in a saree who was mad enough to want to know about Kailash the golawala.

These are the magic people of our lives, the unsung heroes to our little children, the ones who make memories for them that they can turn to as adults. I know many mothers will be aghast at the thought of the unhygienic conditions etc. but none of the kids have fallen sick eating his colourful golas. Not yet.

Summer is gone and the rains are going. He’ll come again with his magical bottles and sunshine smile to create magic with ice and colour and you’ll be helpless and say, “bhaiyya, ek gola de do (Brother, please give me one gola)”

A night of songlight

An old saree picture and a scribble for a Saturday

Shakin Stevens is crooning because I love you, it must be from the house with the boy. It’s the radio playing, nice. I should play the radio too.

Unbreak my heart now and Toni Braxton sounds soulful and sensual all at once. I slip out of my dark bed and stand unseen behind the curtains in my bedroom. I think I see the man-boy’s shorts. It is him and he stands behind the curtains of his room.

I’m lost in this pointless moment where two people stand behind curtains looking and not looking. I’m a voyeur while he’s trapped in a wordless mind. His days are mostly spent on a dusty terrace where he makes distressed animal sounds and ranges like a wild one.

Now it’s James Blunt on that radio, my mind drifts to the firstborn. It’s our song, the one she uses to deflect my telling her she’s beautiful. Mais oui, she is!

It’s midnight and I’m still enjoying the music. They are strains of my youth coming out through a busted speaker. I think of getting the radio from the Kid’s room to mine and playing the same channel but somehow this is better, a tenuous intimacy between unseen people.

The volume is down now, maybe the father has retired for the night and the boy still needs song. The neighbour’s air conditioning has stopped its loud whirring and Leo has found his pillow on my arm.

Let her go by Passenger spikes up the volume. I wonder if anyone else is enjoying this night of mushy love, unrequited love. They no longer make me yearn for languorous lovemaking but wash over like a pleasant breeze.

Their window is shut now and I can only hear faint crests and troughs of music. A cue to fall asleep but I’m still listening.

The radio is silent now and I’m wide awake…

Instagram memories

I’ve had many blogs over many years, always zealously private until something started to loosen up. Perhaps it was a sense of growing older and figuring out all of us had the same loves and losses. We guard our secrets from friends and family but let them tumble in front of strangers.

Some of my ramblings have been like this space, a kind of chatting over coffee and some have been anonymous journals of solitary roads that could be found only by those travelling similar paths. Most of the time, these writings are invisible and it’s only ever an offering. The words may flow through my pen or screen but their authorship comes from a source that has no beginning and no end.

It felt good to be acknowledged by someone who has been a practitioner for more years than I may ever be and a writer to boot. So, someone may be reading my musings after all. It’s a humbling moment and one of joy too. My next instinct is to duck under and hibernate until every one disappears. It’s the paradox of a solitary passion, the necessity of silence and the desire to be heard. Have I shared too much… Blame the grey day.

The youngling and I have time on our hands now and I imagine there is no school. In this make believe world, we spend cocooned days learning new words and making new ones up while not climbing trees or running free. Sometime during the pretend day, we will sip on a Pink soda with a dash of lime, kind of like today’s pop pink and lime green khesh and her tee.

Little K has got the mischief back in her eyes after a long snooze and will be a whirling mass of energy before I know it. Thank you for all your love and warmth, that’s just the magic we needed. .

📷courtesy: the youngling

– written in February 2018