Friday, December 30, 2016

Just Read

Read a book
Any book
Every book
Just pick a book and read

Read for a lark
Read to smile
Read to cry
Read to think

Read to question
Read to challenge 
Read to debate 
Read to change 

Read for pleasure
Read through pain
Read to hide
Read to escape

Read to change your world
Read in lieu of travel
Read to step into the future
Read to walk back through history 

Read a classic
Read a short story
Hell, read a comic
Just pick a book and read

Read a book
Any book
Every book
Just pick a book and read

Saturday, October 8, 2016

This was not her story

It was ordinary for her. It was exceptional for him. She compared it to the many before. He had not much precedence. She forgot about it soon after it was over. For him the feeling lingered for weeks. She went about life like nothing had happened. While he was bewitched and lived under a spell.

She often wondered if romance resided only in insipid rom-coms where the bad boy magically altered his callous ways for his lady love. But enter the next handsome charmer with a winning smile and she was bowled over. She was attracted to the cocky ones. With the instant chemistry and unbridled passion. The lust and romance. The intensity and drama. She then tried harder. She went further. Thinking that would make them stay. She even bent over. Though that hurt like hell. But it always ended the same way. In heartbreak. With them forgetting her almost as easily as they were attracted to her. She could not break the pattern. Nice bored her. Sweetness tired her. She liked it spicy. Much like biting into a chilli padi. The burnt crimson should be a deterrent. But the sensation on her tongue was intoxicating, getting her to throw caution to winds yet again. 

Sitting in an idyllic beach bar, she twisted her straw mindlessly. He watched her from a distance. Awe stuck at her nonchalant manner. He did not believe she would be interested but he could not resist sending her a drink. She turned to look at him and mouthed a thank you. Her lips were wonderfully shaped, like if she kissed an envelope the pink lipstick would make a perfect kiss shape. He gingerly gestured to sit on the stool next to hers. She shrugged like she couldn't care either way. He sat down, more confidently than he felt.

He was drawn. She was not altogether repulsed, like his ex-wife used to be. He took that as a positive sign and asked her to dance. She laughed almost rolling her eyes but his vulnerability stopped her. He seemed un-chilly like. Almost chocolaty.

After a few dances, she agreed to go for walk on the beach. They sat on the soft silvery sand. He talked. She pretended to listen. He was enthralled. She was vaguely curious. He leaned forward, anticipating the head tilt, so he could kiss her. Instead she stretched her body backwards lifting her head towards the starlit sky. Suddenly she faced him, came forward and placed those perfect lips on his. A kiss that was hungry yet sensuous. He kissed her slowly, enthralled. Then she pulled back. He held her hand and they sat silently listening to the night sounds. She stood up and said she had a wonderful evening.  

They exchanged numbers. He was already planning the next date. She was already forgetting this one. This was not her story. All she wanted was to become immortal in someone else's. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

O Weary Traveler- A Poem

O weary traveler
Come sit awhile
Your travels can wait
Your worries will abate
If you just simply sit awhile

O weary traveler
Let your shoulders rest
Take off those bags
Slip into some homely rags
Even strong shoulders need a good slump

O weary traveler
Put up those feet
Put that coffee table to good use
Your shoe rack misses your shoes
Long-traveled legs long for some rest

O weary traveler
Can I help you unpack?
That baggage of painful memories
That load of sorrowful guilt
Lay it all out, step by step

Don't be shy, open it up
Let's show and tell
Believe me I have my share
I carry it around everywhere
I too now need to put it down

O weary traveler
Let's put this baggage down
Come sit beside me
Come sit awhile

Saturday, September 3, 2016

High School Stereotypes that don't go away

I was at Sanil's school yesterday for the Curriculum Evening for middle school. Three plus hours of walking from class to class for teacher briefings. Objective was to put ourselves in our kids shoes to understand their schedule and expectations from the teachers. Sanil warned me it was 'lame' and I 'did not have to do everything the school asked' and 'be Ms. Goody Two-Shoes' all the time. I did not pay heed to his advice. 

Very kindly the school advised parents to wear comfortable shoes. That advice I totally heeded. I was very sensibly dressed. 

- No legs, no cleavage show (have to look mum-like)
- Glasses firmly perched on my nose (so I could read the slides)
- Jeans and Long sleeves top (so I don't freeze in the air con)
- Minimal make up- just light lipstick (same reason point No. 1)

But at the last minute, just before I was rushing to catch my Uber, I slipped on my latest acquisition. A ring. Now women my age should adorn solitaires or semi precious stones at the minimum. My ring was this:

- Picked up at a local flea market
- Designed by comic enthusiast who makes jewelry from original comics. Batman cuff links anyone?
- And truly and totally irreverent

No one else noticed. No one would care. But I love doing one tiny little thing that does not conform. Always have...

I was also the one who carried my small pink notebook in my purse to jot down important points during the teacher talk. 

I was back at being the nerdy girl in school who lived in her own world.

Then I looked around the classroom and found every one of the stereotypes

1) The Front Bencher- The first one to put the hand up to ask questions
2) The Cute Guy- on the next table, who is always taken
3) The Flirty Chic- who would chat with every handsome male teacher after each session 
4) The Lost Guy- who moved from class to class following the herd and totally unsure why he was there in the first place (reckon this was his wife's punishment for forgetting some anniversary)
5) The Social Butterfly- who flitted from parent to parent exchanging numbers and creating whatsapp groups at speed of lightening
6) The Man's-Man- who walked around like he was in command but in reality was only there as his wife insisted he get 'more involved with the kids education'

And I am not even getting into the nation stereotypes like the Asian dad who took on the challenge to solve the Math equations the teacher had put up on the board. Or the desi sherni mom who asked about the dates of the first assessments and wrote them on her thick bound folder in deep red ink (ok, there was no folder. It was a piece of paper. And the pen could've been blue)

I could not help but our inherent traits ever change? I am still the girl who stands away from crowds, talks to only few people she knows and always sits at the corner tables where she can get in and out unnoticed. 

So if we have not changed since High School, why do we expect others to act differently? 

The jerk who broke your heart in college is no different from the grown up man who at 40 still suffers from commitment phobia.

Or the popular cheerleader who was nice to you only because she wanted to borrow your notes, is no different from the mother who only calls you when she wants pick up/drop off favors from soccer class.

Or the cool kids who want you in the study group but not in the fancy parties are the same ones who would reach out when they need help to organise a community event but not have you over for the after-party.

But then, just like that, you find your people. The girl who was shy but had a wacky sense of humor. The boy who read Fountainhead at 14 but was not pretentious about it. The mum who suppressed a giggle every time sherni wrote in her bound folder with the red pen. The man who was more comfortable chatting with the kids and getting to know them rather than strategizing to impress the teacher. The lady with a resting bitch face like yours which actually hides the mischievous glint in her eyes.

Next time you are at a school, in office or at a networking event, look around carefully. You will find your crowd- those people with whom you feel like you truly belong.

They existed in high school and and they are around now. And once you find them every PTA meeting is as much fun as being back in the college canteen.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Breaking Down- a poem

You broke me like no storm could

You crushed me like no fist dared

You pierced me like no arrow before

You hurt me tons more than the tons of bricks before you

You burnt me like no fire did, though several did attempt

I thought I would rise like a Phoenix from the ashes

But even a Phoenix has a breaking point

Before it revives and is reborn

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Short Story: When Sullen met Lonely

He saw her at the corner table, pushing her errant hair away from her face, as she exhibited some frown lines while focusing on her book. After a few minutes she looked up and glanced outside. She saw a young mother wipe baby chino foam off her little toddler's mouth. He stood on his tippy toes and kissed his mother's nose. She looked away like she had witnessed an intimate mother-child moment that she should not be privy too. Her face had a half-smile but her eyes seemed sad. 

He named her Lonely.

She saw him look at her from his Economist while his latte sat on the table getting cold. She did not understand people who did not have the food at the temperature it was meant to be consumed at. It felt like an insult to the food in question. His dark eyes appeared to have forbidden secrets, hidden fears, or she reckoned, a bit of both. 

She named him Sullen.

I am old and grey and my eyes are weak, but see things young people don't. Sullen had recently quit is job to pursue his love of food. He tried a new cafe everyday to understand how he could make his cafe unique. 

I named him Passion.

Lonely was a kindergarten teacher. She loved books and babies in that order. Today was the first day of the summer break and she was already missing her kids who were off for their vacations. Her eyes were misty thinking about how it would be many weeks before she saw them all again. 

I named her Hopeful.

Sullen and Lonely would never give each other a chance. How I wish they could see each other through my eyes. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Six-Word Stories Vol-2

It's said that Hemingway was challenged by his writer friends that no one could write a story in 6 words. He took a napkin from the table at the cafe where they were sitting and penned this. 

Several six-word stories have been complied by Smith magazine with people from all over the world contributing their words which will help you create their story...with only six words.

Here are some from me:

When you left, I lost me.

Unfurled sari, broken bangles, blood-chilling screams.

New yacht. Old Money. Young wife.

Breakup. Lonely. Amazon. Click. Click. Click.

Prison freed me like freedom couldn't.

Advertising lies. Consumer buys. Debt sighs.

His graduation celebration, my empty-nest depression.

High seas sailing, land memories forgotten.

Brown grass, cloudless sky, farmer's death.

Potions spell death outside Harry Potter.

Fairy lights, misty eyes, unused mistletoe.

Do flowers speak better than words?

Jimmy's shoes, Celine's bag, Burglar alarm.

Were we in the same relationship? 

Long flight. Big fight. Whose's right?

Jack, Jill now argue about bills.

Perfect recipe. Sugar, butter, eggs arsenic.

Tears added bitterness to husbands' dinner.

I once loved my wife's lover.

For more,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Legacy we are leaving behind

There has been a lot of coverage this week on First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic national convention. My knowledge of US politics is more "House of Cards" and "Madame secretary", so I cannot comment on the political aspect of her speech. What stood out for me is what she said about us being role models for our children. 

"And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives"

She (or her savvy speech writer) turned the conversation away from politics and back to the one thing everyone is most concerned about i.e. our future, which is our children.

So that begs the question, what legacy are we leaving behind for them? What are they learning from our actions? Every time we show our road rage, or gossip about the neighbor, or speak rudely to someone, or keep quiet when we see something wrong happening, what message are we sending? 

Kids observe. Even when we think they are engrossed in their world, but they take in everything.

We complain about the gadget overuse of our children on whatsapp groups with other parents. The irony of it! We can't ask kids to sleep on time when they know we are out late every other night. They learn by watching us. 

There is a lot we have to teach them. From faith to honesty and hard work to perseverance. But here are four qualities we must make sure they imbibe as these are what the world needs most today.

1) We are all the same

Have you caught yourself (even if it's ever so lightly) making fun of someone's accent? Or an offhand comment on someone's body shape or size? We all have been guilty of such indiscretions at some point. And if it has happened in the presence of a child, rest assured the message they got is that it's ok to look at people differently. 

The message we need to drive home is that we are not that different. No matter our religion, or caste, or skin color, or nationality, or gender or even our gender preference.

The simplest analogy is the Shakespeare stage-actor one. Kids need to understand that each one of us is the same inside. Outwardly we play different roles, in various costumes, but that comes with the script we have been provided. Inwardly we all are the same. We all need love. We all crave affection. We all desire friendships. We all just want to be accepted for who we are. 

2) Being different is not a bad thing

Before we begin accepting each other, we need to accept ourselves and our circumstances. Today children don't lead traditional lives. Divorce, same-sex parents, third culture kids, these are all part of our lives.

Our children need to accept their circumstances and make the best of it. A tragedy cannot be used as a shield. A setback should not be reason for despair. They can only do this if we lead the way.

Do we compare ourselves to others and always see where our life falls short? Or do we accept what we have- the opportunities and the problems- to carve our path forward? Let them learn from us that they have deal with whatever life throws at them. And our individuality comes through our differences. 

3) Privilege has to be put to good use

Our children are privileged. There is no denying that. They have tons more than we had growing up, and lesser people to share it with. It's easy for selfishness to creep in. 

We need to constantly show them that they have to be considerate to the ones who have less than us. Whether it's giving part of birthday money to a charity or volunteering time at the animal shelter, we need to set an example. We have to be conscious of our conspicuous  consumption habits so they learn restraint.

4) There is no substitute for kindness

My first advice to Sanil about friendships was 'You don't have to be friends with everyone, you don't even gave to like everyone, but you ALWAYS have to be kind to everyone'. Don't allow your children to exclude other kids. Children can be cruel. We all have experienced bullying in some way, shape or form. 

Our children need to learn compassion. And it can only happen if we are empathetic towards others. 

So let's leave behind a legacy of oneness, of collaboration, of tolerance. As without these, our children will not have the kind of world we envision for them. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We simply are not that apart

Your white is my red
My white is your black
Your green is my saffron
My duppata is your scarf
Your cross is my Om
My bindi is your kohl
Your eyes weep like mine
My child hugs like yours
Your prayer may be your work
My work is my main prayer
I worship an elephant
You a saint with a dog
I bow, you kneel
You raise hands, I fold them
And with these folded hands I ask
Look beyond these signs,
Look further from the symbols
Peep into the heart and you will realize
We simply are not that apart

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Invisible People of Singapore

We spend our bonuses, they count their daily wages
We see unwanted calories, they see much needed meals
We reside in luxury, they build in the heat
We admire the green landscaping, they nourish the plants

We command an uber, they walk miles
We Instagram every minute, they carry a family picture in torn wallets
We sweat once a week on the treadmill, they sweat every second at work

Herman Miller chairs for us, Harness with minimal safety for them
After work cocktails for us, soup kitchens for them
Walk-in closets for our shoes, closet-sized rooms for them to sleep
Warmth of family for us, pining for their families for them

Once in awhile step out of the privileged existence 
Look up at the shiny skyscraper and have a thought about who built it
Next time you pass them, acknowledge with smile, or nod
People of Singapore, be grateful for those who built your country

Offer gratitude for the invisible faces in our community
Because without them nothing would be as it is now

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Erasing Memories

I can't write you off the books yet
Or weave you in my life story
You are like that word that keeps reappearing
Sometimes completely out of context

My vocabulary has absorbed you
Like a term used daily
Was there ever a lexicon in my life
Where your name was not present?

May be your definition has changed
Or your meaning has lost its relevance?
Like an oft-repeated but old phrase
That's not kept up with the times

You like an Oxward dictionary word
That can't be searched up on urban dictionary
A single word with two different meanings
One which represents the past, and one that's alive today

My memory of your name is a lilting melody
A sensuous sound that easily rolls off my tongue
The word today sounds bitter, harsh even
Why then can't I banish it from my language?

I wish to erase your name, like words written on sand
That wash away with one tiny wave
That dissolve into nothingness
Without a trace, like they had never existed. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What we do is not who we are

Being alone does not mean being lonely
Having peace does not mean being passive
Planning does not make one a control freak
And neither weaving dreams a dreamer

Aloofness is not always  a snub
And style may not equate to fashion
Friendship can be garbed as love
Though lust can never beat passion 

Musing does not make one a poet
Or humming tunes transform one to a singer
A sleeper is not necessarily lazy
Nor a worker particularly industrious

What we do and who we are
Is not always connected
Yet we box, we label, we name
We point fingers, we blame

Accept me for who I am
Not for my work or my words
My name or my stature
Nor for my friends or possessions

I am my temper, I am my cruelty
I am my kindness, I am my generosity
I am the storm, I am the valley
I am the noise, I am the silence

I am more than my job
I exceed beyond my education
Don't define me with your perceptions
Or see me through your world view

See me as me, I beseech 
As I see you as you, I promise
I love you for you, I vow
Alas you can love only the blemish-free me

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What would your teen self think of your current self?

The other day I was reading The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

One chapter described the blue mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Shrine of Hazrat Ali. Thousands of believers and tourists flock to the shrine, but the doves are the original residents, apparently living there since the 12th century. Legend has it that the doves are pure white because of the sanctity of the mosque itself; if a dove with a speck of color flies in and stays, it too will turn white as snow.

Written words create visuals in the mind eye. I did not need to google image the shrine, I had an image imprinted in my heart, which leapt up with excitement at the thought of visiting this magical place. Until my head politely pointed out to my heart, that it could not even begin to list the complications of visiting Afghanistan on an Indian passport.

So my smart head suggested Turkey instead. And then for the next few days I researched about Turkey, spoke to people who had been there and read about the places to visit, where to stay, what to eat (supremely important) etc. I spoke to people who had been there especially about safety of solo female travelers. I was politely reminded that the danger was from ISIS and they were rather gender neutral with their destruction. No wonder I was getting cheap tickets! After reading travel warnings on both the US and Australia embassy websites, I had to pack away my dream of seeing the Blue Mosque for awhile at least.

What has this got to do with the topic of this post you wonder? Everything! 

When I think of my young naive self of 16, I wonder what would she think of me now? I believe she would have expected me to live in a big house, work in a fancy job with a corner office, still in love with a handsome and caring husband, two children (one of whom would've been a girl) and all the usual bells and whistles of a modern successful life. 

And here I am. A middle-aged single mother to a teenage son. I don't have many work related accolades to boast of and no specific accomplishments adorning either my living room or my Facebook wall.

So what would she think of me now? 

She would be amazed is what I think she would be. 

Amazed that I can read about a place one day in a book, and in the next hour already plan my holiday there. Amazed that I have don't have to ask anyone before doing that. Amazed that I don't have to pay heed to any advice (except US and Australia embassy ones). Amazed that I have the power to make my dreams come true.

She would be insanely jealous of the independence, rather envious of my self-reliance and totally in awe of my courage. 

From a girl who needed permission to go out after 9 pm, who was socially awkward among peers and seniors alike and who worried incessantly about being alone, here I am today.

From the girl who almost failed PE, to one who runs 10Ks effortlessly.

From the girl who was shy to even audition for a minuscule part in the school play, to one who lectures at universities.

From the girl who was apprehensive to travel alone by Bombay local train, to one who has journeyed half-way around the world by herself.

From the one wore geeky glasses, had her nose in her book and whose favorite place was the library, to....OK not everything is different :) 

Growing older is hard and being an adult can suck big time. It's when you realize that every decision you make is yours to face, there are no parents to blame or teachers to fault. It's when you adjust to the truth that you are on your own. No matter who you have around you and how supportive your friends and family may be, ultimately its your responsibility. We each are on our own journey.

But when you question your path or are anxious about your future, stop, breath and look back. Wave to your younger self who is looking on expectantly at you from afar and see what she has got to say. And you will see her with her thumb up, smiling and edging you to continue down the path. Because she knows you have achieved far more than what she could ever imagine. 

"Just look forward and keep walking" is what she is saying. 

And the older you probably wants to tell her this: 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Is silver my color?

A sliver of the moon
Or a lightening strike in the sky
The color of chemically washed pearls
Or a soft silken woven thread perhaps?

A blank sheet of paper
Wondering what color should it adorn?
Brown would be the obvious choice
Black is akin to faking it
A dash of red to spice things up?
Definitely not bold enough for a purple streak

A lone white desirable cloud
In a sea of darkening stormy ones
The glimmer of the North Star
On a blanket of black nothingness

A speck of light, way out in the sea
Distinctive, confident, unapologetic
The color of milky vanilla ice cream
Or dusty graying pages of a forgotten book

I can be poetic about you
I can even try and ignore you
But oh my errant grey strand of hair
What will I do when there are so many more of you? 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hello Self!

How do I meet myself?

By overlooking differences and seeing oneness
By assessing wisely but not judging widely
By introspection, not extrapolation
By accepting, not expecting

By rising above the noise
By waiting out the storm
By leaving the heard
By carving my path

By listening not simply hearing
By observing not merely seeing
By feeling not just touching
By sensing rather than smelling
By conversing not only talking
By practicing not purely preaching

By loving without conditions
By living without concerns
By flying free without wings
By being patient but not pervasive

By saying bye-bye to the Ego
By getting introduced to my inner Self

Hello Self. Its nice to finally meet you.