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DON’T GROW UP- Its a trap!

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“Isn’t it funny how day by day, nothing changes; but when you look back, everything is different…”
~C.S.Lewis

Life is a crazy kaleidoscope of changing patterns; the whirlpool of change manifests itself day by day, but goes unnoticed. It is only when you glance at the rear view mirror do you realize that everything has changed. People you thought were going to be there forever, aren’t, and people you never imagined you would be speaking to are now some of your closest friends. Life makes little sense and the more you grow, the less sense it will make. This is the story of how I realized that age is just a number and there is no such thing as being an adult;You only grow older and if you’re lucky, maybe a little wiser!

…….

A friend of mine once told me, “You’ve changed.” We were in the middle of a conversation when suddenly, she paused, looked at me and said: “A, you’ve changed.”
I blinked; I tried to cover my feelings by mastering some witty innuendo to pin her down. We were always doing that to each other. I snubbed her off with a sassy remark and giggled to find her at loss! We had met after months and she was (is) one of my closest high school friends, (I say that because ‘that‘ comment coming from her, meant ‘that‘ much to me!)

Back home, listless and temperamental, I started wondering. I found myself thinking long and hard about what she had said. What was it about changes that scares us so much? Why was I even thinking so much about it? It was as if what she had said had resonated a hidden bell inside.

“I was changing!”

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I was changing just like every little thing around me, every inconspicuous detail of my life, that in this last one year, had undergone a mammoth change! The black school bag by the corner of my room was the only constant- the only link to who I was before. Beside it lay a box of felt pens whose refills were now used up and stuck with half hearted colours like the faded remnants of those days lost in dreams. The prick of memories viewed through the rose-tinted spectacles of time made me homesick for a place I could not get to. A wisp of music from a familiar David Bowie track halted my thought-train as it hovered through the chink of my half-shut door:

…..Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
…..Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Mmm, yeah I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
…..

“Beezus, turn the volume down!”, I yelled at my sister in the other room as snippets of symphony came floating down the corridor, into my room. As the music filled my room, I found myself slowly slipping into a realm of retrospection, the words poured through my ears dripping into my soul like dew drops on a rose bud,until before long, I was quietly humming the tune to myself, sitting there clueless and alone on my big divan!

Flash backwards!

<< A bright red kite with its sharp, thin thread pierced through the bubbles of my thought. Giggles from a kid with beady eyes as the boy with practiced hands handled the string and “latai” with ease, took me back to that happy gloam of ‘99. Like a toddler, the kite held back in fear, stuttered, then swaying with the magic of the noontime breeze, it started flying. It flew farther and farther away as the boy relaxed the string coiled around the latai, little by little. The bright red kite fluttered in the wind and soon it had flown so high that it merited a jump of excited claps from the toddler in pink frock who with her beady eyes, had mistaken it for a little pastel butterfly flying in the distance against the happy velvet of blue…. >>

Sadness sung as the vestiges of that day blurred out through the same ‘beady’ eyes as I found them wet with drops of dream clouds. That kid still breathed in some shady corner of my insides!

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The clock kept up its perennial ticking, the wall lizard faked an introspective yawn as it crushed a bug in the folds of its tongue and in the other room, the track changed. The unheeded protagonist turned contemplative with the lilt of the music as the jukebox played yet another song….

“How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change…”

Later that night, I lay in my bed staring up at the ceiling. The unfaltering tick-tock of the clock and loneliness, my sole companions. I wondered, about what my friend had said; “what did she mean?” and “why couldn’t I master the courage to ask her just that instead of masking my fears with fake witticisms?!”
I made up my mind to ask her myself the next day for the thought bee kept buzzing in my head with painful cacophony and over thinking drove my brain to the verge of incineration.
When I broached her on the subject, my friend was unnaturally placid. Candidly she replied, “Nothing has changed. I’m sorry about last night; I just got carried away. Perhaps it’s just that you’re growing up and things aren’t going to be the same as before. I was scared that maybe things would change and with differing priorities, we would grow apart. It’s a scary world out there; the adult world!”
I let that sink in. So, I was growing up!
“And is that a bad thing?”, I gulped.

Deep inside, I knew that things had changed. Only, I was too naive to face it. The small voice in the back of my head pricked the bubbles of illusions that I had. This last one year had been one of incongruous changes. Hijacked from the security of the four-postered walls of childhood and of the little convent classroom, I’ve been forced to confront the adult world. Like an alien, a misfit, I’ve stumbled to survive, to exist, to adapt. She was right. I was growing up and the changes lay in the growth. In the adaptation to suit the larger canvas of existence. Chiselled and sharpened in the spark of reality I’ve evolved as a subtler being, equipped with the finest faculties of self defense and self care.
I now knew how to maintain a mask of maturity, how to restrain myself from being accelerated with joy at the sight of commonplace things of little importance that would have merited a rupture of unabashed ecstasy if it were to be as it was in the salad days of life spent as a tiny, senseless over enthusiastic creature, but for the voices outside that echoed, “ Grace and poise, my dear. Grace and poise!”
Firm and candid now, I had learned to survive; to trick the grown up world into thinking that I had grown up too. I owed my life to close calls and how every knife in my back had missed my heart by inches; But adapting, I had learned to shield myself against the dragons outside fairytales. And while that was a progressive change to some extent, there was also the nagging fear of losing the bliss of childhood innocence at the cost of the evolved sense of the adult. Perhaps the hardest part of growing up, is letting go of who you used to be.

“……..Your little eyelids flutter cause you’re dreaming
So I tuck you in and turn on your favorite night light
To you everything’s funny, you got nothing to regret
I’d give all I have, honey
If you could stay like that

Oh darling, don’t you ever grow up
Don’t you ever grow up, just stay this little
Oh darling, don’t you ever grow up
Don’t you ever grow up, it could stay this simple
I won’t let nobody hurt you, won’t let no one break your heart
And no one will desert you
Just try to never grow up, never grow up…..”

This time, it felt as if the wave of music was coming from somewhere inside my head. I was surely going mad, I thought. Late at night, when I’m most true to myself, I started crying. The tears came streaming, naturally, unlike those times when I felt too tired even to cry. This time I didn’t need to try hard to let the pain flow out like I sometimes did while crying and ended up feeling relieved, as if the hardness of the heart was scrubbed out and cleansed by the dreary liquids cascading down my eyes. Instead, this time the tears only made the pit darker. I was fighting with my inner demons and the few hours before I gave in to sleep was the only time I had to do it. Come morning and I’d have to gloss in my brightest smile as I blended the chap stick and notwithstanding the darkness inside, face the world with a smile! These last few hours of the day, curled up in my bed beneath the order of blankets as I shut the world outside, (or shut me in), I gifted myself the luxury of “me time”. I cried, decidedly…knowing that the water running down my face would let go of the steam inside..but with each falling teardrop, I saw myself moving further and further away from the girl who woke up every morning and went through the day wearing the garb of elusive happiness. This hour, I was nude inside and the masks that I wore to trick the world was lying beside me with that same Cheshire grin placed firmly- Plasticized!
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…….
“Did some things you can’t speak of
But at night you live it all again
You wouldn’t be shattered on the floor now
If only you had seen what you know now then

Wasn’t it easier in your firefly-catchin’ days?
When everything out of reach, someone bigger brought down to you
Wasn’t it beautiful runnin’ wild ’til you fell asleep
Before the monsters caught up to you?”
…….

The thought clouds drift back as the music fades into the background. Its 12:24 now, and a yawn hiccups its way through the gurgle of my sighs. A little girl sulks at the dinner table. Hazy initially, but soon a shadow crops up: Tall, firm and broad shouldered! He stands with his hand raised, facing her, with his fingers pointing at the girl, with disappointed derision.
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“…Do you know what your class teacher told us today? ‘The most talkative girl in my class!’ Have you any idea how much you embarrass your parents with your habit of non stop blabbering in class? Every year, every class: same complaints! Again and again we’ve heard the same thing and trust me I’m tired! I’m just sick and tired of this whole business!” The last statement echoed through the high walls of that room. The louder voice laid down the emptied glass with a thud on the table as another voice softer, mumbled, hesitated and coaxed incoherent words of harmony as it tried to pacify the first one. Draining the contents of the glass down his throat, the first voice continued: “We had enrolled you into a convent school for a REASON! The most important thing in life is DISCIPLINE. But for that, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut first. Why in the world would you have to talk so much? Why can’t you change your self and be more like the other graceful girls in class?”
…..

In the hubub of a noisy classroom, the quite sophomore in the corner stared, looked, blinked. A horrible recollection! But somehow she had nothing to say. “Anti social ” they called her. “Introvert” she preferred. “Arrogant” said the haters. Inside, she was dying with so much to say…like the volcano that bubbles and surges within the heart of the rock, sealed by its own cooling, hardening lava. “Introverting again?”, he chuckled, breaking her chain of thoughts. She really did need to change herself, wondered the sophomore as the little girl of her childhood days ran in giggles past her vision. Sometimes, the things we can’t change, end up changing us!

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Changing meant losing a part of your self in the yellow frames of history. The shreds of what you were are left behind as you grow up to fit into the larger framework of adulthood and its responsibilities. Bu t lying in that bed, that lonely night, I realized I had never felt more like an adolescent before, as I did then. I thought of the little girl that was little-girl-no-more! A medley of memories from the salad days of my life scuttled about my eyelids…fragments of habits, quirks and visions, filled my heart with the warmth similar to that of a surging harry potter patronus! I closed my eyes and drank of my dreams…. The little girl appeared, face smeared with blends of yellow, blue and orange as she poured over a sheet of blank paper, drawing an orange sun in the extreme corner of the page. She was lost in the happiness of pastel shades; the colurful sticks of crayons with its sweet smell, hard, cool and smooth like a rounded pebble as she rubbed it against her skin, on the page, on the boring walls and everywhere.
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The pleasant coolness of the crayons took her back to another day; a particularly hot one. The girl in frock stood in front of the refrigerator with its door ajar gazing into its insides like a bizzare sadhu would at his client before reading his stars and telling the future. The cool air emanating from inside the fridge, (at a time when air conditioning was a decade away in that dreary little town where she was born,) made her hold on to the door for just a little longer before she would close it really slowly, just to see when the lights inside the fridge went off…how she would try to balance the light switch between ON and OFF or wash her hands after stepping out of the toilet for full ten minutes because she loved the feel of running water flowing through her fingers…how the first time she saw the picture of a heart in the book of a senior class five student, she was so surprised because she had always thought that the shape of a real heart was like one of those tiny ones at the end of a page of barbie doll stickers…the potpourri of images reminded her of the silly days of joyfull innocence, of the times when ringing the doorbell of the fat lady in the neighborhood (who they knew was really a witch, by the way), running away before she could come after you and giggling from behind the mango tree as you peeped in to see her plummeting with anger like a rare turkey cock, was one of the biggest temptations one could give in to; when the smell of bubblegums as the bubble popped a gummy slap on your cheeks building a giggle in your stomachs and controversies about who had blown the biggest bubblegum balloon were serious issues; when one could sail of ones dreams or fly with them in boats and planes made out of discarded papers and there wasn’t such a thing as a rumour; when a game of hide and seek with friends in the colony, or eating bournvita (without milk!) and straight out of the jar, or blowing soap bubbles on a warm fuzzy afternoon or the tinkling bell of the approaching cart of the cotton candy vendor (and chomping it down no matter how messy it was to eat the thing) was all it took to cheer you up…!”
Waking up from my dreams I wondered: “Metamorphosis eh?!”
When did this happen?!

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“……So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes…..”

Another time, heartbroken, she laid her face on a rumpled cushion letting her hurt down in angry, hot teardrops. Beside, a gentle hand stroked her hair crooning words of comfort with each stroke. ” You know, you really need to grow up A. You need to be strong.” Then she told her the story of the tortoise…how the first tortoises on earth were really like rabbits: soft,delicate, bouncy and harmless! But what was most astounding was the fact that the Great great grandfathers (or grandmoms, really!) of today’s “tortoic” generation: the primeval tortoises, didn’t have shells!
” Eh?”, she blinked, “I’m not a kid anymore mom.”
“No, really. I’m not feigning….They didn’t!”, she assured her.
“..but where did the shells go?!”, she asked in wide eyed wonder, the tears now starting to fade from her cheeks in the warmth of a good tale.
“Well, they didn’t have any.”, replied her mother.
“It was only after the other animals of the planet were born that the tortoises found it difficult to live safely and had to armour shells to protect themselves. With the evolution, there came on earth beasts, predators and other sinister creatures. It was a big bad world and the tortoises were scared of the shadows lurking behind the branches; the shadowy shapes of darkness, that came gliding: black under the clouds….They were fearsome shadows that lay in ambush in the dark and would spring forth on their victims from behind. They were deadly and ominous and the tortoises knew it coming, with life-failing footsteps; Death-doomed! So in order to protect themselves from harm, the delicate creatures hit upon a particularly bright idea: they started building them shells…Beautiful coral shells weaved from sea-swells, foam and emerald greens made strong with the strength of their hearts. Now the shadows couldn’t touch them anymore, safe as they were behind the walls of their shells. So each year the mother tortoise would teach her children how to build their shells and the tradition got passed down ever since. None of the tortoises got hurt anymore and they all lived happily ever after. As a last word, (if you don’t believe my story), ever wondered why tortoises live that long? -That’s happily ever after!”
The little girl giggled, “That’s fairytale-talk!”
Her mother smiled a rhetoric and continued, “you, my dear, have a heart like the tortoises: soft and vulnerable. You too need to build your own shell and now is the time.”
As days passed and the li’l girl grew up, her mother would often have to coax a soggy nosed teenager with more of metaphors and “fairytale-talks” but with real life implications. About heartbreaks, she would tell her, “with each unhappy ending, you come one-broken-heart-closer to finding the love of your life!” Her mother always knew the right words to make her smile. Growing up she learnt how to build her shell, how to bottle up unnecessary, distracting emotions and put a cork to her feelings. The little girl was little girl no more! She was ready for the big world. She had changed: grown up, matured…no more the silly kid lounging with her crayons and candies inside makeshift blanket forts made out of broken umbrellas. She took the world in her stride and faced life bravely…but sometimes when they’d call her emotionless for keeping a straight face, she’d cry inside!
She hadn’t changed enough, had she?

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Throughout her life she’d focused on progressing: be it in her career, perspective or person. She’d build new bridges each day and cross them over the next. She loved the ingenuity of creation- in stories, art or recipes. She believed in living, building and loving, in exploring new avenues, in things that stirred her soul and made her feel alive (thrills you don’t get inside your comfort zone!) She was proud of how far she had come but there was this one fear scaling her insides: Did crossing over to new pastures, meant losing who she was before? Was this change aimed at forgetting the li’l girl living inside?
The idea of metamorphosis stuck in her mind like a gramophone record stuck in the same lines of the song, going back to the words again, gazing into the galaxies that the cream made in her coffee cup, she pondered upon changes. She thought of who she was this time last year. She knew she was a lot more afraid and that she isn’t the same person anymore. She had learned to care less about what other people thought about her and more about what she thought of herself. It was like one of those moments when it finally clicks: You realize how far you have come and you remember the times you had thought things were such a mess they’d never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you’re truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.
But did that mean losing oneself and deserting the little ingenue inside?
With another sip of her coffee as the liquid went bubbling down her throat, relaxing her nerves, the power of the caffeine rang a little bell inside. She recalled an ubiquitous line she had read somewhere long back:
(Must be in one of the zillion posts of the Berlin art parasites!)
“I don’t know exactly when I changed or how, but at some point between cutting my strings, escaping my cage, and building my wings, I set myself free.”
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….and she couldn’t think of a better way to end the drizzle of her rantings!

Shadow Lines


What makes up stories other than the living residues of human memory? Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh, explores this shifting world of memories as one flashback leads on to another, much like the labyrinthine network of thoughts. Like a mind in back-gear, the novel builds up on recollection of events from the narrator’s past as he unwinds the corpus of his mind, telling his stories in analepses and one thought weaves unto another, living behind an enmeshment of life like he saw it now, through the looking glass!

The novel which is Ghosh’s second, won the Sahitya Aademi Award in 1989. Undercurrents of political vendetta are resurface time and again in the novel – set against the backdrop of events such as the Swadeshi movement, Second World War, Partition of India and Communal riots of 1963-64 in Dhaka and Calcutta – as it serves to highlight the influence of political catastrophes in the lives of the individual and how the personal is never free from the political.

The book dissipates the bounds of time and space, juxtaposing​ events from different time frames and geographical coordinates next to each other in a jigsaw fit of an assimilating whole. Begining with his own experiences as a little boy in Kolkata the novel moves back and forth in time to Delhi and London both through the stories of others and his own experiences there as a student. The world of the novel revolves around the two families of the poet’s grandmother back in Kolkata and his grand-aunt’s back in London along with their family friend, Mrs Price’s family. As the two families, displaced in time and place, mirror each other in a progressive intertwining of events, Ghosh brings out the futility of such constructs as those of language, race and place which are but “shadow lines” cast on the canvas of an essential identical humanity.

The book is divided into two parts- “Going Away” and “Coming Home” and evokes the fundamental nature of all displacements: “what goes around, comes around!” The central character of the novel is the narrator himself who is portrayed as a splitting image of his uncle Tridib whom he idolises. Growing up under his shadow, the young narrator looks up to his uncle who taught him how to unlock the secret portal of imagination thus endowing him with worlds to travel in and eyes to see them with long before he ever leaves Calcutta.


The novel is a compendium of the lives of its characters who have lived separate yet identical lives fulcrumed on the common anvils of relationship, tragedy and love from three points of the globe- India, Bangladesh and England. The old sisterhood of the author’s Thamma and Mayadebi brings together the two families of the narrator and his cousin thus setting an interconnected web of narratives in action. The narrator’s love for Ila, admiration for the world of ancients, affectations for May Price and her family and idolations for his uncle Tridib whom he ultimately loses in a riot in Dhaka, spin from the same yearn of sisterhood that sprung long back at the heart of Bangladesh before the partition – a yarn displaced in both space and time from its spinnings in the present! Thus, Ghosh in his novel uses a sort of spin-off on the stream of consciousness method of writing as he propels the plot forward and backwards, recollecting the past, using flashbacks and travelling zigzag in terms of narrative time and space evoking ghosts from the past like he says himself:


“They were all around me, we were together at last, not ghosts at all: the ghostliness was merely the absence of time and distance- for that is all that a ghost is, a presence displaced in time.”

For Ghosh, the world is a web of narratives in which each strand leads on to the next in the web. Our thoughts both shape and are shaped by our interactions with this world.

Perspectives are born out of complex overlapping of memories that defy all notions of disparity based on social constructs of culture, race or religion.

The book stems out of mesh of lines that criss cross across time and space to drive home a poignant message: Of lines that bring people closer or drive them apart; lines that are obvious in one perspective and nonexistent in another; lines that exist in ones memory and therefore in another’s imagination; lines that rip through the contours of love, friendship and relationships, swerving all ties and bonds in wanton disregard of anything other than their own fanatic footholdings.


“It is a book that captures perspective of time and events, A narrative built out of an intricate, constantly crisscrossing web of memories of many people, it never pretends to tell a story. Instead, it invites the reader to invent one, out of the memories of those involved, memories that hold mirrors of differing shades to the same experience.”


Thus, the author seeks to paint the picture of a heterogenous global world that smashes the fodders of reified nationalism. Peering through his looking glass, the world doesn’t seem to fit squarely within its borders and any such claim to constriction or encapsulation behind man-made barrier lines and fences are made impossible by the global view of narratives, lives and happenings that inform the narrators view of the world. The constrictions are thus made to dissipate as mere “shadow lines” of an ancient world on whose blood and ashes rise the hope for a better world, devoid of these boundaries.

The book could be seen as a descriptive anthropology of a world embedded in fiction that constructs the vision of a global world, exploring the narrator’s recollections of his life and times, in a global field of conflicting narratives. Out of a miraculously intricate web of memories, recollections and images, Amitav Ghosh builds an intensely moving story that ripples with the abundance of human experience – the innocence of childhood, the stories of growing up days, the passion of a love unrequited, the idealisms of youth, political violence, the stab of tragedy and the catastrophes life hurls its way.

All in all, it is a must read for anyone who considers them a lover of books or literature. For like Khushwant Singh acclaims,

“This is how the language should be used…This is how novel should be written”

this appraisal undoubtedly forms it’s highest recommendation. 

Poetry and Paraphernalia 

Poetry and Paraphernalia 

On Cultural Cocktail and Chameleon Lights. 

There are very few things in life, that poetry cannot cure. It percolates like rain in a rocky terrain, seeping, washing, leaching out through its crevices, life’s tired residues. Like drizzle in a desert, “Chameleon lights” by Ayushman Jamwal, is a metaphorical balm over life in a city wrecked by the cornucopia of camouflaging lights..

Image Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Exposed to a lifetime of witnessing the best and worst in humanity and indeed “every shade in between” like he himself was quoted saying in an interview in Author’s Corner it is little surprise that the Senior Output officer of CNN-IBN would take the final leap to liberty and eventually find love and solace in poetry. Thus “Chameleon lights” is the first book of this twenty seven year old journalist based in New Delhi and his debut into the world of literature. It is a collection of twenty poems written across a period of ten years that capture the various distinctive moments from the author’s life, right from his school days,to life as a journalist – a concoction of the myriad splendid encounters in life. “All these poems were tucked away in word files and notes,” confides the poet in his interview, who egged on by his friends then put them together. Thus, “Chameleon Lights” was born.

Image Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust.

His poems pan across a variety of hues: from friendship, first loves, regret and remorse to peace, revelation and moral struggle, all wrapped up in one bittersweet mix that truly replicates the transcendental, ever changing nature of a chameleon. A kaleidoscope of emotions spills forth in every line as the poet promises his readers, that somewhere at the turn of a page, we’ll find ourselves. With sentiments that everyone can relate to and an universal appeal that only attributes to it’s significance, Chameleon Lights with its emotional-potpourri is the ideal recipe for a life of blaring citylights.

The book is published by Authorspress. The aesthetic cover art takes after the succinct journey through the blur of city lights and a range of hues owing to its chameleon-effect! The book launch at Delhi was subsequently followed by the book launch at Kolkata. The launch of the book at Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata was a one time event partnered by Kolkata Bloggers and supported by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust which is named after the author’s grandfather, the celebrated Dogri poet and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Kunwar Viyogi, whom the book has been dedicated to.

Image Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust. 

It is a trust which supports art and culture and promotes them in the field of indigenous languages, especially Dogri – a mountain language of people living in Jammu. As a part of its mammoth campaign Save the Language, Cultural Cocktail (which included a wholesome spread of art, poetry, dance and drama) was initiated and curated by Ayushman Jamwal. The programme was put together by like minded young people with their cultural roots tracing back to Jammu. Sanchita Abhrol put together Ghar, a dance performance with Ayushman Jamwal as the narrator. Anmoal Jamwal perfomed a contemporary jazz performance while Ayushi Thakur Rana adapted Twelfth Night in Hindi for the event.

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked on a five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. It is about trying to revive regional languages like dogri that are dying slow deaths and are on the verge of extinction. Hindi sahitya utsav was also held to try and revive the treasure trove of this ancient language. Save the language campaign is a five city tour campaign. As part of this tour, Cultural Cocktail, was conceptualized and created by young artists with roots in Jammu and took place at the Showshaa Hall, Kingdom of Dreams, New Delhi on June 17. 


An umbrella event for a full course of cultural spread, the event is aptly named “The Cultural Cocktail”. So steal away from the heat this weekend and soak in the taste of what could be your favourite sip of summer this year. The programme in its efforts to conserve and resurrect dying languages also forms the pulse of a process of preserving indigeneity at an age that’s so crazed with going with whatever is foreign, “cool” or popular. The commendable efforts of  the trust to save the language is indeed noteworthy as it is an ultimate rescue-attempt for the dying languages and to bring them back to the cultural mainstream. Equal in significance is the ushering of the second book by Ayushman Jamwal which was much awaited and is scheduled to launch by the end of the year.

Desperate

Desperate. A word spread across the mouth like a bitter aftertaste. Acerbic and wanting. The children from my sixth former in school who had just hit puberty or stood on the fringes of growing up, said it like a cold revenge. Their mouth curled around the word silently, gaining momentum, before unfurling it in neat, straight pellets, hurling it at their targets: the fat girl with curly hair, the girl who was better than them at something, the girl who was too ugly to be their friend. ‘Desperate’ lurked out of their dart-like mouths, like plastic arrows moulded from epics, slashing through the contours of friendship and rickety insecurities. 

At eighth former, I learnt of the word when I fell in love with a guy with scurrying eyes. Unrequited love was always desperate. His girlfriend with long tresses smidged it right across my short, auburn, in-the-face hair and just-bespectacled eyes. But she couldn’t have been “desperate, even to tumble a river of giggle across his shoulders or drop in his arms at the slightest inconvenience. She even got him to braid her hair. I cried and then I grew my hair. I hated ‘desperate’ and how it made me feel: hurt, scared and wanting. Almost like they described ‘falling in love’. 

At twenty when I chopped off my waist-length hair, ‘desperate’ didn’t seem like such a bad word. I knew now how it was to be unloved. And that no one could do it right unless you showed them how to do it. And I had come to like ‘alone’. Desperate, now became a word that was too ambitious to make it unloved. I liked that about it. Most ambitious things are hard to love. You don’t want to get caught in the whirring madness of their striving. The whizzing-wheels of want, always in momentum: restless circular motions. Fast, rapid, uncompromising. Desperate was the relentless pursuit of something that never learnt to leave. Desperate was the full potential of desire, to want something right in your bone with every fibre of your body,  to crave something with every thought. It was scary and dangerous. I had read once about the ‘calling thought’. That if you want something with all your heart, you call it to yourself. You send an unseen message out into space, a call of desire that pulls the object of your desire in your direction. The universe sets in motion with the calling thought, pulling you towards the weight of your desires. Desperation for me was the calling thought. Desperation knew that the depth of love was bottomless and was too scared to settle for anything with a visible horizon. Desperation found it hard to give in, to settle too soon for too less. Desperation never knew of the words quit. Desperation never heard of “let go”. It was like an all encompassing spirit-word in the large compendium of languages. It knew of no other words – no synonyms, no alternatives, no back-up plan. It was the only truth: get it or get it! Desperation, was what kept me going. 

At twenty, I look back upon all the times I was truly desperate, all the things I was really desperate about. The ones that kept me up at night with salt-stained cheeks and hurried texts to confidants. I was too anxious about the future. I had a panic whirlwind inside the place you call heart. “Desperate” went in like a bomb-diffuser, right into the eye of the storm.

“I get what I want when I am desperate”, I sigh out loud. A long relief-sigh. The clouds are gone. The sky is clear. The whirlwind subsides. I don’t feel so scared anymore. 

When I think I don’t have it in me, remind me that I’m desperate.

Revolution 2016

The cursor blinks on my screen as the premeditated text beckons: “share your story here…!” Above it a grey line separating the content from the name records in little grey letters “Post Title”. Once you try to maintain an active blog, you’re familiar to these usual way of things in WordPress. “Share your story here…” as the blank page stares at you, somehow makes itself into one of the most inviting things anyone has said all day. “The paper has more patience than people”, Anne Frank had said to me from the pages of a fat volume when I was thirteen and wondering. At twenty and still wondering, I reckon perhaps it’s not just that. Paper unlike humans is a safe portal to unload. Perhaps safety comes way before patience in this age of stepped up insecurities and trust issues. Or is it just me?
A white sheet of paper inked with symbols that make sense to a particular linguistic register, is capable of holding in its vacuum the complexity of the inkers mind and kept by itself, still convey the same state of mind after days and years of it’s first being inked. What’s more amazing, the same set of symbols on paper when held by someone other than the aforementioned inker transports by some magical connexion the same state of mind in the viewer, activates the concealed buttons of feelings so much so that it makes us react to a whole set of emotions: crying, smiling, overwhelmed, ecstatic or weeping with the fervour of being torn in between!

Books like humans, stay silent unless you bump into them, just another passerby in the mindful sidewalk of life..Stretch a finger over the tough ribbed centre of its spine, run your fingers through the pages, take in that ancient smell of parchment and stories or feel your way softly over the velvet of its cover. Before long, you move in comfortably in your chair and speak to it over the smoke of coffee: “Hey, man what’s your story?”

And countless inkers from the other end of the world would count petals (“he’ll read me, he’ll read me not!) in eager apprehension of that one chosen question. As you sit back in your recliner and start reading the book, somewhere a writer “happy-sighs” in his sleep. Somewhere, at quite another end of the world perhaps, an inker of magic symbols called words, who had stared long and hard at the static reading (“share your story here”)  on his screen, wondering what his story ever was before getting about the same anyway, just name a shooting star after his wish. As people over the years shut themselves down like huge volumes of ‘fictions-you’ve-never-read’, perhaps it’s time to get to the fiction first before you can ask that of a person! Perhaps our bigger volumes of literature are indeed in a way, an essential unwinding of humans, of getting into the most inaccessible corners of someone’s mind and coming back with a vertigo of feelings, thoughts and emotions that the writer has never before dared to respond in answer to one of those small talk questions (“Hey man, what’s your story?!”) and yet felt the need to come all out with it at the face of a paper – to submit to the ancient treaty of trust the paper promised  the person, and perturbed by the heavy burdens of mind, found an outlet and unloaded! As the paper stands filled now, inked with words that may or may not make sense, it rests in the dusty shelves of the bibliophile’s haunts waiting upon a shooting star wondering if he’ll ask over the hot steams of coffee, “Hey man, what’s your story?!”

(PostScript: I write this on the evening of the last day of the year 2016 probably the prey to one of those things they call the “writer’s block” at the moment, unable to make new resolutions as nothing of consequence is to be gained from following New Year’s cliches and  somehow substituting the lack of resolutions, instead, by a need for revolution. The pen has always been more useful than a sword and perhaps I’ll carry one for all my battles..So this New Year as I dwindle between the futility of making resolutions, I’ll ink a revolution in the name of reading instead. “I resolve to revolt against the nature of my times to not pick up the book from the shelf. This New Year, I resolve to read!”)

Musings on the mountains

​ It’s six pm and I’m cuddled up in a room that breathes of mountain dust and cold. The ranges gape upon from my cottage window, it’s wooden doors and walls and ceilings draped in the same majesty the Kanchenjunga exhibits from across the balcony… So far and yet so near!

I spend my evening reading under the blankets because it’s cold outside and pitch dark with only animal noises from the forest around us. Also, I’m a social ambivert, only rooting for deep, meaningful conversation instead of small talk and there’s no one here that I can have that with. So I stay in my room, cocooned up in blankets, book in my hand: light read for travels! A couple of hours spent thus I start to imagine. I love and hate this thing about me. I think a lot. I over imagine. 

So I recall that part from beauty and the beast where the Beast is introduced to the magical world of reading and he would spend the evenings with Belle, together by the fireplace, reading. I imagine having someone to read with, cocooned up in the blanket beside me and almost immediately hate myself for the thought. What of feminism and the superpower of single hood? I liked being alone. My solitude was sweet. When did I become so needy? 
I look at the mountains. They look back at me, the all-knowing grand fathers in their all-perceptive grandeur! Do the mountains have answers? I look again!

Companionship is not sin. And yet as I write this now, of the primal wants of humans since Adam, of my own lonely insecurities, I feel guilty! Of what I wonder? 

I’ve more than once laughed at the mushiness of couples, of the arbitrariness of destiny and the futile search of humanity for validation, acknowledgment and love. I’ve looked down upon cheesy fiction and writers who only lived on writing about love. I’ve never written one before, well, except one really awkward personal confession. 

I’ve scorned at clichés, condescended, laughed them off like skittles in my skirt. And yet as I get swayed by the beauty of the mountains my mind plays tricks on my heart in wanting the same things I’ve never wanted to want. Why do I spend my time in such wasteful imaginings? Someone to giggle with as I sit by the window, or point out the peaks of the far distant ranges as I sit outside in the narrow wooden cottage balcony or point out the constellations like the billion humans before us have done to their fellow humans under a starry blanket of sky on cold wintry evenings. I imagine having a fireplace in my room, although there isn’t one and it’s really rather cold and soggy. Everything I touch is wet with frost: the bed, the pillows, the blankets, and it takes sometime to make a human shape of warmth just your fit in the bed moist with winter. I imagine having a fireplace here, and warming hands with someone my age as we talk of books and theories about life and death. Or staying cocooned up by the fireplace, reading or listening to tracks from each other’s playlist, loving and hating songs in each, telling why and failing to explain and exploring yet newer worlds of music in the process.

I don’t know what to write next. Was this as wasteful as my imaginings in the first place? Probably! 

I’m a loner, a recluse, “a-stay-at-home, read-books and avoid-people” kind of person. My solitude is sweeter to me than any human company could ever be and I spend my days as a longer mocking at society’s stereotypical portrayal of companionship and love and humans buying it and making love (not literally!) in the same hackneyed way for countless centuries. Stargazing, hugging, talking and music! And yet on such and such evening, I find myself moved by the mountains, wishing the same, wanting the same! But to quote John Green from the book I was reading, “The world is not a wish granting factory!” and perhaps the primordial wishes of the ancestors survived all loops of the cycle of time and evolution. 

I take a deep breathe and seep in the mountain dust and cold. 

The mountains know!

On Winter

Do you hear the whispers in the air?
The soft chug chug of the winter train,
Or the hooves of a hundred reindeers,
That bring you things to dream again?

The Polar Express is on it’s way
And there’s already a nip in the air,
As the elves go a-packing the season’s gifts,
And the winter fairies circle near.

“What’s your favourite winter thing?”, you ask. 
A thousand thoughts spin in my head,
-Christmas trees, star streamers bright,
My birthday cake!

“What of cracked lips and cold feet,
Parched skin and blue toes,
Midnight blues and frost biting my nose?”, 
You sulk.
‘Don’t you have a favourite winter thing then?’,
I ask. 
You nod a negative!

“What of bed teas and waking up late?
Fuzzy pillows and warm blankets,
Big sweaters and soft woollen mittens?
Pullovers and cuddling to sleep with the kittens!

-Blue shirts and red socks,
Caramel and tea pots,
-Postcards and sweetmeats,
Baking cookies by the oven heat,
-Tales over coffee mugs,
Chocolates and warm hugs,
-Snowflakes and fresh starts,
Misplaced socks and hearts!

-Lazy nights spent absorbed in a book,
Or scribbling poems by some secret nook.
-The sound of the wind rustling through the leaves,
The fall of the snow, soundlessly each eve.
-Misty nights and brumous skies,
Falling stars and fireflies.
-Wishing wells, snowy trails,
Santa Claus and New Years wishes,
-Dream come trues and moonlight kisses…”

And I would have gone on with my list of wintry delights,
But you cut me short and hold my fingers tight:
“Do you mean to say, 
You still believe in Santa Claus?
And Winter-elves, Magic and the lost boys cause?
Of all those things that only come in books,
Aren’t those fiction and children’s flukes?”

I pause for a moment to ponder on what you’ve said,
Fix your scarf and dust the snow away,
Smile and pull you close and bring my lips to your ear,
Whisper the words as I hold you near.
I say, “Books never lie and dreams do come true,
And all the magic in the world really lies within you,
Fairy tales aren’t for children and fictions aren’t flukes,
They’ll give you the strength to battle a hundred winter blues!
And many years from now when you seek warmth in their refuge,
You’ll know that the children of winter, 
Never grow old!

The thin string between narcissism and self-love. 

Why is narcissism always called bad?

The dictionary defines it as “excessive love for oneself”, but if that’s how that is, how is it bad? True, arrogance is bad. Hubris is self-decieving. Excessive pride for oneself at the cost of looking down on others IS bad. 

But Self Love? 

How is that bad?!

Isn’t that the only thing that keeps us going?  The only fuel in a tired engine? The only lifeboat in our everyday ocean of worries, only light in the tunnel of dark thoughts, the only beacon to guide us home and away from the shadows cast by our insecurities and perhaps also, the only means for preventing self-destruction? When times call upon us to stand for our friends, shouldn’t we be the ones to stand for ourselves first? To love ourselves a little more each day?

To be the healer, crooning “fix you” to drive someone’s blues away, don’t you need to fix yourself first? Don’t you need to fix you too?!

       And why even call it narcissism?

-Narcissus was a ‘self-obsessed’ prude who checked reflections in lily ponds more than I take selfies.[ AND  YES THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CLICKING SELFIES ( Unless if that’s about the ONLY thing you do all day. That’s bad. I’d ask you to visit the doc in that case!) AND SMILING AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN IN EACH.Wide smiles are nice; Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!]

In a time where everybody is emotionally broken and suffers from the pangs of “not being good enough”, when people ask me how I always look so cheerful, I take pride in saying that I love myself enough. 

I love myself as best, as I comprehend, the meaning of that little four letter word. 

Sure, I have my blues and lows in life too. Sure, I hate myself too on some days. But that’s okay.( At least, as you’re still working on that!) My life isn’t so perfect as some may assume. But I love myself enough to keep swimming above that. Despite that. Actually a dedicated swimmer for a long part of my life, I know in terms both real and metaphorical, that the last push that gets you to the finish line, has to be from the one only your legs can kick in. That when you’re out of breath, scared or drowning in waves, the hands that reach to pull you out should be the ones starting from the ends of your shoulders. For if you don’t save yourself, how else do you expect to save the world?! 

 Self love doesn’t always make you narcissistic. And there’s a thin string that separates the two. For me that has been fragments of moments when someone said that the thing that they like the most about me is that I’m kind. Kindness, I feel, is underrated. And I strive to be, nicer, kinder each day, just as I strive to do better and become more successful on the others. It’s a continuous act of finding yourself, in trying to become what you love and loving yourself through the becoming. 

Not just on good hair days. Not when your face looks kinda nice. Not when you lose those kilos, or when you say something nice and get praised. Love for me, doesn’t operate like that. It’s not about what you say, who likes you or what you do. It’s loving yourself even in your home face and bad pyjamas, even on bad days and disappointments, when you’re embarrassed or you make some mistake that makes you hate yourself so much you never wanna see your face again!

Even then. 

Especially then!

Love is knowing there’s still hope as long as there’s still good in you and staying right beside you to help you find the way. For only in loving thus, would you love just as you’d want yourself to be loved. And if that’s not how it is, what’s the point anyway! ‘Falling in love with yourself first doesn’t make you vain or selfish, it makes you indestructible.’ 

(-things I’ll teach my children.)

People will call you things. Fools will call you names. But if someone thinks you’re narcissistic, first listen to them, then explain.It’s not the face you love, it’s not the things you do, it’s loving yourself despite all that, it’s loving yourself for you! But if you’re simple, nice and kind and they still don’t get what you mean, do no harm but take no shit. (Just throw a fat volume of dictionary their way, maybe!)  

Bask in your own summer,

Bask in your self love,

And,

‘Perhaps,

we should love ourselves so fiercely, 

that when others see us, 

they know exactly how it is to be done”

(Rudy Francisco)