Sunday, September 30, 2012

The 'Bitch'...who took my heart away

This is Julie..I first met her about a year back..when she placed herself in the lane opposite my house as a mom with a litter of seven puppies. Unfortunately most of the litter died and some were also taken away. Julie was in tremendous shock for sometime & it took us neighbors a lot of cajoling to make her eat anything at all. We all took turns to feed her and since then she has recovered and become cheerful once more. But Julie never forgot the favor  she settled into the lane as a watch guard. Every time I walked my small lab, she made it a point to protect him from all the street dogs around. A gentleman who was especially very fond of her, used to take her for rides in his car and over time got her vaccinated too. Julie used to wander around by herself and come back home to the lane after she was over with her wanderings of the day.

Suddenly one day, the gentleman who used to take her for rides shifted his house to a lane about 2 kms away from mine. He had adopted Julie, even though she was a stray and she would sleep in his house. I was not aware that the gentleman had shifted his house and when I couldn't see Julie for about 2-3 days I was worried. But as fate would have it, suddenly I discovered her again on one of my morning walks. She came running to me, wagging her tail..ever since that day this lovely lady accompanies me almost every day on my walks..she showed me her new home too..she walks with me for about 45 minutes and drops me back home..till a particular point( which was her old beat). But she never crosses what she thinks is the threshold to her old beat, because it is no longer her territory..she watches me from that distance..and after I enter my house she walks off. 

I am a great fan of the Indian street dog. I have seen and owned many pedigree s since childhood. But nothing beats the Indian street dog in smartness, bravado & sheer love for humans.I have a feeling that somehow..(& I may be wrong in this) but dogs at home sometimes imbibe human qualities & loose that touch..whereas these ones have so much of raw is tremendous to see these bony structures fend for themselves, with that hungry look in their eyes..give a good fight...scratch, snarl & love in equal lab at home is twice Julie 's probably fed far better but can do nothing but play.. perhaps comparisons are unnecessary here, & I love my dog to death but Julie takes my breath away for sheer awesomeness.

I don't know why the word 'Bitch' has such a bad connotation, because this bitch took my heart away!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How I became an Indian..again

When the British left India, they left behind something far more potent than the 'Sorry s' and 'Thank you s'. They left behind a culture and a life style to which Indians had become habituated. I was born in a small hamlet of a remote North Eastern corner of India called Digboi. A small township, dominated by Oil drilling and refining. It had been a hub of the British were they built huge Bungalows, with tennis courts, the Sahib clubs & the Indian clubs, Golf courses, etc. Even so many years after they left, as a child I was exposed to a culture where going to a club meant formal dressing, where dances were dictated by decorum more than fun, where a boy had to ASK a girl for a dance, where a drink meant Burmese Teak wood bar with crystal glasses of the finest quality, where winters were spent in the cozy aftermath of the fire from one's fireplace with the Grand Piano playing faintly...

Like anyone else, all this had its undeniable impression on me. Traces of which I carry till date I have been told. In Digboi even 20 years before one did not just drop down to some one's place, one telephoned to tell them that they would have company. However by the time we were growing up, a lot of outsiders( those outside the North East) began working and subsequently staying in Digboi. This led to a whiff of change being felt in different homes. This was more so probably because of the fact that the entire N. east in many ways has an anglicized culture, since a very long time now. Be it in their songs or in their dress or their lifestyles, etc. The first impact of this change was felt by me on one such visit to the home of a family outside the North East. The gentleman in this home, was from the North while the lady of the house hailed from the Carnatic. 

I was the last one in my family to step into their house, and just before I did so, I saw a small pattern on the floor, a Rangoli just before one entered the threshold. For a moment I was mesmerized..something popped up in the heart..the riot of colors, the warmth, the festive look...I was about 14 and if there was a moment when the Indian in me was born, it was this moment! I stooped down to look at the design in wonder. The lady of the house came by to check what was delaying me. When she saw me bent over the Rangoli, she smiled, sat down with me, picked a pinch of the magenta colored powder and drew a streak on my cheeks..her christening was perhaps the most undeniable print on my mind for a very long time..for some people, a passport does not make citizens out of them..maybe Rangoli does.

- Image courtesy Google

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In their majestic shadow

She sat clutching the folds of her thin red saree between her two legs. She wore a large Bindi at the center of her dusky forehead, half covered with the saree. Her knees joined together to make an inverted V. Just at the ankle, two half suns joined each other in a small tatoo. One of her rough hands felt the earth while the other held on to the smoke, she was puffing at.

There was a dry breeze blowing in the afternoon air but she could smell no rain. Her eyes squinted to the skies, as a large cloud loomed over the sun. She wished it would rain, but wishing for rain was like wishing for death she knew. Each would come at its own time.

Her eyes had anger, frustration and sorrow, she knew she wanted the rain and yet there was no way she could command its presence. It was like the shadow of the man, she followed..There were days when she walked after him, listening to him speak to others, staying silent or even listening to others with rapt attention..all the while being aware that she was there and yet he had never turned, never looked at her, never smiled.

He reminded her of the dark clouds, their audacity to bring the shadows home and yet not to yield rain in spite of all the expectant hearts, the prayers, the immensity of their cries.

She wish she knew what she had to do to move that shadow and turn it towards her, to envelop her in its darkness..she would scream through the nights, hit the walls, scratch herself and wish that love as such could be got from within or from anyone willing to love...but she knew anyone was not the rain cloud that mattered.

She moved her legs a bit then, blew some smoke as she turned tired eyes to the ground. She wrote some songs there, songs in the sand that she knew would vanish at the wiff of a wind..and yet she wrote as if possessed..She looked calm after a long time as she looked the well nearby. She walked up to it then, looking at the clear waters..wondering if a splash would make the dark clouds take notice that there was one soul less that he had to water.

Shiva and his indifference

Shiva the ascetic is happy meditating in his frozen mountains..he perhaps wants the world to meditate, to be by themselves and more importantly to be contained within. In that, he is helped by his Ganja, which breeds indifference, and doesn't know or want to know anyone?

In some ways this destroys the very human essence perhaps of connection..Shiva happy in his own self does not understand the concept of understanding life and death, both of which maybe a journey of the alone, but never without another.

Have some wine, if you will, blabber if you will, talk, love be happy..there is enough time to be frozen, when you are gone.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What do you take back from ..lines, from poems, from books that you read?

Through all the books, the pages, the people and experiences that I have read through in life, three lines have stuck by me..bringing about immense proportions in my personal sphere as a poet and more importantly as a person.

'They also serve who only stand and wait' - By Milton in his poem 'On his Blindness'

To me the lines have always symbolized supreme surrender, without which no faith I believe can exist..and faith in a person, in their beliefs is important for my own sanity that believes that every man is blessed..he /she just needs to find out how.

'How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you..'

These lines from W.B Yeat's 'When you are old' have always been to me an apt description of what love is is how I would love to be loved.

A random quote I heard( I don't know who's it is)

'Mediocre poets achieve sucess, the real ones commit suicide'

The lines tell me every time, that what is writ on the paper, is only a very small percentage of what poetry is..poetry is what you feel, it is in the mind..and the success or failure of feelings don't really matter..poems were never written so one could be rich anyway..poems are written because one cannot but write them..and THAT exact moment is poetry.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ismat Chughtai- an Urdu writer and some comparisons

I have been reading Ismat Chughtai's works recently. Some of her work( Especially the story of Quilt, published in 1942-which is posted here) is startling, especially considering the fact that they were written in a pre-independence era. In parts she reminds me of Indian poetess Kamala Das, just a more firebrand image. The interesting part about her stories is that she rarely describes as much of characters or significant events, in great detail. It is the moment that she gives more prominence to, which helps bring out a story & its people. I do wish I could have read her in Urdu though, just like her contemporary Sadat Hasan Manto. Although comparisons are unnecessary and mostly trivial, to me Manto will always be more universal..something like a whiff stuck in one's senses forever..because they cross all borders and appeal to humanity more than a sex, religion or community. Manto writes-

"One lunatic got so involved in this India/Pakistan question that he became even crazier. One day he climbed a tree and sat on one of its branches for two hours, lecturing without pause on the complex issues of Partition. When the guards told him to come down, he climbed higher. When they tried to frighten him with threats, he replied: “I will live neither in India nor in Pakistan. I’ll live in this tree right here!” With much difficulty, they eventually coaxed him down. When he reached the ground he wept and embraced his Hindu and Sikh friends, distraught at the idea that they would leave him and go to India.." ( From Toba Tek Singh)

Interestingly, I find the same weird and mystic traces of universality in Agha Shahid Ali (Kashmiri-American poet) me he transcends all boundaries and remains only and only a poet, speaking for all humans irrespective of sex and creed and personal wars. He writes in the,


Swear by the olive in the God-kissed land—
There is no sugar in the promised land.

Why must the bars turn neon now when, Love,
I’m already drunk in your capitalist land?

If home is found on both sides of the globe,
home is of course here—and always a missed land.

The hour’s come to redeem the pledge (not wholly?)
in Fate’s 'Long years ago we made a tryst' land.

Clearly, these men were here only to destroy,
a mosque now the dust of a prejudiced land.

Will the Doomsayers die, bitten with envy,
when springtime returns to our dismissed land?

The prisons fill with the cries of children.
Then how do you subsist, how do you persist, Land?

“Is my love nothing for I’ve borne no children?”
I’m with you, Sappho, in that anarchist land.

A hurricane is born when the wings flutter ...
Where will the butterfly, on my wrist, land?

You made me wait for one who wasn’t even there
though summer had finished in that tourist land.

Do the blind hold temples close to their eyes
when we steal their gods for our atheist land?

Abandoned bride, Night throws down her jewels
so Rome—on our descent—is an amethyst land.

At the moment the heart turns terrorist,
are Shahid’s arms broken, O Promised Land?

(Here is the link to a translation of Ismat Chughtai's story- 'The Quilt' )

( Image Courtesy Google Images)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Horizontal sick eyes

Sick eyes lie horizontal
Looking through a crack
In the almost shut door
There's a wind somewhere blowing,
Strong gusts of hope,
Somewhere perhaps..

Suddenly the door closes,
With a sudden finality-
Obliging as if perhaps,
Half closed lids with final blissful darkness-

The room is full of sighs, staleness
And a sudden sense of uselessness-
Like a toothbrush,
Gone hard and defunct.

Somewhere a Bamboo,
Rustles up another-
Music in every caress.

A flicker, seems to flicker..
In some distant eyes, once closed-
A rustle of caressing wind,
Wriggles through the creak
In the door somewhere-

Happy sleep alights
On eyes,
Where life had once shone so bright.

-© 2010 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury